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. — Philippians 2:5-11
The Gospel in Philippians
by Chris Thompson
While this passage is the capstone of Philippians, it cannot be isolated from the context of Paul’s entire letter. Writing from prison, Paul makes it clear that his main concern is for the advancement of the gospel (1:12-13). The Philippians were fearful of facing persecution because they had witnessed other believers suffering for their faith in Christ. Paul challenges, comforts, and gives examples to emphasize the need not only for their partnership in the gospel, but also for the Philippians to live in a manner worthy of the gospel.
In Philippians 2:3 Paul describes one of the ways a believer can live in a manner worthy of the gospel: “In humility consider others more important than yourself.” This is not only counter-cultural, it goes against our natural sinful desire to exalt ourselves. Echoing the heart of the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40) and offering a complete contrast to Isaiah 13–14, Paul points to the supreme example of humility by reminding the Philippians of the beauty of the gospel story.
This passage is the masterpiece of all Christological texts. Poetic in tone, these verses accentuate the deity of Christ before, during and after His time on earth, as well as His earthly humanity. In a few sentences Paul displays both the immanence and the transcendence of God through Christ Jesus. This is one of the major themes in the grand narrative of Scripture. God desires to be in community with His created people, a truth that differentiates Christianity from all other world religion.
My job requires me to travel frequently. When I look out the window of an airplane, I’m always surprised by how small my problems really are. There is something about viewing my little world from 30,000 feet that helps me put things in perspective. It lifts me out of thinking that everything revolves around my job, my commitments, and my responsibilities. It also reminds me of all the people who are living with the same reality as me, that they too need the good news of the gospel.
Similarly, when I read this passage in Philippians, it lifts me out of my current situation and allows me to focus on the splendor and transcendence of Christ. In other words, it ignites worship.
It’s helpful to walk through each verse slowly focusing on every phrase. Prayerfully read through these words: “He emptied himself,” “He humbled himself,” “For this reason God highly exalted Him.” Jesus, who was fully God, willingly entered into suffering so He could rescue us from our sins and provide a way for us to enjoy community with Him for eternity. This is a God worthy of worship!
As the Word of God begins to penetrate in your heart you will grow in your affection for Christ, but you will also begin to grow in your love for people. Paul’s letter shines with examples of his concern and love for people. He admits that his desire is to “depart and be with Christ” (1:23), but he remains here for the “progress and joy in the faith” of others (1:25).
- Does this passage awaken a desire to see the advancement of the gospel? What are some ways you can participate in the mission of God at work, church, or in your family?
- How does Christ’s willingness to assume the role of a slave influence the way you treat people?
- Take some time and read through the book of Philippians. Ask yourself, “What does it mean to live a life worthy of the gospel?”
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.