1 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on one goal. 3 Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. 4 Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, 6 who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. 7 Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, 8 He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross. 9 For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth— 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
Two reoccurring themes in the gospels are disciples and crowds, both of whom continually wrestled with one question: “Who is this man?” Jesus’ earliest disciples would have been taught about the coming Messiah from childhood. They had many ideas about the prophecy and the savior.
However, if you took a poll around Jerusalem, no one would imagine that the Messiah would be a lowly carpenter, much less that his leadership would include spending 3 years of His life with 12 unimportant men. No one would tell you they imagined Him to be executed as a criminal cursed under the law. Jesus is He never fit in the box so many wanted desperately to place Him in. Instead of seeing the Jesus who is, they often imagined the Messiah who wasn’t.
But are we that different today? In the present, it is easy for us to look at the biblical account and ask, “How did they not see Jesus for who he was?” or “How did they miss it?” As Christ-followers today, we do the same thing all the time. We make Jesus in our own image. We try to fit Him into a mold, designed by our wants and desires. The heart-issue with this is self-centered.
Paul begins this passage by using the negative example of his opponents (see chapter 1:12-18) who perform out of selfish ambition (v. 3). Instead he urges the Philippians to complete his joy by having a love and a mind of Christ (v. 2) and to not look to their own interests, but the interest of others. But how do we leave selfish-ambition behind? How do we follow Jesus? By following Jesus’ example (v. 5).
Jesus was radically God-centered. Though He was Himself, God, did not consider Himself equal to God (v. 6). Rather He emptied Himself. Jesus, by rights, is the Lord of the universe, worthy of the praise and worship of all peoples.
But instead of exalting Himself, He became a baby born to an ordinary family who lived a life of service and accepted a violent and humiliating death on the cross (v. 7-8). Because of His willingness to exhaust Himself and exalt God, Jesus was given the name that is above all names (v. 9) with all the power and privileges that are due His name (v. 10-11).
The book of Hebrews tells us He did this in order to become a merciful and faithful high priest who is able to relate to His people, their struggles, and their hardships (Hebrews 2:17-18). Jesus did this for us because He lived for the glory of God and serve others. He saw the interest of others as more important than his own (v. 4).
Because he made himself lowly, God exalted Him highly. Because He was obedient, God counted His service as our own. By becoming poor He has made us rich. We follow in the footsteps of a humble king.
The ultimate goal of Spiritual Formation is being transformed into the image of Christ. The Bible answers the question, "what is Jesus like"; but this is one of those wonderful passages that brings into a particular focus who Jesus is and what attitude characterizes Him. If the ultimate goal of our spiritual lives is to be like Jesus, we need to know what we are striving to be. This passage makes that picture a lot clearer. Becoming like Christ means focusing on God and valuing others.
Paul’s "Christ Hymn" allows us to look at the pages of scripture and see how our lives measure up to the model we have in Jesus. Are we humble? Do we love others? Do we seek to serve others? Are these our priorities? I think you will find the more we model these behaviors in our own lives the closer we are to becoming more like Christ.
Paul exhorts the Philippians to have the same love and same mind as Christ. You may have heard this saying: “You become what you behold.” If the desired result of the Christian life is to look like Jesus, the scriptures mirror Jesus in us.
It is easy to look at Jesus' characteristics in this passage and say, “Well, that doesn’t look like me.” But if we stop there, we miss out on the journey.
I have found the more I meditate on the scriptures, the more deeply I drink of the Bible’s well, and the more my life reflects Jesus. For example, humility does not come as easily to me as it obviously did to Jesus. More time I spend with Jesus in His word, the more I am influenced by the humble servant-king Paul describes and knows so well. The more I behold Jesus, the more I become like Him and the more my mind and love aligns with Christ.
- What does it mean to look out for the interests of others? Is this a reality in your life? To whom can you show the love of Christ through service this week?
- Consider Paul’s description of Jesus in verse 5-11. Make a list of Jesus’ characteristics and reflect on them. What do these lead you to do? Pray, praise, repent, tell someone the good news, some combination? There is not one correct response.
- Pray that God would lead you to be conformed to the image of Christ this week.