Joy is something that I must work at. It is a fruit, needs cultivation, water, fertilizer and more. Neglect can rob me of the fruit.
People can rob us of our joy. Paul was facing his problems with people at Rome as well as with people in Philippi, and it was the latter who concerned him the most. When Epaphroditus brought a generous gift from the church in Philippi, and good news of the church’s concern for Paul, he also brought the bad news of a possible division in the church family. Apparently, there was a double threat to the unity of the church; false teachers coming in from without and disagreeing members within. What Euodia (“fragrance”) and Syntyche (“fortunate”) were debating about, Paul does not state. Perhaps they both wanted to be president of the missionary guild or the choir!
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. Therefore Paul opens this section appealing to the highest possible spiritual motives.
Since the believers at Philippi are “in the Messiah,” this ought to encourage them to work toward unity and love, not division and rivalry. In a gracious way, Paul is saying to the church, “Your disagreements reveal that there is a spiritual problem in your fellowship. It isn’t going to be solved by rules or threats; it’s going to be solved when your hearts are right with Christ and with each other.” Paul wanted them to see that the basic cause was selfishness, and the cause of selfishness is pride. There can be no joy in the life of the Christian who puts himself above others.
The secret of joy despite circumstances is the single mind. The secret of joy despite people is the submissive mind. The key verse is: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better [more important] than themselves”. In Philippians 1, it is “the Messiah first” and in Philippians 2 it is “others next.” Paul the soul winner in Philippians 1 becomes Paul the servant in Philippians 2.
- Philippians 2:1–2 —Therefore if there is any encouragement in the Messiah, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
- 2 Corinthians 7:7 — And not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more.
- 2 Corinthians 7:12–13 —So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the offender nor for the sake of the one offended, but that your earnestness on our behalf might be made known to you in the sight of God. For this reason we have been comforted. And besides our comfort, we rejoiced even much more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.
- Philemon 7 — For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.