Translations: Chinese GB Big5

Philippians 2 (web)

With an Attitude of  Unity

2:1 If there is therefore any exhortation in Christ, if any consolation of love,
if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender mercies and compassion,
2:2 make my joy full,
by being like-minded,
having the same love,
being of one accord, of one mind;

With an Attitude of  Humility

2:3 doing nothing through rivalry or through conceit, but in humility,
each counting others better than himself;
2:4 each of you not just looking to his own things,
but each of you also to the things of others.

2:5 Have this in your mind, which was also in Christ Jesus,

2:6 who, existing in the form of God, didn't consider it robbery to be equal with God,
2:7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men.
2:8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death, yes, the death of the cross.

2:9 Therefore God also highly exalted him,
and gave to him the name which is above every name;
2:10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth,
2:11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

With an Application Oriented Mindset

2:12 So then, my beloved, even as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence,
but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
2:13 For it is God who works in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure.
2:14 Do all things without murmurings and disputes,
2:15 that you may become blameless and harmless,
children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,
among whom you are seen as lights in the world,
2:16 holding up the word of life;
that I may have something to boast in the day of Christ, that I didn't run in vain nor labor in vain.
2:17 Yes, and if I am poured out on the sacrifice and service of your faith,
I rejoice, and rejoice with you all.
2:18 In the same way, you also rejoice, and rejoice with me.

In Cooperation with Other Laborers

2:19 But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon,
that I also may be cheered up when I know how you are doing.
2:20 For I have no one else like-minded, who will truly care about you.
2:21 For they all seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ.
2:22 But you know the proof of him, that, as a child serves a father,
so he served with me in furtherance of the gospel.

2:23 Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it will go with me.

2:24 But I trust in the Lord that I myself also will come shortly.

2:25 But I counted it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus,
my brother, fellow worker, fellow soldier, and your apostle and minister to my need;

2:26 since he longed for you all, and was very troubled,
because you had heard that he was sick.
2:27 For indeed he was sick, nearly to death, but God had mercy on him;
and not on him only, but on me also, that I might not have sorrow on sorrow.
2:28 I have sent him therefore the more diligently, that,
when you see him again, you may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful.

2:29 Receive him therefore in the Lord with all joy, and hold such in honor,

2:30 because for the work of Christ he came near to death,
risking his life to supply that which was lacking in your service toward me.


Discussion Questions

vs 1-2 What effects has being united with Christ had on your life?
vs 3-4 What is humility and why is it so essential to living the Christian life?
vs 5-8 In view of his origin, what kinds of humiliation did Jesus face in his life?
Do you have sources of humiliation in your life?
During his life as a man, what are some ways in which Christ practiced obedience?
vs 9-11 How is Christ's role presently different than it was when he was a man?
vs 12-13 What does it mean to work out your salvation?
How does this differ from performance based salvation?
Why with fear and trembling? Fear of what?
vs 14-15 When it comes to issues of submission and obedience, contrast the world's reaction to the Christian's reaction.
vs 19-23 What virtues did Timothy demonstrate?
vs 22 Are you serving someone who is serving Christ?
vs 25-30 What virtues did Epaphroditus demonstrate?


United with Christ we stand

Php 2:1,2 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, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose

Paul is not teaching unity upon some other secular otherwise man-made basis. There are Christians who unite upon the basis of race or ethnic background, social status, personality, or denominational dogma. But "here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all." Col 3:11  Rather Paul is saying that if we are united with Christ, we will be united with one another. To be united with Christ on an individual basis brings Christians closer together corporately. What is involved in being united with Christ?

In what ways are you like-minded with Christ?
In what ways do you love as Christ loved?
In what ways are you one in spirit and purpose with Christ?


Others are more important than you

Php 2:3,4  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.

Part of the Christian life is evaluating our personal motivations, that pride be avoided. But lest such an evaluation be more than mere self-centered contemplation, what one should do is to consider others to be more important than you. Practically this applies to considering the needs of others above one's own needs as verse 4 teaches us. But it means more than that. The word Greek word for  "better" is used 5 times in the New Testament. Twice it's used respectfully of civil authorities. And it's used 2 more times in Philippians. Once to the "excellence" or "surpassing greatness" of the knowledge of Christ, and once to the peace of God "surpassing" all understanding. So the idea is not just to treat others are more important than you, but to really consider them to be so.

One's attitude should be that it's more important that the needs of others be met than one's own needs. It's more important that the ministry of others be effective and fruitful than one's  own ministry. Concerning your job your attitude should be that what's important to you is not your success, but that your boss become successful. Consider in your life who is more important than you, and how are you treating them as such?

Also a couple of things concerning looking after the interests of others. Paul is not advocating meddling in the affairs of others. He teaches elsewhere "to mind your own business" 1Th 4:11 Nor is he obligating us to get involved with others based upon their secular or vain interests, i.e. the entertainments others may be involved with. But rather to look after their best interests - what is good for them - even though may not be interested, as is the case for most of the world concerning faith in Christ and the impending judgment to come.



The Deity of Christ

Php 2:5,6 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

Prior to his incarnation into human flesh John 1:1 refers to Jesus as the word saying, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The particular ordering of the words in Greek in that last phrase literally means "What God was, the Word was". That  is, they shared a common nature. John then goes on to speak of the incarnation in which Jesus took on an additional nature, namely human nature. Jesus was equal with God. In the Old Testament he is referred to as the LORD or God as can be noted from New Testament references to Old Testament passages. For example in Heb 1:10 It says about Jesus, "In the beginning, O LORD, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens  are the work of your hands." which is quote from Ps 102:24,25 which also refers to the LORD as God, and is consistent with what John writes of the Word in John 1:3 "Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." and likewise of Heb 3:3,4 "Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything." And since Jesus "built" everything what is this saying of him? Thus the reason the Jews tried to stone him was, "for blasphemy, because you, you, a mere man, claim to be God." John 10:33 And he was.

Consider what he was giving up in becoming human. In John 12:40,41 John quotes a verse from Isaiah chapter 6 in which Isaiah records the voice of the Lord, and John says of this, "Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about  him." What John was alluding to was what Isaiah saw just prior to this in chapter 6, which reads, "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." Is 6:1-3 Prior to his incarnation, Jesus was the Old Testament's LORD Almighty.

But he was willing to relinquished his outward form of God. What kinds of things are you unwilling to reliquish to serve God?



Jesus' Incarnation

Php 2:7,8  but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!

While people try to make something of themselves, Jesus made nothing of himself. And such should be the attitude among Christians. John the Baptist said, "He must become greater; I must become less." John 3:30  Are you trying to make something of yourself or are you trying to make nothing of yourself?

Jesus took on a human nature. "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity" Heb 2:14a He took on a nature which was subject to the temptations we all face. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are— yet was without sin" Heb 4:15 It was a humiliating experience in which "although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered." Heb 5:8 For obedience is only experienced when you submit to things of which you would rather not. So "consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Heb 12:3

In humbly submitting to the will of God we are going to end up in circumstances of which we may not have preferred. Jesus "was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not." Is 53:3 and likewise for those who follow Jesus. If the LORD's life and dignity were expendable to accomplishing the mission, so should ours be.



God Exalts the Humble

Php 2:9-11  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 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.

Much as Jesus was worthy of exaltation simply because of who he was, as he had been exalted as LORD previously, here Jesus proved himself worthy. Having been exalted as LORD creator, yet now he has also proven to be the LORD of humility, not to mention of course the love and grace God revealed through his actions in redeeming us from sin. Having made himself nothing, he gained a name for himself - a name greater than any other. Jesus Christ is the LORD.

But what is the application to us Christians? "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time." 1Peter 5:6  "If we are children, then we are heirs— heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." Rom 8:17

It's counterproductive to seek your own honor. In fact "It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honorable to seek one’s own honor." Pr 25:27  Rather honor is gained through a life of humble service to God.



Work Out Your Salvation

Php 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.

Paul doesn't say, "Work for your salvation." There is no work you can do to earn salvation. In fact "the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness." Rom 4:5 But while we don't work for salvation, it is inevitalbe that our works will reveal the kind of faith we have. The faith that saves is an application oriented faith, and not simply a mental ascent to an idea. The faith that saves is not simply a mental agreement with what God said. Rather it is something which is taken to heart and as such will inevitably reveal itself by one's actions. The faith that saves is the faith that works. It's not a faith in works, but rather a faith that works.

What does the fear and trembling have to do with but with one's feeling of assurance of salvation. "For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.  Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall,  and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." 2Peter 1:5-11 These are examples of working out your salvation.

And Paul writes, "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you— unless, of course, you fail the test?" 2Cor 13:5 And what is that test but the working out of the applications of one's faith - applications such as loving the brethren and doing what is right. For "this is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother." 1John 3:10

This is the kind of rhetoric used in the New Testament to encourage Christians to apply their faith. And those of the faith  in whom the Spirit of God dwells take such words to heart with fear and trembling. Through the Spirit and through such exhortations God does the work of sanctifiying us from sin, which is good.



Stop Complaining

Php 2:14-16 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.

What Paul is advocating is a spirit of meekness and cooperation. Arguing and complaining to God about one's circumstances may be a poor testimony. And likewise if one has such an attitude towards fellow Christians. Granted that he is not referring to essential things, such as essential matters of doctrines. But there are many things which provoke our flesh to complain and argue about which are not that important. And it's not just that one keep silent about such things. The Greek word for "complain" means "a secret displeasure not openly avowed", also translated "murmur".  So it's not just about keeping silent. It's about taking on a spirit of meekness.

With regards to circumstances Paul writes, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." Php 4:11b and "if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that." 1Tim 6:8 And likewise we need to learn to get along. "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord." Heb 12:14  "Arguing" here is the idea of bring up issues unnecessarily to provoke arguments, like arguing over ideas which have no application. Or arguing over preferences of which the Lord has given freedom.

Sanctification and evangelism should go hand in hand. One cannot be blameless and pure apart from a spirit of love for others which leads to evangelism, seeing as the world is perishing apart from faith in Christ. Nor can one win a hearing in evangelism if one is leading a sinful life. If the world sees Christians doing nothing but complaining and arguing, what kind of light is that?

And speaking of evangelism, Paul saw it as worthless for people to allegedly believe without a corresponding change in their attitude and behavior. He says, "I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds." Acts 26:20 Such should be our expectations in evangelism. It is not sufficient that a person pray to receive Christ. Afterall that verse from Rev 3:20 is only advocating getting to know Christ prior to one deciding to believe in him. But the assurance of salvation - whether of one's own or others - is to be proportional to the degree to which a person behaves as a child of God should. For such is the proof that one has saving faith.



Wasting Your Life on the Kingdom

Php 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.

For those not of the faith, a sacrifice would seem such a waste. Indeed it's by making such sacrifices that we reveal our faith. As Christians our lives are expendable. Even Jesus' life was expendable. In fact Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." John 12:24,25 But rather than being all depressed and worried about this fact, we are taught to joyfully embrace it by faith. We joyfully waste our lives on the things of God by faith, while the world pities us as pathetic. Indeed, "if only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men."1Cor 15:19

Thus we pour out our time in devotion to the service God, our money and resources for the service of the kingdom, our energies to building up the body of Christ, even our dignity for the sake of reaching the lost. And we rejoice when we see fellow Christians likewise wasting their lives on the kingdom. Yet there is nothing lost by doing so, but rather much to gain.

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God— this is your spiritual act of worship." Rom 12:1



Taking a Genuine interest in the Welfare of Others

Php 2:19-21  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. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

Despite all the human resources Paul had available to him in the Christian community, there was not one person like Timothy who took a genuine interest in the welfare of the Philippians. From his statement "For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.", apparently it's rare to find Christians who take a genuine interest in the welfare of others. Apparently there are many in ministry just to make a name for themselves. For example we read of Diotrephes in 3John 1:9,10 "I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church."

And one wonders, for example, about Titus. In Paul's second letter to Timothy he writes, "Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia." 2Tim 2:9,10 Apparently not everyone on his team was equally committed to the ministry. And why not? Likely issues of personal interest - loving this world rather than dying to self.

For those involved in ministry (and I expect everyone to be involved in ministry in some fashion), given the apparent rarity of Tiimothys, let us consider whether we're looking out for our own interests, trying to make a namely for ourselves, or in it for financial gain, or whether we're taking a genuine interest in the welfare of others, looking out for the things of Christ. And let us confess our sins along those lines.



Paul and Timothy's Example

Php 2:22-24  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. 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.

Note that the argument here is not that Timothy be trusted in some kind of overseer role simply because he is assigned the task or the position, but rather he has proven himself to the Philippians. Spiritual leadership under the New Covenant is not like that under the Old. It is not like that of the world's. The idea that you submit to someone as a spiritual authority over you simply because they allege to hold that role is not the concept of spiritual authority under the New Covenant. Under the New Covenant authority is not based on titles, but function. Paul was over Timothy by function insomuch as he actually practiced the role of a father over him. And likewise Timothy proved himself worthy of ministry to the Philippians in practice.

I say this because throughout the history of Christianity there are those who simply make a claim of authority while first, not having proved themselves, and secondly not actually carrying out the Biblical function of that role.

The relationship between Paul and Timothy is the ideal example of personal discipleship. While Jesus set the example, apparently few followed through. It's rare first of all to find anyone who is willing to be personally discipled on any other terms but their own. And as such it's likewise rare to find mature Christians who are willing and competent to devote themselves to discipling individuals, seeing as few among them have themselves been personally discipled. But this should come as naturally as raising children.

Likewise one can learn about fathering from Paul's relationship with Timothy, as also we see in Jesus' relationship with his Father. Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does." John 5:19 And it is with this in mind that Paul sends Timothy, as he also says in 1Co 4:17  "For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church."



The Example of Epaphroditus

Php 2:25-30  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.  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.

Epaphroditus is an example of a servant. He made himself available. He recognized a need and fulfilled it. The man had a gift of empathy. Notice that it says that he was distressed not at his own illness, but because he thought others were distressed at his illness. This is in contrast to some people who try to get others to worry about them. Perhaps they may feel neglected and then either create or complain about problems in their life just to get attention. Why did others care about Eparphroditus? Probably because he cared about others.

Interesting also that although Paul glories in the idea of his own death, he sorrows at the idea of this man's death. I suspect he foresees this man can offer many years of valuable service. Nonetheless, Paul commends him for risking his life to serve.

And notice also that sometimes when you try to help others you may end up causing them stress and anxiety, even though it was the best thing to do. Interesting to note that God allowed Ephaphroditus to get sick despite his good work in helping Paul. Why good might have come from that suffering?


The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources


Jul 29,2015