It seems as if there were some relational fractures among the disciples at Philippi. A couple of sisters in the Lord were estranged (4:2-3), and Paul’s words of 1:27 and 2:1ff, are all indicative of some struggles along these lines. What Paul touches upon in 1:27, he more fully develops in chapter 2. Our interest is what he how he starts it all off in v. 1.
He begins with, “Therefore, if you have . . .” and it’s not to be taken literally as something there is actual doubt about. It’s a rhetorical device, a verbal lever. It’s the the same thing as when someone says, “If you love me . . .” They don’t doubt your love, they are using it to leverage a request they are about to introduce. Paul is doing exactly the same thing and it’s instructive to think about the things he brings up that constitute his “lever.”
1. Encouragement from being united with Christ. Is there any encouragement? Ha! We can’t imagine life without it. In John 6, many disciples are leaving Jesus because of the difficult things He is teaching. Jesus turns to the Twelve and asks them if they want to leave. Peter says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God” (v. 68-69). That’ s exactly the way we feel, isn’t it? Yes, there is encouragement from being united to Christ!
2. If any comfort from His love. Let’s see, is there any comfort in knowing that the One who touched the leper, fed the hungry, healed the sick, calmed the storm, died on the cross, rose from the dead, and is coming back again—loves me? Yes, there is!
3. If any common sharing of the Spirit. You see what he did here, don’t you? After speaking of a couple of things they would enthusiastically and wholeheartedly agree with, he pops in the truth they are struggling with. It’s like a parent talking to a child about liking school. You like recess, right? And you like lunch? Of course, you do. And you like . . . (reading, writing, arithmetic, etc.), don’t you? And the child says, “Well, since you’ve put it that way, I guess I do.” And though we’re all like porcupines at times (we have some fine points but hard to get close to), our assemblies, classes, fellowships, and other interactions help us to appreciate our common sharing of the Spirt.
4. if any tenderness and compassion. I take this to be a continuation—if your common sharing of the Spirit involves any tenderness and compassion for each other. Well, how could it not? We take communion together every week, we pray together, we rejoice together, we mourn together. IN CHRIST WE SHARE LIFE TOGETHER! And what God has joined together, let no one separate. Paul now has them where they need to be.
There’s Paul’s verbal lever—the encouragement and comfort they have in Christ, their common sharing of the Spirit, and their tenderness and compassion. A church conscious of these things will adopt the conduct of v. 2-11. That means that a church that carries these things in her heart will be a church that looks like Jesus.