THE BOOK OF PHILIPPIANS
J. Deering, AncientPath.net
2:1-2 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
Note: If you look at verses 1 and 2 closely you will see that verse 2 is identical in meaning - only using different words.
Intro to Chapter Two
Chapter one ends by telling believers that it is Paul’s wish that we can be in such a place that we find ourselves immersed in suffering and pain for the sake of the Gospel because that would be best for us. Paul’s imprisonment and suffering (for the gospel’s sake) had as a product the encouragement and building up of believers. Think of the advancement of the gospel that came about because of the life of Paul. Much of that life was characterized by persecution, suffering, and imprisonment.
But Paul moves on from suffering, pain, and imprisonment into the necessity of unity. He now says that the Philippian assembly could, now at the latter years of Paul’s life and ministry, make his joy complete through unity of mind, love, spirit, and purpose.
Paul’s letter is like a letter to one’s own children. “Dear children, if you would now learn to minister for Christ in such a way that He would be demonstrated in your unity of mind, unity of love, unity of spirit, and unity of purpose toward each other in the gospel.”
This would come about because:
there is encouragement in Christ,
there is consolation of love,
there is fellowship of the Spirit,
there is affection and compassion,
found in the Body of Christ by the very grace of God.
So, what have we learned so far closing out chapter 1 and beginning chapter 2? If we have been paying attention we should answer that everything hinges on UNITY. Unity in the God-head; unity within the body of Christ; and unity itself is our personal goal in walking the Christian walk.
Paul has brought up the importance of unity paragraph by paragraph until now. Why such a thrust by Paul in establishing unity as the key element in our faith?
The next eight verses will call upon us to understand how elemental unity is to God; Father; Son; and Spirit. They are one.
In the following verses we need to know just what it is that Jesus, the pre-incarnate Christ, the incarnate Son of God did or did not do in the establishment of our salvation – for the very unity of the God-head demonstrates that there is but one God. We will see no division as to the “will” of God even though we are presented with the revelation that He is three persons. Only One God, only one essence, only one Deity.
2:3-11 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
There are two messages in the understanding of this verse. Immediately we recognize that Paul was encouraging the believers in Philippi to enter into a harmonious relationship with one another. It is certainly in the very core of Christian teachings that we are not to be selfish or self-centered as members of the Body of Christ. Paul goes on to say that we are to do everything as if all other members of the body are more important and worthy of much more regard than ourselves.
The second message embedded here is the reason why we are to do so. For it is not just a matter of being a good Christian or worse yet, doing good to others because we will gain “points” with God for doing so – certainly not!
STOP now and consider the very God-head. How do God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit treat each other. What is their character?
We know that there is order within the God-head. We know that His revelation shows us that He relates to His creation, and especially mankind, as having three persons. We know that God the Father holds a unique relationship to the other two, in fact that is true of all three. Within these revealed relationships the person known as “The Father” has certain responsibilities that are different from the other two – and that is true of all three persons.
God the Son is theologically said to be “eternally generated” through the Father. God the Holy Spirit is said to be “eternally preceding” from both Jesus Christ and from The Father. Without entering into an in-depth discussion on the relationships and attributes of the members of the God-head we still need to settle a couple questions before going on to the next verse.
Why is this issue of UNITY within the Body of Christ so important to Paul – because it is the essence of the relationships within the God-head?
What happened in the heavenlies in the creation known as “the angles?” Created to worship God forever. Created to stand before His throne and proclaim that He alone is “Holy, holy, holy!” But sin entered in. The unity that the angles enjoyed with the unity of Almighty God was broken. And one came forth and said, “I can be God instead of Him.”
Creation was torn apart – how could this happen? But there it was, the unity of God’s creation broken. The family of the angels divided in two. The creation has not been the same since.
With man’s creation the same thing happened. Man, created for eternal fellowship – Unity - with God entered into sin at the hand of evil and not just half of this creation fell, but all of it.
In the plan of God one would come forth who would not break His unity with the whole (God) even if He were to take on the framework of a created man and in that way become distinct from the Father and the Spirit. Would He take His power and proclaim Himself to be THE GOD? This is certainly what Satan wanted, and certainly what his demons expected and it certainly would be what the holy angels would be watching during His incarnation. This was the key element in the temptations of Christ – would Jesus break His unity with the Father and or the spirit?
Paul tells the Philippians that their primary responsibly is to look after the interests of others. Years ago a bible teacher told me, “Don’t do what is natural – do what is supernatural.” For it’s easy to do what is natural, it comes directly from the flesh, the world, and even the devil. The answers to life’s problems will not come from one of those three. The only answers that can be provided by them are answers that only create more questions and problems – Why? Because these answers come from the wrong source. The right and good answers only come from God, and His answers are supernatural in nature, and only they can overcome the problems caused by the flesh, the world, and the devil.
All that is natural in our flesh says, “Take care of yourself, others do not count.” All that is natural in the world says, “Things, things will satisfy all your problems, nothing else counts.” All that is unnatural in the devil says, “I will give you everything if you will bow down and worship me, nothing else counts.”
God says, “Count every other person more important than yourself!” The supernatural answer is the one least looked for, the one we would never choose – except for the empowering work of the Holy Spirit of God.
Years ago, now, I had to take a course in sociology. My professor, Dr. Eckhart, was a young man and full of “modern” ideas. In this particular course we were discussing the relationships and interactions of the husband and wife. Few of us were married, and all of us – this was a Bible College – were Christian.
He had us entertain the idea that neither the husband nor the wife should ever make a personal or family decision without the absolute, complete approval of the other spouse.
You should have heard the uproar – laughing, questioning, posturing, etc. Why that was preposterous! “The man is the head of the household and he, being responsible for the family, has the last word on every issue.” Dr. Eckhart stood his ground, but few really accepted his message.
Joan and I were married a year or so after that and I did not consider Dr. Eckhart’s words as we established our “family.” Another year later and our marriage was in ruins. The only thing that was holding us together was the absolute knowledge that God had bound us together and that breaking those binds was not the answer for us.
It was then that I remembered Dr. Eckhart’s words – “Never make any decisions unless both of your agree.” We tried it, and it was the hardest thing in the world for both of us – but we kept on doing it, nothing else had worked. We still do it, our spending, or comings and goings, our friends, our everything is passed back and forth between us and we make no change that we don’t both agree on beforehand. Yes there are those little things that we know absolutely that don’t have to go through the process, but everything else still does!
I wish, that years ago, Dr. Eckhart had taken us to the scriptures and talked about the unity of the God-head and the expected unity of the Body of Christ. I wish he had taken us to Philippians 2 and explained it all to us.
Paul says that all of us (believers) already have this proclivity towards unity, this attitude of unity, in ourselves! That seems really hard to believe. But – he’s not talking about our walk – he’s talking about you, being the temple of God, having the living God – living within you. Because He is there, that mind/heart attitude of unity is “in residence” within you. Because unity is supernatural, it is available through Him. You have to submit your mind/heart to the power of the Holy Spirit (God) to change you into the person who seeks unity, and seeks it in all things.
Because God is one essence the heart/mind of the Holy Spirit is the same as the heart/mind of The Father, is the same as the heart/mind of Christ (emphasis on the Christ – Office) Jesus.
Christ Jesus – “He exists as God” to make the verse clearer and a little easier. We want to avoid the argumentative issues of “form of God,” or “manifestation of God.” Those are theological issues of semantics and we don’t want to get bogged down in the endless discussions on the meaning of these ideas.
So, “Christ Jesus, although He exists as God, He did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.”
Not an easy reading, especially since the use of the word "grasped" is rather archaic. Most, in our time, would tend to use the word "grasped" as a matter of the mind, "Oh, now I grasp that thought," "he finally grasped the idea."
The meaning of the word is more like "grabbed," "Hey, she grabbed my candy bar!" I had it, she grabbed it and now she has it.
What Paul is saying is that Christ Jesus, in the form of the Man/God here on Earth - "away" from God the Father and God the Spirit, did not regard (believe) DEITY as something He could GRAB and take away from the Father or the Spirit, "Ah-ha, now I'M GOD IN MYSELF ALONE."
Consider what Satan did as "Lucifer, Son of the morning." He was part of that creation designed for "all Wisdom and Beauty" (Ezekiel 28). With his fall he "sealed up the sum of wisdom and beauty," depriving all of the perfection once placed into creation. He accomplished this through his will to GRAB Deity from "I-AM," God (Father, Pre-incarnate Son, Holy Spirit). He accomplished this by breaking the designed "perfect Unity" of creation with its creator. It would not longer be US, it would just be ME!
All of creation was watching Christ Jesus - would he "consider" grabbing Deity for Himself alone? But, no, He would not, He could not - but only the God-head knew that for sure. The test was not for God but for the rest of the universe to KNOW that Christ Jesus would never break that UNITY with the Father or the Spirit.
But, INSTEAD, Christ Jesus...
Three items here, although they are part of one action - what Jesus did to enter into human history and make himself ready for His task ahead?
He emptied Himself. The Greek word is ekenwsen, ekenosen - it's the word that the famous (infamous) theory, "the Kenosis theory," gets its name from. Our theology books are full of theories that try to explain how "God became man and dwelt among men." Just how did God, as Jesus, empty himself? We're not going to explore any of those theories. We're just going to look at the words and see what it says here.
The Greek word has the general meaning of what a criminal does when he gets caught and goes to the police station, and then he empties out his pockets of everything he calls his own. The police officer packages it up and returns it to him when he gets out of jail. Then he is placed into the cell.
That's what Jesus did. Everything that was dear to Him as God was left at the desk on the way to Earth. What was in Jesus' pockets (figuratively)?
From what we know from the rest of scripture is that at no time did Jesus do ANYTHING without first asking The Father's permission. We also know that Jesus did no miracle or act of His own power but relied upon the Holy Spirit for accomplishment. So Jesus SUBMITTED to the Father and the Spirit, and willingly relied upon them, and not His own power or authority, in all aspects of His life and ministry. In everything - He prayed and praised the Father. Humble submission, reliance upon the Father and the Spirit, for "Equality with God was not a thing to be grabbed."
Jesus, as God, had no need to call upon God the Father or God the Holy Spirit for His needs to be met as God. But in His humility he only called upon The Father and The Spirit to satisfy His needs as a man - but not Himself as God or man. He relied upon them for everything.
He emptied Himself of His self!.
No, the pre-incarnate Christ did not go to sleep one day and woke up the next being surprised to be FOUND in appearance as a man. This phrase is a manner of speaking. In His being as a man (the God-man) his form was that of a man.
An OBEDIENT MAN
Obedient to THE FATHER
Obedience seen in His willingness to die on the cross.
God became a man
God the Son, willingly gave His obedience into the hands of the Father by living, suffering, and dying, in obedience to the Father and not of His own will.
Not a word about "abandonment" here.
We've already mentioned His source for life, power, and sustenance, as being solely upon the Father and the Spirit. Now we come to the AMOUNT of His dependence up the rest of the God-head.
He submitted Himself to the will of The Father to the point that He would willingly go to the Cross and put Himself to death in order to please Him (The Father). This is a thing that some would do for a loved one, but for Jesus, this meant the weight and PENALTY for ALL sin and sins of the whole world (past, present, future) in his death as the God-Man.
For we who are mere mortals, we could contemplate throwing ourselves in front of a bullet for a loved one. We probably would never consider such an act if we also became guilty and punishable of that person we "saved," let alone the punishment due to Jesus Christ for WILLINGLY taking on every punishment for every life ever lived. But that's what He did. Those around Him at the time, only saw the single human life being punished with an agonizing death - but no more than for either one of the other two thieves on their cross. Behind the scenes God the Son was experiencing and paying the penalty for the other trillion or more sinful lives. "Oh, what Pain He bore upon that Cross."
FOR THIS REASON (His complete submission to The Father and His complete reliance on The Spirit) God (Father and Spirit)
HIGHLY EXALTED HIM, and bestowed on Him the NAME which is ABOVE EVERY NAME
Now, we already know His name is Jesus. This verse is speaking of the VALUE and AUTHORITY now applied to the name of JESUS because of His total and absolute DEPENDENCE and HUMILIATION in the COMPLETION of His Fathers WILL!
Upon His resurrection and ascension, God completed the act of HIGHLY EXALTING and BESTOWING upon JESUS.
Here was the evidence that God the Father was pleased!
God was propitiated.
Jesus was the propitiation
Jesus Himself sits upon the Mercy Seat upon the Ark of of God at His Father's right hand.
so that (with the result that)
at the NAME of Jesus
EVERY KNEE WILL BOW,
of those who are in heaven and
(of those who are) on earth and
(of those who are) under the earth,
every tongue will confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Verse 9 was in the PAST, now 10 and 11 are in the FUTURE.
There is a time coming when EVERY knee will bow. (ALL, EVERY) Every being in Heaven will bow to Jesus. Every being on earth will bow to Jesus; every being who was ever dead will bow to Jesus.
Every one of these will SAY OUT LOUD AND AGREE WITH GOD that Jesus Christ is Lord (Elohim, God, I AM)
And God the Father will be seen as the ONE WORTHY of GLORY for "He the Father hath done this."
The Father has done this, and the Son submitted to Him, therefore "All Glory be to the Father!"
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
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