Putting on the Humility of Christ

1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 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 2:1-11)

This morning we are going to concentrate our attention on verses 5-8. As we have looked at this paragraph together, Paul has been urging us to live with each other as believers in a radical unity that demands that we let go of our perceived rights, preferences, demands, and lay them aside in order to represent God well as a church. It’s a unity that is based upon our unity and relationship with Christ. He is saying that if you have been blessed by God in life, then let go of selfish ambition and conceit, and humbly count others as more important, more significant, looking out not just for our own interests but also for the interests of others. This is a summary of verses 1-4.

Paul relates these truths to us and then He drives it home by reminding the Philippians and us that even Christ Himself humbled Himself in the first century culture as a man, a slave, for the good of others and the glory of His Father. Our leader, our Lord, laid Himself down for us. He stepped away from His majestic place, for us, for the glory of His father, to rescue us, to please His Father. You’ve heard that before, right? Nothing new really. And since we’ve heard it before, I wonder if it still affects us. Because what He did was the unspeakable. For us, for His Father. Is it too familiar? Have you heard it so often that maybe it doesn’t impact your heart anymore?

When we really think of the incarnation of Christ Jesus, it’s an amazing thing. When we recall the coming of Christ, we can go to places like John 1:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3)

Christ in His pre-incarnation, before He came as a baby, all things were made through Him, and without Him there was not anything made that was made.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

The fact that He came from heaven, where He possessed all glory and all power, and came as a human in flesh and blood, that should just stun us, it should continue to amaze us. Not just the first time we heard the gospel, but every time. Us as humans are good in this skin, because it is all we know. But God in flesh, what must that have been like for Him? We see Him in Isaiah 6:

1 I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:1-5)

Isaiah speaks of and describes things that we know nothing of. Beings with wings praising God, proclaiming His holiness. Foundations shaking at the sound of a loud voice, smoke filling the house, Isaiah frightened to the point of thinking he was about to die, having seen the glory of the Lord, having witnessed something that man simply does not look upon.

We see Him in Revelation:

9 I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” 12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. (Revelation 1:9-18)

Again, a man, John, seeing what man does not see. John fell at His feet as though he was dead.

We see in the Bible the glory of Christ, in His majesty, we read of Him as creator from the beginning. He is holy like none other, He is like no other. Men face him and fall down as though dead. But this majestic one, for a time, we also see Him in the gospels for a short time, not in all the grandeur of His glory but in His human body, walking among His creatures looking like, walking like, speaking like, relating like a man. Paul says in Philippians 2:6, “who, though he was in the form of God,” In verse 7, “but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,”

I don’t know that we can comprehend what that must have been like for Christ, nor can we comprehend the depth of the chasm that He crossed from glory in heaven to flesh and blood on earth. We can try to understand that, and come up with examples to explain what that must have been like for Him. We can think of examples such as the wealthiest man in the world becoming a beggar in a third world country, that is a great contrast for sure, but it falls way short. It cannot be even close to the transition that Jesus made in the incarnation.

But let’s not just think of the physical changes that took place, not just in His body, but in all His life. What was it like for Christ, being human, to interact with humanity in humility? Think of everywhere He would have gone, walking on this earth in the first century, everywhere He’d look there would be sin, foolishness, human pride which must have looked just ridiculous to Him, and been offensive to Him. With everyone He spoke to He would have heard ignorance of truth. Everything He saw and the words He would have heard would have screamed of being out of place, out of order, in need of reformation and repair. Sin had corrupted all that He would have seen on earth, everything was in need of redemption and change. People needed changing, minds needed correcting, everywhere.

He was so above everyone else in intellect and understanding. He always knew what was right, and yet had to choose to put up with what must have seemed as just extreme ignorance and foolishness from sinful people, including His own followers. When you think in those terms, just consider His patience. His patience was incredible.

Are you ever around someone, and they’re telling a story, and they get the facts a little off in a story? And you just want to correct them, set them straight? When you see something wrong, you want to fix it. When you hear something wrong, you want to correct it. Maybe it irritates you when someone gets it wrong, or someone in their arrogance speaks about something they obviously know nothing about. Or someone attacks you, when they don’t have a clue of what the facts are, or what the truth is.

All of these things would have been Jesus’ life on earth. Ignorance, foolishness, the facts wrong, lack of understanding, and yet He endured and loved the people with whom He walked. He was miles above them in every sense, in every way, and yet He chose to walk humbly with His creatures.

Paul writes in verse 5, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” What mind? The mind that they are to have, that we are to have, is one of humility among each other, the mind of Christ. Remember what we have learned in the previous verses in chapter 2. Paul is beginning to draw a major contrast with what is our natural tendency and what he has mentioned as “selfish ambition.” Don’t forget verses 3 and 4:

3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

He is calling us away from something: selfishness, selfish ambition, and conceit. And calling us to something else: humility. And now Paul begins to describe the mind of Christ in relation to who Christ is. Or in the perspective of who He is, and the humility that He demonstrated while here on this earth.

What we see is that it was the “pre-existent one,” Christ, who “emptied Himself” at one point in human history by “taking the form of a slave, being made in the likeness of human beings.” Jesus had always been, always existed, He “was” prior to coming to earth, He was in the form of God. He was in the form of God before coming into the likeness of man.

Part of understanding the theology of this is to have an understanding of the word that Paul uses which is translated “form.” He was in the form of God and He took on the form of a servant. We need to be careful here with this word “form.” The original word is “morphe.” And it denotes form or shape, but not in terms of external features, but of those characteristics and qualities that are essential to it. In other words, it means that which truly characterizes a given reality. So Jesus being in the form of God means that He possessed all of the internal characteristics and qualities of God. He wasn’t just shaped like God, He possessed all of the internal characteristics of God. He was and remained in essence, in character, God. “Form” or “morphe” does not mean “like God but not really God,” but that He was God, possessing all of the characteristics that make God, God.

And yet we go on to read that He “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,” This is a phrase that has been difficult for many. What does this mean? The next phrase helps us here: “but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,”

We understand that Christ possessed and will forever possess all the qualities and characteristics of God. He is God the Son, and that’s very important. But what does this phrase, “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,” mean?

The word translated “grasped” is best understood as meaning “holding onto or seizing upon for one’s advantage.” It describes holding onto something for one’s advantage, selfishly so. If He had selfishly held onto all of His prerogatives of God, He may have come to earth lording over His creatures as a rightful, powerful King. He would not have come as a suffering servant, but as a mighty, ruling King. What we see in Isaiah 6 and Revelation 1 might have been what we would see in the first century incarnation. But we don’t see that. We don’t see Christ seizing upon His form as God for His own advantage, but He did what? He emptied Himself, taking on another from, that of a servant.

And we see this, this refusal to bring upon man all the power of His essence as God, we see His refusal to do this with every step He takes on the earth, in His ministry. He set that aside as He walked with man, He set it aside as He was willingly rebuked by His creatures, He set it aside as He was threatened by those He created. He emptied Himself and chose to allow Himself to be beaten and crucified by His creatures. He “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” He became a servant, in essence, along with His deity, a servant born in the likeness of His creatures.

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8)

This was not just a glimpse of humility for a moment, or a shadow of humility for a day or two, but a humility that was so driving in His ministry that in obedience He chose to die, on a cross, at the hands of those whom He could have destroyed with a thought or a word.

So here is the full picture of our passage: Jesus, being God in essence, in character God, from eternity past, God, came to this earth as a man, a servant of God and man, He came refusing to selfishly hold onto all of His grandeur and prerogatives of being God. He let those things go, and chose instead to walk humbly with His creatures, even being a servant to them, even being abused by them, by choice, being scoffed at, ridiculed. He chose to restrain Himself as a servant, for us, for you and for me, all the way to a cruel death, receiving in His body the wrath of God. He chose humility…He chose humility. And Paul says, have this mind that was in Christ!

Today, have you chosen humility? If you haven’t, if we haven’t, then what does that say about our love for Christ? 

Why would we not choose to walk humbly with each other? Would it be that we haven’t yet considered, really considered that we are to be servants of one another? That we are to serve one other? That we are to, as Christ did, we are to voluntarily make a decision that we will look upon our neighbor, spouse, child, parent, co-worker, teacher, student, ministry partner, look at each other and say, as did Christ, “I will lay aside my fleshly desires, my perceived rights, what I may want most, what I may want really badly, and I will of my own will, by the power of Christ and because I love Him, I will serve you.”

Jesus said in Matthew 20:28, “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” And the Father said of His Son in Matthew 3:17 and Matthew 17:5, “and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Jesus served as He wrapped the towel around His waist, got a basin of water, and washed the disciples’ feet. Jesus served as He went to the cross and He chose to stay there, to die for our sins. The Good Samaritan served as he cared for the bloody and beaten man. That wasn’t planned service, he was just going on his way and found an opportunity to serve. Stephen served as he preached the good news of Christ and a hostile crowd murdered him. Peter served, repenting of his terrible sin of denying Christ, and went on to give his life for gospel ministry. Paul served as he sat in prison, penning this letter, encouraging his brothers to be faithful. Christ came to serve, from all glory in heaven, as our creator, to human form on this earth, to serve.

Where are we in this? Where are we focused? How would your family describe you regarding being a servant? Do we look more like Jesus in this realm of serving, or do we look more like the Pharisees, or worldly rulers, or greedy politicians? Do we serve in humility as a way of life, as a Christian? Do we look like followers of Christ in this regard?

1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
(Ephesians 4:1-3)

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
(Colossians 3:12-13)

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
(1 Peter 5:5)

We have been called to a life of humility among each other, and Christ came as an example of what it looks like to walk in humility among people.

5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)