Isn’t it about time that people recognize all that I do for this company? Shouldn’t the boss tell others what a good worker I am? Shouldn’t I be the first one who gets awarded at the next meeting? These thoughts, though not exactly what you would say, may have gone through your mind. We proud people want to be recognized for our character, effort, and personality. But is this how a Christian should think?
As you may recall, Paul was addressing some unwritten needs within the Philippian church. Perhaps he had heard reports of how certain people were filled with pride and were wanting to be recognized by others. Or maybe there were some who were unwilling to do menial tasks because of their position in the community or church. These bad attitudes needed to be addressed.
In the first part of the chapter (2:1-4), Paul reminded them that if they had been consoled, comforted, brought into fellowship with, and pitied by the Lord, then they should be like-minded with other Christians, should be humble, and should be caring about others. But if those arguments were not enough, he pointed them to the example of the Lord Jesus. And as you see his mindset, you will have no excuse to be proud.
- Jesus lowered himself (6-7).
When George Bush was president, I heard that he and his wife would help out the poor people in their community. Imagine a president lowering himself to work with people who couldn’t care for themselves. That was a good example. But Jesus is an even better example.
a. He didn’t let his deity keep him from acting (6).
He was in the form of God.
“This word (trans. ‘form’ in the KJV and NASB) stresses the inner essence or reality of that with which it is associated… . Christ Jesus, Paul said, is of the very essence (morphe) of God… . The Savior’s claim to deity infuriated the Jewish leaders (John 5:18) and caused them to accuse Him of blasphemy (John 10:33)” (Lightner 654).
He didn’t grasp at His deity.
In the KJV and NKJV, the translation refers to robbery. “This is, I confess, a rather stilted translation” (McGee 301). The idea is not that Jesus thought that being equal to God was a robbery. The Greek wording means, not something to be grasped at or held onto.
“Though possessing full deity (John 1:14; Col. 2:9), Christ did not consider His equality with God (Phil. 2:6) as something to be grasped or held onto” (Lightner 654). In other words, He did not demand to be treated with all the honor and glory He deserved when faced with the task given Him. And he did not use His deity as a means to his own ends.
Think about that. Jesus, who is God, and who deserves all the honor and glory we can give Him, didn’t let that hold Him back from doing what needed to be done.
b. He left his reputation to become a man (7).
He emptied Himself.
“The words [made Himself of no reputation] are, literally, ‘He emptied Himself.’ ‘Emptied,’ from the Greek kenoo, points to the divesting of His self-interests, but not of His deity” (Lightner 654).
“The word does not mean He emptied Himself of His deity, but rather He emptied Himself of the display of His deity for personal gain. … to use what He had to His own advantage” (R&R 550).
In other words, Jesus did not let His position as God keep Him from accomplishing what needed to be done. He emptied Himself of any desire to remain in heaven, receiving glory, and being revered as God. He did this because we needed Him.
He became a servant.
“‘The very nature of a servant’ certainly points to His lowly and humble position, His willingness to obey the Father, and serve others” (Lightner 654).
Just think that Jesus was a carpenter who worked on people’s houses and furniture. He was someone who served others and yet He was still God who deserved to be served Himself.
He became a man.
“‘Likeness’ suggests similarity but difference. Though His humanity was genuine, He was different from all other humans in that He was sinless (Heb. 4:15)” (Lightner 654) and divine.
APPLIC. If Jesus willingly lowered Himself from such a place of honor, shouldn’t we be willing to do the same?
- Jesus humbled himself (8).
Jesus not only lowered Himself in reputation, but he also humbled Himself. He did this in two ways.
a. He humbled Himself by becoming a man.
“Some have wrongly taught that the phrase, being found in appearance as a man (Phil. 2:8), means that He only looked human. But this contradicts verse 7. ‘Appearance; is the Greek schemati, meaning an outer appearance which may be temporary. This contrasts with morphe (‘very nature’) in verses 6 and 7, which speaks of an outer appearance that reveals permanent inner quality” (Lightner 654).
Although Jesus has always been God, He temporarily became a man.
ILLUS. J. Vernon McGee gives the example of him having trouble with ants. The ants came into his house and stole sugar from the sugar bowl. He could not convince them to stop their sugar runs, so he had to kill them. He thought that if only he could become an ant and talk to them. Becoming an ant would be quite the humbling of a man.
Jesus’ becoming a man was a big step down. But He was willing to do this and even more.
b. He humbled himself enough to die.
Jesus’ humility is seen not only in His becoming human, but also in His willingness to die the terrible death on the cross. We often talk about His death, but we don’t understand how terrible it was. “It was the most cruel and despicable form of death… . This form of capital punishment was limited to non-Romans and the worst criminals” (Lightner 654). He humbled Himself to endure this for us.
APPLIC. The great pain that Jesus experienced was for us and not deserved by Him. If Jesus was willing to humble Himself to such an extent, shouldn’t we be willing to do so?
- Jesus was exalted (9-11).
Prince Charles has been the next in line to the throne for many years. And when his mother, Queen Elizabeth, died, he was exalted to be king. This was a step that happened because of his position in the family. But in the case of Jesus, it was different. He was already God but had humbled Himself. What was God the Father’s response to this?
a. He was highly exalted.
How was Jesus highly exalted?
“The exaltation refers to His resurrection, ascension, and glorification at the Father’s right hand (Acts 2:33; Heb. 1:3)” (Lightner 654).
b. He was given an exalted name.
What does giving Him a name signify?
“His ‘name’ is not merely a title; it refers to His person and to His position of dignity and honor” (Lightner 654). After all that Jesus did, is there any doubt that he deserves all the honor we can give Him and more?
Who will bow before Jesus?
“The extent of Christ’s sovereign authority is delineated in the three-fold phrase, in heaven and on earth and under the earth. No intelligent being—whether angels and saints in heaven; people living on the earth; or Satan, demons, and the unsaved in hell—in all of God’s universe will escape. All will bow either willingly or they will be made to do so” (Lightner 654).
What will they confess?
“One day all will be made to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is all He claimed to be—very God of very God. Unfortunately, for many it will be too late for the salvation of their souls” (Lightner 654-55).
And this confession will bring glory to God for all that has been accomplished.
APPLIC. If God the Father honored the humility of Jesus, and if He is greatly glorified by honoring Jesus, do you think He will be pleased by our following Jesus’ example?
What is the point of these verses? The point is that we should have the same mindset that Jesus did. Since He did not demand to be held in high esteem, we should not. Since He humbled himself, we should do the same. And since God the Father exalted Him for doing so, we know that this is what pleases God.
Don’t let your desire for reputation or recognition control the way that you think and act. When we are full of pride and expect that people honor us, we are not acting like followers of Christ.
Lightner, Robert P., “Philippians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, p. 653-55.
McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. V, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983, pp. 301-06.
Rienecker, Fritz, and Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976, p. 549-51.