Session 9

Philippians Study – Session 9

(Philippians 2:5-11)

 

            When I was a child, a game we often played “Follow the Leader.”  One person was designated the leader, and everyone else had to do exactly what the leader did or they were eliminated from the game.  Without going into detail about it, want you to know I discovered that can be a dangerous game, especially when a devious older brother is the leader. 

            Before we follow any leader, we would do well to make sure that person is leading us to a place we want to go.  In our journey through Philippians, we have come to a passage in which Paul essentially says, “Follow the leader!” We are going to focus in this session on Philippians 2:5-11.  Verse 5 is a transition verse.  It looks in two directions--back at what has just been said and forward to what is about to be said. 

            In the NASB Philippians 2:5 is translated “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.”  The familiar KJV translation of this verse says, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”  The word that is translated “mind” in the KJV doesn’t mean brain or mental capacities.  Instead it carries the idea of demeanor or spirit or attitude.  The Bible is not telling us here that we are to be as smart as Jesus or that we are to have the same mental capacity as Jesus.  Instead, it is telling us that we are to approach life with the same spirit, the same attitude, the same demeanor as Jesus.  We are to follow His leadership, His example in our approach to life. 

            I said moment ago that v. 5 looks in two directions.  It looks back at what was just said in verses 3-4.  We saw in our last session that we are not to live selfish and self-centered lives.  Instead, we are to look out for the needs of others.  Verse 5 looks back to that and it looks forward to vv.6-11 which is, as one writer puts it, “...the greatest and the most meaningful passage that Paul ever wrote about Jesus.” [Barclay].  These verses, in summary form, tell us the whole story of Jesus.  They tell us of His—

--preexistence in heaven in the form of God...

--incarnation...of His identity with humanity by leaving heaven and coming to earth...

--death on the cross...

--resurrection from the dead...

--glorification as Lord over all..

These verses are so beautiful and so poetic, that many scholars believe them to be an early Christian hymn that Paul chose to quote as part of this letter.  (Read Philippians 2:5-11) 

If that is an ancient Christian hymn, and I believe it may well be, it obviously has two stanzas. 

·         The first stanza is vv.6-8, which focus on what some scholars refer to as the condescension of Christ...on Christ leaving His place in heaven to come to earth... in the this stanza, Christ is the subject...He is the one doing the acting...

--”He existed in the form of God...”

--”He emptied Himself...”

--”He took the form of a bond-servant...”

--”He humbled Himself...

--”He became obedient...”

--”He went to the cross...”

·         The second stanza is vv.9-11 which focus on the exaltation of Christ as Lord of all...in this stanza of the hymn, Christ is not the subject, He is the object...He is not doing the acting, He is being acted upon...God is the subject of the second stanza... God is doing the acting…

                  --“…God highly exalted Him…”

                  --“…God…bestowed on Him the name which is above every name…” 

 

 STANZA 1 – THE CONDESCENSION OF CHRIST 

  1. Verse 6 begins with a statement about the pre-existence of Jesus...”He existed in the form of God...”...Paul mentions the pre-existence of Jesus to emphasize what Jesus gave up in order to become flesh and come to our world...before coming to our world Jesus was “...in the form of God...”...in our vocabulary we generally use the word form to mean shape...if we say something is in the form of a cross, we mean it’s in the shape of a cross...but the Greek word translated “form” in v.6 has nothing to do with shape...it does not refer to outward characteristics or physical appearance...the word means “essential character”...some versions of the NT translate the word as “nature”...Paul is saying here that Jesus had the very nature of God...He was equal with God...He and God were the same...
  2. But notice what Jesus did...He didn’t selfishly cling to that place of privilege...v.6 says He “...did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped...”...that is, He didn’t selfishly cling to something which was rightfully His...instead, vv.7-8 tell us that He “...emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” ...what an amazing thing!...want to point out to you two things which are extremely important to understand about this incredibly unselfish thing Jesus did...

o   It important to understand that when Jesus chose to leave heaven and come to our world, it was a completely voluntary act...that theme runs throughout this paragraph...no-one made Jesus do what He did...He wasn’t forced or coerced in anyway...He--

--emptied Himself...

--humbled Himself...

--chose to be obedient...

      He didn’t have to do those things, but He out of unselfish love for others, He did....

o   It is important to understand that when the Scripture says in v.7 that Jesus “...emptied Himself...” that it does not mean that He ceased to be God...some have taken that statement to mean that when Jesus became flesh he divested Himself of His deity, His godness...that’s not what the phrase means...it means He emptied Himself or He gave up His special place of privilege, of favor in heaven...He willingly gave that up to take the form of “...a bond-servant...”...and word used for “bond-servant” is word which meant very lowest person on social order of 1st century world...it has been pointed out that there seems to be a deliberate contrast in this verse between Jesus and Adam...Adam, the first man, attempted to be like God and fell...Jesus, who is God, took on the form of man and was exalted!...

  1. There’s a great mystery in all that which I don’t think we’ll ever be able to fully comprehend in this world...but we must not get so caught up in the mystery of it that we miss the main point being made here...what is Paul saying to the Philippians in this verse?... I think this: “You people are being torn apart because you are insisting on your own rights and privileges.  You are overly concerned with your own desires and preferences.  You are selfish and self-centered.  Look at the example of Jesus!  Be like Him!  He was of the very nature of God.  He was in heaven, reigning with the Father. He had every right to insist on His place of privilege, of power, of prestige.  But He voluntary relinquished that place to become flesh, to come to our world, even to die for our sins on the cross so that we could know God.” 
  2. During the Civil War, President Lincoln commissioned George B. McClellan as General-in-Chief over the Army of the Potomac... McClellan thought of himself as a great military leader and enjoyed hearing people refer to him as “a young Napoleon”...however, his performance as leader of the Union Army was less than sensational... one evening, Lincoln and two of his staff members made an unannounced visit to McClellan’s home in Washington...the general was out attending a wedding, so they waited for him...when he finally arrived, McClellan walked past the waiting president and his aides and went upstairs...thirty minutes passed and Lincoln asked one of the house servants to go upstairs and tell General McClellan that they were waiting...the servant came back and told the president that McClellan had gone to bed...Lincoln’s staff members were livid, but the president just got up and begin to make his way back to the White House...when his staff members asked the president why he allowed McClellan to treat him that way, here is what Abraham Lincoln said:  “I would hold McClellan’s horse if he will only bring us success!” [Wiersbe, p.63] 
  3. And that is the spirit we are to have as followers of the One who “...emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant...” ...in the name of the One who “...did not come to be served but to serve and give His life a ransom for many...” [Matthew 20:29] we are called to put aside our personal interests and give our lives in service to others...

 

STANZA 2 – THE EXALTATION OF CHRIST

1.      If you’ll look at verse 9 you will see two things that God did in relation to Christ...


    • “...God highly exalted Him...” - The phrase “highly exalted” translates a single Greek word...the word means “to exalt beyond measure or to lift up to the highest possible place”...the word carries the idea of being“super-exalted”... God gave Him a position above everything and everyone else...
    • ”....[God]...bestowed on Him the name which is above every name...” - In ancient times names served a dual purpose...they distinguished one person from another, which is the primary function of names in our culture...but they served an additional function...they also indicated a person’s character and status...we are not told in this verse what the name was God bestowed on Jesus... while there is some debate among Bible scholars about the identity of the name, the general consensus is that the name being referred to is “Lord”...when the early Christians referred to Jesus as “Lord” they used the same word which was translated “God” in the Greek version of the OT which was their Bible...to say “Jesus is Lord” (which was the earliest Christian confession) was to say that He is God...and in vv.10-11 when Paul speaks of every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that Jesus is Lord, he paraphrases an OT passage from Isaiah which is obviously speaking of God...

2.      Point want to make in all that is that if God could so highly exalt Christ and give Him such a high name, our response to Christ can be nothing less than acknowledging Him as Lord of our lives...we don’t “make Him Lord” as I’ve heard some people put it...He is Lord...but we are to acknowledge Him as Lord and allow Him to be Lord over our lives...

3.      There is an interesting story about Queen Victoria who was the longest reigning monarch in history of England...shortly after she became queen in 1837 at the young age of 18, as was the custom for English royalty, she attended a presentation of Handel’s Messiah...she was told by her advisers that as the Queen, she should not stand at the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus...when the choir got to that part of the Messiah and began to sing “Hallelujah! For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth” she began to squirm in her chair but remained seated...but when they reached the part in the chorus which Christ was proclaimed King of kings and Lord of lords, in spite of the custom of past kings and queens, Queen Victoria could not remain seated...in an elegant gesture acknowledging Christ as her Lord, the young queen rose and stood with her head reverently bowed...[From sermon by Adrian Dieleman, Sermon Central] 

4.      And one thing we should learn from these verses is that we are to acknowledge the One God exalted, the One on Whom God bestowed the highest name, we are to acknowledge Him as Lord of our lives...

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