"So if there is any encouragement in Christ, (if) any comfort from love, (if) any participation of the Spirit, (if) any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind."
For quite some time I struggled to understand Philippians 2:1, Paul's use of the word "if" was the cause of my problem. Adding to my difficulty, was the fact that "if" is inferred in every clause of the verse. I wanted to read the passage as "So since there is..." or "So because there is..." Using the word “if” seemed inappropriate. It was as if there was some doubt to the encouragement, comfort, affection, and sympathy in Christ through the activity of the Spirit. How could there be any doubt for those who "taste and see that the LORD is good!" in Psalm 34:8?
But the Greek word translated "if" is conditional. It implies a condition which experience must determine. That being true, what is Paul saying, what does he want the reader to understand?
It seems Paul is asking each reader, "What is your experience with Christ? Have you found these things true?" Peter does the same thing in 1 Peter 2:2-3, "Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good."
The basis for each man's statement is "Does Christ mean anything to you? Do you find His love encouraging and comforting? Has the gift of His Spirit meant anything to you? Do you enjoy the fellowship of the Spirit? Have you tasted His compassion and sympathy?"
If you have, both men command an appropriate response. Peter's instruction is to long for or crave the nourishment of God's word as a baby does milk, so that you may grow into the fullness of His salvation. Paul's command is to complete his joy by being of the same mind. The evidence of being in fellowship with Christ and His Spirit is to mature in His love and be in agreement with those who have the same experience. Paul, in verse 5, says this is the case since each of us has the mind of Christ. He goes on to explain having the mind of Christ inevitably leads us to humility just as Christ humbled Himself specifically for those who "taste and see that the Lord Jesus is good."
Hebrews 6:4-6 says, "For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt." The writer of Hebrews also addresses the conditional "if" without using the word as Paul and Peter. There are those who have benefited from the blessings of Christ and His Spirit and yet are indifferent or even contemptuous of the benefits.
When reading of Solomon in 1 Kings 11, I often wonder if Solomon grew indifferent to the blessing of the LORD. Since it became his practice to go after other gods, even though the LORD appeared to him twice, did Solomon become contemptuous of God's blessings? I am thankful God is just in all His judgments. "Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments!" (Revelations 16:7)
Lord God Almighty, I thank You for being able to say "Since, there is encouragement in Christ, and comfort in His love, and participation in His Spirit, I know the blessing of His affection and sympathy. Please Holy Spirit, quickly convict me in those times I turn to other gods. I do not want that to become my practice. Jesus Christ, I want the purity of the Word to be what I long for and crave.