In John Bunyan’s classic novel, Pilgrim’s Progress, there is a character named Mr. Steadfast. When he came to the end of his life’s journey, he said “wherever I could see his footprints on the sands of time, there I delighted to walk”. He lived his life walking as Jesus walked. That is what Paul sets out as the solution to the problems of the church in Philippi.
The first four verses of this chapter indicate problems in the church at Philippi. There were divisions based on selfishness, ambition, and conceit. Paul urged them to be unified by being humble.
There can be no unity in a church without the humility of its members, because arrogance produces selfishness and ambition. So, Paul told them, and us, to have the same attitude, or mindset, in their church fellowship, as Christ. He is the ultimate example of humility.
After giving the instruction to the Philippians, and now to us, Paul described for us what Christ’s mindset was.
First, remember that Jesus had everything in heaven. He was deity, or God as John 1:1 tells us. He was the second person of the Trinity.
Colossians 1:19 says the fulness of deity dwelt in him. John 17:5 tells us Jesus had glory with the Father before the world began.
He had equality with the Father (6) because they were of the same essence.
But Jesus did not hold tightly to his equality with the Father. He did not grasp it. (6) Notice the contrast to Adam, the first man. Adam attempted to obtain and grasp equality with God when Satan told him the he would be like God if he ate the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 3:4-5)
But, not Jesus! Instead, Jesus made himself nothing. (7) Rather than grasp it, he relinquished the prerogatives of deity and equality with the Father to take on the nature of a human being - and not just any human being, a servant. He did this in humility. Verse 8 says: “he humbled himself” and became obedient to the will of the Father.
In Matthew 20:28, Jesus said he came to serve, not to be served, even though he was entitled, as God, to be served. He was a servant of the Father, devoting himself to the will of the Father in complete obedience.
In John 14:31, Jesus said he did only and exactly what the Father told him to do and said only what the Father told him to say.
And in verse 8 of our present passage, we see that he was even obedient to a horrible death on a cross.
Can you see the enormity of his humility? Jesus went from a throne on heaven to a cross on earth. He let the men, who owed him worship and obedience, crucify him. And he did it for our benefit and to obey the Father.
Knowing this, how can we as believers not adopt his mindset as Paul tells us to? If Jesus gave up heaven and kingship for us, can we not give up our petty desires for him and his church? That is what Paul is urging us to do in this passage.
In light of Christ’s sacrificial humility, our desires to control the style of worship, the color of the carpet, the length of the worship service and other things seems petty and trivial. They are small sacrifices compared to his great sacrifice.
So, Paul tells us to have the same humble mindset of Christ, giving up our selfish ambitions and vain conceits to consider others better than ourselves, too look to the interests of others, and to be unified in spirit and purpose. (2) That is humility and humility creates unity.
Many commentators believe that verses 7 through 11 are a hymn known at the time Paul wrote this letter. It is a Cristological hymn, teaching the doctrines of Christ’s incarnation and exaltation.
Because Jesus willingly and obediently endured his humiliation, the Father exalted him to the highest place there is. (9) Jesus is enthroned at the right hand of the Father according to Hebrews 1:3. God gave him a name above every name. He is the Son of God. Hebrews 1:4 says he is as superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
And ultimately, everyone will acknowledge his lordship. At his name, all will bow before him and all will confess him as Lord. (10-11)
Of course, God will not exalt us, as believers, as he did Jesus. But he will bring us to himself in heaven and reward our obedience and service. If we do well, he will say those words we long to hear: “well done, good and faithful servant”. (Matthew 25:23)
But, if we spend our lives selfishly, especially in the community of the church, demanding our own way and criticizing the preferences of others, those things do not endure and are not rewarded. Paul calls them wood, hay, and stubble that will be burned up on the day of judgment. (1 Corinthians 3:12) Paul says those people will be saved but singed. (1 Corinthians 3:15) The image is a person standing there in heaven, but with smoke coming off his clothes.
If you have not come to Jesus in faith, you should know that this humility starts with your humble submission to him, repenting of your sin, believing in him, and trusting him for eternal life. If you have not come to that point in your life, I urge you to do so today. As our passage says, all will ultimately bow before Jesus and acknowledge him as Lord. Believers will do that joyfully and they are welcomed into a blessed eternity.
Those who have rejected Christ during this life, will also ultimately bow and confess him, but will do so as they receive judgment and punishment for eternity. So, please trust in Jesus today.
I’m going to pray, then Bill is going to come and lead us in singing. It is a time for believers to repent of sin and recommit themselves to joyful obedience in humility. It is also a time for those who are not in Christ now to repent, believe, and commit themselves to Christ. Let’s pray.