Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus .” Philippians 2:5 NRSV

The Philippian church was known for its generosity. The Philippians were Paul’s financial supporters throughout his missionary journeys. The irony was, even while Paul was in wealthy cities such as Corinth, it was the humble Philippians who continued to support Paul. Essentially, the theme of Philippians is a letter of thanksgiving and joy. Paul is thanking the Philippians for their tremendous generosity while reminding them that their true joy and identity is found in Jesus. In the beginning of Chapter 2, Paul urges the Philippians to continue to imitate Christ’s humility.

Read Philippians 2:1 11
Verses 5 11 are usually interpreted as a poem or hymn of praise and some Biblical scholars still debate whether Paul wrote this poem himself or if he was quoting an earlier Christian writer. In either case, this is a very ancient statement of Jesus’ identity and what He accomplished. Verse 7 states that Jesus emptied himself. The Greek word “kenosis” describes this concept of self-emptying. Understanding Jesus’ humility requires that we first understand what He gave up in order to accomplish God’s purpose. Before coming to earth as a human, Christ “existed in the form of God.” That is, as the second member of the Trinity, Christ was part of the Godhead, and He was equal with God and had all the rights and authority of God. Yet, Christ did not hold dearly or grasp desperately to His rights and His authority. Instead, He willingly let go of his equality with God, emptying himself of his divine rights. However, Christ’s emptying did not make Him any less divine. Instead, His self-emptying was voluntary and He could have at any time, of His own will, decided to revoke this emptying of himself and regain the fullness of his divine character. Furthermore, Paul’s main emphasis isn’t defining what Christ gave up, but the purpose of His emptying. The real issue isn’t what Jesus left behind, but what He became for our benefit. In other words, Christ humbled himself so that we might be lifted up.

Now read Philippians 2:12 30
Paul is encouraging the Philippians to grow into maturity and take responsibility for themselves. After all, Paul may not get to visit them again and he wants them to work out for themselves with God’s help what their new lives in Christ will look like. Paul goes on to stress that the work of salvation is God’s work and His work alone.

Questions for Reflection
  1. We have a God who gave up His power for our sake. Do you find that easy to accept? Why/why not?
  2. What are some practical ways to regard others as more important than you are?
  3. How can you look after someone else’s best interest this week?
  4. In v.14, Paul urges the Philippians to “do all things without murmuring and arguing.” How is this command connected to Jesus’ model of self-emptying? How would our lives be transformed if we lived in this way?
  5. When Paul speaks to the Philippians about “shining like lights” he is quoting the book of Daniel (12:3) which speaks to “the wise”meaning the Israelites who are skilled in knowing and applying God’s love to the world. As followers of Jesus and the body of Christ, how can we be an example of this light in today’s world which often seems so dark?

A prayer for this week:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace: where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

The Rev. Chad T. Martin