Sue and I have 7 children, and we still remember each of their first words. We were living in Germany when our son Bryan said his first word: clock. That was unusual, but then we did have a cuckoo clock. Our fourth child, Michael, is athletic, so he loves that his first word was “ball.”
When we remind our daughter Alathea of her first word, though, she laughs until she’s red in the face. She was our fifth child, so I guess she was tired of the older kids taking her stuff—her first word was “mine.”
We laugh because that word does suggest a certain cast of mind. Have you ever had a child or grandchild whose first word was “yours?” Of course not! It’s laughable because, of course, we know what we as fallen creatures are like.
We All Fall Down
The Scriptures are quite clear. God saw all that He had made, and it was very good, but the human creatures rebelled. We’re in a fallen state. Our humanity is not what it was originally intended to be.
There is a fallenness that cuts right through us and touches every sphere of our thinking, our living, our speaking, our bodies, and our emotions.
Paul wanted his friends in Philippi to have the right perspective on things. When he wrote that he wanted them to “have this attitude in yourselves” (Philippians 2:5), he meant something stronger than is conveyed by the English word “attitude.” He wanted to convey the notion that there’s a certain pattern of thinking, or disposition of mind, that they ought to have.
Paul was not just referring to the act of thinking, he was referring to a certain kind of thinking—a certain perspective, a way of looking at things.
Stand Firm in Unity
Paul’s purpose in the first part of the book of Philippians was to encourage the Christians in Philippi to stand firm. In chapter 2 he appealed to them to live in Christian unity.
The church in Philippi was under pressure and experiencing conflict when Paul wrote this letter. He recognized that they had opponents; they were experiencing the same conflict that they saw in him and heard to be in him (Philippians 1:30).
They were probably expected to engage in civic ceremonies in Philippi whereby Nero, the reigning Caesar, was called savior and Lord. As Christians, they would have resisted that. They came under pressure, just as Paul had come under pressure from the Philippian magistrates during his first visit to the city. Some of them may have been imprisoned, just as Paul was imprisoned when he wrote to them.
As One Soul
Paul reminded his friends in Philippi to stand together as one soul, as one person, contending for the faith of the gospel (Philippians 1:27). In order to do that, he wanted them to experience the comforts of God and the fellowship of the Spirit. He wanted them to have the same cast of mind, the same reference, the same way of thinking that Christ has.
A Christ-like way of looking at things would draw the Philippians together in unity, and in unity they’d be able to contend for the faith, to further and advance the gospel in Philippi. The right perspective would enable them to serve the Lord properly and to stand firm together.
The right perspective will also help us when we encounter suffering in this present evil age.
The previous was adapted by Rachel Motte from a sermon featured on Dr. Sloan’s radio program, A Higher Education, on July 24, 2013.