Therefore if you have any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,
I. THE NATURE AND CONDITIONS OF THIS LIKE-MINDEDNESS. "That ye be like-minded, having the same love, with accordant souls minding the one thing."
1. It must include a certain intellectual agreement as to matters of doctrine. It is not possible to understand what may have been the diversity of opinion on points of doctrine which made this counsel necessary. The Philippians are not censured for heresy; but the apostle knows that the "men of the concision" are not far off, and the warning to keep to "the sound doctrine" is neither premature nor unnecessary.
2. It includes an agreement as to methods and aims. There were symptoms of jealousy, leading to quarrel, manifest in the conduct of two ladies of this Church (Philippians 4:2), and it is difficult to say how far these women, holding an influential place in the little community, may have disturbed its unity.
3. It implies an agreement working along the lines of a common love. Love is a bond - "the bond of perfectness" - just as hatred separates man from man. It produces that harmony of feeling and interests that leads to unity of service.
II. THE TRUE GROUNDS OF THIS LIKE-MINDEDNESS. "If there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies." The apostle grounds his appeal to the Philippians upon their undoubted possession of certain spiritual experiences.
1. "Consolation in Christ." What stores of consolation are in Christ! "I will not leave you comfortless."
2. "Comfort of love." Love has comfort in it, especially when it has a sure resting-place.
3. "Fellowship of the Spirit." This fellowship involves "the fellowship of the Father and the Son," and carries with it all the experiences and fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23). It involves unity as one of its essential ideas.
4. "Bowels and mercies." A tender and compassionate spirit is helpful to unity.
III. THE MINISTER'S JOY PROMOTED BY THE LIKE-MINDEDNESS OF HIS FLOCK. "Fulfil ye my joy." As nothing so depresses the mind of a minister as intellectual or social dissensions among the members of his flock, so his joy is fulfilled alike in their unity of thought and in the harmony of their feeling and affection. - T.C.
1. Does Christian unity consist in the union of Christians in one corporate, visible organization? It should do, and one day will do.
If there be therefore any consolation in ChristI. THE DOCTRINE OF CHRISTIAN UNITY.
1. This unity is inward and consists of harmonious spiritual feeling.(1) It can only subsist among Christians.(2) At the same time it is possible and also common for those who in the main are brethren to fail grievously.(3) This unity is specifically —
(a) (b) (c) 2. It is also outward and visible.(1) Wherever there is true inward feeling there is a corresponding outward manifestation.(2) This unity when seen cannot but impress the world with a favourable conclusion. II. THE CAUSES OF DIVISIONS. The spirit of vain-glory, self-preference, self-interest. It was from envy the brethren of Joseph hated him. The same was at the root of Absalom's and Adonijah's rebellion. This was rebuked by Christ when He set a little child in the midst of His contentious disciples. We are not willing to admit this as the cause in our own case. We persuade ourselves that real grievances are the cause, and that conscience is prompting us to be valiant for the truth. But these considerations, when genuine, would indeed lead to plainness of speech, but would, in their end and aim, promote rather than retard brotherly love and union. Grievances are only occasions for forbearance. III. THE REMEDY. "The mind that was in Christ Jesus." His humble, self-emptying spirit. The spirit, then, of humiliation which will not stand upon claims and rights, but readily concede them, is that which will check disunion and promote unity. Conclusion: 1. Make this a means of trying your own spirits. 2. Do we wish to learn this necessary disposition? 3. Without this vain is our profession of vital Christianity. (E. Meade, M. A.)
(b) (c) 2. It is also outward and visible.(1) Wherever there is true inward feeling there is a corresponding outward manifestation.(2) This unity when seen cannot but impress the world with a favourable conclusion. II. THE CAUSES OF DIVISIONS. The spirit of vain-glory, self-preference, self-interest. It was from envy the brethren of Joseph hated him. The same was at the root of Absalom's and Adonijah's rebellion. This was rebuked by Christ when He set a little child in the midst of His contentious disciples. We are not willing to admit this as the cause in our own case. We persuade ourselves that real grievances are the cause, and that conscience is prompting us to be valiant for the truth. But these considerations, when genuine, would indeed lead to plainness of speech, but would, in their end and aim, promote rather than retard brotherly love and union. Grievances are only occasions for forbearance. III. THE REMEDY. "The mind that was in Christ Jesus." His humble, self-emptying spirit. The spirit, then, of humiliation which will not stand upon claims and rights, but readily concede them, is that which will check disunion and promote unity. Conclusion: 1. Make this a means of trying your own spirits. 2. Do we wish to learn this necessary disposition? 3. Without this vain is our profession of vital Christianity. (E. Meade, M. A.)
(c) 2. It is also outward and visible.(1) Wherever there is true inward feeling there is a corresponding outward manifestation.(2) This unity when seen cannot but impress the world with a favourable conclusion. II. THE CAUSES OF DIVISIONS. The spirit of vain-glory, self-preference, self-interest. It was from envy the brethren of Joseph hated him. The same was at the root of Absalom's and Adonijah's rebellion. This was rebuked by Christ when He set a little child in the midst of His contentious disciples. We are not willing to admit this as the cause in our own case. We persuade ourselves that real grievances are the cause, and that conscience is prompting us to be valiant for the truth. But these considerations, when genuine, would indeed lead to plainness of speech, but would, in their end and aim, promote rather than retard brotherly love and union. Grievances are only occasions for forbearance. III. THE REMEDY. "The mind that was in Christ Jesus." His humble, self-emptying spirit. The spirit, then, of humiliation which will not stand upon claims and rights, but readily concede them, is that which will check disunion and promote unity. Conclusion: 1. Make this a means of trying your own spirits. 2. Do we wish to learn this necessary disposition? 3. Without this vain is our profession of vital Christianity. (E. Meade, M. A.)
1. Make this a means of trying your own spirits.
2. Do we wish to learn this necessary disposition?
3. Without this vain is our profession of vital Christianity.
(E. Meade, M. A.)
2. But even this desirable object by itself would not secure true unity. It would be but a body without life — the unity of the church yard.
3. The only true unity is that of the text, one of soul and brotherly affection.
I. Look at its EXCELLENCE. It gives peace; promotes strength and usefulness; commands attention and imitation.
1. Notice the individual man. The soul is a little kingdom. In it there dwell a variety of faculties; there are fears, hopes, likes, dislikes; appetites to urge and principles to check; self-will to prompt, self-interest to restrain; passions to hurry away, conscience to control, etc. When these are in discord what a "troubled sea" there is. But when the Spirit of God is received and obeyed, what a blessed harmony is the result — "a peace that passeth under standing."
2. Take the family. Let love reign there, sustained and cherished by mutual forbearance in the fear of God, parents honoured, sons and daughters kind and helpful, and how the power and usefulness of the family are increased. It is not to have many hands at a rope which will pull the weight, but all moved by the same impulse and pulling together.
3. Suppose the same to prevail in a parish. Why should it not? It was so once at Jerusalem, and would now as then (Acts 2:46-47) result in personal happiness and numerous conversions.
4. If the same obtained throughout the world the effect would be irresistible.
II. THE EVILS OF DISUNION AND DIVISION.
1. It is a proof of being unspiritual and carnal, as it was in the case of the Corinthians, and in some cases of being unconverted. How dwelleth the love of God in the fomenters of strife and discord.
2. It is a hindrance to grace, comfort, and usefulness.
3. It is a stumbling block to the world.
(E. Meade, M. A.)
(Life of Brainerd.)
(Dr. Hamilton.)I. THE ADJURATION (ver. 1).
1. The strength of the appeal lies in the completeness of its expressions.(1) "If there be any consolation in Christ." I charge you by every holy argument which our common union with Christ suggests, not such as the dignity of your position, the grandeur of anion, the weakness and odiousness of discord, etc.(2) Paul passes from the Christ as external from whom every argument flows, to the love which is internal. "Comfort of love." I charge you by our common possession of love, and by the tender motive contained in it.(3) Thus the exhortation to self-renouncing devotion is based upon union with Christ and enforced by the love of the heart. Christ gives the strength of the argument: love gives that argument its tenderness.
2. Here follows another pair of appeals, but now the Holy Spirit is the strength of the invocation.(1) "Fellowship of the Spirit." I appeal to the common inheritance of the Holy Ghost which makes Christians one. That fellowship is the ground of your self-renouncing devotion and the power which renders you capable of it.(2) "Bowels and mercies." The gentle, compassionate, forgiving spirit is most mighty in annihilating causes of dissention and is the source of all compassion in us to mankind. Renounce, therefore, every selfish impediment and devote yourself to the common cause afresh.
3. Thus the apostle's joy would be fulfilled. He was already happy in their devotion and in the fruits of their fellowship. But he had heard of the risings of a fatal spirit among them. His joy could not reach its consummation without their united and persevering devotion.
II. THE EXHORTATION.
1. In its unity. Here we have self-love in the great uniting object of Christ's kingdom, subordinate in humility to the honour of others, and losing its essential selfishness in the perpetual combination of the advantage of others with its own. These three are one. Self-renunciation is the secret of unity in the Church, of humility in the individual, and of charity in all the relations of life.
2. In its divisions.(1) The oneness of a common interest is enforced. "Like minded," regarding together one object of pursuit, viz., all the compass of that truth which commands the Church's faith, all the variety of those interests that concentrate the Church's desire and effort; all that constitutes the great business of Christ's servants in the world. This unity of purpose is either the result of a common love set upon the same object — "having the same love," or is shown by the concentration of the faculties of the soul on that object — "of one accord in the promotion of one thing."(2) The humble preference of others to self in all that pertains to dignity (ver. 3).(a) Negatively. They are to avoid the conduct he condemns at Rome — strife was to be kept out of their community and vanity out of their character. A mind clothed with humility cannot desire preeminence, and cannot, therefore, contend against others to bring them down, or seek vain self-elevation for its own sake.(b) Positively. In the exercise of humility they were to regard not that every one's moral character was better than their own, but that others were mars worthy of distinction in the Church. "In honour preferring one another."(3) The habitual consideration of others' well-being in connection with our own (ver. 4). "Own things" must be taken in the largest sense, temporally and spiritually. Nothing is our own absolutely and apart from others. Our things are ours only in union with the things of ethers. We are not forbidden to seek our own interests, but only in common with the good of all around us. "None of us liveth to himself."
(W. B. Pope, D. D.)1. The "therefore" connects the passage with the "conversation worthy of the gospel."
2. The central precept is in verse 2 — "That ye be like minded," which suggests the subject of the whole.
I. THE CONSTITUENT ELEMENT OF CHRISTIAN CONCORD.
1. Mutual and all-pervading love — "Having the same love." All true Christians have this in some measure. Among the members of a congregation it should be peculiarly strong. To its prevalence will correspond congregational life and health. Frequent and close intercourse in a large city church is impossible — all the more necessary, therefore, to combine in the various schemes of Christian effort. One of the most valuable results of Sabbath Schools, Dorcas Societies, etc., is the formation of Christian friendship.
2. Union or accord of souls minding the same thing — the basis of Christian concord — oneness of view in respect to all matters of vital moment. Having this oneness of view Christians will also in the degree in which they yield up their hearts to the common faith have a substantial oneness of disposition and resolution. The "one thing" is —(1) The advancement of the kingdom of God in ourselves through advance in the beauty and strength of godliness.(2) In the Church, through the increase of wisdom, purity, and zeal.(3) In the world, through the universal and successful proclamation of the gospel.
3. Mutual helpfulness. Christian love cannot flourish apart from Christian energy. A monastery is a hot bed of jealousy and discord, and the more closely a denomination or Church approaches this character in inactivity and uselessness, the more open it will be to dissensions.
II. ITS MOTIVE.
1. The fulfilment of the apostle's joy. Each reference to their possible religious experience is like a rod of Divine power calling out a stream of sympathy and affection.
2. If Paul's joy was augmented by the union of the Philippians, much more will Christ's joy be fulfilled by the answer to His prayer "that they all may be one." It is only the dissentions of the Church that postpones this blessed consummation.
III. THE SOURCES OF DISCORD AND THE MEANS OF DRYING THEM UP.
1. The great causes of dissention in any society are here indicated.
2. These evils are only to be removed by the cultivation of the opposite virtues of humility, which is an exclusively Christian grace.
3. This is not meanness of spirit. While it recognizes facts as they are in, human nature, it involves a profound respect for man's possible self.
4. This lowliness of mind leads each to esteem others better than self (Romans 12:10; Ephesians 5:21; 1 Peter 5:5). This does not imply blindness to one's own ability and attainments, or to the deficiencies of others; but a humble view of self will inspire to help others to fill their place of usefulness — "to please them for their good to edification."
5. It will also lead every man to look not on his own things, and to cherish a spirit of unselfishness in regard to others.
(R. Johnstone, LL. B.)I. ITS SPIRIT — Christian, kind, brotherly, compassionate.
II. ITS PRACTICE — Peaceable, humble, unselfish.
(J. Lyth, D. D.)1. The "if" is not here the sign of doubt or hesitation, but rather of assured certainty. When persons wish to disclose the vastness of an assembly, they sometimes say, "If there was one present, there were two thousand." As employed by Paul it is equivalent to "If there is any water in the sea, or any light in the sun."
2. Consolation, comfort of love, etc., signify much in common. This appeal is a burst of tenderness. Affection delights in repetition. Love amplifies its expressions to the utmost; it is the effort of an eloquent rhetorician, artless, yet full of art. There are expressions full of summer light and beauty which are only revealed to the heart.
3. Paul having laid his basis in the very heart of Christ, makes an appeal — "fulfil ye my joy." It is right to interject one's personality as an element in an argument for brotherhood and consolidation in the Church. It appears an infinite descent from Christ to Paul, but, in reality, it is no descent; in this argument Christ's purpose and Paul's desire are identical. The soul has moods which bring it close to the heart of God. Paul appears before the Philippians more as saint than logician, and in that capacity Christ and the "servant" are one. The apostle likens his joy to a cup that is nearly full, and intimates that unanimity in the Church would fill it perfectly — make it overflow. See the importance even of a single element. An atom may be necessary to perfection. Beauty may depend on the straightness or curve of a single line.
(J. Parker, D. D.)I. THE MANNER OF THE APOSTLE'S EXHORTATION. He exhorteth them to be like minded, having their affections (Romans 12:16), likings, and desires so set on the same things as to fulfil his joy. "I joy in your fellowship in the gospel," etc. (chap. Philippians 1:5-7), yet my joy is not full so long as I hear of your contentions.
1. "If there be any consolation in Christ."(1) In general the apostle's vehement obtestation for the embracing of concord, love, and humility, is to be noted. Pastors ought to labour to repress such enormities among their people as hinder the course of Christian conversation by beseeching as though they desired no other recompense than that such disorders might be reformed. They are fathers to their flocks (1 Corinthians 4:15; 1 John 2:1). Sometimes, however, sternness must be used. Paul did not deal with the Galatians as with the Philippians, nor with some of the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 4:21).(2) In particular, the ground of his argument is, that if they had received comfort in Christ by him, then they ought at his request thus to comfort him, as to be like minded, etc.
2. "If there be any comfort of love." The ground of which argument is that if they loved him as he loved them, and desired his comfort as he did theirs, then they would fulfil his joy. To yield to the holy desires of one another is an effectual token of Christian love towards one another (John 14:15; Philemon 1:17). Men are ready enough to yield to wicked enticings (Proverbs 1:10-12).
3. "If there be any fellowship of the Spirit," i.e., "if ye be knit together in the bond of one Spirit, and have fellowship as members of one body, under one head, fulfil ye my joy." The ground of this argument is, that men knit together are to give proof thereof by concord. What proof of this many give, let their contentions and divisions witness.
4. "If any compassion and mercy." The ground of which argument is that in mercy and compassion to him, the Lord's prisoner for their sake, they should fulfil his joy in being like minded. The godly requests of God's saints afflicted for Christ's sake should move in us such compassion as that we should gladly hearken and yield to them.
II. THE MATTER. Observe —
1. The godly pastor's joy is to be in his people, whatever his own case may be.
2. That that joy is not full as long as there is anything amiss amongst his people.
3. That he should be admonished to labour that nothing be amiss either touching doctrine or practice, so that his joy may be full. That there was something amiss here is proved by the exhortation; whence learn —(1) That, what the state of the best churches, so of the most holy men is.(2) To long to be of that triumphant Church, and to enter the holiest. Here Abraham, David, Job, Paul, Peter, have their faults.There they are perfected.
1. He exhorteth them to be "like minded" (Romans 12:16), having their affections, likings, desires, set on the same things (1 Corinthians 1:10; Romans 15:5). Are not Jews, Turks, Pharisees, etc., like minded? The necessity of this is seen —(1) From the fact that we have "one Lord, one faith, one baptism," etc. (Ephesians 4:5).(2) Because there is no better remedy against dissensions (John 17:21; Philippians 3:16). Let us, therefore, beware how we dissent about matters of less moment when we are agreed in greater.
2. "Having the same love." This is how we may be like minded. Love —(1) In respect of the object. Love the same Church, gospel, truth. Where one loves one thing, and another another, distractions and desolations ensue.(2) In respect of fervour.
3. "One accord" — agreeing in our wills that unity and concord may be maintained" (Psalm 7:18; 133:1; Acts 4:32).
4. "One mind," or judgment.
(H. Airay, D. D.)
I. The first way I want to approach this text is — along the line of VARIETY. "Being of one accord "does not always mean being of the same opinion. Of course, in the main there can be no good work done unless the great verities are believed in by us all. You have to live in harmony; your very nature is to be harmonious within you. You may be a very inharmonious man in yourself. You may be affectionate. Yes! but there is no courage in you. We have all got to contribute something to the harmony. I do not want, in a choir of musicians, all to play the violin; I should not like to listen to a band of flutes. To be all of one accord does not mean all doing the same thing or playing the same instrument. One man has his special gift. But in all this variety there is harmony; and is not that one of the most beautiful things in the world. The worst of it is that one bad musician can spoil a choir. One cantankerous person in the household can upset everything. One may injure many! Now variety is intended by God. There are men emphatically endowed by special gifts for mission work; some have tender sympathies and they can be friends to the fatherless and widow; some have gifts for calling out the energies of the young. But there must be harmony in all the variety — "being of one accord.
II. There must be in this one accord SUBORDINANCY OF ONE TO THE OTHER. Everything must be subservient to great ends. There must always be the Chorus Leader. What we want is the harmony of true, beautiful, religious charity. By subserviency I mean everything uniting for Christ's ends.
III. In this harmony there is HEALTH. If I have no pare in my hand or foot, but if I have a headache — what then? Where is the harmony within me? When the blood flows healthily, the eye is clear, the step elastic, the brain vigorous, the appetite sharp and good, and the sleep is restful — all is well! But if one of the members gets out of order, it is all misery. The head looks at the foot and says, "Why don't you get better?" but by-and-by the head is all right, and the foot suffers too. The members are not of one accord. You may lift that thought up into the highest regions of all, and you may realize that if there is to be accord and harmony amongst men in the Church we must all take care of one another, it will not do to neglect anybody. You must look out and take care of the humblest member as well as the highest. It is so in a nation. A nation is in harmony when the rich sympathize with and help the poor, and the wise help the ignorant. A prosperous Church or nation is where there is health in the body politic.
IV. WE SHALL THUS ENJOY INFLUENCE. The world likes harmony; it does not know how it is attuned; but it likes it. I have seen in a picture gallery a poor fellow who comes in a sort of semi-fustian; he is no connoisseur, but there was harmony he could detect, and he liked it.
V. It means HEAVEN! Rest in God. We have the mind of Christ. And that is heaven begun on earth. There is no harmony in a piano of itself. The mind makes the harmony. I cannot make harmony out of the piano; it is produced by the spirit that comes through the fingers. "Being of one accord." Yes! one mind. We must be moulded after the mind of Christ. You may have a violin, flute, piano, and harp, but you must have one chord. "Being of one accord." Oh, what a heaven it will be where we shall have our different mental calibre, for we shall not all be exactly alike. "One star differeth from another in glory," and, in proportion as you realize that idea, you realize the harmony of heaven.
(W. M. Statham.)
(J. Hutchinson, D. D.)
(E. Meade, M. A.)
(T. T. Shore.)1. The language of man has received a new coinage of words since his perfection in Eden. Adam could scarce have understood the word consolation, because he did not understand the word sorrow. He soon needed it, but did not find it like the first promise which spake of Christ. And consolation can be found nowhere but in Him.
2. The Holy Spirit is revealed to us as the Comforter, and it is His business to console; but Christ is the consolation.
I. CHRIST IN HIS VARIED POSITIONS IS A CONSOLATION FOR THE DIVERS ILLS OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD. "All His paths drop fatness," etc.
1. There are times when we look on the past with deepest grief, with fond regrets for the lost Paradise. To meet this, consider Christ in old eternity, as the covenant Head, stipulating to redeem thee; and think of the anticipating mercies of God.
2. If your minds dwell in sadness on the fact that you are absent from the Lord, think of the great truth that Christ of old had delights with the sons of men, and delights to have fellowship with them now. Remember that he appeared to Abraham in the plains of Mamre, to Jacob at the brook Jabbok, to Joshua as Captain of the Lord's host, to the three Hebrew children, and so today.
3. Pursue the Master's footsteps as He comes out of the invisible glory and wears the visible garment of humanity. You are tried and troubled, but what better consolation can you have than that Christ is one with you in your nature and suffered all that you are now suffering.(1) You are poor, He had not where to lay His head.(2) You are in pain; He agonized in Gethsemane and was nailed to the cross. "Was there ever sorrow like unto His?" What consolation in the fact that that sorrow expiated sin!
4. Follow Him to the grave. You, through fear of death are all your lifetime subject to bondage, but surely you may find an easy couch where your master slept. But this consolation is as naught compared with that derived from His resurrection. Be not faithless, but believing.
5. See Him ascending to His glory, and anticipate the joy you will have in His triumph. He went as your representative.
6. Behold Him, the great High Priest, the advocate with the Father; and sending down consolations upon His people.
7. But He shall come again as King and complete his ministry of consolation for body as well as for soul.
II. CHRIST IN HIS UNCHANGING NATURE A CONSOLATION FOR OUR CONTINUAL SORROWS.
1. He is a surpassing consolation. Talk about the consolations of philosophy; the charms of music; the comfort of friendship; the joys of hope; we have all these and others in superabundance in Him.
2. His consolations are unfailing. All other wells are dry; but this flows in an unceasing stream.
3. His consolations are everlasting; in youth, manhood, old age, in the prospect of death and eternity.
4. They are always within a believer's reach, "a very present help in time of trouble." You may always cheer your heart with Him, when all other things are far away.
III. IS CHRIST AN AVAILABLE CONSOLATION FOR ME?
1. Not if you are a self-sufficient moralist trusting in your own righteousness. You are trusting in a lie, and Christ will never be friends with a lie.
2. Not if you are a backslider, unless you return, to which Christ invites you.
3. Yes! if you are a penitent, obedient believer.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)I. I ask the young CONVERT if there be any consolation in Christ. "Why there is no consolation without Him," they reply. When anguish took hold of us because of God's judgments we knew not whither to flee. We tried to stifle fear and silence conscience, but our misery increased. We then tried to soothe conscience by reformation, but we found no comfort. We resorted to the means of grace and called upon God, but the answer was, "Cursed is every one that continueth not," etc. Then almost in despair Jesus appeared to us, the burden was removed, and we were made happy.
II. I appeal to the ACTIVE CHRISTIAN. He responds, "Yes: His yoke is easy," etc. All our ability to perform duty, and all our acceptance of it, are from Him, and we glory in Him as our righteousness and strength."
III. THE AFFLICTED CHRISTIAN responds, "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed." My afflictions have been my greatest blessings. I have had the example of Christ before me, His patience with me, His everlasting arms underneath me. His word or His smile have either removed my afflictions or inspired me with fortitude and joy to bear them.
IV. THE DYING CHRISTIAN will reply that he has only a desire to depart, and that while passing through the valley Christ's rod and staff are his comfort.
V. THE GLORIFIED SAINTS ascribe everything to Him that brought them out of great tribulation.
VI. What do You say? "There may be consolation in Christ, but I can say nothing of it from experience. I could never see any such excellence in Him as to induce me to give up my present enjoyment." But the day will come when you would give all the world for one smile of the consolation of Israel. Inferences: From what has been said —
1. We should thank God for His unspeakable gift.
2. We see what enemies they are to themselves who are enemies to Christ.
3. How greatly they mistake who represent religion as gloomy.
4. Let your lives declare this consolation.
5. If there be such consolation here, what must heaven be?
Any comfort of love1. The comfort of love — when love is mutual — no one questions. The dependent child, in the arms of the loving mother, experiences it. There is no comfort in selfishness, indifference, and hate.
2. As over against all the reasonings of the enemies of Christianity, there stands out in bold relief this unanswerable fact, that Christ comes with comfort — the com fort of love — to a world full of suffering. The mission of our Saviour, as put by Isaiah (Isaiah 41:2), is to "comfort all that mourn" (Luke 4:18). As light to the eye, as food and water to the body, more than as medicine to the sick, is this Divine comfort of love to a world full of broken hearts.
3. Stoicism, born before the story of the manger was told, teaching indifference alike to pain and pleasure, illustrates the highest achievement of human wisdom; but it offers no comfort to a suffering world.
4. The Lord's Supper is an object lesson — the culminating expression of God's comforting love.
5. Standing by the cross, we grasp the full measure of God's comforting love.
6. It is not strange that men with honest love have struggled to compass this mystery, but it is strange that men should have converted that which is the comfort of love into a battlefield.
(J. G. Butler, D. D.)
I. HOW EMOTIONAL LIFE HAS BEEN STIFLED. At one time men have been bound by monotonous rituals and artificial formularies, and at another period by rigid theological statements, the result of anatomical analysis — a paring and cutting which takes the life and leaves the letter. Real religion is full of emotion. Bead the Psalms and see how they abound in it.
II. THE PERVERSION OF EMOTION is also destructive of the soul's true life. This is seen where self is made the sole object of thought. The bitterest torment is the torment of self. The word miser, for example, means "miserable."
III. Turn from these to THE TRUE FUNCTION OF EMOTION — "the comfort of love."
1. Love is a comfort in the discoveries it makes of the new possibilities of the soul. Think of the grace of tears! I have seen a man who had been elbowing his way through life amid its rough and selfish oppositions, hammering his heart hard, as it were, lest it by softening should become weak. Such a man, made callous by contact with an unsympathetic world, I have seen stand by the coffin of his child. His stony heart broke, and he was glad to weep. The bondage of the hard, real world was sundered, its barriers dissolved, and he recognized that the long-hidden power to feel was not destroyed.
2. Love is a comfort, inasmuch as it is restful and quiet. Ambition, anger, and jealousy bring pain. These are costly indulgences, for they cause sleeplessness and rob one of strength. But there is comfort in love. The mother bears her babe on her breast, and cradles it in her soul. She pastures her eyes in its face, and its beautiful smile is a reflection of the serene and joyful sense of possession which she herself feels. O the luxury of that love! If in a palace, its gilded wealth is but tinsel in the atmosphere of such love. Love beautifies the deformed body and withered features. More than that, it trusts against hope. A bridge was begun in California, over a quagmire. Piles were driven and earth was brought, but every effort failed, till finally a simple platform of boards was constructed, on which yielding support people were floated across. So love, with its strong, instinctive trust, floats across chasms that mere reason can never bridge.
3. There is comfort in love, because it harmonizes everything. What a world this would be if love reigned! There would be none to chafe and crowd and irritate. What oil does love pour on troubled waters! I recall the bright tranquillity of an aged grandmother, whose active days were over and who could only sit in her chair and look her benedictions on us all. That smile of hers lubricated all the wheels of daily life; it dried up all tears as the sun dries up the showers, and shed an atmosphere of peace and harmony through the household.
4. Love takes hold on the infinite. Ambition disappoints and pleasure cloys, but love never dies. It has its successive growths. The child's love is fickle and selfish; that of the youthful pair is founded on mutual esteem and gets chilled, but that of a mother yearns to give its best treasures even to the prodigal, and to love him back to purity. There are no mathematics, no question of "seventy times" of forgiveness in such love. It is a picture of the love of God, and lifts us towards the Infinite. True love inspires the missionary, who, like Carey or Martin, goes to far-off lands with the gospel, or to the loathsomely sick in hospital, or to the brutal in prison. This is the secret of Paul's boast that he could do all things, for, to him who thus loveth, "all things are possible."
(J. B. Thomas, D. D.)
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