Jesus as Our Example
Chapter 2: Christian Hardship, the Need for Unity, and Jesus Christ
God Became Human
This is wild, I mean the fact that the Creator of the Universe cares deeply for us is one thing. But, that He would send His one and only Son, to become a human being, and experience suffering on our behalf is nuts. A truly radical expression of love.
Because of this, these are the passages that have historically received the most attention in the book of Philippians.
Some believe that because of the way that it is structured, it is an early Christian hymn.
Incarnation: God became a man, and dwelled among us.
Christ existed before creation with God, He is equal with the Father, Jesus comes to identify with humanity, and it was this human nature that cost him his very life.
Paul is talking about Jesus becoming human because he wants the believers to adopt their mutual relations and same attitudes that characterize Jesus.
A reminder that the Philippians are in Christ, and that obedience is what must be the result.
Purpose of 2:5-11
Paul places the example of Christ before the divided Philippian community.
Paul is presenting a Jesus Christ that the Philippians should model their lives after - humble, submissive, self-sacrificial, obedient.
They should pursue humility and the interests of others (2:4), just as Jesus refused to exploit the power that his equality with God gave to him and instead demonstrated his deity in the role of a slave.
They should also pursue obedience (2:12), just as Jesus was obedient to the point of suffering a slave’s dreadful death.
If they are faithful as Jesus was faithful, then the final day will mean the fulfillment of their deepest longings.
Christ did not literally empty himself of any divine attribute; instead, he metaphorically emptied himself by revealing the form of God in the form of a slave and in human likeness.
He did so both by “taking the very nature of a servant (Slave)” and by “being made in human likeness.
Servant/Slave - The slave in Greco-Roman society was deprived of the most basic human rights. In the same way, Christ refused to exploit the privilege of his deity and, giving up that right, became a slave.
Christ Jesus became human in the exact sense, in every sense that makes one truly human.
Christ Jesus “became obedient to death—even death on a cross.” Christ emptied himself by taking the form of a slave, but he stooped even lower when his human condition and his obedience led him to the cross.
Crucifixion - A slave’s death
In the world Paul shared with the Philippians, this was the lowest that one could stoop socially.
Crucifixion was the cruelest form of official execution in the Roman empire, and although a Roman citizen might experience it if convicted of high treason, it was commonly reserved for the lower classes, especially slaves.
When Paul adds to the statement that Christ emptied himself by taking the form of a slave the comment that he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death on a cross, therefore, he has taken the nature of Christ’s selfless denial of his rights to new depths.
Christ went from the highest position imaginable to the lowest precisely because such selfless love was an expression of his deity.
What Does this Mean for Us?
Now we’ve talked about the idea of Christ being incarnated, becoming human, suffering as a servant in 4 different ways.
What does this mean to you?
Why does understanding and accepting this truth matter for our day to day faith?
Outline of Verses
Encouragement to the Philippians, in light of Christ’s life and example, to continue their good record of obedience (2:12-13).
Does Jesus' example encourage us to be faithful, or does it sometimes lead to unrealistic expectation and pressure?
A precise statement about the area of obedience Paul wants the Philippians to address - ‘complaining’ or ‘arguing’ (2:14-16).
How often do you find yourself complaining about your situation?
Paul shows how their struggle to remain ‘blameless’ and ‘pure’ is bound up with his own struggle to remain faithful to their calling and Paul’s calling - to present an acceptable sacrifice to God and to experience the joy that comes from doing so (2:16-18).
We all struggle to remain blameless and pure. In fact, we will always struggle with this as imperfect people. Is it difficult to remain faithful to Christ, to feel like a good follower of Jesus when you find yourself in a blame-full, impure place stuck in your sin?
How does Christ coming to dwell among us and experience humanity give us courage and empowerment to live faithfully in an unfaithful world?
This idea is what Paul is getting at a bit in Philippians 2:12…
Work Out vs. Work For
When Paul says that believers must ‘work out their salvation’ he does not mean that they should ‘work for’ it, or earn it.
Instead that they should conduct themselves ‘in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ’ (1:27) as they await the coming of Christ.
We do this with ‘fear and trembling’ because living a life worthy of the Gospel is a serious pursuit - the persecution that may come as a result!
Fear and Trembling
One of the most important themes in Paul’s theology is that human effort cannot even cooperate with God’s grace to yield a right standing before God on the final day
Salvation as well-being - The Philippians should work toward ‘well-being’ in their community. Then, it is no longer an attitude toward God, but an attitude of humility toward one another.
What do you think about the idea of being saved? How does it help or hinder your personal pursuit of Jesus?
The “fear and trembling” to which Paul refers in Philippians 2:12 probably refers to an attitude that the Philippians should have toward God.
Justification - The status of saved believers to be considered as innocent, even though we are soaked in sin, we have received the grace of God unconditionally.
How does the idea of justification give us life?
Why does Paul include such boring and mundane information about his travel itinerary?
He does so in order to show direct examples of believers who are the poster boys for believers who have listened to and lived out Paul’s commands.
Both Timothy and Epaphroditus exhibit the qualities of those who “conduct” themselves “in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (1:27), especially by looking “not only to [their] own interests, but also to the interests of others” (2:4).
In 2:4 Paul had encouraged the Philippians not to seek their own interests but the interests of others.
Timothy seeks the interests of Jesus Christ (2:21), and this goal leads him to seek the best interests of others (2:20). Like Christ Jesus (2:7), he has become a slave to the gospel (2:22).
Similarly, Epaphroditus became a servant to Paul in his need (2:25), and just as Christ Jesus “became obedient to death—even death on a cross” (2:8), so Epaphroditus came near death in faithful service to his commission (2:27, 30).
Just as God, in response to Christ’s obedience, exalted Christ to the highest place, so Epaphroditus should be welcomed back to Philippi with joy and honor (2:29).
So Paul’s discussion of Timothy and Epaphroditus is far more than a mere “travelogue.” It is an illustration of how two fellow believers, both well known to the Philippians, can put into practice the principles of conduct that Paul has suggested the Philippians follow.
These two coworkers provide tangible evidence that the ethical principles implied in the gospel do not ask more than God gives the power to obey.