This chapter is an exhortation to unity of spirit, mutual affection and love for one another, humility and lowliness of mind and real concern and care for one another.
(Vs. 1, 2.) Our Master said, "If you love me, keep my commandments." John said, "If they had been of us, they no doubt would have continued with us." Paul uses the same argument in these verses.
1. "If there be any comfort and confidence in Christ," that is, if you have a genuine reason for hope in Christ founded on person, his righteousness and his death and intercession.
2. "If there be any comfort and strength in love," the love of the Father for us which is everlasting; the love of the Son who gave himself for us; the love of the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, and the love of brethren, which is so pleasant and delightful.
3. "If there be any fellowship of the Spirit," if there is such a thing as a union of spirits, a oneness of heart and communion with one another.
4. "If there is any bowels and mercy" if there is any real depth to your affection, and real compassion and concern for one another, then fulfil ye my joy. I rejoice in the evidence of your being complete and entire by living together in unity, love, mutual concern and respect, and by having the same purpose. Be of one mind in the gospel of grace, the glory of Christ and the work of the church. This reveals the grace of God in you" (James 2:26).
(Vs. 3.) When things are done through strife, it involves quarrelling, contention and dividing into bitter camps. It leads to division. This is not the Spirit of Christ. We are not to do things seeking recognition and personal praise; this is empty vainglory. In humility and sincerity, let us regard the other brother as spiritually superior to ourselves. Paul said, "I am less than the least of the saints." Be ready to give way to the judgement and desires of others as they are in accord with the Scriptures.
(Vs. 4.) "Look not every man on his own interests but on the interests and welfare of others." Paul is still talking mainly of church fellowship. A man must have concern for his relationship with Christ, the right ordering of his home and children, his business and his other responsibilities; he is not to leave these to the care of others! He ought to be as concerned for the welfare of his brother in Christ as he is for his own comforts. Respecting spiritual things and spiritual gifts, a believer should not seek to have his own way, but should consult the glory of Christ, the will of the Spirit and the general good and peace of all the church.
(Vs. 5-11.) Having called for unity of spirit and purpose, love and humility among brethren and sincere compassion and concern for one another, Paul uses the example of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(Vs. 5.) "Let that humility be seen in you that was in Christ." Let this same attitude be in you that was in Christ. Let Christ be your example of humility and lowliness of mind.
(Vs. 6.) Although being essentially one with God, Christ did not seek to obtain it by force and robbery, as did Satan and Adam. He was God and was with God in the beginning. He did not in any showy display exhibit his glory and power.
(Vs. 7.) Rather, he stripped himself of all privileges and rightful dignity and became a mere man, a carpenter and a friend of sinners.
(Vs. 8.) He was really a man, not just in appearance, but in reality. He lay nine months in a womb; he lay in a manger; he knew hunger, thirst, weariness, grief, pain and death. His real submission and obedience, from the cradle to the cross, is our example not only our righteousness (Rom. 5:19), but our example!(Vs. 9-11.) God, the Father, has highly exalted and rewarded him.
(Vs. 12.) "Wherefore (staying with our subject and example), since you have heard my teachings and have obeyed the exhortations of God (whether I preached them to you in person or by letter, work out these Christian attitudes and principles," which are called "your salvation" (not of your souls, but the deliverance of the church from strife and division). Do it in fear and trembling, not in fear of men or fear of damnation, but with serious caution and humility, lest we disturb and destroy the fellowship of the church which our Lord purchased with his own blood.
(Vs. 13.) "This attitude of humility and this spirit of love and unity are not of your own doing; but it is God who energizes and creates in you the desire and the ability to do his good pleasure. Your unity is his pleasure."
(Vs. 14.) "Do all things without murmuring, grumbling, or finding fault, either with God or the brethren.