The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
January 8, 2012


1) Philippians 2:1-8 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


Philippians 2:1-8
by Tom Edwards

In Philippians 2, Paul writes in the first two verses the following: "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."

It is true that simply reading the good news about the life of Christ, as set forth by Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, we can have much encouragement.  But, here in Philippians, Paul is speaking of the encouragement that comes through the brethren who are living for the Lord.  And not only encouragement, but also the "consolation of love," the "fellowship of the Spirit," and the "affection and compassion."  Paul, therefore, is not expressing any doubt with the many "if's" in this passage.  It is simply a manner of speaking.  For surely he believed all of that to be so.  

The Philippians were those whom Paul refers to as "my joy and crown" (Phil. 4:1), and he exhorts them to "make my joy complete" by doing that which he had instructed (Phil. 2:2).  

Notice the instruction Paul then gives in Philippians 2:3,4: "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."

Selfishness will clash with the true nature of the Christian.  And God's wrath will fall on "...those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness..." (Rom. 2:8).   Consider also what James declares about selfishness in James 3:14-16: "But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.  This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic.  For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing."

In addition to selfishness, Paul also speaks of "empty conceit" (Phil. 2:3).  It is from the Greek word "kenodoxia," which Thayer defines as "1) vain glory, groundless self-esteem, empty pride  2) a vain opinion, error."  It is also rendered in some other Bible translations as "vain-glory" and "pride."

This "empty conceit" is seen in contrast to the "humility of mind" (NASB) or "lowliness of mind" (KJV) that the Christian is to maintain.  For instance, when Paul instructed the brethren to "walk in a manner worthy" of their calling (Eph. 4:1), he describes that walk as being "with all humility ["lowliness," KJV] and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (vv. 2,3).

So humility is an important virtue to have.  Consider, for example, Proverbs 29:23: "A man's pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor."  Furthermore, God says through Isaiah, "...But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word" (Isa. 66:2).  Notice also 1 Peter 5:5,6: "You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.  Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time[.]"

And with that humility, the Christian is to "regard one another as more important" than self.  This is also taught elsewhere in the Scriptures.  For example: "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor" (Rom. 12:10).

Striving to develop these right ways will certainly make the Christian more like Jesus, whom Paul goes on to cite as our great example in demonstrating humility, the full extent of His sacrificial service, and His willingness to do so in Philippians 2:5-8: "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."

As Paul begins this section, he says, "Let this mind ["attitude," NASB] be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (KJV).  We today can also have that same mind through what the Spirit has revealed within the word of God.  Paul indicates this in Ephesians 3:3-5.  He declares, "that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief.  By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit."  

The mind of Christ is often the exact opposite of the mind of man; so developing the Lord's mind can greatly change people for the better.  For instance, the mind of man often says, "Hate you enemies"; but the mind of Christ says, "love your enemies" (Mat. 5:44).  The mind of man might often say, "Take your own personal revenge -- try to get even."  But the mind of Christ says, "Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord" (Rom. 12:19).  The mind of man often views greatness as being characterized with much power, wealth, fame, or having superiority over others.  But Jesus shows that it is the one who would be "the least" (Luke 9:48) and the one who would be like a "servant" (Luke 22:26) whom God would view as the greatest among others.  So the mind of Christ is often far different when contrasted with the mind of man.    

Something else that characterizes the mind of Christ can be seen in Hebrews 1:9, where God the Father says of His Son Jesus, "YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS; THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS."  Is it enough to just love the good, if we don't hate the evil; or to hate the evil if we don't love the good?  There needs to be that proper balance of both.  So to have the mind of Christ is to have a love for righteousness that is coupled with an aversion toward that which would be sinful. 

To put on the mind of Christ is, also, to put on the mind of service to God:  "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mk. 10:45).   And the Lord's willingness to do this is also brought out in Philippians 2:5-8, as previously cited.  What humility and devotion Christ manifested in His subjection to the Father by being willing to leave the splendors of heaven to be born on earth and laid in a lowly manger, for there was no room in the inn (Luke 2:7).   Christ's humility and devotion to the Father are also seen when Jesus made His entry, riding on a lowly donkey, into the city where He would be crucified just several days later -- and knowing that.  

The phrase "emptied Himself," in Philippians 2:7, has been taken by some folks to mean that Jesus gave up His deity when he took on the body of a man.  That when He was on earth, He was only a human being -- without any deity at that time.  

The Bible, however, sets forth both the human side, as well as the deity side of Christ, when He lived on our planet.  For instance, in considering His human side, notice these following passages:  John 1:14, "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth."  In taking on a human body, Jesus experienced hunger (Matthew 4:2), thirst (Jn 19:28; Psa. 22:15), physical weariness (Jn. 4:6), the need for sleep (Matt. 8:24), temptations (Heb. 4:15), and He could suffer physically (Matt. 16:21) and die (Phil. 2:8).  In Hebrews 2:9,14,15,17, the Hebrew writer shows the necessity of Christ becoming a human.  It was so He could "taste death for everyone" by His own death (v. 9), and by that death also "might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives" (vv. 14,15).   So becoming flesh was necessary for Jesus "so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people" (v. 17).

Part of believing in Jesus is accepting the fact that He took on real human flesh.  For the antichrists of John's day also included those people who had simply denied this -- such as the "Docetists" (a branch of the Gnostics) who believed that it only "seemed" like Christ had an actual body.  For they believed that God was good, while all matter was evil; and, therefore, God could not take on a human body without becoming evil, too. John writes about these, by saying, "For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist" (2 Jn. 1:7).  See also 1 John 4:1-3 and 1:1,2.  As someone once said, "Jesus, who is the Son of God, became a man, so that man might become a son of God."

And as we think about what a sacrifice this was for Christ in just becoming a man, consider also 2 Corinthians 8:9: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich."  What an extreme change it must have been for Jesus, who left the glories of heaven, in order to come to the rescue of a lost and dying world.  What prompted Him?  It was His love for the Father and love for humanity.  As we have sometimes sung, "Out of the ivory palaces, into a world of woe; only His great eternal love, made my Savior go."

Not only, however does the Bible set forth the humanity-side of Christ, but also His divinity.  For Jesus was not merely a man when on this earth, but also God -- at the same time.  

One of the names, in which it was prophesied that Jesus would go by, would also declare His deity.  Matthew 1:23 states, "'BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,' which translated means, 'GOD WITH US.'"  

Consider also Isaiah 9:6: "For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace." Note some of these phrases: "Mighty God" and "Eternal Father."  This latter phrase doesn't mean that Jesus is also the Father.  For the Father and the Son, as well as the Holy Spirit, are each distinct individuals who make up the one Godhead.  All three of them were present at Jesus' baptism (Matt. 3:16,17).  It was the Father who sent His Son into this world, and it was the Son -- and not the Father -- who came and died for us on the cross of Calvary.  The word "Father," however, can sometimes have a figurative meaning, as used in Isaiah 9:6.  For "Eternal Father" can also be translated as "the Father of eternity"; and, in that sense, "Father" is being used metaphorically.  As Albert Barnes writes, "...it may be used in accordance with a custom usual in Hebrew and in Arabic, where he who possesses a thing is called the father of it...  Thus, the father of strength means strong; the father of knowledge, intelligent; the father of glory, glorious; the father of goodness, good; the father of peace, peaceful."  So the idea of Jesus being the "Father of eternity" expresses that Jesus is eternal.  This figurative use of "father" also reminds us of the metaphorical use of the phrase "son of" to indicate something someone was characterized with, such as Barnabas who was called the "son of consolation," or James and John who were called the "sons of thunder."  Barnes also points out with regard to Jesus that "He is not merely represented as everlasting, but he is introduced, by a strong figure, as even the Father of eternity, as if even everlasting duration owed itself to his paternity."

The eternal nature of Jesus is certainly another fact that points to His divinity.  In John 8:57-58, the Lord declares that "...before Abraham was born, I am."  Abraham was born around 2,000 years before the baby Jesus was laid in the manger; but, as we can infer from this passage, Jesus existed before that physical body.  For "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Heb. 13:8).  

Christ's eternal nature is also seen in Micah's foretelling of where Jesus would be born: "But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity" (Mic. 5:2).  So though that physical body that was laid in the manger had a beginning a couple thousand years ago, the true being of Jesus has always existed -- and always will.  

The Bible, therefore, shows that while on earth, Jesus was not only a man, but also God.  And isn't that truly remarkable that while on our planet, Jesus not only took on the body of a man, but also "the form of a bond-servant."  He is the great Creator (Jn. 1:1-3).  Yet, we do not read of Him owning His own home while on earth.  He came to serve rather than to be served -- and gave His utmost, in giving His very life (Matt. 20:28; Phil. 2:8).  He truly did humble Himself, while He dwelt among us full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14), and willing to even carry out such a menial and lowly task of washing His disciples feet in order to set that right type of example before them (Jn. 13:3-15) -- a task that was normally carried out by the lowliest of the household.

In our next installment, we will consider more from Paul's letter to the Philippians.


News & Notes

Let those of us who are Christians be praying for the following people:

* The family and friends of Chris Monza who drowned while rescuing a child from a large pond near Chris' home.  He was just 14 and the step-brother of  Cody Owens (Richard and Cheryl Crew's grandson).  Chris had been able to help the child out of the water, but was not able to do the same for himself, which was probably due to the pond's muddy bottom.  He died a hero.

* Mrs. Robertson (Ken's mother) who recently had surgery on her wrist. 

* Gerald Farmer was treated for fluid build-up around his heart, due to fibrillation, which had also caused shortness of breath.  He has been improving.

* Clifton Trimble who had not been doing well after receiving a pacemaker.

* Anthony Webb and Andrew Robertson who are seeking employment. 

* Mike Dubose has not been doing well, while undergoing his cancer treatment, which it is said he will need to be on the rest of his life.

* Geneva Wilson, one of our elderly members, who due to physical weakness has not been able to be with us at church for several weeks.

* Cheryl Crews who has been having chronic ailments and now also some chest congestion.

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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