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Bible Commentaries

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Philippians 2

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-30

II. CHRIST, THE BELIEVER’S PATTERN

CHAPTER 2

1. Oneness of mind through self effacement (Philippians 2:1-4)

2. The humiliation and exaltation of Christ (Philippians 2:5-11)

3. Work out your own salvation (Philippians 2:12-13)

4. As lights in the world (Philippians 2:14-16)

5. The example of Paul (Philippians 2:17-18)

6. The example of Timotheus (Philippians 2:19-24)

7. The example of Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25-30)

Philippians 2:1-4

This chapter puts before us Christ as our pattern. The path He went is to be the believer’s path. He trod the way, and the many sons He brings ere long with Himself to glory are called upon to follow Him in the same way. And what honor, what glory, to be called to follow in the same path! The chapter begins with a loving appeal of the prisoner of the Lord. He reminds them of the comfort in Christ which was their blessed portion, of the comfort of love and the fellowship of the Spirit and the bowels of mercies, the result of these precious possessions of the gospel. And now while they had manifested all this in a practical way among themselves and towards the apostle, he tells them that they would fulfill his joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, united in soul and thinking one thing. That they had difficulties among themselves may be learned from the fourth chapter. And so he desired that all might be one. it is a precious echo of our Lord’s prayer in John 17:1-26. Nothing is to be done among His people in the self-seeking spirit of strife or vainglory. This is the spirit of the natural man and of the world.

The true way which becomes the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, who live by Him and for Him, is to esteem the other better than himself in lowliness of mind, regarding not each his own things (or qualities) but each the things of others also. To walk in such a manner is only possible with those who have received, by being born again, a new nature and walk in the power of the Spirit of God. To be utterly forgetful of self, complete self effacement and self-denial and thus the absence of strife and vainglory and the manifestation of true humility, is the manifestation of the mind of Christ. But is it possible at all times to esteem each other better than himself?

We let another answer: “There will be no difficulty in this if we are really walking before God; we shall be occupied with each other’s good, and the one will esteem the other better than himself, because when the soul is really before the Lord, it will see its own short-comings and imperfections, and will be in self-judgment; and according to the love and spirit of Christ see all the good that is from Him in a brother and one dear to Him, and will therefore look upon his fellow-Christian as better than himself, and so all would be in beautiful harmony; and we should be looking after each other’s interests too”--(J.N. Darby, Philippians). How true it is, love likes to be a servant; selfishness likes to be served.

Philippians 2:5-11

With the fifth verse begins that portion of the chapter which reveals Christ as our pattern. Christ in His humiliation and His exaltation; Christ who did not please Himself, who was obedient unto death, the death of the cross; Christ, who is now exalted and has a name which is above every other name, is blessedly before us in these verses. There are seven steps which lead down deeper and deeper, even to the death of the cross. And there are seven steps which lead up higher and higher.

His Humiliation

1. He thought it not robbery to be equal with God

2. He humbled Himself

3. He became a servant

4. He was made in the likeness of man

5. He was found in fashion as a man

6. He became obedient

7. Obedient to the death of the cross.

His Exaltation

1. God highly exalted Him

2. Gave Him the Name above every name

3. Every knee is to bow at His name

4. Things in heaven must acknowledge Him

5. Things on earth

6. Things under the earth

7. Every tongue must confess Him as Lord

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” The Spirit of Christ is in the believer for this very purpose, not that we should be imitators of Christ, but that His own life may be reproduced in us. We have this mind of Christ in the divine nature. What wonderful grace that we are called with such a calling, to be in His fellowship and follow His own path! Having delivered us from guilt and condemnation we are called to walk even as He walked down here, the author and finisher of the faith.

We trace briefly His path. We behold Him first in His absolute deity, “subsisting in the form of God.” He ever was and is God; as we know from the opening of the gospel of John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Who can describe what glory was His? And the equality with God which is His He did not esteem an object to be grasped at, but He emptied Himself (This is the correct translation and better than the King James version, “He made of Himself no reputation.”) He gave up something which was His; He laid aside His outward glory. Some teach that He laid aside His deity. This is positively an unscriptural and evil doctrine. It is widely known in theological circles as the kenosis-theory, which is so dishonoring to our adorable Lord. He could never be anything else but the true God and the eternal life. He came down from the heights of eternal and unfathomable glory and took on a body prepared for Him, yet in that body He was very God. John 17:5 shows of what He emptied Himself.

The next step tells us that He who gave up, came down. “He took upon Him the form of a servant, taking His place in the likeness of men.” Had He taken upon Himself the form of an angel, it would have been a humiliation, for He created the angels. But He was made a little lower than the angels. He took on the servant’s form in the likeness of men. But in Him was no sin, so that it was impossible for Him to sin, for He knew no sin and was in all points tempted as we are, apart from sin.

But the path did not end with this. He who gave up the glory, He who came down and became a servant also became obedient. It was an obedience unto death, the death of the cross. Wonderful condescension and love. It was all for our sake. And redeemed by His precious blood, called into His own fellowship, His way must become ours; we are to follow Him. If we then consider Him and let this mind be in us which was also in Christ Jesus, self will have nothing more to say; all strife and vainglory will be at an end. And this path of giving up, coming down, true humility, self-denial and true obedience is the only one in which there is perfect peace and rest for the child of God. “Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart and you shall find rest for your souls.

The description of His exaltation follows. God has highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name. God raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory. What glory it is! In the first chapter of Hebrews we read that the risen man Christ Jesus is the heir of all things, “made so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they” (Hebrews 1:4). In Him we have also obtained an inheritance. Before He ever received that glory He prayed to the Father “the glory Thou hast given me I have given to them” (John 17:22). In His glorious exaltation He is likewise our pattern. We shall see Him as He is and shall be like Him, His fellow-heirs. And while we follow in His steps down here we can look upon Him seated in the highest heaven and rejoice that we shall someday be with Him and share His glory. Every knee must ultimately bow at the name of Jesus, even beings under the earth, infernal beings. They must own His title in glory. Yet this does not make them saved beings. Nor does this passage teach that ultimately all the lost will be saved, as claimed by restitutionists and others. The fact that every tongue will have to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord does not mean the salvation of the lost. In Colossians 1:20 things, or beings in heaven and on earth are also mentioned in connection with reconciliation, but then the things under the earth are omitted. See our annotations on that passage.

Philippians 2:12-13

Words of exhortation come after this blessed paragraph in which the Lord Jesus is put before us as our pattern. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do according to His good pleasure.” These words are misunderstood by many Christians. It is being taught that Christians should work for their own salvation. This is the grossest perversion of this exhortation. Every true believer has salvation which is given to Him by grace. It is his own salvation; he does not need to work for it. Others say that one who is really saved by grace must work in order to stay saved, and work with fear and trembling. They tell us, if a believer does not keep on working, if he fails and sins, he will fall from grace and is in danger to be unsaved and lost again. This also is Unscriptural; the Word of God teaches the eternal security of all who have received eternal life, the gift of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. The exhortation does not mean that we must work to keep ourselves saved, but it means that our own salvation which we have in Christ is to be worked out into result. Salvation is to be practically manifested in the life and walk by glorifying Christ. We are to work it out after the blessed pattern of Christ with fear and trembling, not the fear of being lost, but the fear of failure in not walking in lowliness of mind, in true humility and in obedience. This will ever be the chiefest concern of the believer who walks in the Spirit. “It is this, therefore, which is to induce the fear and trembling; not in selfish dread, but the sense of our responsibility to Him to whom we owe our all and whose our life is. Plenty there is to make us serious in such work as this, but nothing to dishearten us. if God has taken in hand to work in us after this fashion, that is ample security for our success. The fact that the apostle was now absent from them, he whose presence had been so great a comfort and blessing to their souls, was only to make them more completely realize this divine power which was carrying them on to the full blessing beyond” (Numerical Bible).

Philippians 2:14-16

If we thus work out our own salvation, with Christ ever before us as our pattern, following after Him in the same path, we shall do all things without murmurings and reasonings. These are the fruits of the old self. But following Him as our pattern there will be no more strife and vainglory; we shall esteem the other better than ourselves and consequently there will be no murmurings. Furthermore, like our Lord was “harmless and sincere,” we shall be harmless and sincere, irreproachable children of God in the midst of a crooked and perverted generation, without any self-assertion whatever. And as He was the light down here, so are believers now to shine as lights. As He on earth was the Word of life, holding it forth is what the apostle writes believers should also do, “holding forth the Word of life, that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain.” (See 1 Thessalonians 2:20.)

Philippians 2:17-18

Three witnesses follow whose experiences tell us that the grace of God can produce such a character after the pattern of Christ in the believer. First, the apostle speaks of himself “Yea and if I am poured out as a libation on the sacrifice and ministration of your faith I rejoice in common with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy and rejoice with me.” With death threatening, the prisoner of the Lord expresses His joy. Paul speaks of what the Philippians did, their ministrations of faith as the greater thing; he looks upon it all as a sacrifice and himself and his service only as a libation; that is, he views his own life poured out upon it. Thus he manifested lowliness of mind. In regarding the devotion of the Philippians as the sacrifice, and the devotion of his own life he regards only as poured out as a drink offering (the symbol of joy) upon their sacrifice.

Philippians 2:19-24

Timotheus is the next witness. Of him Paul writes, “For I have no one like-minded who will care naturally for your state (or, who will care with genuine feeling how ye get on). For all seek their own things and not the things of Christ.” Many already there lived selfishly, seeking in service their own things and not serving and walking, glorifying Christ. So it is today in the Laodicean condition into which Christendom is fast sinking. But Timotheus, Paul’s spiritual son (1 Timothy 1:2) was a blessed exception. He was in fullest fellowship with the apostle, like-minded, who forgot him- self completely and cared genuinely for the Philippians. They knew the proof of him, for as a son with the father, he served with the apostle in the gospel. The two, Paul and Timothy, illustrate what it means “to be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Philippians 2:2). And thus it ought to be among all the members of the body of Christ. What a comfort Timotheus must have been to Paul in the Roman prison! What cheer and joy to have such a one with him! What refreshment to his soul! But he is willing to give him up. “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.” Not seeking his own, in self-denying devotion, he is willing to part with him, so that the Philippians might enjoy his fellowship.

Philippians 2:25-30

Another gracious witness is Epaphroditus. He also manifests the mind of Christ. Epaphroditus was the messenger of the Philippians. He brought to Rome the collection, expressing the fellowship of the church in Philippi. But he had been taken violently ill in the exercise of his service, “for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death.” He did not regard his own life and in this he exemplified the Lord Jesus Christ. “Greater love can no one show than that he lays down his life for his friends.” His was a service in entire forgetfulness of self. And when he was sick nigh unto death “God had mercy on him.” The Philippians also heard of the dangerous illness of their beloved messenger. They must have been deeply grieved. Then unselfish Epaphroditus was greatly distressed because the Philippians had heard of his illness. In his suffering, nigh unto death, his thoughts were with the saints in Philippi, and he was grieved that they had anxiety for him. It all shows the mind of Christ.

 


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Bibliography Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Philippians 2:4". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gab/philippians-2.html. 1913-1922.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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