Philippians 1 – 2

Philippians 1 & 2

Statue of Saint Paul on Duchcov CastleThe majority of Paul’s New Testament Epistles begin with him introducing himself as “Paul an Apostle of Jesus Christ”. By referring to himself as an “Apostle” he is underlining the authority with which he is writing – he is saying he has a status conferred on him by Jesus himself. The Epistle to the Philippians has no such emphasis on his position of authority: here he introduces himself, alongside Timothy as “bondservants of Jesus Christ”. Slaves (which is what the word ‘bondservant’ effectively means) were in reality at the opposite end of the spectrum of human status from “Apostles”. So, to people with a serious, enquiring mind, the question arises as to why did Paul use this particular description of himself in this Epistle. And it is the content of the Epistle which will supply the answer to that question.

The Epistle is addressed to an ecclesia (or “church” if you prefer – the New Testament always refers to churches as congregations of believers, and not to the buildings where they meet) which was established by Paul on his first visit to ‘Europe’ as recorded in Acts ch 16. And it is very clear that this ecclesia had a special place in Paul’s affections – just read Philippians 4:13-18 to discover how much he appreciated their practical support for him when he had left them and moved on to Thessalonica. They were a loving group of people, and he obviously held them in high regard. But all was not well, and earlier in ch 4 we hear about 2 of the female members of the ecclesia who were not getting on together – obviously something had happened which resulted in them falling out. So he urges them to “be of the same mind in the Lord” – a simple appeal, but one which is uses language that takes us back to the earlier part of the Epistle.

In the opening chapter it is worth noting the emphasis that Paul places on them as a united group of people – notice the number of times he uses the little word “all”; 6 times in that 1st chapter. Inevitable there were differences which challenged that unity as we’ve already seen in ch 4, but he starts by emphasising the ideal. And then in ch 2 he will define for them and for us the basis on which unity of purpose and action can be achieved  – by being individually united with Jesus Christ. Look at verse 2:

“Fulfil my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind”.

I’ve deliberately highlighted the word “mind” because it links back to the reference in ch 4. But it will also surface again in ch 2:5    “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”.

Let us now see what Paul will say to us about the “mind” of Christ = his attitude/outlook/disposition. He tells us that Jesus was “in the form of God”. For the majority of Christians here is confirmation that Jesus and God are one in person and substance – the widely-believed doctrine of the Trinity. But this passage does not say that Jesus was God – only that he was in the form of God and then became manifest in “the form of a bondservant” (v7). In fact it explicitly denies the foundation-stone of the Trinity because it says that Jesus did not ‘grasp at equality with God’. He came to show men and women what God is like – see for example John 14:8-9 – but he explicitly states that “My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28). Jesus’ mission was to perform a service to the human race, which could only be done by someone fully identifying with humanity in every respect. Read Matthew 20:25-28 for confirmation of how Jesus understood his own rôle. And see how that attitude of service is exemplified in the incident recorded in John 13:1-10 where Jesus washes his disciples’ feet – a job normally done by the household slave!

There is an interesting incident recorded in Matthew 12:15-21 where Jesus, having performed miracles of healing then requests that the beneficiaries of his healing touch do not publicly broadcast what he has done. There then follows an extended quote from Isaiah 42 where God is prophetically referring to the work to be carried out by Jesus as ‘God’s servant’; he was not to stand on the rooftops shouting out his unique status as the Son of God, but was quietly to go about his work of preaching the gospel – the good news about the kingdom of God available to both Jews and Gentiles (=non-Jews). That was the work of God’s “servant”. And what Jesus has achieved is:

Victory over sin – he was tempted like us to sin, but he never gave in to temptation – he was sinless (Heb 4:15)                                                                                                                                                                                Victory over death – he died without deserving death, thereby earning the right to be raised from the dead, and creating a hope of resurrection from death for others associated with him (Acts 2:22-24, 1 Cor 15:20-23)

Philippians 2 becomes a summary of all that Jesus achieved, not by drawing attention to his legitimate status as the Son of God, but by making his life an extended act of service. He “became obedient to death, even the death of the cross”. The only other place in the New Testament where the obedience of Jesus is referred to is Hebrews 5:8 which, again sets aside his titular claims to emphasise his achievement:

Frans Floris - The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Son of God, Gathering and Protecting Mankind - WGA7949
A man who suffered, died and brought victory over sin - The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Son of God, Gathering and Protecting Mankind - 1562 Frans Floris (1519/1520–1570
“though he was a Son, yet he learned  obedience by the things which he suffered”.

Someone who is co-equal and co-eternal with God cannot ‘learn obedience’ – only someone who is fully experiencing the everyday realities of human nature. The same point is made in the way the passage in Philippians 2 concludes: because Jesus accepted the role defined for him by God as a servant:

“God has highly exalted him and given him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…” (2:9-10).    Jesus could not have been exalted by God if he were already enjoying the status of co-equality with God. The Father has always been greater than the Son, and will always be so (see 1 Corinthians 15:28). Jesus has now achieved a wonderful status through his voluntary submission to the will of his Father: he is at his Father’s right hand waiting for the instruction to return to the earth and beautify it by filling it with the knowledge of God’s glory (Num 14:21, Isaiah 11:9, Habakkuk 2:14, 2 Corinthians 4:6), or in the words of Philippians 2:11

And every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

No surprise, then, that Paul should introduce himself as a bondservant of Jesus Christ – sharing in the work of service to those whom God wishes to save.  And we can now well imagine the 2 ladies at Philippi who had fallen out now understanding that if they are both trying to develop and manifest the mind of Christ then they must inevitably be reconciled to each other in order to participate in the work of ecclesial service.

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all” (4:23)

Steve Weston

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Preceding articles: Anointing of Christ as Prophetic Rehearsal of the Burial ritesServant of his FatherSlave for people and God & A Messiah to die

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Please do read also:

  1. Paul and Christ
  2. Who was Jesus? Video
  3. Who is Jesus #1 Introduction
  4. Who is Jesus Christ? #1 What does the Bible say
  5. Who is Jesus #2 Jesus Christ, man who died
  6. Who is Jesus #4 Clear statements that our heavenly Father is his “God”
  7. Who is Jesus #6 Jesus prays to God
  8. Who is Jesus #7 Also. Trust in God; trust also in me
  9. Who is Jesus #8 Father greater than Jesus
  10. Who is Jesus #9 100% or not
  11. Who is Jesus #10 Jesus was tempted in every way
  12. Who is Jesus #11 What do famous people say about Him
  13. Who is Jesus #12 Conclusion
  14. Jesus as fully human
  15. Da Vinci Code: Was Jesus Human or Divine?
  16. Jezus, Yeshua, Yahushua
  17. Lord or Yahuwah, Yeshua or Yahushua
  18. Jesus spitting image of his father
  19. God of all Ages a simple book about God (D. Whitehouse)
  20. Jesus three days in hell
  21. Jesus and his God
  22. Jesus son of God
  23. “Son of God” – “God the Son”
  24. Christian thought: acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God
  25. Was Jesus Religious
  26. Clean Flesh #2 Purity of Jesus
  27. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever
  28. Yeshua a man with a special personality
  29. How people see Jesus placed in history
  30. Good-News Jesus among the partisans
  31. The Word being a quality or aspect of God Himself
  32. Scriptures That Show That Jesus (Yahshua) Is Not Yahweh (Jehovah)
  33. One Mediator between God and man
  34. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends
  35. Pre-existence of Christ #1 Look #4 Jesus – His Parents #2
  36. Pre-existence of Christ #1 Look #5A Jesus – Had to learn
  37. Pre-existence of Christ #1 Look #5B Jesus – The Creator #1
  38. Pre-existence of Christ #1 Look #5C Jesus – The Creator #2 Wisdom
  39. Can we not do what Jesus did?
  40. Christ entered our world to transform our lives
  41. Life and attitude of a Christian
  42. Practical Principles for my Life in Christ
  43. To belong to Christ= Christus toebehoren
  44. Prefering to be a Christian
  45. Are Christadelphians so Old Fashioned?
  46. Christadelphian people
  47. Concerning gospelfaith
  48. Being prudent – zorgvuldig zijn
  49. Parts of the body of Christ
  50. What part of the Body am I?
  51. Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father
  52. Every man’s work is always a portrait of himself
  53. How we think shows through in how we act
  54. People should know what you stand for
  55. If you want to go far in life
  56. A Living Faith #3 Faith put into action
  57. A Living Faith #4 Effort
  58. A Living Faith #8 Change
  59. A Living Faith #9 Our Manner of Life
  60. A Living Faith #12 The Love for Jesus
  61. Caring for to become Christ-like
  62. If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life be
  63. How us to behave
  64. Followers with deepening
  65. Commitment to Christian unity
  66. Being one in Jesus, Jesus in us and God in Jesus
  67. Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience
  68. A learning process for each of us
  69. Abhor evil. Adhere to goodness
  70. No time for immorality
  71. Our attitude at a difficult task
  72. Choosing your attitudes
  73. Attitude to others important for reaching them
  74. Act as if everything you think, say and do determines your entire life
  75. Remember that who you’re being is just as important as what you’re doing
  76. Not the circumstances in which we are placed constitutes our comfort
  77. Raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair
  78. Prefering to be a Christian
  79. Efeziërs 2:21-22 Church no longer holds a central place in many Christian lives
  80. Not liking your Christians
  81. To exercise blind-faith you must expel your honesty
  82. You only lose energy when life becomes dull in your mind
  83. Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap
  84. Determined To Stick With Truth.
  85. I serve
  86. Turn the Other Cheek
  87. There is no such thing as a “Christian politics.”
  88. Only worhsip the Creator of all things
  89. Belief of the things that God has promised
  90. Rebirth and belonging to a church
  91. Ransom for all
  92. This month’s survey question: Why did Jesus have to die on the cross?
  93. Yesterday He died for me
  94. Understanding The Atonement
  95. How is it that Christ pleased God so perfectly?
  96. Suffering redemptive because Jesus redeemed us from sin

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  • The Happiest Man in the World (5ptsalt.com)
    Philippians is one of the most personal of all of Paul’s epistles. It shares this characteristic with II Corinthians, I Thessalonians, and Philemon. Nowhere are we brought closer to the real Paul, pouring out his heart to those whom he deeply loves.
  • Philippians 4:19 (faithfulnibbles.wordpress.com)
    God shall supply all our needs, not our wants.
  • The “Mind of Christ” (instrument-rated-theology.com)
    for our purposes we will say that “mind” and “attitude” are fundamentally synonymous.
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    The opposite of having the mind of Christ would be to have the mind of the world (3:17-4:1). This is precisely what my first 4 articles were designed to illustrate. We cannot have both the mind of the world and the mind of Christ.
  • Indian River Baptist Church AM Sermon, April 15, 2012 – Jeff Gwilt: Philippians 1:1-5 (thelightheartedcalvinist.com)
  • Paul’s Frame Of Mind (scripturenuggets.wordpress.com)
    Before he was killed, a group of Jews visited Paul to get from him what insight they could. They sought to touch his “frame of mind.” They probably were not prepared for what they found: a frame of mind in line with the Kingdom of God.
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    Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians was written while he was a prisoner in Rome. Many times he made use of the word phroneo, which means “to have a certain frame of mind.” We may conclude that in this letter he expounded in greater measure what we have in outline form in Acts 28:22-23 as he responded to the men who wished to hear his thoughts…
  • The goal is Christ! (waltbrite.wordpress.com)
    when we, as pastors make it our goal to build and pastor large congregations; build up our ministries to a certain fame, we may be pursuing the wrong goal. For most of the people I know with this kind of notoriety, they didn’t go looking for it. The glory of God and the salvation of souls has been and still is their number one goal and pursuit.

    Like the apostle Paul,
    our goal should be Christ, how to please him, serve him, become like him and bring others along side of us.
  • Philippians 4:13 Bible Verse for the Day (momsfirstscreenn.wordpress.com)

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