Thursday, September 24, 2020

September 24, 2020 – Thursday prior to Proper 21

Philippians 2:1-4, 14-18 – Turn from conceit to humility for unity.  

As we have read through Paul’s letter to the Romans this past seventeen weeks we now set our focus on his letter to the Philippians.  Paul in the Epistle lesson appeals for unity in the Philippian congregation. 

Paul, in appealing for unity, presents Jesus as the model of humanity and obedience. Paul pleads for unity in the congregation at Philippi. He uses Jesus as an example of humility. In this lesson Paul shows the dual reality of the humanity and divinity of Jesus. His deity is indicated by the words, “in the form of God” and “equality with God.” His humanity is expressed in the phrases, “emptied himself,” “the likeness of men,” “in human form,” “obedient unto death.” 

This humility and obedience led to Christ’s exaltation. It is God’s will that every tongue confess Him as Lord. In the light of this, Christians are to work out their salvation as God works in them.

What is the solution to lack of church unity? Paul urges his people to have the mind of Christ. His mind was one of humility demonstrated in His taking the form of a servant and dying on a cross.

Humility is expressed by considering others better than yourself and being concerned more about others than yourself. Arrogance and pride divide and cause trouble while humility draws together into a unity.

When someone uses the word “if” to begin a sentence, we must look to the context to determine whether he/she is describing a factual condition or something contrary to fact. The context of this verse makes it clear that Paul is talking about something that is true. There IS “exhortation in Christ.” There IS “consolation of love.” There IS “fellowship of the Spirit.” There ARE “tender mercies and compassion.” Most Christians have experienced at least some of these things and know that they are the case. When Paul says “if,” he intends these Philippian Christians to nod their heads “Yes” and say, “Well, of course there is encouragement in Christ—of course there is consolation in love.”[1]

Paul is  setting the stage with this verse. See verse 2 to see his where he takes this. “Make my joy full” (v. 2a). An “if” clause is often followed by a “then” clause. “If A is true, then B naturally follows”—or “If X is true, then do Y.” In this verse Paul encourages us with these words:

• “If there is any exhortation in Christ, (then) make my joy full.”

• “If there is any consolation of love, (then) make my joy full.”

• “If there is any fellowship of the Spirit, (then) make my joy full.”

• “If there are any tender mercies and compassion, (then) make my joy full.”

With the hymn writer we pray: “Give Thy Church, Lord to see Days of peace and unity.”

A collect for Unity of faith O God, Your infinite love restores to the right way those who err, seeks the scattered, and preserves those whom You have gathered. Of Your tender mercy pour out on Your faithful people the grace of unity that, all schisms being ended, Your flock may be gathered to the true Shepherd of Your Church and may serve You in all faithfulness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. [2]


[2] Collect for Unity of faith, Lutheran Service Book © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, St, Louis

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