Esteem One Another (Philippians 2:1-11)
Topic: Philippians Passage: Philippians 2:1–2:11
Esteem One Another
(One Body: Love One Another)
August 17th, 2014
I. Exploring the New Commandment
What does it mean, and what does it look like, to love one another? That’s the question that we have been exploring over the last couple of weeks, a question inspired by our initial study in the gospel of John.
In the final hours before the Cross, Jesus gave his ragtag band of disciples one overarching rule to regulate their relationships with one another, a “new commandment” for this new community under His leadership, under His lordship. He said?...“Love one another”.
But he didn’t leave the term “love” nebulous. No, He gave a clear standard, a clear measure for this new rule: love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. And for 2000 years, this new commandment has been a constant anchor for this master-planned community that the Scriptures call the church.
And so this morning, if you consider yourself a follower of Christ, then you ARE a part of the church. And if you are a part of His church, then He is calling YOU to following this new commandment. So how are you, how are we, obeying this new commandment to “love one another”?
Well, obedience should grow as understanding deepens, right? That’s why we’ve been exploring this idea and looking at how the Apostle Paul can help us better understand this call to love one another according to the example of Christ.
So open up your Bibles this morning to Philippians 2:1-11.
Listen to what Paul writes here, and consider what it teaches us about Christ’s call to love one another:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
II. The Passage: “Esteem One Another” (2:1-11)
Now, what I’d like to do this morning is focus on Paul’s call in verse 3: count others more significant than yourselves.
This is the command I’m referring to with the phrase, “esteem one another”. To “esteem” is to set a high value on something. That’s what Paul is calling us to do here with one another: count others more significant than yourselves.
And as I think we’ll see, Paul’s instruction here is just another aspect of Jesus’ command to “love one another”.
So this is God’s call to us this morning, to Way of Grace Church, to any who believe that Jesus is their only hope and their greatest treasure. So how can we, to use a phrase from Hebrews 10, how can we “spur one another on to love and good deeds”?
Let’s do this, let’s break down this passage and look at three aspects of this call “to count others as more significant than ourselves”. Let’s look at the basis of this command, the mindset involved in this command, and the example of this command.
A. The Command's Basis (2:1, 2)
Let’s start by talking about the basis of this command: Look again at verses 1 and 2:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
Now if you were here last week, I hope this points you back to what Paul taught in Romans 15:5-7, where Paul prayed this same thing for the disciples of Jesus in Rome. He wrote:
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
So this unity that Paul is talking about here in Philippians 2:2 is the very same thing we looked at last week, this unity that begins with us accepting one another, for the glory of God. When we truly accept the reality that all who trust in Jesus are members of the same family and heirs of the same salvation, we should be welcoming one another without letting non-essentials take precedence over Christ’s call to love one another.
This is unity guided by the same mind, that is, a common direction in Christ, and grounded in the same love, the very thing we’re trying to think more about this morning.
Now let me point out that Paul’s “if” statements in verse 1 are assumed to be true. What Paul is telling them is...
“If you have been encouraged in Christ because of my ministry, because of what God is doing in your midst (which I know you have), if you’ve been comforted by His love (which I know you have), and have experienced fellowship with God’s Spirit (which I know you have), then let those realities unite you.
And it’s the same call to us this morning. Paul is asking, “Has God given to you? Then I’m calling you to give to others!” But Paul knows that this unity to which God has called them is easier said than done.
It begins with “accepting” or “welcoming” one another as fellow members of God’s household and fellow servants of Christ. But to walk in such love, to stand “firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” as Paul instructed them only a few verses before this in 1:27, this requires Paul to give them another instruction that will support, that will undergird this kind of loving unity.
B. The Command's Mindset (2:3, 4)
Look at verses 3 and 4 and listen as Paul gives them two sets of contrasts, the first half of these sets being expressed with negative language, the second half with calls to positive action. Paul says, “to do this, to be of one mind and one love, you must…”
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility [or humility of mind] count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Now for this Greek audience, Paul’s call in verse 3 would have been extremely counter-cultural. Listen to what the philosopher Aristotle wrote four hundred years earlier about the kind of person every Greek should aspire to be:
It is also characteristic of the great-souled man never to ask help from others, or only with reluctance, but to render aid willingly; and to be haughty towards men of position and fortune…and he will be idle and slow to act, except when pursuing some high honor or achievement; and will not engage in many undertakings, but only in such as are important and distinguished. He must…speak and act openly, since as he despises other men he is outspoken and frank…In troubles that cannot be avoided or trifling mishaps he will never cry out or ask for help, since to do so would imply that he took them to heart. He likes to own beautiful and useless things, rather than useful things that bring in a return, since the former show his independence more. He will be incapable of living at the will of another, unless a friend, since to do so is slavish, and hence flatterers are always servile, and humble people [are always] flatterers… (from the “Nichomachean Ethics”)
The word translated “humble” here is the same word that Paul uses in verse 3 when he talks about “humility” of mind.
This same word is used by the Greek historian Xenophon when he made the contrast between “nobility and dignity” on hand, and “self-abasement (humility) and servility” on the other.
You see, unlike Paul, the Greeks did not consider humility to be a virtue. In fact, they considered to be a mark of weakness and inferiority. But Paul tells these Greeks in Philippi that if they are to stand firm in one spirit with one mind, then their mindset must be a very specific kind of mindset.
They must not be conceited, that is, they must not have a mind that is full of their own significance. They also must not be driven by rivalry, that is, they must not have a mind that is full of proving their own significance.
No, they must have humility of mind, or lowliness of mind. Only then will they be able to count others more significant (or “more important” or “better” ) than themselves.
If we are going to esteem one another in love, then we must pray that God would root out the pride that so often drives us to esteem ourselves above everyone else, and give us, instead a mindset of humility.
What does this look like? It means that I will look, not simply to [my] own interests, but also to the interests of others. (v. 4)
I have no doubt that Paul understood the Greek perspective on humility. I suspect he was familiar with the “great-souled” man of Aristotle. But for Paul, there was only one example of an exalted man; only one standard for the virtuous life, only one person that the Philippians should look to in order to understand a life well lived.
C. The Command's Example (2:5-11)
Listen again to verses 5-11 as Paul gives his readers a tangible example of what it means to esteem one another in love:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus [or “which was also in Christ Jesus”], 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Now even though we do not have the “just as” we saw in our last two study passages, John 13 and Romans 15, nevertheless, Paul brings us back here, just as he did in Romans 15, to the example of Jesus Christ.
Jesus said, “love one another, just as I have loved you.” And in some sense, Paul is saying here, “esteem one another in love just as Jesus esteemed you in love.”
You see, even though Jesus was infinitely more significant than us, infinitely greater, infinitely more important because He was in the form of God, he was equal with God, Paul tells us that he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, that is, to be clung to.
By implication, He counted us, us(!), as more important than Himself. To what end?
To take the form of a servant. The Greeks were right in some sense: humility was the virtue of slaves. That’s exactly what Christ became. That’s exactly what we are to become. To what degree?
His humility, His esteeming of us, took Him all the way to death on the cross. You see, Jesus put our interests, our needs, before His own. And it is this act of sacrifice that Scripture points to as the ultimate picture of love.
“Love one another, just as I have loved you…”
The “great-souled” man that was the pinnacle of Aristotle’s view of humanity has nothing on the position to which Jesus Christ has been exalted.
III. Surrounded by The Significant
And so, what will be our response to Paul’s words here; to God’s words spoken through Paul? How will we, how can we as brothers and sisters at Way of Grace put such things into practice?
Well, even though we need to start with the “welcoming” we talked about last week, we must go beyond merely accepting one another as fellow members of God’s family. We must begin to think of our brothers and sisters, not simply as equals, but as those who are more important.
Now, in our culture, when we consider others as more significant or better than ourselves, we’re said to have an 'inferiority complex'. But this is precisely what God is calling us to do this morning if we want to obey the new commandment of Jesus.
Look around you. Do you realize that you are surrounded by famous people, because they are mentioned in the most famous book? These are the ‘significant others’ that Paul is talking about here? Do you place a higher priority on the people in this room than you do on yourself? Do you place them above yourself, finding yourself in the position of a servant?
This is radically different from our culture, isn’t it? It’s radically different from our own desire to be the center of the universe.
But if the mindset, the attitude that Paul is describing here is not the prevailing mindset in the church, in this church, how could we be united? If the “same mind” that Paul mentions in verse 2 was the mind that considered oneself as more important, as more significant than everyone else, than how could there be true unity?
To live out these things we need, once again, to hear what God is telling us through Paul.
He says, Do nothing from rivalry or conceit…By drawing these two words together, “rivalry” and “conceit” Paul is warning against that partisan spirit that infects all of us to one degree or another.
What I mean is that all of us are guilty of putting our issues, or preferences, or priorities, or sensitivities, or agendas and schedules above our brothers and sisters. And in most cases, we do this, not because we think others will benefit from our wisdom, but because we want to be right, or we want our needs to be met.
We need to see that all of us can fall into this trap. We need to guard against such things and question our motives when we find ourselves taking a defensive posture, or find ourselves failing to meet our brother’s need, or find that we are driving people away.
When we fall into this trap, we are usually more concerned about how a choice or a change will affect us, not our brother or sister. When we fall into this trap, we are usually driven by a belief that we know better, rather than a desire to treat our brother or sister as better than ourselves.
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit…but, instead, as Paul says, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
You may not identify with Paul’s prohibition against rivalry or conceit, but can you identify with Paul’ prescription for esteeming others? You may not feel like you have a partisan spirit in the body, but are you counting others as more important than yourself as God directs us to do?
Now remember, we can’t leave this counting or esteeming in verse 3, we can’t leave it in ambiguity; as some kind of abstract, Christian “Hallmark” kind of sentiment that sounds really nice, and sounds really sweet, but practically, when push comes to shove, has no real 'feet'.
No, we can’t do that because Paul has given us pictures of what this looks like in action. He says in verse 4, “What I mean by counting others as more significant than yourselves is that…each of you [should] look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
We need to be thinking, “What matters to my brother or sister? What is concerning them right now? What would be an encouragement to them? How can I serve them?” And we need to do this, even…especially, in those situations where it will cost us something.
Esteeming the other, considering the other as more important may mean a change in our schedule. It may involve a financial cost. It may mean that we agree to a style of worship music with which we don’t necessarily connect. It may mean that we don’t allow a person’s church traditions to get in the way of counting them as more significant. It may mean that we put the person’s interests above the person’s difficult personality. It may mean that we put the person’s interests, their spiritual, material, emotional needs ahead of our own huge need, the one that presently seems to be sucking the life out of us.
I can say all this because the example that Paul gives, the way in which Paul illustrates this counting, this esteeming of the other, the picture he provides here, the picture of looking to the interest of others involves/involved an incredible cost.
Jesus emptied Himself for us. Being in the form of God, being equal to God, he did not cling to that divine position above, but instead, became a servant below. And what’s more, he was born as a man in order to die at the hands of men.
And He did all of this, He paid an incalculable cost because He was looking to our interests. He was counting us, not that we are more important, but he was counting us as more important than Himself.
And when we do this, according to the example of Jesus, the result is always sacrifice. Let the settle in for a moment. When we esteem others, according to the example of Jesus, the result is always sacrifice.
Is Way of Grace a church family characterized by this sacrificial, self-emptying, other-exalting kind of love?
I hope you’re praying to that end. Of course, it doesn’t just happen. All of us do not simply show up one Sunday and discover that we’re counting the other as better than ourselves. No, it begins with God’s Spirit working through us, making such love possible because we have received a new heart through faith in Christ. This kind of mindset is nurtured when we are looking to Jesus Christ in all things, seeking to know Him, seeking to be like Him, seeking to serve Him all things.
And esteeming one another happens when we are committed to life together, when we are committed to being in each other’s lives. I say this because we will always use unfamiliarity as a convenient excuse for indifference.
This kind of love does not happen when we sit around and wait for someone to be in our lives. We need to begin counting others as more significant than ourselves simply because they are an “other” in Christ. Obedience to this command begins when we look to learn about those interests that we’re called to be looking to in the first place.
Let’s count one another as more significant than ourselves by making significant room in our lives for one another. Take a brother or sister out to lunch today. Get involved with a Growth Group. Ask how you can pray for a brother or sister this week. Open up your homes and your hearts to one another. Take the first step, just as Jesus did.
Obeying the new commandment of Jesus to “love one another” just as Jesus loved us, only happens when we esteem one another with the heart of a servant. Let’s pray that God would give us, through His Spirit, that very heart this morning; and the faith to live according to the example of Jesus. Amen? Amen.