Philippians 2:5-11

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

October 23, 2002

The mind that leads to unity

Paul is talking to the church about the importance of unity.

He has told the Philippians that unity is a mark of walking worthy of the gospel:

(Phil 1:27 KJV) Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

He has told the Philippians that because of all that Jesus has done for us, we ought to be united:

(Phil 2:1-2 KJV) If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, {2} Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

He has told the Philippians that the way to unity is through thinking of others as more important than yourself:

(Phil 2:3-4 KJV) Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. {4} Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

He now goes on to talk about a key element of unity – learning to be like Jesus.

:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Let this mind bephroneo – to have understanding, be wise; to feel, to think; to have an opinion of one’s self, think of one’s self, to be modest, not let one’s opinion (though just) of himself exceed the bounds of modesty; to think or judge what one’s opinion is; to be of the same mind i.e. agreed together, cherish the same views, be harmonious; to direct one’s mind to a thing, to seek, to strive for; to seek one’s interest or advantage; to be of one’s party, side with him (in public affairs). Present passive imperative.

Robertson: “Keep on thinking this in you which was also in Christ Jesus”

Wuest: “This be ye constantly thinking in you which also was in Christ Jesus.”

(Phil 2:5 NLT) Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had.

(Phil 2:5 ICB) In your lives you must think and act like Christ Jesus.

Earlier, Paul had exhorted the Philippians:

(Phil 2:2 KJV) Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

It’s the same word, to “be minded” in a certain way.

Now Paul tells them just which “mind” they are to be “one” and the “same” in.

They are to have the same mind as Jesus.

Jesus is the example for us of demonstrating the things that make for unity, namely the quality of humility.
The Philippians were to learn to have “lowliness of mind” and to “esteem each other better than themselves”.

Jesus is the best example of what that looks like.

:6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

the formmorphe – the form by which a person or thing strikes the vision; external appearance; the essential attributes as shown in the form.

beinghuparcho – to begin below, to make a beginning; to begin; to come forth, hence to be there, be ready, be at hand; to be; present active participle.

Robertson: “existing”

robberyharpagmos – the act of seizing, robbery; a thing seized or to be seized; booty, to deem anything a prize; a thing to be seized upon or to be held fast, retained

from harpazo – to seize, carry off by force; to seize on, claim for one’s self eagerly; to snatch out or away

Paul is saying that for Jesus, being in the form of God was not something He felt He needed to hold on to.

thoughthegeomai – to lead; to consider, deem, account, think; denotes a belief resting not on one’s inner feeling or sentiment, but on the due consideration of external grounds, and the weighing and comparing of facts; deliberate and careful judgment.

equalisos – equal, in quantity or quality

Paul is saying two things here:

1) Jesus is God.

He was continually existing in the very form of God.
John wrote,
(John 1:1-3 KJV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. {2} The same was in the beginning with God. {3} All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Jesus is the “Word”. Jesus was with the Father from the very beginning. He is God.

(John 1:14 KJV) And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Jesus took on human flesh.

2) Jesus was willing to let go of His place in heaven for us.

He didn’t feel like He had to hold on tightly to his rights


Letting go of your rights

This is often a problem that develops between two people when one person is faced with the challenge to let go of their position in order to help the other person.
It happens in marriage when one person says to the other, “I don’t have to do what you want because I have my rights!”
Jesus let go of His rights.
It’s this demanding of our “rights” (something we’re good at as Americans) that can cause division between two people.
What do you do when your “rights” come clashing against another person’s “rights”? Who gives?

It’s your night off. You have the chance to do something special together. One person wants to go to a movie. The other person wants to visit with some friends. Who wins? Is it the “strong-willed” person that always wins?

Paul has just said,

(Phil 2:4 NASB) do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Unity requires that we let go of our rights from time to time.

:7 But made himself of no reputation

made … of no reputationkenoo – to empty, make empty; to make void; deprive of force, render vain, useless, of no effect; to make void; cause a thing to be seen to be empty, hollow, false; from kenos, empty, vain, devoid of truth

Robertson: Of what did Christ empty himself? Not of his divine nature. That was impossible. He continued to be the Son of God. …Undoubtedly Christ gave up his environment of glory. He took upon himself limitations of place (space) and of knowledge and of power, though still on earth retaining more of these than any mere man. It is here that men should show restraint and modesty, though it is hard to believe that Jesus limited himself by error of knowledge and certainly not by error of conduct. He was without sin, though tempted as we are. “He stripped himself of the insignia of majesty” (Lightfoot).

I like to think of this as Jesus putting a “veil” over His glory.

There were a few times during His ministry when He allowed His glory to “peek” through.
(Mat 17:1-2 KJV) And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, {2} And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.

Yet most of the time, Jesus “veiled” His glory. Most of the time, He looked just like any other man.

:7 and took upon him the form of a servant

the formmorphe – the form by which a person or thing strikes the vision; external appearance

Jesus was previously and continuously existing in the form of God, and now took on the form of a servant, a man.

a servantdoulos – a slave, bondman, man of servile condition; metaph., one who gives himself up to another’s will; devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests

tooklambano – to take


Being a servant

We see a beautiful illustration of this in the life of Jesus.
(John 13:1-5 KJV) Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. {2} And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him; {3} Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; {4} He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
In a way this is an illustration of what it was for Jesus to “make himself of no reputation”, by veiling His glory, by taking on human flesh.
{5} After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
This was the job of a servant. Jesus humbled Himself and began to serve His disciples.
(John 13:12-17 KJV) So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? {13} Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. {14} If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. {15} For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. {16} Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. {17} If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
Jesus was setting an example for us, that we too ought to be servants of one another.

:7 and was made in the likeness of men:

the likenesshomoioma – that which has been made after the likeness of something; a figure, image, likeness, representation; likeness i.e. resemblance, such as amounts almost to equality or identity

a mananthropos – a human being, whether male or female

was madeginomai – to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being; to become, i.e. to come to pass, happen; to be made, finished; to become, be made; aorist participle.

Jesus was continuously existing (present tense) in the form of God, but now He takes on the form of a servant at a point in time (aorist tense).


It’s a mystery

We believe that Jesus was fully God and fully man. How could this be?
It’s a mystery. It’s simply something that’s beyond our ability to understand, but that doesn’t make it untrue.
A man is driving down the road and breaks down near a monastery. He goes to the monastery, knocks on the door, and says, “My car broke down. Do you think I could stay the night?”
The monks graciously accept him, feed him dinner, even fix his car. As the man tries to fall asleep, he hears a strange sound. The next morning, he asks the monks what the sound was, but they say, “We can’t tell you. You’re not a monk.” The man is disappointed but thanks them anyway and goes about his merry way.
Some years later, the same man breaks down in front of the same monastery. The monks accept him, feed him, even fix his car. That night, he hears the same strange noise that he had heard years earlier. The next morning, he asks what it is, but the monks reply, “We can’t tell you. You’re not a monk.”
The man says, “All right, all right. I’m dying to know. If the only way I can find out what that sound was is to become a monk, how do I become a monk?” The monks reply, “You must travel the earth and tell us how many blades of grass there are and the exact number of sand pebbles. When you find these numbers, you will become a monk.”
The man sets about his task. Forty-five years later, he returns and knocks on the door of the monastery. He says, “I have traveled the earth and have found what you have asked for. There are 145,236,284,232 blades of grass and 231,281,219,999,129,382 sand pebbles on the earth.”
The monks reply, “Congratulations. You are now a monk. We shall now show you the way to the sound.” The monks lead the man to a wooden door, where the head monk says, “The sound is right behind that door.”
The man reaches for the knob, but the door is locked. He says, “Real funny. May I have the key?” The monks give him the key, and he opens the door. Behind the wooden door is another door made of stone. The man demands the key to the stone door. The monks give him the key, and he opens it, only to find a door made of ruby. He demands another key from the monks, who provide it. Behind that door is another door, this one made of sapphire. So it went until the man had gone through doors of emerald, silver, topaz, amethyst... Finally, the monks say, “This is the last key to the last door.” The man is relieved to no end. He unlocks the door, turns the knob, and behind that door he is amazed to find the source of that strange sound .....
But I can’t tell YOU what it is, because YOU’RE not a monk.
Okay, that was a little silly. But the point is, there are some things that are simply going to be beyond our understanding, and I believe this is one of them. It is a mystery of God. It simply shows us that God is much bigger than we are.


He understands

Jesus knows what it is like for us as humans because He became one.
(Heb 2:14-18 NLT) Because God's children are human beings--made of flesh and blood--Jesus also became flesh and blood by being born in human form. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the Devil, who had the power of death. {15} Only in this way could he deliver those who have lived all their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. {16} We all know that Jesus came to help the descendants of Abraham, not to help the angels. {17} Therefore, it was necessary for Jesus to be in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. He then could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. {18} Since he himself has gone through suffering and temptation, he is able to help us when we are being tempted.
The land of Persia was once ruled by a wise and beloved Shah who cared greatly for his people and desired only what was best for them. One day he disguised himself as a poor man and went to visit the public baths. The water for the baths was heated by a furnace in the cellar, so the Shah made his way to the dark place to sit with the man who tended the fire. The two men shared the coarse food, and the Shah befriended him in his loneliness. Day after day the ruler went to visit the man. The worker became attached to this stranger because he “came where he was”. One day the Shah revealed his true identity, and he expected the man to ask him for a gift. Instead, he looked long into his leader’s face and with love and wonder in his voice said, “You left your palace and your glory to sit with me in this dark place, to eat my coarse food, and to care about what happens to me. On others you may bestow rich gifts, but to me you have given yourself!”
Jesus emptied Himself and took on human flesh. He knows what we’re going through because He’s been through it too.

:8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself

fashionschema – the habitus, as comprising everything in a person which strikes the senses, the figure, bearing, discourse, actions, manner of life etc.

The word for “form” (morphe) carries the idea of both external and internal characteristics, whereas schema dwells on the external shape of things. To the eyes, Jesus had the “shape” of a man, though He existed both in the “form” (both internal and external) of both God and of man.

being foundheurisko – to come upon, hit upon, to meet with; to find by enquiry, thought, examination, scrutiny, observation, to find out by practice and experience; to find out for one’s self, to acquire, get, obtain, procure

a mananthropos – a human being, whether male or female

he humbledtapeinoo – to make low, bring low; metaph. to bring into a humble condition, reduce to meaner circumstances; to assign a lower rank or place to; to lower, depress

This is an “active” voice, rather than “passive”. Jesus wasn’t “humbled”, but He acted to humble Himself.

himselfheautou – himself, herself, itself, themselves

Jesus was already “lower” in being a man. Then He lowered Himself again by becoming a servant. Then He lowered Himself even further to the point of dying.


Unity requires humility

If two people are going to learn to get along with each other, there needs to be humility.
Ideally, there ought to be humility on the part of both.
R.C. Chapman, a pastor and teacher back in 19th century England, wrote a book called “Agape Leadership”. He has a couple of great quotes about “unity”:

“Pride nourishes the remembrance of injuries: humility forgets as well as forgives them.”

“When mutual intercession takes the place of mutual accusation, then will the differences and difficulties of brethren be overcome.”

“Humility is the secret of fellowship, and pride the secret of division”.

:8 and became obedient unto death

becameginomai – to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being; to become, i.e. to come to pass, happen; to be made, finished; to become, be made; aorist participle.

obedienthupekoos – giving ear, obedient; from hupakouo – to listen, to harken; to obey, be obedient to, submit to

untomechri – as far as, until

deaththanatos – the death of the body; metaph., the loss of that life which alone is worthy of the name,; the miserable state of the wicked dead in hell; in the widest sense, death comprising all the miseries arising from sin, as well physical death as the loss of a life consecrated to God and blessed in him on earth, to be followed by wretchedness in hell



I think we need to be constantly reminded that Jesus, by the standards of cultural success models, was a miserable failure.

-- Gordon MacDonald, Leadership, Vol. 1, no. 2.

After all, Jesus hung out with low-class sinners. He acted so naively that He loved people who would eventually turn on Him.
One Solitary Life

He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty, and then for three years was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held office. He never owned a home. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where He was born. He never did any of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but himself. Although He walked the land over, curing the sick, giving sight to the blind, healing the lame, and raising people from the dead, the top established religious leaders turned against Him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was spat upon, flogged, and ridiculed. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While dying, the executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth, and that was His robe. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure of the human race and the Leader of the column of progress. All the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that were ever built, and all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as has that One Solitary Life.

Why did Jesus have such an impact on the world?
Partly because He walked in obedience.  He did what was right.  He put God’s priorities above His own comfort.  In the garden He prayed, “not my will but Thine”
Jesus didn’t sacrifice what was right for what was easy.

Too often we want to settle for what is easy. Jesus settled for what was right.

Unity comes when we learn to do what God wants us to do.

:8 even the death of the cross.

deaththanatos – the death of the body; metaph., the loss of that life which alone is worthy of the name,; the miserable state of the wicked dead in hell; in the widest sense, death comprising all the miseries arising from sin, as well physical death as the loss of a life consecrated to God and blessed in him on earth, to be followed by wretchedness in hell

crossstauros – a cross

Jesus didn’t just become obedient to the point of a quick and painless death, but to the point of enduring a painful, shameful death.


Jesus died for us

Jesus changed the world because He died for our sins.
(2 Cor 8:9 KJV) For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.
He was willing to lay down His life as a sacrifice to pay for our sins.

:9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:

whereforedio – wherefore, on account off

hath highly exaltedhuperupsoo – metaph. to exalt to the highest rank and power, raise to supreme majesty; to extol most highly

Robertson: Because of Christ’s voluntary humiliation God lifted him above or beyond (uper) the state of glory which he enjoyed before the Incarnation. What glory did Christ have after the Ascension that he did not have before in heaven? What did he take back to heaven that he did not bring? Clearly his humanity. He returned to heaven the Son of Man as well as the Son of God.

given charizomai – to do something pleasant or agreeable (to one), to do a favour to, gratify; to show one’s self gracious, kind, benevolent; to grant forgiveness, to pardon; to give graciously, give freely, bestow; to forgive; graciously to restore one to another; to preserve for one a person in peril

nameonoma – name: univ. of proper names

abovehuper – in behalf of, for the sake of; over, beyond, more than; more, beyond, over

everypas – each, every, any, all, the whole, everyone, all things, everything

What’s the name above every name? Jesus (see verse 10)


God honors true humility.

Jesus is an example to us of just how much God values humility and obedience.
We won’t be exalted in the same way that Jesus was because we are not God in the flesh.
But God still honors those who walk in true humility.
(1 Pet 5:5-6 KJV) …Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. {6} Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

:10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

kneegonu – the knee, to kneel down

should bowkampto – to bend, bow, the knee (the knees); to one; in honour of one; in religious veneration; used of worshippers; to bow one’s self

in heavenepouranios – existing in heaven; things that take place in heaven; the heavenly regions; heaven itself, the abode of God and angels; of heavenly origin or nature

in earthepigeios – existing upon the earth, earthly, terrestrial

under the earthkatachthonios (“down from” + “ground”) – subterranean; refers to those who dwell in the world below, departed souls

:11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

tongueglossa – the tongue, a member of the body, an organ of speech; a tongue; the language or dialect used by a particular people distinct from that of other nations

should confessexomologeo – to confess; to profess; acknowledge openly and joyfully; to one’s honour: to celebrate, give praise to; to profess that one will do something, to promise, agree, engage

Jesus Christ is Lord

oti kuriov ihsouv cristov eiv doxan yeou patrov

To confess that Jesus is Lord.
To confess that Jesus is Yahweh …?
In the New Testament, the word translated “lord” can be used at times to translate the Old Testament word for God’s name, “Yahweh”.
There’s an interesting passage that Paul may be quoting here:

(Isa 45:21-24 KJV)  Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.

The word “LORD” is the name of God, Yahweh, in the Hebrew.  God is declaring that He is the Saviour, and there is no other Saviour.

{22} Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.

The whole world is encouraged to look to Yahweh to be saved.

{23} I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.

Just like our passage.

{24} Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed.

We have righteousness in Jesus because He has paid for our sins and given us His own righteousness in exchange for our sins (2Cor. 5:21).

Even those who are “incensed against him” will one day recognize who He is.

All will one day bow before Him, some voluntarily, others unwillingly.  But all will one day bow.


C. S. Lewis, the great Christian writer and professor at Oxford and later Cambridge, wrote:
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic, on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg, or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool; you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or, you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
-- C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1960), p. 56.
The sniper in Maryland has given us a taste of this.  He has written in some of his notes to the police, “I am God”.  We clearly see this as someone with SEVERE problems.  Jesus claimed that He was God.  The Bible claims that Jesus is God.  He is Yahweh.  He must be worshipped.


You can bow now or you can bow later

God wants you to learn to bow before Jesus now.
Ro 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.