3. Exhortations, 2:1-18

i] An exhortation to unity and steadfastness


Having outlined the central purpose of his letter, namely his call to the Philippians to struggle together for the truth of the gospel, 1:27-30, Paul goes on to encourage the Philippian believers to engage in a determined oneness of intent, 2:1-2, and this in humility, 2:3-4.


i] Context: See 1:1-11. We now come to the body of Paul's argument, the probatio, arguments in favor of his proposition, 2:1-30, followed by the negative side of the argument, the refutatio, a refutation of the stance adopted by the troublemakers in Rome and Philippi, 3:1-21. Paul has assured his readers that everything is going to work out well, but there is one particular issue that he would like to focus on with the Philippian believers. As for Paul in Rome, so also for the Philippians, both churches face pressures from within caused by "the mutilators of the flesh", 3:2, law-bound nomist believers. This, along with the everyday pressures from without, have the potential to damage the church. Paul does not want them to be "frightened in any way by those who oppose" them. So, in 2:1-18 Paul focuses on encouraging the Philippians to redouble their effort in their walk with Christ. This passage, entitled "An Exhortation to Steadfastness and Unity" by Fee, presents in three parts:

• Being concerned about the interests of others, v1-4;

• Christ's conduct as a model of Christian humility, v5-11;

• A general,concluding exhortation to Christian obedience, v12-18.


ii] Background: See 1:1-11.


iii] Structure: Paul's appeal for a unified mind:

A personal appeal; Make my joy complete by being like minded:

The grounds for Paul's appeal, v1:

The essence of unity, v2;

The expression of unity, v3-4.


Verses 1-4 consist of one sentence in the Greek with the main verb, plhrwsate, "make complete [my joy]" = "make me completely happy", TEV, v2a. The sentence consists of three strophes, the first a correlative set of four ei tiV, v1; the second is chiastic, A, B, B1, A1, v2; and the third employs parallelism in a counterpoint construction, A, mhden ..., B, alla ..., A1, mh ..., B1, alla ..., v3-4.


iv] Interpretation:

This short passage reminds us that Division is death (a principle widely recognized by political parties, but regularly ignored!). In the previous sentence, 1:27-30, Paul sets the theme for his letter / sermon, calling on the Philippians to stand united for the gospel. Building on this theme Paul now calls for unity in the face of congregational division - unity through love is what enables a Christian community, 2:1-4. Paul opens by alluding to four experiences in the Christian life which serve to strengthen fellowship amongst believers, v1:

• Encouragement or comfort, possibly exhortation, which we experience in our Christian walk through union with Christ;

• The impelling love of the Holy Spirit, ie. the inward motivation of the Spirit enabling us to love one another;

• A bonding with the indwelling Spirit of Christ;

• A natural affection, mercy and tenderness toward others.

Paul then goes on to encourage the Philippians toward a mutual love that will fill him with joy. If the Philippians can be of the same mind together, that is, be concerned about the same things, if they can strive at mutual love and common purpose, then Paul will be filled with joy. Believers exhibit a common purpose when thoughts and endeavors are directed toward one thing - the cause of Christ, v2.

Paul will also be filled with joy if the Philippians can avoid acting "out of party spirit, or a cheap desire to boast." Believers are not immune from self-seeking egotism. Such must not exist in the Christian fellowship; better to develop a modest opinion of our own worth and see others as the excellent ones, v3. Paul will also be filled with joy if the Philippians look to each other's interests and not merely their own. Unselfish consideration toward others is the best formula, v4.

So, Paul proposes a singular focus, of living worthily of the gospel, and this achieved by unity and courage in the face of opposition, a unity which is realized through humility.

Text - 2:1

Unity and steadfastness in Christ is realized in humility, v1-4: i] The grounds for Paul's appeal, v1. Paul now appeals to the Philippians, which appeal is grounded in the present spiritual experience of the church: encouraged by their union with Christ; comforted by his love; enriched in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit; and melted by the mercy of God.

oun "-" - therefore. Inferential, drawing a logical conclusionl, possibly referencing v27, "conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ" ....... therefore .....

ei + ind. "if" - Introducing a conditional clause 1st class where the condition is assumed to be true; "if, as is the case, ..... then [make my joy complete]." The protasis of the conditional clause is represented by four separate clauses introduced by ei and covered by the assumed verb "have", "if you have", NIV. The apodosis (the then clause) for the four separate clauses is found in v2, "then make my joy complete."

paraklhsiV (iV ewV) "encouragement" - [any] consolation, comfort, encouragement. Here it is best taken to mean "encouragement", rather than "exhortation", but possibly encouragement in the form of exhortation. In our union with Christ, the Spirit serves to persuade us, exhort us forward in the Christian life.

en + dat. "from being united with [Christ]" - in [christ]. Locative, of sphere, incorporative union, "in union with Christ." Possibly instrumental, expressing means, "through / by means of", although unlikely. "In our relation to Christ", Goodspeed.

paramuqion (on) "comfort" - [if any] consolation. Although here probably something more motivating, eg., encouragement, addressing others from the basis of love, "speaking in love."

agaphV (h) gen. "from his love" - of love. Usually classified as a subjective genitive, such that the comfort comes "from love", Christ's love for us; "a solace afforded by love", Cassirer. On the other hand, it could be classified as ablative, a genitive of origin. Possibly human love, but note how the NIV has opted for divine love with the addition of "his". None-the-less, the genitive may simply be, attributive limiting "comfort"; "loving comfort."

koinwnia (a) "fellowship / sharing" - [if any] communion, fellowship, sharing, participation. "A communion based on common ownership (of the Spirit)", Hansen.

pneumatoV (a atoV) "with the Spirit / in the Spirit" - of spirit. Presumably the Holy Spirit is intended, rather than the human spirit. Again the genitive causes problems, prompting numerous options: verbal, subjective, "if you are really sharing in the partnership that the Holy Spirit can make possible", Barclay; or objective, "fellowship in the Spirit"; or attributive, "a spiritual fellowship", Bruce; or even adverbial, association, so Varner, as NIV. Note that pneumatoV is anarthrous / without an article. The Holy Spirit and his impelling / compelling, may well be the intended sense.

splagcna (on) "tenderness" - [if any] bowels (the seat for our feelings, affections) [and compassions]. "Kindness", TEV. Silva argues for a hendiadys here, "compassionate mercy."


ii] The essence of unity, v2. Paul looks for a response that will give him joy - "make my joy complete", namely, "be of the same mind." Paul goes on to describe the essence of this unity: joining in a common love for God and each other; sharing in a common life; taking every decision in unity of mind.

plhrwsate (plhrow) aor. imp. "make [my joy] complete" - make full, fulfill [my joy]. The aorist imperative, being punctiliar / perfective, makes the command specific. This verb serves as the main verb of the sentence covering v1-4; "make me completely happy", CEV.

iJna + subj. "by" - that. The intention of this hina clause is somewhat unclear. It is likely to serve instead of an epexegetic infinitive, specifying (although not limiting = epexegetical substantival iJna clause, Wallace) Paul's command "make my joy complete", "that you be / by being ...."; "you can do this by being like-minded", O'Brien, as NIV. It may even stand instead of a hortatory subjunctive which is then followed up by a series of attendant participles. This is a rare usage, but possible in this context; "make my joy complete: be of the same mind, have the same love, be of one accord, of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition ..."

fronhte (fronew) pres. subj. "being [like-]minded" - you may be thinking [the same thing]. Expressing a concord, a harmony. This durative present verb is then linked to a series of attendant participles which clarify what makes Paul's joy complete. "By being in perfect harmony of mind", Barclay.

econteV (ecw) pres. part. "having" - having. Attendant circumstance participle completing the action of the iJna + subj. construction, "that you may think [the same thing]."

thn authn pro. "the same" - the same [love]. "Sharing in mutual love."

sumyucoi adj. "being [one in] spirit" - united, as one. The adjective serves as a substantive. The assumed verbal action picks up on fronhte, "you think" = "being [like]-minded." Literally "one in soul", and therefore of a common purpose / ideal; "united in what you think", CEV.

fronounteV (fronew) pres. part. "and purpose / of one mind" - thinking. Attendant circumstance, as above. The same ideas, the same thoughts.

to "-" - the]. the [one thing]. The article serves as a nominalizer turning the adjective "one" into a substantive, "the one thing."


iii] The expression of unity, v3-4. Paul will be filled with joy if the Philippians can avoid acting "out of party spirit, or a cheap desire to boast." Churches are not immune from self-seeking egotism. Such must not exist in the Christian fellowship, rather the Philippians need to develop a modest opinion of their own worth - better to see others as the excellent ones.

"do" - doing. An attendant participle, "doing", is assumed, attendant on iJna ... fronhte, "that you may think [the same thing]", v2; "[make my joy complete .......] doing nothing according to selfish ambition / self-interest [or] according to vain conceit." Usually handled as a new sentence in English, and as an imperative, as NIV.

mhden adj. "nothing" - nothing. Accusative direct object of an assumed verbal component, as above; "Never act", Phillips.

kat (kata) + acc. "out of" - according to. Expressing a standard, "according to, in accordance with"; "from", NRSV, as NIV.

eriqeian (a) "selfish ambition" - strife, rivalry. "Rivalry / party spirit" ....... is a better translation.

kenodoxian (a) "vein conceit" - [nor according to] personal vanity, vainglory, self praise, selfish ambition, empty conceit. "A cheep desire to boast", TEV.

alla "but" - but. Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction, "not ......, but ....".

th/ tapeinofrosunh/ (h) dat. "in humility" - in the lowliness of mind, lowly thinking, humility. The dative indicates an adverbial phrase expressing manner. Paul is not arguing for low self-esteem, low self-worth, but rather for a knowledge that our eternal standing in the presence of God is a free gift of His gracious kindness rather than a reward for our flawed righteousness.

hJgoumenoi (hJgeomai) pres. part. "consider" - esteeming, considering, regarding [one another]. Another attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the iJna + subj. construction of v2. Again, usually treated as an imperative. Given the distance from v2, Barclay begins a new sentence at alla; "If you want to make my joy complete, ....." "Do nothing out of a cheep desire to boast, but rather, humbly consider the welfare of others."

uJperecontaV (uJperecw) pres. part. "better than" - above, surpassing, excelling. Some manuscripts have the article touV so forming a substantive participle, "the ones who are superior"; "the better man", Moffatt. Yet, it seems likely that the article was added to handle a difficult reading (acc. instead of nom.). What seems more likely is that we have another in the series of attendant participles, although with a less than clear meaning, "controlling / excelling themselves." The sense "to excel" = "better than" does take a genitive, but see eJautwn below. If the verbal sense is to control / restrain then Paul is touching on the idea of considering the desires of others ("esteeming another") while restraining / controlling our own desires ("controlling themselves"). Such will make his joy complete.

eJautwn gen. ref. pro. "yourselves" - of themselves. The genitive is often classified here as ablative, of comparison, although better adjectival, possessive, see above; "controlling one's own desires."


He will also be filled with joy if they look to each other's interests and not merely their own. Unselfish consideration toward others is the best formula.

skopounteV (skopew) pres. part. "look [not] / [not] looking" - [not the things of themselves every person] looking at, considering, focusing on. The last in the series of attendant circumstance participles best taken as an imperative; "make my joy complete: be like minded, ......., look not every person (ekastoV, every person) to their own interests." Concentrate", Barclay. The negative covers the whole participial clause although it is often reshaped into a positive; "look to each other's interests and not merely to your own", REB, or "each with an eye to the interests of others as well as to his own", Moffatt.

eJautwn gen. ref. pro. "your own" - of (them)selves. The genitive is possessive; "Your own interests", NRSV.

alla kai "but also" - The alla serves as a strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction, "not ......, but ...." The kai is a variant reading, but makes sense since it balances the negative of the opening clause; "not just ..... but also ....."

ta "the [interests]" - [but each person also] the things [of others]. The article serves as a nominalizer turning the demonstrative adjective "another" into a substantive.


Philippians Introduction


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