The Philippian Mind
F. S. Bibbings, Burrington, N. Devon
The Epistle to the Philippians was written as a "thank you letter" from Paul in his Roman prison, to acknowledge a gift, brought by Epaphroditus, from the saints at Philippi. As we study it, we find that Paul was also concerned about the minds of these believers in Northern Greece, knowing that as a man "thinketh in his heart, so is he", Prov. 23. 7. These Macedonian Christians lived in a part of the Roman empire famous for its great thinkers. At Athens, the apostle had encountered some of the false philosophies which flourished in the atmosphere of the refined Greek culture. He knew how necessary it was that the minds of the saints be taken up with spiritual truth; a healthy mind is essential for a healthy body. Paul rightly considered that if their thoughts were filled with the things of Christ, he need have little fear for the future of this local church.
In this short Epistle five distinct lessons concerning the "mind" are to be discovered.
1. The Single Mind, 1. 27. They were to have one mind with regard to the gospel.
First, Paul reviews the past and speaks of their "fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now", v. 5. What a privilege to have fellowship in the preaching of the good news! This fellowship can be shown by our prayers for God's workers, our presence among God's workers, and our pence to help God's workers. In this last respect the Philippians were commended for their liberality, 4. 16-20.
Next, the apostle thinks of the present, and he wishes his readers to know that his bonds are being used as a blessing. His imprisonment was not a hindrance, as they no doubt had thought, but it had "fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel", 1. 12. This "advancement" was not where Christ was named. "But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand", Rom. 15. 21, even in Caesar's household. How often does God use the apparently adverse circumstances of life for His own glory. This they were to recognize as a reality in their own lives.
In verse 27, Paul is looking into the future and directs their attention to the faith of the gospel". To the truths and beliefs, the faith once delivered to the saints, Jude 3, he seeks their devoted loyalty. They were to stand firm, Phil. 1. We need to take heed to the exhortation in this modern age when even fundamental doctrine is being questioned. Let us contend earnestly for the faith, holding fast the form of sound words, 2 Tim. 1. 13, and not shunning to declare the whole counsel of God, Acts 20. 27. "He that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully", Jer. 23. 28.
2. The Saviour's Mind, 2. 5. This they were to have with regard to others, v. 3.
Paul realized that, if the Philippians were going to be able to esteem others better than themselves, they would need to exercise a humble, lowly, gracious and gentle mind, such as so marked our Saviour in every step He took; "when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not", 1 Pet. 2. 23. The spiritual man has "the mind of Christ", 1 Cor. 2. 16. He will obey the command of 1 Peter 5. 6, and he that so humbleth himself shall be exalted, Luke 18. 14. How great is the example set before us. "He humbled himself ... wherefore God also hath highly exalted him", Phil. 2. 8-9. So we are to "be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble", 1 Pet. 5. 5. In no other frame of mind can we consider others to be worthy of greater honour than we ourselves deserve.
May the mind of Christ my Saviour
Live in me from day to day, By His love and power controlling
All I do and say.
3. The Set Mind, 3. 14-16. Here the believers' hearts are being directed to things above, in contrast to things of earth.
Paul speaks of forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things that are before. He counts his own self-attainments and self-righteousness as "loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus", v. 8. He pressed towards the goal, "toward the mark, for the prize", and exhorted the believers to be thus minded, w. 14-15. (Note that here, while emphasizing the need to have one's mind fixed so that one "may win Christ", Paul used both himself and his fellow-labourers as examples, v. 17; but earlier, when on the subject of "humility", he referred to his Saviour as the pattern, 2. 5.) The disciples were encouraged to set their sights heavenward, seeing their citizenship was in heaven from whence they were to look for the Lord Jesus Christ, v. 20. So may we, as we look for Him, look unto Him, and run with patience the race that is set before us, Heb. 12. 1-2, thus running to obtain, not a corruptible crown, but an incorruptible, 1 Cor. 9. 25. "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God", Col. 3. 2-3.
4. The Same Mind, 4.2. This Paul desired that they should have with one another.
The differences that existed between Euodias and Syntyche were doubtless a grief to the apostle's heart, so he besought each one in turn to be of the same mind in the Lord. For how can two walk together except they are agreed? These two sisters were very probably at the riverside where Paul and his companions went one sabbath day at Philippi, Acts 16. 13. They were among some of the first to constitute the local church, and had been a tower of strength to its witness. But now circumstances had changed and he longed for them to be of the same mind, so that the work of the Lord might prosper once again. Paul knew that it is when we dwell together in unity that the Lord will command blessing, Psa. 133. 3; such unity is strength.
5. The Safe Mind, 4. 7. This they were to hold in themselves.
In verse 6, Paul encouraged them to take everything to God in prayer, in order to relieve themselves of any anxious care. Unless they did this, they could never appreciate fully the meaning of verse 7: "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep (or 'guard', i.e. 'watch in advance') your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus". The word "passeth" in verse 7 is the same as that translated "better" in chapter 2. 3. To have the peace of God, that which emanates from the God of peace, is even better than knowing His path for us. "I'd rather walk in the dark with God, than go alone in the light." May this blessed experience be ours continually.
"Finally, brethren,... if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things", 4. 8.