It’s very sad to see people who are living far below their potential. They might be very intelligent but have never committed themselves to study. They might be gifted athletically but never bothered to compete. They might have been blessed with a wonderful spouse and children but never bothered to invest quality time in those relationships.
Paul looked at the church in Philippi and realised that they were far short of their God-given potential. They were not taking hold of all the resources they had in Christ. That was so especially in their failure to love one another as they should have. Instead of being united as one, they were divided. It was time for Paul to introduce the antidote into his letter to them. They needed to be reminded of the unity they had in Christ. Then he would challenge them to be humble. The example of humility he set before them was the example of Christ Himself. Jesus had humbled Himself to come down from heaven to become a human to die for the sins of the whole world. They needed to follow His example of humility to become what they were mean to become.
1). THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT. Paul here makes two points. Firstly, the unity of the Spirit exists. Paul writes in verse 1, So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy. “If” here could be translated as “since”. Paul knew that these things mentioned in verse 1 actually existed. That is his point. These things already exist says Paul. As he wrote in Ephesians 4:3, be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We notice he says “maintain”, not “create”. You maintain something that is already existing. (That is why prayers for Christian unity should not be asking God to do something He has already done. He has made all believers one in Christ. However we should pray that God would show us all the human barriers that He sees are preventing us from sharing in that unity. And ask His help to remove them!)
Secondly this unity must be lived out in practice. It is as though Paul is saying, Become in practice what you are by the grace of God. Php 2:2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. That is, “Let the Holy Spirit of God make you become what you are meant to be, as children in the same family of God”. All believers are indwelt by the same Holy Spirit. They are ALL children of the same Heavenly Father. They are to live out this reality in their everday living.
2). THE PATTERN OF HUMILITY SEEN IN JESUS. Paul saw a pattern that believers were meant to follow. It was the pattern of the life of Jesus Christ Himself. He begins to spell that out in verse 3.
i). Having The Right Attitude Towards Others. Php 2:3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. It appears that some of these elements existed in the church in Philippi. “Rivalry” (eritheía) is also translated as contention or strife. It is the attitude, I want what you have and I will use others in my quest to get it. Such people are users. They may use their money or their position or even their friends to gain what they want. No wonder they tear apart a Christian fellowship. (See Note 1 below for all the other uses of the word in the New Testament. It is not a pretty picture!)
“Conceit”, kenodoxía from kenos = empty and doxia = glory. Vainglory, a desire for praise (I deserve it more than you). There are those who will not give praise to another person because in their conceit they imagine that that they have done better or could do better.
By contrast the right attitude is that which is focussed on others, count others more significant than yourselves. The word huperéchō means to hold above or to see someone as superior to someone else. It is the attitude that says, I am here to serve you. Jesus had spoken of the necessity of that attitude in Matthew 20. The mother of the sons of Zebedee wanted Jesus to guarantee that her sons gained the highest places in the kingdom of God. Jesus took the opportunity to remind His followers of the nature of greatness. Mat 20:26 … whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave. He Himself would set the example, 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
ii). Having The Right Focus On The Needs Of Others. 2:4) Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. We do need to take care of our own interests, but should not be focussed only on them. It means taking time to really notice people. It has the added dimension of looking even further to see what their needs might be and how one could be used in meeting those needs.
iii). Having The Right Mind (The Mind Of Christ). 2:5, Have this mind (phronéo = have a mindset) among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. Jesus in His incarnation determined to do the will for God for Him. It meant that He was willing to forego many of His privileges as the Son Of God.
- He had status as the Son of God. He was willing to put those priviliges aside. (6) who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. (He didn’t hang on to what was rightfully His.)
- He once had power and authority as the Son of God. He limited Himself to live as a human (7) but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (He could not empty Himself of His divinity as the eternal Son of God but He emptied Himself of all His divine privileges. He did not draw on His omniscience (knowing all things) but had to ask questions. He did not draw on His omnipresence (being able to be in all places simultaneously) but was confined to a human body. He did not draw on His omnipotence (able to do all things) as He lived as a human. He attributed His teaching and His miracles and healings to the work of His Father working through Him. He was the Father’s instrument. (John 14:10, Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. In human form He had rely on God for all these things.
- He handed Himself over to do the will of God, come what may. (8) And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. That was God’s eternal purpose for Jesus as the lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8) to bring forgiveness and salvation to humans
His purpose for us is not the same ( to be the sin-bearers of all the sins of the world). But God requires the same sort of commitment from us, to humble ourselves before Him, to do what He wants us to do in this life.
3). GOD EXALTS TRUE HUMILITY. Jesus humbled Himself to do the will of God throughout his life. When He prayed just hours before his death in the garden of Gethsemane, He cried out, Mat 26:39 … “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” His humility in becoming a man and living and dying as a man was followed by His exaltation by God to the highest place in the purposes of God.
- No greater name. Php 2:9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name. No one at any time has compared with Him or will ever compare with Him. He is supreme.
- No greater Person or Power in the Universe. Jesus is Lord! Php2:10 so 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.
- Jesus is exalted as King of Kings and as Lord of Lords, the Ruler of this whole universe. Nothing or no one will ever take His place. We have to submit to Him in every area of our lives, for every moment of our lives. He is to be Lord of all.
What does that mean for those who have no time for God in this life, and who reject Jesus? As we saw in a previous article in Mark 8:31-38, it means rejection by Jesus when He comes. It means eternal rejection. It means being barred from the presence of God and from all that is good. Paul put it like this in 2Thessalonians 1:9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might. What strong language! What does the loving Jesus say? He told us in Mat 25:46 And these (unrighteous) will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Lent is a time in which we look at our own spiritual interests. We take time to check where we are spiritually in the presence of God and ask His help to become what He wants us to become. But this passage says we need also to “look to the interests of others”. How do they stand before God. Do we know? Do we care? Why not pray for all those who have no time for God or for Jesus, perhaps using the prayer I suggested at the end of the previous article. If only one of those people we pray for comes to know God, that will be a miracle of God. It will mean that we have had a very worthwhile Lent. It will mean that we have done something wonderful for the kingdom of God. It will mean that we have helped make an eternal contribution to this world and to God’s eternal kingdom.
Note 1. One can see the divisive nature expressed by this word (underlined) in the following verses, Php_1:17 The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. Rom 2:8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 2Cor 12:20, For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish–that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. Gal 5:20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions. James 3:14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. Jas 3:16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.
Blog No.064. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Wednesday 7th March 2012