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The Importance of Unity

 

In Ephesians, Paul ends his epistle by speaking about putting on the armor of God that we might stand against the devil’s schemes. As Christians, we have an enemy and there is a battle raging. Once we learn that Phillipi was a military town with both retired and active men stationed there, and the book of Philippians uses several military terms, it gives one a whole new perspective of the book. I am grateful for Dennis Johnson’s commentary on Philippians in the Reformed Expository Series for pointing that out.

Viewing Philippians and the previous books using a military motif helps to organize in one’s mind their contents. Galatians – the gospel, what we are fighting for; Ephesians – you are in the army now: 1) you are drafted (chosen by God, or more theologically stated, election); 2) let me introduce you to your comrades in arms, both Jews and Gentiles (you are going to have to learn how to get along and work as a unit, one body under Christ, the head; 3) speaking of leaders, let me introduce you to the officers under the command of Christ (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor-teachers); 4) then there is conduct for the followers of Christ, and finally 5) closing with the armor and weapons of our warfare. Once you begin to read Philippians, key elements in waging a successful campaign in the spiritual warfare that we are called upon to be engaged in begin to surface in the text. We will be focusing upon at least four in this series: 1) courage 2) unit cohesion 3) the battle is the Lord’s and 4) morale.

Last week, we examined courage. Courage and cowardice are all about duty. Courage is doing one’s duty when the going gets tough. Cowardice is a failure to do one’s duty. Courage can only be discovered amid the fray. Worked up “courage” before hand is not courage. It is bravado. The brave seldom realize their bravery in the moment of crisis. They are too busy doing their duty.

Paul wrote about courage in Philippians in the first chapter. “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed; but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” (Phil. 1:20). What was he seeking courage for? As a prisoner awaiting trial for his faith, Paul was desirous of steadfastness if he is sentenced to death and in the hour of execution. He was confident that the Lord would give him the needed strength.

Today, we will focus upon unity, and the importance of working together. This theme, like a vine, stretches its tendrils throughout the book, but is especially the focus of Philippians chapter two. To work together well, one must subsume individual interests and aims under the interests of others. Jesus is set forth as the supreme example. He worked in concert with the two other persons of the Godhead to accomplish His mission. Jesus willingly laid down His life upon the cross to redeem His people.

In considering this theme of standing side by side, we will discover a pet peeve of the apostle Paul, something that provoked him, i.e. “those who preach Christ out of envy and rivalry” (Phil. 1:15). Have you ever wondered what Paul is talking about here? Philippians chapter two will make it clear.

You might think a message on the Christian warfare does not seem fitting for Mother’s Day. However, there is a message for the home as well. What mother likes “sibling rivalry” in her home among her children? Who likes to hear fighting between children and teens who are brothers and sisters? It is better to get along with siblings, to work together, and to care for each other. There is more in this message than you would think. Would you like to hear it?

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The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches. (Matthew 13:31-32)

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