Danny Akin speaks on Philippians 2:1-11
Series: Summer Preaching Series 2013
I teach theology along with preaching and Bible interpretation at the seminary. When I teach the doctrine of Christology, the person and work of Christ, I walk students through four passages of Scripture that are fundamental to our thinking rightly about who Jesus is and what He accomplished for us.
Four Christology Passages
• John 1:1-18
This is known as John’s Prologue. It emphasizes Jesus as the God of the incarnation.
• Colossians 1:15-20
This passage places emphasis on Jesus as the God of creation.
• Hebrews 1:1-3
Here Jesus as the God of revelation is emphasized. We are taught God spoke through the prophets of old. However, in the last day He has spoken His definitive and decisive word through His Son.
• Philippians 2:1-11
This last passage emphasizes His humility, or more correctly, His humiliation.
We will be walking through the fourth passage today.
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:5 (ESV)
Verse 5 is the key verses in the passage. Paul describes the mind of Christ in verses 1-4. He then shows us how Christ perfectly lived out and illustrated this kind of mind through His cross, crowning and exaltation in verses 6-11.
Character of Christ (Verse 1)
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, Philippians 2:1 (ESV)
Paul challenges us to cultivate the character and mind of Christ. Being a good teacher, he begins with a positive word, noting four blessings that are true for every child of God.
• Encouragement in Christ,
• Any comfort from love,
• Any participation in the Spirit,
• Any affection and sympathy.
Notice that verse 1 begins with the word if. However, in the original text, if appears before each of these phrases. He’s not saying if and I hope, rather he is saying if and I know. Some of the commentators say since, which would be a good way to capture what Paul was trying to say. Since there is encouragement in Christ. Since there is comfort from love. Since there is participation from the Spirit. Since there is affection and sympathy.
Encouragement in Christ
The word used for encouragement is paraklesis. It’s a word Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit. It has the idea of coming up alongside someone and encouraging him or her. Paul was writing in a context of incarceration, yet it didn’t matter what his worldly circumstances were; he was encouraged because he was in Christ.
Comfort from Love
Though he may have in mind the love we share as the body of Christ. He particularly had in mind the love of the Lord Jesus he was experiencing. Paul could say he was comforted, even though he was in prison with an uncertain future, because he knew Jesus loved him.
Participation in the Spirit
He may be talking about his personal fellowship with the Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 6:19, when we are converted and born again, we become the temple of the Holy Spirit. You’re not your own. You were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body.
He could also be talking about the fellowship of the Spirit that exists within the body of Christ, the family of God that unites us.
Affection & Sympathy
Encouragement, comfort, fellowship with the Holy Spirit and affection is all his, because he belongs to Christ.
Challenging Our Behavior (Verses 2-4)
Out of these blessings in verse 1, Paul now challenges us in our behavior in verses 2-4.
• Verse 2 - Unity
• Verse 3 - Humility
• Verse 4 - Sensitivity
The mind of Christ, as it is being fleshed out, would be characterized by unity, humility and sensitivity.
2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Philippians 2:2 (ESV)
Paul challenges the church to be unified. He was not calling for uniformity. He was calling for unity. He wasn’t saying they should all look, act and behave the same. Rather, he was saying they needed to be unified on who they were and why they were there. They needed to be unified on some basic foundational understanding of what it means to be the church.
Is God calling the Austin Stone to have a room full of people that all look and act alike? No, but He is calling you to be unified on that which is most important.
He also says we should be having the same love. God, through His Holy Spirit, can enable us to love people we don’t like. God enables us to pray and seek for the very best of those we don’t like as much as for those we do. We are to seek God’s blessings, goodness and well being in their lives. He can overcome our hostilities, differences and bring about a unity in us.
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Philippians 2:3 (ESV)
A better way to render this verse is, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or vain conceit.” Selfish ambition is when you must have what you want and it doesn’t matter who gets hurt or trampled on for you to get it. Vain conceit is when you not only want what you want, but you think you deserve it.
As you stand before a holy God, do you really want what you deserve? My answer is no, I don’t want what I deserve. I do want what God’s amazing grace has made available through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4 (ESV)
The original word for look is skopeo. We get words like telescope and microscope from this word. Let each of you “scope out”, not only your own interests, but the interests of others also. Count others more important than yourself, something we see so clearly in Christ Jesus.
An Early Christ Hymn (Verses 6-11)
Where we most clearly see the mind of Jesus is at the cross. Verses 6-11 are probably an early Christ hymn. It’s very easy to see how they divide them into two natural stanzas.
• Stanza 1 - Verses 6-8: The humiliation of Christ and His cross.
• Stanza 2 - Verses 9-11: The exaltation of Christ and His crowning.
Stanza 1: The Humiliation of Christ and His Cross
6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, Philippians 2:6 (ESV)
The word form there means essence, nature. Jesus existed in the very essence and nature of God. Whatever it is that makes God God, Jesus is all of that. If God is eternal, immutable, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, holy, just, merciful and compassionate, then Jesus is also. But He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. Equality wasn’t something He had to hold onto as if He could lose it.
7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:7 (ESV)
He emptied Himself. This raises a million dollar question. In the incarnation, in God the Son leaving heaven and coming into this world, what did He empty Himself of?
What he did not empty Himself of was His deity. He didn’t cease to be God. But He did, for a brief period of time, surrender His glory. He became as it were, “God Incognito”. He became deity veiled in flesh.
5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. John 17:5 (ESV)
Verses 6-8 are called the Great Condescension. Jesus was in heaven, then He came to earth and became a man, then He became a servant, then He died a death. He died the most shameful and humiliating death known in the ancient world, one on a cross.
We don’t feel what we should feel anymore regarding this. Today there are crosses on the top of buildings; people wear them around their necks as jewelry. If you wanted to make the same impact today that Paul was making then, you should wear an electric chair charm around your neck.
Charles Reed pinned a poem entitled, Christ and Alexander. He discovered some interesting parallels and contrasts between the two men from the ancient world.
Jesus and Alexander died at thirty-three;
One lived and died for self; one died for you and me.
The Greek died on a throne; the Jew died on a cross;
One’s life triumphed seemed; the other a loss.
One led armies forth; the other walked alone;
One shed a whole world’s blood; the other gave His own.
One won the world in life and lost it all in death;
The other lost His life to win the whole world’s faith.
Jesus and Alexander died at thirty-three;
One died in Babylon; and one on Calvary.
One gained all for self; and one Himself He gave;
One conquered every throne; the other every grave.
The one made himself god; The God made Himself less;
The one lived but to blast; the other but to bless!
When died the Greek, forever fell his throne of swords
But Jesus died to live forever Lord of lords.
Jesus and Alexander died at thirty-three.
The Greek made all men slaves; the Jew made all men free.
One built a throne on blood; the other built on love,
The one was born of earth; the other from above;
One won all this earth, to lose all earth and heaven.
The other gave up all, that all to Him be given.
The Greek forever died; the Jew forever lives;
He loses all who get, and gains all things who gives.
Stanza 2: The Exaltation of Christ and His Crowning
As the son humbles himself in verses 6-8, the Father exalts and crowns Him in verses 9-11.
9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, Philippians 2:9 (ESV)
Paul had in mind the exaltation of His resurrection, His ascension and His current work in heaven. He has been super exalted to the highest places. Right now, in heaven, the Lord Jesus is praying you.
25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25 (ESV)
It blesses me to know that right now, in heaven, my Savior is praying for me. No matter where you are or what you’re going through, Jesus Christ is praying for you.
10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:10-11 (ESV)
Some people believe it is the name Jesus. Some believe it’s the name Yahweh. Others say the name Lord. He rightly bears all these names. Not only is He given a name above every name, but every knee will bow to Him.
By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’ Isaiah 45:23 (ESV)
Paul is quoting this verse in Philippians verse 11. The reference in Isaiah is to the Father. But in Philippians the reference is to the Son. So what could be said of the Father as God can be said about the Son as God. It all comes together.
God came down. Jesus left a heaven He did not have to leave. He lived a life that we should have lived. He died a death we should have died. He paid a penalty that we should have paid. Today, He offers a gift to all that we do not deserve. As the song so beautifully says, “Hallelujah, what a Savior.”