Philippians 2:5-11 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Good morning Grace. We are moving along in Philippians and we come to this glorious mountain in 2:5-11. I mentioned several weeks ago in my introduction to the book of Philippians that I think of this passage as the giant mountain that can be seen from anywhere else in the book. Maybe living in Minnesota it’s hard to picture mountains. Think about visiting Duluth or the North Shore. No matter where you are, you can’t help but notice Lake Superior. Everything is in relation to this massive body of water. Even if you can’t immediately see the Lake, you feel the effects. This is what Paul is doing with this passage in 2:5-11. It’s the mountain or the giant lake that everything else is situated around.
While it would be easy to look at this passage simply for the theology it contains, it sits in the middle of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Paul was writing to a particular group of people in a particular context and we have to keep this in mind when we look at this passage. There is deep theology here, but Paul has a point why he would include this hymn where he does. In some ways it’s easy to see the glory of Christ in this passage. It’s so explicitly about the gospel. But there is so much here, I want to be sure we see it in the proper context and to see how it matters for us. It would be a miss if we saw this passage as abstract or distant from our own lives. Would you join me in prayer?
Father, thank you for sending your Word to us. For revealing yourself through the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms. And even more by revealing yourself through Jesus Christ, the exact imprint of your nature. It’s his name we proclaim this morning. It’s his life we must see in order to understand this text well. Please convict us of sin. Please assure us of your promises and the truths your word contains.
Kyle preached last week on the importance of unity. We see the command to complete Paul’s joy by being united and showing humility to others. This theme of unity runs throughout Philippians. Any group of people, no matter the size or setting, operates better with unity. From a country to a company to a sports team or smaller group like a family. If you have like-mindedness, things work better. And you can create unity in a number of ways, even forcefully: you might pay people to be united, you might you power and threaten exclusion or firing for disunity. Or people are drawn to unite over a common cause or goal. The unity the gospel has in mind is based on something different. It’s a command for unity, but the reason is rooted in our status with Christ: the example of Jesus.
It’s because the source of our attitude is found in the mind of Christ, who displayed his mind during his life. The text breaks down like this: There is the command to Think like Jesus thinks in verse 5 and then two sections as a result of the incarnation: A humbled Life (verse 6-8) and A glorious Life in (9-11).
Think like Jesus thinks (v5)
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
We start this first section with a command that is a bridge between verses 1-4 and what follows in 6-11. When Paul says have “this”, he’s pointing back to the mind in verses 2-4.
If you have a Bible, look at Philippians chapter 2, verse 2-4: complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
We see the same emphasis on one-mindedness in verse 2 and again here in verse 5. Paul is really trying to drive home the point about unity through thinking together. The word here gives the idea of thinking in the same way. Not thinking the same in every way, but like-mindedness for the sake of unity.
Thinking like Jesus thinks. How is it possible that we can think like Jesus? Because anyone with faith in Christ, has union or fellowship with Christ. That’s what ‘in Christ’ is getting at himself. This goes back to the partnership idea we saw in chapter one. If we have the vertical fellowship with Christ, we have the horizontal fellowship with other believers. That’s the source of our unity. Through the gospel, we have the mind of Christ.
Paul is about to explain the source of this command: Thinking like Jesus. He possessed the perfect thinking that Paul encouraged the Philippians to have in verses 2:1-2. And that kind of thinking was perfectly carried out in Christ’s life, which is summarized beautifully in what is often known as the Christ Hymn.
This verse is a command. I will provide some practical ways to obey this command at the end, but as we look at the rest of the text, keep this command in mind. Let the humility of Christ amaze you, knowing that we will return here.
A humbled life (v6-8)
What Jesus accomplished during his earthly life is summed up well as a humbled life. In our passage there are three aspects of this humility and are seen each verse 6, 7, and 8.
Let’s look at verse six for the first aspect.
6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
1). Did not count equality
Jesus was in the form of God. He was and is, and will forever be God. What Paul is referring to is Jesus’ glorified state. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature (Heb 1).
But Paul is saying is that Jesus didn’t count or consider his divine form a thing to be grasped. Or a privilege to hold onto. Some translations say he “did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage”.
Of all the things we could find ourselves bragging about or a status we could use for an advantage, having equality with God seems like a pretty good reason for taking advantage.
Kids, have you ever gotten your younger brother or sister to do something for you? Maybe you made them do your chore for you or you work your way to get that last cookie instead of your sibling. That’s taking advantage of being the older kid.
Paul uses this word ‘count’ in a few other places in the book. In verse 3 he calls the Philippians to count others as more significant. Later in chapter 3, Paul lists his achievements in the flesh and counts or considers them all as loss. He calls them rubbish. He counts them as loss compared to knowing Christ.
And here in our text we see Jesus counting equality with God as, not nothing, but not something to exalt himself in.
2). Emptied himself
but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
Verse 6 says Jesus was found or existed in the form of God. Put simply, Jesus had always existed as God. But what does ‘emptied himself’ mean? Did he give up certain attributes of deity? Did he cease being God so he could become man?
The other clauses in verse 7 provide further clues. What kind of emptying is this? He took the form of a servant. He was born in the likeness of men. These don’t point to a negating of his divine being, but a limiting or humbling of his deity. Jesus has always been God. If he ever gave up any of his divine nature, he ceases being God. If he ever was less than God and achieved deity, he wouldn’t be eternally God. Neither is what the Bible teaches.
Emptied himself means he voluntarily gave up his divine status and privilege. It does not mean he emptied himself of his divine nature. Instead he took on a second nature when he was incarnated as a human. This is unique in the history of redemption. Others have performed miracles. Others have resurrected from the dead. But only Jesus by taking on human flesh, has been both God and Man.
Notice the word form used in both verse 6 and 7. The form of God in verse 6, and the form of a servant in verse 7. This draws a parallel to show the two forms. God and Man.
I am going to spend a couple minutes explaining the theology of this section. While it isn’t the main purpose of Paul to dive into the theology, it’s also not a complete rabbit trail. Understanding why Jesus had to become man and how that exactly works matters for how we understand the gospel.
If you will humor me, I want to use an illustration from one of my former professors, (Todd Miles, Superheroes Can’t Save You). He wrote an entire book using superheroes to show the two natures of Jesus. I think it’s a helpful way of trying to understand an important and sometimes confusing doctrine of Christ. I used this before in Berea, but here it is again. Let’s look at two false understandings of Jesus’ nature and contrast that with who Jesus truly is.
First, let’s look at Superman. Superman was born on another planet. He was always the powerful Kryptonian. He had superpowers sort of like Jesus. But he was not a man. Sure, he came to earth to save people, but glasses, a suit, and a nickname didn’t make him human. He only had his ‘super’ nature, but not human.
Compare that with Batman. Bruce Wayne has no superpowers. He fought bad guys, but only as a man in a cool uniform with gadgets and a Batmobile. He is fully man and his nature is human. This view is still the basic idea of what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe. That Jesus was merely a man who through his obedience he became divine. Or he made himself a superhero.
Superman? Batman? Or God-Man. 1 Timothy 2:5 says, for there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. Jesus Christ is better than any superhero, because he is unlike any other hero we could conceive. And as know from elsewhere in scripture, this hero still rescues the girl, his bride, from danger.
Jesus possesses both natures in one person. Fully God and fully man. The natures are always separate, they don’t mix and make a new nature. But the natures do interact. Within the godhead, Jesus never needed anything and was self-sufficient. But his human nature got hungry, thirsty and tired. The relationship between the two natures is how he could fully experience temptation and actually be tempted (human nature) yet without sin (divine nature). How he could suffer the punishment for sin through death (human nature), yet withstand it and resurrect from the dead (divine nature).
Here’s a simple way to take this passage to heart. Return to Philippians 2 at Christmas time. Come back and study it and let it breathe fresh life into the Christmas story. God became man to save sinners.
And as we saw, Jesus did not take advantage of this. His glory is not in the wielding of his superpowers for his purposes, but to show the glory of the Father. And that meant making himself nothing and becoming man. This leads to the next aspect of his humility: Christ humbled himself all the way to the cross.
3). Humbled himself all the way to the cross
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Why did Jesus have to come in human form in the first place? Why were his emptying and humbling necessary? Because we have failed to obey God’s laws. It required a human mediator. But no human could possess the sinless record to be a sacrifice without blemish. And to atone for the sins of man, the sacrifice must be a man. So Jesus came and was found in human form.
When we study the Bible, one thing to pay attention to is the action of the verbs and how it’s being done. In verses 7 and 8 the verbs are emptied and humbled. And in both cases, Jesus is the subject doing the action to himself. Jesus humbled himself. No one else humbled him. It’s true that Jesus was humiliated by others during his life. But that was a result of Jesus humbling himself and being willing to be humiliated.
For Jesus, the humility runs further. It was certainly humble to take on the likeness of man. Romans 8:3 says that he was born in the likeness of sinful flesh. He dwelt in the likeness of human flesh, yet without sin.
He experienced life in this fallen world. He was tempted. He got tired and felt the entire spectrum of human emotion: from love and joy to anger and sadness. He saw friends suffer and hurt. He even mourned the loss of his friend Lazarus. Except Jesus went even further than just living in human skin. Christ’s humility goes even lower. He became obedient. That’s lower and humbler. Being told what to do acknowledges that you aren’t the ultimate authority. Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, perfectly obeyed. He achieved what we could not and fulfilled the righteous requirement of the law. And then he went even lower.
He became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
In contrast to Jesus’ humility, The Old Testament speaks a lot about pride. From the very first incident of pride in the garden, to the tower of Babel, to everyone doing what was right in their own eyes and on throughout the story of Israel, we see people forsaking the truth about God for other idols in hopes of satisfaction. We saw that when Dave preached through Hosea. Israel had grown proud as a nation and had chased after idols and prosperity. And in every case, pride meets destruction.
Isaiah 2:11-12 The haughty looks of man shall be brought low,
and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled,
and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.
12 For the LORD of hosts has a day
against all that is proud and lofty,
against all that is lifted up—and it shall be brought low;
And here is where the irony of Jesus’ humility really sets in. Jesus humbled himself through obedience. God humbles the proud, often through destruction. And yet Jesus, in his obedience was destroyed in place of the proud. He was beaten, spit on, mocked, stripped, and publicly nailed to a cross to die. And he experienced abandonment and wrath.
For the salvation of proud idolaters like you and me. That we might gain the mind of Christ and live humbly.
This wasn’t begrudging obedience like we might see out of our kids or often as adults. Hebrews 12:2 says that “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame”
How could he be joyful about a brutal death on a cross? Because it brought his Father glory, he knew that glory awaited him, and because of his love for his church.
This brings us to our final point: A glorious life.
A glorious life (9-11)
9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord
1) God exalted and bestowed the name on Jesus
In light of Christ’s downward path to humiliation at the cross, now the path of Christ’s incarnation heads sharply upwards.
Exalt means to raise high or lift up. This is both literally and figuratively true of Jesus Christ. God raised him from the dead. He appeared to the disciples and others to prove he was risen. He proved he was in the flesh. He ate fish. He showed the nails in his hands and people touched him. He was not merely a spiritual being. Then the Bible shows him ascend to heaven where he is seated at the right hand of the Father. And he remained in the flesh. He did not shed his human nature. He will retain both his natures for eternity. Which makes sense considering we will spend eternity in physical bodies.
God exalted him, completing his path from status with God through humiliation and returning to his presence with the Father. Further, God bestowed a name on him. Lord.
If it wasn’t clear from verse 6 that Jesus is God, Paul really drives it home in these verses. Remember he is in prison because of opponents to the gospel. Jews accusing Paul of blasphemy because he was saying Jesus is God. So here in this verse he doubles down in this belief by connecting Jesus to Isaiah 45. The LORD, Yahweh is speaking in this passage and seven times he says some version of “I am the God and there is no other.” A Jew in Paul’s time would heartily agree with this idea. And then Paul goes ahead and connects this idea of one true Lord with Jesus Christ.
Isaiah 45:22-23 “Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
23 By myself I have sworn;
from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
‘To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear allegiance.’
Paul is saying that what Christ accomplished in his humility proves his worthiness to bear the title of Lord. Jesus Christ is equal with Yahweh because he is.
2) Humbling of all the universe
Luke 14:11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
There will be a day when the Lord Jesus Christ will return. Then everyone will acknowledge Jesus as Lord. Every knee will bow and tongue confess in recognition. Either we humble ourselves as Jesus voluntarily humbled himself and bow in joyful worship. Or we will be humbled in judgment. Either way, all will confess Christ as Lord.
3) To the Glory of God the Father
The final verse shows the goal of all that Christ accomplished in his life. Jesus came to bring glory to God. For anyone in Christ, this is the goal too. Others have tried to achieve humility-even by using Jesus as a model, but apart from the desire to glorify God in the power of the Spirit, it’s impossible.
Benjamin Franklin once made a list of 13 virtues and then tried to perfect each of them in his life. Things like cleanliness, frugality, sincerity. According to his autobiography, he was able to perfect all of them except for one. Franklin was not a Christian, and I don’t think he actually achieved what he said he did, but he pointed out humility as the one he realized was impossible to achieve. Franklin even aspired to use Jesus as his model for humility. But here is what he concluded after giving up on his pride:
“In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself; you will see it, perhaps, often in this history; for, even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.” (Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin)
Franklin missed it, because he was in the flesh proud. Like all of us naturally are. Only in the power of the Holy Spirit can we actually obey this command and have the mind of Christ. Only in the reality of the gospel can we truly accomplish things in humility and kill our pride. The reason is that the aim of our lives is altered. Instead of doing all things for selfish ambition, the gospel reorients our desires. The result is, like Jesus, we desire to bring glory to God the Father. Jesus’ humiliation brought glory to God.
I mentioned at the beginning for those who are in Christ-that is, those who have acknowledged their pride and turned away in repentance and believe in the gospel, you have the mind of Christ. You can now think like Jesus thinks. In fact we are commanded to have that same mind. How do we turn towards practical application? Because we have the mind of Christ, we can humble ourselves. Here are four examples.
Meditate on this passage. Think hard about what it would be like for God to give up heaven and condescend to earth in the form of man. This helps us move from vague platitudes like Jesus is glorious, to better understanding the specific ways he is glorious. The specific ways that Jesus was humble. As we better grasp God’s glory seen in Christ, the better we see ourselves as well.
What advantages or comforts do you need to set aside for your family? What are the areas you are stubborn and refusing to serve?
Dads, you walk in the house after a long day at work, look for ways to serve your wife by taking the kids off her hands. Moms, are there ways you need to humble yourself in the daily tornado of parenting?
Married couples, what was it you were arguing about again?
Be obedient. Kids, adults, how can you glorify God? By loving him and doing what he commands. God’s commands aren’t oppressive or whimsical. God gave us commands for our good. So work hard to obey them, not for your glory, but for God’s.
Think as a partner in ministry. How do you decide what events or ministries to participate in at Grace? Do you run it through the lens of what you enjoy doing? What your preferences are? Or what pieces you are already passionate about? Or in humility, can you see it as a way to partner in unity with the people of Grace? It doesn’t matter whether you know our missionaries personally. It doesn’t matter how well you know a brother or sister here. If you have fellowship with Christ and call Grace church your home, you are partners.
This is a glorious passage that we could spend several weeks diving into deeper. Jesus is much more than simply a model to follow. He is our model par excellence. His humility runs far deeper than we can imagine. But what he accomplished through his extreme humility purchased salvation for his people. And gives us not only and example but the power to have the mind of Christ.