Philippians 1:25 I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith.
Notice the connection between progress and joy. If you are making progress at a sport, you will enjoy it a little more. And if you are making progress at work, you will enjoy it a little more. And if you are making progress at the gym, you will enjoy it a little more. A ninety year old cello player practiced his instrument several hours a day. When his niece asked him Why? he said, I think I’m making progress.
The same is true in our relationship with Christ. Christianity is a happy religion as long as we are growing. Show me a Christian who is making progress, and I will show you a happy Christian. Show me a Christian who is not making progress, and I will show you someone to pray for.
Philippians 2:2 [M]ake my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.
Church unity was never far from the front of Paul’s mind. [B]e perfectly united in mind and thought (1 Corinthians (1:10). Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:3). And be united in love (Colossians 2:2), he wrote. Many churches stop growing the moment there is conflict because no one wants to invite others into an unhealthy situation.
If children are raised in a healthy home, they will invite their friends to share the joy. But the moment there is conflict, they will stop inviting their friends, because they do not want to be embarrassed. That is why Jesus prayed for the church to be united. Then the world will know that you sent me (John 17:23), he said. If Jesus prayed for unity, and Paul pled for unity, it may be more important than we think. Preserving the unity of the church is the responsibility of every believer.
Philippians 2:5-8 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Theologians divide the humiliation of Christ into various stages. He left his throne in glory to be born in a manger, and began sucking and drooling. Years later he was mocked, spat on, whipped and crucified. He said, It is finished and gave up his spirit (John 19:30). Then he was laid in a cold dark tomb, and began to decompose. Incarnation, suffering, death and burial are various stages of Christ’s humiliation.
Philippians 2:9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.
Theologians also divide the exaltation of Christ into various stages. First he rose from the dead, then he ascended into heaven, now he rules the world, and he will return in glory. First he was crowned with thorns, then he was crowned with honor. First he was humiliated, then he was exalted. First he suffered, then he was glorified.
This is also the pattern for those who follow Christ. [W]e share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory (Romans 8:17), wrote Paul. And, our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be [ours] (Romans 8:18), wrote Paul again. And, you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed (1 Peter 4:13), wrote Peter.
When we understand the pattern God has established, we will not be surprised by suffering. Whenever it comes our way, we can simply look ahead to future glory. The only thing that could make the best of all possible worlds even better is to get there through suffering. The way of tears is the way to eternal joy.
Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
The good news of our salvation, and God’s affectionate love for us, might lead some to believe that God is not dangerous. But that idea is flatly wrong, so Paul commanded the Philippians to work out their salvation with fear and trembling.
[H]e is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread (Isaiah 8:13), wrote Isaiah. Many want to soften the fear of God to a mild reverence or respect. But the word dread should clear that up. As long as we are living for God, we do not need to be afraid of him. But if we are turning away from God, we should be filled with dread.
When I was in my teens, I went skiing in Utah, and rode a lift to the top of a mountain. I had never been there before, and when I reached the top, I was gripped by fear. The mountain had two sides, and to my alarm, there was nothing to keep me from going down the wrong side. If I went down the right side of the mountain, I would be fine. But if I went down the wrong side of the mountain, I could die. Fear helped me choose the right side of the mountain. Likewise, there is a right and wrong side of God. So work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
Reflection and Review
Why is a unified church more likely to grow?
How does Christ’s humiliation and exaltation apply to us?
Why should Christians fear God?