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  • Writer's pictureEric Cline

Hermeneutics—Observing at the Paragraph Level

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

Philippians 2:1–4 (NKJV): Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests but also for the interests of others. (Phil. 2:1–4, NKJV)


Details to look for in a paragraph:


· Look for General and Specific. Paul makes the general statement of striving and suffering for Christ in Philippians 1:27–30 beginning with “Let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ” and follows it with the specifics in Philippians 2:1–4:

o Comfort of love

o Fellowship of the Spirit

o Affection and mercy

o Being like-minded

o Having the same love

o Being of one accord

o Being of one mind

o Nothing is done through selfish ambition

o Nothing is done through conceit

o Everyone is in lowliness of mind

o Everyone esteems others better than himself

o Everyone looks to the interests of others

· Look for Questions and Answers (part one). There is no direct question here. However, an implied question might reside in Philippians 1:12–26 regarding Paul’s dilemma of living or dying in verse 22 “live on in the flesh,” and verse 23 “be with Christ.” If there is an implied question, the answer lies in the four assurances Paul offers the Philippians:

o Their courage in the face of opposition is a sign of the divine judgment facing the persecutors.

o Their courage is also a sign of the believers’ own Salvation in its fullest, redemptive sense.

o Suffering for Christ is an honor given by God.

o Paul shares in their struggle and his example can encourage them just as it does the brethren in verse 14.

· Look for Questions and Answers (part two).

o The fourfold appeal (question) in Philippians 2:1 is followed by Paul’s exhortations (answers) of Philippians 2:2–4.

· Look for Questions and Answers (part three).

o “if there is any consolation in Christ” could be viewed as a rhetorical question just as we might of our children, “If you considering taking the car . . . “

o This approach could then be followed for the remaining “if any comfort, if any fellowship, etc.

o The answer lies in vv. 3 and 4 with no “selfish ambition” . . in “lowliness of mind” . . . and, for the “interests of others.”

· Look for Dialog. Dialog is obviously taking place in question and answer but let us focus on the poetic dialog in Philippians 2:1–4 with:

o Who are the participants? Paul and the Philippians.

o Who is speaking to whom? Paul is speaking to the Philippians. Paul is exhorting the Philippians to be in Christ.

o What is the setting? Paul is the teacher. The Philippians are the students.

o Are other people around? Not apparently.

o Are they listening? Apparently.

o Are they participating in the dialogue? the Philippians are listening.

o Is the dialogue an argument? The dialogue is exhortation.

o A lecture? Paul is lecturing the Philippians to not only believe in Christ but to also suffer for His sake.

o What is the point of the dialogue? To be united in humility.

· Look for Purpose Statements. There is a twofold purpose in Philippians 2:1–4:

o Paul’s request for the Philippians to fulfill his joy; be “like-minded” (v. 2).

o For them to be united. Pride divides but humility accepts a place of service, with concern for the needs and interests of others. In verse 2b, “same love” is essential for humility.

· Look for the means (by which results in action).

o The means is consolation in Christ. And in this consolation, the Philippians will find unity with one another, having:

o Comfort of love

o Fellowship of the Spirit

o Affection and mercy

o Being like-minded

o Having the same love

o Being of one accord

o Being of one mind

o Nothing is done through selfish ambition

o Nothing is done through conceit

o Everyone is in lowliness of mind

o Everyone esteems others better than himself

o Everyone looks to the interests of others

· Look for Conditional Clauses

o Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ

o if any comfort of love

o if any fellowship of the Spirit

o if any affection and mercy

o [the conditional clauses are completed with the “then” result or consequence] “fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind”

· Look at the acts of people and the acts of God.

o In Philippians 2:1 Paul is invoking the Philippians’ profound experience with Christ (see Philippians 1:28–30 where their courage [acts of people] is also a sign of the believers’ own Salvation in its fullest, redemptive sense).

o Salvation . . . that from God . . . “has been granted on behalf of Christ” [acts of God].

· Look for Emotional Terms.

o Paul pleads for his Philippian friends to “fulfill my joy” (v.2).

o Joy. Joy is shared between Paul and the Philippians

o Love. Paul calls for unity “having the same love” (v.2b).

o Fellowship. “fellowship in the spirit” (v. 1b).

· Look for tone.

o The overall tone of the passage is exhortation.

o However, the NET version explains that the “Let nothing be done . . .” (v.3). is one of more admonishment or stern warning of “Don’t even think any thoughts motivated by selfish ambition.”

o An appeal to share a common outlook on Christian living in a common vision for Christian unity can only become reality if humility and service take the place of pride and selfishness.

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