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Philippians 2:3

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Let nothing be done through strife - Never be opposed to each other; never act from separate interests; ye are all brethren, and of one body; therefore let every member feel and labor for the welfare of the whole. And, in the exercise of your different functions, and in the use of your various gifts, do nothing so as to promote your own reputation, separately considered from the comfort, honor, and advantage of all.

But in lowliness of mind - Have always an humbling view of yourselves, and this will lead you to prefer others to yourselves; for, as you know your own secret defects, charity will lead you to suppose that your brethren are more holy, and more devoted to God than you are; and they will think the same of you, their secret defects also being known only to themselves.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Let nothing be done through strife - With a spirit of contention. This command forbids us to do anything, or attempt anything as the mere result of strife. This is not the principle from which we are to act, or by which we are to be governed. We are to form no plan, and aim at no object which is to be secured in this way. The command prohibits all attempts to secure anything over others by mere physical strength, or by superiority of intellect or numbers. or as the result of dark schemes and plans formed by rivalry, or by the indulgence of angry passions, or with the spirit of ambition. We are not to attempt to do anything merely by outstripping others, or by showing that we have more talent, courage, or zeal. What we do is to be by principle, and with a desire to maintain the truth, and to glorify God. And yet how often is this rule violated! How often do Christian denominations attempt to outstrip each other, and to see which shall be the greatest! How often do ministers preach with no better aim! How often do we attempt to outdo others in dress, and it the splendor of furniture and equipment! How often, even in plans of benevolence, and in the cause of virtue and religion, is the secret aim to outdo others. This is all wrong. There is no holiness in such efforts. Never once did the Redeemer act from such a motive, and never once should this motive be allowed to influence us. The conduct of others may be allowed to show us what we can do, and ought to do; but it should not be our sole aim to outstrip them; compare 2 Corinthians 9:2-4.

Or vain glory - The word used here - κενοδοξία kenodoxiaoccurs nowhere else in the New Testament, though the adjective - κενόδοξος kenodoxos- occurs once in Galatians 5:26; see the notes at that place. It means properly empty pride, or glory, and is descriptive of vain and hollow parade and show. Suidas renders it, “any vain opinion about oneself” - ματαία τις περὶ ἑαυτου οἴησις mataia tis peri eautou oiēsisThe idea seems to be that of mere self-esteem; a mere desire to honor ourselves, to attract attention, to win praise, to make ourselves uppermost, or foremost, or the main object. The command here solemnly forbids our doing anything with such an aim - no matter whether it be in intellectual attainments, in physical strength, in skill in music, in eloquence or song, in dress, furniture, or religion. Self is not to be foremost; selfishness is not to be the motive. Probably there is no command of the Bible which would have a wider sweep than this, or would touch on more points of human conduct, it fairly applied. Who is there who passes a single day without, in some respect, desiring to display himself? What minister of the gospel preaches, who never has any wish to exhibit his talents, eloquence, or learning? How few make a gesture, but with some wish to display the grace or power with which it is done! Who, in conversation, is always free from a desire to show his wit, or his power in argumentation, or his skill in repartee? Who plays at the piano without the desire of commendation? Who thunders in the senate, or goes to the field of battle; who builds a house, or purchases an article of apparel; who writes a book, or performs a deed of benevolence, altogether uninfluenced by this desire? If all could be taken out of human conduct which is performed merely from “strife,” or from “vain-glory,” how small a portion would be left!

But in lowliness of mind - Modesty, or humility. The word used here is the same which is rendered “humility” in Acts 20:19; Colossians 2:18, Colossians 2:23; 1 Peter 5:5; humbleness, in Colossians 3:12; and lowliness, in Ephesians 4:2; Phlippians 2:3. It does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It here means humility, and it stands opposed to that pride or self-valuation which would lead us to strive for the ascendancy, or which acts from a wish for flattery, or praise. The best and the only true correction of these faults is humility. This virtue consists in estimating ourselves according to truth. It is a willingness to take the place which we ought to take in the sight of God and man; and, having the low estimate of our own importance and character which the truth about our insignificance as creatures and vileness as sinners would produce, it will lead us to a willingness to perform lowly and humble offices that we may benefit others.

Let each esteem other better than themselves - Compare 1 Peter 5:5. This is one of the effects produced by true humility, and it naturally exists in every truly modest mind. We are sensible of our own defects, but we have not the same clear view of the defects of others. We see our own hearts; we are conscious of the great corruption there; we have painful evidence of the impurity of the motives which often actuate us - of the evil thoughts and corrupt desires in our own souls; but we have not the same view of the errors, defects, and follies of others. We can see only their outward conduct; but, in our own case, we can look within. It is natural for those who have any just sense of the depravity of their own souls, charitably to hope that it is not so with others, and to believe that they have purer hearts. This will lead us to feel that they are worthy of more respect than we are. Hence, this is always the characteristic of modesty and humility - graces which the gospel is eminently suited to produce. A truly pious man will be always, therefore, an humble man, and will wish that others should be preferred in office and honor to himself. Of course, this will not make him blind to the defects of others when they are manifested; but he will be himself retiring, modest, unambitious, unobtrusive. This rule of Christianity would strike a blow at all the ambition of the world. It would rebuke the love of office and would produce universal contentment in any low condition of life where the providence of God may have cast our lot; compare the notes at 1 Corinthians 7:21.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Here are further exhortations to Christian duties; to like-mindedness and lowly-mindedness, according to the example of the Lord Jesus. Kindness is the law of Christ's kingdom, the lesson of his school, the livery of his family. Several motives to brotherly love are mentioned. If you expect or experience the benefit of God's compassions to yourselves, be compassionate one to another. It is the joy of ministers to see people like-minded. Christ came to humble us, let there not be among us a spirit of pride. We must be severe upon our own faults, and quick in observing our own defects, but ready to make favourable allowances for others. We must kindly care for others, but not be busy-bodies in other men's matters. Neither inward nor outward peace can be enjoyed, without lowliness of mind.
Ellen G. White
Gospel Workers 1915, 447

In our business meetings, it is important that precious time should not be consumed in debating points that are of small consequence. The habit of petty criticism should not be indulged, for it perplexes and confuses minds, and shrouds in mystery the things that are most plain and simple. If there is that love among brethren which will lead them to esteem others better than themselves, there will be a giving up of their own ways and wishes to others. It is our duty to study, daily and hourly, how we may answer the prayer of Christ, that His disciples may be one, as He and the Father are one. Precious lessons may be learned by keeping our Saviour's prayer before the mind, and by acting our part to fulfill His desire. GW 447.1

In our business connection with the work of God, and in handling sacred things, we cannot be too careful to guard against a spirit of irreverence; never, for an instant, should the word of God be used deceitfully, to carry a point which we are anxious to see succeed. Honor, integrity, and truth must be preserved at any cost to self. Our every thought, word, and action should be subject to the will of Christ. Levity is not appropriate in meetings where the solemn work and word of God are under consideration. The prayer has been offered that Christ shall preside in the assembly, and impart His wisdom, His grace and righteousness. Is it consistent to take a course that will be grievous to His Spirit and contrary to His work? GW 447.2

Let us bear in mind that Jesus is in our midst. Then an elevating, controlling influence from the Spirit of God will pervade the assembly. There will be manifested that wisdom which is “from above,” which is “first pure, then peaceable, ...full of mercy and good fruits,” [James 3:17.] which cannot err. In all the plans and decisions there will be that charity that “seeketh not her own;” that is “not easily provoked;” that “thinketh no evil;” that “rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;” that “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” [1 Corinthians 13:5-7.] GW 448.1

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 418

The men connected with the work of God in the office, the sanitarium, and the college can be accounted safe men only so far as they assimilate to the character of Christ. But many have inherited traits of character that in no way represent the divine Model. There are many who have some defect of character received as a birthright, which they have not overcome, but have cherished as though it were fine gold, and brought with them into their religious experience. In many cases these traits are retained through the entire life. For a time no particular harm may be seen to result from them; but the leaven is at work, and when a favorable opportunity arrives, the evil manifests itself. 5T 418.1

Some of these men who have marked deformities of character have strong, decided opinions and are unyielding when it would be Christlike to yield to others whose love for the cause of truth is just as deep as their own. Such persons need to cultivate opposite traits of character and to learn to esteem others better than themselves. When they become connected with an important enterprise, where great designs are to be worked out, they should be careful lest their own peculiar ideas and special traits of character have an unfavorable influence on its development. The Lord saw the danger that would result from one man's mind and judgment controlling decisions and working out plans, and in His Inspired Word we are commanded to be subject one to another and to esteem others better than ourselves. When plans are to be laid that will affect the cause of God, they should be brought before a council composed of chosen men of experience; for harmony of effort is essential in all these enterprises. 5T 418.2

Men of various temperaments and defective characters can see the faults of others, but do not seem to have a knowledge of their own errors; and if left to carry out their own plans without consultation with others, they would make sad mistakes. Their ideas must become broader. With ordinary humanity there is a selfishness, an ambition, that mars the work of God. Self-interest must be lost sight of. There should be no aiming to be first, no standing aloof from God's workmen, speaking and writing in a bigoted manner of things that have not been critically and prayerfully investigated and humbly brought before the council. 5T 418.3

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, 608

Our ministers are in danger of taking credit to themselves in the work which they do. They think God is favoring them, and they become independent and self-sufficient; then the Lord gives them up to the buffetings of Satan. In order to do God's work with acceptance, we must have the spirit of meekness, of lowliness of mind, each esteeming others better than himself. There is much at stake. The judgment and ability of all are needed now. Every man's work is of sufficient importance to demand that it be performed with care and fidelity. One man cannot do the work of all. Each has his respective place and his special work, and each should realize that the manner in which his work is done must stand the test of the judgment. 4T 608.1

The work before us is important and extensive. The day of God is hastening on, and all the workers in the Lord's great field should be men who are striving to become perfect, wanting in nothing, coming behind in no gift, waiting for the appearing of the Son of man in the clouds of heaven. Not one moment of our precious time should be devoted to bringing others to conform to our personal ideas and opinions. God would educate men engaged as colaborers in this great work to the highest exercise of faith and the development of a harmonious character. 4T 608.2

Men have varied gifts, and some are better adapted to one branch of the work than another. What one man would fail to do, his brother minister may be strong to accomplish. The work of each in his position is important. One man's mind is not to control another. If one man stands up, feeling that no one shall influence him, that he has judgment and ability to comprehend every branch of the work, that man will fail of the grace of God. 4T 608.3

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 488

If our lives are filled with holy fragrance, if we honor God by having good thoughts toward others, and doing good deeds to bless others, it matters not whether we live in a cottage or a palace. Circumstances have but little to do with the experiences of the soul. It is the spirit cherished which gives coloring to all our actions. A man at peace with God and his fellow men cannot be made miserable. Envy will not be in his heart; evil surmising will find no room there; hatred cannot exist. The heart in harmony with God is lifted above the annoyances and trials of this life. But a heart where the peace of Christ is not, is unhappy, full of discontent; the person sees defects in everything, and he would bring discord into the most heavenly music. A life of selfishness is a life of evil. Those whose hearts are filled with love of self will store away evil thoughts of their brethren and will talk against God's instrumentalities. Passions kept warm and fierce by Satan's promptings are a bitter fountain, ever sending forth bitter streams to poison the life of others.... 5T 488.1

Let each one who claims to follow Christ esteem himself less and others more. Press together, press together! In union there is strength and victory; in discord and division there is weakness and defeat. These words have been spoken to me from heaven. As God's ambassador I speak them to you. 5T 488.2

Let everyone seek to answer the prayer of Christ: “That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee.” Oh, what unity is this! and says Christ: “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.” 5T 488.3

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