Philippians 2:1–11 Paul’s Appeal For the Mind of Christ.
Key Notes: Encouargement in Christ. He "emptied" Himself. His exercise of divine attributes as a man.
This passage has received a large amount of attention because it portrays the Incarnation in a way not seen in other places. It is like an icon painted by a devoted artist in great detail. We will scrutinize it carefully and hope not to miss any part of the message.
*"If there is any encouragement in Christ". Encouragement comes from a Greek root word which is the root for 'paraklete', a name for the Holy Spirit, the One-called-alongside-to-help.
*" any incentive of love". Incentive in Greek means to speak next to, or comfort.
*"any participation in the Spirit". Participation is the Greek word “koinonia” and means fellowship.
*"any affection and sympathy". The word for affection in Greek is "the bottom of our hearts".
*“Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord (Greek word for the same soul) and of one mind. Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also the interests of others.“
He is using words that beg for an intimacy of fellowship rarely seen in churches, a bubbling over of love and care for each other.
“Have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus. …"
He is concerned about the mind of the group, rather than their individual thoughts.
“…Who, though He was in the form of God…”
“He was” is more than a simple past tense, but indicates original belonging, existence, continuous being, subsisting in the form of God.
“…did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped….”
We understand this difficult expression to mean that Jesus did not try to hang onto His prerogatives and privileges at the Father’s right hand. You recall that Adam did try to grasp more of God than he was given. Gen.3:5
Jesus’ course on earth was predetermined. He is the Lamb of God, “slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev.13:8 KJV).
Jesus Himself referred to His original glory: "...glorify Thou Me in Thy presence with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was made." (Jn.17:5)
Psa.45 gives us some hints of what His pre-incarnate glory was like:
“Your divine throne endures for ever and ever....
Your royal scepter is a scepter of equity...
Your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia.
From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad....”
“…but emptied Himself”, made Himself nothing. “
"…became poor….” (IICor.8:9)
" …he had no form or comeliness that we should look at Him and no beauty that we should desire Him.” Isa.53:2)
“…He poured out His soul to death….” (Isa.53:12)
“Taking the form of a servant”
The word “form” (Gr. morphe) is used twice: being “in the form of God”, and the “form of a servant”; the first indicating true deity, the second true humanity.
He was a carpenter’s helper in his youth. He fed people, healed their diseases, blessed their children, raised their dead. He even washed his disciples' feet. Jn.13:3–11
There is valuable information in the four Servant Poems of Isaiah which give us intimate glimpses of His humiliation and frustration.
“He will not cry or lift up His voice, or make it heard in the street….”(Isa.42:1–9)
“But I said ‘I have labored in vain, I have spent My strength for nothing and vanity.’” (Isa. 49:1–7)
“The Lord God has given Me the tongue of those who are taught that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary.” (Isa. 50:4–9)
“Surely He has born our griefs and carried our sorrows….” (Isa.52:13–53:12)
“Being born in the likeness of men...”
He was born as all of us are after 9 months in the womb, but He was sinless, and in this important way differed from other humans. We are Adam’s warped copies.
“And being found in human form”-- “found in fashion as a man”
“He humbled Himself”
John 5–8 has more than 30 statements of Jesus’ dependence on the Father. It is quite amazing and generally ignored. His humility is almost unbelievable.
“The Son can do nothing of His own accord, but only what He sees the Father doing….” (Jn.5:19). The monolog begins with “My Father is working still, and I am working.” (Jn.5:17) . It ends with “…I always do what is pleasing to Him.” (Jn.8:29).
“And became obedient unto death”
Death is not a question of obedience for us; it is inevitable, a necessity. It was an option for Him. He obeyed. “Lo, I have come to do Your will, O God.” (Heb.10:7)
“Even death on a cross.”
It was the worst death contrived by the Romans, a terror weapon. ”Far be the name of a cross, not only from the body, but even from the thought, the eyes, the ears of Roman citizens. “—Cicero, quoted in Philippians. Tyndale; New Test. Comment. R.P. Martin; IVP,’99, p.103.
Further, because He was "hanged on a tree", it carried God’s curse as well. Deut.21:23
“Therefore God has highly exalted Him”
His exaltation is above all humans and all spiritual beings.
“And bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in Heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” “Jesus Christ is Lord.” "Lord" is a name for God.
Isaiah wrote, “…I am God, and there is no other. By Myself I have sworn, from My mouth has gone forth in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To Me every knee shall bow and every tongue shall swear.’” (Isa.45:22–23). In this quotation, it is God to whom every knee shall bow. In Philippians it is to Jesus that every knee shall bow. Jesus Christ is Lord and He is God.
Paul shows another dimension of this OT quote in Rom.14:12: "For as it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me and every tongue shall give praise to God.’ So each of us shall give account of himself to God.” So it is not just the sinful world that will bow, but all of us will be humbled in His presence as well.
To understand the expression” He emptied Himself”, we look first to the text and find the phrases that provide the basic meaning:
"Taking the form of a servant"
"Being born in the likeness of men"
"Being found in fashion as a man,"
"He humbled Himself"
"Became obedient unto death,"
"Even death on a cross."
"He emptied Himself." That would seem to be enough, but we have so much information about how Jesus lived and what He said, that we want to go on further. We want to know how God could be restricted to human form and still be God. Three attributes of God are usually studied in connection with Christ’s humanity: mnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence.
*Omnipotence: Did He have all power?
He did things no human had ever done. He stopped storms, fed thousands, healed the multitudes, raised the dead.
He had twelve legions of angels at His disposal. Matt.26:53.
After the Resurrection, He said “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me”. (Matt.28:18)
*Omnipresence: Was He everywhere present?
He healed at a distance. Matt.8:13; Lk.17:14
“Where two or three are gathered in My Name, there am I in the midst.” (Matt.18:20)
“No one has ascended into heaven but He who descended from heaven, the Son of Man who is in Heaven.” (Jn.3:18, variant reading.)
After the Resurrection, He was not limited by time and space.
*Omniscience: Did He know all things?
“He knew all men and needed no one to hear witness of man, for He Himself knew what was in man” (Jn.2:25).
“Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray Him. “ (Jn.6:64)
“…signifying by what death he (Peter) should glorify God.” (Jn.21:19)
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven "" nor the Son but the Father only. (Matt.24:36, with variant reading). This is His only known limitation of knowledge.
Some scholars interpret the text to say that when Jesus “emptied Himself” He gave up the independent exercise of His divine attributes. But it is inconceivable that any member of the Trinity would ever exercise independence on anything. Better to say that He became completely dependent on the Father as a human being.
What the Father, Son and Holy Spirit enjoyed before creation we can only imagine. Who would give it up? We have little understanding of Jesus’ role before His coming into the world as a child—an image we adore at Christmas. His role in Creation seems far away and hard to imagine. But His appearances are numerous in the OT—Adam in the garden of Eden, Enoch, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. He is the Angel of the Lord, the Messenger of the Covenant at work, communicating the will of God and showing the glory of God long before His earthly life.
These visits to earth presaged a longer and much more painful visit in which He would hide His glory, work to exhaustion and die in shame before those who hated Him. Who would give up perfect rest, perfect peace, perfect knowledge, and perfect power? The scent, the sights of worship and the singing of Heaven were given up for suffocating, dusty towns in the middle East, walking around manure, hearing the shouts of hawkers and the cries of the poor, the clutching of the beggars and the jeers of the religious, the brutality of the soldiers.
But He had to do it. It was predestined. He was the only One who could bring light out of darkness, and open the narrow gate to life.
“Have this mind in you” asks us to cooperate with each other in the church body in humility and kindness. We are given an incomparable example of meekness and patience to follow.
“...we have the mind of Christ.” (ICor.2:16)