Philippians 2:1-11

Philippians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  39:03
0 ratings
· 20 views
Files
Notes
Transcript

Philippians 2:1-11

Philippians 2:1–11 “Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort provided by love, any fellowship in the Spirit, any affection or mercy, complete my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in spirit, and having one purpose. Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well. You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who, though he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death —even death on a cross! As a result God highly exalted him and gave him the name, that is above every name, so that at the name of…”
INTRODUCTION TBD.
Philippians 2:1–2 NET 2nd ed.
Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort provided by love, any fellowship in the Spirit, any affection or mercy, complete my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in spirit, and having one purpose.
Because we’re reading Philippians so slowly, it’s important to keep the big picture context of the letter in mind, not read it out of context.
Why were they needing comfort?
1)Anxious about Paul Being in prison
2) They were going through some kind of trial:
Philippians 1:29–30 “For it has been granted to you not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for him, since you are encountering the same conflict that you saw me face and now hear that I am facing.”
Recall from last week the Roman identity of Philippi
Part of the reason they were so Roman: 42 BC there was a civil war in rome, if you’re familiar with the famous story of Julius Casar being stabbed on the senate floor, it had to do with the fall out of that.
The major deciding battle in that war happened in Philippi
Brutus lost (Et tu Brute) and the war was decided.
The general of the winning side, Marc Antony turned to his army, some of the old soldiers and said, “war’s over, you can retire. A lot of them, on the spot, settled in town of Philippi
So the reason Philippi was so loyal to rome was because the vast majority oft he population were old war vets who served in the Roman Army
In Rome it was expected of you to bow down and worship not only the roman idols, but also Caesar.
In the opinion of the Romans, the emperor wasn’t just a leader, he was a “god”
they believed they were directly descended from the roman god Heracles (AKA hercules): half god half man, son of zeus, who displayed his might on the earth.
As roman Christians, they aren’t going to kneel before caesar. They aren’t going to confess that he is Lord over them. \
At the same time: there was pressure from the Jewish side of things
There was one ethnic group in all of the roman empire who was exempt from having to bow down and worship Caesar, and worship the roman idols: It was this tiny little ethnic group from way out east called the Jews.
Early on in the history of the Church, as far as rome was concerned, the early Christians were just Jews. Rome didn’t care, they didn’t know the difference
This worked out great for the early church
They weren’t compelled to worship the roman pantheon
Remember those “certain men from Judea” the ones who wanted the Gentiles to be circumcised and follow all of the law of moses? And the Church decided, no, in order to be saved, you don’t have to follow the law of moses, you don’t have to be circumcised, you don’t have to keep the food laws. At a bare minimum all you are required to do is keep from sexual immorality, don’t worship idols, and don’t eat blood.
Here’s the deal: At a certain point, if you’re not ethinically jewish, and you’re not circumcized, and you don’t keep the food laws, and you don’t keep the law of moses…at a certain point you don’t get to keep calling yourself Jewish.
At a certain point, other Jews will stop claiming for you to be Jewish. (No no, they’re not with us, they’re a whole new thing now,—Christians.)
Now all of a sudden, remember that exemption from worshipping Caesar? that’s gone now.
That creates a pressure. Christians are pressured either to bow down to caesar, and to confess him as lord, or to become circumcized…which would be to deny the good news of Jesus. (and in fact that pressure is going to come up again a little later when we get into chapter 3.
That’s the background behind which Paul describes their struggle like we talked about last week, like fighting in the arena. Standing firm for the gospel, being united in Christ
Philippians 2:1 NET 2nd ed.
Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort provided by love, any fellowship in the Spirit, any affection or mercy,
In other words, if Christ offers you any semblance of comfort during this trial…and he should
Philippians 2:2 NET 2nd ed.
complete my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in spirit, and having one purpose.
We’re referencing back to Philippians 1:3–5 “I thank my God every time I remember you. I always pray with joy in my every prayer for all of you because of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.”
Same mind, same love, united in spirit. One Purpose. That last one your bible might say “one mind” and it might say “one purpose”
Literally what the word is is “mind” but the phrase, being of one mind gives the idea of being united in purpose, not just in thought and actions.
Unity is something that can be achieved in several different ways.
In our modern culture unity is achieved by each person’s selfish ambitions playing off of one another. That’s capitalism in a nutshell. That’s our political system in a nutshell
The democrats want one thing and the republicans want another thing, and the people in Nebraska want one thing and the people in Philadelphia want another thing.
Each person casts their vote, and we have this system where each person’s self interests puts pressure on the system, and in theory pushes things toward a compromise.
In the ancient world, unity was acheived through monarchy. through leadership.
We’re all unified because Caesar decides what we do and think and worship
fall in line, or be put to the sword.
we may not like it, but technically that’s unity too. If everybody just bows the knee to me, then we’ll all be united.
How Paul describes unity:
Philippians 2:3 NET 2nd ed.
Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself.
The word there for vanity, literally means “empty glory”
Philippians 2:4 NET 2nd ed.
Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well.
-Example: being at a four way stop, and you both get there at the same time, and one person says “you go” and the other says “No I insist, you go” silly example, but that’s christian unity.
Philippians 2:5 NET 2nd ed.
You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had,
As we read v. 6-11 we are going to have to step back a little bit from Paul’s letter. Here’s why.
v. 6-11 is a very famous passage of scripture, we read it all the time. here’s one thing we’re fairly certain about it:
It’s not original to Paul’s letter. what I mean by that is that we’re fairly certain it was written before Philippians.
How do we know that?
You can tell by the structure, and the phrasing of the section that it’s a poem, or a hymn. Much like you can pretty quickly figure out if something is a poem in english, it’s pretty obvious in the Greek that this is a poem or a song or a hymn, buy the way it’s structured.
It uses words that Paul never uses in his other letters. and describes thing in a way that simply don’t sound like Paul.
A good teacher who gets a lot of papers in class from students, if they get enough papers from the same student, after a while they can tell who wrote it just from the style. It’s what we have here in Philippians. It’s just not Paul’s style. \
So based on that, most people are virtually certain that this was something that Paul is quoting. either a hymn, or a chant, or a saying, and paul is quoting it here.
Because of that it will be helpful to look at this passage in two different ways
Looking at it as a complete unit, and understanding it from it’s own context and how it might have been understood
Looking at it through the lens of how Paul himself uses it in his letter.

Philippians 2:6-11

Philippians 2:6–11 NET 2nd ed.
who, though he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death —even death on a cross! As a result God highly exalted him and gave him the name, that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will 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.
Philippians 2:6 NET 2nd ed.
who, though he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped,
Morphe theou (form of God, shape of god, image of God)
I want to talk about this phrase “existing in the ‘form’ of God
If we’re looking at the text carefully and paying very close attention, this is one of those verses that we have to really pay attention to when we’re talking about how the early church described Jesus
Trinity
We’ve taken all of scripture and the different things that it says about Jesus, and we’ve come up with a very specific way of describing what and who exactly Jesus is in relationship to the father.
and because it’s such a complicated thing to think about, over the past 2,000 years we have very VERY specific language that we use when we talk about the divinivity and humanity of Jesus
Fully god, fully man
Jesus is not the father, but he is fully God.
He didn’t merely “look” like a man, he didn’t merely “look” like god. He IS god, he IS man
Problem
The way Philippians 2:6 describes it, if we’re being completely honest with the text, it actually doesn’t line up perfectly with what most christians would call “approved doctrine”
In otherwords, if we wrote this description about Jesus today, someone who has really studied the trinity and all of that big heavy theological doctrine would say, “no that’s technically not the correct way to describe Jesus.
Because what it says here is that he was “equal with God” and that he was in the “form” of God. the word there means “shape, or image, or appearance”
How do we reconcile this?
People will go to the extreme and say “aha, that’s it, this proves it. The trinity isn’t biblical, the word trinity isn’t found in the bible, and this verse shows that the trinity isn’t true.
That’s extreme, and I think it’s unhelpful
And it fails to take into account the entire Bible and how the entire Bible describes Jesus.
Instead, I think what this verse can tell us, is that we, over the past 2,000 years have a lot of pressure historically to be able to use the exact precice words to describe Jesus, and the exact proper theologically correct doctrine to describe the father and the son and the holy spirit, and there’s a lot of pressure to use the exact right language and put the definition of Jesus into a very neat specific box.
I think, that the early church didn’t feel that pressure.
If they did, they would have used language that is more precice, more consistent, language that lines up neatly and doesn’t give us problems when we’re trying to figure this out.
The early church absolutely knew that Jesus was fully God and fully man, that’s how he’s described elsewhere, that’s how he’s described in the second half of this verse, “equality with god”
At the same time, they knew that the whole thing was a mystery. They knew that God is so big that human language doesn’t have the exact right words to describe the fullness of God
And they didn’t feel that pressure to use the proper theologically approved language
so they described a mysterious thing in a way that is in line with how you describe mysterious things
and without that pressure, they were free to just express who jesus is, without any fear of someone saysing, “technically, that’s not how you’re supposed to describe the trinity”
they would have been like “dude, what are you talking about, it’s a poem. you’re missing the point
What we can take from that is, I know a lot of us struggle with those big theological concepts, and how to describe them , and how to understand them, and I think we can feel free to get close. We don’t need to get caught up in the weeds at trying to put God in the neat little theological box that we try to do.
Here’s the dangerous thing, there are a few Bible translations that are so locked into the box of how to describe Jesus in a theologically consistent way, that they change the text for us
Philippians 2:6 NIV
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
Philippians 2:6 NLT
Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
And I think it’s admirable, because they want to give Jesus all the credit he deserves....but we also have to be honest with ourselves, that’s not what the text in the greek says. It says “form” of God.
Rather than feel pressure to be perfectly theologically consistent, we should submit to the text, and just be comfortable with wresting with what the text actually says.
Philippians 2:7 NET 2nd ed.
but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature.
This verse has all the same questions and all the same issues that he previous verse did, but in this verse instead of talking about the Divinity of Jesus, we’re talking about the humanity of Jesus
it uses the same word, morphe, form. of man.
Philippians 2:8 NET 2nd ed.
He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death —even death on a cross!
The word there, humbled, has a very strong connotation behind it. it’s not humbled in a non-nonchalant way. It’s humbled to the point of humiliation. Jesus Christ, equal with God, with all the power of the universe, took on the form of a Slave. Not just a man, not just any man, but of a servant, of a slave.
And was obedient to death
And as an aside, remember that this was a poem, it’s very neatly divided up into stanzas… like a limerick, there once was a man from nantucket, it’s got a rhythm to it.
But that last line, “even death on a cross” breaks the poetic pattern in the text.
Most people think that that part, that’s paul adding in just to make sure the reader is aware of the importance of that part.
Philippians 2:9 NET 2nd ed.
As a result God highly exalted him and gave him the name, that is above every name,
That’s the name “Lord”
As we were talking about the trinity stuff, and how we describe Jesus, this is really important.
In your bible, if you look in the old testament, you will find the word L-O-R-D lord, in all capital letters. In hebrew, there was a tradition to not say the name of God. It was so holy, and so important that they believed that the name of God, YHWH you didn’t even say it. So when they read the scriptures in the hebrew Bible, and they saw the name of God on the page, they would replace it with the hebrew word “adonai” the hebrew word for “lord”
that tradition bled over into the translations from hebrew into Greek, and hebrew into Latin, and also hebrew into English.
So instead of the word “YHWH” we have the word “Lord”
So when we read the word “Lord” in the new testament with reference to Jesus, what we should understand is that the implication is that the “name” of jesus that God gave him is the name of God, fullness of God
Again, I don’t think we need to press the details. Because it says God “gave” him the name above all names, implying that he didn’t have it before…but if we press too hard I think we miss the beauty of what the poem is doing.
Jesus, equal with God, at the highest place, comes down from his throne
down to earth.
Not just that, but he comes down to the lowest status on earth. a slave.
and not just that but then he is obedient to the lowest point even beyond that. to the grave. to death.
and in the poem you see this V pattern, where Jesus starts up high, and goes down, and down and down, the the lowest possible point, and then God “highly exalts” him.
The word is the word “exalt” with the prefix “hyper” like we have speed, and then there’s hyper speed
there’s exalted, and then there’s “hyper exalted”
Philippians 2:10 NET 2nd ed.
so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow —in heaven and on earth and under the earth—
Philippians 2:11 NET 2nd ed.
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
In the Original text, by the way, the phrase”Jesus Christ is Lord” is actually written as direct speech.
so the thing you’re supposed to be imagining isn’t every creature bowing down before Jesus, and then turning to their neighbor and saying “hey, Jesus Christ is Lord”
But the way it’s written it’s every creature bowing down before the king, proclaiming, JESUS CHRIST, LORD.
every knee will bow and every tongue will confess. In heaven, on the earth, and under the earth.
Fascinating: the phrase Under the earth is a direct reference to the greek and roman pantheon.
Remember all the stuff about Caesar, and hercules, it all comes full circle.
The roman and greek religion believed that there were three major realms.
There was the heavenly realm, and it was composed of the heavenly dieties…Jupiter, the roman version of Zeus, Mars, the god of war, Venus the God of love (notice how most of our planets are named after roman gods) they were all the “heavenly gods”
Then there’s the earthly realm. that’s the realm of the “earthly gods” namely the emperors of the roman empire
And then there’s the underworld, the realm of dieties “under the earth” hades, pluto, the “gods” of the underworld.
Heracles (hercules), acording to the roman religion
Was a son of Jupiter (zeus)
He was born on earth, in the form of a human. But he had god-like strenght and power.
He was famous for using his power to get whatever he wanted whenever he wanted
women
money
fame
victory in war
But he was always just a “half god, half man”
better than all the other humans, but never quite as good as the “real” gods
Heracles lived his life using his power and abilities to serve himself, until the human part of him was killed, and he “ascended” to the realm of the heavenly gods
finally he had proved his power enough to have a spot among the gods
Jesus
Exact opposite
Son of not just “a” god, but the one true God.
not merely half god half man, but equal to God
yet he didn’t act like the legend of heracles
in fact he did the exact opposite
he had his position in heaven and instead of serving himself, he stepped down into the lowest realms
he was obedient until the point of death
and God hyper exalted him to the highest position of honor
not just in a seat among the many different gods
but a name that is above all names
And so every knee will bow
remember what we talked about with the emperor of rome? what did he expect people to do?
This poem says not to ceasar, not to jupiter, not to heracles…every knee will bow
all of your little “gods” that you worship so much
all of your little “emperors” that you worship so much
all of your dieties of the underworld who you think wield so much power
All three realms will bend the knee to Christ
all three realms will confess, Lord, Jesus Christ
[GET KIDS]
When you compare this hymn to the cultural context at the time
The purpose of it was to proclaim Jesus as Lord, in opposition to the greek and roman idols
it was to proclaim Jesus as superior to the emperor, superior to all the roman gods
and it was most likely used in places like Philippi as an evangelism tool
a quick little poem that was easy to memorize, that anyone who lived in a roman context could repeat to someone as they were sharing the gospel
something that could be repeated in the church assembly so that people who were new could see right away what Jesus was all about
Theory
It actually originated in Philippi. it was something the philippian church had written, and at some point had shared with Paul
“hey paul check out this hymn we wrote, what do you think? Maybe it came along with the message and gift from epaphroditus
maybe it was the reason that paul was so overjoyed with them and their unity for the gospel
If that’s true, (again, it’s theory, so take it with a huge grain of salt) that would mean that paul is quoting their own poem back to them, almost as a nod of respect.
And he’s using it in the context of teaching unity
Let’s bring it all back to the context of paul’s letter
Paul’s telling the church to stand firm in the arena, he’s telling them to be united, don’t bend the knee to your opponents
and he’s telling them the way you display unity is through humility?
and he uses their own poem to show it.
what kind of humility should you display? well it should look a lot like our Lord’s
He was in heaven, in full form and equality with the father
he stepped down off of his throne, took on the form of a slave, became humiliated, was obedient to death, and then he adds, not just any death. A criminals death.
that’s the standard for the humility you need in the church.
Check this out
Look at how Paul frames up the entire first chapter to fit with this hymn
What does he call himself and timothy? slaves of Christ
when he describes his stay in prison, what does he do? he displays his willingness to be obdient, to exalt christ no matter what, even to the point of death?
my only hope is that christ is exalted in my body, whether I live or die
Later on Paul is going to say
Philippians 3:17 NET 2nd ed.
Be imitators of me, brothers and sisters, and watch carefully those who are living this way, just as you have us as an example.
Paul uses this phrase in other parts of scripture, and in other letters he follows up with
1 Corinthians 11:1 NET 2nd ed.
Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
Here in philippians he lays it out for you, and expects you to be able to be paying close enough to his letter to understand that “as I imitate christ” is evident in the phrase.
In the world we live in, we have a lot of Caesars who want us to bow down to them
we have a lot of things that can divide us
we have a lot of idols that can lead us astray
And we have a choice.
we can be like heracles.
we can be like nero
we can demand unity through submission
we can force everyone to bend the knee to us
OR
we can immitate Christ
we can humble ourselves, we can put others above ourselves
and here’s the deal, no matter which one you choose, you will eventually bend the knee to christ. every knee will bend. every tongue will confess, direclty, Lord. Jesus Christ.
so Paul urges us here, if we want unity in the church, follow the head. put yourself low. express unity through humility. follow christ.
pray.
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more