Philippians – Chapter 02 (Part 1)

by Jeff Dominguez

Chapter 02 (Part 1) – THE HUMILITY OF CHRIST (The Kenosis)

Outline:

In chapter 2, Paul taught the Philippians one of the trademark traits of Christianity: HUMILITY. And the reason why this is very important is also presented in this chapter: THE KENOSIS. And so, we will explore these concepts in the first half of this chapter (vv1-11).

I. PAUL’S JOY: HARMONY & HUMILITY (vv1-4)

In verses 1 to 4, Paul taught two things that according to Him, “completes His joy” as their spiritual leader: HARMONY and HUMILITY.

A.) HARMONY (vv1-2)

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love,
any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy
by being of the same mind, having the same love,
being in full accord and of one mind.”

After thanking the Philippians in chapter 1 and reassuring them that He is in a good spirit, Paul now expresses His desire for the Philippians which is for them to be harmonious and united (same mind, same love). If we will recall in John 17, Jesus also prayed for unity and harmony among His disciples (John 17:11, 21-23).

“And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” – John 17:11

Therefore, Paul echoed Jesus’ desire for the unity and harmony of the church. As it was shown in 1 Corinthians chapter 1, a division inside the church is a real and serious problem. In the context of joy, it was shown that division causes conflict and animosity. If this is left unchecked, it could cause the total collapse of the church. This is why Paul encouraged them to keep the unity and harmony among them. For without it, they can never have joy.

B.) HUMILITY (vv3-4)

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

The next value that Paul taught the Philippians is the value of humility. In a logical sense, humility is essential to creating harmony. In the exact words of Paul, he said: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit.” And then he adds that they should “count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” By carefully analyzing these words, it can be deduced that these are connected to Paul’s message about harmony. To have the same mind and love, the Philippians must first let go of their selfish ambitions and look out for the interest of others. In other words, the key to achieving harmony is humility. Without humility, there can be no harmony.

But what is the definition of humility?

Well, Paul already stated it. Like he said in verse 3. to be humble means to consider others as more important than yourself. That’s it.

Contrary to what others think, humility doesn’t mean you look down on yourself (that’s self-pity). Rather, to be humble simply means you consider others as better, more important, or more valuable than you. Psychologically speaking, that is correct. If you’ll notice, proud and arrogant people always act as if they are better than others. They see themselves as the best and they easily get angry or jealous when others receive the praise. One of the best examples of this was Saul. Let’s look at this passage from 1 Samuel 18:6-9.

“As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they celebrated,

“Saul has struck down his thousands,
and David His ten thousands.”

And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?” And Saul eyed David from that day on.”

If you’ve noticed, when the people praised David more than him, Saul got angry and jealous. This is the perfect example of not being humble. If we will apply the definition of humility in this case, Saul shouldn’t get angry and jealous when David was praised more than him because a truly humble person always considers others as better than them.

Lastly, we should be reminded that pride was the downfall of Satan.

These sharp contrast between Satan and Jesus perfectly captures the essence of what Jesus taught in the Parable of the Wedding Feast:

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” – Luke 14:11

And lastly, as a reminder, Paul taught us to become like Jesus, not anyone else.

“And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 11:1

II. THE BEST ROLE MODEL OF HUMILITY: JESUS CHRIST (THE KENOSIS; vv5-11)

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

After teaching them to be humble, Paul cited the best role model of humility to further inspire them. And that is no other than our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. But that’s not all. Aside from citing Him as the best example of humility, Paul also used this opportunity to teach one of the most important doctrines in the Bible: THE KENOSIS.

The Kenosis refers to the “self-emptying” of Christ that Paul mentioned in this passage. The term Kenosis came from the Greek word for emptying which is Kenoo. In this passage, Paul explained that the reason why Jesus is the best example of humility is that even though He was in the form of God (or God), He did not hold on to that glorious status. To save us, Jesus accepted the call to be the one to become human to redeem us. And when He was born, He wasn’t even born in a glorious condition. He was born in a manger and grew up in a poor family. And worst, when He died, He died in the worst way imaginable: Death on the Cross. This is not only the greatest act of humility but also the greatest act of love. As a result, “God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

In a doctrinal sense, the Kenosis refers to Jesus becoming the “God-Man.”

This is a very essential doctrine in the Bible and one that even the early church had trouble comprehending. Thankfully, this doctrine was discussed, finalized, and ratified in the historic Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D. Here is the official definition of the Council of Chalcedon regarding the Doctrine of Jesus being the God-Man:

In summary, Jesus is 100% God and 100% man. These two natures combine to form one person which is Jesus Christ. These natures are forever combined in Jesus (which means Jesus will forever carry His human body even in heaven). But to clarify, these natures do not mix. To make it more simple, just think of Jesus as being both God and man. This explains well why Jesus possesses all the attributes of God while also having the weaknesses and limitations of man (being weak, getting tired and hungry, etc.). So when Paul said that Jesus emptied Himself, it doesn’t mean that He removed some aspects of His deity. Rather, He emptied Himself by laying aside His divine privileges and by adding the human nature to Himself. This is truly a great, great act of humility.

As we close this section, let’s listen to Paul’s teaching to be harmonious and humble. Let us remember that the goal of Christianity is to become Christlike (Romans 8:28). And in that sense, it includes being humble.

God Bless! 🙂

Related Verses:

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” – Matthew 5:5

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” – James 4:6b

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” – James 4:10

“So that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”
– 1 Corinthians 1:31

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