Calvary Road Baptist Church


Philippians 2.3

For the last several weeks we have spent our Sunday evenings examining a subject of critical importance not only to Calvary Road Baptist Church, but every other church; the subject of unity. Probably through the Philippian sent to minister to his needs while he was incarcerated, Paul was made aware of some things going on in the Philippian congregation that alarmed him and heightened his concern for those people dearly beloved to him. Therefore, he did what anyone who loves someone would do, he communicated with them in the only way available to him. He wrote them a letter. You realize of course, writing to someone is so much better than calling them on the phone, because when you hang up the phone there is nothing left of your concern for a loved one besides their faulty memory. However, when you write to that loved one, should that person be so wise as to keep for remembrance sake what you wrote, your expression of love and concern will last until the paper it’s written on turns to dust. That is one reason why God gave to us His written Word, the Bible.

Back to the Apostle Paul. After he informed the Philippians of the great spiritual success he was enjoying, despite the fact that he was confined to prison, because preaching and testimony cannot be contained by bars and shackles, he told his favorite congregation how to deal with the heightened persecution that seems to have come their way. That said, his chief concern for the Philippian believers does not seem to have been related to their persecution by unbelievers. As with any church, as with our church, the greatest concern has to do with internal considerations. Churches can, generally, deal with any attack that comes from without, so long as things are okay on the inside. However, when things are not right on the inside of a church, external assault by Satan-inspired reprobates is entirely unnecessary, for the church will, in due time, collapse under its own weight. That is why Paul makes such a strong appeal for unity to the Philippian church. From last week, we know that unity is not something you work for, not something you or I can achieve. Unity is actually something the Holy Spirit of God gives to a congregation of people who are obedient to His Word. Additionally, we saw that unity is what results from church members being like-minded in three specific areas of thought; having the same love, being of one accord, and being of one mind.

This evening and next Sunday, the Lord willing, we will look at some very specific examples of how saved people, who are scripturally baptized and members of the same church, actually behave. By the way, it is when you and I put into practice the like-mindedness we read about in our text for today that the Holy Spirit blesses our church with the unity of the Spirit that we so desperately need to effectively serve Christ. That said, please turn your Bible to Philippians 2.1-4, and then stand for the reading of God’s Word:

1      If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,

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

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

4      Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

As you are seated, please focus your attention on Philippians 2.3, where we are given what is perhaps the first clue in this epistle to suggest what problem Paul sought to address among the people. Imagine two approaches to being a member of Calvary Road Baptist Church, two attitudes that can be exhibited by you as a church member. Let us say there are the high road and the low road. Which approach to serving God in this church will secure God’s blessing of unity? Let us see.


Paul writes, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory.”

First, take a look at the examples Paul provides for us here of how members can act. His first example is of this thing called “strife.” The Greek word for “strife” originally meant “a day laborer,” and was used especially of someone who cut and bound wheat, or of those who were spinners or weavers. The word later came to denote the attitude of someone who worked for wages and, particularly, it came to denote a self-seeking pursuit of political office by unfair means. The word’s meaning further evolved over time to refer to “party squabbles,” of the jockeying for position and for power. Finally, in Paul’s day, the word referred to “selfish ambition,” the kind of ambition that has no real conception of service and whose only aim is personal benefit.[1] Strife, you see, is the result when someone attempts to lift up or to promote self. Think about this for a moment. Why are you here? What is your motive? What is your goal? Each and every one of us enjoys the occasional recognition that signifies someone appreciates your job well done, a good effort. However, is that why you are here? Are you ambitious? I have had a family move from our church, taking an entire clan with them, only to find out from the clan leader’s wife much later that, “We might have stayed if my husband had been made a deacon.” Some years ago we also had a family leave, and this is my opinion, because I made it clear to the very headstrong woman that she would never be allowed to lead the women of this church. She was proud and unteachable, so she led her family out. Do you know what we do not need in our church? We do not need people in this church who have that kind of attitude. Neither do we need people who are content to just warm a pew between vacations and outings. We need the kind of member who reflects the attitude found in Psalm 84.10: “I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.” I did not seek my first pastorate. I did not seek this pastorate. I am deeply suspicious of ambition and the desire for elevated position. In the past, I have served as a leader among pastors, but it was a position I did not seek, a position I initially rejected, but a position I was persuaded to accept at the urging of others. I say again, “I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.” Next, there is this thing called “vainglory.” Sometimes it seems as though Paul had Southern California in mind when he wrote portions of scripture. “Vainglory” is a compound word formed from a word that means “empty” and a word that means “glory” or “to highly value.” This is the guy who makes much of himself.[2] This is the guy who struts. This is the guy who has the very high self-esteem. I am reminded of two gang members who were convicted of mercilessly gunning down a little girl some years ago. When it came time to sentence the two curs, the judge gave them an opportunity to say something before their sentencing. I remember the one moron standing up and with great arrogance and pride saying, “We’re going to stand tall. We’re not going to beg for nothing. We’re going to stand tall.” A child murderer with vainglory. Though that is an extreme example of “vainglory,” there are less dramatic examples of this folly in churches. Take, for example, the singer who wants to sing solos but who is much too important to sing in the choir. How about the fellow who insists on teaching a Sunday School class, but is much too important to be a helper in a Sunday School class? “Vainglory” refers to the person who has a high, but quite unfounded and ungrounded, opinion of himself and the role he ought to play in the church. Go back and look into the lives of many who started parachurch organizations and you will no doubt find some who were just too gifted to be confined to the ministry of an ordinary church. This would be the guy who is just a little bit too big for his britches.

Those were Paul’s examples. Now take note of Paul’s exhortation. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory.” How emphatic must Paul be to get his point across? He wants the Philippians to know that nothing, not a single thing, should be done with the kind of attitudes reflected by strife or vainglory. And does this not make sense? “Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it.”[3] And whatever the Lord is building is not being built using proud laborers.


First, let us be mindful of the prerequisite. Paul writes, “but in lowliness of mind.” This refers to humility. The phrase “lowliness of mind” actually translates the compound word that is formed from the word “humility” and the word for “mind.”[4] What does this tell us, even with respect to blood bought and blood washed Christians in fellowship in a New Testament church? It tells us that what is absolutely necessary for unity to exist in a congregation of such people, and before the like-mindedness that leads to unity will ever be expressed, the members of the church must be humble in their minds. That is, you and I have to recognize our own insufficiency and dependency on God. It is the proclamation of the Christian life, yet it is not always realized in the Christian life.

With that prerequisite, there must then be a preference. “Let each esteem other better than themselves.” This does not mean that you are to delude yourself into thinking that everyone is smarter than you are. That is certainly not true. Neither are you to pretend that others are more talented than you are when they are not. What this means is that you are to make a value judgment with respect to the others in your church, and you are to assign to them a personal importance that is greater than your own. You will not do this if you are not humble minded. And without this our church will never experience unity.

So we see, there are two roads through the Christian life as a church member. There is the high road and there is the low road. The high road is the road of arrogance and pride, the road of high self-esteem, the road of self-sufficiency and self-importance. It is the road that will not and that cannot result in a church being blessed of God with unity, since God resists the proud and gives grace only to the humble. The low road, the road of humility, the road that esteems others higher than yourself, is the road Paul traveled, and is the road the Savior traveled. The saint who travels the low road is quite delighted to be the gate keeper in the house of his God.

Which road have you traveled and do you purpose to travel in the future? Why don’t we, each and every one of us together, choose to travel the low road and consider each other, and what is good for other, before seeking what is good for ourselves?


Tacking in a slightly different direction, many unsaved people shun church attendance and Christianity because of what they believe to be the hypocrisy they see in the lives of Christians. While it is true there is a great deal of hypocrisy, unsaved folks are oftentimes wrong in their estimation of hypocrisy among Christians. What they usually see is hypocrisy among folks who pretend to be Christians. Christians are not hypocrites when we commit sin. Sin is wrong. Sin is not pleasing to God. However, when a believer commits sin he is not playing the hypocrite. Hypocrisy is pretending to be something that you are not, and the child of God is someone who, first and foremost, acknowledges himself to being sinful. How in the world is it hypocrisy for a person who admits he is sinful to prove the point by committing sins?

You have seen the frank admission that church members can do wrong or do right, and that unity will only result from their obedience to God. Therefore, when a member of this church commits a sin, that is not hypocrisy. It is a Christian, who has already acknowledged his sinfulness in the sight of God and man, who has done wrong by exhibiting strife or vainglorious behavior. It is a tragedy for such a thing to happen, but such things do happen. However, consider this: That attitude which church members exhibit occasionally is an attitude which the unsaved harbor in their hearts continually. Consider, my unsaved friend, these four related and important items:


If you are here without Christ, if you are here without the salvation from your sins that the Bible speaks of, whether or not you call yourself a Christian, whether or not you consider yourself to be well off materially or spiritually, you are, my friend, impoverished. You are impoverished in two very easy to see ways:

First, you are spiritually impoverished by dearth. Dearth refers to lacking, to inadequate supply. What is it you are lacking? You are lacking righteousness. Understand, you have to have righteousness to escape Hellfire. You have to have righteousness to go to heaven when someday you die. You have to have righteousness to stand before God. But guess what? You have no righteousness. None. The Bible says, in Romans 3.10, “As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one.” Thus, you have a dearth of righteousness.

Additionally, you are spiritually impoverished by death. That’s right, death. Ephesians 2.1 describes you as being dead in trespasses and sins. What can a dead man possess? Nothing. Death here does not refer to you being physically dead, but spiritually dead, separated from the life of God. Do you remember the bromide that pictures two men standing near the casket of a wealthy man who had died? One asked, “How much did he leave?” The other replied, “All of it.” In other words, once you are dead you are poor. However, since you are already spiritually dead you are already spiritually impoverished. Think of it, my friend. What do you have that won’t someday burn up? You have nothing. You illustrate the idea of the lost man’s poverty.


“Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.”[5] So begins the Biblical account of mankind’s fall into the depravity of sinfulness, a sinfulness that you, my friend, were born into. Romans 5.12 begins, “For as by one man sin entered into the world.” When Adam sinned through disobedience he became a sinner. However, no one descended from Adam ever became sinful. We were born sinful. As a result of that sinfulness, you have the same subtle and deceitful tendencies as your father, the devil. Being by nature a child of wrath, you take after your spiritual father, the one who was a liar from the beginning.[6] Consider these observations about sinful man’s pretense, your pretense:

Because you are sinful, you pretend God is not as high as He is. Listen to what Satan said so long ago. Isaiah 24.14: “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” How strikingly similar in thinking you and Satan are. Satan thought he could reach up to where God is, that God is somehow attainable. Do not some of you think, in your heart of hearts, that somehow God, and if not God, heaven, is a reachable destination for you? Yet, only by thinking that God is not as high as He is could you possibly delude yourself into thinking like that. The reality is what Isaiah saw, in Isaiah 6.1: “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up.”

Because you are sinful, you pretend that you are not as low as you are. What capacity for self-delusion we human beings have. What capacity for delusion by Satan human beings have. You think you are okay. You think you are not so bad. However, David likened the position of a sinner before God to being in a deep pit, to being in the miry clay.[7] Sir, you are low in the eyes of God. Not only is He high and lifted up, but you are low, very low, before Him.

Because you are sinful, you pretend that the gulf is not as great as it is that separates you from God.[8] Isaiah declared that your iniquity separates between you and your God, that your sin has hid His face from you. The gulf between you and God is so great, so yawning is the chasm that divides you, that not only is there nothing that you can possibly do to bridge the gulf, but the gulf is so wide that the sound of your voice does not carry to the other side where God is. The only thing that spans the great gulf that separates you from God is the faith that reaches the Lord Jesus Christ and trusts Him. The great gulf the man in Hell observed after he had died, Luke 16, was a gulf that already existed while he was yet alive. He just hadn’t seen it. You see, in your sinful subtlety and in your wicked ability to deceive, you have deceived yourself. You think yourself to be saved from your sins, or you think yourself capable of saving yourself from your sins someday. However, you are wrong, my friend. Just plain wrong.


From our text, we remember that occasionally saved church members slip into sinful strife, becoming ambitious and concerned about position and prominence. However, for unsaved people this is not a temporary slip, but a way of life. Having posed as a Christian and slipping into the church by means of a false profession, the unsaved church member has been known to wage a personal struggle for self-promotion and recognition. How can such a thing occur? It is really quite simple.

With such a person, there is reformation without regeneration. Oh, I’ll grant that perhaps you used to do this and you used to do that. Perhaps you used to be this way and you used to be that way. But not anymore. On that fateful day when you heard a sermon preached, your life changed forever. There is only one problem. Because of your subtlety, taking after your spiritual father, the devil, you never really were saved. Not really. Oh, you behave quite differently, but you are still really the same sinner you always were. You are reformed, but you are not regenerated.

With such a person, there is religion without relationship. You see, you have adopted a religious persona. You talk the talk, and you appear to walk the walk to most onlookers. But you do not know the Savior. You have no personal knowledge of Jesus Christ. He is not yours and you are not His. You’ve not been cleansed in the blood of the crucified One. It’s all fake and fraud. You didn’t know that in the beginning, but you know it now, because in the deepest recesses of your mind and soul you know that what you have is religion without a relationship with Jesus Christ.

With such a person there is jockeying without justification. Romans 5.1 starts out, “Therefore, being justified by faith.” Justified refers to being accounted righteous in the sight of God. It refers to being credited with some benefit. Faith means that you are relying upon another to bring this about, you are trusting someone other than yourself to accomplish this. But this does not describe you. You are not justified by faith in Jesus Christ. As a result, perhaps you are one who jockeys for religious position and favor with God by trying to do this good deed or by trying to accomplish that spiritual feat. The result, of course, is strife.


You think you have salvation, but here is what you really have:

First, you have your profession of righteousness. You maintain that you are saved. You contend that you are not as bad as you really are in God’s eyes. You purport to have some good qualities that redeem you to some degree, at least in your own eyes. And do you not think to yourself, “Well, at least I . . . ?” when you compare yourself to others? So, you have your profession of righteousness.

Next, you have your possession of filthy rags. Isaiah 64.6 has this to say about such righteousness, from God’s point of view: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” What you do have God does not want.

Finally, you have God’s promise of judgment. Hebrews 10.27 pronounces to you that “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Hebrews 10.31 warns you that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

When all is said and done, the only thing that will matter is whether or not you are genuinely saved, saved the Bible way, saved through faith in Jesus Christ. Though in spiritual poverty, you have fooled yourself through pretense and you engage in promotion. But in the end you are in the same predicament you have always been in, lost and undone and in need of a Savior.

[1] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 392.

[2] Ibid., page 538

[3] Psalm 127.1

[4] Bauer, page 989.

[5] Genesis 3.1

[6] Ephesians 2.3; John 8.44

[7] Psalm 40.2

[8] Isaiah 59.2

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