There are two proverbial flies in the apothecary’s ointment of God’s Church, that are a very pestilent evil. They are indeed the devil’s tools to disrupt the unity in God’s church. For, let us not forget, that Satan is our arch foe, who uses sin and our evil lusts as tools for our destruction!

Which two evils do we have in minds?

The text calls them: party strife and vain glory. Literally the Greek reads: Nothing (be done) accord­ing to party strife nor according to vain glory!

We recall that we are all to walk in the like-mindedness in the Lord. This is the unity that is wrought in our hearts through the operation of the Holy Spirit. It always and only proceeds from the love of God shed abroad in our hearts. It is not simply a like-mindedness of feeling, but it is a subjection of our whole mind and soul and strength to the pure and sound doctrine of Christ our Lord.

In this sound doctrine, which contains precepts of the Gospel (not to be confused with commandments of the Law) we never read that party strife or vain­glory is a walking in the Spirit, in the unity of faith and heaven’s like-mindedness. This all must be cru­cified; it belongs to the mortification of our members.

Party strife: what is it? The term in the original Greek is quite common in the New Testament Scrip­tures from the hand of Paul. It is a term which re­ceived a new content in the Bible, the term itself was also already employed by the Greeks, who lived before the birth of Christ. It is the term to designate the politician in his activities of gaining the favor of the people for his cause and his person. Such a politician has a political axe to grind. And so he champions his cause at the expense of another. His strife be­comes that of a party over against another party. And since man is a sinner, who is vain in self love and personal ambition, this party strife always in­volves vain glory. It is a glory that brings one no­where except to ruin. It never is constructive; it never builds. Destruction and misery are in its way, and the way of peace it does not know. It never comes to peaceful contentment. Its ideal is nothing but a deceptive and illusionary mirage. It promises much seemingly, but it gives nothing.

It is one of the vanity of vanities observed by the preacher.

Such it is in this world.

Such it is also when it dwells as a foreign parasite in God’s Church.

Nothing must thus be done. It saps our life’s strength, it robs us of our joys and it dulls the sense of glorious victory over death and hell. For in God’s Church none is Lord; all are to be brethren each be­ing an example to the other of willingness to bow be­fore the Word, the sound doctrine as the Rule of Faith. They, who do nothing from party strife, bow only before the Lord Jesus. They have learned the lesson of Jesus, and taste the “blessedness” of washing their neighbor’s feet.

Such we must become more and more.

Wherefore the apostle adds: “But in lowliness let each esteem the other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others”.

Lowliness is the virtue of grace whereby we place ourselves before the face of God and our neighbor and in our whole thought and purpose think of ourselves according to the actual facts; in this lowliness we face reality. We are honest with ourselves and also before God. In the world such a man is often called a brave man. Also here is an element of boasting. Nay, in God’s church such a man has received mercy. He grasps that by which he has been apprehended of Christ. He simply works out in the details of his life what God energizes in him from moment to mo­ment. And then he appears before God and lives! He lives and does not die. Yes, he is brave, but with the courage of a Jacob who is given the victory while he supplicates God for His blessing. That is lowli­ness.

All vain glory is gone at Peniel. Before the face of God none boast. God alone is great. And, there­fore, it is a great boon to be clothed with this humility of mind. It is wisdom, rooted in the fear of the Lord. And the Lord exalts the lowly minded to see His glory in the Sanctuary. For there is the high way of our God. Here we tremble in beauty of holiness and worship the Lord.

Everything in the church and in the world, in hea­ven and hell, comes to stand in its proper perspective. The mirages of sin dispel. Our neighbor we see in in a new light. All things become new; old things flee away. We see all in the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ as preached in the glorious Gospel. Here in the wondrous grace of forgiveness we learn new lessons. They are the lessons which only Jesus teaches, unto which only the grace of the Holy Spirit can bend us.

What is it?

It is to “esteem the other better than ourselves”. Truly, that is a new thing under the sun. It is also as real in God’s church as it is new. For the Son of God is come to break the works of the devil. And the work of the devil is that we are instigated by our lusts to self-exalting pride; we always and again by nature look with contempt upon the other. We must learn by the mercies of Jesus not thus to think. We must bethink other things. Says the apo­stle elsewhere in this Epistle: whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are lovely, what­soever things are of good report, take account of these things; if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things.

One of the loveliest things under the sun is to think more highly of your neighbor than of yourself! Let this truth sink into your hearts. Put this among the cherished “gems” of your Scrap-Book. Keep this be­fore your mind’s eye. It is your life. It is the wis­dom that crieth in the streets of Jerusalem and that is justified in her believing children.

But is it really possible to thus think of all of your neighbors? All do not have the same excellency from God, do they? Some are more honorable members than others, are they not? This is still the rule of the “great” and the “small” in God’s Kingdom, is it not? Not all have received an equally exalted place in God’s church in this world, have they? Not all have received equally talents from God. How then can each esteem the other greater than self? Is this not a false humility?

We think not.

In the first place because the Word of God teaches that such we should be. And we believe that the Word of God will not foster in us that which is false and unnatural. Here too we simply bow our neck under the good yoke of Christ and believe the sound words of God.

Secondly, because the Scriptures certainly make it clear that this is a glorious reality, and thus it also registers in our heart and conscience.

It should not be overlooked, that in Christ all things, come to stand in their proper relationship to God, our Father. ‘Legally we are again redeemed from sin. We have been set in the Family of God, brethren and sisters in the Lord in which Christ is the First­born Son among many brethren. Spiritually we have been renewed according to His .Spirit so that more and more we become renewed according to His image, from glory unto glory as by the Spirit of the Lord. And thus all things are made new principally.

Now here in the newness of my relationship to God it is that I learn that He alone is great, and that things and people are all great to me as they are great in the sight of God. Thus they are also to the angels. The “little ones” are very great before the angels and before the redeemed saints because God thinks so highly of them. Since we too have the life of God, since we are no longer estranged from this life of God, we too begin to look at this brother and sister as great” in the eyes of God. Here the high and the low, the humble and the exalted meet. Here is the harmony of humility. Here is life and joy and peace.

Is this not the lofty Mountain top of Zion? Who does not feel: it is too high, I cannot attain unto it in my own strength?

But we need not do so in our strength. Paul does not appeal to our ingenuity and power. Wherefore he says: “if there be any ground of exhortation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels of mercy”.

We have here four conditional sentences. They are conditions of fact, determined reality. Whether this reality was true in the church is not determined by this conditional sentence. That cannot be deter­mined by the grammar. But from the viewpoint of the writer it is stated as being a fact. It could al­most be translated by: since there is consolation, etc. But that would take out of this text the element of this being a precept of the Gospel together with the warning and constraining note. Here is tender and wise pedagogy of love. It calls to self-examination; it brings us to our qui vive, alerting us to spiritual at­tention.

If there be in you the possibility of being con­tacted by this admonition to be likeminded in the Lord then it is that you understand the first principles in Christ’s teaching according to godliness. If there be any ground of appeal for you in Christ . . .

If the love of God in His salvation whereby your sins are all forgiven means ought to you. If you know what it means to be lifted out of the miry clay and have your feet set upon the way of God and your way established—then fulfill my joy in being likeminded.

If the joy of the Holy Spirit whereby you have tasted life in fellowship with the saints is a real and living entity in your life above all things precious, far more precious than rubies—then fulfill my joy that ye be likeminded, and all esteem the other greater than yourselves.

If you know that bowels of compassion are for your neighbor since by the Spirit you have been filled with a heart of mercy—then fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded.

And what more shall I write?

I have come to the end of my expository observations.

Looking back upon them I am reminded of the song: What more can He say than to you He hath said. Could the apostle have brought to bear stronger incentives for us to walk in godliness? Nay, those, who see, need no more light, and they, who hear, need no more instruction. It is enough.

Only we pray: Gracious Father, make our hearts filled evermore and ever anew with this Spirit of like-mindedness, till we arrive at the perfection in the age to come when Thou shalt be all in all!

G.C. Lubbers