Summary: All theology, no matter how sublime, is meant to be applied.
Made Himself of No Reputation: An Exposition of Philippians 2:1-13
It is hard for me to think that Christmas is only three months away. The economists will be forecasting how Good a Christmas it will be. In the light of the possible strife over the election in the US, the Coronavirus lockdowns, the riots, and the challenges these things present to our economy, there is a tendency to pessimism. They see little to boast about. The children will have less to boast about when they compare their gifts to what others got. People will boast about their holiday decorations and light displays. Of course, these shall completely miss what Christmas is about.
Christians will try to remember the story of Christmas. They will put out their manger scenes. They know there is something special about Christmas and that it has something to do with the baby Jesus. Who is he that was laid in yonder stall? They realize that He represents hope for them and humanity. But after contemplating this mystery, it will soon be time to return the manger scene to the attic and get back to life as usual. Yet the Holy Spirit beckons the believers to look deeper into this mystery. The Christian life is more than sentimentalizing for a short season. It is a way of life, and a hope that should be with us at all times and seasons. The Bible beckons to us to take it up and read it. The passage we are studying today in Philippians gives us a rich look into what Christmas truly is. So let us look at Philippians 2:1-13 and see what God wants us to learn.
The people of the lectionary text for this week did not just select verses 5-11 which talks about the Incarnation. These verses are contained in another context. It is not just a means of teaching theological truths. Rather, it is meant to be applied truth. The great truths taught in these few verses are used as an example of how to deal with situations in the everyday life of the church. This is consistent to how Scripture teaches theological truth. For example, the great truths about Jesus taught in the soaring first chapter of Hebrews is used to encourage Christians who were wavering in their faith. They are shown the greatness of Jesus Christ and His Sovereignty and superiority over even Moses and angels to encourage the believers to remain firm in their faith. Here in Philippians, Paul is dealing with strife in the church which was caused by human boasting. The Philippians are not alone in this. Paul could as well be addressing us as well.
Later in the Epistle, Paul identifies a problem between two female leaders in the church who had disagreed with each other and had to be ordered to work out their differences. Paul had referred earlier that some were preaching Christ with bad motivations. Even though Paul could rejoice that Christ was at last being preached, he was also concerned that the unity of the church would be fractured.
In the first four verses of the chapter, Paul admonishes the church to be of one accord and sharing the common love for each other. Strifes and differences lead to fractures in the body. They act like a disease or injury in our earthly bodies do. They disrupt the fullness of life. We think of how it is said that on the Day of Pentecost, they were all in one place and in one accord. When we consider that many of these disciples had boasted about themselves during Jesus’ earthly ministry, each of them arguing who was the greatest, we see how great a work was wrought by the power of the Holy Spirit. We can see the exploits of that Pentecostal church. The early church in Acts were challenged externally and internally. They had to deal with events which threatened to divide them. Paul has the same concern in mind.
Paul’s approach to this division was to have them look at the Person and work of Jesus Christ. From the beginning, the Church confessed Jesus as Lord. We can see at the beginning of some of Paul’s Epistles that the majesty of the Father and the Son receive equal treatment. Even at this early stage of the Church, the full and equal divinity of Father and Son is clearly stated. One should reflect that Jesus in the Great Commission also includes the equality of the Holy Spirit to the Father and the Son, as believers were to be baptized “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. “And” joins elements of equal weight. The Church later had to deal with those who wanted to subordinate the Trinity of the Godhead.