As Paul wrote to the Church at Philippi, he stressed the need for unity. In 1:27, he stated that living worthy for the Gospel was marked by “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the Gospel” (emphasis added). In chapter 2, he asked the Church to bring his joy to completion by being “of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (emphasis added).
In verses 3-4, Paul commanded these believers to self-less living. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
With humility, they were to be regard others as better and more important than themselves. They were to look out for the interests of others and do nothing out of selfish ambition. Let that sink in to how we are to view others!
As any good teacher knows, it is best to follow up a command or admonition with a story, illustration, or example that helps illumine the lesson. Paul, being the expert teacher and instructor, did that with the ultimate example, Jesus. Verses 5-11 provide us with the ultimate in humility.
“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. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Believers are commanded to exhibit the same mindset that Jesus had, one of self-sacrifice for the betterment of others. The original language here highlights that while this is a command, it is a passive tense verb. That means we cannot “work this up” by our strength. It is a gift of grace by and through the power of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, it is still commanded of those who know Christ.
He, being the very essence and nature of God, did not find it necessary to grasp or cling to the visible manifestation of His inherent glory. Instead, He laid aside the visible manifestation of glory for a season, took on the form or visible nature of a human, and lived on the earth. The Creator, for a season, was willing to become a sacrifice for the sins of His people. He died the death of a common criminal although He never sinned in thought, word, or deed.
In doing this, He entrusted Himself to the will and plan of the Father, knowing that in due time, He would be exalted. He was willing to endure contempt and scorn from the world and suffer physically as long as the will of God was completed and the name of God was exalted.
If the sinless, eternal, holy Son of God was willing to humble Himself in this way, how can we legitimately refuse? He was the only One to never deserve such treatment. We who deserve eternal condemnation should see His example of humility and be broken over our obstinate, selfish ways.
If anyone could have legitimately refused such self-abasement, it was He. Nevertheless, He gladly embraced humility for the name of God to be glorified. He trusted that God would exalt Him, and this is exactly what we must do.
We must look at how Jesus willingly embraced the prospect of laying aside any visible claim of exaltation and embraced the role of servant. Although it was His right to be worshiped and honored, He laid that right aside for a season. He never ceased being the eternal, Lamb of God. He just didn’t demand the visible display of that glory while He accomplished the Father’s will.
We are holy and righteous by adoption and imputation. In other words, God counts us as just and His children not because we are inherently just and deserve such treatment. He does it because of His grace and the work of Christ, alone! How can we think we are better than Christ or need not consider and follow His example of humility?
May God give us the grace to have this same mind of Christ in us.