Phil 2:1-4 is found in a section (Phil 1:27-2:18) where we believers are used to “live worthy of the gospel” (Phil 1:27). Paul desires the Philippians to live out their faith, and this meant living differently from the world around them.
It is interesting to note how Paul does this. I believe he shows here a pattern found elsewhere in Scripture regarding how believers are to grow in godliness and obedience to Christ.
We are not led forward, by what some would call MORALISM. Moralism says, “Obey God and do good things or you will not be accepted.” Rather, Paul leads the believer forward through reminding us of the gospel. It is through a knowledge and remembrance of the precious privileges we have in the gospel that one is motivated and led to live differently.
Here we see what theologians speak of as the indicative (a truth state) empowering the imperative (a command given). This pattern leads us forward as we seek to live worthy of the gospel.
PRECIOUS PRIVILEGES OF THE GOSPEL (V 1)
“If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy”
It is interesting when you pause and consider what is happening here. Paul reminds us of the precious privileges we have in the gospel, and then calls us to live in light that gospel reality. This is a pattern we follow for sanctification as believers.
Let’s consider the privileges of the gospel for a moment, privileges listed in 2:1. (Commentator Gordon Fee notes the Trinitarian form seen in this verse. We see God the Son, God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit).
First, we have enormous encouragement in Christ. How do we experience this encouragement in Christ? Lots of ways! If one only considers 10, we have much to be encouraged by: 1 A Savior who came to save us; 2 A Messiah who rescues us from our sin; 3 Eternal Life; 4 A God who is more powerful than all our greatest foes; 5 A High Priest who washes us clean; 6 A Mediator between God and men; 7 a Lord who is gracious to us even after we sin; 8 a Savior who is gentle and kind; 9 truth itself about reality in a person; 10 a King who invites us to be part of his kingdom and kingdom work. That is only 10 things, but wow, what amazing encouragements we have!
Second, we have comfort from God the Father’s love. Here’s four ways of consoling love from the Father: 1 A Father who loves us with an “everlasting love,” Ps 103:17; 2 A Father whose love is higher than the heaven is above the Earth Ps 103:10; 3 A Father who in love predestined us [Eph 2:4b]; 4 A Father who gave his Son so that all who believed in him would have eternal life [John 3:16].
Third, we have this experience of participation in the Holy Spirit. Here’s just a few ways we experience this: 1 The Holy Spirit brings us to spiritual life [Titus 3:4-7]; 2 The Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures [2 Tim 3:16] and helps us understand Scripture; 3The Holy Spirit empowers us for Holy living [Gal 5:28-29]; 4 The Holy Spirit comforts and guides and grants gifts to build up the church.
Now, the Philippians already knew this, but Paul saw that they—and we! need to be reminded of the precious privileges we have in the gospel. We need to remember the new identity we have, an identity that is experientially felt. It is after breathing the air of this reality, and letting these truths sink into our hearts are we ready to live worthy of the gospel, which Paul spells out in verses 2-4 (unity, rejecting selfishness, embracing a posture of humble sacrificial love). The amazing gospel reality (indicative) empowers how we ought to live worthy of the gospel (imperative).