Philippians 2:1-11

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, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 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.

Observation

  • The Philippians would complete Paul’s joy if they are of the same mind, love and in full accord with each other.
  • The Philippians were not to do anything from selfish ambition
  • The Philippians were not to do anything from conceit.
  • The Philippians were to do everything in humility.
  • The Philippians were to consider others more important than themselves.
  • They were not to look after their own interest only.
  • They were to be concerned with the interest of others.
  • This attitude of considering others first is from Christ.
  • This attitude of considering others first was modeled by Christ.
  • Christ was in the form of God.
  • Jesus Christ’s did grasp onto His equality with God, but freely let go of it to become a man.
  • Jesus took the form of a servant.
  • Jesus was born in the likeness of men.
  • Jesus was in human form.
  • Jesus humbled Himself.
  • Jesus was obedient to the point of death.
  • Jesus was obedient to the point of death on a cross.
  • Because Christ was obedient God has exalted Him.
  • Because Jesus Christ was obedient God has given Jesus a name which is greater the all other names.
  • At the name Jesus has been given every knee will bow regardless rather the knee is in heaven or on earth.
  • At the name Jesus has been given everyone and everything with a tongue will confess Jesus is Lord.
  • Everyone and everything will confess Jesus is Lord to glorify the Father.

Interpretation

Paul exhorts and encourages the Philippians, and by extension us, to be unified and work together. Paul is not saying, however, to simply be unified. We can be unified and all moving in the wrong direction. Paul says be of the same mind and same love as he has. Any other reading would simply be inconsistent with the rest of scripture. Understanding Paul to say unity at all cost or unity is the highest virtue in the church is simply to ignore the rest of Holy Scripture and the rest of the Pauline epistles. Implied in this exhortation is unity in correct doctrine and unity in Christ. Christ first then unity.

Paul is talking about unity, unity with and within the church. Unity with which church, the non-denominational church down the street, the Baptist, the Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian? Which Church?! This is the word of God. It applies to all people at all times. Therefore, we are to understand this as the entire church. That would include those past, present and future. We are to be united with the whole church, which includes the historical church, not simply a local congregation. Therefore, we need to understand how the church historically has understood doctrine and worship.

We are to do nothing from ambition and conceit. This is extremely difficult. But Paul makes it harder. Not only are we to avoid ambition and conceit, we are to think of everyone else more valuable or significant than we consider ourselves. We are to look out for others’ interest as well as our own. Doing this is a command. This is not a new command, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) It is part of the law. How am I supposed to think of others as more significant than myself? Paul does not answer that with simply, “try harder,” which is what many modern churches teach. He gives us good news. He gives us the gospel. It is ours in Christ. (v5) In other words, Christ will change our hearts. We reply on Christ and Him alone. We cannot do it ourselves. We have a received a commandment we cannot possibly keep but Christ changes our hearts making it possible for us to think of others as more significant than ourselves.

Paul now preaches the gospel. Christ who in the very form of God, meaning his majesty. An individual person or man is known by his form, so majesty of God shined forth in Christ. He freely released His rightful glory and took on the form of a man, not just a man but a servant. Coming as a king would still have been humble, even a great king. But he came as a servant. And Christ, as a servant, was obedient to the Father. He was obedient to the point of death, not just any death but an excruciating, humiliating, naked death on a cross. And because He was obedient, the Father has raised Christ up and has given Him a name which is greater than any other name. This does not mean Jesus is a name above every name. Rather it means that the Father has given Jesus Christ an office and position that is above any other. He reins over all. There is none higher or greater.

Therefore, every knee will bow before him. When Paul says every knee he means, every knee. Satan himself will bow before Christ. Every tongue will confess the Jesus Christ is Lord. Again, when Paul says every tongue, he means every tongue. Everyone who has ever lived, will ever live, all the angels in heaven and even all the demons will declare Jesus Christ is Lord. The Father has placed Him above all.

Now back up to the first of the chapter. Being of one mind, and thinking of others as more significant than you seem like such a minimal command. Christ did so much more than that.

Application

Many today seek peace in the local church at any price. They treat peace and tranquillity within the local church as the highest virtue. We can be at peace with each other. We and all agree and all be wrong. The word of God is the highest virtue. The word became flesh and dwelt among us. If we do not have Christ and if we profane His name by claiming He said something he did not say. There is no peace. We can pretend there is peace but there is no peace. We may all blasphemy together, but there is no peace because Christ is not with us.

There is much that happens in the local church that is not doctrinal. This would include things like, what kind of fertilizer to use on the grass around the church, what color to paint the Sunday school rooms. Dare I say it, what style of music to sing in church. Believe it or not, and betting you believe it, I have seen churches split and members leave a church over such issues.

I am not claiming that these and other issues like them are unimportant. They may very well be important. After all, we don’t want the grass to die. But they are less important than the unity of the church just as unity for the sake of unity is less important than Christ.

When we are talking about doctrine or worship we have to ask why make a change? What is the purpose of the change? Many times we make a change because times are changing and we need to be up with the times. Sometimes these changes are beneficial and doctrinally innocuous. For example, installing or up grading a sound system. Other times they have doctrinal implications even if they are small and perhaps imperceptible. For example why change the style of music or worship format. Is it to attract a younger crowd? What does that say about the church and its purpose? With whom is the church trying to be united?

Usually when these argument break out they become platforms to express our ambition, conceit, and selfishness. It is what we want or others want, not what Christ wants. We are to be of one mind, united. We are to have the mind of Christ. The much maligned phrase, “We have never did it that way before,” should be taken seriously. So long as we understand who the “we” are. The “we” should refer to the church universal, which includes the historical church. We are to be united with the historical church as well, not simply our local congregation. When we have disagreements on doctrine, we should look to scripture first and then to the historical church. What has the church historically taught on a doctrine? How has the church traditionally worshipped? So often we assume the only history in the church that matters is the past 10 years, or at best what has happened in our life time.

We live in a culture where it is taught you have to look after number 1. That is what you learn from reality television. The one who is the most ruthless wins. But that is exactly the opposite of what God says, through Paul. Consider others more significant than yourself, think of others interest as well as your own.

This can be a heavy guilt trip when we realize how far off the mark we fall. But Paul reminds us of the gospel. We do not have to do this on our own. This is given to us by Christ. (v5) As we grow in Christ we become more like him. Paul in this section reminds us what Jesus Christ did. Oh to be like Him!

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