5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.To this point, the book of Philippians has been entirely practical. Paul has concentrated on our walk - on how we should live as Christians. He’s been discussing the nitty-gritty stuff of the everyday Christian life - the nuts and bolts of Christian conduct. But all that changes here because Paul goes doctrinal on us.
In this portion of Scripture, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul writes some of the most wonderful words that have ever been written; beautiful, awesome, mouth open, gaping, awe filled words – and it is doctrine! He’s written words so deep and filled with so much meaning that we could spend years talking about them; and we could never, ever plumb their depth. That’s how profound this passage is.
Some commentators consider this the greatest doctrinal statement in the New Testament. Concerning the person of Christ, it is by far one of the most definitive. It is a passage that earns a place on most everyone’s short list of favorites.
Maxie Dunham expresses my feelings about the passage as he writes:
“I am breathless before such a passage and tremble at the thought of commenting on it – that I may say too little or too much and detract from the majestic truth that is here.”AMEN! How do we do it justice?
What this passage does is tell us about Christ’s journey from heaven to earth and back again. It tells us about how He humbled Himself to become a man in the incarnation, and then, about His subsequent glorification again as God.
J. Vernon McGee writes:
“I wish I were capable of sketching for you the magnitude of what is being said in these next few verses. I wish we could grasp how high He was and how low He came. The billions of light years across known space are nothing compared to the distance he came.”
How does Paul get us here? – Very simply: Paul had just implored us to get along. The preaching of the Gospel was what made Paul joyous, and disunity was the one thing that would most hinder the effectiveness of that preaching. So Paul has given us an impassioned plea for unity. Philippians 2:2 records this, “Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” We are to be united in love and doctrine.
“But, you tell us, Paul, that we are all supposed to have the same mind? How? Isn’t that impossible?” On our own it is.
Harry Ironside agrees; he said,
“It is very evident that Christians will never see eye to eye on all points. We are so largely influenced by habits, by environment, by education, by the measure of intellectual and spiritual apprehension to which we have attained, that it is an impossibility to find any number of people who look at everything from the same standpoint. How then can we be of one mind?”
Good question, Harry. How can we have unity? How can we be “of one mind?” Yet, that is exactly what Paul is demanding from us. The answer, Paul tell us, is this: Philippians 2:5, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” The answer is Christ-likeness. We follow Christ’s example in the way we think. And this passage will tell us about the way that Christ thinks.
But Paul didn’t end there, Paul also told us about having right motives – we must demonstrate humility. It is through getting rid of all selfishness in our motives, and then through looking out for one another.
He writes in: Philippians 2:3: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”
Fine words, Paul, but as we said last time, they fly right in the face of all that we are as humans; at least fallen, sinful human beings. The truth is, as humans, we are dominated by pride and selfishness. In our day, we are more likely to take a course in assertiveness training than we are to ever even think about humility. Because, nowadays, winning is everything, even if we have to win by intimidation. We all want to stand on our own two feet and get credit for the things we’ve done. None of us want to be ignored or overlooked. None of us deal well with being offended.
So how can we actually live humbly? How can we live in selfless humility? How can we esteem others better than ourselves? The answer is the same: The answer is - we have an example to follow, and that example is Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus gives us the perfect example of an unselfish attitude.
Unfortunately we are more likely to follow the examples of James and John, the sons of thunder, the brothers whom Christ chose to be His apostles. We all too often are bitten by the same prideful motivation as them. In Mark 10:37, you can see this: They asked if they could sit on the right and the left hand of Jesus when He came into His kingdom, and Jesus had to set them straight about what really constituted greatness in His kingdom. It requires servant-hood.
In Mark 10:42-44, Jesus teaches:
42 But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44 And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all.
And He Himself was the pattern for that: Mark 10:45 records, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Jesus is to be our pattern. That’s why Paul writes: Philippians 2:5 – “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” That’s the answer to our behavioral issues. We are supposed to respond, and to think, and to feel the way Jesus felt. We are to adopt the mind of Christ. If you’ve got a New American Standard, you have probably noticed that there it is translated this way: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ.”
We are to have the same attitude that Jesus had. Another way of saying attitude is outlook. What kind of an outlook do you have on life? Do you look at life as ending with the grave so that you have to grab all you can now, in this life? If so, you will live selfishly, trying to get everything you can in this life. Selfishness will dominate your motivation. But if you live with eternity in mind, you realize that this life yields to eternity with God where all the good that you do here on planet earth will be rewarded.
You will live as Jesus told us to live in the Sermon on the Mount:
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
You will live unselfishly on this earth knowing that your reward is in the next – in eternity in heaven
Well then, if you live that way, you will esteem others as better than yourself and look out for their interests. As Warren Wiersbe points out: “Outlook determines outcome.” If you have the outlook, the attitude, the mind of Christ, than you can live humbly as He did.