Paul had very few criticisms, if any at all, for his Philippian readers. But he did issue several warnings and encouragements to Christ-like behaviour:
2:2-5 “…then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…”.
Humility and looking to the interests of other believers, are modelled by Jesus in the following verses 6-11, in which is Paul probably quotes from an early Christian hymn. It talks about Jesus choosing to give up all the comforts and powers that were rightfully His as God in heaven. Choosing to become a man – and a servant man at that – he then stooped even lower, becoming sin, and bearing sin’s full punishment. He did that all for us. As reward, the Father lifted him to the highest place possible to be honoured by all.
That is ‘humility’ – knowing your true worth and abilities, and yet not taking full personal advantage of them. In verses 2-5, Paul asks us to show loving concern towards one another, and to work for a common unity of purpose. Of all Paul’s co-workers, only Timothy showed totally genuine concern for the Philippians’ welfare, rather than looking out for his own interests (vv19-23).
2:12-13 “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose”. I call this concept: ‘God’s Power-Assisted Steering’! As you take your small feeble movements to obey the Lord and to do good, He then moves with you in the same direction with all the power of heaven and massively reinforces your puny efforts. But if you decide not to move at all, nothing happens!
2:14-15 “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky…”. We need to watch our attitudes and expressions of discontent! No church is perfect yet, and that certainly goes for its leadership too. God knows the secrets of our minds and the motives of our hearts; let us not emulate the critical spirit of many people in secular society and the harshness of their criticism. We are meant to be different and for the world to see that.
2:26-27 “[Epaphroditus] longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow”. We receive a timely reminded of the sovereignty of God in all things, including physical healing. The great apostle Paul, who had raised people from the dead and had healed so many, was not able to instantly heal his friend and companion. There is no magic formula to healing, no absolute guarantee that it must happen ‘on demand’; we cannot generate the genuine faith necessary for miraculous healing. What determines these outcomes depends on the mind of God. But let’s also remember that if you pray for no-one, then no-one gets healed; if you pray for some, then at least some will get healed!