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A Status-Obsessed Value System

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Scripture
Phil. 2:7but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.

Observation
This language of emptying, or “kenosis” becomes foundational to Paul’s concern about the Philippians. The concept of humility is so foreign to them that Paul places the life of Christ before them as a model. To understand how odd this idea might seem to them, listen to the words of a second century anti-Christian Philosopher, Celsus: ““God does not suffer, and God cannot be humiliated.” That’s because this kind of a move on the part of God “directly counters the status-obsessed value system” of Roman society. (Hooker 2000, 508)
Christ’s life stands before us as a model, and it is in the midst of this modeling that we discover some of our most important theology. Hooker goes on to tell us that, “it is in his self-emptying and his humiliation that he reveals what God is like, and it is through his taking the form of a slave that we see ‘the form of God.’” (Hooker 2000, 508) There have…

No Exploitation

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Scripture
Phil. 2:6who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,
Observation
This verse became foundational to the early church’s understanding about the nature of Jesus Christ. Paul was expressing a thought here that was significant to the Christian faith. Jesus was not just in the image of God, but Jesus was the very “nature” or “form” of God. The NIV translates the word “nature,” while you see here that the NRSV uses “form.” He wasn’t something “like” God, but he was of the very same “substance” as God. Jesus exists as God and ruler over all the heavens and the earth from the very beginning.
Once this is established the story begins to unfold. The words are hard for us to wrap our heads around, but one can think of this as royalty. While Jesus has all the wealthy, authority and power as royalty, he refuses any of this for his own benefit. He doesn’t grasp, but he gives away. He is willing to share his power with others so that we to…

The Source and the Pattern

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Scripture
Phil. 2:5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
Observation
This is a transitional verse that takes us from the introductory material where Paul pleads with the Philippians to be unified and behave in particular ways, to the crux of the matter. For the Philippians to be able to respond in such a way requires them to be “in” Christ, so that he becomes the source and the pattern for their behavior in light of Jesus’ cruciform love. This is not just about believing “about” Jesus, but believing “in” Jesus.

This is one of Paul’s most highly regarded passages, beginning with verse 5. The entire bearing of a disciple is to come from one’s life in Christ. Flemming reminds us that this “mind-set of Christ (Phil 2:5) must take precedence over all other orientations and values, cultural or otherwise.” (Flemming, NBBC) In humility we discover that the “symbols of Christian ministry are the towel and the cross, not the throne and the crown.” (Flemming, NBBC)
Application
This co…

The Interests of Others

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Scripture
Phil. 2:4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.
Observation
Paul’s second “not,” “but” statement must be taken within the entire context of this passage. In English we have made this a separate sentence, but it is not in Greek. This is a continuation of a thought where there is no room for selfish ambition or conceit, but rather a lifestyle of humility as demonstrated by Jesus Christ. In light of the model that we find in Christ, we are not to look to our own interests, but we are admonished to look to the interests of others.
There were menacing divisions beginning to appear in the church in Philippi. Petty arguments threatened to tear the church apart, and all of this done in the presence of the citizens of the city. The witness of the church was at stake, as well as the reputation of Jesus Christ. Paul knew that the community had to maintain an unselfish mind-set, or they would be torn apart.
Application
In the midst of the COVID19 cris…

Empty Glory

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Scripture
Phil. 2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.
Observation
Paul takes us from his “If-Then” statements to his “Not - But” statements in regard to the Christian life. Here he says that we are not to do things with an attitude of selfish ambition or conceit. Calvin called selfish ambition and vain conceit the “two most dangerous pests for disturbing the peace of the church” (Flemming, NBBC) There is something about self-interest here that Paul finds disgusting. This is the same kind of language that he uses for those who preach in order to increase their own fame or popularity. He is repulsed by this behavior, and the term he uses for conceit, or as it its sometimes translated “vain conceit” comes from the combining of two Greek words that mean, “empty,” and “glory.”
Paul moves from the not statement, to the remainder of the sentence which begins with but — “in humility regard others better than yourselves.” He is ge…

My Joy is Bound Up In You

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Scripture
Phil. 2:2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
Observation
After finishing up four “if” statements, Paul comes back with four ways in which the Philippians can make his joy complete. His joy as a pastoral leader is bound up in the well-being and perseverance of those he has led to Christ. Therefore, he encourages them not to just have faith, but to continue to grow in their faith.
Paul’s desire is that every follower of Christ in Philippi would be bound up in the holiness of Jesus Christ in such a way that it would be manifest in their daily lives. The concern over unity in their thinking or minds comes out over and over again. Evidently there had been dissension among some of those within the church community and this was breaking Paul’s heart. He saw this as a reflection of their spiritual immaturity and so he continued to push them on toward maturity in Christ.
Love was to rule the day. This love was to be Chris…

If, If, If, If

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Scripture
Phil. 2:1  If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy
Observation
The opening to chapter two is one big long sentence where the very first section begins with four “Ifs.” These are all based upon what Paul knows is available to the believer. He’s laying them all out before he gets to the “then” part of the sentence.
The “ifs” are a check-up on the Philippians to see whether they have been following the instructions sent to them by Paul.
If there is any encouragement in Christ.— do we doubt that we are encouraged when we are “in” Christ? Over and over again this is participation language. We are to be “in” Christ and there we discover the character of God, which encourages. Paul, ever the optimist, looks on the bright side of things as he lives into the encouragement he finds in Christ.
If there is any consolation from love. — We are constantly consoled by the love of God. The lavish outpouring of…

The Struggle is Real when the Change is Real

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Scripture
Phil. 1:27   Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, 28 and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. 29 For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well— 30 since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
Observation
The on-going concern for Paul is the embodiment of Christian living. By having the mind of Christ, the entire Christian community in Philippi can work, shoulder-to-shoulder for the sake of the gospel. This united front will help them when they face those who are trying to sabotage their work. He places before them the reality of the struggle, for to liv…

The Interests of Others Above Your Own

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Scripture
Phil. 1:21 For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. 23 I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; 24 but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. 25 Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, 26 so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.
Observation
The transition from life to death does not appear that great in the eyes of Paul. For him to live is to be in Christ, and to die is to find himself in even greater intimacy with Christ. While he lives in the flesh, he continues to be on mission with Jesus. He will fruitfully labor for Christ and he finds great contentment in this work. He has learned that while he labors on mission with Christ, he is continually growing in his relationshi…