Brief Thoughts on Philippians 2

Philippians 2  •  15 min. read  •  grade level: 5
In this whole epistle is little or no doctrine, but the practical exhibition of Christian walk by the power of the Spirit of God.
The chapter before us shows us the spirit in which Christ walked while down here, as the true character and spirit of the Christian, the meekness and gentleness of Christ, as in chapter 3 we see the energy of divine life. In the last chapter we see superiority to circumstances. In some Christians there is a certain degree of natural energy. When Moses killed the Egyptian, he had not forgotten the fleshly energy of Pharaoh's court. Flesh on God's side can never stand flesh on the devil's side. Moses had to be kept for forty years keeping sheep that he might learn to be quiet. If one side of Christian character is wanting, the other is always defective too. You never get one side by itself without even that being defective.
In this chapter we see the perfect blessed giving up of self, and the most delicate consideration of others. Wherever true love is at work, you always reckon on the love of others. Epaphroditus was very uneasy because he perfectly reckoned on the love of the Philippians when they heard that he had been sick. You see the thoughtfulness and considerateness of grace where self is done with. It was perfect in Him.
Where there is not the positive power of Christ's presence, self will be there directly.
How gently and graciously the Apostle speaks! The Philippians had thought of him in prison. He had heard of disputings among them; Euodias and Syntyche were not of the same mind; but he cannot rebuke them sharply when he had just received their kindness. "Fulfill ye my joy"; if you want to make me perfectly happy, you will be like-minded, "having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind"—a rebuke, but a very gentle one. The spirit in which he writes is exceedingly beautiful.
Here we find that which in Christ leads to all this. In Him there was the total absence of self; in us there ought to be the suppression of self. "In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." This will be no difficulty to us if we are practically with Christ. With Him, if I think of self at all, what do I think of? My faults, of course. I see in Christ such obedience, such love and grace, that I must think of my own failures. If I look at a brother, I see the blood of Christ upon him; I see the Spirit in him when I look on him with the eyes of Christ. Wherever the heart is feeling with Christ, one cannot but see good in others. Paul always speaks first of the good among those to whom he writes. There is only one exception to this among the epistles. Take Corinthians (which is not an exception); they were going on shockingly ill, and yet he says, before there is a word about the evil, "I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ, that in everything ye are enriched of Him." The epistle to the Galatians is the exception; there he plunges right into the evil at once. Where doctrine and faith were touched, he was a great deal more severe than when Christians were walking badly—not that there is any excuse for a bad walk. "I stand in doubt of you," he says to the Galatians; but in the next chapter, "I have confidence in you through the Lord"; his mind rises up to Christ.
In the ordinary path of the Christian, the heart being with Christ, the thing I see in myself is never a good thing—not that it brings distrust, for this is all wrong. I do not doubt His love, but the effect of living near Him and being with Him is that, while love is perfect, light is perfect too. Suppose one Christian a powerful evangelist, another a teacher; the teacher will think, What a poor evangelist I am! The evangelist will feel, Oh, I know only the elements! He does see Christ in his brother. We are wretched creatures in ourselves, but this is not a cold measure of what a person is, but the thought of Christ about others and about self. The man who has a great gift from God will be thinking of bringing it out as pure as he got it in—"He has lit a lantern in my heart; does the light come out as pure as it went in?" It is wonderful the happiness with which a person walks when going through the world in that way. Self is gone. As a Christian, he sees that God has lit up grace in his heart, but alas! the walls of the lantern are sometimes dirty; when he looks at others, he sees they let out a little light anyway.
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." What was the mind that was in Jesus? It was always coming down. We shall call it a long journey from the throne of God to the cross; it was very far, indeed, and it was always down. "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted." The more He humbled Himself, the more He was trampled on. He begins His ministry with "Blessed, blessed"; He has to end it with, "Woe, woe." He goes down, whether trampled on or not, till He can go no lower, down to "the dust of death."
He "being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation." He always was God, but He laid aside the form of God, the outward glory, "and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men." He will never cease to be a servant, though Lord of all; He will never give up this service of love to minister to our blessing. In the condition of Godhead to begin, He takes the form of a servant, and He was always obedient. He had no will of His own; nothing could be more humble than this. We find in this chapter the path the Lord went, from having the form of God, down to that death on the cross. Adam was in the form of man, and he did set up by robbery to be equal with God; he was the first example of "He that exalteth himself shall be abased." The last Adam abases Himself and is exalted; He lays aside His glory and takes a servant's form.
Man (especially in these days) is just the opposite; man's mind does not want God. The whole effort is to get the first man up; and you find even Christians joining in this, following where they cannot lead. Are children more obedient, servants more faithful, men of business more honest? It is the exaltation of man's will and the setting aside of God. The second Man's path was exactly the opposite; He always went down. Are you content to do this? Are you content to have the mind that was in Christ Jesus, content to be always trampled on? This was God's path in the midst of evil, and this is what we want to get. People talk about God's creation—why it was sin made it as it is (not the physical world of course, but the world as we have it). When was the world embellished? By Cain, when he went out from the presence of God. Man tries to make the world pleasant without God; this is the true and real character of the world. You continually hear it said, What harm is there in music? what harm in painting? There is harm in not one of physical things; the harm is in the use I make of them. What harm is there in strength? None whatever; but if I use my strength to knock a man down, there is harm in that. The harm is in the use people make of things. What harm was there in the trees of the garden? none. Men have in a certain sense lost God, and they try to get on as well without Him as they can.
Christ was in this world in the form of a servant, a poor carpenter. Love delights to serve—blessed, infinite love! Nothing could be more divine than when He gave up "the form of God" and went down, down till He came to the gibbet—I do not say the cross, for the cross has become an honored name, but the actual gibbet. Then God exalts Him as man.
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." We see the perfection of love that takes the form of a servant and gives up self in everything. If this mind is in you, you do not look at self to look at the good that is there, or to spare yourself suffering. "And walk in love, as Christ also bath loved us and given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God"; such is the character of divine love come into this world of evil. "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" will not do now. The world would be a paradise if that were done, but it is not a paradise; and what we want is a spirit of love that will carry us through the world. "For us, an offering and a sacrifice to God"; there was in Christ the absolute giving up of self for what is perfectly worthless, and yet with a worthy object. Take the divine side of love; the worse the object, the greater is the love; but if you take the human side, the greater the object, the greater is the love. We find both in Christ. If I take the creature side, the excellence of the object makes the greatness of the affection; if I take the divine side, the worthlessness of the object makes the greatness of the affection. We see divine power come into the midst of evil—there never was anything like it. God could not come among angels as He came in this sinful world. "Unto the glory of God by us." "That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." "Which things the angels desire to look into."
Christ is the center of all that. I find His divine Person tracing this path all the way down. He never gives up the service of love. He will reign as King above all; all must confess His Lordship. But the service of love He will never give up, as indeed it is a higher thing. He is made Lord (He was always God, of course), but He makes Himself a servant.
"Jesus knowing that... He was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside His garments, and took a towel and girded Himself." If He was going out of this world, the disciples might say, He is gone into glory and has left us here; His service is over. No, says the Lord, and He shows them that He does not give up His service. The key to John 13 is this: I cannot stay with you, but you must have a part with Me—a spot will not do there. He will take the place of a servant even in the glory. "He shall gird Himself... and will come forth and serve them." His love is His glory; the nearer we are to Him. the more we shall adore Him.
In 1 Cor. 15 we read, "Then shall the Son also Himself be subject." He gives up the kingdom which He will rule in, but He keeps His place as man. He will be the "First-born among many brethren" forever and ever. His ear was bored to the doorpost. The slave had a right to go out free after six years of service (Exod. 21), but He says, "I will not go out free," I will be a servant forever, when He could have had twelve legions of angels at His command. Down here He was as much God as before He came down, but He had the form of a servant. "He ever liveth to make intercession for us," and it will be His delight and joy to minister blessing throughout eternity, and thus make it doubly precious to us.
If I get hold of the path, the spirit, the mind of Jesus, nothing could be more hateful to me than anything of self. You never find an act of self in Christ. Not merely was there no selfishness but there was no self in Him. He has given us the immense privilege of always going down to serve others as He did.
"Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."
Salvation is always looked at as the end of the journey, as the thing arrived at, in this epistle; therefore, he speaks of working it out. "Work out your own salvation"; this is in contrast with Paul's working, not with God's work, as people so often misunderstand it to be. Paul was in prison; they had lost him. They had not lost God, but Satan seemed to have got the victory. If you are there with Joshua fighting Amalek, it is a very solemn thing; and if you have not Moses' hands up, you will be beaten.
There is no uncertainty, but it is exceedingly serious to fight God's battle against Satan. Perhaps you think it must be easy to fight God's battles. It is not easy, even with the Lord to help me; it is a most solemn thing that my business is to overcome Satan. There was no conflict in Egypt; the Israelites were slaves there. When out of Egypt, there was both the conflict and the trial of the wilderness. When they got over Jordan, they entered into Canaan; and whenever Joshua crossed the Jordan, conflict characterized their state. "Art Thou for us or for our adversaries?" There was no circumcision till they crossed the Jordan; the stamp of Egypt was on them till they were dead and risen. It is a solemn thing that I stand in Christ's place, in Christ's name (every Christian does, of course) in the scene of Satan's power.
We are vessels of God's power against Satan. Here, I am standing in Christ's name in Satan's world! God works in me; but this makes it only the more serious still; I should not fail. "Do all things without murmurings and disputings." Before God, we never murmur, never dispute. If God were seen, there
would not he one murmur, one disputation; and faith realizes His presence.
It is remarkable as to the exhortation which follows that if you take it to pieces you see Christ in everything. "That ye may be blameless and harmless"; He was that. He was the Son of God, "without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation." He was "the light of the world." while He was in it; "holding forth the word of life"—this is just what He did.
"Ye are the epistle of Christ"—filled up with mud it may be, and hard to read. but still ye are the epistle of Christ. "That the life also of Christ might be made manifest in our body." I owe everything to Christ; I owe Him salvation, heavers, everything. I owe Him myself. The heart becomes engaged with this manifestation. He is gone, and He has left us here; and He says, "I am glorified in them."
Is that kind of desire yours?—not the desire of the sluggard who has nothing, who roasteth not that he took in hunting, but the real desire of manifesting Christ—the desire that cannot bear anything that is not of Christ? God helps us in this. Paul could speak of "always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus"; he takes death and holds it on himself. He wants to keep the walls of the lantern bright, so he would rub them.
"Always"? this is a great deal to say. What we have to do is to carry about with us the dying of the Lord Jesus, and then the flesh would never stir. We fail in this, and the Lord comes in and helps us. "We which live are alway delivered unto death." The flesh is always present; there is no change in that. The Lord knows He has to help us, and He puts us through the trials and exercises; the Lord makes everything to work for good to us.
The Apostle could say, "delivered unto death for Jesus' sake." When we look back to a past life, we have more to be thankful for our trials than for anything else. Till the root is reached, the Lord does not let you go; the heart desires this—would not let the trial slip away. Oh, if we only trusted God, there would be confidence in His love! "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we look not at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen." Are your hearts on the things that are seen, or on the things that are not seen?
There are three spaces in our hearts. Christ must be at the bottom of our heart and at the top also; it is what is between the two that shows my state.
Has your heart been open all day for the things of the world to trot over? Has the highway of your heart been open all day?
May God give us to be anything or nothing, so that the Lord Jesus may be everything!