Philippians 2:1-30-Paul’s Teaching Concerning Humility
Philippians 2:1-4-The Priority of Humility is Other People
Philippians 2:1-Evidently, Paul is aware of some relational problems that existed in the church at Philippi that saddened him. He uses his personal relationship with them as a means to try and convince them to strive to get along...it would make his "joy complete" if they would do so. Paul says that if any of these actions of God towards them has related to them have made a difference in their own life, if they have received any benefit or blessing themselves from these actions, then pass the same action along to others (treat them in the same way), and make an effort to get along. He mentions…
- "encouragement"-from the word "paraklesis" (to comfort, console, exhort; it combines encouragement with the alleviation of grief)
- "consolation"-from "paramethion" (to soothe, comfort, console; to cheer, exhort)
- "fellowship"-from "koinonia"
- "affection"-from "splagkna" (the heart, the affections of the heart, tenderness)
- "compassion"-from "oiktirmoi" (to exercise grace or favor towards someone, kindness, favour, mercy).
Notice that each of these actions have been expressed by God towards us. As followers of Christ, His attitudes and actions should be released through us towards others. As someone has said, “Love always comes to us on its way to someone else.”
Philippians 2:2-Paul says that it will give him joy when they:
- are "being of the same mind"-(the Greek literally means-"that the same you think");
φρονέω phronéō, fron-eh'-o; from G5424; to exercise the mind, i.e. entertain or have a sentiment or opinion; by implication, to be (mentally) disposed (more or less earnestly in a certain direction); intensively, to interest oneself in (with concern or obedience):—set the affection on, (be) care(-ful), (be like-, + be of one, + be of the same, + let this) mind(-ed), regard, savour, think.
Strong’s Definitions Legend,
- "maintaining the same love"-(from "agape");
- "united in spirit"-(these three words are one compound word in the Greek-"sun", meaning “with, united”; and "psyche", meaning "breath, or soul");
- "intent on one purpose"-(the same Greek word as #1., but in a participle form suggesting something that is continuous, ongoing-"the one thing minding").
Each of these attitudes requires that you deliberately take the other person’s perspective, interest, and need into consideration. It isn't just what you think, or want.
Philippians 2:3-Paul now makes this point even clearer by stating that we are to not take only ourself into consideration. Follow his flow of thought…
- The word "selfishness" comes from the Greek word "eritheian" that means "feud, faction, contentious disposition" (cf. Jam. 3:14)...suggesting being only interested in yourself.
- "Empty conceit" comes from "kenothoxian"...a compound word "keno" (empty, without foundation, false) and "thoxa" (glory). It speaks of someone who sets their own standards for glory that they can fulfill. Again, looking out only for yourself.
- Paul says that instead, we should have "humility of mind"...the Greek is "in humility one another esteeming surpassing themselves". "Humility" is a compound word "humble, poor, low, contrite and mind".
- "Regard" comes from the Greek word that means "to lead, to take the lead, govern, rule" and means that we are to treat others as if we are under their authority, to "think, consider, regard ourselves as being under them, not over them".
- "More important" means "to hold above, to stand out above".
Philippians 2:4-Paul says that we should not just have this as an attitude, stop there and hope the best for others. But, they we should actually be proactive and take the initiative to look out for the interests of others.
Philippians 2:5-11-The Model of Humility is Jesus
Paul now gives us the ultimate example of what he is talking about, Jesus. Even though Jesus was God, He did think solely of Himself (His form, His appearance)...but, He gave consideration to the need of those that He had created and placed their need above His own. "Existed" (a compound of two words…"upo" and "arxe"...that mean to be in possession of somethings, to have the substance of something). Jesus possessed the form, the very nature of God. "A thing to be grasped" (NASV), or as the KJV puts it "thought it not robbery"...means that God did not consider that something was being taken from Him, stolen from Him, or that He was losing anything when He "emptied" (the Greek word is "ekenose", which has the root word "kenos"...to empty, "to divest one's self of one's prerogatives") Himself of His "form" ("morphe") when He took on the "form" of man. The uncreated became part of the created. In other words, God set aside His right to receive glory from man in order to become man...He showed more regard for the need of man than for His own need for glory. And in so doing...He is glorified all the more (:9-11).
- (6a) Jesus was in the form of God.
Who, being in the form of God,
- In the form of God: This describes Jesus' pre-incarnate existence. We must remind ourselves that Jesus did not begin His existence in the manger at Bethlehem, but is eternal God.
- Being: This is from the ancient Greek verb huparchein, which "describes that which a man is in his very essence and which cannot be changed. It describes that part of a man which, in any circumstances, remains the same." (Barclay)
- "Paul, by the use of the Greek word translated 'being,' informs his Greek readers that our Lord's possession of the divine essence did not cease to be a fact when He came to earth to assume human form. . . . This word alone is enough to refute the claim of Modernism that our Lord emptied Himself of His Deity when He became Man." (Wuest)
- Form: This translates the ancient Greek word morphe. It "always signifies a form which truly and fully expresses the being which underlies it … the words mean 'the being on an equality with God.'" (Expositors)
- "Morphe is the essential form which never alters; schema is the outward form which changes from time to time and from circumstance to circumstance." (Barclay)
- "'God' has a form, and 'Jesus Christ' exists in this form of God." (Lenski)
iii. Wuest explains that the ancient Greek word translated form is very difficult to translate. When we use the word form we think of the shape of something; but the ancient Greek word had none of that idea. It is more the idea of a mode or an essence; it is the essential nature of God, without implying a physical shape or image. "Thus the Greek word for 'form' refers to that outward expression which a person gives of his inmost nature."
- (6b) Jesus did not cling to the privileges of deity.
Did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,
- Did not consider it robbery: The ancient Greek in this phrase has the idea of something being grasped or clung to. Jesus did not cling to the prerogatives or privileges of deity.
- Wuest defines the ancient Greek word translated robbery as, "A treasure to be clutched and retained at all hazards."
- To be equal with God: It wasn't that Jesus was trying to achieve equality with the Father. He had it, and chose not to cling to it. Jesus' divine nature was not something He had to seek for or acquire, but it was His already.
- Lightfoot wrote that it was not "a prize which must not slip from His grasp, a treasure to be clutched and retained at all hazards." Jesus was willing to let go of some of the prerogatives of deity to become a man.
- (7) Jesus made Himself of no reputation.
But made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.
- But made Himself of no reputation: The more common (and well-known) translation of this is that He emptied Himself. From the ancient Greek word emptied (kenosis) came the idea that Jesus' incarnation was essentially a self-emptying.
- We must carefully think about what Jesus emptied Himself of. Paul will tell us plainly in the following verses, but we must take care that we do not think that Jesus emptied Himself of His deity in any way.
- Some develop the kenotic theory of the incarnation to the point where they insist that Jesus divested Himself of many of the attributes of deity - such as omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, and even suffered the elimination of His own divine self-consciousness. Yet Jesus did not (and could not) become "less God" in the incarnation. No deity was subtracted (though he did renounce some of the rights of deity); rather humanity was added to His nature.
iii. "During his humiliation, as God and equal with the Father, was no encroachment on the Divine prerogative; for, as he had an equality of nature, he had an equality of rights." (Clarke)
- "His condescension was free, and unconstrained with the consent of his Father … the Son of the Highest can, at his own pleasure, show or eclipse his own glorious brightness, abate or let out his fullness, exalt or abase himself in respect of us." (Poole)
- "Even as a king, by laying aside the tokens of his royalty, and putting on the habit of a merchant, when all the while he ceaseth not to be a king, or the highest in his own dominions." (Poole)
- Taking the form of a bondservant: This describes how Jesus emptied Himself. Though he took the form of a bondservant, Jesus did not empty Himself of His deity or of any of His attributes; or of His equality with God. He emptied Himself into the form of a bondservant, not merely the form of a man.
- Taking (the ancient Greek word labon) does not imply an exchange, but an addition.
- Coming in the likeness of men: This further describes how Jesus emptied Himself. We can think of someone who is a servant, but not in the likeness of men. Angels are servants, but not in the likeness of men. In fairy tales, Aladdin's Genie was a servant, but not in the likeness of men.
- The word for likeness here may refer to merely the outward form of something. While Jesus did have the outward form of humanity, the outward form reflected His true humanity, which was added to His deity.
- "It was a likeness, but a real likeness, no mere phantom humanity as the Docetic Gnostics held." (Robertson)
- (8) The extent of Jesus' self-emptying.
And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
- He humbled Himself and became obedient: Jesus humbled Himself when He became obedient. This was something that Jesus could only experience by coming down from the throne of heaven and becoming a man. When God sits enthroned in heaven's glory, there is no one He obeys. Jesus had to leave heaven's glory and be found in appearance as a man in order to become obedient.
- One key to Jesus' obedience on earth was the endurance of suffering. This again was something He could only learn by experience after the incarnation. As it is written: though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. (Hebrews 5:8)
- Indeed, He humbled Himself.
- He was humble in that he took the form of a man, and not a more glorious creature like an angel.
- He was humble in that He was born into an obscure, oppressed place.
- He was humble in that He was born into poverty, among a despised people.
- He was humble in that He was born as a child instead of appearing as a man.
- He was humble in submitting to the obedience of a child in a household.
- He was humble in learning and practicing a trade - and a humble trade of a builder.
- He was humble in the long wait until He launched out into public ministry.
- He was humble in the companions and disciples He chose.
- He was humble in the audience He appealed to and the way He taught.
- He was humble in the temptations He allowed and endured.
- He was humble in the weakness, hunger, thirst, and tiredness He endured.
- He was humble in His total obedience to His Heavenly Father.
- He was humble in His submission to the Holy Spirit.
- He was humble in choosing and submitting to the death of the cross.
- He was humble in the agony of His death.
- He was humble in the shame, mocking, and public humiliation of His death.
- He was humble in enduring the spiritual agony of His sacrifice on the cross.
iii. We can imagine that it was possible for the Son of God to become man and pay for the sins of the world without this great humiliation. He might have added the humanity of a 33-year old man to his deity. He might have appeared before man only in His transfigured glory, and taught men what they needed to hear from Him. He might have suffered for the sins of man in a hidden place of the earth far from the eyes of man, or on the dark side of the moon for that matter. Yet He did not; He humbled Himself, and did it for the surpassing greatness of our salvation and His work for us.
- To the point of death, even the death of the cross: This states the extent of Jesus' humility and obedience.
- Crucifixion was such a shameful death that it was not permitted for Roman citizens (such as the people of Philippi). A victim of crucifixion was considered by the Jews to be particularly cursed by God (Deuteronomy 21:23 and Galatians 3:13).
- Robertson called the death of the cross "The bottom rung in the ladder from the Throne of God. Jesus came all the way down to the most despised death of all, a condemned criminal on the accursed cross."
iii. Even the death of the cross shows that there is no limit to what God will do to demonstrate His love and saving power to man; this was and forever will be the ultimate. "What must sin have been in the sight of God, when it required such abasement in Jesus Christ to make an atonement for it, and undo its influence and malignity!" (Clarke)
- "The lower he stoops to save us, the higher we ought to lift him in our adoring reverence. Blessed be his name, he stoops, and stoops, and stoops, and, when he reaches our level, and becomes man, he still stoops, and stoops, and stoops lower and deeper yet." (Spurgeon)
David Guzik :: Study Guide for Philippians 2, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Phl/Phl_2.cfm?a=1105002
Philippians 2:12-18-The Practice of Humility is Proof
With Jesus as our model we should live our Christian lives in "fear and trembling". Recognizing that the extreme degree to which God was willing to go for us, we should be diligent to do the same for others. We should not get caught up "grumbling and disputing" (:14) with each other, but be "blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach"...so that we can be lights to a "crooked and perverse" world..."holding fast the word of life" (:15-16).
Ryrie Study Bible, 2:12-18 In vv. 17-18 Paul employed the language of the Jewish offerings and compares his death to a drink-offering which accompanied the Philippians’ presentation of themselves as a burnt-offering (cf. Numbers 15:10; 28:7).
Philippians 2:19-30-The Examples of Humility are Timothy and Epaphroditus
Paul tells them that he intends to later send Timothy to minister among them. Timothy truly has their best at heart and they know of his "proven worth" as a partner with Paul. But for now, he is sending Epaphroditus (a member of their own church…he is the one who will deliver this letter). He had been so ill that he had almost died. Paul felt that his return would encourage them and give them an example of what it means to follow Christ. Men like him should receive great respect.
Prayer: Father, I ask for Your help to be like Jesus in my relationships with other people. Help me to consider their good, their opinion, their need...and be willing to humble myself as a servant to them. And I ask that it may be said of me like Paul said of Timothy...that I may have "proven worth" that has been demonstrated through my life.