In our study of Philippians chapter two, we will look at the mind of Christ. In chapter one, we saw that, through Christ, we can sit back and enjoy the ride (not worry) about the future. Here, we will see that this is only possible when our minds are changed to be like His mind.
Philippians 2:1 & 2a
"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded," NIV translation
Paul was a logical man and, when he uses the word "if", he is not using it in a conditional sense. A better sense of what he is saying would be to use the word "since". He is saying that since we have the joy of knowing Christ as our Savior and even have the Spirit of God in us then our way of thinking should be the same as His. Paul is saying that their salvation brought him joy but this joy is not complete unless he knows that the people that he had brought to the Lord were growing in their faith.
"having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." NIV translation
We are united with Christ when we accept Him as our Lord and Savior, He gives us His mind, His love, and His purpose. Before Christ, we are selfish in that we do things for what we can get out of it or to make ourselves look good in other people's eyes. When we come to faith in Jesus Christ, that all changes.
"Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped," NIV translation
Now, Paul begins to describe the mind of Christ and it can be summed up in one word which is humility. Here, we see that Jesus did not hang on to His position in heaven and He was not worried about losing His place to another but instead willingly and with joy left the glory of heaven. I have heard and seen many stories of people who say they have died briefly and went to heaven but not once have I heard anyone say that they wanted to come back to the earth. We see Jesus' humility in the fact that He left to come to the earth on our behalf (He put our needs before His wants).
"but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness." NIV translation
This verse has been widely misinterpreted as meaning that Jesus emptied Himself of His deity and became just a man here on the earth. What the verse is talking about is the fact that He gave up His rights as God of the universe. This included the right to be worshiped and to be served. He was still the King of kings and yet came in the form of a working man (servant) which is what the majority of people were. He exchanged all of His rights for the physical limitations that come with a human body.
"And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!" NIV translation
Many of us are humbled by the actions of others (humiliation) but we see that Jesus humbled Himself even to the point of death. Not only was He willing to die in our place but He was willing to be humiliated on our behalf.
"Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name," NIV translation
In the previous verses, we saw the mind of Christ which is humility as we saw His journey down from heaven to the earth. Here, we begin to see the mind of God the Father which is to exalt His Son. The word exalt comes from the Hebrew word rum (which is pronounced room) and its basic meaning is height. The Greek word is hupsoo and it means "to lift up on high". Jesus humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross and laying in a tomb. The Father lifted Him up and restored Him to the throne in heaven. His name is above every name as it is the only way for us to get right with God.
"that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth," NIV translation
We see that everyone will bow to King Jesus as He rules all of creation. There are those that act like Satan is in control of the earth and there are those who think he will be in control of hell but that is not so. Jesus is in charge of everything both now and in the future. As the ruler, everyone will submit to His authority at some point. If we do so on this side of death, then, we will be with Him forever. If we do not do so before we die, then, we will submit to His authority on the Day of Judgment as we are sent to our final place in hell.
"and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." NIV translation
Not only will everyone bow but they will also acknowledge with their mouth that Jesus is Lord. Many have taken this and, in their ignorance of the complete Word of God, used it to proclaim the concept of universal salvation. We see, here, that everyone will confess that He is Lord but that is not the same as confessing that He is your Savior. The title of Lord was granted to Jesus by the Father and everyone will acknowledge that the Father has put Him in charge of all things. The title of Savior is a personal title that we give Him based on the fact that He died in our place and rose again. Everyone will call Him Lord but only those who choose to accept Him will call Him their Savior.
Philippians 2:12 & 13
"Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed - not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence - continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." NIV translation
Paul urges the believers to continue to learn and to grow in their walk with Christ. When he tells us to work out our salvation, he is reminding us to listen to God and trust Him to use His word to guide us through the Spirit. We are saved by faith alone but our faith shines like a beacon of light which is God's purpose for our lives.
"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life - in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing." NIV translation
What is our purpose on this earth? We see from this passage that we are to be a shining example of the power of Jesus Christ and to tell others about what Jesus has done for them. Can we be happy and rejoice in the days that we are in with all the ugliness in the world? Yes, we can if we look at all of the darkness as a tremendous opportunity to spread the Light which is Jesus Christ. The darker and more corrupt that this world becomes, the brighter His people shine. This is the same purpose for the 144,000 witnesses (see Revelation 7) during the Great Tribulation.
Philippians 2:17 & 18
"But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me." NIV translation
Under the Law, a drink offering was to accompany the lamb of the burnt offering (see Numbers 15:5). This offering was poured on a red hot offering and so was turned into steam and this steam rose up to God. This was a picture of Jesus sacrificing Himself, shedding His blood on our behalf, and rising from the dead to reign. Paul is telling the Philippians that, if he is in bondage for the good of them, then he is glad and thanks God for it. Paul lets us see that he was willing to give up his freedom for the good of others and so was demonstrating the mind of Christ. That is the very definition of love as we see in 1 John 3:16.
Philippians 2:19 & 20
"I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare." NIV translation
Just as we have seen Paul exhibit the mind of Christ while in chains for the gospel, we now see that Timothy is like minded with Paul. Paul had brought him to the Lord and trained him up in the knowledge of the things of Christ.
Philippians 2:21 & 22
"For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel." NIV translation
Timothy is contrasted with other "leaders" who were more concerned with their own things such as wealth, power, fame, etc. The mind of Christ does not think of such things but thinks of the needs of others. Paul reminds them and us that this was demonstrated in Timothy's work with him in spreading the gospel. Paul considered him to be his spiritual son as he had brought him to faith in Jesus and then trained him up just as a parent trains their children.
Philippians 2:23 & 24
"I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon." NIV translation
Paul was facing an uncertain outcome of his trial but, even so, he was thinking of the church in Philippi. He had confidence that God was in control and that he would get to see them again. That is a reminder to us that the "mind of Christ" does not change based on our circumstances.
"But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow." NIV translation
Now, we are introduced to a third example of someone that has the mind of Christ. Epaphroditus was the pastor of the church in Philippi and they had sent him to help Paul when they found out that he was imprisoned in Rome. We see that he is a true pastor in that he demonstrates his deep love for the Philippian church. He had been sick to the point of death and still was thinking of the people back there.
"Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me." NIV translation
Paul tells them that he will be more at ease once he sends their pastor home. He was concerned because, at this time, false teaching was trying to penetrate all of the early churches. He then reminds them to honor this true pastor who went to serve in Rome in their place. This reminds us of the selfless service of Christ when He went to the cross on our behalf. The true "mind of Christ" is demonstrated in loving sacrifice for others.