Christ Our Pattern: Joy is a Result of Humility
Philippians 2 brings before us the graciousness of the Christian life. This quality is brought out by examples; Christ (vv.5-11), Paul (vv.17-18), Timothy (vv.19-24) and Epaphroditus (vv.25-30).
- Unity in the Assembly Stems from Individual Humility (2:1-11)
- The Exhortation to Work Out the Assembly’s Salvation (2:12-16)
Unity in the Assembly Stems from Individual Humility (2:1-11)
Paul’s Desire for Humility, Unity, & the Bond of Love Among them (vv.1-4)
1 If then there be any comfort in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and compassions, 2 fulfil my joy, that ye may think the same thing, having the same love, joined in soul, thinking one thing; vv.1-2 This argument follows from ch.1, v.25. The Philippians’ consolation, fellowship, compassion, etc. had been directed toward the Apostle Paul, who had purposed to come. Then in ch.1, v.27 Paul exhorted them that whether he came to them or was absent he might hear of their affairs, etc… their one-mindedness in the service of the gospel. Paul says essentially, “If you really want me to be completely happy, be of one mind among yourselves.” It’s easy to love brethren from afar… more difficult to get along with locals. If we are not one-minded in the assembly, we have had a failure. We need to be those who can “keep rank” (1 Chron. 12:33, 38).
3 let nothing be in the spirit of strife or vain glory, but, in lowliness of mind, each esteeming the other as more excellent than themselves; v.3 He takes up also the roadblocks to unity. These things (“spirit of strife or vainglory”) are the “little foxes that spoil the vines” (Song. 2:15). There is so much potential for blessing (“joy”) in the local assembly, but the spirit of competition can ruin what would otherwise be happy golden years. We need to love our brethren more than we love being right. The Lord was right all the time… if He was humble, how much more should we be willing to back down, who are so ignorant.
4 regarding not each his own qualities, but each those of others also. v.4 The “things” or “qualities” that we are to be noticing and appreciating in our brethren are those things listed in Phil. 4:8, called “these things”. It could be translated; “Look not every man on his own advantages.”
The Example of Christ’s Humility (vv.5-11)
vv.5-11 The apostle presents a pattern for us to follow. It is the path of humility. It led Jesus to leave a place of glory, to suffer humiliation on earth, and they to be taken up in glory again! The atoning sufferings are not mentioned here because we could not follow the Lord in them.
5 For let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus; v.5 The only way the Philippians could fill Paul’s shoes while he was in prison was by having the mind of Christ in them. The mind of Christ was humility. All through His pathway we see that quality in perfection. In John 13:3-4 “Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself, etc.”
6 who, subsisting in the form of God, did not esteem it an object of rapine to be on an equality with God; v.6 The expression “an object of rapine” refers to something to be tenaciously clung to. It isn’t that the Son gave up His deity, but that He didn’t insist on His rights as God. He “subsisted in the form of God” in that He was Divine in His essential Being. He was homoousia; of the same essential substance as God. This verse strikes a blow at the denial of Christ’s deity.
7 but emptied himself, taking a bondman’s form, taking his place in the likeness of men; v.7 To be emptied is the opposite of being full of one’s self. Some would erroneously teach that Christ divested Himself of His deity in the incarnation. Col. 2:9 will quickly prove that to be a false interpretation. When it says He “emptied Himself” it refers to the veiling of His Godhead glory when He took on flesh. He veiled or laid aside His personal, intrinsic glory such that it could not be seen by the human eye. However, by watching Him and contemplating Him, that glory could be observed by those who had faith in His enjoyment of the Father (John 1:14). In John 17:5 we find that, upon His glorification as a man, the Father glorified the Son with that same glory again, which He had with the Father before the world was. He took “a bondman’s form”… a bondman is a slave. In a past eternity, the Son was not a servant. He never had to obey. But as a man on this earth, “though He were Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered” (Heb. 5:8). We don’t become less useful in service when we empty ourselves.
How far? Christ “took part” of humanity (Heb. 2:14), but doesn’t say how for that goes. It says that Christ “emptied himself” (Phil. 2:7), but again it doesn’t say how far that goes. We can see from other scriptures that Jesus was fully man (1 Tim. 2:5) and fully God (Col. 2:9). He did not ever empty Himself of deity, and He became a full man; spirit, soul and body. To answer the question; “how far?” we could say “all the way… yet He never ceased to be what He was”. The inscrutable union of the divine and human natures of Christ involved addition only, not subtraction.
8 and having been found in figure as a man, humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, and that the death of the cross. v.8 He was found “in figure as a man”; that is, in a place of dependence. This is similar to Rom. 8:3; “God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh”. He was incapable of sin, but he came in the likeness of sinful men; i.e. He became fully man. Being “found” a man, He humbled Himself further. As God He emptied Himself (v.6), as man He humbled Himself (v.8). It is not natural to the men of this world to humble themselves. Christ was different… and we are to be different as well. It was not false humility. Christ never resented the place He took. He never answered the insults hurled against Him, unless it was vital to the glory of God. In John 8:48, the Jews accused Him of being a Samaritan, and of having a devil. Jesus passed over the first insult because it was personal only. He could not pass over the second insult, because it touched the glory of His Person. The “death of the cross” here cannot refer to the atoning sufferings, because the apostle is laying out the Lord’s path for us to follow. We cannot follow Him in the atoning sufferings. There is a remarkable contrast between the first man and the second man. Adam was disobedient unto death, Christ was obedient unto death. The first man disobeyed and it cost him his life, the Second would rather die than disobey!
9 Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and granted him a name, that which is above every name, v.9 These verses are intended for our encouragement… glory is at the end of a path of humiliation. Christ humbled Himself, and God exalted Him. The same is true for us (1 Pet. 5:6; Luke 14:11). “Wherefore”… the humiliation is the cause of his exaltation. God gave His Son the name of “Jesus” after He was exalted to the Father’s right hand? I thought He was given the name of Jesus at His birth? The idea of a “name” is more than just identity; it it also reputation. You could say, “Abraham Lincoln made a name for himself”. Notice that Jehovah says to Joseph, “Thou shalt call his name Jesus”, but we never hear the Father’s voice refer to Christ in His pathway as anything by “my beloved Son”. At the end of the path, the Lord was hung on a cross of ignominy, shame, and reproach, and a title was written over His head, “this is Jesus”, ‘Jesus the rejected man’. But God was not content with that reputation for His Son, and so upon the glorification of Christ, God give Him that name, the same “name of Jesus”; not now ‘Jesus the rejected man’ but ‘Jesus the glorified man’.
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of heavenly and earthly and infernal beings, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to God the Father’s glory. vv.10-11 Every knee will bow, and then it enlarges on it; (1) individuals in heaven, (2) individuals on earth, and (3) individuals in a lost eternity. Every knee will bow, but not all voluntarily. The lost will bow their knees, yet remain unrepentant. An example is the band that took the Lord in the garden; they fell backward to the ground, but their hearts were unchanged. Also, the nashing of teeth will not go on in the Lord’s presence. There will be order in the court. In Rev. 5:13 the creatures “under the earth” refers to animals who live under the ground; all creation will praise Him. Here in Philippians 2 it is the thought of all created intelligence owning the authority of Jesus as Lord. The bowed knees and confessing tongues will be “to the glory of God the Father”, because God the Father will be vindicated in the vindication of His Son.
The Exhortation to Work Out the Assembly’s Salvation (2:12-16)
What the Philippians were to do in Paul’s Absence (vv.12-16)
12 So that, my beloved, even as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much rather in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, v.12 Apparently Paul had been instrumental in the past in sorting out assembly difficulties in Philippi. The exhortation is to follow Paul’s instruction now in a time of his absence “much rather”. “You have always obeyed” is a nice commendation. We can sometimes lean on someone a great deal, and then be dysfunctional when they are gone. The Philippians were to “work out” the salvation or preservation of the assembly. This is not talking about working to obtain eternal salvation for the individual… that is only by faith (Rom. 4). But here it is plural (‘your own’), and it refers to sorting out the current difficulties. If they did not work out their own salvation, the assembly would end in division. Disunity in the assembly will not automatically get better by itself, we have to do something; although there is a danger of trying to fight the flesh with the flesh. The fear of God should both motivate use to work out our salvation, and govern how we do it. See 2 Cor. 7:9 as an example of working out our collective salvation.
13 for it is God who works in you both the willing and the working according to his good pleasure. v.13 We are responsible to “work out” our salvation (man’s responsibility), but God is also working in us (God’s sovereignty). How does God work in us? By the indwelling Spirit.
14 Do all things without murmurings and reasonings, v.14 Murmuring is a type of complaining that expresses discontent by muttering under the breath.
15 that ye may be harmless and simple, irreproachable children of God in the midst of a crooked and perverted generation; among whom ye appear as lights in the world, 16 holding forth the word of life, so as to be a boast for me in Christ’s day, that I have not run in vain nor laboured in vain. vv.15-16 Our light will be dimmed if there are unresolved difficulties in the assembly. God wants unity between brethren (Psalm 133:1). “Holding forth the word of life”… is this the Gospel?
Three Examples of Love and Devotion (vv.17-30)
The Example of Paul (vv.17-18)
17 But if also I am poured out as a libation on the sacrifice and ministration of your faith, I rejoice, and rejoice in common with you all. v.17 Paul speaks of himself as a drink-offering; emphasizing the willingness with which he would offer himself. It is amazing that Paul would write from prison encouraging them to rejoice. It means a lot more than it would coming from someone in good circumstances. Think of how many times in this epistle Paul refers to joy or rejoicing.
18 In like manner do “ye” also rejoice, and rejoice with me.
The Example of Timothy (vv.19-24)
19 But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus to you shortly, that “I” also may be refreshed, knowing how ye get on. 20 For I have no one like-minded who will care with genuine feeling how ye get on. 21 For all seek their own things, not the things of Jesus Christ. vv.19-20 Timothy would go to Philippi not just because Paul told him to go, but because he naturally cared for them. Timothy has a shepherd’s heart.
22 But ye know the proof of him, that, as a child a father, he has served with me in the work of the glad tidings. 23 Him therefore I hope to send immediately, as soon as I shall see how it goes with me: 24 but I trust in the Lord that I myself also shall soon come;
The Example of Epaphroditus (vv.25-30)
25 but I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow-workman and fellow-soldier, but your messenger and minister to my need, 26 since he had a longing desire after you all, and was distressed because ye had heard that he was sick; vv.25-26 The attitude of some in Philippi was a contrast to that ofEpaphroditus.
27 for he was also sick close to death, but God had mercy on him, and not indeed on him alone, but also on me, that I might not have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I have sent him therefore the more diligently, that seeing him ye might again rejoice, and that “I” might be the less sorrowful.
29 Receive him therefore in the Lord with all joy, and hold such in honour; 30 because for the sake of the work he drew near even to death, venturing his life that he might fill up what lacked in your ministration toward me. vv.29-30 “Your lack” is not a rebuke to the Philippians. The Philippians were doing a tremendous amount of work, but there was just too much work to be done!