In a world where there is so much to divide us, how do we remain united as Christians? Paul provides direction on being of one mind in his letter to the Philippians. And, the ESV Expository Commentary Set has great insight on this passage. Here are Paul’s remarks, followed by an excerpt from the commentary.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

– Philippians 2:1–4

Section Overview

These four verses are one long sentence in Greek. The sentence has an “if” (2:1)/“then” (v. 2ab) structure, followed by a series of attitudes and actions showing how to live out the main idea (vv. 2c–4), which is that, for Paul to experience fullness of joy, the Christians of Philippi must be unified (2:2ab).

This passage is linked to three sections of Philippians:

  1. the previous verses (1:12–30)
  2. the following verses (2:5–11)
  3. the final verses of the body (4:2–3).

First, these verses fit with the previous verses because they demonstrate that Paul practiced what he is preaching, as he seeks the interests of others above his own.

Second, these verses describe the Christian mind, while the verses that follow describe the mind of Christ (2:5–11). Christ preeminently lived out these principles.

Third, this same command appears again as the climactic command at the close of the book’s body, where Paul calls Euodia and Syntyche to agree in the Lord (4:2). We could bring out the similarity by translating as follows:

Complete my joy so that you may think the same thing [to auto phronēte]. (2:2)

I urge Euodia and Syntyche to think the same thing [to auto phronein] in the Lord. (4:2)

Section Outline

  • Exhortation: Gospel Thinking (2:1–4)
    • Shared Gospel Blessings (2:1)
    • The Call for a Shared Gospel Thinking (2:2ab)
    • Specific Gospel Dos and Don’ts (2:2c–4)

Comment: Being of One Mind

As just noted, these four verses are one sentence in the original language. The structure is an “if” (v. 1)/“then” (v. 2ab) construction followed by a series of participles spelling out how to carry out the command (vv. 2c–4).

2:1

The “if” clause contains five blessings the Philippians already share in common through the gospel of Christ. The point is a cumulative one. The way Paul formulates each phrase forces the Philippians to answer a similar question five times. Perhaps this can best be seen as a conversation:

Paul: “Is there any encouragement in Christ?”
The Philippians: “Yes.”
Paul: “Is there any comfort from love?”
The Philippians: “Yes.”
Paul: “Is there any participation in the Spirit?”
The Philippians: “Yes.”
Paul: “Is there any affection?”
The Philippians: “Yes.”
Paul: “Is there any sympathy?”
The Philippians: “Yes.”

Why would anyone communicate this way? One builds a case to lead to an inevitable conclusion.

I say to my child: “Did I buy your clothes?
Child: “Yes.”
Me: “Did I wash your clothes?
Child: “Yes.”
Me: “Did I dry your clothes?”
Child: “Yes.”
Me: “Then it should not be too much to ask for you to fold your clothes!

Paul communicates in a similar way in order to build a case leading to a conclusion in verse 2.

2:2ab

The five-fold “yes” of shared gospel blessings should lead to the singular “yes” of a shared mind-set. The way Paul formulates the command is striking. Obeying the command is an invitation to fill up Paul’s joy in them: if all those things are true, then “complete my joy by being of the same mind.”

2:2c–4

The rest of verses 2–4 feature six different ways a Christian mind should be expressed:

  1. having the same love
  2. being in full accord
  3. being of one mind
  4. doing nothing from selfish ambition or conceit
  5. counting others more significant than yourselves, and
  6. looking not only to one’s own interests but also to the interests of others.

Response

How One Becomes Humble, Being of One Mind

Paul calls for humility to live out the Christian life. But how does one become humble? Someone asked the great preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones this very question. His answer:

A friend was asking me the other day, “How can I be humble?”

He felt there was pride in him, and he wanted to know how to get rid of it. He seemed to think that I had some patent remedy and could tell him, “Do this, that, and the other and you will be humble.”

I said: “I have no method or technique. I can’t tell you to get down on your knees and believe in prayer because I know you will soon be proud of that. There’s only one way to be humble, and that is to look into the face of Jesus Christ; you cannot be anything else when you see him.”

That is the only way. Humility is not something you can create within yourself; rather, you look at him, you realize who he is and what he has done, and you are humbled.

That is exactly what Paul does next. He says:

“Look at Jesus, realize who he is and what he has done, and you will be humbled.”

ESV Expository Commentary - Being of One Mind article

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