"Therefore if you have any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, then make my joy complete by being of one mind, having the same love, being united in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."
Paul, The Apostle of Grace
Paul's heart for the Philippian church was they stay united as a family of grace so they could shine like stars of the universe, shining the good news of God's grace into the darkness of the city of Philippi.
He knew for the good news of God's grace to reach more and more people in Philippi, the family of believers would need to be united. Paul knew that unity among the family of grace in Philippi came from understanding the work of Jesus for them and nature of Jesus toward them.
In verse one, he reminds them of the encouragement they received from being in Christ. Paul had already taught the believers in Philippi about being in Christ when he spent time with them in Philippi.
Paul understood that believers being educated about who they are in Christ was foundational to maturity, unity, and productivity. This is evident in Paul's use of the phrase "in Christ" over and over in his letters.
Paul remembered how encouraged the Philippian believers were when he taught them about their permanent identity in Christ compared to their former identity in Adam and being separated from Christ (for a full understanding of your identity in Christ, see Romans, Ephesians, and the other letters of Paul).
In Christ, God lavished upon them the riches of his grace.
In Christ, God the Father had blessed them with every spiritual blessing, leaving none out and none to be earned.
In Christ, they were holy and blameless before God.
In Christ, their sins had been paid in full and full forgiveness had been given them freely and forever.
In Christ, their salvation was eternally secure, never to be lost.
In Christ, they were united with him in his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.
They had been permanently seated in and with Christ in heaven.
In Christ, they were not under law, but under grace.
In Christ, they were under no condemnation from God, innocent and righteous before him, at peace with him, and reconciled to him.
In Christ, they were brought close to God in a loving relationship, full of hope for their lives.
In Christ, they could relate to God in freedom and confidence.
In Christ, they were one family of grace.
In Christ, they were God's masterpiece...his work of art...his picture of grace!
When the believers in Philippi were taught by Paul about their identity in Christ, they were greatly encouraged. This encouragement, flowing from an understanding of who they were in Christ, would become the basis of maturity, unity, and productivity among them so they could shine the light of God's grace into the city of Philippi.
Over the past 27 years, as I have communicated with thousands of believers, I have discovered most of them have never been taught what Paul taught the Philippians and the other believers about their identity in Christ.
This breaks my heart.
So many believers have never experienced the encouragement of being taught about who they are in Christ. They are taught what they need to do, rather than what Christ has done. They are taught how they need to read their Bibles every day, apply the Bible to their lives daily, memorize and meditate on Scripture, give their money, attend church, participate in a small group, serve in a ministry at church, "put God first", witness, and on and on and on...but never taught the foundational truths of who they are in Christ.
As leaders and teachers in the church, we can't rob people of the encouragement that comes from knowing who they are in Christ. For maturity, unity, and productivity to happen in a church, we must follow Paul's example of teaching believers who they are in Christ.
If you are a church leader or teacher, make it your aim to teach your church family about their identity in Christ. A good place to start would be by teaching through the book of Ephesians. As you do, watch them light up from the inside out with encouragement and then shine that light into the darkness of their cities, communities, and villages.