Devotional # 124. 2/15/15. Philippians 2:1-8.
Intro. Last week Paul brought fellowship and living or dying for Christ together. This week Paul keeps these ideas but he shares how humility is necessary. And, as always, it was Jesus who was humble first – that’s why He can request the same from us.
vv. 1-2. The “if” here can also be translated “since” – in other words each part of verse 1 is true and absolute. So Paul I saying: “since there is absolute consolation in Christ” and “since there is absolute comfort of love” and “since there is absolute fellowship of the Spirit” and “since there is always affection and mercy” – then complete my happiness by having the same love and the same mindset. What would really make Paul happy? If the Christians in Philippi could get along and be united.
I think of times when I was a little kid and I would have a bad dream and my mom would take care of me. I felt affection and comfort, I felt safe. And, although at the time I didn’t think of it this way, I felt fellowship. It wasn’t necessarily that I had to bring anything to the relationship but I knew I was safe. In the same way we feel safety with our heavenly Father, not that we really have to do anything to earn that safety, just that it’s simply there. When we’ve experienced the love of a parent it can be an example for us on how to give that same type of love to others. So if I’ve been comforted in a stressful situation then I am able to comfort somebody when they are scared. So God has loved us and comforted us and because Christians have experienced that we can offer it to our brothers and sisters.
vv. 3-4. A good lesson in humility. I appreciate that Paul doesn’t tell us to never care for ourselves but to look out for others also (v. 4). It’s like when Jesus said to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves (Mt. 22:39, Mark 12:31). But we should really think about the part that says “esteem others better than [ourselves].” Guzik points out what will naturally happen if this is followed. “I consider you above me and you consider me above you, then a marvelous thing happens: we have a community where everyone is looked up to, and no one is looked down on” (Source 1).
vv. 5-7. Several commentators* regard this as “holy ground.” But why? Because we get a glimpse at the dynamic of the Trinity. If you’re like me you don’t understand how God can be One but also Three Persons. These verses hint at how Jesus is fully God and fully Man. But first it’s important to look at the first word in verse 5. When it says “let this mind be in you” the use of “let” means that we have a choice. We have to make a conscience effort to have the same mindset as was in Jesus. What was Jesus’ mindset? It was that although He was God, He had the humility to become a Man since it meant saving people from their sin. Another translation puts it like this: “Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God” (NLT). John Courson says when He (Jesus) claimed to be God (“I and the Father are One” and “He who has seen Me has seen the Father”) He was not robbing the Father, He wasn’t claiming something He had no right to. The trinity is not three different people. It wasn’t a 2 to 1 vote -“who thinks Jesus should go to earth?” Jesus could have claimed His right to stay in Heaven but He came to earth to die on the cross (Source 2). So Jesus “made Himself of no reputation” (v. 7), the key word being “made”. It’s a great comparison to see that Jesus “made Himself” (in other words volunteered) in the same way that He asks us to “let” ourselves have the same mindset as Him.
So how do we make that conscious effort to have the humble mindset that Jesus had? The answer is in verse 7. “The mind of Christ is that of de-basing Himself and serving” (Source 3). One thing that the world has taught us is that when we live for ourselves and try to make ourselves happy it ends up leaving us discontent. But when that lesson leaves us depressed and miserable there is the fulfillment of that lesson and our salvation in the example of Jesus Christ.
I struggle with missing the opportunity here to mention that as I’ve said many times before: Depression is healed by serving others. But also not wanting to minimize the greatness of what Jesus said by just turning it into a self-help exercise. I guess the perfect balance is when you realize that Jesus really has your best in mind. He did something we could never do (and something no human could ever even make up!) and when we de-base ourselves we actually are freed from depression and anxiety and greed and “selfish ambition” and “conceit” – that not being the goal but a bonus.
* John Stott and J. Vernon McGee.
v. 8. Beyond coming in the “appearance” of a man (since He was still fully God) being a humble thing to do (and at that, being born to a poor family) it was yet another step down into the lowest of the low to die for our sins. But have you ever thought about why it was that Jesus had to die on a Roman cross? Why couldn’t He die a normal death? Like maybe of old age or something? The answer is because the magnitude of our sin is a horrible death on the cross. Sin had to be crushed and punished in the worst form of capital punishment known at that time (Source 3).
Conclusion. We would miss the point if we locked in on just one thing to try and make us better. Like if we said “I’ll try out this serving others thing because I’m depressed” then it will only marginally work. It all revolves around Jesus and there is more than just that simple lesson. One layer is that we’re learning how to get along with other believers (Church unity). Another layer is how the Trinity worked when Jesus offered and emptied Himself (in a big version of how He washed feet in John 13:1-17). Another layer is the benefits (mostly seen once we get to heaven) of serving others. And finally the crux: that He didn’t just come to earth to look around but to die for our sins!
Source 1: David Guzik, http://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Phl/Phl_2.cfm?a=1105001 .
Source 2: John Courson, https://www.blueletterbible.org/audio_video/courson_jon/Phl/Philippians.cfm .
Source 3: Troy VanderWende sermon, 5/2/10.