Philippians 2:1-30 - Outline of Philippians (Menu page)
Paul's letter, to the Philippian church, is full of love and joy in their mutual relationship with Christ. Their "fellowship in the gospel" involved earnest prayer, financial support, and practical care in sending their pastor, Epaphroditus, to minister to Paul's personal needs. Paul brought them up to date on "the things which happened unto" him, during a period of time when they had been out of communication. He shared, with them, his joy in the midst of his trials. He was in prison in Rome, but the Lord was using his imprisonment to bring many in Caesar's palace to saving faith. His circumstances were full of difficulties and frustrations. Yet, He rejoiced that Christ was being preached, even by some who were happy to see him in jail. He hoped he would soon be released, and allowed to visit the Philippians, though the outcome of His case was uncertain. Still, he rejoiced, and sought nothing for himself, except that "Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (1:20,21).

Whatever the Lord chose was okay with him (1:22-30). His chief concern was that his spiritual children would be well established in their walk with the Lord. He was encouraged with the evidence of another aspect of their fellowship in the gospel... like Paul, they too were exhibiting patient continuance in proclaiming the gospel, even under persecution, and he rejoiced to hear it.

But now, he begins to teach and counsel them. "Only let your conversation {manner of life} be as it becometh the gospel of Christ..." (1:27). Yes, they were standing nobly against the enemies from without, and their expression of fellowship with their distant missionary was exemplary. But, what was the condition of their fellowship within the body? How were they to relate to one another?

With love, meekness and unity:

1. If [there be] therefore any consolation in Christ,
if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit,
if any bowels and mercies,
2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded,
having the same love, [being] of one accord, of one mind.
3 [Let] nothing [be done] through strife or vainglory;
but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
4 Look not every man on his own things,
but every man also on the things of others.
"If there be..." can also be expressed "since there are..." -
The four or five nouns mentioned in v.1 are central to the gospel of Christ. As believers, we have some concept of what they mean, for these things are characteristics of the Savior's heart, and they flow from Him to, and through us, by the Holy Spirit.
  • If any consolation {GK=paraklesis, a drawing near, a coming alongside} in Christ...
    Is there any of that in Him? Yes, He is our 'paraklete,' our 'advocate' with the Father (1Joh 2:1). He has given us the Holy Spirit, who is our comforter {GK=parakletos}, to dwell within us, to testify of Him, and to draw us into communion with Christ Himself (Joh 14:16-18). He walks with us. He is present with us. He is there when we need Him.
  • If any comfort {GK=paramuthion, persuasive speech} of love...
    The Word of God speaks in love, to those who will hear it. The friends, of Mary and Martha, came to comfort them at the death of their brother (Joh 11:19), but their words were empty in comparison to the comfort which Jesus spoke (Joh 11:25,26). With God's Word on his lips and in his heart, Paul lovingly spoke comfort to his spiritual children (1The 2:11). So, should all who proclaim the Word (1Cor 14:3; 2Cor 1:3,4).
  • If any fellowship {GK=koinonia, that which is held in common} of the Spirit...
    Paul and the Philippians had "fellowship in the gospel." This is more than adherence to a common set of teachings. We have been "called unto the fellowship of [God's] Son" (1Cor 1:9). Our fellowship is "the communion of the blood of Christ... [and] the communion of the body of Christ (1Cor 10:16). We are joined to Him and to each other by "the communion of the Holy Ghost" (2Cor 13:14), who is the One Spirit of His One Body (Eph 4:4-6).
  • If any bowels {GK=splagnon, inward affections} and mercies {GK=oiktirmos, compassion}....
    The Lord Jesus was "moved with compassion" {GK=splagchnizomai} for the lost. Paul was similarly moved with love for the Philippians (Php 1:8). The mercies of God should move us to give ourselves wholly to Him (Rom 12:1).
Since these things are central to God's dealings with us, Paul appeals to his readers:
"Fulfil ye my joy (ie., make my joy complete, v.2),
  • that ye be likeminded (ie., thus minded).- ie., with your thinking characterized by the characteristics itemized in v.1
  • having the same love {GK=agape} - Php 1:8,9
  • of one accord {GK=sumpsuche, lit., one soul, one life, one purpose} - Php 1:21
  • of one mind {GK=phroneo, thought; ie., one way of thinking} - We are not to be divided into competing camps. [JVMcGee observed, from years of pastoral experience, that in most churches, there are two groups: one for and one against the pastor. Usually, each group has strong leaders, whom the others follow, without thinking.] We are to share a common goal and a common strategy for reaching it.
What does this look like?
First the negatives: what our 'mind' ought Not to be like (v.3,4):
  • Let nothing be done...
    • ...through strife {GK=eritheia, contention, self-promotion}. See this word in Php 1:16 (contention); Jam 3:14-16 (strife).
    • ...or vainglory {GK=kenodoxia, empty self-esteem, baseless self-honor}
Then the positives:
  • But in lowliness of mind {ie., having a humble opinion of one's self}
    let each esteem other {GK=allelon, one another} better {GK=huperecho, superior, more excellent} than themselves.
  • Look not every man on his own things (1Cor 13:5, love seeketh not her own)
    but every man also on the things of others {GK=heteros}. Php 2:20,21
This is not the thinking of the natural man. How is it possible to have this mind?
The mind of Christ... in you...
5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation,
and took upon him the form of a servant,
and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself,
and became obedient unto death,
even the death of the cross.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus...
This is not the "imitation" of Christ, to be realized by conscious effort. We are not capable of doing what we "ought" to do (Joh 13:14; 1Pet 2:21). Rather, Paul is speaking of the impartation of Christ's nature into the believer. Only the Holy Spirit can accomplish this (Gal 4:19; Rom 8:29; 2Cor 3:18).
The mind of Christ is characterized by unfathomable humility... (cp. Mat 11:28-30; Eph 4:1,2)
which is observed in the seven steps of His humiliation.
  1. Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God...-
    He was God by nature. It was not a position which he learned or earned. He did not need to do anything to maintain His Godhood. It was not something that He could lose. Yet, He stepped down from His position of power and privilege, to do the Father's will (Heb 10:7). He did not begrudge His change in position, but did it with joy (Heb 12:2). Yet, this step alone is light years beyond what we can imagine: The eternal God forsook His throne, for the limitations of an insignificant speck of dust hidden in the expanse of the universe which He had created.
  2. Made Himself of no reputation {GK=kenoo, to make empty}- He "emptied Himself"... - of what?
    • Of His deity? - The gnostics thought so. But, No. He was fully God and fully man (Joh 1:1-3,14).
    • Of His prerogatives as deity - Yes. As God, He should have been well received when He came to earth. But he was born to peasant parents, in a stable. His childhood and manhood were spent in poverty (Mat 8:20). In His high priestly prayer, He asked the Father to restore Him to His former glory (not His former deity, Joh 17:5).
  3. Took upon Himself the form of a servant...-
    He spent His youth and young adulthood as a common carpenter. He was not favored with the prestige and power of the upper classes. Rather, He walked among the "little people" as one of them. Luk 22:27; Joh 13:4,5
  4. Was made in the likeness of a man...- 'What is man, that thou art mindful of him?' Psa 8:4-6
    The gulf between God and man is far greater than that between man and ants. Yet, He came down and dwelt among us, as one of us.
  5. as a man, He humbled {GK=tapeinoo, abased, took an even lower place} Himself...-
    He came to do the Father's will, and to place Himself under our sin. Psa 40:6-8
  6. became obedient unto death...-
    All men are in bondage to sin and death. There is no escape, for us, because of our sinful condition. But "in Him was life" (Joh 1:4). He was the only man "who knew no sin" (2Cor 5:21). He did not have to die. But He laid down His life for His sheep (Joh 10:15-18).
  7. even the death of the cross.- He did not die peacefully in His sleep. He suffered...
    • the physical agony of that brutal mode of execution.
    • the disgrace of public execution: the Holy God dies as a criminal.
    • the spiritual separation from the Father, as He was made sin for us. Psa 22:1
"Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ..." (Php 1:27) How is this possible?
Only as the mind of Christ permeates and flows through my heart and yours. Only as "I am crucified with Christ" and it is no longer I that live, "but Christ [who] lives within me." Gal 2:20

The mind of Christ, which is characterized by unfathomable humility, is revealed to us in the seven steps of His humiliation (2:5-8). We read the words... but we cannot begin to comprehend how far down He came, from the throne of His glory to the death of the cross... He did it all for you and me. His concern was not for Himself, but for the needs of others. In comparison to how deeply He humbled Himself, it should be a very small thing for us to esteem others more highly than ourselves. You and I need to be moved by the mind of Christ. God the Father was.

The mind of Christ was to humble Himself for our sakes.
In the next several verses, we see that 'the mind of God' is to exalt Christ for His glory (2:9-11).

9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him,
and given him a name which is above every name:
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
of [things] in heaven, and [things] in earth, and [things] under the earth;
11 And [that] every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ [is] Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Seven upward steps can be traced here. We will not develop each of them fully.
  1. God hath highly exalted Him. -
    The exaltation of Christ is God's central purpose for the creation of the universe and for the existence of man. Col 1:15-19
  2. and given Him a name which is above every name. - Dan 7:13,14; Joh 5:22-27
  3. that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow. -
    Every human knee should bow, because He is the one and only Savior of mankind. Acts 4:12; 5:31; Rom 14:9; Rev 5:9-12
    But redeemed men are not the only ones to bow the knee to Him. For He is no mere man. He is the Lord of heaven and earth, who redeems His own and who brings His enemies to shame (Isa 45:22-25).
  4. ...of things in heaven...- ie., the angelic beings. Heb 1:6
  5. ...of things in earth...- ie., the nations and their kings, even the unsaved. Isa 49:7; 52:15; Rev 21:23-24
  6. ...of things under the earth... (as in Rev 5:13)- ie., the unsaved in their graves, and the demons in the pit.
    Some try to use this verse to teach that every creature will eventually be saved. But notice that, in Col 1:20, "things under the earth" are not included among those which are reconciled.
  7. every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
    Be cautious about calling Jesus 'Lord'.
    • even the devils and unbelievers will acknowledge His Lordship. Joh 5:28,29; Jam 2:19; Rev 20:10
    • many people who say He is their Lord...
      Then what about 1Cor 12:3 ('...no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost')?
      • As shown by the passages above, it is possible to mouth the words, untruthfully.
      • The context of 1Cor 12 is about the power of the Holy Spirit who enables believers for service with various spiritual gifts. Evil spirits are also powerful. Therefore, it is necessary to test the spirits. One such test is in 1Cor 12:3a (the Holy Spirit will not curse Christ). It is also necessary to test the hearts. Regardless of what you say with your lips, Jesus will not truly be your Lord, unless the Holy Spirit lives and works within you (1Cor 12:3b).
If Jesus Christ is your Lord, you will seek to exalt Him in everything (1:20,21),
for this is the mind of God. And it is God who works in you to will and to do His will (2:13).
If Jesus Christ is your Lord, you will be living in humility toward your brothers,
with increasing evidence that His mind dwells in you (2:5). For your Lord has called you to "learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your soul." (Mat 11:29)
12. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed,
not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence,
work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
13 For it is God which worketh in you
both to will and to do of [his] good pleasure.
14. Do all things without murmurings and disputings:
15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God,
without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation,
among whom ye shine as lights in the world;
16 Holding forth the word of life;
that I may rejoice in the day of Christ,
that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.
Wherefore... work out your own salvation with fear and trembling...-
Our salvation is not accomplished by our works. Salvation is the gift of God. But the lives of those who are saved will demonstrate God's purposes (Eph 2:8-10).
     The words "work out" (GK=katergazomai} mean 'perform according to' your salvation: The salvation purchased through Christ's humiliation... The salvation for which Christ is highly exalted. To live according to this salvation - Let the meek and lowly mind of Christ dwell within you. Live, as He did, wholly to do the Father's will. And what is His will? The mind of God is that in everything, Christ should be exalted (1:20,21).
"For it is God who worketh in you {GK=energeo, who energizes you} both to will, and to do of His good pleasure."
God works in us that we would will His will, and desire what He desires. He energizes, within us, the humble mind of Christ, which desires only to please the Father. He also energizes, within us, the Father's mind, which desires above all to exalt Christ.
If these things are true within us, there will be no place for
'murmurrings' {ie., grudging, secret displeasure}... or 'disputings' {ie., account settling, conflict for personal position, rights, or reputation} (v.14).
The sons of God ought to be 'blameless' {ie., unblameable}... 'harmless' {ie., without mixture with evil, guileless}...'without rebuke' {ie., without faults requiring correction} (v.15).
The character of the sons of God ought to be in sharp contrast to that of the unsaved people among whom we live. The world is "crooked and perverse," in that they have turned aside from obedience to God's will.
The testimony of our lives ought to reinforce the message on our lips: the Word of Life (the gospel of Christ), so that others also might believe (v.16).
If the Philippian believers would live in this way, it would cause Paul to rejoice, at Christ's return. Otherwise, his labors would have been in vain {GK=kenos, ie., empty, of no purpose}. As Christ had 'emptied Himself' (v.7, GK=kenoo, 'made himself of no reputation'), Paul had poured himself out for the sake of his spiritual children. He, like Christ, did it for the joy that was set before him (Heb 12:2). Paul, looking forward to Christ's return, lived in anticipation of the joy of seeing what the Lord had done in and through the lives of the Philippian believers (v.16).
Three examples of what it means to "work out your salvation" are given, in v.17-30,
in the lives of three men who lived according to the mind of Christ (meek and lowly before the Lord), and the mind of God (for the purpose of exalting Christ in everything).
17 Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith,
I joy, and rejoice with you all.
18 For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me.
Paul - The word which he chose for 'offered' indicates that
Paul regarded himself as a 'drink offering' to be poured out...
  • upon the sacrifice of Christ.
  • upon the sacrifice and service of the Philippian believers, for Christ.
'Drink offerings' are mentioned several times in Leviticus, in association with the various types of sacrifices which speak of various aspects of Christ's sacrifice. The drink offering was barely noticed, in comparison to the burning carcass on the altar, upon which it was poured out. For as it was being poured out, it immediately boiled up and blew away as steam.
     Paul desired only to lose himself in selfless service to His Lord and to others.
"Not I but Christ be honored, loved, exalted; Not I but Christ be seen, be known, be heard..." [hymn]
19 But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you,
that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state.
20 For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state.
21 For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's.
22 But ye know the proof of him,
that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel.
23 Him therefore I hope to send presently,
so soon as I shall see how it will go with me.
24 But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly.
Timothy - was 'likeminded' with Paul, and also with Christ (v.1-2,5).
Like Paul, he served with humility, not for 'vainglory' (v.3,21).
     "All seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's." What an indictment! But notice to whom it applies: "All." You and I naturally look out for number one (v.4). Even when we think that we are serving God, we are often self deceived (like the religious leaders of Israel, in Isaiah's day, Isa 56:11). But if you are truly going to follow Christ, you must die to self (Mat 16:24 'any man,' ie., every man, who would follow Christ, must die to self, for all seek their own). If you belong to Christ, you no longer belong to yourself (2Cor 5:14,15).
     Timothy had followed in his spiritual father's footsteps, while some of Paul's converts had turned against him (1:15,16). (Also 2Tim 1:15 "...all they which are in Asia be turned away from me..."; 2Tim 4:10 "...Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present evil world...")
     Timothy was faithful and true to Paul, his teachings, and his heart of selfless service to the Lord and His people. Paul sent him as his representative, knowing that he could fully trust him.
25 Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus,
my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier,
but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.
26 For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness,
because that ye had heard that he had been sick.
27 For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him;
and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.
28 I sent him therefore the more carefully,
that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice,
and that I may be the less sorrowful.
29 Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness;
and hold such in reputation:
30 Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death,
not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.
Epaphroditus -
  • His relationship to Paul (v.25)-
    Epaphroditus is thought to have been the pastor of the church, founded by Paul, in Philippi. Paul the apostle refers to Epaphroditus as "your messenger" {GK=apostolos}. Yet, there is not a hint of jealousy or strife between them. Note the words which describe their fellowship in the gospel (in v.25): brother, companion, fellowsoldier, minister (servant).
  • His relationship to the Philippian believers (v.26-28)-
    Here is a beautiful example of mutual love within the church: Love of pastor for his people, and love of the people for their pastor and for one another. He 'longed' for them (desiring to be with them, eagerly awaiting assurance of their well-being). He was 'full of heaviness' {GK=ademoneo, to be troubled, in anguish, in deep depression} because he did not want them worrying for him in his sickness. His return to Philippi would be a cause for rejoicing for both the people and their pastor.
  • His relationship to the Lord (v.29,30)-
    Like Paul, he regarded his service for Christ as more important than life itself (1:21).
     
Another observation from the text...
In addition to these three examples of living according to the mind of Christ (in humble service for others), and living according to the mind of the Father (for the purpose of exalting Christ, in everything and at any cost), here is one additional lesson: The humble servant is absolutely dependent upon his Lord.
     Why didn't Paul heal Epaphroditus?
Today, some teach that physical healing is the birthright of believers.
  • Early in Paul's ministry, God had granted healings as a sign to authenticate the gospel message (eg., Acts 19:11,12; 28:8). But at this point, late in his ministry, the need for such signs was fading. The gospel had been proclaimed widely. Much of the NT had been written by this time.
  • Paul was not a "healer." He was a servant of Christ. His purpose was to exalt Christ, not himself. In contrast, today's "faith healers" draw attention to themselves.
  • Paul claimed no power to heal. He was totally dependent upon God for enabling in ministry, including physical healings, when the Lord so granted. Remember that Paul was unable to heal his own physical condition (2Cor 12:7-9). Rather than healing Timothy of his stomach problems, he prescribed "a little wine" (1Tim 5:23). He left Trophimus "at Miletum sick" (2Tim 4:20). Paul acknowledged that the healing of Epaphroditus, who had come close to death, was a "mercy" granted by God, lest Paul and the Philippians be overcome with sorrow. The power to heal, and the determination of when and whether to heal, belong to the Lord, not to Paul.
  • Actually, the determination of every matter belongs to the Lord: where to serve, how, with whom... Everything must be according to the Lord's design, deciding, and doing (1Cor 2:1-5). "For it is God which worketh in you both to will, and to do, of His good pleasure." (Php 2:13)
These men, mentioned by example in this chapter, all had the mind of Christ.
They were lights in the darkness of the pagan world in which they lived.
They gave themselves selflessly to the work of Christ...
  • with joy,
  • with dependence upon the enabling of the Holy Spirit,
  • and in humble faithfulness to Christ, His Word, and those for whom Christ died.
Shouldn't we do the same? Shouldn't we also pour ourselves out as drink offerings upon the sacrifice of Christ? (1Cor 11:23 f)


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