When most people think of Philippians 2, they quite understandably think of the great section regarding Jesus in verses 5-11. The emphasis in Philippians 2:5-11 on both the humanity and deity of Jesus provides powerful biblical proof affirming each truth. But this incredible Christological passage actually serves as an illustration in its original context. Philippians 2:1-11 really is all about having a mind for what matters!
While Philippi often is considered Paul’s “sweetheart church,” and they did have a long and beautiful association with each other, the letter itself indicates problems were lurking beneath the surface. See Philippians 1:27-30 and 4:2-3 for evidence. The difficulties at Philippi at the time Paul addressed them were not so much doctrinal and theological as they were personal and practical. But these types of difficulties often do become doctrinal problems if left unchecked!
When un-Christlike attitudes become prominent, it’s only a matter of time until un-Christlike actions and teachings pop up too. Paul encourages these Christians to have a mind for what matters. The main idea of Philippians 2:1-11 is, “Status, power, ability, and authority are NOT to be used for personal advantage, but in humble service to God and for the benefit of His kingdom.” Surely churches and individual Christians need such a reminder today too. Consider 4 truths from this passage.
- Consider the Basis For Humble Service. Philippians 2:1-2 say, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, fulfill my joy.” If Christianity really is all it’s supposed to be, and IT IS, doesn’t it make sense to respond in loving, humble service? At its heart – at its very core, Christianity is about loving, humble service (cf. Micah 6:8; Matthew 22:36-40).
- Consider the Charge to Humble Service. Paul says that the practice of such an attitude would “fulfill” his joy. Nothing in the world would make him happier! Verse 2 says this charge involves being of “the same mind,” having the “same love,” being of “one accord” and “one mind.” It sounds like this is a matter of great importance, doesn’t it? Every Christian is to possess such an attitude or mindset. It is the only one that really makes sense in view of 2:1.
- Consider the Way of Humble Service. Verses 3-4 deal with this thought. Nothing is to be done through “selfish ambition.” This is the politics of self and revolves around the selfish “I want” syndrome. Further, nothing is to be done among God’s people out of “conceit.” This has to do with “self-glorification” and revolves around the selfish “”I deserve” syndrome. How many difficulties come because we put what we want and think we deserve ahead of what God wants and deserves? How often do we put our own desires ahead of the needs of the body of Christ? When our agendas and “rights” become the focal point, we’ve missed the point. The apostle is saying this should NEVER happen! Instead, we are to “look out” not only to our own interests, “but also to the interests of others.” This is the way of loving, humble service.
- Consider the Example of Humble Service. Jesus Himself is given as the supreme example of a loving and humble mindset (see 2:5-11). If anyone could have appealed to their status, power, and authority to NOT do something, it was Jesus. Yet in loving, humble service to His Father and to us, Jesus left the glory of heaven and came down to earth. The King of glory was not born in any of the great cities of the world at the time – in Rome, Alexandria, Athens or even Jerusalem, but in obscure Bethlehem. He did NOT appear or look so majestic and regal – the Creator and Sustainer of all the universe were known as “the carpenter’s son” (Matthew 13:55). Jesus Himself is the great “Exhibit A” for having a loving, humble spirit of service. To the degree we reflect His attitude as Christians, we honor Him. To the degree we lack His spirit, we dishonor Him.