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Let This Mind Be In You

Philippians 2:1-11

The second chapter contains one of the great passages of the Bible. In verses 5-11, we see the consummate picture of Christ. If we are to know Him, this passage deserves full study. But first comes the introduction, for Paul does not contain the high points except in practical wisdom.

Exhortation to Friends

(Phil 2:1-4 NIV) If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, {2} then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. {3} Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. {4} Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Spiritual things

It is interesting that Paul’s list in verse 1 – the common bonds between him and the Philippians, the basis of his appeal – are all spiritual things. There is a myth that spiritual things are impractical; consider this list:

  • Encouragement – the same root word that is translated “comforter” for the Holy Spirit, it means coming along side (paraklesis). It is the sensation of one who comes to you with a hug when you are down.
  • Comfort – (the word “his” in front of “love” is supplied – it is not unique to Christ’s love) – the word comes from two Greek words. The first is para, from which we get our word “parallel.” The second is the root of our word “myth.” It means one who shares the same or similar story with us. Have you ever received comfort from someone who’s been through the same trouble you are having?
  • Fellowship – it is koinonia – meaning that deep and abiding companionship of an old friend.
  • Tenderness and compassion – Sometimes “tough it out” is distinctly the wrong advice. Even the tough need to know when to be tender.

These are the things upon which Paul bases his appeal.

Joy complete

And what is his appeal? That they make his joy complete. The implication is clear: they have already begun the process, he just wants all of it. How can they do this? By unity! Unity in

  • Love – one kind of love, the agape of the Christian, the love without ulterior motive.
  • Spirit – the Holy Spirit, shared by all believers.
  • Purpose – the call of Christ, the spread of the Gospel.
Do nothing through

There is a sense here of warning. Paul knows the pitfalls; none better. The pious hypocrite has no highway to hell; he has a parade route. What does he warn these experienced Christians against?

  • Selfish ambition – the word more properly would be faction or strife – the idea that the church is composed of “them” and “us” – and we’ve got to beat them.
  • Vain conceit – literally, “empty glorying.” My father used to remind me that the full can made little noise when shaken; the can almost empty made the most noise.

We are told to act in humility, considering others better. Humility is an honest opinion of oneself – if you can reach that low. It is not the habit of flattering others, nor of lying about yourself. It starts with one statement: “I am a sinner.” So it is that I can consider others “better.” The Greek word here would look familiar to us; it would appear to be a compound of “hyper” plus “echo” – in other words, we are to look at others as if they are a better echo of ourselves. Sinners too; but sinners who do less damage to us than we do to ourselves.

The Mind of Christ

(Phil 2:5-11 NIV) Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: {6} Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, {7} but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. {8} And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! {9} Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, {10} that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, {11} and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This begins with a difficult concept. Perhaps an illustration will make it simpler. When I worked for a Japanese company, I was required one day to take some papers to the president of the company. His office occupied the entire 6th floor of the building. I had never been there before, and was very impressed. I asked the receptionist where I might find the president. She directed me to an office no bigger than my own, where the president was busy at work. It was very ordinary. I asked the secretary why he used so small an office; she explained that the rest of the floor was to impress customers. He needed no more than that office.

It was a remarkable display of confidence. He needed no great office to impress his subordinates; he was comfortable in being the president. Therefore, he could construct his work environment as he pleased.

In that same sense we see Christ here. He is in very nature God – and therefore completely confident in laying down that equality. Take it step by step:

  • He is equal with God in very nature – not by appointment, not by recent capture nor even gift – but in his very nature.
  • Therefore, he does not jealously guard his equality but takes it naturally. Just as a thief watches over his prizes while the rightful owner takes them for granted, Christ knows his equality with God.
  • Therefore, he is comfortable in laying it down, for it is his by right, not something to be hoarded.

As a strong man puts aside his strength to play with a baby, Christ put aside his glory to come to us. Humility comes naturally to the truly great.

The action of Christ

See now what he did, for in his actions we shall see the man and the God.

Emptied himself

Translated “made himself nothing,” we can see in this little phrase his nature:

  • He did it himself – he was not compelled.
  • It is a parallel to the concept of verses three and four – Christ caring more for us than he cares for himself.
  • Did he empty himself? Indeed, he poured himself out, like we would pour water out of a glass – when he poured himself out at the Cross.
Servant in human form

There are three nouns used here to describe Jesus:

  • Form – the Greek is morphe – it means the external likeness, that which is visible.
  • Likeness – the Greek is rooted in the prefix homo, from which we get our word homogenized – it means the internal workings.
  • Fashion – the Greek is schema, which is related to the fitting into circumstances – meaning the external circumstances.

Perhaps a metaphor would help. Suppose you are in a convoy, and you see an unfamiliar ship. You want to know if it really is a ship in the convoy. You would want to see if it was externally the same (right flag, type of ship); you would want to meet the captain and crew (internal workings) and you would also want to make sure that it sailed by convoy rules (external circumstances). Jesus passes all three tests: he is completely man.

Obedient to death

In Jesus we see the complete example of obedience:

  • First, see that humility is the necessary precedent of obedience. If I think myself better than others, why should I obey them?
  • Next, his obedience is to the Holy One – God the Father, for none other is worthy of perfect obedience.
  • He is obedient to death on the cross. It was the most painful and disgraceful death known to man at the time. He has suffered the maximum.

But also: it qualifies him to sympathize with us. As I put it in the devotional:

Have you ever been down to the point where the government had to get someone else to carry your load? A welfare case? Simon of Cyrene carried the cross for Him. He knows how you feel.

Have you ever been down to the point where those around you can think of nothing more to say than, “Buddy, I’ll buy you a drink?” They offered Jesus drugged wine. He knows how you feel.

Have you ever been to the point where the world takes away even your clothes? Have you had to watch total strangers pick through what used to be your clothes? Bankruptcy and the last garage sale, perhaps? They gambled for His clothes. He knows how you feel.

Have you ever been in trouble with the law? To the point where the criminals around you gave you a hard time about it? They crucified him between two thieves, and even they insulted Him. He knows how you feel.

Have you ever been the victim of the insults of the mob? Just those looking on, laughing at you and calling you names? “Come down from the cross,” they called to Him. He knows how you feel.

Have you ever had the “righteous” people insult you, calling you names and letting the world know just how rotten they think you are? Even the religious leaders insulted Him on the cross. He knows how you feel.

He knows how you feel, for it all happened to Him. Even though He had lived the sinless life, deserving none of this, that’s how they treated Him. So when you feel the world coming down on top of you, whether you deserve it or not, remember: He knows how you feel.

Take your troubles to Him. Go to Him in prayer and tell Him how it is within the depths of your soul. There is nothing you can say that He does not understand, for He is human just like us. There is nothing He cannot comprehend, for He is God. There is nothing He cannot forgive, for He went to the cross for you, that you might be forgiven. There is no hurt too deep for the Christ, by whose wounds you are healed. Love, in its purest form, awaits you. He knows how you feel.

The Exaltation of Christ

But this is not the end; of his humility and suffering come his glory.

God exalted him

Would God exalt anyone who was less than divine? So he is not only fully human, he is fully divine.

The Name

When most Christians encounter the phrase, “the Name,” they don’t know what to make of it. The ancient Jew would have known – for this name is indeed above all others. That being so, how do we treat it? I can tell you how it will be treated – soon, please God:

  • Every knee will bow. The phrasing is clear: heaven, hell or earth between, there will be no exceptions.
  • Bow – the physical gesture of honor and obedience. It will be that obvious.
  • And confess – not with words alone, nor just actions, but the entire creature will acknowledge the Name above all names. Each and every one, without exception, it will be a consistent and honest honor, for He deserves it.
To the glory of God

Glory is to God as style is to an artist, said one author. It is his natural element. Can we describe it? I think not. But we can learn about it:

  • The worship of the entire world, our complete planet, is a light thing to the glory of God, who created heaven and earth.
  • But it is considered a great thing that Christ is exalted for what he has done.

He is our example; it is Christ we need to imitate. I can think of no better words than those of Chrysostom:

Let us then believe to His glory, let us live to His glory, for one is no use without the other; when we glorify Him rightly, but live not rightly, then do we especially insult Him, because we are enrolled under Him as a Master and Teacher, and yet despise Him, and stand in no dread of that fearful judgment seat. It is no wonder that the heathen live impurely; this merits not such condemnation. But that Christians, who partake in such great mysteries, who enjoy so great glory, that they should live thus impurely, this is worst of all, and unbearable.

You have the example of service and sacrifice; of oneness and love. Go and do likewise.

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