Philippians 2:5-8

The Humility of Christ: Pt. 1

5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

The constant battle we all fight is an unjustified preoccupation with self. We fight for our rights. We live for our purposes. We seek to satisfy our desires & our pleasures.  Even our prayers are tainted, at times, with selfish ambition.  We, by nature, are full of pride.  Theologian, John Stott said, “Pride is more than the first of the deadly sins; it is itself the essence of all sin.”1 It has been said that pride is the contention for supremacy with God.  At the core, pride is nothing more than self-glorification.  C.J. Mahaney has rightly said, “The proud person seeks to glorify himself and not God, thereby attempting in effect to deprive God of something only He is worthy to receive.”2

As the essence (or root) of all sin, pride manifests itself most clearly in the context of relationships.  If we have a high view of ourselves we will try to advance ourselves, look down on others, discount their desires or thoughts, grow easily irritated with others, display harsh behavior, become easily offended when others have wronged us and exact revenge.  James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 tell us, among many other places in Scripture, that God opposes the proud.  Mark 9:34 gives us a great example of the self-aggrandizement of the disciples.  Mark 9:35 gives us a great example of self-abasement.

33And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he (Jesus) asked them (disciples), “What were you discussing on the way?” 34But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9)

This is precisely the same point Paul is making in Philippians 2:1-4. Paul is exhorting the Philippians to demonstrate their new birth by caring for one another, which can only be done when their hearts are not consumed with selfish ambition or pride.  Looking for and doing what will bring about the most amount of good for others requires humility.  This is the fight of sanctification every believer will fight until the day of glorification.

The basis of Paul’s exhortation, as previously stated, were the realities of the justified position the believers in Philippi stood. (2:1)  The mission behind Paul’s exhortation is the advancement the gospel. (1:27) Christ accomplished the mission (Mk. 10:45) that we’re called to proclaim with every fabric of our being.  The ultimate example in which the believers in Philippi could fix their gaze and take their cues from was Jesus Christ. Believers are being fashioned by God’s Spirit to bear the image of Christ. (Rom. 8:29) Paul demonstrates two distinct ways in which Christ humbled Himself – (1) identifying with humanity (vv6-7) and (2) the manner of death in which he subjected Himself. (v8)

To understand the depth of Christ’s humility we must first call attention to His glory as God, the 2nd Person of the Trinity.  From everlasting, Jesus Christ is God. He’s always possessed the same attributes and privileges as the Father and the Holy Spirit.  In His high priestly prayer in John 17, Jesus prayed to the Father:

5And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

δοξῃ [doxēi]) is the Greek word for “glory” in the verse above and it is referring to the majestic and divine state of the pre-incarnate Christ.  Clearly, Jesus says He possessed this glory before the world existed and through His death and resurrection, He returned to that same glory.

Paul confirms the deity of Christ by saying he was in the form of God. This simply means that Christ was the external appearance of God and it carries the same idea of Jesus’ words to Phillip in John 14:9.  Paul goes on to say that Jesus didn’t count equality with God a thing to be grasped.  Although, He was fully God, for the sake of the mission of redemption, He didn’t hold on to all of the privileges of being God for His own selfish advantage. Instead, He made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Christ subjected Himself to the finiteness and limitations of humanity in a sin riddled world so that we could be freed from the power of sin and the wrath of God.  2 Corinthians 8:9 says:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Christ is not only our example of perfect humanity, but through His death and resurrection and by the power of the Spirit, we too can be humble and repent of pride.  If we’re too concerned about ourselves and building our “kingdoms”, we will never understand the wonderful plan of God’s redemption nor display His excellencies to a dark and dying world. For the sake of His fame and your joy, seek the good of others and ultimately their joy in Christ.

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

(Luke 14:11)

 

  1. John Stott, “Pride, Humility & God,” Sovereign Grace Online, September/October 2000.
  2. C.J. Mahaney, Humility, (Multnomah Books, 2005), 32.
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Philippians 2:1-4 : Part 2

A Call to Unity & Humility: Implications of the Gospel

“1So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of your look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:1-4 ESV)

Having seen the five realities of the Philippians’ relationship with God through Christ and the Holy Spirit and to one another as the church, Paul expresses that his joy would be satisfied seeing the implications of these realities demonstrated in their lives.  These implications are:  (1) being of the same mind, etc. – v2, (2) the absence of rivalry or conceit – v3a, (3) considering others more significant than themselves – v3b and (4) being concerned about the interests of others – v4.

When we read these exhortations, it should be readily apparent that Paul is calling for the demonstration of unity by way of humility displayed through selflessness or being others-centered.  Also, it should be apparent that these exhortations are linked to one another for a glorious reason.

As previously mentioned, redemption not only reconciles believers to God, but also to one another.  We are members of one body (Rom. 12:5), where Christ functions as the head (Eph. 4:15).  Redemption also calls us away from autonomous rebellion and into loving submission to Christ and the mission of God, which is to call a people to Himself through the proclamation of the gospel.  The church is a product of God’s mission and is also called to be His agent of mission until the 2nd advent of Christ. If the church is going to carry that out by the power of the Spirit, and manifest the wisdom of God (Eph. 3:10-11) and the Lordship of Christ (Phil. 2:11), then we must understand the significance of Paul’s exhortation to be of the same mind, maintaining the same love, being united in spirit and intent on one purpose.

Countering his positive command in verse 2, Paul offers a negative command at the beginning of verse 3.  To fulfill Paul’s desire, the Philippian church is also called to move away from their natural propensity to be self-absorbed.  For rivalry, Paul used the Greek word eritheia, which carries the idea of promoting oneself as in a political election through unfair means.  For empty conceit, the Greek word kenodoxia literally means a groundless vain opinion of oneself.  These two sins are nothing more than two types of pride.  The former being destructive and the latter being deceptive.  How can the church be effective in its mission if we are more concerned about promoting ourselves, demoting others and insistent on thinking unjustifiably more highly of ourselves than we do of Christ?  Posturing oneself for personal glory is antithetical to the faith. Essentially, it’s satanic.  For this is what ushered the fall of man – a desire to be like God.  James’s epistle gives us some added insight to rivalry as the same Greek word is used in 3:14 and 3:16 for selfish ambition.
 

14But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

 

How sobering is this? Selfish ambition is unspiritual, demonic and the source of disorder and every vile practice.  Wherever we see the lack of fruit in our lives or in the church collectively, be sure that selfish ambition is a reason.  Wherever we see a pattern of sin in our lives or the in the church collectively, be sure selfish ambition is a reason.  When we have set our faces against God in rebellion, a host of rebellions will surely follow. This is why James says that that kind of “wisdom” is not from above and this is why Paul is exhorting the Philippians to not conduct themselves that way.  Instead, wisdom from above looks like James 3:17-18 and shows itself not standing in contradiction to the the sum of the Law, but identical to it.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
(Matt. 22:37-40)

In carrying out these two commands by the power of the Spirit, we will not be rivalrous or conceited, but indeed make manifest the beauty of the gospel.

Grace & Peace,

d.