Many years ago I was involved in a theological discussion of sorts from a post on a friend’s Facebook page. If I remember correctly, the general theme of the discussion was the continuity of teaching throughout the New Testament. After one of my responses, another man said the following: “Well, I follow Paul’s Gospel, not Jesus’ Gospel. It isn’t the same.” After lifting my jaw off the floor because of that heretical proclamation, I made a lengthier response explaining that Paul followed Jesus’ teaching and Gospel precisely. The man didn’t respond. He had a very faulty opinion of what constituted the Gospel along with a misunderstanding of Paul.
Pastor James’ sermon this past Sunday brought that discussion to mind. Paul’s words in Philippians 2:1-8 run a very strong parallel to the words of Jesus presented in John 15:9-15. I can easily imagine Paul having these words in mind as he wrote to the Philippians. Here are the words of Paul in Philippians 2:1-2:
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.”
Following are the words of Jesus presented by John in John 15:9-11:
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. How are we united with Christ, and how do we have comfort from His love, and share in the Spirit? “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (John 15:9-10).
Jesus reminds us that there is no separation between Himself and His Father, and acknowledges the Spirit later in His discussion: “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.” (John 15:26). I believe this is the basis of Paul’s instruction to be “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” What is Jesus’ goal? “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11). In Philippians Paul is seeking the joy that Jesus promises from all of us being united with Him.
Jesus continues His message:
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:12-14).
Jesus fully knew the meaning of His statement “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Even in the immediate days following His crucifixion I am not sure the disciples understood. After He met with them following His resurrection it became much clearer. This is where Paul’s mind was focusing when he wrote about Jesus humbling Himself and dying on the cross for us. He was in the form of a man yet still divine. Still, He considered us more important than Himself. Paul was looking to Jesus’ example as he wrote verses 3 and 4:
“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.”
Many times in the New Testament we have Scriptures from the Old Testament, or even other New Testament writers quoted. In Philippians 2 we see Paul not simply quoting other verses for the point of teaching. He is exhorting in a way that indicates that he has internalized Jesus’ teaching from John 15. Jesus’ way of thinking has become Paul’s way of thinking. That is the purpose and intention of the Bible. It isn’t just a historical record, or a rule book to follow. God’s ways must become our ways.
Lord, help us to make Jesus’ teaching part of our lives and being as Paul did. Let us share His love, tenderness, and compassion with each other. Thank You for Your love and compassion for us, and for considering us friends.
Take heart and be encouraged!