THE REASON FOR THE WRITING OF THIS EPISTLE
Of all the churches in the New Testament, the best church was the church at Philippi. This church was fully established; it was in sound order. In the beginning of his Epistle to the Philippians, Paul addressed the saints, the bishops, and the deacons. This indicates that the church at Philippi had been established. The elders were not merely elders, but also bishops. All the saints in the church were zealous for the gospel and for the Lord’s interests. Furthermore, those in this church took care of the needs of the Apostle Paul. The church in Philippi was much different from the church in Corinth, which was a mess, with lawsuits, fornication, and debates about doctrine, the Lord’s table, and the spiritual gifts. But in Philippi everything was very good. Why then was this book written? Paul wrote this book because the Philippians were not one in their way of thinking. Rather, there was discord among them. In other words, they were not one in soul. As we have seen, they did not have the same love for one another. Therefore, Paul encouraged them to have the same love. To some brothers and sisters their love was hot, but to others it was cold. We can sympathize with the Apostle Paul because among us today we have different levels of love, not the same love. The Philippians had problems both in the mind and in the emotion. Because of these problems, the Epistle to the Philippians was written.
As we have seen, in the second chapter of this book Paul begged the Philippians to sympathize with him. Paul seemed to be saying, "If you have any encouragement in Christ toward me, any comfort of love, any fellowship of spirit, any tender mercy and compassion, please make my joy full." Paul was very sorrowful over the discord among the Philippians. But in wisdom he did not tell them how sorrowful he was. Instead, he spoke a positive word, asking them to encourage him and to have mercy upon him. In asking this, he was implying that their discord was causing him to suffer. Paul seemed to be saying, "Do not cause me further hurt by your discord. Be merciful to me. If you have mercy on me, an old man in prison for the sake of the gospel, you will fulfill my joy by thinking the same thing and by having the same love. Oh, Philippian brothers, I am weeping in prison for you because you are not in one accord, because you are not one in mind and in soul. I beg you to have compassion toward me. I need your compassion to heal the wound within my heart which has been caused by the discord among you. Please make my joy full. When you think the same thing and have the same love, my joy will be made full."
The Greek prefix in the phrase "one soul" in verse 2 may also be translated "together." Paul was telling the Philippians that they needed to be together in their soul and that they should not hold different opinions. If we each think differently, it is an indication that we are not together in our soul. In such a case, we do not have a co-soul, but an individualistic soul. Therefore, Paul was begging the Philippians to have mercy on him by thinking the same thing and by not having any discord among them. He asked them to think not only the same thing, but even the one thing. Paul expected that all the believers in a locality, no matter how great the number might be, would think the same thing, have the same love, and be together in one soul.
In verses 4 and 5 Paul offers the Philippians the remedy for their sickness. They suffered from the sickness of not being one in soul. We have the same illness today. I have the assurance that all the saints are one in spirit, but I doubt that we are one in soul. Are you certain that you are one in soul with the other saints? If you are not one in soul, then you are ill just as the Philippians were.
(The Experience of Christ, Chapter 4, by Witness Lee)