The Letter To The Philippians, Part 6

Philippians 2: 5-11
Begin with intentional reading:

  • Read Philippians 2:5-11 slowly and carefully.  Consider the following:
  • Did you notice anything in this set of scripture you have never noticed in the Bible before?
  • Did you read any familiar verses? Which ones?
  • Were any of the verses you read particularly meaningful to you today? Why?

Today’s set of verses pick up on the heels of Paul’s encouragement to the Philippian church to be unified and humble, and he uses Christ’s attitude and behavior as the standard we should hold ourselves to.  Let’s begin by looking closely at what Paul is asking us to emulate.

  • Read Philippians 2:6-8.  If you write in your Bible, highlight or underline the phrases that describe Jesus’ attitude and actions.  If you don’t write in your Bible, find a place to list these. (Hint: Depending on translation there are 6-8).
  • Next, read Philippians 2: 9-11.  What was God’s response to Christ’s attitude and action? Highlight or underline God’s response to Christ’s attitude and actions in your Bible or add them to your list. Are you able to see the attitude in Christ that God honored? 

It was Christ’s humility and submission to the authority of God that God ultimately honored. The moment Christ took on human flesh, He was expected to honor and obey God in the same way that God desires ALL humans to.  Christ’s divinity didn’t excuse Him from submission or obedience. So the fact that Jesus Christ, fully divine and present at creation, willingly agreed to participate in the human experience and obey the will of God was a demonstration of humility that is incomprehensible.  No wonder Paul uses Christ as the ultimate example of humility for us.  But God’s attitude toward Christ’s humility is available to us as well.

  • Read Matthew 23:13, Luke 14:11, Proverbs 29:23, and James 4:6.  According to these scriptures, how does God view those with humble attitudes?

Switching gears a bit, in verse 5, Paul tells his audience that in seeking unity and humility they should adopt the attitude or mind (depending on translation) of Christ Jesus.  The word mind in the phrase “have the same mind as Christ” would have meant more to the first century audience than a simple encouragement to think like Jesus.  In fact, a phrase my grandfather used to use may come closer to conveying the real meaning of Paul’s point.

When my grandfather had his mind made up to do something, he would say. “I have a mind to ____”.  When he said, “I have a mind to,” he was letting us know his mind was made up and his following actions would be in line with the decision he had made.  Paul wasn’t a country farmer, but I do know that my grandfather’s phrase and behavior demonstrated the mentality Paul wished for his readers to adopt.  

The word translated attitude or mind in our English Bibles means more than just a mental action. Paul’s expectation was not only that the Philippians think like Jesus, but that in thinking like Jesus, they also act like Jesus. Paul wanted them to “have a mind to be humble and unified in Christ,” and expected humility and unity to be fruit in their lives because of adopting Christ-like attitudes. The personal conviction each disciple had to pursue Christlikeness was to be demonstrated in their attitude and behavior toward others.  The same admonition is for us.  Set you mind toward humility and avoiding pride, and let your actions follow.  Wouldn’t it be nice if it were that easy! Consider the following:

  • Do you ever find it hard to keep your behaviors in line with your spiritual convictions? Read Matthew 26:41. Was Jesus aware that this would a struggle for humans? How do you feel knowing Jesus was aware of our struggle?

Paul makes it seem so simple to just DECIDE to be like Christ then live that out, but that can be so hard to do.  Few of us feel we have the conviction of Paul.  Brothers and sisters, can I tell you that Christ died so that we CAN have the conviction of Paul?  It’s what He wants for us.  Jesus wants us to have confidence that we can overcome sin – whether it’s pride or any other thing that separates us from God.  The same man that writes definitely in Philippians 2:5 shares his struggle in Romans, and what a blessing to us that God allows us to see Paul’s heart.

  • Read Romans 7: 21-8:4. Did Paul struggle with sin?  What conclusion did Paul come to (see 8:2-4) that helped him overcome feeling defeated by sin? Is the same source of Paul’s confidence available to us? (Hint: the answer is yes).  
  • Reread Romans 8:1-4 and replace the pronouns (those, you, us) with your own name. Does seeing yourself, personally, in Romans 8 strengthen your confidence that you are able to overcome sin?
  • What is the connection between humility and obedience? What is the connection between pride and disobedience?

Paul’s encouragement for the Philippians to have the same mind as Christ is just as much an encouragement to us today.  Setting our minds to be united with each other for the cause of the Gospel and being humble before God and others positions us to be effective in kingdom work and receive God’s support and blessing.  Desire unity.  Set your mind on being humble.  Honor God.

Be blessed.  Be a blessing.

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