Philippians 2:3-11 & Psalm 111:1-7
Although Paul’s letter to the Philippians is usually seen as reflecting a warm relationship between Paul and the congregation, and a similarly exemplary fellowship within the congregation, the situation of disunity in the church is the background against which Philippians is to be read. Since the members in the Philippians church did not get along with one another, they could not share their faith effectively. That’s why Paul wrote this letter to the Christians in the Philippians Church. He said in verse 3, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.” This is the first step to this kind of unity. In the flesh, we are often motivated by selfish ambition. Much of what we do is not done out of love for others, but out of our own selfish desire. I understand that not all ambition is selfish, and there is a good ambition to glorify God and serve Him with everything we have.
But in this letter, the Apostle Paul talks about “selfish ambition” that causes disunity in the Body of Christ. He also said, “Let nothing be done through … conceit.” This is the second step toward unity. Conceit is thinking too highly of oneself. That’s why Paul said, “In lowliness of mind let each regard others better than himself.” This third step to the kind of unity is completely contradictory to the attitude of the world, because lowliness of mind is about the least attractive thing to the thinking of this world. In this world, people spend their time, money, and energy to become more powerful, beautiful, attractive, and popular.
Paul continues in verse 4, “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” Paul doesn’t tell us that it is wrong to look out for our own interests, but that we should not only look out for our own interests. If we are concerned about our own needs and interests only, we are bound to come into conflict with other people. If we always look down on other people, we are bound to disunity. If we always do things from selfish ambition, we cannot work in harmony. If we always think that we are better than other people, we cannot expect to become the church God wants us to be. That’s why the Apostle Paul suggested to do these things so that they could live in harmony and to accomplish God’s mission more effectively. Individually as well as a church, we must imitate Christ. This is the best way to live together. It is the most effective way to fulfill God’s mission.
Jesus was in the form of God. Paul says in verses 5-6, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God . . .” But let this mind shows us that it is also something we must choose to walk in. Jesus voluntarily chose to empty and to humble himself. Jesus took the form of a bond servant. “if the slave plainly says,‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free, then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.”
There are two Greek words for form—morphe and schema. They must both be translated as form, because there is no other English equivalent; but But they do not mean the same thing. Morphe is the essential from which never alters. Schema is the outward form which changes from time to time and from circumstance to circumstance. For example, the morphe of any human being is humanity, and this never changes; but a person’s schema is continually changing. A bay, a child, a teenager, young adult, middle age, and an elderly always have the morphe of humanity, but the outward schema changes all the time. The word Paul uses for Jesus being in the form of God is morphe—His unchangeable nature of divinity. But his outward schema changed when he was born as a human baby.
Jesus humbled Himself when He became obedient. Indeed, He humbled Himself. He was humble in that he took the form of a man, and not a more glorious creature like an angel. He was humble in that He was born into poverty, among a despised people. He was humble in the companions and disciples He chose. He was humble in the temptations He allowed and endured. He was humble in the weakness, hunger, thirst, and tiredness He endured. He was humble in His total obedience to His Heavenly Father. He was humble in the shame, mocking, and public humiliation of His death.
“obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.” Crucifixion was the worst form of execution in Roman world. So they did not crucify the Roman citizens. To the Jews, those who are crucified are considered as the one who are cursed by God. Even the death of the cross also shows that there is no limit to what God will do to demonstrate His love.
Vv. 9-11: God exalted Jesus: 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
In the book of Psalm 111, the writer praises God for His great works. He said in verse 1-2, “Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them. Full of honor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever.” But the writer also describes the attributes of God in this Psalm. He describes God as gracious, merciful, mindful of his covenant, compassionate, faithful, just, and trustworthy. Jesus Christ is God.
Imitating Christ means to imitate God. So are we gracious, merciful, keep our promises, compassionate, faithful, just, and trustworthy? Like Christ our Lord, can we humble ourselves and regard others better than us? For the sake of unity, can we consider interests of others? Like Jesus, can we empty and humble ourselves and obedient to God? Can we live our lives with the mind of Christ? Let us pray!