In Philippians 2:1 we are privileged to read a four-fold emotional plea from Paul to the Philippians. This plea is couched in a 1st class conditional If…then clause. This type of clause has the idea that if you possess these characteristics, and you do, then you are to obey the command that follows in the “then” portion, which is to “make my joy complete.” To simplify, instead of using the word “If”, we could translate the Greek word as “because” or “since”.
Moving on, when Paul writes “make my joy complete”, he is not being selfish, or self-serving. In the first chapter of his letter, he tells us what brings him joy, which is the exaltation and proclamation of Christ. So then, Paul here desires the Philippians to make his joy complete by proclaiming and exalting Christ. He goes on in verses 2-5 to tell them how they can exalt Christ, which will have to be the subject of another post. Today, I want us to focus on Paul’s four-fold plea, in which Paul gives the Philippians five characteristics all believers in Christ will possess.
Characteristics of a Believer
(1) Encouragement in Christ
The idea is to come alongside someone and give assistance by offering comfort, counsel, or exhortation. Meaning, as Christians, we are to find our hope, comfort, counsel, and exhortation from Christ and Christ alone. Where we look for comfort, counsel, exhortation, and hope changes from the world to Christ and His Word, when we become believers.
(2) Comfort from Christ’s love
From Christ’s love we receive alleviation from sorrow, or grief. It is Christ’s love that comforts us and provides us with relief in a time of distress or sadness. This characteristic is tied closely to the following in that we as Christians find comfort and solace in Christ alone, not in the world.
(3) Fellowship with the Holy Spirit
Here we learn that all Christians fellowship with the Holy Spirit. What does that mean? It means He is our seal and guarantor of eternal life (Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30; 2 Cor. 1:22). He is our spiritual source of power (Acts 1:8; Rom. 15:19). In addition, it means we possess spiritual gifts, which are given by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:4-11; Rom. 12:6-8). Furthermore,it means the Fruit of the Spirit as laid forth in Gal. 5:22-23 is evident in our lives. Lastly, it means the Spirit prays and intercedes for us, since we do not always know what to pray (Rom. 8:26)
(4) Affection for others
When we become believers, our affections change. We should notice a deep longing for the welfare of others.
(5) Sympathy for others
As believers, we should have compassion and mercy for others. We should have this compassion and mercy for others because we realize the magnitude of the compassion and mercy God poured out on us as sinful men, who deserve nothing but death.
If we are to call ourselves followers of Christ, like the Philippians, we should possess these characteristics in our lives. We should seek comfort and encouragement from Christ, looking to Him in times of distress and sorrow. We should also seek exhortation and counsel from Him and His Word over the world. Furthermore, we should notice a deep fellowship with the Spirit, which is evidenced by a birth of spiritual gifts and the manifestation of the fruits of the Spirit. Moreover, we should notice a change in our affections and sympathy towards others.
Here is the warning we can take from this verse, if we do not notice these characteristics in our lives, we need to examine ourselves and see if Christ has truly changed our heart, if He has really raised us from the dead and released us from the bondage of sin and the grip of Satan.