For this series in Philippians, I am going to limit each post to one verse, and hopefully produce a short, succinct read for my friends who follow.
2:1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,
If if if. The largest word in the English language. It always implies possibility, of success or failure, of obedience or rebellion, of an outcome depending on an action. I have ventured to understand this concept in an earlier blog – see Conditional Security – John 8:31,32, 51.
Nevertheless, Paul seems to be basing his future appeal for unity (our next verse) on four motivations for the Christian. As a general comment, it is interesting that none of these motivators are negative, by that I mean, there is no threatening’s, no appeal to authority (though Paul had authority!) no appeal to competition with a brother, no appeal to the individual’s selfish desire. Each of these appeals were based on the experience the believer had with the Lord Himself and the Lord’s people.
Encouragement in Christ
Exhortation, admonition or consolation may be understood in this first phrase, and speaks of those who want the best for the one receiving the encouragement. When I hear encouragement, I often think of an inner strengthening, of being “couraged up” in a particular endeavor.
Comfort from love
As I mentioned earlier, each appeal is connected with the Lord or His people. Although God the Father is not expressly defined in this text, I always assume Paul refers to the Father in this portion. The Love of the Father is a fitting topic to appeal to for the believer, for our entire existence is based on the love of the Father. He sent His only Son for us, out of love for His creation, out of a self sacrificial love for His people.
Participation in the Spirit
Fellowship or a sharing together in the Spirit. Note that this may not be addressing the participation of the Spirit in our individual lives, that is His ministry in our lives to convict or guide each believer directly. Paul speaks of a fellowship in the Spirit. Might he be speaking of a fellowship amongst other believers, in the body of Christ, through (or in) the Spirit? At the very least!
Any affection and sympathy
Paul loved this church. He had a heart for this group that may not have been his experience with other church plants. This affection and sympathy speaks of his own experience and his desire to have the believers enter into this amongst themselves. True love towards one another is not fostered through judgement, gossip or shame, but through affection and sympathy.
Affection speaks of a tenderness, a kindness and compassion towards others based on our decision and not on their performance.
Sympathy speaks of feelings of goodwill, and is also translated as tender mercies in some translations.
Both of these terms speaks of a vulnerability in relationship, or extending to others the benefit of the doubt, of an ongoing “maintenance” of relationship through humility and forgiveness toward our brother or sister in Christ.
May you find a way today to exercise love towards others, an encouragement to those who are walking the path with you
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