Summary: After all the nice things Pual has said about how good the Philippian church was doing, he wants them to remember where they came from, where they are now, how they got there, and who it is who brought them along.
A. Mohammad Ali, the great boxer, also was renowned for his cocky quick-wit, saying things like, “I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, and it is hard to be humble when you're as great as I am.” My favorite: “I should be a postage stamp. That's the only way I'll ever get licked.” The day finally arrived when someone got the best of him. Just before takeoff one day, a flight attendant asked Ali to fasten his seat belt. He smarted off: “Superman don't need no seat belt.” The attendant replied “Superman don't need no airplane either.”
B. After all the nice things he’s said about how good the church in Philippi was doing, he wants them to remember where they came from, where they are now, how they got there, and who it is who brought them along.
II. Start at the Top (vv.1-2)
A. Paul is leveraging his genuine love for this church with an exhortation to live in unity with Christ… and is kind of “guilting” them (“complete my joy” = “don’t let me down”)
B. Paul connects things in these verses:
1. “Any encouragement in Christ” -> “being of the same mind” (he’ll bring this up later): if we are all listening to Jesus with pure hearts, we’ll learn the same truth
2. “Any comfort from love” -> “having the same love”: just as Jesus gently loves us, we should gently love each other
3. “Any participation in the Spirit” -> “being in full accord”: as Jesus fully invests His Spirit in us, we become unified
4. “Any affection and sympathy” -> “(being) of one mind” (or “of one soul”)
III. What are You Looking At? (vv.3-4)
A. Paul realizes that just telling them NOT to be arrogant or conceited is forgettable, but telling them exactly how to abase themselves? No one forgets that lesson.
B. Our habit is to compare ourselves to others to elevate ourselves; Paul says to turn that around and assume they’re more important
1. During World War II, Winston Churchill was awarding the Victoria Cross to an Air Force sergeant who had climbed out onto the wing of his bomber with only a rope attached to his waist – while it was 13,000 feet in the air. His efforts saved both the plane and his fellow crewmembers.
At the ceremony, the airman was so overwhelmed by Churchill’s presence that he could barely speak. Churchill observed this and said, “You must be very humble and awkward in my presence,” to which the sergeant replied, “Yes, sir.”
Then the Prime Minister responded, “Then you can imagine how humble and awkward I feel in yours.”
C. Sometimes we need to learn that our calling is to meet other’s needs ahead of our own.
1. Watchman Nee used to tell of a Chinese Christian who was a poor rice farmer. Every day, he would fill his rice patties with water only to find out that his neighbor, who was not a Christian, would drain the water into his own rice patties. For a while, the Christian ignored this offense, but soon realized that it would be his financial ruin. He prayed for a Christian way to handle this problem. He came upon a solution. He got up early the next day and filled his neighbor’s field first and then filled his own. This act of selflessness caused his neighbor to become a Christian.
IV. A New Mindset (vv.5-11)
A. Think Like Jesus (vv.5-7)
1. We have a non-expiring membership card to the knowledge of God (v.5)
2. Jesus’ Example
a. “in the form of God”—had God’s actual eternal nature and essence
b. “equality with God”—not “at the same level,” but in the Greek, identical—in every sense, Jesus is God
c. “a thing to be grasped”—stolen or had by ill-gotten gains—Jesus was not making false claims to deity
d. “made Himself nothing”
1) Jesus willfully suspended His divine rights, but this did not make Him not God…
2) No one could do it to Him, He had to volunteer
e. “taking the form of a servant”—same word “essence”: he actually was born into the servant class
f. “likeness of men”—not just appearance of a human body, but all the difficulties that come with actually having a human body
B. Live Like Jesus (v.8)
1. Paul now shifts the focus on Jesus from being God to being a human
a. “in human form”—not just a repetition of earlier “form” statements—Jesus was human from a human perspective
2. Jesus’ incarnation was just the beginning of Jesus’ debasement
a. “he humbled himself”—after the incarnation, he further humbled himself to the abuse of human beings
b. “obedient…death”—Jesus not only took debasement, the Author of life submitted Himself to death
1) Sin is what kills us… but if Jesus never sinned, how could He die?