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Text – Philippians 2:1-11
Last week we looked at a topical lesson on Christmas. This week we’re going to look at an expositional lesson on how Christ’s birth (& life and death) calls us to live. We’re going to be in Philippians 2; we need to know some things about this letter before we fully understand the passage.
Who wrote Philippians? The Apostle Paul. Does anybody know where he was when he wrote Philippians? He was in prison, in Rome. Any guesses as to what his punishment may be for saying that Caesar is not God, will it be light or harsh? Paul very much expects to die in Rome for his claim that Christ is God and Caesar is not.
This letter was written near the end of his life, he’s been beaten, persecuted, hated, betrayed, and rejected for thirty years now, all for the sake of Jesus Christ, but he still loves Jesus and the church. This ought to be your first lesson, that a genuine saving faith perseveres to the end and thrives in persecution, I want to read two important verses which start and finish this thought.
Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
Paul rejoiced in his sufferings, and he was able to do so because just as Christ suffered for him, he had suffered for the gospel; he is able to tell us that everything outside of Christ is the equivalent of garbage and that we set our affections on Christ and Heaven and this will produce in us fruitful and Christ-honoring lives. He wants us to live lives with Christ as our example, and that is what chapter 2 of Philippians charges us to do.
Philippians 2:1-11 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. Do nothing from rivalry 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. 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 made himself nothing, 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.
This is one of my favorite passages in scripture, it has such a humble beginning, such a perfect example, and such an amazing application that it should rock your world, it should leave you with no option but to do what it says; let’s see if this Christmas passage can do exactly what Paul hopes for it to do in the audience at Philippi.
v.1 if there is any encouragement in Christ,
If Christ’s life and sacrifice encourages us to live godly lives,
v.1 (if there is) any comfort from love,
If the great love by which Christ loved us and gave himself for us comforts us, driving out all fear,
v.1 (if there is) any participation in the Spirit,
If the Spirit dwells in you and leads you, he who is our helper and promise of Heaven and glorification, who grows in us the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control,
v.1 (if there is) any affection and sympathy,
If there is any love in the church and empathy towards weakness and hope of sanctification, then verse 2:
v.2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
If Christ and the Holy Spirit are true, and Paul knows from experience and scripture that they are, then he calls for the church to rally around Christ’s perfection, to abound in love, and to set their goals on glorifying Christ, preaching the Word, and seeing souls saved and discipled.
This introduction calls us to look at the great promises of love and hope that Christ has given us through his death and resurrection, and then calls us to live these out. Since Christ loved us and gave his life for us, we’re called to the same for his church. Christ doesn’t need our good works, but beloved, our friends and our neighbors do!
1 John 2:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
And this of course is not just in death, but also in life. For many people say they would die for their children or friends, but beloved, they don’t need you to die for them, they need you to live for them. The next verses tell us how to do so:
vv.3,4 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit; look not only to [your] own interests
Paul was facing a new type of false-teacher at this point in his ministry. Certain people were preaching the gospel for the sake of trying to rub it in Paul’s face that he wasn’t able to go where he wanted or preach freely because he was in prison. They wanted to be seen as super-apostles and be exalted for their preaching. It was a strange way to try to insult him, but we see in this that it is more than possible to do everything from the wrong motives, even preach the gospel.
Let’s let this be our next application, that it is possible to preach the gospel from a wrong motive, to share Christ and him crucified for the forgiveness of sins only because your pastors tell you to, or because you want to earn favor with God by sharing the gospel, or because you only want to be blessed or for others to think you’re a super-Christian for doing it. Will you receive blessings for sharing the gospel? Absolutely, it is more blessed to give than to receive, but we ought to share the gospel because it is the power of God to salvation, and because just as Christ loved us first, now we love others with the great love by which he loved us, not just to get things.
Philemon 6 I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.
At Christmas we see presents given, and this can be very good, or very bad. If you only give gifts so you get presents, or only get presents and that’s all Christmas is to you, then you’re doing it wrong and you need to repent.
Proverbs 30:15 The leech has two daughters: Give and Give.
What is a leech? It’s a bloodsucking little bug, or it’s a person who only takes and never gives and is hugely greedy and lustful and covetous. It says that sort of person basically only has two offspring, twins, that just say, “Give and Give” all the time. They’re like those sea-gulls on Finding Nemo that say, “Mine, Mine, Mine” all the time. The Bible speaks disparagingly of people like that.
So how do we not be those people?
vv.3-4 Do nothing from rivalry 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.
We count others as more significant that ourselves, looking after the interests of others. How can we do that? Paul here is speaking of sin and godliness and worth, not of learning or gifts. For example, Jimmy shouldn’t esteem me as a better musician than himself and let me sing this morning, neither should Leon count one of the sixth graders as better at Greek than himself, or anybody count Tyler as a better driver than them.
But we shouldn’t look at anybody and say, “They are such a sinner, or such a poor Christian, and I myself am so much more deserving of spiritual blessings and honor than them.” No, we ought to always consider others as more significant and more graceful than ourselves, not abandoning them for their sin, but looking after them and loving them as though they were ourselves. Let’s see if Paul follows through with this,
1 Timothy 1:15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
Ephesians 3:8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,
Beloved, I am the chief of sinners, but I have become the least of saints. We all ought to say as much, knowing our own hearts better than anyone else and being amazed that Christ would die to save sinners such as us anyways.
Now we’ve looked at the fact that we should live lives of love and holiness, esteeming others as worth more than ourselves, now we’ll look at our great example:
v.5-7 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 made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
Christ is our greatest example, he has replaced our sinful hearts which cared only for ourselves, and given us a heart that seeks after godliness that loves others, one just like his. For though he certainly was worth more than all of his creation combined, he did not make that excuse not to come. He made himself nothing, he emptied himself of any pride (which he had every right to have), and took on the body of a man, even a body with no majesty or beauty, being born into abject poverty, and was born not as a prince in a palace, but as a pauper in a stable. Instead of being laid in a golden crib, he was laid in a wooden feeding trough.
2 Corinthians 8:9 You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
Christmas time is a great reminder of the humility we are called to for the sake of Christ, that even if we are the greatest king, wisest counselor, most talented painter or architect, that we must empty ourselves of all pride to realize the will of God. Let me boast briefly in Jesus Christ; I haven’t done nearly so much homeless ministry as I probably should, but I’ve done a decent amount. Beloved, in all reality these men and women have made very poor choices in their lives, loved their sin to the point that it has destroyed them, become addicted to all sorts of drugs and alcohol, and rejected all sorts of offers of help. In all reality the world would tell me that I have no business or call to help them, but truthfully Jesus Christ found me in a very similar spiritual state, that if it weren’t for the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, his restraining grace, then any one of us could quickly and easily end up in the receiving line of the homeless ministry rather than the serving line. When I leave those places, drenched in an indescribable odor, it reminds me of my sinful, yet redeemed, state.
If you feel you are of a certain estate above that of your classmates and/or other sinners, or that you are a great saint among lesser saints, then beloved, I encourage you to meditate on the statement of John Bradford, who said so beautifully, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
Christ’s emptying of himself culminated in his death on the cross, which is Paul’s next point:
v.8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
I can’t say this any better than Paul says it in Romans, it is utterly amazing the humility Christ showed in dying, not to save good people who were afflicted or righteous people who were in peril, for the well have no need of a physician, but dying for the sick and sinful, for the Son of Man come to seek and save the lost.
Romans 5:7-8 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
And not only did Christ die for a people who didn’t ask for it, could never repay him, and would constantly need chastening, but he did so by dying on a cross. Beloved, this is the most heinous of execution methods, it was specifically formulated to take days to die on, to cause agony at every opportunity, to be utterly humiliating. And yet Christ endured it, forsaken by men and God, so that we who are in Christ will never face such hellish pain, shame, and abandonment.
Isaiah 50:6 I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.
And this calls us to hate sin and love Christ, one of my favorite verses, and I bet some of your favorite verses is in Hebrews 12:
Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
We see two things that pertain to us especially in this passage, but I wanted to read the whole thing. First of all, it says he despised the shame. He hated the spitting and the pulling out of his beard, that no-one recognized him as the King of the Universe, that they crucified him because he claimed to be God. But beloved, this was due to show that he is a gracious Creator, an impeccable Man, and a perfect Saviour.
The next thing I want you to see is where it says that for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross. Christ was laying down his life for many reasons, to save his saints, to defeat the devil, to crush death underfoot in his resurrection, but the main reason he endured the cross was for the joy of accomplishing his Father’s will, for proving that his Father is both the perfect Judge and the Loving God, that he will not overlook sin, but is also gracious to provide a substitute. This is where Philippians 2:1-11 wraps up.
v.9-11 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.
For his obedience and humility Christ has received a glorious reward, the name that is above every name. That on that final day, both sinners and saints will cease their sinning and fall to their knees in recognition that Jesus Christ is the only Saviour, that he was dead but he is yet alive, that he is holy sinless and undefiled, that he is Lord of all.
It is amazing where is says these things will happen, both in Heaven, and on earth, and under the earth: Hell. Beloved, on that final day Christ will receive all honor and power and glory, and he will receive it willingly from those who bow in submission and love for him, or he will receive it by force as those who will not bow willingly are put on their faces by innumerable angels.
If we have this mind in ourselves, counting others as worth more than ourselves, pouring out our pride and esteeming our neighbor as in great need of salvation, living for them, dying for them if need be, then we have such a great promise that just as Christ has been elevated, so too will be elevated, for God exalts the humble, but he casts the prideful to the ground.
2 Corinthians 10:17-18 "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
And Paul concludes this thought in Philippians calling us to work out our salvation, making sure we’re trusting in Christ’s finished work in his death and resurrection, not trusting in our deeds, knowing that anything we do that is good has been worked in us from God. Let us do these things more and more throughout our lives, starting just as Jesus did, at Christmas.
Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.