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United in Christ

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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September 23, 2022 12:01 am

United in Christ

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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September 23, 2022 12:01 am

Divisions in the church were one of the primary pastoral concerns that motivated the Apostle Paul to write his letter to the Philippians. Today, Steven Lawson shows why unity in the body of Christ is such a vital emphasis for Christians.

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In the book of Philippians, Paul has a goal for the church. That the unity within the Trinity, within the Godhead, would be but a picture of the unity that must be in the church. To be one in doctrine, to be one in love, to be one in purpose, to be one in mission, to be one mindset. Hello and welcome to Redoing Your Mind.

I'm Lee Webb. Have you ever experienced a church split where differences could not be resolved and Christians called it quits? The church in Philippi was forming some relational cracks, and Paul took up his pen to urge them to resolve their differences and restore the unity of their church family. Today, Dr. Stephen Lawson shows us why unity is still a vital emphasis for believers today. Well, please take your Bible and turn with me to Philippians chapter 2, and I want us to look at these opening verses in this session, and it's all about unity through humility. The Apostle Paul writes, therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, 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. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind, regard one another as more important than yourselves.

Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Whenever we read a passage of Scripture, especially in the epistles, we have to ask ourselves, so why did the apostle write this? There's something that was taking place in the church that needed to be addressed, and that is implied as Paul writes this. Well, what was taking place is there were some relational divides in the church at Philippi. And really, at the root, there were two women who could not get along with one another. They're mentioned in chapter 4 and verse 2, Iodia and Syntyche, they couldn't get along.

We don't know what the issue was, and Paul graciously does not mention what the issue was, but how would you like to have your name recorded in every Bible from now and eternity? Because there was a spat going on between you and another woman. You say, well, how could that disrupt the whole church? Well, number one, you don't know women.

You've got to understand. Two women mean two husbands, and two parents mean two sets of children, which means two sets of in-laws, which means two sets of cousins, which means two sets of friends. It's like tossing a pebble into a pond, the ripple effect, it just keeps moving and moving and moving until it affects the whole pond. And that's the way it was in the church at Philippi. This spark caused by the friction between these two women really ignited the whole church. And now they were at a place, no doubt, where there's distancing between some people, lack of talking to one another, lack of sitting together, lack of eye contact. And so Paul has to address that, and in chapter 4, he'll actually call them out by name. Like, you're going to have to deal with this, and here are the two root problems, these two women. Well, at this point, Paul is addressing this in a very general way, and no doubt there are other divisions in the church as well.

It's not going to be too hard on those two ladies. That's just all we have to work with, with what Paul put into this letter. But no doubt, with false teachers in the church, making inroads into the church, there is a divisiveness with false teaching and people being pulled naively into a certain direction, and even exposing tares among the wheat. The problem is, here in the church at Philippi, though there is much good about this church, there's also much that needs to be addressed. It's not a perfect church, as someone as well said, if you ever find a perfect church, do not join it, because you'll ruin it.

It'll no longer be perfect. So let's look at what Paul is saying to the church at Philippi and what he said to them. He says to you and me, and he says to every church in every place. And the heart of this is unity, that the church be one, that the church not be fractured, and that this church do all that they can to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Well, he begins in verse 1 with the motivation for unity.

And it's a fourfold incentive that Paul establishes, and it is a deliberate understatement. What he is saying is, if these four things are true, then you need to live a certain way. Well, each of these four items in verse 1 are true. And because they are true, it is a foundation of concrete, upon which they must build their Christian lives and live as verse 2 through 4 will tell them. So, he says, therefore, and whenever you see a therefore, you need to see what it's there for. And therefore points back to what he just said, and specifically in verse 27, he said that they are to be living in a manner worthy of the gospel. And that requires, verse 27, that they be standing firm. Note this, in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for one faith of the gospel. So, the word therefore, in chapter 2, verse 1, really points back to verse 27, this unity. And he's pulling it forward now to these fourfold incentives. And he says, if there is any encouragement in Christ.

Once again, the word if should be translated since or because of. Let me assure you, there is encouragement in the Lord Jesus Christ. There are oceans of encouragement in Christ. There are galaxies of encouragement in Christ. Paul is not casting doubt.

It's really a rhetorical device to provoke the thinking of the Philippians. Of course they know that there are mountains and mountains of encouragement in the Lord Jesus Christ to comfort and to strengthen and to fortify and to build up. Far more encouragement than whatever your discouragement is. It's just a drop in the pond compared to the oceans of encouragement that are found in the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, you'll not find encouragement anyplace else. All in true encouragement says, in Christ, in Christ.

It's all found in Him. Outside of Christ is discouragement. Inside of Christ is encouragement.

And then he says, if there is any consolation of love. And it should be understood or implied that this is Christ's love for us. Is there any comfort that we find in Christ's love for us?

And once again, it's a deliberate understatement. There is so much consolation in Christ's love for us, we could barely even begin to skin the surface. Words would fail us to tell us of the comfort we have received from the love of Christ. And then he says, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit. Any fellowship that the Spirit gives to us, bonding us with other believers, strengthening our ties and our relationships with believers in which we are welded by the Holy Spirit and that the Spirit of God Himself provides fellowship with our own hearts. And then he says, if any affection and compassion, and I think what is implied here, any affection from Christ and any compassion from Christ applied by the Holy Spirit.

And Paul is writing this, as it were, almost in a shorthand style. And of course, the word affection here, it's a word that means intestines, bowels. We would say, I love you with all my heart, metaphorically.

In the first century, it seems funny to us, but they would go even deeper. It's not just where your physical heart is, it's in the depth of your being. It's down in your intestines, if you will. In fact, we say today, I have a pit in my stomach. I just don't feel good about something.

Well, here it's the positive. It's down in the very epicenter of my soul. There is much affection from Christ that I have received. And then compassion is just the mercy of Christ applied by the Holy Spirit. So with each of these four, no one can deny that we have received these things. If you have not received these things, you're not a believer. If you've not received these things, you're outside the kingdom.

You're a stranger and alien into the kingdom. But everyone inside the kingdom has received each of these four. And we could have spent an entire session on just these four and encouraged our own hearts in reminding us in what we have daily from Christ.

Every moment of every day this is available to us. Well, that is the motivation for unity. Now, the mandate for unity, verse 2. On the basis of verse 1, if verse 1 is true, then verse 2, show it.

Live it out. Put your doctrine into practice. And so he says, make my joy complete. In other words, nothing would thrill my heart more than to see this being lived out in your lives there in the church at Philippi. It has nothing to do with the size of the church. It has everything to do with the substance of the church. Make my joy complete.

How? By being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in one spirit, intent on one purpose. All four of those deal with unity. The word same mind, same love, united in spirit, one purpose. All of that or one mind, it all speaks of unity. I know as a father, when my children are harmonious, it brings great joy to me. And when there is discord, nothing breaks my heart more than for them to not be getting along.

And by way of analogy, so it is with Paul and the church at Philippi. So my joy is not complete right now because I'm receiving reports about these factions from the friction that's in the church. Now you're going to need to restore my joy. And the way you're going to restore my joy is being of the same mind. You need to be like-minded. You need to think the same way and specifically for God to be exalted and for Christ to be magnified and for you to be pursuing holiness and for you to be showing love. Paul is saying, that will fill my heart to overflowing with joy. And then he says, maintaining the same love. The word maintaining means to hold something fast and not to let it go.

I mean, you've got to take the initiative. You've got to go the second mile, the third mile, and the fourth mile. You've got to forgive seventy times seven. You've got to go to the nth degree to maintain the same love. That you not pick and choose who you love. That you love those who are difficult to love as much as you love those that are easy to love. That your love not be like the wave of the sea, but that you would maintain the same love toward one another regardless of how they are interfacing with you. You maintain the same love towards them. If they are not kind to you, you maintain the same love to them.

If they are rude to you and hurt your feelings, well, don't go down to their level. You maintain the same love to them. That's what Paul is saying here, to the whole church, and then united in spirit. Literally out of the Greek, it just means one-souled. To be of one heart, one soul, we understand what that means, that we'd be bonded together. And then, intent on one purpose, the ESV has of one mind, and it means literally to the one thing minding.

So, you're going to have to be one. That's what Jesus prayed for in John 17, in verse 22, that they may be one, just as we are one. That the unity within the Trinity, within the Godhead, would be but a picture of the unity that must be in the church, to be one in doctrine, to be one in love, to be one in purpose, to be one in mission, to be one mindset. And when we come to the book of Acts, that's what we see. We see that they were of one mind, in one place, in one spirit, being taught one truth, together in one fellowship, coming to one Lord's table, sharing their possessions one with another. That was part of the power of the early church, is how one minded and one hearted they were.

And Paul writes about this in 1 Corinthians 2. He says that we are many members, but one body. And everyone has an important place to play in this one body. In fact, he says it's the parts of the body that are not seen, or actually many times more important than the parts of the human body that are seen. I mean, which do you think is more important to your life, your heart or a fingernail?

Well, the answer is obvious. And so it is in the church, in the body of Christ. And so it's important that every member of the body be in harmony together and pulling together.

And in Ephesians 4 and verses 3 through 6, Paul, in the same Roman imprisonment, writing to another church in Ephesus, says that we must preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. In other words, you don't create unity. God has already created the unity. You preserve the unity that God has created. God has made us one body.

Preserve what God has made. God has made us one. If you're not one, it would be because you have allowed carnality to disrupt that unity. And then he goes on to say there is one body and one Spirit and one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. This is the unity of the body of Christ. And quite frankly, it is a unity that must be seen in every local church, and it is a unity, I think, that should even rise above local churches that there is only one universal body of Christ, no matter where you worship if you're a true believer. Well, this leads now third to the means to unity. What is the pathway to unity? What is the road to unity?

How do we, practically speaking, preserve this unity? And the answer is in verses 3 and 4. The answer is humility, for everyone to lay down their guns on the table, for everyone to humble themselves one to another. So he says in verse 3, do nothing from selfishness.

ESV has it, rivalry. The word literally means selfish ambition, to put yourself forward, to promote yourself before others. He says don't do anything that elevates yourself above other people.

You need to do the opposite. You need to be lowering yourself before people. He says, or empty conceit. It's really just one word in the original Greek, and the idea is to have a highly exaggerated view of yourself. The compound word is empty glory. You don't have any glory, you're acting like you do, but you're just empty of glory. You need to have a better self-awareness of who you are and not be filled with empty conceit. And the word empty means it's just all in your mind.

It doesn't have any basis in reality. And then he adds, after those first two negatives, now comes the positive, but with humility of mind. And that is, again, one, or humility is one word. Humility of mind actually is one word in the original, and it's so hard to translate because the Romans and the Greeks put no virtue on humility. They saw humility as weakness. All the Roman Empire understood was strength and dominance, and only losers are weak and lowly. And it's believed that possibly the Apostle Paul himself coined this word because there wasn't even a word in the Greek language for humility.

Who wants that? And it literally means, it's a compound word, and it's something like 13 letters in the original language. I'm not even going to stumble through it, but it means lowliness of mind, to see yourself for what you really are, lowliness of mind. You and I have every reason to be humble. We have no reason to be proud and arrogant.

What do you have except you received it from God? We have zero reason to fail to be humble. We have every reason to be humble. Our theology dictates that. And so he says, but with humility of mind, regard one another as more important than yourselves. He says in Romans 12, 10, give preference to one another in honor. Ephesians 5, 21, be subject to one another in the fear of the Lord.

Verse 4, he goes back to the negative positive again. Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, literally things, but also for the interests of others. And again here, the idea is get your eyes off of yourself. Put your eyes on others and the needs around you. See how you can encourage, see how you can support, see how you can pray for, see how you can serve others and consider their interests as more important than your own.

You know, this is a challenge for us. And it necessitates that we be walking according to the Spirit. It necessitates that we be filled with the Spirit because our sinful flesh loves ourselves and is preoccupied with self and has a high regard of self, even if it's disguised as a poor self-image. You just think about yourself too much to even have a self-pity party. Get your eyes off of yourself.

That's your problem. And focus on others. And the more you consider the interests of others, the more your joy will be made complete, the more the joy of others will be made complete, and the more God will use you as you will reflect true Christ-likeness who came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life for ransom for many. Considering others' interests as more important than our own is a challenge to our selfish flesh, isn't it? I'm grateful for the Apostle Paul's clear instruction to the church in Philippi because we need to hear these things ourselves.

I'm glad you joined us today for Redoing Your Mind. I'm Lee Webb, and this week we are featuring the latest teaching series by Dr. Stephen Lawson. It's Rejoice in the Lord, Paul's Letter to the Philippians. Dr. Lawson takes us verse by verse through the book in 42 messages.

And in the process, we learn how Paul describes the Christian life as an invitation to experience the joy of the Lord. We're making this six-DVD set available to you for the first time this week. Just contact us with a donation of any amount, and once your gift is processed, we will send you the DVDs. Plus, we'll add the teaching series to your learning library.

Then you can stream the series at any time and right away. We'll also add the digital study guide there as well. You can give your gift and make your request online at, where you can call us at 800-435-4343. Before we go, I'd like to remind you that Ligonier's 2023 National Conference is moving to a larger location, the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. It's located only 15 minutes from our previous venue. The Orange County Convention Center provides room for many more people to come together for biblical teaching and fellowship and what we like to call our family reunion. You can find more information and register for the conference at slash 2023. I hope you have a great weekend, and please make plans to join us again Monday for Renewing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-15 14:45:11 / 2023-01-15 14:53:41 / 9

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