“The Joy of Being of the Same Mind, the Mind of Christ” (Philippians 2)
Today is the second in our four-week series on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. We’re going chapter by chapter through the four chapters of this letter. Last week we introduced the series by noting that Philippians is often called “The Epistle of Joy,” because of the recurring theme of joy running through the letter. We saw it last week in Philippians 1. There Paul describes his relationship with the Philippians in what we called a “Joyful Gospel Partnership.” Through the message that Paul had preached to them, the gospel of Jesus Christ, God had formed the Philippians into a church, a family of believers gathered around the gospel. And thereby God had established a partnership, a “koinonia,” a fellowship, between Paul and the Philippians, in the faith and in the church’s mission. This was a joyful gospel partnership, because the gospel of salvation in Christ brings such good news to gladden the heart, a joy that goes deeper than happiness, because that joy is there, whether our circumstances happen to be happy or sad. Paul, at the time he writes this letter–his circumstances were not that great. He was in prison, probably in Rome, and yet he had great joy, and he wants the Philippians to share in that joy. For the gospel unites pastor and people in a partnership, a partnership of prayer, a partnership even in prison, and a partnership of progress and joy in the faith.
So that was last week. Now we come to chapter 2. More joy in this chapter also! Look at what Paul says in verse 2: “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” And a little after that, in verses 5 and following, he explains what that one mind is: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who” etc. So today I’m calling the theme of chapter 2: “The Joy of Being of the Same Mind, the Mind of Christ.”
Being of the same mind. Paul had introduced this idea already at the end of chapter 1, in 1:27: “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.” Notice: one spirit, one mind, striving side by side. And now he will expand on this in chapter 2.
Chapter 2, verses 1-4: “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 rivalry 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.”
“Being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” Why is this oneness of mind so important? It’s important for our being built up in the faith. For our mutual edification. We are encouraged when this family of believers is united, all here, present and accounted for. All gathered joyfully around the gospel, as it is preached and taught and sacramented here at St. Matthew’s. We are refreshed, in faith toward God and in fervent love toward one another.
It’s important for us to be of the same mind in order to be able to care for one another with that fervent love. We have brothers and sisters here in church who are hurting. We have some who are not here this morning, for various reasons, and they are hurting too. We all experience sadness and disappointment in one way or another. We all have practical needs that we could use some help with. This is one of the reasons God has brought us together as a family, so that we can help one another. So that we can show Christ-like love to one another. Christ-like love goes into action for the other person. It’s a humility that counts others more significant than yourself. It’s a love that looks to the interests of others. That’s what we’re called to do for one another in the church. This week it may be me who is hurting, and you may be able to help. Next week you could be the one who could use a helping hand or a listening ear or an encouraging word. It’s important that we be here for one another, all of us having the same mind and the same love.
And this oneness of mind is important for another reason also. It’s important for the church’s mission. For our work together as the body of Christ. “With one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,” as Paul said at the end of chapter 1. When we all together realize how important the gospel is, not only for ourselves, but for all people, wherever they may be, in our own community and around the world–when we realize that the church’s mission is to bring the gospel of Christ to people who need it, that this is the church’s purpose for being in the world, then we will bend every effort to carry out our calling. Our priorities in life will be rearranged. What the priority is with our pocketbook, for example. With the time and effort we put into the work of our congregation. We make sacrifices to advance the gospel. The church’s purpose becomes our purpose, both individually and collectively.
So it’s important that we share the same mind. Now Paul will tell us more of what that mind looks like–indeed, where we get that kind of mind from. It is the mind of Christ. Verses 5-8: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
What does the mind of Christ look like? It is humble. It is sacrificial. It is looking out for the interests of others, in love. Supremely so! Our love will never match the love of Christ, but it is certainly patterned after his love. Look at what Christ did. He, the eternal Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, came down from heaven for us men and for our salvation. He became one of us, our brother. He came as a servant. He came to do the Father’s will, which was to save us from our sins and to give us eternal life. This Christ did, by going all the way to the cross for us. What humble, sacrificial love this is! The Son of God, shedding his holy blood for sinful humanity. This is humble, sacrificial, self-giving love to the highest degree!
Transferred to a smaller scale, this is now what the mind of Christ means for us in our lives: that we would humble ourselves, to give of ourselves for the good of others. Husbands, laying down their lives for the sake of their wife. Wives, humbly submitting themselves to their husband’s leadership, as the church looks to Christ. Children, obeying their parents. All of us, learning the lesson of unselfish love throughout our lives, in humbleness and self-giving.
Now where do we get this kind of mind from? Not on our own. Not from inside ourselves. Our mind, by nature, is turned in on itself. Looking out for Number One, not looking out for the interests of others. Our sinful mind, by nature, is dead toward the things of God. We need to have our mind awakened by God. Opened by Christ. Enlivened and enlightened by the Spirit of God. And this is what God has done. You and I have been united with Christ in Holy Baptism. We have been given the gift of the Spirit. We have the mind of Christ. The mind of Christ gives us new impulses, new desires. New power to carry out what God would have us to do. The mind of Christ changes our lives.
Notice where Paul says this new way of life comes from. In verses: 12 and 13, he says: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” You see? Paul is not afraid to tell us to put our salvation to work. He’s directing us here to love and good works. But these works proceed from the prior work of God in us. In a nutshell: “Work out your salvation, for it is God who works in you.” God first works in us the mind of Christ. And then that plays out in the way we live.
Paul continues: “Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life.” As we Christians live out the mind of Christ in our daily lives and in our life together as church, we are a living testimony to the power of the gospel. In the midst of a sin-darkened world, we stand out and shine out with the light of Christ. The church stands as a beacon of hope in a lost and dying world. The only real and lasting hope there is the hope offered and given in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And we shine forth with that radiant hope precisely as we hold fast to God’s Word. “Holding fast to the word of life”: That means being regular in church, where the word of life is freely given, in preaching, in the Blessed Sacrament, and in Bible class too. It means being in the Word throughout the week, in daily devotions, as we meditate on God’s Word and apply it to our lives. As we gladly share the Word with the people we know and meet in our lives. These are ways we hold fast to the word of life and shine out as lights in the world. This is how being of the same mind, the mind of Christ, is nurtured and demonstrated in our lives.
The joy of being of the same mind, the mind of Christ. What was true for the Philippians is true for us. The source and the ongoing power for having this mind among ourselves is found in none other than in Christ himself. What our Servant-Lord has done for us in humbling himself and going to the cross for our salvation–this is the cause for all our joy, all our hope, all our love, and all our new way of thinking. “Therefore,” Paul says, and with this I’ll close, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”