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Bible: What Does Philippians 2 Teach Us About the Humility of Christ?

Updated on September 8, 2016

The Apostle Paul

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The Emptying of Christ

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Spiritual Unity

Given that they experience spiritual conflict similar to his (1:30), Paul urges the Philippians to demonstrate spiritual unity in five ways:

(1) encourage one another in Christ;

(2) strengthen one another through love;

(3) spend Spiritually-motivated time together;

(4) develop close friendships; and

(5) show deeply-felt emotions toward one another.

By so doing, they will fill him completely with joy (vv. 1-2).

[The first-class conditional clauses assume that these qualities already exist in the church.]

He exhorts them all to allow the Holy Spirit to produce in them the same humble mindset that Christ exhibited, an attitude seeking ways to increase the well-being of other people while simultaneously not caring about adding to its own glory (vv. 3-5).

[Did Jesus consider other people as more important than Himself?

Humble people achieve a balance between caring for their own needs and helping meet the concerns of others.]

Although Christ possessed the same essential nature (morphe) as the Father, He did not seek to exploit this equality with God in order to enhance His own personal status as a human being (v. 6).

Instead, He emptied Himself (heauton ekenose) of His prerogatives as God.

That is, while maintaining all of His divine attributes, He voluntarily surrendered His privilege to exercise them independently.

Jesus took upon Himself the essential nature of humanity (morphen), assumed the role of a bondservant, and humbled Himself even more, obediently submitting Himself to a Roman crucifixion (vv. 7-8).

As the reward for sacrificing Himself for the elect’s salvation, the Father acclaimed His Son “Jesus the Messiah” and raised Him to the exalted position as “Lord”—a status demanding universal worship and acknowledgment of His sovereignty (vv. 9-11).

Drink Offering Poured Out

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Paul: The Drink Offering

Addressing the Philippians now as his beloved, Paul exhorts them to continue to obey his directive—especially since he is in prison—, urging them to be “independently dependent” upon the God who is sanctifying them, so that they may willingly do what the Lord desires (vv. 12-13).

[They cannot depend upon Paul to tell them what to do anymore.

They must take responsibility for their own lives, yet also rely upon God who enables them to do His will.

Ryrie writes that they must learn to stand on their own feet with a sense of human frailty, but know that God “has their back” (New Testament Study Bible, 354).]

Not manifesting a dissatisfied, angry attitude in interpersonal relationships will contribute to the development of a blameless character.

As children of God above reproach, they will show a faultless reputation that will appear in the wicked world as a shining light of purity and truth (vv. 14-15).

By maintaining their biblical convictions, they will give Paul cause to rejoice when he stands before Christ to give an account for their behavior (v. 16).

Even though he is on the verge of martyrdom (“being poured out as a drink offering”) for their sake, Paul can still rejoice with them, and he encourages them to rejoice with him as well (vv. 17-18; cf. Num. 15:10; 2 Tim. 4:6).

[Apparently, the Philippians had totally offered themselves to God as “burnt offerings”—in such offerings, the worshiper sacrifices an entire animal—upon which Paul had “poured” himself through his selfless service.]

Young Timothy and His Mother

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Christ-like Servants


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Paul plans to send Timothy to the Philippians as his representative in order that he might receive from his son in the faith an encouraging report about their spiritual condition (v. 19).

Paul regards this young man—and no other of his acquaintance with him—, as having a mindset like his own when the subject concerned the pastoral care of Christ’s flock (vv. 20-21; cf. 2:4).

He commends Timothy to them as one who possesses “proven character” and who faithfully served Christ with Paul (v. 22).

The apostle informs them that he needed to wait until the Romans reach a verdict on his case before he dispatched Timothy.

If all goes well with the trial, he promises that he himself will make every effort to visit Philippi personally (vv. 23-24).

Paul had already sent another faithful worker and a servant of his to them: Epaphroditus (v. 25).

Since Epaphroditus desired to comfort the church in Philippi after he learned that they had found out about his nearly mortal illness (vv. 26-27, 30a), Paul was eager to send him.

God’s mercy on Epaphroditus has comforted Paul; now the apostle wishes to relieve the Philippians’ anxiety and replace it with joy (v. 28).

He instructs them to treat Epaphroditus with great respect because of his sacrificial, Christ-like service to Paul (vv. 29-30).

[Epaphroditus had risked his life in some way to provide Paul with those necessaries that the Philippians were unable to supply.]

© 2013 glynch1

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