Update: April 2021…
Thanks to the fluctuating, transitory nature of the Internet this study of Philippians needs updating. The links referencing two of the main Bible commentaries have changed. That means this needs rewriting/updating. So, at this time, I’m reading a couple of commentaries and working out how to proceed. I ask you prayers for guidance by the Holy Spirit. Until the rewrite/update is completed, you may read the original. Just be aware that many of the links will not work.
“Hi LORD. I don’t really want to read the Bible today. But I guess I should—I know I should—so I’m here. Help me, LORD. Give me a right attitude. Show me what I need to see.”
1Does Christ speak to you? Does love call to you? Do you have a part in the Holy Spirit? Do you have any love and care for others? 2 Then make me very, very happy. Live in happiness with one another. Have the same love for each other. Think the same way. Agree together about things. All have one purpose in mind.3 Do not try to prove you are better than others. Do not be proud of yourselves, but be humble. Think of other people as being better than yourselves.4 Each one of you should not think only about himself, but about other people also.5 Think the same way Jesus Christ thought.
Most of the commentaries treat chapter 1:27-30 and chapter 2:1-4 as one section. And, again, I find the WEB to be more readable than the ASV. If you click on the WEB link above, Bible Gateway will let you select the translation of your choice.
For a short description of life in Rome around 40-50 AD, you might check out Learn Religions. Another site with good historical information is Associates for Biblical Research. This is a much longer essay, maybe 30 minutes to read. It has some pictures and it discusses many aspects of life in the Roman Empire. The question of Philippi being Dr. Luke’s hometown is also discussed. That’s interesting! Next time you wish you could find something good on TV, turn it off, power up your tablet and check out this essay. (Dr. Luke appears again in chapter 4 verse 3.)
As you can tell from the prayer at the beginning of this lesson, I’m sort of avoiding discussing the next segment of Scripture. That’s because it seems a bit of a downer. I read it like this, “If you are a Christian, and you say that your are, then why do you not Love each other as Jesus commanded? If you want to make me happy, stop bickering. Your one-upmanship is embarrassing. Be of one mind—The Mind of Christ!” Or am I wrong? Did I misread it?
Back in chapter one St. Paul was describing how it did not matter about the motive for preaching Christ, just that the Gospel was preached. He was addressing the concerns of the Philippians over certain preachers. Well, here’s an idea from the Theology for Work Bible Commentary. There are preachers who are more concerned with ambition, attendance and church membership numbers, social status, public acclaim, etc. Those who were preaching to cause Paul discomfort and even harm were motivated by selfish ambition.
Apparently, Corinth was not the only church with a bickering, divided congregation. And that bothers me. I had been told all my life that Philippians was the letter of rejoicing. I’ve read through the New Testament a number of times and, because I had been told in advance what this letter was supposedly about, I thought I had read and understood it.
But here, as the second section of the letter begins, St. Paul is asking the Philippians, “What is your motive? Why are you a member of this church? Do you feel slighted when your wonderful work is not honored by an announcement in church? Does it bother you that the wonderful way you did a job is not the way someone else is doing it? What’s your motive? Love for self or Love for others? Would it bother you if someone else gets credit?” He asks them and by extension, us, “Are you, like me, just happy that the Gospel is being preached?”
So, I find myself asking God, “Am I supposed to understand that all the bickering and division in Your Church has been happening from the beginning? That the Great Schism and the divisions and denominations that are a product of the Reformation are merely more recent examples of what happened in the very first churches?” God finally answered this. He said, “Go read Genesis chapter three.” Then He reminded me that we’re about 1/4 of the way through this letter. There’s more to come. We will get to the rejoicing.