How’s your Bible reading going? As life begins to get back to outside activities and people are less constrained inside all the time, we need to be extra cautious. Not so much about a virus, but cautious that we do not ever forget to take time to spend with God!

Philippians 2

Paul often constructs amazingly complex sentences that are filled with important meaning. He does so here as he begins chapter two. So if there is any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort from love, if any fellowship in the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, united in spirit, with a single purpose (Philippians 2:1-2).

Encouragement is paraklēsis. It’s the word that formed Joseph the Levite’s name given him by the Apostles (Acts 4:36) and is frequently used (some 29 times) in the New Testament. It’s about as positive a word for encouragement as you can imagine as it carries the idea of earnestly calling for cheering, supporting, joyful, glad, help. It’s also pretty obvious what the Apostles were trying to convey in giving this “name” of superlatives for encouragement to “Barnabas.” Now Paul begins his appeal to Christians uniting in service with “any” ultimate goodness of encouragement in Christ!

The second standard is any comfort of or from love. Love, of course, is the word used of God’s selfless concern of commitment to us, even when we didn’t deserve it. The comfort (or consolation in some translations) is paramythion, a gentle cheering, encouragement.

The third standard then is any fellowship in the Spirit. Paul often put the arm-twisting pressure on Christians to live up to the standard they are called to in Christ. Here he’s asking his audience to check and see if they are really a part of God’s family.

The fourth standard is any affection and compassion. Compassion is pretty much the exact idea of the Greek word, but affection is splanchnon, a word the King James often translates (precisely and literally, I might add) as bowels. To the Greeks the tenderest affections come from the intestines. As humorous as we might find that, our use of the heart (a muscle that pumps the blood around your body), is just as funny, isn’t it?

So, Paul has loaded up his call for Christians to truly be united in every conceivably good and positive way possible to work together in the Lord. That’s Paul’s challenge to us all. Yes, it’s a mouthful and complex but his purpose is to have Christians begin with the understanding that God’s people are truly living, working, thinking as God’s family here on earth. Jesus simplified this to you are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).

If we are to live our lives on this earth as the human representations of God, then we must act like it toward one another. Christians that don’t love (totally committed to) the church, the body of Christ are total failures! But failure is not an option and not at all Paul’s point here.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. Each person should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Your attitude toward one another should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who, although he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of man. And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross! Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven, and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:3-11)

Live up to God’s standard! Our job is to BE Christ Jesus living here on this earth! Read John 14:19 where Jesus promises to live in His disciples, even though He’s no longer “living” in this world; also note 2 Corinthians 5:15; Galatians 2:20 and 1 Peter 4:2. This really IS our purpose as Christians. Paul’s portrait of the humility and true greatness of Jesus is purposely painted here for us to grasp the importance of being just like that!

So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but even more now in my absence, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work on behalf of his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like stars in the universe, holding fast the word of life, so that I may have reason to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. But even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:12-18)

There is nothing sadder than to see Christians act just like the world. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves! No grumbling, no arguing and none of the other sins that are identifying marks of the world that follows Satan. No excuses! Live and die as the light of God shining in this world of darkness!

Paul loved to brag about his faithful fellow workers in Christ and he does so now on Timothy and Epaphroditus, one of the members of the church at Philippi. And Paul, just like when he’s bragging about his Savior, doesn’t cut any corners. After all, Christians who live and act like Christ are the greatest people on this earth.

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be encouraged by news about you. For I have no one else of like mind who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all look out for their own interests, not for those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy’s proven character, how as a child with his father he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel. Therefore I hope to send him just as soon as I see how things will turn out for me; and I trust in the Lord that I myself also will be coming soon.

In the meantime I think it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, as well as your messenger and minister to my need, because he has been longing for all of you and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill; he almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me as well,  so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may no longer be anxious. Therefore welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and hold such men in honor, because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you were not able to give me. (Philippians 2:19-30)

We have every reason to be proud of those we work with in God’s kingdom. After all our God has done for us, after all the blessings He’s given us, after all we’ve promised to do in service to Him, there really isn’t any room for self. Imagine a congregation that puts God first in everything, a group of Christians that so loves the Lord and each other that they give their all just like Jesus gave His all for us. What could they accomplish together for the Lord? What can we accomplish together for the Lord?

—Lester P. Bagley