Philippians 2

Philippians 2:1-4

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 rivalry 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.

Notice the “so” that connects the beginning of Philippians 2 with the last thought of Philippians 1.  Paul wants the Philippians to know that since they have been granted the ability to believe and suffer like him and to be engaged in the same conflict against those who are not true disciples (see Philippians 1:15-18), they are to behave in a certain way.  Don’t let the word “if” throw you off track since, in English, it usually raises a question as to whether or not what follows is true.  This is not the case in this context as is apparent when one looks at the original language of the New Testament (the Greek).  The sentence construction used here is called a first-class conditional sentence in the original language.  This means that Paul is really saying, “Since these things are true….”  In other words, Paul is affirming the following to be true: (1) there is encouragement in Christ, (2) there is comfort from love, (3) there is participation (i.e. fellowship) in the Spirit, and (4) there is affection and sympathy.  Having said this, Paul is ready to tell the Philippians how they should respond (Philippians 2:2-4).  As one reads the passage, it is striking how the emphasis is on a unified body.  This is obtained by being of the “same mind” and having the “same love” while being of “full accord” and of “one mind” (Philippians 2:2).  Rather than operating out of rivalry and conceit (see Philippians 1:15-18) they are to count others more significant than themselves by practicing humility (Philippians 2:3).  Instead of only  “looking out for #1,” they should look out for the interests of others, a far cry from what Paul’s enemies were doing to him.

Philippians 2:5-11

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 made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, 8 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.

The attitude controlling their actions was to be one best illustrated by the attitude of Christ (Philippians 2:5).  In Philippians 2:6-8 several descriptors of Christ’s attitude are enumerated:

a. Though in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped – Philippians 2:6

b. He made himself “nothing” by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men and taking on human form – Philippians 2:7

c. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death on a cross – Philippians 2:8

God rewarded this attitude in the following ways:

a. God highly exalted him and bestowed on him a name that is above every name – Philippians 2:9

b.  At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth – Philippians 2:10

c. Every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord – Philippians 2:11

Philippians 2:12-18

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.14 Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

After illustrating Jesus’ attitude and the results of that attitude, Paul turns to the application of how such an attitude will manifest itself in the Philippian Christians.  The first result is an obedient life similar to Jesus.  He left heaven and came to earth and was obedient in the absence of equality with God.  They too are to be obedient in the absence of Paul’s example and nurturing (Philippians 2:12).  Obedience is something one does, not because someone is looking over her/his shoulder but rather the result of an attitude.  For Paul, the attitude was present because of the things listed in Philippians 2:1.  By obeying, they would be working out their own salvation “with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).  The term “fear and trembling” is often connected with recognizing that one is in the presence of God (see Isaiah 6:1-8; Exodus 3:1-6; Joshua 5:13-15 and Ecclesiastes 5:1-2).  In their case, they needed to recognize that God was working in them (Philippians 2:13) not off “in the sweet by and by.”  They were “to will and to work for his good pleasure.”   Paul concludes his comments about their behavior by constructing one of those long sentences for which his writings are famous.  It contains three major directives regarding their behavior

a.Do all things without grumbling or questioning – Philippians 2:14

b.Be blameless and innocent children of God even when the world is “crooked and twisted” – Philippians 2:15

c.Hold fast to the word of life – Philippians 2:16

d.Be glad and rejoice with Paul – Philippians 2:18

Here and in II Timothy 4:6 Paul refers to himself as a “drink offering.”  For more information on drink offerings see Numbers 15:1-10 and Numbers 28:4-8.  The drink offering was poured over the major offering such as the lamb, bull or goat.  Perhaps Paul is seeing his life as a drink offering poured out over the major sacrifice, that is Jesus Christ (see also Romans 12:1-2 and Ephesians 5:2).

Philippians 2:19-24

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 They all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. 23 I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, 24 and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.

At the present time Timothy is with Paul.  In Philippians 2:19-24 Paul affirms his plans to send Timothy to them soon (Philippians 2:23).  He will do this as soon as Paul finds out his own fate.  Paul considers Timothy to be his greatest asset as a support for himself and his work (Philippians 2:20).  Paul plans for Timothy to go to Philippi and then return with a report for him in prison (Philippians 2:19).  It is Paul’s belief that he might be released from prison and be able to visit them soon himself (Philippians 2:24).

Philippians 2:24-30

and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also. 25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.

In the final section of Philippians 2 Paul discusses his friend and theirs, Epaphroditus.  His relationship to Paul is described as “my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier.”  His relationship with the Philippians is described as “your messenger and minister” (Philippians 2:25).  A concern had arisen because Epaphroditus had become so ill that he had nearly died (Philippians 2:27 and 30).  The Philippians were aware of this illness and concerned for his welfare (Philippians 2:26-27).  Because of this, Paul was eager for Epaphroditus to return to Philippi so that they would be relieved (Philippians 2:28).  His advice to them was to receive Epaphroditus “with all joy” and “honor such men” (Philippians 2:29 cf. I Thessalonians 5:12).

In the midst of this discourse is a statement that should not be overlooked: “But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow” (Philippians 2:27).  The lesson to be learned from this sentence is that sorrow is a natural, normal part of life when one loses a friend or relative.  There are Christians who teach that one should celebrate the death of loved ones who are Christians because they are “going to a better place.”   However, the reality of the situation is that when a loved one dies, those left behind are going to miss them and be sorrowful.  Sorrow is a natural response to death.

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