— The Preaching and Teaching Ministry of Kevin A. Pierpont

Unity in the Local Church – Philippians 2:1-2

A high school orchestra was preparing for a concert that featured a pianist in a rendition of Grieg’s A-minor concerto. Before the performance, it was customary for the orchestra to tune up with an “A” sounded by the oboe player. But the oboist was a practical joker, and he had tuned his instrument a half step higher than the piano. You can imagine the effect. After the pianist played a beautiful introduction, the members of the orchestra joined in. What confusion! Every instrument was out of tune with the piano.

We can laugh at this, but just as an orchestra needs to be in tune to make pleasing sounds, we in the church must be in tune with one another to please our Lord. A church that lacks unity is going to be less effective for the cause of Christ. If we are going to be effective as a local church we need to make an effort to focus on unity. If we are divided and marked by conflict it will hinder our effectiveness for Christ. We must make it our aim to be unified as a local body of believers.

Paul wrote to the Corinthian church…

2 Corinthians 12:20 For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults;

The things that he lists are marks of a lack of unity. That is not how he wanted to find the Corinthian church. To the church at Rome he wrote the following words in Romans 15:5-7,

5 Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, 6 that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.

Paul understood the importance of unity in the local church and he understood the importance of unity in the Philippian church in particular. And just as unity was needed in the Philippian church so it is needed here at Higgins Lake Baptist Church.

In Philippians 2:1-2 we see Paul’s appeal to the Philippian church to unity. As we look at this passage today it will clarify the importance of unity right here in our midst.

Philippians 2:1 Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

In the first verse we see the basis of unity and in the second verse we see the call to unity. Let’s take a closer look at the basis of unity found in the first verse.

Basis of Unity

Although the word if is used throughout the first verse— if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy—Paul is speaking of qualities that are real not uncertain. As commentators point out the if clauses here could actually be translated since. As David Guzik points out in his commentary on verse one,

Paul mentions things like consolation in Christ and comfort of love in a manner which suggests to us that they should all be obvious parts of the Christian's experience; to make his rhetorical point, he could have just as easily said, "if water is wet, if fire is hot, if rocks are hard . . . " 1

The qualities that Paul mentions in the first verse are real to the Christian. There is consolation in Christ, there is comfort of love, there is fellowship of the Spirit, there is affection and mercy. All of these are very real in the life of the believer.

The word consolation is translated encouragement in the NASB and the NIV. The Greek word here, has the root meaning of coming alongside someone to give assistance by offering comfort, counsel, or exhortation.2

The next phrase, comfort of love most likely is referring to the love that God shows to believers. This love of God is mentioned in Romans 5:5.

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

God pours His love into us and we need to pour our love into the lives of our fellow believers.

The next phrase, fellowship of the Spirit, points to the communion each believer has with the Holy Spirit. He can give us the strength to fellowship and be in communion with one another.

Affection and mercy is translated affection and compassion in the NASB and is translated tenderness and compassion in the NIV. We’ve experienced the tenderness and compassion of Christ. The consolation of Christ, the comfort of love, the fellowship of the Spirit and affection and mercy are all incentives for us to love our brothers and sisters in the church.

We have experienced such wonderful blessings from our relationship with Christ and out of gratitude for all He has done for us should flow a desire to be unified with our fellow believers. Paul lists all of these blessings that are ours in Christ to motivate us to the unity he calls us to in verse 2. The basis for our unity is through our relationship with Jesus Christ.

A.W. Tozer in The Pursuit of God, says the following,

Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers [meeting] together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.

Understand that the basis for unity in the Philippian church is the same basis for unity in this church. Warren Wiersbe offers some good insight on this passage.

Paul knew what some church workers today do not know, that there is a difference between unity and uniformity. True spiritual unity comes from within; it is a matter of the heart. Uniformity is the result of pressure from without. This is why Paul opens this section appealing to the highest possible spiritual motives (Phil. 2:1–4). Since the believers at Philippi are “in Christ,” this ought to encourage them to work toward unity and love, not division and rivalry. 3

We who are in Christ today should be motivated by what Christ has done for us and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives to work toward unity. The basis for unity that Paul gives to the church at Philippi is outlined in verse one but there is one more personal incentive that Paul offers to the Philippians to strive for unity. Paul begins verse two with the words fulfill my joy.

He is saying, “you know what would make my joy complete? Your unity.” I know as a parent that I enjoy it when my children are getting along with each other. As your pastor, I enjoy it when I see you getting along with each other in the church. Paul wanted to be able to think of the Philippians with joy knowing they were unified and enjoying sweet fellowship with each other.

Call to Unity

2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

Paul moves on in verse two and calls the Philippians to be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord and one mind. He is calling them to unity. He is calling them to unity with each other at Philippi. He calls them to be like-minded.

Commenting on this, John MacArthur says,

In this context, being of the same mind means to actively strive to achieve common understanding and genuine agreement. 4

We can have this kind of unity without uniformity. For example, we would all agree that it is important for us as parents to bring up our children in the training and admonition of the Lord as Ephesians 6:4 tells us.

We are unified in our undestanding of this. We are like-minded. Yet in the area of education for example we may not be uniform. Some of us may send our children to public schools; others to Christian schools and others may homeschool. What is important is that we are like-minded in our understanding of training our children in the Lord. We don’t have to insist that our way is the only way but we should be unified in our purpose of raising children who love the Lord.

Paul also calls the Philippians to have the same love. We need to love one another equally in the body of Christ. We can’t choose to love a few of our favorite people while being unloving toward others. We are called to love one another. Our love can’t be selective. We’ve been commanded to love each other. Not just the ones we prefer but all of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are a family.

What an awful thing favoritism is in the family where one child is loved more than another. A good parent loves all his children equally. In the church we need to have an equal love for one another. We need to love even those who are difficult to love.

Paul also calls the Philippian church to be of one accord. The idea here is living in harmony with each other. We shouldn’t let our differences of opinion or preferences hinder us from being unified with each other and working together for the Lord. We may not see eye to eye on everything with fellow believers but we shouldn’t allow petty differences to destroy our unity. We should have relationships that are harmonious as we work together for the cause of Christ.

Note also that Paul calls the Philippian church to be of one mind or as the NASB puts it, intent on one purpose. We are here to love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind and our neighbor as ourselves. Loving God and loving people is our purpose as a church and when we are intent on this purpose and working together we will advance the cause of Christ.

Paul outlines for us some wonderful incentives for unity. He gives us a solid basis for striving to be a church that is marked by unity. Just as Paul calls the Philippian church to unity, so we are called to unity today at Higgins Lake Baptist Church.

Note that Jesus prayed for our unity. Look with me at John 17:20-21.

20 "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 "that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.

We need to heed the instruction given in Ephesians 4:3.

endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

D.L. Moody said,

There are two ways of being united—one is by being frozen together, and the other is by being melted together. What Christians need is to be united in brotherly love, and then they may expect to have power. 5

If we want to be a church that is having on impact on this community then we must be a church that is marked by unity.

Are your relationships in the church marked by unity or would you have to admit that there are some rifts that you need to repair? Discord and broken relationships in the church will weaken or even destroy our effectiveness for Christ. We must strive together to be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, and one mind.

We have seen this morning the basis for unity and the call to unity and next week we’ll take a closer look at some practical ways we can achieve unity in the church. Until then I want to give you this charge from Psalm 133:1.

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!

1 Guzik, David. "Study Guide for Philippians Chapter 2." Blue Letter Bible

2MacArthur, J. F. (.). The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Philippians (electronic ed.) (Php 2:5).

3Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"–Jkt. (Php 2:5). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

4MacArthur, J. F. (.). The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Philippians (Php 2:5).

5Moody’s Anecdotes, p. 53