The main issue in Phillipians chapter 2 in particular is the issue of community. Though it might not appear to be severe, there are some strong indications throughout Paul’s letter that indeed the Philippians were facing some challenges in the outworking of their local community.
If I may put a big title for Philippians chapter 2, I would put ‘Community of Believers in Crisis’. In this chapter, Paul sees some danger signs that were apparent in the Philippians community that could put their community in crisis – there were 3 of them:
(1) The absence of true humility within the community of believers. According to Paul, what really put a community of believers in jeopardy and crisis is not the lack of materials or food– but the absence of true humility within the community of believers – this is the first danger sign. In other words, what really drives a wedge, what really creates a huge chasm between individual believers in a community is the refusal of each individual believer to put others before each own self. Paul did not ask them to deny themselves to the point of total disregard of themselves, in fact, Paul says in vs. 4, ‘Let each of you look not only to his own interest, but also to the interest of others’. What put a community in crisis then is when we absorb all the attention to ourselves and left nothing for others.
(2) The absence of a sense of calling as a witnessing community to the world. The second danger sign that Paul sees in the Philippians was that they were totally forgotten the very purpose of their salvation as a community – that they were saved [not only as an individual, but also as a community of believer] so that they [as a community] can be a living witness in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation as Paul says in vs. 15. As Christians, we are not just a community, but a community of followers of Christ, a community that bears the witness of Christ, and a community that reflects what God has done in Jesus Christ. And if we lost that sense of calling as a witnessing community, there will be nothing left of our community as believers – since we are not doing or living as we are called to be, and therefore putting our community in crisis.
(3) The absence of the true spiritual leadership role model within the community of believers. From vs. 19-30, Paul purposely commended Timothy and Epaphroditus as a examples of whom Paul describe in vs. 20-21 as “For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. They all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” When a community of believers lacks the presence of spiritual leadership that are able to demonstrate the life of Christ, the intent of Christ, the desire of Christ, the interest of Jesus Christ Himself – the community will fall apart as each member will go about his or her own ways, seeking their own interest not those of Jesus Christ, which desperately needs to be modeled by the spiritual leadership in the community of believers.
So what’s the remedy for a community in crisis? Paul says Phil. 2 vs. 5 to vs. 8, ‘Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” We all need to have the mind of Christ who set aside himself for the sake of others, for without it, our community will be in a serious crisis and great jeopardy.