Philippians 2:1–4 Unity Is Based On Love and Sacrifice.

Key Notes: The problem of unity in the Church. History of evangelicals in the Church. Is Wesley's "Second Work of Grace" a mandate for all believers?

Phil. 2:1–18 is Paul’s appeal for unselfish unity of the believers. The only church controversy he mentions is between two women leaders. (Phil.4:2). The passage can be divided into three parts. We will study only the first section in this lesson.
2:1–4 An appeal for humility and unselfishness.
2:5–11 Christ as our model.
2:12–18 Practical admonitions.

2:1–4    If…
there is any encouragement in Christ,
any incentive of love,
any participation in the Spirit,
any affection and sympathy,

complete my joy by being of the same mind,
having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
Don’t be selfish or conceited; consider others better than yourself.
Look to the interests of others.
Have the mind of Christ.


The unity of the Church has been the subject of discussion for two thousand years. We are not likely to solve the problem, perhaps not even understand it. “How could a God who created a world with 300 kinds of hummingbirds be the same God who requires religious conformity? “ (Christianity Today, Jan. 2008, p.34). I think Paul is talking not so much about unity between churches as he is about moral behavior within the community: love, sympathy and unselfishness.

The unity of the church is of concern to all believers. We call ourselves “Evangelicals.” What are evangelicals and why are they different from others?

1. We are people who know they are saved.
2.We believe and proclaim the Gospel.
3. We are evangelistic, favoring personal salvation over corporate or hereditary salvation.
4. We are people who put the revelation, the Scripture, above the faith, response, or experiences of people. We put the Word over creeds, religions and philosophies. “Sola Scriptura” is the way the Reformers put it.
5. We stand, nevertheless, in the great Christian theological tradition which reaches back two thousand years.
6. We are people who are rational / propositional / Biblically literal in their faith rather than subjective / mystical, allegorical or mythical.

How did Evangelicals come into being? The history of Christian thought is like a great tree with many branches. The trunk of Catholicism divided into two huge branches in 1053AD when the Eastern Orthodox split off. This was a geographic and ccultural division but with deep theological differences. The Orthodox Church and its five patriarchs were dominant from the Dardanelles eastward. The Western Church had its center in Rome. The Eastern Orthodox Church is more mystical, the Western church more rational. We went with the more rational Western church.

“The Eastern Church thinks doctrines are to be adored as mysteries and not analyzed or rationalized. The result has been that the Eastern Church has never developed the enormous body of theological literature characteristic of the Western Church. In fact, its theology had almost stagnated after John of Damascus (AD 675–749) whose writings form the fundamental basis of the theology of the Eastern church.” (The Evangelical Heritage. B. Ramm. Baker,’81, p18). A rediscovery of the Bible and a real awakening in the Orthodox Church is the prayer of many.

The first division of the Western Church occurred in 1517 with Martin Luther as its leader. Luther and the Reformers put the Word of God above the Roman Catholic Church and tradition. They rejected the right of the Church to make the only interpretation of Scripture. They returned to the Hebrew and Greek texts rather than the Latin Vulgate and disregarded the Apocrypha. They taught justification by faith alone rather than faith plus works. They reconstructed the doctrine of the church so that the priesthood of the believer replaced the mediation of the clergy. Evangelical theology belongs with the Reformers.

By 1610 the Protestants had split between Calvinists and Arminians. The Calvinists emphasized the sovereignty of God and predestination. They understood Scripture to say that God chooses people in advance (“before the foundation of the world” Eph.1:4 ) and independent of their moral behavior (“The Lord set His love upon you and chose you…” Deut.7:7). The Arminians have stood for free will and effort in salvation. They believe God elects those whom He knows will choose salvation. “Whom He foreknew He also predestined….” (Rom.8:29)   But the believer can lose salvation and regain it and is not eternally secure. The orthodox reformers went with the Calvinists. We are nevertheless sympathetic with Arminians and their love of evangelism.

Splintering of the church continued. The Anabaptists were severely persecuted for teaching adult baptism, but suffered also for other radical teachings. The Baptists carried on some of their principles.

Evangelicals sided with the Dissenters against the state Church. The Dissenters rebelled against state control which prescribed liturgy and prayers including the Book of Common Prayer. Among the Dissenters were  the Puritans who are our spiritual ancestors. “The Puritans believed in a personal walk with God.” “To walk with God meant to have a mind filled with thoughts of the spiritual life, to give much time to reading the Scripture and to prayer. We were to pray continually….” (The English People on the Eve of Colonization. W. Notestein, Harper,’59. p.151)

The Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution dealt a severe blow to Christianity. Some theologians, Schleiermacher (1800) in particular, tried to make Christianity compatible with modern culture and developed a religious deviation called liberalism. Modern liberalism denies the Resurrection and miracles, the deity of Christ, salvation in the Cross, the virgin conception of Christ and the truthfulness of the Old Testament. In effect, liberalism cut itself off from Christianity.

After Darwin won the scientific community to his side, evangelicals were squeezed out of the universities, politics and the arts. A group of theologians in the’20’s fought back with short works on the basic doctrines, entitled the "Fundamentals of the Christian Faith". They became known as Fundamentalists. By the’50’s fundamentalists had spoiled their reputation with infighting and bitterness. The generation of leaders that followed chose the name “Evangelicals” or “neo-Evangelicals”  or “conservatives” instead. They founded a journal, Christianity Today, and there grew up around them a generation of scholars and teachers that began to win back a place for them in the marketplace of ideas, and positions in the universities.

[This material is condensed from The Evangelical Heritage. B. Ramm. Baker,’73].

Further Discussion.

What our church believes and why it matters.
Why we are not Methodists, Catholics, Presbyterians or Pentecostals.

Our church is a collection of people from various denominational backgrounds,  notably Methodist and Catholic, Lutheran and charismatic. It was founded by Baptists and has a doctrinal statement with a strong Reformed theology basis. Baptists are now in the minority, having welcomed people from various denominations who were unhappy with their previous churches.

To begin with, the four denominations mentioned above are Christian in doctrine: We all believe in the authenticity and  authority of Scripture, the Creation of the world by God,  the beginnings of sin in Adam and Eve,  the  Trinity and the Incarnation,  Christ’s miracles and sinless life, the necessity of the Vicarious Atonement,  the nature of the Church, and the promise of eternal life. We subscribe to the Nicene Creed.

Why are we Baptistic in theology, not Wesleyan, Presbyterian, Catholic or charismatic, all of whom are represented in  the congregation?
We respect the Catholic Church for keeping the Word of God and the Cross before the civilized world for centuries but insist on justification by faith alone.
The Presbyterians (Reformed) taught us the sovereignty and grace of God. We agree with the Covenant of Grace, and that God cares about families, and nations. We stop at the point of infant baptism. There is no mention of infant baptism in Scripture. We also oppose infant baptism because we observe that it leads to an unregenerate church membership. But we share huge pieces of doctrine with the Reformed.
We learned the doctrine of the Holy Spirit from the Pentecostals but we emphasize the ministry of Christ rather than focusing on the Holy Spirit.
We are admonished to peace and justice by the Quakers.
The Methodists pioneered small group ministry.
But we do not expect any of our congregational components to demand dominance over the others.

A critical  difference  deals not with the need for salvation but how we are saved. All of the churches mentioned in this discussion believe in Christ’s atonement as necessary for salvation. The critical question is how our awareness of salvation accomplished? The model can be illustrated using a diagram which I learned from  the Navigators. They assess a non-Christian individual on a vertical scale of –10 to zero. Minus ten would suggest a person as far away from Christ as we can imagine—quite antagonistic  to any thought of religion. Minus one would describe a person at the threshold of faith, and point zero is the line to be crossed. The plus numbers indicate increasing knowledge, sanctification and usefulness. Plus ten would be perfect sanctification and love. The horizontal axis is time.

In the traditional evangelical model, consider a child who went to Sunday School for a while, became agnostic in college and is now approached by a colleague at work. This person is indifferent, with a little knowledge and no motivation—say a minus 5. With the witness of a friend, the person becomes progressively attracted to Christ and comes to the point of decision—point zero. On receiving Christ as Savior and Lord, this new believer receives all the blessings of redemption: justification, atonement, reconciliation, sanctification, union with Christ, adoption, filling with the Holy Spirit, and eternal security according to the Scripture. (Romans 3–8). The subsequent line of growth goes into the plus range, with ups of high spiritual experience, and downs of relapse into sin, but with an overall upward trend. The line never reaches ten, sinless perfection, which is only achieved in the presence of Christ. I Jn.3:1–3

The Covenant community (Catholics, Presbyterians, Anglicans, for example) believe that infants born into Christian families in the Church should be baptized as infants as evidence that they are under the New Covenant and the blessing of God, just as circumcision put children under the covenant of Abraham in the OT. Their graph would appear to start at point zero at birth, although confirmation at age 12 would be the more certain point of crossing the line. Unfortunately for many, confirmation is a rote process and not a life-changing event. Seekers often find the Lord later in life and make upward progress from there.

Catholics, although they baptize infants deny that anyone can be assured of receiving the grace of God for salvation. They advocate good works such as attendance at mass, prayers, fasting, and other sacraments to add merit to Christ’s sacrifice. Sanctification and justification are acquired during life. They teach purgatory as the means of final purification. Their chart of spiritual growth would be difficult to plot. Catholics are not encouraged to make individual commitments to Christ, but to rely on the church and its teachings. “The community carries you into heaven,” as one student said.

The third diagram of Christian experience is the Pentecostal. Pentecostals believe that a second work of grace is necessary after salvation in order to assure that the person is truly sanctified. In this model,the believer remains at point zero following salvation, but after a period of spiritual effort, removal of all known sins and earnest prayer, the believer receives the Holy Spirit’s fullness as evidenced by speaking in tongues. In this model, the curve of growth makes an abrupt sharp upward inflection, approaching +10.

First, consider the history of this concept. The Pentecostalism movement has its roots in John Wesley’s teaching of the Second Work of Grace. Wesley found Christ as Savior in 1738, at Aldersgate Street in London when he heard someone read from Romans 1. He had made an earlier decision in 1725 “to make religion the business of his life” so we may interpret his history as a two-step conversion.

Wesley was inclined to give more weight to experience and tradition than other spiritual leaders. He was an evangelist with extraordinary leadership skills. He was not theologically precise and the Methodists are not as doctrinally oriented as the Presbyterians and other denominations are. He borrowed from his own experience and observations, as well as his emotional reactions. He opposed William Whitefield, another evangelist of the same period, who emphasized the sovereignty of God over the free will of man. He could not tolerate the doctrine of predestination.

Wesley also believed that everyone needed a second work of grace, much as he had.

“We do not know a single instance, in any place, of a person’s receiving, in one and the same moment, remission of sins, the abiding witness of the Spirit, and a new clean heart. "
“A gradual work of grace constantly precedes the instantaneous work of both justification and sanctification. "
“As after a gradual conviction of the guilt and power of sin you {were} justified in a moment, so after a gradually increasing conviction of inbred sin you will be sanctified in a moment.” (A Theology of the Holy Spirit”. FD Bruner, Eerdmans, 1070, p.38.)

Wesley believed that sanctification was achieved as a second phase of salvation, and as he described, it could be complete. That is, it was possible to live a sinless life. The concept is called “entire sanctification.” Not all Pentecostals agree with it and most charismatics do not. I John 3:6 says “No one who abides in Him sins.” But I John 1:8 says “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” We synthesize the two verses by extending the translation of I John3:6—“No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning.”

Wesley would lead us to believe that his experience and observation is tantamount to doctrine. The Reformers would heartily disagree. Pentecostals picked up this doctrine of the second blessing, and added the signature of speaking in tongues as the evidence of the Spirit’s indwelling and entire sanctification. They say that the Holy Spirit is “with you” on conversion, but “in you” as a result of the second work of grace.

“The ever-present temptation that has dogged the Pentecostal Revival for over fifty years is to try and ‘make’ seekers apparently speak with tongues so that it can be claimed that they are ‘through’ into the promised personal Pentecost.” (Bruner, op. cit. p 102.)

The Bible (Romans 3–8) plainly teaches that faith in Christ as Savior makes  new believer justified, sanctified, redeemed, reconciled, regenerated, united with Christ and adopted into God’s family. Hence, new believers are called “saints”--- sanctified people --- in I Corinthians, Philippians and other places. However, sanctification is also to be acquired by discipline and prayer; it is both an initial position declared by God, and a possession to be acquired. It is a two step process. The second part of sanctification is a life-long growth process to be completed in the presence of Christ. I Jn.3:2

“Through the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of righteousness." (Gal5:5)
“He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the Day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil.2:6)

VR Edman who was president of Wheaton College, describes the second blessing from the experience of a number of well-known Christian leaders. (They Found the Secret. Zondervan’60.) Edman describes the process:

  1. There is growing awareness of need. Christians get tired and disillusioned with their spiritual weakness and failings. They hunger for more love, more power, more of God. “If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink.”
  2. This sense of need leads to an agony of soul which may go on for some time. ”If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matt.16:24)
  3. Whole-hearted abandonment follows. “…yield yourselves to God as those who are  alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” (Rom.6:13)
  4. The Holy Spirit is appropriated by faith. “Received you the Holy Spirit by the works of the Law or by the hearing of faith?” (Gal.3:2)

"Just as we accept the Lord Jesus by faith as Saviour, so by simple faith we receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit as our burden-bearer. Just as we take the Saviour as our penalty for sins that are past, we take the Holy Spirit for power over indwelling sins that are present. The Saviour is our atonement, the Holy Spirit is our advocate. In salvation we receive newness of life, by the Holy Spirit we find life more abundant. “

V. Following appropriation there is abiding by faith in the Savior.

VI. The exchanged life is one of abundance and adventure.

That some receive a climatic second blessing cannot be doubted. It should not be a secret, but the normal Christian life. Ideally, such blessing will not occur just once, but repeatedly during one’s Christian life. The question is whether this experience should be made into doctrine and required of everyone. That has the risk of creating second-class Christians—the so-called “chaff.”  The other question is whether it is to be achieved by human effort.

We should never be deluded into thinking we “have it made” or that where we stand is as good as possible. May we always hunger for more of God, more of His blessing, more power and more grace.
And greet all who seek to follow Christ in love and blessing.