Click here to learn more!
At the close of the first chapter we are reminded that, not only is it given to us to believe on Christ, but also, "to suffer for His sake." If Christ had to meet the adversary in His path through this world, we may be sure that the more believers exhibit the character of Christ the greater will be the opposition of the enemy. We must then be prepared for conflict, even as the saints at Philippi, who, marked by so many of the graces of Christ, found themselves for this very reason faced by adversaries.
From this second chapter we further learn that the enemy was seeking to mar their testimony to Christ, not only through adversaries from without, but by stirring up strife within the Christian circle. In the first two verses the apostle brings before us this grave danger. Then, secondly, we learn from verses 3 and 4 that unity amongst the Lord's people can only be maintained by each one having the lowly mind. Thirdly, to produce this lowly mind, our eyes are directed to Christ as our pattern of lowly grace, as set forth in verses 5 to 11. Fourthly, the blessed result, for those who live according to the pattern of lowliness in Christ, will be that they become witnesses to Christ, as described in verses 12 to 16. Finally, the chapter closes with bringing before us three examples of saints whose lives were fashioned after the perfect pattern, and were thus marked by the lowly mind that forgets self in the consideration of others - verses 17 to 30.
(Vv. 1, 2). The apostle gladly owns that, through the devotedness and kindness of these saints to him in all his trials, he had tasted of the consolations that there are in connection with Christ and His own. He had been comforted by their love, and the fellowship that flowed from the Spirit engaging their hearts with Christ and His interests. He had realised afresh the compassion of Christ manifested through the saints for one who was suffering affliction ( Php_4:14 ). All these evidences of their devotedness gave him great joy. He sees, however, that the enemy was seeking to mar their united testimony to Christ by raising strife in their midst; therefore, he has to say, "Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind." With great delicacy of feeling the apostle refers to this lack of unity, though evidently he felt its seriousness, for we have four allusions to it in the course of his epistle. Already he has exhorted these saints to "stand fast in one spirit, with one mind" ( Php_1:27 ). Here he exhorts them to be likeminded. In the third chapter he can say, "Let us mind the same thing" ( Php_3:16 ); and in the closing chapter we have an exhortation to two sisters to "be of the same mind in the Lord" ( Php_4:2 ).
(Vv. 3, 4). Having with tender consideration for their feelings referred to this weakness in their midst, he proceeds to show that it can only be met by each one cultivating the lowly mind. So he warns us against doing anything in the spirit of strife or vainglory, the two great causes of the lack of unity among the Lord's people. It is not that we are to be indifferent to wrongs that may arise among the people of God, but we are warned against meeting them in an unchristian spirit. Too often, alas! troubles in an assembly become the occasion of bringing to light unjudged envy, malice, or vanity, that may be lurking in the heart. This leads to strife by which we seek to oppose and belittle one another, and vainglory that seeks to exalt self. How we need to judge our own hearts, for, as it has been remarked, "There is not one of us but attaches a certain importance to himself."
To escape this danger, how needful the exhortation that, "in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." We can only carry out this exhortation as we look away from ourselves and our own good qualities to those of others. The passage is not speaking of gifts, but the moral qualities that should mark all saints. Moreover, it contemplates saints living in a right moral condition. If a brother is going on with evil, I am not exhorted to esteem him more highly than myself if I am living rightly. But amongst saints living a right, normal Christian life it is easy for each of us to esteem others better than ourselves, if we are near to the Lord; for in His presence, however correct the outward life before others, we discover the hidden evils of the flesh, and see how many are our defects, and what poor things we are before Him, and in comparison with Him. Looking at our brother, we cannot see the hidden defects, but rather the good qualities that the grace of Christ has given him. This surely would keep us humble and enable us each to "esteem other better than themselves"; and we should be delivered from a spirit of vainglory that leads to strife and breaks up the unity of the saints. It is evident, then, that true unity amongst the Lord's people is not brought about by any compromise at the expense of truth, but by each one being in a right moral condition before the Lord, set forth by the lowly mind.
(Vv. 5-8). To produce this lowly mind, the apostle directs our gaze to Christ, as he says, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." He then gives a beautiful picture of the lowly mind set forth in Christ as He took the path from the glory of the Godhead to the shame of the cross. Thus Christ is set before us in all His lowly grace as our perfect Pattern. If the flock is following the Shepherd, the eyes of the sheep will be upon Him, and it is only as we are each looking to Him that unity will be maintained in the flock. The nearer we are to Christ the nearer we shall be drawn to one another.
In Christ we see set forth the lovely traits of One Who in perfection had the lowly mind, manifested in His setting aside every thought of self, and taking the path of the servant, and becoming obedient unto death. In tracing this path, the apostle shows us not only each downward step, but the mind in which Christ took this path - the lowly mind. It is not possible to follow all His steps, for we were never in the height from which He came, nor are we asked to travel into the depths that He went, but we are exhorted to have His mind in taking these steps.
Our gaze is first directed to Christ in the very highest place, "in the form of God." Then it was that in His mind He "made Himself of no reputation". He did not consider Himself. To carry out the will of the Father, and secure the blessing of His people, He was prepared to take the lowly place. As He could say, in view of coming into the world, "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God" ( Heb_10:7 ).
Secondly, with this mind the Lord took the form of a servant. When on earth, He could say to His disciples, "I am among you as He that serveth" ( Luk_22:27 ). One has said, "Not only does Christ take the form of a servant, but He will never give it up.... In John 13 , when the blessed Lord was going to glory, we should have said, there is an end of service. It is not so. He gets up from where He was sitting among them as a companion, He gets up and washes their feet; and that is what He is doing now.... In Luke 12 we learn that He still continues the service in glory - 'He shall gird Himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.'. . . He never gives up the service. Selfishness likes to be served, but love likes to serve; so Christ never gives up the service, for He never gives up the love" (J.N.D.).
Thirdly, not only did the Lord take "the form of a servant" but He was "made in the likeness of men." He could still have been a servant had He taken the likeness of angels, for they are sent forth to serve; but He was made a little lower than the angels, and was "found in fashion as a Man."
Fourthly, if the Lord was made in the likeness of men, He refused to use this condition in order to exalt Himself among men. His lowly mind led Him to humble Himself. He was born in a stable, and cradled in a manger, and lived amongst the lowly of this world.
Fifthly, even if He humbled Himself to walk with the lowly, He might have taken the place of rule in the world - the place that is His by right; but moved by the lowly mind, He "became obedient". Coming into the world, He said, "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God." Passing through it, He said, "I do always those things that please Him." Going out of the world, He said, "Not my will, but Thine, be done."
Sixthly, with this lowly mind, the Lord not only became obedient, but He became obedient unto death.
Seventhly, with this lowly mind, the Lord not only faced death, but submitted to the most ignominious death that a man can die - "even the death of the cross."
As we trace this wonderful path, down and down, from the highest glory to a cross of shame, let us not be content with merely being admirers of that which is morally beautiful - for this is possible even for a natural man. We need grace, not only to admire, but that there may be a practical effect produced in our lives according to the apostle's exhortation, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." In the light of the lowly mind seen in Jesus, we may well challenge our hearts as to how far we have judged the vainglory that is so natural to us, and with the lowly mind have sought to forget ourselves in order to serve others in love, and manifest something of the lowly grace of Christ.
We wonder at Thy lowly mind,
And fain would like Thee be,
And all our rest and pleasure find
In learning, Lord, of Thee.
(Vv. 9-11). If, however, our hearts are drawn out to Christ as we see the lowly grace in His down-stooping from the glory to the cross, we also see in Him the most perfect example of the truth that, "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted" ( Luk_14:11 ). "He humbled Himself," but "God also hath highly exalted Him." If, with the lowly mind, He went down below all, God has given Him "a Name which is above every name," and a place of exaltation above all. In Scripture "name" sets forth the fame of a person. There have been others famous in the history of the world, and amongst the saints of God, but the fame of Christ, as a Man, exceeds them all. On the Mount of Transfiguration the disciples, in their ignorance, would have put Moses and Elias on a level with Jesus. But these great men of God fade from the vision, and "Jesus was found alone", and the Father's voice is heard saying, "This is My beloved Son."
The Name of Jesus expresses the fame of this lowly Man. It means, as we know, Saviour, and as such it is a Name that is above every name. May we not say it is the one Name that the Lord had to come down from the glory to a cross of shame to secure? Over the cross it was written, "This is JESUS". Men in their scorn said, "Let Him now come down from the cross." Had He done so, He would have left the Name of JESUS behind Him. He would still have been the Creator, the mighty God, but never more would He have been JESUS - the Saviour. Blessed be His Name, His lowly mind led Him to be obedient to the death of the cross, and in result every knee will bow to the Name of Jesus, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
(Vv. 12-13). Our gaze having been directed to Christ in all His lowly grace, we are exhorted to obey the apostle's exhortations to judge all the tendencies of the flesh to strife and vainglory, and seek to walk in the lowly spirit of Christ our Pattern, and thus resist the efforts of the enemy to sow discord among the saints. When present with these believers, the apostle had kept them from the attacks of the enemy, but now, much more in his absence, they needed to be on their guard against adversaries without the Christian circle, and strifes within. Walking in the lowly spirit of Christ, they would indeed work out their own salvation from every effort of the enemy to break up their unity and mar their testimony to Christ: but let them work out their deliverance from the enemy with "fear and trembling." Realising the alluring character of the world around us, the weakness of the flesh within us, and the power of the devil against us, we may well fear and tremble. But is not the fear and trembling connected also with what follows? The apostle immediately adds, "For it is God which worketh in you." While not forgetting the mighty power that is against us, we are to fear lest we undervalue, and thus slight, the almighty power that is for us, and works in us, "both to will and to do of His good pleasure." God leads us not only to "do" but also to "will" to do His pleasure. This indeed is liberty. Apart from being willing, the doing would be mere servile legality. Naturally we like to carry out our own will for our pleasure, but God's work in us leads us to be willing to do His pleasure, and thus have the lowly mind of Christ our Pattern, Who could say, "I delight to do Thy will, O my God" ( Psa_90:8 ).
(Vv. 14-16). With our eyes upon Christ, and in as far as we have His lowly mind, we shall in this measure, not only be saved from the allurements of the world and the power of the enemy, but we shall become a witness to Christ before the world. This, surely, is the "good pleasure" of God that has been perfectly expressed in Christ, Who could say, "I do always those things that please Him" ( Joh_8:29 ). Thus the exhortations that follow present a lovely picture of Christ.
We are to "do all things without murmurings and reasonings" (N. Tr.). The Lord, indeed, groaned over the sorrows of men, but no murmur ever escaped His lips. It has been truly said, "God permits a groan, but never a grumble." Again, we are to beware of "reasonings", which might call in question God's way with us. However painful the Lord's path, no "reasoning" as to God's ways arose in His mind, or fell from His lips. On the contrary, when all His ministry of grace had failed to touch the hearts of men, and He was charged with doing His works by the power of the devil, He could say, "Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in Thy sight" ( Mat_11:26 ). Good for us, when faced with any little insult or trial, to follow in His steps, and without reasoning submit to what God allows, in the spirit of the Lord's lowly mind. Acting in this spirit we shall be "blameless" before God, and "harmless" before men. This again expresses something of the perfection of Christ, for He was "harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners" ( Heb_7:26 ). Following in His steps, we should be "irreproachable children of God" (N. Tr. ). The Lord could say, "For Thy sake I have borne reproach" ( Psa_69:7 ); but no reproach could be brought against Him for any evil way. On the contrary, men had to say, "He hath done all things well" ( Mar_7:37 ). We, too, are privileged to suffer reproach for His Name, but let us beware of anything in our ways and words unbecoming the children of God, and that would thus give occasion for reproach. By a right walk that cannot be rebuked we should manifest that we are the children of God in the midst of a generation whose crooked and perverted ways clearly show that they are not in relationship with God. Moses, in his day, could say that God is "a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He"; but immediately he has to add that he finds himself in the midst of a people who "have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of His children: they are a perverse and crooked generation" ( Deu_32:4 ; Deu_32:5 ). In spite of the light of Christianity, the world has not changed. It is still a world in which men "rejoice to do evil, . . . whose paths are crooked, and who are perverted in their course" ( Pro_2:15 N. Tr.). In such a world we are left to "shine as lights", and to be found "holding forth the word of life", and thus again follow in the steps of the Lord, Who was "the Light of the world", and Who could say, "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." The light presents what a person is, rather than what he says. Holding forth the word of life speaks of testimony rendered by proclaiming the truth of the word of God. Our lives must reflect something of the perfection of Christ if our words are to tell forth the way of life.
If, as the result of the apostle's ministry, the saints were brought to have the lowly mind of Christ, and thus become a witness to Christ, he would indeed rejoice that he had "not run in vain, neither laboured in vain." Here, in his own case, he would seem to distinguish between "life" and "testimony" for does not "running" speak of his manner of life, and the "labour" speak of his ministry?
In these seven exhortations of the apostle, do we not see a lovely picture of a life lived according to the perfect pattern set forth in Christ? - a life in which there is no murmur as to our lot; no reasoning as to why God allows this, or that, trial by the way; no blame for anything we say or do; no harm to others by our words or ways; with nothing in our lives that would call for rebuke as being inconsistent with a child of God; shining as a light in a world of darkness; and holding forth the word of life in a world of death. So living we should be for the pleasure of God, the glory of Christ, the help of saints, the blessing of the world, and have our reward in the day of Jesus Christ. If all the saints, with their eyes on Christ, were living this beautiful life, there would be no strife in the Christian circle. We should be one flock following one Shepherd.
(Vv. 17, 18). In the remaining verses of the chapter there pass before us three examples in actual life of believers, who, in large measure, exhibited the lowly mind of Christ that forgets self to serve others, and so shone as lights in the world and held forth the word of life.
First, in the apostle himself the Spirit of God surely intends us to see one who lived according to the pattern of Christ. The faith of the Philippian saints, in helping his necessities, had made a sacrifice to serve him. But, if in spite of this service, his imprisonment was to end in his death, he would still rejoice that he had been allowed to suffer for Christ, and for this cause he calls upon these saints to rejoice. He thus exhibits the lowly mind that in consideration for others can forget self and follow Christ even to death.
(Vv. 19-24). Paul passes on to speak of Timothy, one who was "like-minded" with him, as being marked by the lowly mind that forgets self in thinking of the good of others. Alas! the general condition of the primitive church, even in the apostle's day, had fallen so low that, so far from being marked by this self-denying love, he has to say, "all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's." In Timothy the apostle found one who cared for others, and served with him in holding forth the word of life in the gospel. Seeing that Timothy was marked by the lowly mind of Christ, Paul could use him in the care of the saints, and hoped to send him to the Philippian assembly as soon as he knew how his trial would end.
(Vv. 25-30). Finally, in Epaphroditus we have a striking example of the lowly mind that forgets self in longing after the good of others. He was not only a brother in Christ, but a companion in the work of the Lord, a fellow-soldier in contending for the truth, a messenger of the saints and a minister to meet the apostle's needs. In his unselfish love he longed after the saints, and was full of heaviness lest they should be over-anxious as to himself owing to his illness. He had indeed been nigh unto death, but in the mercy of God he had been spared. Now Paul, not thinking of himself, and how he would miss such a valued companion, sends this loved servant to the Philippians for their joy. Such an one they can receive in the Lord with all gladness, and hold in reputation. The apostle adds a word which so blessedly shows the kind of reputation that is of such value in the sight of God. Epaphroditus was marked by faithfulness in the work of Christ, and with the lowly mind was prepared, after the pattern of Christ, to face death in his service for others.
Seeing that in those early days all were seeking their own and the saints were no longer like-minded with the apostle, we need hardly be surprised if in these last days the people of God are divided and scattered. As Samuel Rutherford could say in his day, "A doubt it is if we shall have fully one heart till we shall enjoy one heaven." Nevertheless, encouraged by those bright examples of saints marked by the lowly mind, how good for us to look away from all the ruin around us to Christ our Pattern, and seek to walk with His mind, and thus become in some small measure a testimony to Christ, and so pass through this world according to the good pleasure of God.
O patient, spotless One!
Our hearts in meekness train,
To bear Thy yoke, and learn of Thee,
That we may rest obtain.
Philippians 2 .
The first chapter of the epistle presents Christ as our life, and the Christian experience that is the happy result of viewing the different circumstances of our path in connection with Christ. The second chapter presents Christ as our pattern, and the Christian experience that flows from having the lowly mind set forth in Christ. In the first chapter Christ is the Object that governs the Christian life; in the second chapter He is the Pattern that imparts grace to the Christian life. Thus the Christian life is not only a life devoted to Christ, but also a life marked by the lowliness and gentleness of Christ.
In verses 1 to 4 the apostle expresses his longing for the unity of believers, and exhorts to the lowly mind without which there can be no practical unity.
In verses 5 to 11 he presents Christ as the perfect Pattern of the lowly mind.
In verses 12 to 6 he gives a beautiful picture of the Christian life lived according to the Pattern.
Finally, in verses 17 to 30, we have three examples in actual life of believers whose lives were formed after the Pattern - Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus.
1. Unity (Verses 1-4).
It is good to notice that the apostle, in writing to the saints, while faithfully dealing with defects that may mark them, never overlooks the graces that adorn them. He gladly recognizes the fruit of the Spirit, though faithfully rebuking the works of the flesh. Thus in writing to the Philippians - a company of saints rich in the graces of Christ - he lingers with delight upon the fruits of the Spirit that they exhibit - the "consolation in Christ," the "comfort of love," the "fellowship of the Spirit," and the "bowels and compassions." Nevertheless, with all these excellencies, he sees a serious defect, though, remembering their graces, he touches it with a very tender hand. He discerns in this assembly a lack of unity. Again and again, in a gentle, pleading spirit, he refers to this defect. In chapter 1 he alludes to it when he desires that they should "stand firm in one spirit, with one soul labouring together." Were this all that was said as to practical unity we should hardly have known that it was lacking in the assembly at Philippi. However, in chapter 2. the apostle, with greater plainness, intimates that there were symptoms of division amongst them. Therefore again he exhorts them to "think the same thing, having the same love, joined in soul, thinking one thing." Then a little later in the epistle he appears to have this lack of unity in his mind when he says "Let us walk in the same steps" ( Php_3:17 ). Finally he sends a special message to two sisters, beseeching them to "be of the same mind in the Lord" (4. 2).
Though touching this lack of unity very tenderly he does not treat it lightly. He realizes that if a spirit of division creeps into an assembly, if only between two sisters, it will hinder the work of the gospel, mar their testimony to Christ, and check spiritual progress. If in the apostles' day the lack of unity was so serious, is it less so today? Surely not! Though alas! in a day of ruin, we have become so accustomed to division, and so constantly faced with differences of judgment, that we are in danger of regarding the lack of unity with dull apathy - a matter of regret but of no great consequence. If, however, any little company of God's people is to set forth in any measure the graces of Christ, to make spiritual progress and render any little gospel testimony, the first necessity will be unity amongst themselves. Moreover, let us note that the unity of which the apostle speaks is not a mere outward unity of words and ways. It is a unity of heart and mind. "Think," says the apostle, "the same thing, having the same love, joined in soul, thinking one thing." Therefore to produce this unity he does not set before us a formal creed to which all must subscribe, or a set of rules to which all must adhere. He takes a better way: he sets before us Christ. First, however, in verse 3, he points out the great hindrance to this unity of heart and mind. He says, "Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory." The hindrance in one word is self-importance. Strife is the endeavour to put down others: vainglory is the attempt to exalt self. Anything that is done simply in opposition to someone else, or with the object of exalting self will tend to destroy unity.
Then the apostle shows that the true way to promote unity is through self-effacement. He says, "In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own qualities, but every man also on those of others" ( Php_2:3 ; Php_2:4 ). The lowly mind does not think of self at all, but only of the good of others. Naturally we find it difficult to lose sight of ourselves and think only of others in love, for the tendency with us all is to attach a certain importance to ourselves. It is easy to assume a lowly manner and to use lowly words; the real difficulty is to have the lowly mind.
We may talk in a lowly way of ourselves, but self-depreciation is no evidence of the lowly mind, rather the reverse. In self-depreciation we are, after all, talking about ourselves, and this may be the worst form of pride - the pride of humility. The lowly mind does not think of self - good or bad - it thinks of others to serve in love. It is the ignoring of self, not the depreciation of self.
Let us also carefully note that the promotion of unity, in this passage, is set before us as an individual matter. The word is "each esteeming the other as more excellent than themselves; regarding not each his own [qualities] but each those of others" (N.T.). In a day of division and scattering we are not asked to undertake the impossible task of bringing about the unity of Christendom, but we are exhorted to promote unity by each one forgetting self and in lowliness of mind seeking the good of others in love.
It is instructive to see that the strife and vainglory, as well as the lowly mind of verses 3 and 4, are illustrated in the incident recorded in Mar_9:33-37 . This passage speaks of a strife that had arisen among the disciples. As with ourselves, too often, they had fallen out "by the way." Very similar was the cause of the dispute to that which has caused so many divisions amongst the people of God in our day - someone wanted to be great; for we read, "they had disputed among themselves who should be greatest." Here, then, was strife and vainglory at work, and the Lord takes the occasion, in His own tender and gracious way, to give them, and us, a lesson in the lowly mind. A little before He had been speaking of humbling Himself to the cross; they, with apparent hardness and insensitiveness of heart, immediately strive amongst themselves as to who shall be the greatest. Nevertheless, the Lord does not rise up with indignation and rebuke His disciples; He sits down in lowly grace and calls them to Himself. The lowly mind in Christ will serve them in love, where the natural mind would have rebuked them in scorn. Having gathered them around Himself, He gives them a lesson in the lowly mind. He says if you want to be first then become the servant of all. He seems to say, "Do not think of yourself at all, but serve others in love." And having shown them the way to greatness, the Lord gives them a practical lesson by taking a "little child into His arms." The Lord of glory comes down to earth and picks up a little child, He had indeed the lowly mind.
Turning back to the Epistle to the Philippians we shall see that the way of the Lord with His disciples anticipates the teaching of the Spirit to the church. The Lord, as we have seen, instructs His disciples that the end of all strife, and the path to true greatness, is found in having the lowly mind of one who serves in love, and then presents Himself as the perfect Pattern. So in Philippians 2 . the apostle, having pressed upon the saints the lowly mind as the way to end all strife, presents before them Christ as the perfect Pattern of the lowly mind.
We are thus reminded that the lowly mind cannot be acquired by effort, or by trying to be humble. Effort only brings self all the more into sight, leading to self-occupation, rather than self-effacement. The lowly mind can only be produced by the apprehension of what is set forth in Christ. Seeing the lowly mind in absolute perfection in Christ, we cannot but admire its perfect grace and beauty, and we become transformed by what we admire. Beholding the glory of the Lord we are changed from glory to glory.
2. Christ our Pattern (Verses 5-11).
In order that the mind of Christ may be formed in us, the apostle presents Christ before us as our perfect Pattern. We have a touching presentation of the lowliness of mind that was expressed in Him in His marvellous journey from Godhead glory to the cross of shame. Let us note, the force of the passage is to present, not simply the downward path He took, but the lowly mind which marked Him in taking the path.
First, Christ is presented as "being in the form of God." No man could pretend to describe the form of One "whom no man hath seen or can see"; nevertheless we are told what was the mind of Christ while yet in the form of God. His mind was so set upon serving others in love that He thought not of Himself and His reputation, but "made Himself of no reputation," and laid aside the outward form of God - though never ceasing to be God.
Second, He exhibits the lowly mind by taking the form of a servant. Not only does He serve, but He assumes the form that is proper to a servant.
Third, still further does He express the lovely mind by the particular "form of servant" He assumed. The angels are servants, but He passed the angels by. He was made a little lower than the angels and took His place in the likeness of men. He passed by the higher form of servant to take the lower. He was made in the likeness of men: a word that surely implies manhood in its full constitution - spirit, soul, and body; though, be it remembered, not manhood in its fallen condition.
Fourth, still further is the lowly mind expressed in Christ; for when found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself. He did not take occasion by "being found in fashion as a man" to exalt Himself amongst men according to the natural thought of His brethren, who said, "If Thou do these things, show Thyself to the world" ( Joh_7:3 ; Joh_7:4 ), but He humbled Himself. He did not claim His rights as man.
Fifth, yet further He expresses the lowly mind by becoming "obedient." He might have become a man and commanded, but He takes the place of obedience. This implies the laying aside of individual will, to do the will of another.
Sixth, then again the lowly mind is seen by the measure of His obedience, for He was "obedient even unto death." This was more than obedience. In obedience He gave up His will; in death He gave up His life.
Seventh, finally His lowly mind is expressed in the death that He died. There are many forms of death, but of all the deaths that man can die, He died the most ignominious of deaths - the death of the cross. This was more than an ordinary death, for while in going to death a man gives up his life, in going to the death of the cross a man gives up, not only his life, but his reputation before men. Thus it was with the Lord. In going to the death of the cross such was His lowly mind - so truly did He ignore self - that He gave up His reputation before men and was numbered with the transgressors.
Here, then, we have the lowly mind of Christ expressed in His down stooping. The object of this great passage is not to prove that Christ is God, or that He became a true and perfect man, though both truths are involved. It has been truly said, "His humiliation is a proof that He is God. God only could leave His first 'estate in the sovereign rights of His love; it is sin for any creature to do so." On the other hand, if it was not true manhood that He assumed there would be no expression of true lowliness of mind. Thus, while the passage guards the glory of His Godhead and maintains the reality of His manhood, yet the immediate object is to present, as one has said, "the mind of One who from a height of glory beyond possible apprehension could come down, moved by His love, into the lowest possible depths where again the eye cannot follow Him, every step the giving up afresh of something that might be held."
Here indeed is the perfect pattern of the lowly mind - the mind that forgets self in thinking of others; that leads to sacrifice in order to serve; that gives up that others may gain. Evidently the life governed by this mind - the mind that was in Christ Jesus - would be a life of lowly grace.
Moreover, it is the life that has its bright reward. This, also, has its perfect expression in the Lord Jesus. The lowly mind took Christ into the lowest place, therefore God has exalted Him to the highest. In the highest place He bears the greatest Name" A Name which is above every name." And yet more, in the highest place, with the greatest Name, He will have universal sway. Every knee will bow before Him. Heavenly, earthly, and infernal beings - all must bow before the One who bears the Name of Jesus. All will confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Thus the lowly mind in Christ Jesus has led to the blessing of the saints and the glory of the Father. So, too, in our little measure as, with the perfect Pattern before us, the lowly mind is formed in us, it will lead to the blessing and unity of God's people; and, above all, to the glory of the Father.
3. The Christian Life (Verses 12-16).
The apostle passes on to present a beautiful picture of the Christian life formed after the pattern. He says as it were, "I have exhorted you to have the lowly mind, and I have set before you the perfect pattern of the lowly mind in Christ, now I look for an answer to the pattern I want you to obey." Obedience to the truth the apostle has been setting before us will have a two-fold result: first, it will lead to salvation from all the enemies and snares by which the believer is surrounded in his journey through the wilderness: second, it will lead to the expression of the Christian life formed after the pattern.
As regards the salvation of which the apostle speaks. When he was present with them he exposed and resisted the different attacks of the enemy. Now he was absent they would have to work out their own salvation. This would call for fear and trembling; "fear" because of the power of the enemy, "trembling" because of their own weakness. In this warfare self-confidence and fleshly energy would only lead to defeat. However, if the devil was against them, God was for them and working in them. Paul was absent from them, the devil was against them, but God was with them, to work in them both the willing and the doing of His good pleasure.
What, then, is the good pleasure of God? The following verses, 14 to 16, will tell us. It is the pleasure of God that all that is of the flesh should practically be set aside in His people in order to make room for the display of Christ. Thus at once the apostle passes from "willing" and "doing" to "being." All this, he says, is in order that we may "be" something. And what are we to be? In character just what Christ was - blameless, harmless, irreproachable, children of God, shining as lights, and holding forth the word of life. The flesh refused with its murmurings and reasonings; the character of Christ reproduced, resulting in a witness for God in the world - shining as lights in a dark world, and holding forth the word of life in a dead world. Shining is not what a man says, but what he is - he shines. "Holding forth" is not exactly preaching, for it is "holding forth the word of life." The "word of God" is what God says, not what we say. We hold forth what God says.
4. Practical Examples of the Christian Life (Verses 17-30).
In the remaining portion of the chapter we read of three devoted men in whose lives we see the setting forth of the lowly mind that, forgetting self, thinks only of serving others in love, thus expressing the Christian life lived after the pattern of Christ.
First, the apostle himself (17, 18). Naturally he does not say he is an example of the lowly mind; but obviously the Spirit of God intends that we should view him as such, for he is a striking example of a man who, having the mind of Christ, was willing to pour out his life in the service of others. In the gift of the Philippians he sees the faith that led them to make a sacrifice to God - a service of love to himself. As for himself, he has already told them that his conviction is that he will live and continue with them for their "furtherance and joy of faith" (1: 25); but if God willed otherwise, and he was called to make the greatest sacrifice of love in his service for the saints, he would rejoice to do so, and they, too, are called to rejoice, counting the giving up of his life as a "libation" poured out to the glory of God.
Second, the apostle passes on to speak of Timothy (19-24). He is another example of a man possessed with the lowly mind that, forgetful of self, serves others in love - a man having the mind of Christ, and thus like-minded with the apostle. One of whom he can say he "will care with genuine feeling how ye get on" (N.T.).
Alas, the mass of the Christian profession, even in that day, had a very different mind, for the apostle has to say, "All seek their own things, not the things of Jesus Christ." In contrast to these Timothy had given proof of the lowly mind by his loving fellowship with the apostle in the service of the gospel.
Third, in Epaphroditus we have another striking example of the lowly mind. He was not only a companion but also a companion in labour; a fellow-soldier in the conflict, and a messenger who ministered to the apostle's wants.
Not thinking of self, or sparing self, he was ready to labour, to fight, to serve. And in the midst of this full life of service he did not forget the Philippians; for even in sickness, that brought him nigh to death, he was not thinking of himself but of the saints, .who, he feared, would be plunged into anxiety and sorrow on his behalf, having heard of his sickness.
In each of these shining examples we see the lowly mind of Christ expressing itself in a life of gracious consideration of others, that forgets self, and is ready to surrender self, and life, and all things that men count dear, in order to serve in love.
These files are public domain.
Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Philippians 2". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30