If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,…
I. THE ADJURATION (ver. 1).
1. The strength of the appeal lies in the completeness of its expressions.
(1) "If there be any consolation in Christ." I charge you by every holy argument which our common union with Christ suggests, not such as the dignity of your position, the grandeur of anion, the weakness and odiousness of discord, etc.
(2) Paul passes from the Christ as external from whom every argument flows, to the love which is internal. "Comfort of love." I charge you by our common possession of love, and by the tender motive contained in it.
(3) Thus the exhortation to self-renouncing devotion is based upon union with Christ and enforced by the love of the heart. Christ gives the strength of the argument: love gives that argument its tenderness.
2. Here follows another pair of appeals, but now the Holy Spirit is the strength of the invocation.
(1) "Fellowship of the Spirit." I appeal to the common inheritance of the Holy Ghost which makes Christians one. That fellowship is the ground of your self-renouncing devotion and the power which renders you capable of it.
(2) "Bowels and mercies." The gentle, compassionate, forgiving spirit is most mighty in annihilating causes of dissention and is the source of all compassion in us to mankind. Renounce, therefore, every selfish impediment and devote yourself to the common cause afresh.
3. Thus the apostle's joy would be fulfilled. He was already happy in their devotion and in the fruits of their fellowship. But he had heard of the risings of a fatal spirit among them. His joy could not reach its consummation without their united and persevering devotion.
II. THE EXHORTATION.
1. In its unity. Here we have self-love in the great uniting object of Christ's kingdom, subordinate in humility to the honour of others, and losing its essential selfishness in the perpetual combination of the advantage of others with its own. These three are one. Self-renunciation is the secret of unity in the Church, of humility in the individual, and of charity in all the relations of life.
2. In its divisions.
(1) The oneness of a common interest is enforced. "Like minded," regarding together one object of pursuit, viz., all the compass of that truth which commands the Church's faith, all the variety of those interests that concentrate the Church's desire and effort; all that constitutes the great business of Christ's servants in the world. This unity of purpose is either the result of a common love set upon the same object — "having the same love," or is shown by the concentration of the faculties of the soul on that object — "of one accord in the promotion of one thing."(2) The humble preference of others to self in all that pertains to dignity (ver. 3).
(a) Negatively. They are to avoid the conduct he condemns at Rome — strife was to be kept out of their community and vanity out of their character. A mind clothed with humility cannot desire preeminence, and cannot, therefore, contend against others to bring them down, or seek vain self-elevation for its own sake.
(b) Positively. In the exercise of humility they were to regard not that every one's moral character was better than their own, but that others were mars worthy of distinction in the Church. "In honour preferring one another."(3) The habitual consideration of others' well-being in connection with our own (ver. 4). "Own things" must be taken in the largest sense, temporally and spiritually. Nothing is our own absolutely and apart from others. Our things are ours only in union with the things of ethers. We are not forbidden to seek our own interests, but only in common with the good of all around us. "None of us liveth to himself."
(W. B. Pope, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,