Paul calls his readers and us to “live lives that are worthy of our calling” as believers. Chapter two picks up with that theme but begins with four conditional phrases before he calls for loving union which makes his life full 04 indescribable joyof joy. He says, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy…” In Greek there are several different kinds of conditional clauses. Some tell us that the condition is really unknown. We might use “if” when we’re uncertain of the outcome. Sometimes the same construction is used when the writer knows the condition has not occurred. But in the case of this verse the conditional clause would be better translated “when” instead of “if” because the condition is a certainty from the viewpoint of the writer. Thus we should say “since there is encouragement in Christ, there is comfort in love, there is participation in the Spirit and there are also affection and sympathy” we should behave in certain ways towards each other.

First there is “encouragement in Christ.” The commentators are confused about the word that is translated as “encouragement” here. Of the three definitions given to it in the Greek lexicons I think this seems to be the best: it is the “act of emboldening another in belief or course of action.” When Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ” later on in the book, he’s referring to this kind of encouragement. So, is there any encouragement in Christ? Of course there is! The second condition is “comfort in love.” This is referring to Christ’s unconditional love. Many of our hymns are about this love. It’s the love that “oh no, never lets go!” All sinners find great solace in God’s unconditional love for us expressed in Christ. Is there any “comfort?” Of course there is!

The third condition is “participation in the Spirit.” The word participation has already been used in verse five where Paul thanked God for their “partnership” with him. It’s another form of the Koinonia, fellowship word. Does the Holy Spirit provide a common bond for all believers? Well of course He does. When Paul closes up his letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 12:13) he recites a Trinitarian benediction on his readers. He says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” The final condition is a doublet: “affection and sympathy.” Having received the unconditional love of Christ ourselves, we now have the capacity to return it to those around us. Christ felt our pain and acted to resolve it. At times he even wept over his people. He loves us and empathizes with us. Therefore since all these things are true, Paul calls us in the next verse, “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”