Believers are given the unity of the Spirit (4:3) and are expected to make every effort to keep it as there is a strong basis for unity (4:4-6). But unity is not to be maintained just for the purpose of our own enjoyment. Rather, it is so that, with the grace of God, every believers can take his or her part and serve God so that the body of Christ may be built up (4:12).
That is why Paul does not stop with unity but continues his teaching with serving.
As we serve God, there are a couple of things we need to keep in mind:
Serving is a grace.
Paul describes his calling to preach the gospel as an administration of God’s grace (3:2). In describing the Philippians’ participation in his missionary works, Paul joyfully calls them sharers of God’s grace (Phil 1:5, 7). In this section where he describes the “works of service” of the people of God, he says “to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” (4:7)
How beautiful it is when people of God sees serving as a grace we receive from God! Such a humble heart and attitude must be pleasing to God and to other fellow servers as well.
Diversity of Servers is a gift from God.
Unity does not mean uniformity. While vv. 1-6 stress unity, vv. 7-13 describe different roles and positions of people who serve God (v. 11). This diversity is described as a gift of Christ (vv. 7, 11).1
Thus we are to appreciate different positions and roles2 when different people come together to serve God. Of course, from the context we know that ultimate appreciation should go to Christ.
When people of God come together “for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up,” it is important that we all serve with a right heart and attitude. Hopefully seeing that serving is a grace of God and that different people is also a gift from God will serve as a reminder for us to serve properly.
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called;
5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
8 This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.”
9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?
10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,
12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up
13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.
15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is, Christ.
16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
- Space does not allow detailed discussion on the word “gift,” but the word used here for “gift” (δόμα, doma, v. 8) is different from the word commonly known as “spiritual gift” (χάρισμα, charisma). While many commentators see them as equivalent based on context, at least the emphasis seems to be different. The mention of Christ as the giver of the gift, the time described specifically as when he ascended on high, and the emphatic “himself” (αὐτὸς, autos) in v. 11, suggest that the emphasis is about Christ giving these people throughout generations as a gift to the Church rather than about different abilities that these people possess. In fact, the list seems to show different roles/positions rather than different abilities as in 1 Cor 12:4-11 and Rom 12:6-8 where “charisma” is used). ↩
- I use “roles” here because in the early Churches, not all roles have or have become formal positions. For example, Philip and Timothy are called evangelists in the Bible (Acts 21:8; 2 Tim 4:5), but it is not clear at all whether the term “evangelist” has become a formal position as it is today in some Churches. ↩