Citizens: A Study on Philippians (Part 7)

July 26, 2020   /   Jesus Church

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Citizens: A Letter to the Philippians

(Part 7)

Today we dive into part 7 and chapter 2 of this letter to Philippi

  • And it is packed with some very powerful scripture
    • Next weeks verses… maybe most debated passages in the Bible
    • Super intense – Can’t wait to dive into that
  • But first Paul is going to start his thoughts in chapter 2
    • As a continuation of his JOY

Phil 2:1-4


This letter to the Philippians was also written in a different language

  • – Which was the street language of much of Rome
    • What we read is a translation of the letter from Greek 2 English
    • And despite what you may hear or have been taught
    • There is no such thing as word for word translation… why?
  • Its impossible: 1st cent. Greek doesn’t translate straight 2 English
    • It comes close but not straight word for word
    • Which is why we have more than one translation
  • So a good way to start studying a passage (different than reading)
    • Read the passage in NASB or NKJV or NIV… TPT… whatever
    • But then I’ll read it in 5 or 6 more translations
    • B/C it’s the best way to wrap head around original translation

With that… here r 2 translations that brought insight


So if our shared life in the king brings you any comfort; if love still has the power to make you cheerful; if we really do have a partnership in the Spirit; if your hearts are at all moved with affection and sympathy – then make my joy complete! Bring your thinking into line with one another. Here’s how you do it. (Here’s how you do it) Hold on to the same love; bring your innermost lives into harmony; fix your minds on the same object. Never act out of selfish ambition or vanity; instead, regard everybody else as your superior. Look after each other’s best interests, not your own.

Eugene Peterson

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care – then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, & help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed w/ getting ur own advantage. Forget urselves long enough 2 lend a helping hand.

What is hard to understand in English translations of today is…

  • Phil 2:1-4 is actually 1 really long, complexed run-on sentence
    • One scholar – Longest run-on sentence in NT (82 words)
  • Was written on Papyrus… an ancient form of paper made of reeds
    • And because papyrus was expensive and Paul isn’t rich
    • You would cram as many words as possible onto a page
    • So you would cut out any and all punctuation
      • That means no: commas, periods, dashes… NO SPACES
  • But the translations tries really hard to untangle these 82 words
    • So that we can make sense of the text
    • They do an amazing job…
    • What we don’t see is: In this entire segment… only one verb
      • In English there are a ton… But only one in the Greek
      • Which means there is only one command

It’s found right in the middle of the sentence in Verse 2

… make my joy complete by being like minded

  • The word JOY – KARA (This theme used 16 times in Philippians)
    • The verb (make my joy complete) is PLAYROO
    • Translated: Fill up my joy to overflowing by being like minded
  • It’s a WORD PICTURE… Paul says I already have so much joy (pour)
    • Phil 1:4
    • Phil 1:18 
    • Phil 1:19 
    • Paul says have all this joy– Now fill my joy to overflowing (pour)
  • And this verb… the 1 command is the center of gravity for the text
    • Everything Paul says before that is the WHY
      • So V.1 Fill up my joy to overflowing by being likeminded
      • Why… and Paul talks about the motivation
      • Maybe you were growing up the “WHY” kid
        • First Paul talks about the why… then shifts gears
    • Everything Paul says after that (v.2-4) is the HOW
      • This is for the pragmatists… practical application
      • Here is joy you fill up joy to overflowing ever single day

So lets take each one on the list

First off is the “WHY” – Paul starts in verse 1

Phil 2:1

  • In Greek that’s rhetorical… “IF” can be translated – since or b/c
    • Fill up my joy to overflowing… WHY? Well to start…
      • You have encouragement being united with Jesus
    • Encouragement (word picture of a tutor & pupil)
      • Synonym 4 teaching… like when ur kid starts piano lessons
      • Teacher over the shoulder… ok… good job… now right key
    • Jesus is right at your side encouraging you
      • Hey well done… try this… try that… wow I’m so proud of u
  • You have encouragement in the King… and comfort in his love
    • Really the words are just “Comfort from love”
    • Most think Paul is talking about the love of God the Father
  • Then Paul says if there is any common sharing in the Spirit
    • That phrase “common sharing” from the word Koinania
      • This is the idea from ch.1 – Idea of business partnership
      • That you and I are in business together – With God’s Spirit
    • This isn’t just a place to gather… it should be so much more
      • We are in partnership with each other…
      • That should mean something
  • And because you have Encouragement/Comfort/Koinania
    • You can also have tenderness and compassion
    • For each other, for ur leaders, for those who u butt heads with

That’s what text means on surface… but w/ Paul – Always more layers

  • On one level Paul’s “why” is because u have all of this in Jesus
    • But on another level – Paul points to 3 the fold nature of God

Gordon Fee

These clauses likely also reflect an intentional Trinitarian substructure.

  • Notice Paul talks about encouragement being united with Jesus
    • Then Paul talks about Love: Referring to the Father
    • And he talks about Koinania in the Spirit
  • It parallels what Paul says in 2 Corinthians as well

2 Cor 13:14

Paul is really pushing all over his teachings the idea of the trinity… why?

  • B/C this was unknown/unfathomable idea 2 followers of Yahweh
    • Remember Paul is tying together the terms “Lord” and “Jesus”
    • And Lord “Kirios” was throughout the OT replaced Yahweh
    • So Paul is basically saying Jesus Yahweh (Same Level)
  • And then to make it even more mind blowing… rip off band aide
    • Not only are Jesus and God the Father equal
    • Lets throw in the Holy Spirit as well
  • And what is amazing: Paul uses all three titles interchangeably
    • He switches seamlessly from one to the other all over the NT
    • Later theologians pick up on this idea and call it the “Trinity”
    • A word not found anywhere in the Bible – Concept is all over

Problem w/ this word– we westerners jump right 2 systematic theology

  • We dont think like Paul: We think black/white – Paul thinks in color
    • We think in either/or – Paul think in both/and
    • We think in charts/graphs – Paul thinks in story
  • And to Paul there is one creator God who made the universe
    • And at the exact same time God is the
      • Father
      • Son
      • Holy Spirit
  • Few 100 years after Paul – Greek theologian:
    • Coined the term: Parakorisis
    • Parry – Around / Korry – Movement (our word choreography)
    • And it’s this idea that there is a divine dance in God
      • Between the Father – Son – Spirit
      • And all creation is invited to step in

What does this have to do the w/ command

Everything – Why should I fill up my joy…

  • B/C ur eternal creator exists in an unending/lifegiving/divine dance
    • Full of joyful – self giving love and oneness
    • And when you say yes to Jesus… you step into that divine dance
      • You are surrounded by the trinitarian God
      • You have encouragement in Jesus
      • You have comfort in the love of God
      • You have Koinania in the Spirit
  • You’re literally drenched/invited to swim in the presence of our God
    • That is imagery under the surface of joy overflowing

Next Paul shifts gears – Talks about the HOW

Paul says… fill up my joy to overflowing… how?

  • First Paul says by being like minded
    • That phrase “Like Minded” was a common idium in 1st century
      • It just means… on the same page… think alike
    • But it doesn’t mean to think in the sense of the brain/intellect
      • It doesn’t mean u all need same opinion on everything
      • No… we have freedom – we aren’t a cult… we’re church
    • It means that we all have the same “Frame of mind”
      • Stay focused on the exact same goal and mission

Then Paul gives 7 examples of what that looks like in our daily life

  • Having the same love (Always the first one on the list)
    • Jn 15 Jesus says – My 1 command is love each other…
    • Jesus boils all his teachings down to one command – Same love
  • Being one in spirit (som-pyschos) – Where we get the word Psyche
  • And of one mind
    • Means to process in ur mind the exact same way
    • Means to put ur thought process thru a common filter (Jesus)
    • Paul sees church on the same page w/ thinking & feeling
      • Focused and compassionate about what is most important
  • Then Paul goes on to say “Do nothing out of selfish ambition”
    • And this word “Selfish Ambition” isn’t a commonly used word
      • Only place it can be found is in a writing by Aristotle
      • Where he talks about the causes of war
      • One of the causes “Selfish Ambition of Politicians” hmm…
    • Something inside of people… turns ambition into selfishness
      • When u see others get promoted/praise/win something
      • There is sometimes something in us that gets a little off
      • There’s a tinge of envy… jealousy
    • What is that?? It’s a desire to want to get ahead… Spirit fights it
      • Its not ok… b/c the desire is at any cost (justify anything)
  • Or… Paul goes on vain conceit
    • Vain (Empty) – Meaning you have nothing to brag about
      • But for some reason you brag anyways… why?
    • People want others to think they’re more important than they r
      • Its why when asked how are you doing – usually say: BUSY
      • Why – B/C busy is a synonym for important
      • I’ve seen people pretend 2 be on the phone just 2 be busy
    • So we pose on FB/tell others everything we do/brag/this & that
      • And its all stupid… it’s vain… it’s empty
      • Half the time there is nothing to brag about

TAG: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit… it’s a waste

Phil 2:3


Don’t miss read Paul: Not saying “Think of others as better than you”

  • Kyle/David are so much better than me… man I’m such a loser
    • No it means… put others needs before your own
      • Kyle isn’t better than me
      • But his needs are more important to me than my own
    • And I’m not super good at that… but it’s what Paul means
      • Put your spouses needs before your own
      • Put your kids needs before your own
      • Kids… put your parents needs before your own
      • Put those who don’t know Jesus needs ahead of your own
  • Not looking to ur own interests, but each of u to interests of others
    • Not focused on yourself… but others
    • It’s an outward instead of inwards way of doing life

Tag: So that is Pauls laundry list


And it boils down to 2 things:

UNITY: Like minded – Same love – One in Spirit – Of one mind

  • And we need to make sure we read these 4 verses not isolated
    • But by tying them in to the letter as a whole
    • OR… u will just have a lifeless text that says “be nice to people”
  • No… we have to read this all in context
    • Paul just gave us the first command of the letter (few verses b4)
    • Which we talked about is the THESIS of the entire letter
    • It’s the main point Paul is working around thru the text

Phil 1:27

  • That is it – Philippians in a verse – This is what Paul is after…
    • And then he says “THEREFORE”
    • When you read “therefore” think… “what’s it there for”?
    • Rewind… Paul just said “Live as citizens of the gospel of the king
  • So in light of that: Fill up my joy 2 overflowing by being like minded
    • In unity & humility
    • Stay focused on the… literally in the Greek it is “ONE THING”
    • What is the one think: It’s the Gospel of Jesus
  • And what we need to understand… UNITY is NOT the goal
    • Terrorists have unity – Anarchists (ironically) have unity – Mafia
      • Unity is a means to an end…
      • The goal is the Gospel of Jesus
    • The Goal is as a church to live out the gospel (unity is needed)
      • B/C if a church is unified by preference… it will fall apart
      • If unity is b/c of leader/music/building/style/demographic
      • It is only a matter of time before it falls to pieces
  • But when a church comes together around the Gospel of Jesus
    • When you make the main thing the main thing
      • I’m here for ministry… mission… to live out the Gospel
      • That church will stand the test of time
    • Why are you here… preference OR The Gospel (heart check)
      • B/C if Jesus is the reason – we will stay unified & effective

Humility – One scholar said Paul is 1st to use this term

  • Reason: Humility wasn’t a virtue in ancient world… looked down upon
    • Humility was for slaves and the underprivileged… not the noble
    • There was a book called “Book of Virtues” that came out
    • It was a pretty big deal half century ago… pretty famous
    • Goes through all the main virtues of western world
  • There is one virtue that isn’t in the table of contents: Humility
    • Paul knows no one reading this cares about humility
      • But what is at the opening of Philippians
      • “Paul and Timothy slaves of Jesus”
      • Paul is giving value to humility
    • And because humility isn’t a virtue of most people
      • It is easy to misunderstand humility
      • Many think humility is having really low self-esteem
      • Man… I’m terrible (wow your humble)… ya I am awful
    • That’s not humility… it’s something else… called pride
      • Paul defines humility in the text: Being others focused
      • Paul defines pride as being: Self focused
  • Pride is a mirror & humility is a window
    • Pride is looking at the world and only seeing yourself
      • 2 forms of pride (I’m amazing) or (I’m the worst)
      • Either way… your focused on you
    • Humility is looking at the world and seeing needs of others
      • Him/Her/Them/They don’t know Jesus/They need help
      • And you get lost in the needs of others

Now why is it both Unity and Humility (connection?)

One commentator said – Where there is strife there is pride

  • When u find strife (opposite unity) u find pride (opposite humility)
    • Where strife – division… discord… power – there is pride
    • Where pride – selfish… all about me… get ahead – there is strife

James 3:13-18

  • Have 2 understand when u find one… you find the other
    • That’s in your marriage
    • That’s in your friendship
    • That’s in your leadership group
    • That’s in your church circle
  • That is why Paul puts unity AND humility together

To close: Why did Paul put this in – Was this an issue

Most scholars agree that NO it wasn’t an issue

  • But Paul is well aware of how easy this creeps into our lives
    • He saw it happen in Galatia (back biting and gossip)
    • He saw it happen in Corinth (church divided by preferences)
  • So Philippians 2 starts with a warning… not a rebuke
    • A rebuke is “when u mess up and dad sits you down – busted”
    • A warning is “hey watch out and be careful”
    • Fire is right there… don’t get burned
  • And there is no church that shouldn’t read this as a sober reminder
    • To keep humility and unity
    • Especially in the world we live in right now…
    • To make sure everything gravitates around the Gospel of Jesus
      • B/C the moment it becomes about anything else
      • Preference/On stage/Masks or No mask/Music Style
      • It’s the beginning of the end for our gospel effectiveness

That is terrifying… and heart breaking to see – And I’ve seen it happen

  • But I think it’s the one fear straight from the heart of God
    • God forbid it
    • Do I think it’s gonna happen to us as a church… nope
    • Do I think the enemy is trying to make it happen… yep
      • And it happens one person at a time
  • Because we have an enemy hell bent on destroying our us
    • The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy
    • And it’s the destruction of you and me and the Gospel
    • But our WEAPONS and ARMOR are UNITY & HUMILITY

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