One would think that Paul, having already exhorted the believers in Philippi to be of the same mind, to maintain the same love, and to be united in spirit in order to dwell together in unity, would have exhausted all the means necessary to that end. But no. He now adds a fourth requirement: be “intent on one purpose.” His point sounds rather redundant, and, in fact, the two phrases—be of the same mind and be intent on one purpose derive from the same Greek root. But Paul is doing more here than being repetitive for emphasis. He is indicating that believers must not only have the same mind—that is, to think biblically, in accord with the revealed will of God—but also to be careful to apply that thinking practically. It is quite possible for an assembly of believers to firmly and fervently adhere to a body of biblical doctrines and still wind up fractured over the size of the parking lot or the color of the carpet.
The remedy for that sort of rupture or, better yet, the preventative against that sort of break, is a diligent focus on one purpose. Vine observes that the phrase might be literally translated “minding the one thing.” True unity thrives when every believer “minds the one thing.” But what is that “one thing,” that “one purpose”? With some justification, one will say that good stewardship demands economic conservatism. Another will say that a well-appointed building honors the Lord, whereas something shabby or old does not. Another will say that all must be focused on evangelizing the lost. And yet another will say that edifying the church is the one purpose that should be pursued. Each of those thoughts has its merits, but not one by itself has the cachet to generate godly unity.
Writing to the Corinthian church, a notoriously divided one, Paul gave this command: “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). With those simple words, Paul, by the direction of the Spirit, has offered the one purpose that will unify a body of disparate believers. (And every body of believers is made up of disparate members—even if they are all, or nearly all, part of the same natural family as is sometimes the case in small or young assemblies.)
Nothing explodes a fractious spirit like a genuine desire that God be glorified. My desire for paneling versus your desire for drywall is easily trumped when we both desire that God be glorified. The debate over the virtue of blue carpet as opposed to tan carpet will disintegrate the moment both parties truly want the Lord to be glorified. Regardless of who has the stronger practical argument, becoming intent on the one purpose of glorifying God will dismantle carnal debate despite how dug-in the opposing positions might have appeared.
But we do not fall into that godly mindset accidentally or casually. Becoming intent on one purpose requires the diligent exercise and care of the first three elements that Paul has mentioned, but especially that of “maintaining the same love”—both for the Lord and for the brethren. A love that actively seeks to advantage others, even to its own disadvantage, will promote a unified spirit in a body of believers that is truly intent on one purpose.
Additionally, the reality is that each one of the elements Paul offers as part of the path to unity both feeds off of and contributes to the others. Just as something that is good for the brain strengthens the liver and as a healthy liver contributes to a well-working brain so these elements are inseparable and mutually beneficial to maintaining each other as well as the health of the whole. It would be a valuable exercise for each of us to put into words what is the one purpose on which we are intent. Our honest answers might surprise us—and explain the lack of unity we experience with our fellow believers. And even if we refuse to perform that exercise, what consumes our time, thought, and energy reveals our true purpose. May it be the glory of God.
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