Chapter 19: Mind the One Thing

Philippians 2:1‑2  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 8
“If (there be) therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfill ye my joy, that ye may be likeminded, having the same love, (being) of one accord, of one mind.”
“If, then, (there is) any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of (the) Spirit, if any tenderheartedness and compassions, Fill full my joy when ye mind the same (thing), having the same love, joined-in-soul, minding the one (thing).”
“If, then, (there is)
any encouragement in Christ,
if any comfort of love,
if any fellowship of (the) Spirit,
if any tender-heartedness and compassions,
We must ever remember as we read the Word of God, that the chapter and verse divisions were put in by men, and not by the Holy Spirit: and too often, I fear, through these, we are apt to lose the connection that the Spirit of God has established. I think this is the case in the division between chapter one and chapter two of Philippians.
In the last verse but one of the first chapter we read that to them it was given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake. Immediately, in the first verse of chapter two, the Apostle reminds them of the encouragement there is in Christ. When we are suffering, especially suffering for Christ’s sake: what a thing it is to have encouragement: and when that encouragement is in Christ, how sure and blessed it is! You remember when Paul was in prison in Jerusalem: perhaps through his own self-will, perhaps grieving over the dishonor done to the name of Christ that day in the Council (Acts 23): very likely greatly discouraged and cast down: that night, following all this trouble, the Lord Himself not an angel, came and stood by him: not to remind him of his failure, but to say: “Be of good cheer, Paul!” (Acts 23:1111And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome. (Acts 23:11)). That is indeed encouragement in Christ. Paul could speak from well-tried experience, when he says: “If, then, there is any encouragement in Christ.” That little word “if” is not expressing any question or doubt: but has the meaning of “since”: “Since there is such encouragement in Christ.” We will find four grand motives for the exhortation Paul is about to give: this the first.
You will notice that in our beloved Authorized Version the word we have translated “encouragement” is there translated “consolation.” And the word does have this meaning consolation. Dr. Vaughan beautifully says of it: “This great gospel word is generally said to have two distinct senses, exhortation and consolation. But in fact the two meet in encouragement. On the one hand it never means cold or bare exhortation; on the other it never means mere soothing. It is always sympathetic, and it is always animating. It is cheering on. It is the call of the general who heads, sword in hand, the army which he would incite to bravery. The word encouragement (which is, by derivation, putting the heart into another) seems to be a fair summary of the contents of the Greek word.... It is not necessary, however, to force the one rendering upon every passage. Here, (in Phil. 2:11If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, (Philippians 2:1)), we need comfort for a different Greek word in the next clause.” I might add that Mr. Darby generally translates this word encouragement, and, though he translates it comfort here, in the footnote in his larger edition, he says: the word “is ‘encouragement,’ by word or any way, and so ‘comfort.’”
But the dear Philippian saints not only needed encouragement, they needed comfort also: so he continues, “If” there is in Christ “any comfort of love” (vs. 1). I think the words “there is.... in Christ,” (inserted above), are understood in this case. The exact word translated comfort here, is only found in this place in the New Testament, but words formed from the same root occur several times, as for example, in John 11:1919And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. (John 11:19) & 31, where friends came to comfort Martha and Mary. How sweet to remember that we may find the very same comfort in Christ, in His love: and there is no comfort like the “comfort of love” (vs. 1). The Scripture says: “As one whom his mother Comforteth, so will I comfort you” (Isa. 66:1313As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem. (Isaiah 66:13)). That is, I suppose, the highest earthy picture of the “comfort of love” (vs. 1). When a little child (and often, a big child) needs comfort, he goes to his mother, where he knows he will find in very truth the comfort of love. That is what we find in Christ, in how much greater a degree!
The third motive for the exhortations to follow is: If there be “any fellowship of the Spirit” (vs. 1). We must remember that in the old manuscripts there was no difference between capitals and small letters, (for all were capitals), so we cannot be perfectly certain whether the word “spirit,” should have a capital or not: whether it refers to the fellowship between the spirits of the saints: or the fellowship we have in the Spirit of God. Possibly both are included. Every true saint of God has the Spirit of God dwelling in him; and by God’s Spirit every saint is linked to Christ, and linked to each other. The Spirit of God is such a bond between saints, that none can ever break it: all our divisions and sects and parties cannot break that bond of “fellowship of the Spirit” (vs. 1). It, rather, should I say, HE is like that middle bar of the tabernacle, out of sight, that shot through the boards from the one end to the other, (Ex. 36:3333And he made the middle bar to shoot through the boards from the one end to the other. (Exodus 36:33)), but it was the strongest bond to hold the boards together. We will see in a moment the exceeding beauty and need for this reminder as a motive for the Apostle’s exhortation that is to follow.
The last motive is a joint one: if there be “any tender-heartedness and compassions.” I take it that again we must supply “in Christ.” The word translated “tender-heartedness” is really bowels: it is the “abode of tender feelings.” The word “bowels” does not convey this meaning to most of us, as we use the word heart instead. We know the meaning of the word “heartless”; and I suppose the ideal word would be one with the opposite meaning, while still using the word heart, but we do not seem to have such a word in English, so perhaps tender-heartedness conveys most closely the meaning of the Greek word. The word translated compassions is the manifestation of these tender-hearted feelings. Both words are in the plural: and together give us the inward spring and the outward manifestation of the Lord’s tender love and care for us.
And what is the exhortation towards which these four mighty motives have been leading us? “Fill full my joy!” Was the Apostle’s joy, then, not full? There is probably no book in the Bible so filled with joy as Philippians. The Apostle seems to be flowing over with joy: what is it, then, that keeps his joy from being full? We get the answer in another series of four: this time, four conditions of soul, to match, as it were, the four motivating reasons we have just considered. First: “When ye mind the same thing.” Then, and not till then, will the Apostle’s joy be full. Notice how many times we find this word mind. I think ten times in this Epistle. How often our mind runs in the wrong direction. How often misunderstandings come in. How often we do not mind the same thing. While we are looking on our own things (2:4), or seeking our own things (2:21) we will never be minding the same thing. In verse 27 of chapter 1 we saw how earnestly the Apostle exhorted these dear saints to stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. The Apostle saw the need for this earnest appeal: and now he goes a little further, beseeching them to fill full his joy when they mind the same thing. The other three conditions for filling full his joy are very similar, and indicate that all in Philippi were not of one mind: but when we come to chapter 4, the Apostle speaks out plainly, but, oh, how gently: “I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntache, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.” Two dear sisters, sisters who toiled with him in the gospel, were not of one mind: and it kept the Apostle’s joy from being full. And, let us ask, what about the Lord’s joy in His saints? Did it hinder His tender heart from having the full joy He longed for from His own? Oh, Beloved, what about us today? I fear we must often fill His heart with grief, rather than joy. How few companies of saints do we find where they mind the same thing! Rather, how often do we find that all seek their own: all look on their own things; all mind different things. Oh, the shame and the sorrow of it, when we know it grieves the Spirit of God, and must fill our Lord’s heart with sorrow.
We all know something of the exceeding difficulty of healing coldness and divisions that arise between the saints. “A brother offended is harder to be won than a fenced city.” Note the wondrous skill of the Apostle, taught by the Spirit of God: before ever he mentions the need for them to mind the same thing, he turns their eyes to Christ: “If, then, there is any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort of love.” He reminds them of that mighty bond, the “fellowship of the Spirit,” (vs. 1) and once again he looks off to Christ: “if any tenderheartedness and compassions.” It is only in Christ we will find healing for these sad rents that come between God’s people: let us, Beloved, be found “looking off unto Jesus.”
The next is: “Having the same love” (vs. 2). Love thinketh no evil. Love suffereth long and is kind. Love is not provoked. (Leave out the easily). Love never faileth. And what about those who have sinned and got away? As soon, and as quickly, as may be “confirm your love toward him” (2 Cor. 2:88Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him. (2 Corinthians 2:8)).
And what comes next? “Joined in soul,” or, “knit together in soul.” We know so little about such a condition in practice, that one is ashamed to try and speak of it. We know more about being “joined in soul” through having the same hate: as we have seen the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Herodians, (all bitter enemies), having the same hate against Christ, and so joined in soul. I think it is Mr. Darby who said, “Devotedness to Jesus is the strongest bond between human hearts.” Oh, Lord Jesus, give Thy poor saints more of this devotedness to Thee! Devotedness formed by love to Jesus: devotedness caused by the love of Jesus: this devotedness that brings the “same love,” and so may we be joined in soul each to the other.
And now we come to the last of this series: “Minding the one thing!” (as Mr. Kelly rightly, and beautifully, translates it.) A little later in this Epistle we will find the Apostle telling us, “One thing I do!” The bane of the Christian’s life is that most of us are trying to do too many things; and alas, a lot of them are our own things. What is the secret of being able to take up the Apostle’s words: to be able to say: “One thing I do!” I doubt not we find it just here: We must be “minding the one thing!” And if we are all “minding the one thing,” we will all be of “one mind.”
Lo, how pleasant and how well,
When in unity saints dwell:
Like the hands and feet together,
Serve and love and help each other.
Like the precious ointment poured
On to Aaron’s head and beard:
Flowing to his garment’s skirt,
Making all the house smell sweet.
As the dew of Hermon’s mount,
Of refreshment is the fount:
So when brethren dwell in love
Blessings flow from Thee above.
All Thy words are true and sure,
They bring peace and pleasure pure:
Peace, how good and pleasant now,
E’en like heaven here below.
(From Chinese)
how good and how pleasant it is
for brethren to dwell together
in unity!
It is like
the precious ointment upon the head,
that ran down upon the beard,
even Aaron’s beard:
that went down to
the skirts of his garments;
As the dew of Hermon,
and as the dew that descended
upon the mountains of Zion:
for there
the Lord commanded the dressing,
even fife for evermore.
Psalms 133