30th August 2018

Philippians: Week 4 (Thursday, August 30 2018)

 

Chapter 2: 1-11

 

Paul’s appeal for unity and humility 2:1-4

v1 You are united with Christ and that encourages you. You know the comfort of Christ’s love. The Holy Spirit has caused you to have the same interests as each other. And you can feel the sincere care for each other that comes from God’s loving kindness. v2 So I urge you to make my joy complete. Agree with each other. Have the same love. Be united in spirit and purpose. v3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or from proud desire for personal honour. Be humble. Think more about each other than you do about yourselves. v4 You should think about each other’s benefit and not just about your own.

 

Verses 1, 2 Paul is not doubting their Christian faith. He is reminding them what the result of their faith should be. He is emphasising that these spiritual experiences should have the result of unity and humility. They must show Christ’s love to other people. They can do this, only if they show love to each other. If they are not united, their witness to the world will be weak. Paul is already very happy about the Christians’ joy (1:4). But his joy can be even greater. He wants to hear that they are living at peace with each other. Then his joy will be even greater.

Verse 3 Paul has already written about those who spoke about Christ from ‘selfish ambition’ (1:17). Christians should desire to bring honour to God and not to themselves. Most people in the world at that time thought that to be humble was to be weak. Paul knew that God is our Maker and *Saviour. So Paul knew that to be humble was the only right attitude for a human being towards God. Paul called himself ‘the worst sinner’ (1 Timothy 1:15). Christians must know what they are not good at. Then they will not be too quick to blame other people. They should look for the good qualities in other Christians and they should appreciate their gifts.

Verse 4 Christians must not be selfish.

 

Christ as our model 2:5-11

Many writers think that these verses were a hymn. Christians perhaps sang it when they met for the Lord’s Supper. Perhaps Paul himself wrote it. He used it to support his appeal to the Christians at Philippi. The verses are a poem in three parts: Christ as God, Christ as man, Christ in glory.

v5 You should have the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus. v6 He always had the nature of God. But he did not think that he should hold on to his rights and honour as God. v7 Instead he made himself have no reputation. And he became a servant. He came in the form of a man. v8 As a man he was humble. He obeyed God. So he was prepared to die – even to die on a cross. v9 For this reason God raised him up to the highest place. God has given him the name that is higher than any other name. v10 So in honour of the name of Jesus, every being in heaven, on earth and beneath the earth shall kneel. v11 And all will declare that Jesus Christ is Lord. In this way, honour will come to God the Father.

 

Verse 6 Jesus had always been God, even before the beginning of time. We read this in other places in the Bible:

‘Christ existed before anything existed’ (Colossians 1:17).

‘Before Abraham was born, I am’ (John 8:58).

Jesus did not need to seize the same honour as God. It was always his by right. Nor did he try to hold on to the same honour as God. He laid it aside on behalf of all people.

Verse 7 Jesus gave up his riches in heaven in order to become a servant. ‘He was rich. But he made himself poor to help you’ (2 Corinthians 8:9). He left his home in heaven. And he had no home on earth that he could call his own (Luke 9:58). He gave up the glory that he had with his Father. He had that glory with the Father before he created the world (John 17:5). Even angels gave honour to him. But he became a person to whom people refused to give honour.

He became a real man. He was like men in every way except that he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15). He became hungry (Mark 11:12), thirsty (John 4:7) and tired (Luke 8:23). He was very happy (John 15:11), but he could weep (John 11:35). Jesus said, ‘I am among you as a man who serves’ (Luke 22:27). He became a servant. He even performed a very humble task. He washed his disciples’ feet (John 13:5). His stay on earth was not permanent. ‘The Word became human and he stayed for a time among us’ (John 1:14).

Verse 8 Paul emphasised that Christ obeyed God even as far as death. Death on a cross was a cruel punishment for slaves and criminals. *Jews believed that anyone who died on a cross was beyond God’s grace. (See Deuteronomy 21:23.) Therefore it was hard for Jews to believe that Christ’s death on the cross was on behalf of all people (Galatians 3:13).

Nobody can explain how Jesus can be both God and man. The mystery of God’s great love and Jesus’ great sacrifice can only cause us to worship. And, as Paul hoped for the Christians at Philippi, it can cause a humble attitude towards other people.

Verse 9 God raised Jesus from death to be with him in the highest place of honour. The name ‘higher than any other name’ that God gave him was ‘Lord’. The Greek word ‘kyrios’ means ‘master or owner’. It became an official word for the Roman emperors. Jesus is the Master of all life. He is the King greater than any king on earth. The Greek translation of the Old Testament used the Greek word ‘kyrios’ to translate the Hebrew word for God. Christians can therefore use God’s name for Jesus. In that way, they show that he has God’s power and authority. ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ (Philippians 2:11) is the earliest statement of what Christians believe. ‘You killed this Jesus on a cross. But God has made him both Lord and Christ’ (Acts 2:36).

Verses 10, 11 In Isaiah’s message, God declared, ‘Everybody will kneel in front of me’ (Isaiah 45:23). God gave this same right to Jesus. When he comes again, all created beings will worship the power and majesty of Jesus. Those ‘in heaven’ are angels, and wicked spiritual beings (Ephesians 6:12). Those ‘on earth’ will be those still alive when Christ returns. Those ‘beneath the earth’ may mean the dead people. Paul is saying ‘every being that there is’. When people give honour to Jesus, they will be giving honour to God the Father.


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