We only need to read the first few verses of Philippians chapter 1 to realize that the Apostle Paul had a special relationship with this church. Phrases like, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,” “making request with joy,” and “your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now,” are reserved for this body of believers.
In chapter 2 we find this man of God with a pastor’s heart provoking and challenging the church to become everything God would have them to be. In much the same way, a parent, coach, or teacher will often work a little longer, even be tougher at times, with that child or student in whom he sees exceptional ability and potential. As spiritual teachers, our heart is thrilled when we see others reach beyond what they are currently doing for God. Likewise, our hearts our burdened, at times broken, when we see people fall short of what God wants to, and CAN do with their life. In chapter 2 of Philippians, we will look at four important areas in which God and His man wanted this church to excel.
First is the vital area of unity.Verse 2 uses these expressions, like-minded, one accord, and one mind. Surely these attributes are as important now as they were then! The world mocks and laughs at the division among churches and between churches. They see fighting, turmoil, and division in the life they are living in sin and in the world. They do not need to see the same thing at the house of God. They key to having this vital component of a truly Godly church is found in the next, much-needed character trait.
Humility is the oil that will make everything run smoothly around the house of God! Look at our Supreme Example in verse seven, “no reputation,” “form of a servant,” and “made in the likeness of men.” What a difference we would see in our homes and churches if every member would strive to have the mind of Christ in this life-changing area of humility. Imagine a church where the members are truly striving to serve one another. Think about the Christ-like spirit in a church where the pastor truly sees himself as a minister, or as defined in Scripture, a waiter. (Matthew 20:26)
The third component of a thriving local body of believers is charity. Vastly different from our modern idea of pity, Biblical charity is simply love in action. In other words, when the first two elements are found in the local body, a natural outgrowth will be brotherly love that has feet! In other words we do not love in “word and tongue” but rather, “deed and truth” as described in I John 3:18. This is the kind of love that “worketh no ill to his neighbor” and “thinketh no evil” in I Corinthians 13. Impossible? Absolutely not! What is required is for each member of the body to walk in the Spirit and allow God’s love to work in him and through him.
Next is the much-needed area of purity. In verse 15 Paul uses these words/phrases to describe his heart’s desire for the church: blameless, harmless, without rebuke, and shine as lights; all synonyms for a pure, clean testimony in a wicked and gainsaying world. Sadly, preaching and teaching on separation from the world is typically labeled legalism. A growing, deepening, maturing walk with God, however, will and MUST allow us to see harm and danger in things that would not have bothered us in the past. Peter wrote that we were ignorant when we walked in these former lusts. (I Peter 1:14) This is not legalism, but it is growing in grace, and becoming more like Christ. In the evil day we live in, it is not time for Bible-believers to become slothful in this area of purity. We are “the bride of Christ,” and we should strive to walk worthy of the Lord.
The final result of unity, humility, charity, and purity, will be the equally-important component of vitality. Many churches today are weak and anemic. The singing is lifeless, there is little/no worship, and you are left wondering if the preacher even wanted to be there. There should life, joy, and energy in a Bible-preaching, Christ-honoring New Testament Church! Members who are truly living for the Lord and fighting the devil all week should be thrilled about coming together with their church family to worship Jesus and get re-loaded to fight the enemy for another week. Paul said in verse 12 of chapter 2, “work out your own salvation”, and in verse 16, “holding forth the Word of Life.” Both of these ideas carry with them the idea of vim, vigor, and vitality!
In these last days the seeker-sensitive movement has confused many so-called Bible believers as to the real purpose of the church. We need only to read the “Owner’s Manual” to see what God’s purpose is for the church of Jesus Christ. Thankfully, it is a job we cannot do. But when we realize we cannot, we learn that only He can. Then when we allow Him to work through us, He alone receives the glory. God’s purpose for the church at Philippi 2,000 years ago is STILL His purpose for the local church today. Let’s return to His blueprint and rely on Him for His power to get it done!