If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others, (vv. 1-4)
The last word of this section is the keynote—others. This was the overpower ing, dominating note in the life of our Lord on earth and because of this He died. “ [He] came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for”—others! He lived for others; He died for others. Selfishness He knew not. Unselfish devotion for the good of others summed up His whole life, and all in subjection to the Father’s will. For God, the Father Himself, lives, reverently be it said, for others. He finds His delight, His joy, in lavishing blessing on others. He pours His rain, and sends His sunshine upon the just and the unjust alike. He gave His Son for others. Having not withheld His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not with Him also freely give us all things?—we, who are included in the others for whom the Lord Jesus Christ endured so much. What wonder then that, if we would follow His steps, we find ourselves called upon to live for others, and even to lay down our lives for the brethren!
In the first verse, the if does not imply that there might not be consolation in Christ, comfort of love, and fellowship of the Spirit, coupled with tender mercies toward all for whom Christ died. It rather has the force of since—it is an intensive form of saying, Since you know there are consolations and comforts in Christ. If these things are blessed realities, how incongruous for a believer to act as though they were nonexistent! Drinking in the spirit of Christ, we exemplify the mind of Christ. And so the apostle exhorts the saints to fulfill his cup of joy by like-mindedness among themselves, with equal love toward one another, being of one accord, of one mind.
It is very evident that Christians will never see eye to eye on all points. We are so largely influenced by habits, by environment, by education, by the measure of intellectual and spiritual apprehension to which we have attained, that it is an impossibility to find any number of people who look at everything from the same standpoint. How then can such be of one mind? The apostle himself explains it elsewhere when he says, “I think also that I have the mind of Christ.” The “mind of Christ” is the lowly mind. And, if we are all of this mind, we shall walk together in love, considering one another, and seeking rather to be helpers of one another’s faith, than challenging each other’s convictions.
This is emphasized in the third verse, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory.” It is possible, as verses 15-16 of chapter 1 have already shown us, to be controlled by this spirit of strife and vainglory, even in connection with the holy things of the Lord. But Paul himself has furnished us a beautiful example of that lowliness of mind of which he speaks, when he could rejoice even though Christ were preached in contention.
Nothing is less suited to a follower of the meek and lowly Son of Man than a contentious spirit and vainglorious bearing. Boasting and bitter words ill become one who has taken the place of death with Christ. If, in lowliness of mind, each esteems others better than himself, how impossible for strife and contention to come in. Alas, that it is so much easier to speak or write of these things than to practically demonstrate them!
It is not in the natural man to live out what is here inculcated. The man after the flesh “looks out for number one,” as he puts it, and is fond of reminding himself, and his fellows, that “charity begins at home.” But the Christian is exhorted to look, not on his own things, but on the things of others. A heavenly principle this, surely, and only to be attained by a heavenly man, one who walks in fellowship with Him who came from heaven to manifest His love for others. It is characteristic of man’s deceitful natural heart to suppose that his greatest pleasure can be found in ministering to his own desires. But the truest happiness is the result of unselfish devotion to the things of others. Were this ever kept in mind, what unhappy experiences would many of God’s dear children be spared, and how glad and joyous would fellowship in Christ become.