Summary: Philippians - Manual of Joy Preparing our Hearts for Easter: Reflecting on the Depth of Jesus’ Humiliation
Philippians - Manual of Joy
Preparing our Hearts for Easter:
Reflecting on the Depth of Jesus’ Humiliation
Main idea: Christ is the ultimate model and example of selflessness.
As we started this series on Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we saw that the foundation for joy is the work of God on our behalf. Last week we saw the promise that ‘God who began good work in us will bring it to completion’ gives us confidence to pray for life change for each other. This week I am skipping ahead to chapter two in preparation for Easter. I want us to see the depth of Jesus’ humiliation by becoming a slave to serve us, then on Easter, I will share on the significance of the resurrection for us, and then the week after Easter, Mark Halpin will share on the exaltation of Christ.
This passage puts Christ up as a model and an example for us in living selflessly as the means of maintaining unity among followers of Christ. The theme of unity runs through the whole epistle. Paul starts out this letter by addressing all the saints, he prays for the all the church , he has affection for all of them, and they are all partakers of grace with him. Paul also wants them to stand together against their opponents. He starts out chapter two pointing out what they have common. He tells them to be of the same mind, have the same love, and be in full accord with one another. Do nothing out of selfishness but in humility consider others more important than themselves. Then he tells them to have this mind, meaning the mind of Christ. He is telling us to have the same attitude as Christ. Paul highlights several characteristics of Christ he wants us to imitate. Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of selflessness in giving himself for our salvation. His point to us is to put aside all our own preferences and be united together around the gospel, the mission of God.
1. Jesus was Selfless in Serving (vs. 6)
Paul says Jesus was in the form of God and that he was he was equal with God. He was fully God and nothing less than God in his nature and attributes. But his position was not something Jesus seized or grasped to maintain. The word grasped is used of raiders seizing the goods they acquired from those they defeated. Paul is saying that Christ did not believe that he should regard his position of honor, i.e., his "equality with God," as something to take advantage of for himself, to grasp, to treat as plunder but relinquished it for our sake. In the incarnation, Jesus refused to act selfishly. He gladly renounced all the rights and privileges of being God. He did not seize the opportunity to manifest himself in that nature but gladly and willingly became human. Grasp this; the creator of the universe became part of his own creation. The omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent one did not lose those abilities but gave up the right to exercise the use of them to become a zygote, and in his embryonic form limited himself to be confined and vulnerable in the womb. He willingly and gladly gave it up so you and I could have new life.
2. Jesus Was Humble in Serving (vs.7-8a)
He made himself nothing
Some translations say he emptied himself. To empty himself or make himself nothings means to forgo the glories of the creator to appear in form of the creature. The contrast is not between what he gave up to become, i.e. the form of God to become the form of slave simultaneously. Rather the contrast is between the existence in the form of God alone to the existence in the form of God and the form of a servant. It does not point to what he gave up as much as what he took on. When he emptied himself he did not cease to be God but willed to renounce the exercise of his divine abilities or powers, attributes, prerogatives so that he might live fully within those limitations, which are inherent in being truly human. That which he was, deity, he willingly chose not to use. His divine attributes were there but were latent. So we see a real human being doing superhuman things by not the use of his own divine powers but by the power of the Holy Spirit. This points to the radical dimensions of self-renunciation, voluntarily choosing not to exercise his prerogatives and power of deity but choosing instead to depend upon God the Father and the empowering of HS. The creator, self-sufficient and self-existing by nature limited the use of his powers, to become dependent upon the Father and the Spirit.