Reflection from August 28, 2022



The last time we looked at Philippians together we ended at the end of Chapter one where Paul had challenged the members of the church in Philippi that whatever happened, they should live lives worthy of the Gospel. They needed to stand firm contending for the faith as one man. For, as he reminded them, they were granted the privilege of not only believing in Christ, but also of suffering with him.

And today we are going to continue from that point as we look at the second chapter of the book. The first verses flow directly from the previous verses. As we have already seen, Paul takes great delight in the genuine friendship of the Philippian church. He has written with absolute sincerity, “I thank my God upon all my remembrance of you.” But Paul now has concern for one part of the news that Epaphroditus had brought to him. He was concerned that there was a bit of disunity or a lack or harmony in the body. It concerns him but it is not a major problem, but he addresses it. And so, we find in these few verses a challenge for the unity of the church. The tone is tender and not challenging or threatening.

There could understandably be some reasons for division in the church in Philippi. There are a variety of folks who made up the church from the very beginning. As we saw in Acts, one of the first believers was a successful business woman from Asia. There was also a young girl who had been delivered from an evil spirit. And then there was a jailor who was in the employ of the Roman government. As in almost every church, there are natural lines of division by culture, position, language, or ethnicity. But there is also that which unites us and overcomes these divisions on which Paul now focuses.

So, the appeal to unity, to be of one mind, which is the mind of Christ, changes from the end of chapter one to the beginning of chapter two. The first was a call to stand united in opposition to those oppose the truth. Now is the call to stand united in fellowship and life with other believers.

Chapter two of Philippians begins, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, …”

In  these verses when we read, “If there is …” it really means, “since there is”. This fixes the thought of the readers on the various reasons for Paul’s appeal to be of one mind. If there is any encouragement in Christ – and there is – then complete my joy by being of the same mind. That is the first basis of his appeal. Have you experienced encouragement in Christ? Does being in Christ make a positive difference in your life together?

The second basis for his challenge in any comfort or consolation from love. Has love brought you comfort as part of the body of Christ. Consolation may mean “any incentive to action” in their mutual love for each other or in the love of Christ for them.

The third basis for his appeal is that they share in the work of the Spirit in their lives. They have received gifts and graces from the work of the Spirit. The Spirit unites them together. So, keep that peace with each other.

If there is any affection and sympathy or as the NIV says any tenderness of compassion? Paul is suggesting to them and to us that in our experience as Christians we have found much in the way of tenderness towards us. We have experienced compassion for others in their time of need and compassion from others in our time of need.

Here Paul reveals not just another basis for their action but the crux of the matter; make my joy complete by being of the same mind, the same love, in full accord in one mind. As a child delights in pleasing his father or mother, so take pleasure in making my joy complete.

These are all reasons for doing as Paul asks. He then suggests two things to avoid that would destroy unity; they should do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit. These two things can wreak havoc in any group of people and the church is no exception. Selfish ambition is also translated as “faction”. We do not want to have anything to do with these things in the church. Unfortunately, they do happen and the end is disagreement rather than being of the same mind and spirit.

The opposite of faction and vain glory is humility. So, Paul continues in verse 3 “but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” For some this may seem unreasonable, and maybe it is, but it expresses the ideal of people who are humble and love the church, especially the congregation of which they are a part.

And then everything changes. Verse 5 introduces what was apparently a hymn sung in the churches in the early years of the first century. The NIV introduces it as another challenge. “Your attitude should…” The ESV, perhaps more accurately states it is something that comes from having the mind of Jesus. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, …” In other words, if you have the mind of Christ Jesus, you will think like him. It is a gift from God. In either case it leads us to the first word of the poem, “who”.

There is no doubt about whom this poem is written. It refers to Christ Jesus. And as we follow the steps in the poem, we see what it cost Jesus to be our saviour. And then we find what the rewards for his actions were.

There have been some who have suggested that Paul and others who came into the church a little later in its development had changed the view of Jesus and his divinity. If this poem or hymn lyric is typical of the songs sung in the early church it is clear, that right from the beginning, Jesus is considered divine.

Paul writes that this Jesus was existing in the form of God before there was any other than just God. Right from the non-beginning of God, He existed as three in one. The different translators try in their own way to give the sense of the Greek in simple English. “Who being in very nature God” was the NIV translation. It doesn’t talk about when because it was even before time. When the word “form” is used it obviously did not mean a physical form because God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were just spirit. So, Jesus, even in the far distant precreation era, was God in his being. The statement is clear.

Paul is telling us that in all eternity Jesus was God with all the rights and privileges of deity. John 1 also makes this very clear. In the beginning the Word was with God and the Word was God. In John 1:14 John makes very clear that he is talking about Jesus, the Christ. In the mind of the biblical writers there is no mincing of words; Jesus Christ is God just as the Father is God.

Now we need to clearly understand this because if you go online look for what this verse means you might find, as I did, a bible study that gives a very different reading and makes this poem more to do with Jesus as the second Adam, who is a created person.

So, Jesus, very God of very God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped, or held on to as an advantage. He didn’t think it robbery to be equal with God. It was his right. It was not in question. He had all the advantages of full godhead. And he was always going to be God. His deity is not something he can lose.

But he emptied himself by taking the form of a servant or slave.” Or “But made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.” The KJV says he made himself of no reputation. Jesus did this of his own accord. He chose to become a servant or slave to carry out the purposes of God for him.

Now when it says he emptied himself it doesn’t mean that he gave up his deity. He was still God. But in the process of becoming a servant he had to limit his use of the privileges of being God. Jesus often mentioned in his ministry that the words he spoke were the words of the Father, and that the signs and wonders he performed were the works of the Father. In fact, he said that he said nothing that was not of the Father.

There were times apparently when the Father allowed Jesus to use some of his divine privileges as when we are told he did not need to figure out what the people were thinking because he knew the hearts and minds of the people.

So, in becoming a servant Jesus set aside the independent use of some of his divine prerogatives. Mainly what he set aside or emptied himself of was his glory. He could not have appeared as a man and still maintained or manifested his glory. It would have been a dead give away.

The next step in his humiliation is found in the words, “being born in the likeness of men.” Or “being made in human likeness.” Here we have the introduction of the incarnation. Jesus who was God and had become a servant was born as a man.

We would not be faulted for thinking that must be the bottom of his humiliation. The creator, now one of the mass of the people he created. The creator a creature. Surely the downward steps of Jesus were now at the bottom. But the bottom is yet to be plumbed. It gets worse before it gets better.

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” For us death has nothing to do with obedience. But for Jesus it was the final bridge to be crossed to carry out the mission of the Father. He had come all this way; would he take the last humbling step? Jesus himself addressed this question on the night before his death. It was a settled question already, right? He had agreed to this. But it was neither simple nor easy.

Jesus cried out to his father. It was an agonizing time of prayer. Father and Son, agreed on a purpose. Agreed on the only strategy that would work. ”But Father”, prayed Jesus, “isn’t there another way? You are asking me to take on myself all the sins of the world. The burden is heavy. How can I carry that weight? Isn’t there another way? Please. For hours on end. He prayed. He pleaded. Sweating great drops of blood and sweat. For hours he prayed and then He ended as he had begun, “Father, not my will, but your will be done.” “I have agreed to it, there is no other way and I will do it.”

And he kept his appointment with death, even death on a cross. The whole humiliating experience. The worst, most cruel death possible. It wasn’t a scaled down experience. It was the worst crucifixion ever because the innocent victim carried all my sins. And he carried all yours as well. The physical pain of the crucifixion was outweighed by the spiritual pain of being separated from his Father for even a second. Because of our sins.

And then, victory! EXALTATION! A NEW NAME! One that is above all other names!

The poem ends with a long, long, sentence which begins with “therefore”. Because of his obedience Jesus is exalted and celebrated. “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

After such extreme humbling of himself Jesus in obedience is exalted and a day is coming when every creature will confess “Jesus Christ is Lord” to the glory of his Father God.

This is in complete reversal of Adam, who at the promise of knowing right from wrong like God does, disobeyed God and sin entered the human race. But Jesus reverses that for those of us who believe in his name. He is able to save and does so by his sacrifice on the cross if we put our faith and trust in him. Please do so today if you never have done it. May all our hearts swell with praise to God the son, Jesus Christ, for the purchase of our salvation.

Ron MacKinnon

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