The Consummation of Joy
Let’s look again at Philippians 2:1-2. Paul writes: “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” (Phil. 2:1-2).
What is it that Paul is asking them to do? He wants the Philippians to bring his joy to consummation, to cap it off, to cause it to bubble up and overflow. Does this strike you as self-serving on Paul’s part? Here he exhorts the Philippians to embrace these responsibilities of Christian unity and growth so that his joy can be made full. Is he being selfish in asking this of them? Is it selfish of me to ask that the people at Bridgeway be committed to unity and harmony so that my personal joy might be consummated (or that you ask the same of those in your local church)? No!
Ask yourself this question:
Wives, if your husband takes you out to dinner tonight while the baseball game is in full swing and you ask him why he chose to do this, and he says: “Because nothing brings me greater joy than being with you. Nothing, not even watching my favorite baseball team win can compare with you when it comes to making my joy complete,” you are not going to throw water in his face and scream: “You selfish jerk! All you think about is what brings you joy!”
No, I don’t think so. My guess is that you are going to sit there with your mouth gaping in astonishment and gratitude, as you say: “Wow! Do you really mean that? Is it really the case that I mean that much to you, that you would seek your joy in my presence rather than in watching a baseball game? If that’s the case, I’m honored beyond words. Honey, I love you too!”
And how precisely will Paul’s joy be enriched and consummated? By their doing three things, each of which is expressed in some form of unity or the sharing of some common experience or value.
First, strive to be “of the same mind” (v. 2a), which simply means, “be like-minded.” He’s not telling us to think about the same things, but to value the same things; to be of a similar disposition and aim for the same goals. He’s talking about our common purpose as a local church. As different and diverse as we may be in terms of personality and political affiliation and style and external appearance, there has to be an underlying unity, a commonality.
Second, have “the same love” (v. 2b) for one another. Love is already present in Philippi and Paul has earlier prayed that it would abound more and more (1:9). But there is a threat in their midst, the potential for internal friction and divisiveness to undermine their mutual affection for one another.
Third, be “in full accord and of one mind” (v. 2c), or more literally, be “together in soul.” This is almost a repetition of the first phrase but with emphasis on the totality of their unity: let it be true not only of your mind but also of your feelings and soul. His emphasis is on a life directed towards one ultimate goal.
If we are going to cultivate a relational atmosphere and culture that is healthy and prosperous and appealing to outsiders and effective in making Christ look great and glorious, we have to be of one mind on the nature of the Scriptures and their authority over what we believe and how we behave. We have to be of one mind on the nature of God, that he is Triune, existing eternally as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We have to be of one mind concerning who Jesus is and what he has done. We have to agree on the nature of the gospel, that it is the gracious work of God in and through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus to satisfy God’s wrath and reconcile us to himself, through faith, forever. We must be of one mind when it comes to the nature of God’s saving grace, that we are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, apart from any work of our own or any religious ritual. These are the fundamental truths that unite us, apart from which we have no hope of making a meaningful impact on our city.
We’ve looked at the why and the what, and will next turn our attention to the how.