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Philippians 2:1-4 – The Key to Ending Conflict

Updated on November 1, 2017
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Matthew is a Christian who loves God. He's been an online writer for 5 years. He loves to share his faith with people all over the world.

There is perhaps no other part of the Bible that talks so deeply about humility as much as Philippians 2. Paul, in his love for the Philippian church was stirred to write to them keys that they could apply in their lives, having heard of their internal conflicts.

He wasn't going to be happy seeing those for whom he laboured in Christ to end up fighting and hating on one another. It would be as though he had laboured in vain over them. Hence, he had to be prompt and precise in his approach in helping them deal with the problems that they had among themselves.


If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies (Philip. 2:1).

The most important relationship anyone could have is not interpersonal relationship; but intrapersonal relationship; that is, the relationship you have with yourself. Anyone who seems to have a problem getting along with other people is probably the source of his problem, not others.

If a man doesn’t love himself, he cannot love others, because you cannot give what you don’t have. If he, however, loves himself (self-love), it becomes evident in how he treats and relate to other people.

It's not a myth when we say hurting people hurt others. In fact, research has revealed that children who lacked adequate parental care, love and affection are mostly the ones who grow up to cause havoc in the society. Hence, Paul, in his understanding of the importance of self-love, started by asking rhetorical questions to remind and re-affirm to them the love, fellowship, consolation, and comfort they’d already received from Christ that should also be passed on to others.

When a man receives loves from God, it makes him love himself, and consequently, love other people. This is the order Jesus gave while describing the greatest commandment in Matthew 22:37-39: (1) Love God first, (2) then you are empowered to love yourself with the love you receive from God, (3) then you’ll be able to show the love you received to other people.


Unity: What You Need to End a Conflict

Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind (Philip. 2:2).

Here in the second verse, Paul gives them exactly what to do to end the hostility that exists among them: be in unity. It’s not possible to have a disagreement with someone whom you’re always in agreement with. It’s not possible to be in a quarrel with someone when you’re always in one accord and like-minded. When there’s always unity, quarrels do not exist.

The Greek words from which ‘likeminded’ and ‘one accord’ were translated in the verse above are sort of synonymous to each other. The Greek word for likeminded, ‘froneete’ means ‘to interest oneself in or set the affection on.’ The Greek word from which ‘one accord’ was translated is ‘sumpsuchoi,’ it means to be co-spirited, it also means to be likeminded.

In essence, Paul was telling them to be in unison. Because that’s the way they can end their infightings.


Submission: How to End a Conflict

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves (Philip. 2:3).

In verse 2, Paul told the Philippian church what to do. In verse 3, he tells them how to do it. He could have told them what to do without any much impact so he went further to tell them how to do it.

The word ‘strife’ in the verse above is from the Greek word ‘eritheia.’ It connotes a sense of competitive jealousy or contention. That’s why the King James Version (KJV) uses the word ‘strife’ because strife occurs when there’s contention. Also the Contemporary English Version (CEV) uses the word ‘jealousy’ because it’s competitive jealousy that makes people contend with themselves.

The Greek word ‘kenodoxos’ is where the word ‘vainglory’ was translated from, and it means exactly what it says. Another way to describe it will be ‘empty glory’ or ‘pride.’ Some other versions describe it as ‘a cheap desire to boast.’

Hence, another way to paraphrase this verse would be: “Let nothing be done through competitive jealousy or an ostentatious show to appear better than others. But in humility consider others better than yourselves.”

The main problem the Philippian church had was a problem of selfishness. Everyone was about being or appearing superior to the other. No one was willing to submit. Hence, Paul was spot in his attempt in dealing with their problem: He told them to consider others better than themselves.” That was really the big solution they needed.

Come to think of it, you only submit to someone whom you consider, in some way, to be better or superior to you. You don’t yell at your boss, for example, because you know he pays your salary, and he’s an authoritative figure to you. You’ll actually respect people when you think of them as better or superior to you.

Although, this is not true. And Paul didn’t say it was because he said to ‘esteem’ others in our thinking to be better ourselves. ‘Hegeomai’ is the Greek word from which the word ‘esteem’ was translated, and it means to figuratively deem, i.e., consider; or suppose or think.

In essence, he was saying to consider it to be so, even though it wasn’t. This is because we cannot manage having to think of ourselves being better than others. It’s one of those thoughts that make us easily puffed up that we begin to act arrogant and showy. We can’t handle thinking that way.

In the same way, Adam and Eve, even though they were always naked, God chose to make them see otherwise because they couldn’t handle or manage having that thought. Equally, we are we not able to continuously think of ourselves as being better than others without getting into some stupid behaviors. Human nature cannot handle such prideful thinking. It becomes a load too big to carry.

If you become full of yourself, you’ll get easily offended and easily offensive to people. It’s not a good way to think.

Selfless Attitude: The Cure for Conflict

Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others (Philip. 2:4).

In this verse also, Paul goes on to tell them how to end the conflict that easily occurs among them. Having gotten the reason for their falling out—selfishness—he goes on in this verse to assert himself, telling them something similar to what he did in the previous verse.

He told them to stop being too self-occupied with themselves, trying to esteem themselves highly in comparison to others. He, however, advises them to ‘look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the thing of others.’

When your focus is on other people and not on yourself, it’s then that you can really see. You stop thinking and acting irrational. Your myopic perception becomes altered. You can now reason in agreement with other people (as hinted in verse 2), instead of being blinded and consumed with your own idea, whether or not it even makes sense.

This is what makes the difference between people who get easily offended and those that don’t: they’re not self-occupied. That’s why criticism falls off their back like water on a cat’s body. Because they were, all the while, never full of self. So when you try to hurt self, self doesn’t feel it.

Copy Jesus

Having given them the key to ending their incessant infighting, Paul goes to tell them to copy Jesus in the following verses. He starts by telling them to think like Jesus (Philippians 2:5). He describes Jesus’ humility and what it achieved for him (v.6-11). He did that to show them that the way up, isn’t necessarily up, in the kingdom of God, but down—in humility and selflessness.

© 2017 Matthew Joseph


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