Intro: Someone asked me recently, “Is this church having problems?” I have been preaching on the importance of unity and attitudes recently. One might assume that something was going on. No, we are not having problems. But the inference is not completely out of line. When we study the letters of the apostle, we often infer that he was speaking to specific problems. Paul’s letter to the Philippian church is very positive, like any group of disciples, this church had their troubles. We might be able to infer from Paul’s injunctions that there was some disunity among the Christians at Philippi.
- He denounces selfish ambitions and actions in 2:3-4 (studied last week)
- In 2:14 he says… Do all things without complaining and disputing,
- And then he names two Christians specifically in Phil 3:16 – I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche [sin-tie-kee] to be of the same mind in the Lord. These two ladies had labored with Paul in the gospel and were important to him individually. But as Christians they needed to get along and be united.
How does Paul address these issues? How can you help Christians resolve their differences? How can churches be brought back together again?
- Paul does not present them with a five-step plan for building unity in a local church. He does not tell them to put their heads together and “come to an agreement on some common ground”. He addresses the real problem. The Philippians needed to change their minds. Learn to think differently. Real change always begins on the inside, with the heart, and then works its way out into our words and actions. And as it always does with Paul, it comes back to Jesus.
I. “Have this Mind in You” Listen to Paul’s command. Phil 2:5 – Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. This was the true solution to the problems and issues they faced. And it is for us as well- both personally and as a congregation. We must learn to have His mind in us, to think like Jesus.
A. What is the Mind of Christ? What is this attitude Paul wants us to have? Paul will draw on the most powerful example possible to describe this attitude and make his point.
• Phil 2:6-11 – who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
1. We need to be careful to stay close to the context of Paul’s poignant words as we study them. These verses have been turned into a battleground on the issue of Jesus’ humanity and divinity. Although that is certainly in view, Paul is not presenting a theological argument, but rather describing the attitude of Jesus portrayed in the choices He made in our behalf. The point is… Jesus’ self-humiliation, evidenced in the fact of the incarnation, displayed a mind that must be in all of us.
2. Paul lists the descending steps of Jesus’ self-humiliation that display His mind…
B. Where He started: In order to show us how far Jesus descended, he begins by telling us where He started “Although He existed in the form of God” (v. 6).
1. Existed (being) translates a present active participle which denotes the continuance of a previous state or existence. It stresses the essence of a person’s nature, that which is absolutely unalterable, inalienable, and unchangeable. William Barclay comments that the verb refers to “that part of a [person] which, in any circumstances, remains the same” (The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians. Rev. Ed. [Louisville, Ky.: Westminster, 1975], 35). Jesus exists eternally as God. The word “form” (morphe) here means the outward manifestation of an inward reality, or nature. The NIV gives a good reading of the meaning of this: “Being in very nature God.”
a. Paul expressed the certainty of Jesus’ deity in Colossians 1:15 – “He [Jesus Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation”. John wrote in John 1 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God… And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-2, 14). Jesus spoke of His pre-incarnate position with the Father in His prayer in John 17 – “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was… The writer of Hebrews reminds us that God “in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power” (Heb 1:2-3). By His very nature and innate being, Jesus Christ is, always has been, and will forever be fully divine. This means that Jesus enjoyed all the glory and privileges that belong to God. But Jesus did not view His position as others might. He had a different mind about it. Notice Paul’s next statement…
C. “did not consider it robbery to be equal with God” (v. 6).This phrase is variously translated in the English.
• did not consider equality with God something to be grasped (NIV)
• did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. (HCSB)
1. Robbery – To be grasped translates a Greek noun which refers to something that is seized or carried off by force. It was also sometimes used of a prize or award. Jesus already possessed equality with God, so the meaning here of to be grasped is holding on to, or clinging to.
a. Yet He refused to selfishly cling to His favored position as the divine Son of God nor view it as a prized possession to be used for Himself. He could have called “more than twelve legions of angels” to come to His defense (Matt 26:53). But His “mind” was to forego this prerogative for my sake. This means that Jesus did not seek to hold on to these privileges or glory. In our world people see position, privilege and glory as something to “grasp – do whatever it takes to hold on to it. (How difficult it is for other nations to demote their leaders of dictators) But Jesus had a different mind. He was not consumed with self and protecting His place. This will explain the bizarre turn of events that Paul is about to describe.
D. “Making Himself of no reputation” [emptied Himself – ASV; made himself nothing- NIV] (v. 7). I am certain that I do not know what all this means. Different views and much discussion. Some conclude that Jesus “emptied” Himself by adding to Himself all the attributes of humanity, but how does God add anything to Himself? Some conclude that Jesus gave up some of the attributes of deity to become a man. But if God emptied Himself of a single attribute of deity, He would cease to be God in any sense. I am very confident that it does not mean Jesus stopped being God. He did not empty Himself of His deity; but rather He relinquished His privileges and in some sense, the glory He shared with the Father before He came to earth. These words are best viewed in the context as an expression of Jesus’ self-humiliation and refusal to use His divine prerogatives for Himself.
1. This thought helps us see the depth of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. We often think of the physical pain at the cross, but Jesus’ sacrificed began earlier when He left heaven to come to the earth as a man. But there is more…
E. Taking the form of a bondservant – [taking the very nature of a servant – NIV; by assuming the form of a slave – HCSB] (v. 7) The word “form” here is the same word as in v. 6 (form of God). It means nature. Jesus did not just look or dress like a slave, He took the very nature of a slave.
1. The word here is doulos (slave) – (We studied previously on this prominent and powerful word of the first century.)
a. A doulos owned nothing. Everything belonged to His master. Jesus owned no land or house, no gold or jewels. He owned no business, no boat, and no horse. He had to borrow a donkey when He rode into Jerusalem. He borrowed a room for the Last Supper, and even was buried in a borrowed tomb.
b. He refused any property, any advantages, any special service to Himself. John tells us that “all things came into being” through Jesus (John 1:2-3), yet He claimed as His own nothing that He had created.
c. He came to carry another’s burden. A slave was required to carry other people’s burdens. Jesus carried the burden that no other man could carry, the sin-burden for all. As Isaiah revealed, “The Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isa 53:6).
d. Jesus came to do His Father’s will above all else and before all else. He testified while heading toward Jerusalem for the last time: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt 20:28). A few days later, during the Last Supper, He asked the disciples rhetorically, “Who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves” (Luke 22:27).
F. Coming in the likeness of men. [taking on the likeness of men – HCSB] (v.7) Jesus came as a man. He took on a human body, with all that it entails, and lived as one of us. He experienced hunger, pain, emotions, disappointment, fatigue. Weaver says that “…Christ voluntarily entered the stream of life as a slave, freely and lovingly choosing to live as a person without advantage, denying his own rights or privileges, and placing Himself completely at the service of all mankind.” (Walton Weaver, Truth Commentaries, Philippians, pg. 90).
• Hebrews 2:14-15 – Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. He was “tempted in all things as we are” ( 4:15) yet never sinned.
G. Being found in appearance as a man – [being found in fashion as a man- ASV] (v. 8) Paul amplifies the humility of Jesus’ humanity by stating that He was a man outwardly (in appearance – schema = outward shape). This does not suggest that He was not fully human (Paul just said He was), but that he was fully recognized as a man by others. There was no halo around His head as He taught. In fact, he was “despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him” (Isa 53:3).
1. John wrote, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him” (John 1:10-11).
2. The sinful multitudes who heard Him teach said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” (John 6:42).
3. Sadly, “not even His brothers were believing in Him” (John 7:5).
4. Ironically and tragically, many of those who saw and heard Jesus not only failed to recognize Him as God, but concluded that he was just a man – who had a demon. John 8:48-50 – Then the Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. 50 And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges.
a. Do you see the irony of these words? Considering who Jesus really was, how much more wrong could these people be? They called Jesus a worthless man (Samaritan – one who did not know God) who had a demon! If someone was so wrong about you, how would you respond? How could Jesus have responded?
b. After denying the demon thing, Jesus pointed them back to the Father, and Himself as the One who honors (serves) the Father. This was God being humble.
H. He Humbled Himself… Can God be humbled? – Turn to Isaiah 40:2 – A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. To whom does this prophecy apply? We remember these words as they are applied to the ministry of John the baptizer, announcing the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. God coming to His people. Isaiah then proceeds to describe the Lord under discussion.
• Isa 40:12-14 – Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? 13 Who has understood the mind of the Lord, or instructed him as his counselor? 14 Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding?
• Isa 40:17 – Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing.
• Isa 40:22-23 – He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. 23 He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
1. A little assignment for this week – read all of the 40th chapter of Isaiah. As you read about the character and attributes of God – think of Jesus – being reviled, abused mistreated, and put to death. Think of Jesus and ask, How could this God (of Isaiah 40) be so humbled by humans? God Almighty could never be humbled – He could only humble Himself.
2. But how far down would Jesus go? Look back up to where He began. You cannot conceive of a higher position than the one He voluntarily left. Now look down – as far down as the words of the apostle will take us here in Phil 2 – Jesus as far as a human can go – to death – even the death of the cross.
Conclusion: If the Lord wills we will study the rest of this text next week. We will notice the implications of Jesus’ choice to die on the cross. That choice is the truest picture of the mind of Christ, and the most devastating rebuttal to every vestige of pride in my heart and yours.
What does Jesus’ self-humiliation mean to me today?
• Gal 4:4-5 – But when the completion of the time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,5 to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (HCSB)
• Rom 8:3-4 – What the law could not do since it was limited by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending His own Son in flesh like ours under sin’s domain, and as a sin offering,
• Col 1:21-23 – Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.
• 1 Tim 2:5-6 – For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men — the testimony given in its proper time.