Today: [Philippians 2:] Humility and the Mind of Christ. In our chapter, Paul exhorts the believers to adopt the mind of Christ in their regard for themselves and the heart of Christ in their concern for one another. It is difficult to be in one accord with other believers when we are struggling with our own identity in Christ. Because the Philippians were so self-absorbed in this way, there were servants of God in their midst that were laboring to the point of exhaustion and death without the congregation even realizing anything was wrong.
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[Phl 2:1-13 KJV] 1 If [there be] therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, 2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, [being] of one accord, of one mind. 3 [Let] nothing [be done] through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of [things] in heaven, and [things] in earth, and [things] under the earth; 11 And [that] every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ [is] Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of [his] good pleasure.
In v. 1 of our chapter, Paul exhorts the Philippians to remain in unity and one accord with one another. Solidarity within the church is of utmost importance. Where there is no unity the anointing lifts, and we are left to our own surmisings without the leadership of the Holy Spirit. The Psalmist pens the following words about unity in the final Psalm:
[Psa 133:1-3 KJV] 1 Behold, how good and how pleasant [it is] for brethren to dwell together in unity! 2 [It is] like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, [even] Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; 3 As the dew of Hermon, [and as the dew] that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, [even] life for evermore.
As an apostle, Paul sees it as his responsibility to observe the degree to which the churches under his caring are of one mind and one heart with one another. In the day that we live in the ministry of the apostle is so little in evidence that we can only conclude on the whole that it is missing altogether. In the light of that observation is there any wonder Christian culture is an amalgamation of groups, churches, and denominations going their own way without any higher ethic than to do what they feel is right in their own mind without any thought as to whether God would expect them to establish or to defend unity of heart and mind with others in the body of Christ.
What is it that takes away from our unity? Many would suggest we cannot have unity because of the dictates of our conscience not allowing us to agree with what others think or do because they are not right (and of course, we are). Paul exposes the actual cause of disunity in verse 3 saying “let nothing be done through strife or vainglory but in lowliness of mind let each esteem the other as better (or more spiritual) than themselves.” He goes on in v. 4 saying that we are not to look after our own interests but after the interests of others. In a day when narcissism, braggadocio, and bluster are revered leadership qualities even in the Christian community, these characteristic of humility and servitude toward others are in very short supply.
Paul then makes a statement in v. 5-10 that tells us something very profound about Jesus and His incarnation. We are to adopt the mind of Christ (toward one another). This in itself is compelling because most believers do not look at Jesus as an example to follow but rather merely a deity to worship. We don’t see ourselves as those who are commanded to think like Christ thought or to do what Christ would do in our situation because we don’t feel that level of affinity with Him. Nonetheless, Jesus, Paul says found himself in the form of sinful flesh (understanding as a man that He was even so still made in the image of God) – He did not think therefore that He was robbing God to see Himself as equal with God. In context, Paul is asking us to think of ourselves in the same way. Are we equal with God then? We are equal in terms of fellowship but not equal in terms of relationship. Even Jesus Himself knew that he was the Son and God was the Father (which is not an equal relationship). On what basis then does equality with God exist that we should incorporate into our own thinking?
One of the names of God is “Elohim.” The name Elohim is expressed in the plural. It is a plural expression of the person of God. Literally interpreted it means “the Father and His family…” In that sense, we are God-kind and equal with God because we are born again and members of the body of Christ. My children are equal to me in that we are all members of the same family, but they are not equal with me regarding relationship because I am their father and they are my children called upon to defer to that fact according to the command to honor father and mother. In this way, you are equal with God by fellowship but not by relationship.
However Jesus considered Himself to be equal with God v. 7 says that He made himself of no reputation. The Father couldn’t do this for Him; the verse says that he made Himself of no reputation. Literally rendered that phrase means that Jesus emptied Himself of all the attributes that made God, God and came to earth in the form of a servant in the likeness of men. In other words, He knew who He was, but He became a servant. Many people don’t want to have a servant’s heart because they feel it demeans them. Jesus was not demeaned by taking on the form of a servant because being a servant didn’t define him. He knew who He was but humbled himself even to the death of the cross. When you know who you are there is nothing and no one who can humiliate you or shame you in any way. Remember Paul is making this statement by way of encouraging unity and one accord among the believers. You cannot become one with your brothers and sisters until you know where you stand with God. When we are in disunity and disagreement with others, the deeper problem is that we don’t know what our standing is with God and therefore have to distinguish ourselves from others or put others down to make ourselves feel better or more secure. A person who speaks from highmindedness or from an opinionated perspective is a deeply flawed individual with no real abiding connection to the indwelling Christ because Christ is not divided and Christ seeks not His own but rather on the inside of us walks in humility and deference having nothing to prove nor any need to be heard. As a young man one of my favorite passages was the following about the character of the coming Messiah:
[Isa 42:3 KJV] 3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.
I realized that I didn’t need to fix anyone neither did I need to put out anyone’s fire. I didn’t need to be heard and I didn’t need to make an impact on the world around me. What I needed to do and what I need to do is to commit my way to the one who knows the path I take in order that I might please Him no matter what others might think. Jesus followed this mandate knowing that only in this manner would there be any hope (v. 10) of every knee bowing and (v. 11) every tongue confessing or acknowledging who He was (and is) to the glory of God the Father. You can stand up and insist that others defer to you, but that only brings glory to you and no glory to God. When you commit your way to God however and maintain the heart of a servant even toward those who speak ill of you, then He will bring forth His testimony in you and through you without a need for you to make shrill demands for recognition or to have control of things you don’t agree with or consent to.
[Phl 2:14-30 KJV]
14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the soshins of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; 16 Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. 17 Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. 18 For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me. 19 But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. 20 For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. 21 For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s. 22 But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel. 23 Him therefore I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me. 24 But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly. 25 Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants. 26 For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. 27 For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. 29 Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: 30 Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.
If we want to be blameless, we must commit ourselves to excising from our character all murmuring and disputation. That word disputings in v. 14 means “arguing, reasoning, questioning or hesitation…” Many times people become contrary just to make their voice to be heard. They say “hold on just a moment…” or “I don’t see it that way…” or “I have many questions about thus and so…” because they are insecure in themselves and wrap their sense of well being up in the sound of their own voice and the need to express dissonance with everyone around them. Don’t be this person. If we desire to be blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke in the midst of a crooked generation we are going to have to uninstall from our psyche the contrarianism that grips society around us and quiet ourselves before God. Only then does our light shine in the darkness and our testimony give evidence that there is something about us and in us originating other than in the beggarly elements of the world that contaminate everyone else.
In admonishing the Philippians to set aside whatever differences there were among them Paul informs them he is sending Timothy to them to know whether or not they are complying with his apostolic admonition. Can you imagine a leader sending a representative to your church to ascertain the character of your humility and your solidarity with other believers? Most churches in existence today would completely fail that test and in fact, would find it unthinkable to submit to this level of scrutiny by anyone. There we discover the metric of the disparity between the church as we know it in the modern day and church as God would have it as expressed in the scriptures that we claim to venerate.
Paul then (v. 25-30) gives a report back to the Philippians regarding the health of Epaphroditus, a fellow worker who had been with the believers in Philippi but had fallen ill. Whatever his ailments were they were apparently stress related connected with his heart to serve and lay down his life for the church in that city and to make up the difference in Paul’s need regarding the deficit of Philippi’s carefulness to support Paul as they had promised and consequently failed to do. Epaphroditus is an example for us of the stress and pressure that spiritual leaders endure in their ministrations with the people. At the same time, it seems apparent that the congregation in Philippi was so self-absorbed that they didn’t realize how bad off Epaphroditus was neither did they realize that they were the cause of his breakdown and very near death. Thus the underlying reason for Paul’s calling upon these believers to cease striving among themselves and giving themselves over to disputing, argument and high-mindedness. Even we ourselves in pursuit of our own agendas and our own priorities need to pause and look around us by the eye of the spirit to see if our demeanor and character in life constitutes a burden upon a servant of Christ that is crippling them to the point of exhaustion.
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