Commentary on Philippians, 2:1-2 (Encouragement and Unity)

Philippians 2:1-2

“1 Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender mercies and compassion,”


“With what I just said in mind….”

Paul may be referring back to what he said in verse 1:27 (Phil 1:27), where he talks about unity; or he may have 1:28-30 (Phil 1:28-30) in mind, where he talks about persecution and suffering. Or he may have both in mind. I think it best to consider both  as we tie in what he says in these first few verses of chapter 2.


Paul uses this word “if” with the idea of “since” or “as indeed is the case” or “in view of the fact.”

The word “if” in the English language always conveys the idea of uncertainty. However, there is no uncertainty to what Paul says in this verse, and he is not suggesting it to be so. All these expressions are absolutely true for those who belong to Christ.

“encouragement”  (Gr. paraklesis – 3874)


“The word has various meanings; “a calling near, a summons, imploration, supplication, entreaty, exhortation, admonition, encouragement, consolation, solace.” The well-rounded all-inclusive idea is that of encouragement, of aid given the needy person, whether it be consolation, exhortation, or supplication.”

“consolation”  (Gr. paramuthion – 3890)


Consolation (3890) (paramuthion from para = towards + muthéomai = to speak, which is from múthos = a tale, myth, speech) literally describes speaking closely to someone. The idea is to speak to someone coming close to their side. The basic sense speaking to someone in a friendly way. It refers to that which causes or constitutes the basis for consolation and encouragement.

Paramuthion “indicates a greater degree of tenderness than” the preceding word “encouragement” (paraklesis).

One Greek lexicon defines paramuthion as an assuagement ( = lessening the intensity of something that pains or distresses).

Friberg defines paramuthion…

as persuasive power that points to a basis for hope and provides incentive. (Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament)

Consolation is the attribute of agape love of God that alleviates grief, the sense of loss, trouble, etc.


“that tender cheer, imparted as the effect of “love” (agape practical love).”

F B Meyer:

“The second bond is the comfort of love. The Greek word will bear this rendering–if you know the tender cheer that love gives; that is, see to it that you maintain the bond of Christian fellowship by meeting your fellow Christians with the tender cheer of love. We all know what tender cheer is, when men have been out all day and tried, almost beyond endurance. As they come out of the storm, the depression of their spirit and their health may have conspired to reduce them to the lowest depth of darkness–then as the door opens, and they see the ruddy glow of the fire, and the wife comes to meet them, and the child is there with its prattle, for a moment it seems almost worth while having known the weariness and depression because of the contrasted cheer that greets them. All around us in the world are Christian hearts which are losing faith; many hands hang down, and knees shake together. Let us see to it that by the kindly cheer of a smile, the grasp of a hand, the welcome of a word, we do something to draw those people into the inner circle of Christian love.” (The Epistle to the Philippians )

“fellowship”  (Gr. koinonia – 2842)

Close association, joint participation, partnership, community, communion, intimacy, sharing.


“Communion with the Holy Spirit, whose first fruit is love. Galatians 5:22. Participation in His gifts  and influences. Compare 2 Peter 1:4, and 2 Corinthians 13:13.”


“If any fellowship of the Spirit – The word “fellowship – κοινωνία koinōnia- means that which is common to two or more; that of which they partake together; Ephesians 3:9 note; Philemon 1:5 note. The idea here is, that among Christians there was a participation in the influences of the Holy Spirit; that they shared in some degree the feelings, views, and joys of the Sacred Spirit Himself; and that this was a privilege of the highest order. By this fact, Paul now exhorts them to unity, love, and zeal – so to live that they might partake in the highest degree of the consolations of this Spirit.”

F B Meyer:

“The third bond is the fellowship of the Spirit. The word means to share the Spirit, the going in common with the Spirit. They who live near God know what that fellowship is; they know that they are always accompanied; that they are never for one moment by themselves; can never enter a room with the consciousness of vacancy; can never travel in an empty car with a sense of isolation and solitude: there is always the fellowship of the Spirit. Whatever any one man knows of this fellowship every other knows. Each Christian person is conscious of the same Presence, making evident and obvious to us the same Jesus Christ. The same atmosphere is lighted by the same sun; and in proportion as we have fellowship with the same Spirit we cannot lose our temper with each other, or be hard, cross, and unkind.” (The Epistle to the Philippians)


The Greek word translated “fellowship,” speaks of a common interest and a mutual and active participation in the things of God in which the believer and the Holy Spirit are joint-participants. This is the result of the Spirit’s work of regeneration and His control over the saint who is definitely subjected to Him….

One might ask here, “if each saint is indwelt by the Spirit, why is there not that unity among the saints, of which Paul speaks?” The answer is,  that this joint-participation in an interest and a mutual and active participation in the things of God is produced by the Spirit, not by virtue of His indwelling but by virtue of His control over the believer. The trouble in the Philippian church was that all the saints were not living Spirit-filled lives. If they had been there would have been unity. Paul’s exhortation to unity among the Philippian saints was therefore given upon a reasonable and workable basis. There could be unity if they would all live Spirit-controlled lives.

“tender mercies and compassion”

Or “Tender compassion”

Literally “bowels and mercies”  (Young’s Literal Translation)

“tender mercies”  (Gr. splagchnon – 4698)

Literally bowels, intestines.


Affection (4698) (splagchnon or splanchna) originally  referred to the upper abdominal viscera especially the intestines, which the ancients regarded as the seat of affections and emotions, such as anger and love. This word is always in the plural in the NT. The phrase “I feel it in the pit of my stomach” is a modern parallel. And we all know how that feels! So splagchnon refers to that deep, internal caring comparable to the modern expressions of deep feeling such as “broken-hearted” or “gut-wrenching…..Splagchnon is the strongest Greek word for expressing  compassionate love or tender mercy and involves one’s entire being. It describes the compassion which moves a man to the deepest depths of his being. In the gospels, apart from its use in some of the parables, it is used only of Jesus”.

“compassion”  (Gr. oiktirmos – 3628)

Bowels in which compassion resides, a heart of compassion.


“Compassion  (3628) (oiktirmos [word study] from oikteiro = to have compassion {used only in Ro 9:15-note} in turn derived from oiktos = compassion or pity which in turn is said to be derived from the interjection oi = “Oh!”) denotes the inward feeling of compassion which abides in the heart. It represents the display of concern over or compassion with another’s misfortune.”


“By splagchnon is signified the abode of tender feelings, by oiktirmos the manifestation of these in compassionate yearnings and actions”

Paul talked about unity in verses 1:27, and about persecution and suffering in verses 1:28-30, and so he now says, “therefore,” with that in view, be encouraged with the encouragement that is in Christ, be consoled by His love, enjoy the fellowship that we have with the Spirit, experience or walk in or be strengthened by the tender mercies and compassion of God. Furthermore, this is the way we are to be toward each other. These things that we have in Christ, we are to share with one another.

When we experience and walk in God’s grace in such a manner, we will have the strength to keep on keeping on no matter what comes our way. Christians whose lives are characterized by such grace demonstrate the “filling of the Spirit” (Eph 5:18), that they are “walking by the Spirit” (Gal 5:16,25). The result of this will be what Paul says in the next verse:

“2 make my joy full, that you be of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind;”

In other words, if we’re experiencing the grace that is provided by the Lord as described in verse one, then we will walk in unity with one another. If severe persecution comes our way, and we’re not yielding to God’s grace, then we will be overwhelmed by it, and thus, it will affect (or determine) the way we treat others. If we’re all out of sorts, then our focus will be on ourselves, how we personally can be comforted and provided for. If our focus is on our own pain, then we will not be able to focus on the pain and hardships of others. If we are so concerned about our own welfare, we will not be able to be concerned about the welfare of others who are also going through trials. We will not genuinely care.

Such a self-centered focus is not from the Holy Spirit. It means that we’re not walking in harmony with the Spirit, which results in disharmony with one another. Those who walk in the power of the Spirit will be focused on the needs and interests of others (as Paul talks about in the next verses), in spite of what we happen to be going through in our own lives. Jesus didn’t think about Himself when He was faced with suffering. Instead, He turned attention away from Himself and focused completely on the spiritual needs of the world, for that was His Father’s will. Therefore, when we turn attention away from ourselves and focus on the spiritual needs of others – saved and unsaved alike – we are being like Jesus.

We must not allow our circumstances to weaken our faith in God, but to continue to trust Him fully, with our eyes on eternity where there will be no more pain or suffering. Whatever we go through in this life, we must always be mindful that it’s but for a short season, and that some glorious day this will all be behind us. If we can experience peace in our soul throughout the tribulations of life, it means that we have learned to walk with God. When we are in close fellowship with the Lord, we are able to see life from His perspective and live accordingly. He is our strength and we must learn to walk in it.

“make my joy full”

There was nothing more important to Paul than the spiritual welfare of others. That was his calling. If believers were walking faithfully, it made all his suffering for Christ worthwhile. It gave him great joy to see the fruit of his labor being lived out among those whom he had ministered to and devoted his life to.

“same mind”


Literally, to think the same thing.

We are to be of the same mind as followers of Christ. We are to be like-minded with each other as we are like-minded with Christ. We’re to see everything in life from His perspective.

“same love”

Love is a fruit of the Spirit (Eph 5:22). Our love for the Lord and for each other must be so great that it turns our eyes away from our own personal hardships and interests, and places our focus where it belongs.

“one accord”  (Gr. sumpsuchos – 4861)

Literally, one-souled or fellow-souled.


“…of one soul; having your souls joined together. The word used here does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. It means a union of soul; or an acting together as if but one soul actuated them.”


“…literally means “one-souled”, joined together in soul, harmonious (musically concordant, marked by accord in sentiment or action) in soul, unanimous (Latin from unus = one + animus = mind), being of one spirit. It means a union of soul; or an acting together as if but one soul actuated them. Each saint should be  the other’s “consummate soul mate” in the highest spiritual sense! This harmony is to pervade their mind and their emotions.”

“one mind”  (Gr. phroneo – 5426)

Literally, one thing thinking or think the one thing.

Similar to “same mind” but stronger. Refers to having one purpose. To be one-minded  in a certain thing or direction or purpose. Unity of thought and purpose.


“Of one mind – Greek “Thinking the same thing.” The apostle here uses a great variety of expressions to denote the same thing. The object which he aimed at was union of heart, of feeling, of plan, of purpose. He wished them to avoid all divisions and strifes; and to show the power of religion by being united in the common cause.”