Unity Through Christ-like Humility (Philippians 2:1-11)
Unity Must Come through Humility (verses 1-4)
Paul’s greatest concern in these verses is the unity of the church, calling the Philippians to be “of the same mind… same love… united…intent on one purpose” (v 2). Unity among believers is not a peripheral issue in the church, or merely an added bonus to the Christian life. It is essential, both for the Christian’s growth in Christ, as well as for the witness of the church to a watching world. While it’s built on the foundation of our union with Christ (v 1), merely having the foundation is not enough. Instead, we must build on the foundation of our common union with Christ by pursuing unity with one another in practice. The only way that true unity can be attained in practice is by putting away selfishness, vain conceit, and our obsession with our own interests, and instead cultivating a heart of humility by regarding one another as more valuable than ourselves as we seek to meet their greatest needs (vv 3-4). Where selfishness and vain conceit exist, there cannot be any true unity. Rather than thinking continually about our own needs, we should seek to be absorbed in the needs of those around us.
Humility Must Model Christ’s Example (verses 5-8)
There is no greater example of this selfless humility than the example of Christ Jesus. First, Christ’s humility is demonstrated in his willingness to humble Himself as God. For Christ to exist in the “form of God” means that He eternally has all of the characteristics of God. To have beheld Christ in His pre-incarnate state would have been to behold the very glory of God. Since God shares His glory with no one (Isaiah 42:8), and since Christ Himself asks the Father to restore Him to the glory with He eternally shares with the Father (John 17:5), we must understand that Christ is fully God Himself, as the second person of the Trinity. Without ceasing to be God, He was willing to give up all of the privileges of His deity by taking on human flesh and being made like us in every way, except for sin (Hebrews 2:17, 4:15). He was no longer displaying the glory of His deity for all to behold, but it was hidden in His humanity and there was no stately form or majesty about Him. Paul describes the incarnation as Christ becoming a “slave.” In the Philippian context, a slave would have been the very epitome of the deprivation of rights and privileges, contrasted with those of a Roman citizen.
Not only did Christ humble Himself as God, but also as man. Though He is the perfect God-man, worthy of all praise and adoration above all men, He was willing to become obedient to death on a cross. As the Philippians heard the word “cross,” they would have thought of shame, dishonor, disgust, and brutality. So shameful was the cross that Cicero would say, “It is a most cruel and disgusting punishment… The very mention of the cross should be far removed not only from a Roman citizen’s body, but from his mind, his eyes, his ears.” Yet, Jesus died this death of shame, not only before men, but also accursed of His Father. From the heights of God in glory to the depths of the shameful death of the cross, Christ Jesus was willing to humble Himself in order to accomplish our salvation.
Humility Must Submit to Christ’s Lordship (verses 9-11)
Not only does humility follow after Christ’s own pattern, but it also recognizes that Christ alone is Lord. After humbling Himself to the lowest imaginable place, Christ was exalted to the highest imaginable position of honor. He has now been seated above all rule, authority, power, and dominion and has been given the Name that is above every name (Eph 1:20-21). Humility recognizes that He alone is Lord, and therefore submits its will to Him and accepts that He alone has the right to rule and reign. Though there are many today who refuse to recognize Him as Lord, there is coming a day when all creatures will acknowledge that He is both Lord and King.
- Why is unity with other believers important for you as an individual and for the church? Why is humility so important for unity?
- What is so amazing about Christ becoming a man? Why was it necessary for Christ to die the type of death He died on the cross, rather than a death of honor or glory?
- When we treat others with impatience, harshness, or disrespect because they don’t do what we want, we are acting as though we are the lord to whom service is owed. In what ways are you tempted to act as if you were lord, rather than Jesus?