Philippians 2

Philippians 2  •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Next, not only did he exhort them not to be terrified by the power of Satan, which is itself an evident and solemn sign of perdition to those that oppose the saints of God; but in Philippians 2 he calls on them to cast out the sources of disunion among themselves; and this he does in the most touching way. They had been manifesting their mindful love for the Apostle, who on his part was certainly not forgetful of its least token. If, then, they really loved him, “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if there be any comfort of love, any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,” he would venture to seek another proof of it. That there was all this abundantly in these saints he did not doubt; they had just shown him the fruit of love personally. Did he want more for himself? Far from it. There was another way which would best prove it to his heart; it was not something future secured to Paul in his need, which would be the way of nature, not of love or faith. Not so: Christ is always better; and so says he, “Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory.” There is always danger of these, and the more so where there is activity among souls. There was evidently energy among these Philippians. This commonly is apt to give occasion for strife as well as vain-glory. No saints are outside the danger.
Nothing, then, would the Apostle have done in strife or vain-glory; “but in lowliness of mind each esteeming other better than themselves.” Let me look at another as he is in Christ. Let me think of myself as one that is serving Him (oh, how feebly and failingly!) in this relationship, and it is an easy thing to esteem others better than myself. It is not sentiment, but a genuine feeling, thus “looking not each at his own things, but each also at the things of others.” Now the saint that has Christ Himself before him looks abroad with desires according to the activity of divine love.
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself.” There are two chief stages of His humiliation flowing out of His perfect love. First of all He emptied Himself, becoming a slave and a man; and having thus come down, so as to take His place in the likeness of men, He, found in figure as a man, humbled Himself, becoming obedient even to the lowest point of degradation here below. He “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
It will be observed that there is no such thing in the first instance as “to the glory of God,” when we hear of all bowing in the name of Jesus. To the confession of His Lordship is added “to the glory of God the Father.” The reason is, in my judgment, perfectly beautiful. “Jesus” is His own name, His personal name. Jesus is Jehovah, although a man; consequently the bowing in that name to the glory of God the Father does not occur to the Apostle. Why, then, is it so in the next instance? Because he looks at Jesus, not in His own personal right and glory, where necessarily all must bow, but rather at Him in His official place as Lord-the place He has righteously acquired as man. This is wholly distinct from His own intrinsic eternal glory. He was made Lord and Christ. The moment you look at what He is made, then it is to the glory of Him who thus exalted Him. It was God the Father that made Him Lord and Christ, but God the Father never made Him Jehovah. He was Jehovah, equal with God the Father. Impossible that He could be made Jehovah. Reason and sense are out of the question, though reason must reject a creature’s becoming God. Such a notion is unknown to Scripture, and revolting to the spiritual mind. Hence we see the great importance of this truth. All error is founded on a misuse of a truth against the truth. The only safeguard of the saints, of those that love the truth and Himself, is simple subjection to the Word of God—to the whole truth He has revealed in Scripture.
Evidently, therefore, two glories of Jesus are referred to here. There is His own personal glory; and this first. The other is what suits it, but a conferred position. If Jehovah so served, it was but natural that He should be made Lord of all, and so He is. It was due to His humiliation and obedience; and so it is here treated.
Thus, in both parts of the history of Christ, presented to us in no obscure contrast with the first Adam, we have first of all His own glory, who humbled Himself to become a servant. The very fact, or way of putting it, supposes Him to be a divine person. Had He not been God in His own being and title, it would have been no humiliation to be a servant, nor could it be indeed a question of taking such a place. The archangel is at best but a servant; the highest creature, far from having to stoop in order to become a servant, can never rise above that condition. Jesus had to empty Himself to become a servant. He is God equally with the Father. But having deigned to become a servant, He goes down lower still. He must retrieve the glory of God in that very death which confessedly had brought the greatest shame on God outwardly. For God had made the world full of life; He “saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good,” and Satan apparently won the victory over Him in it. All here below was plunged under the sentence of death through Adam’s sin; and God’s Word could but seal it till redemption.
The Lord Jesus not only comes down into the place of servant in love among men, but goes down into the last fortress of the enemy’s power. He breaks it completely, becomes conqueror forever, wins the title for God’s grace to deliver righteously every creature, save only those who, far from receiving Christ, dare to reject Him because of that very nature which He took on Him, and that infinite work on the cross which had caused Him suffering to the utmost in working all out for the glory of God. Oh, is it not awful to think, that the best proof of the love of Christ and of His glory is the very ground which the base heart of man turns into a reason for denying both His love and His glory? But so it is; and thus the food of faith becomes the poison of unbelief. But the day is coming when “every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth.” Not that all shall be delivered and centered in Him, but that all must bow. All who believe shall surely shine in His glory; and the universal creation, which, belonging to Him as His inheritance, He will share with His own, shall be reconciled and delivered in due time. But there are the things, or if you will, the persons under the earth which can never be delivered. Yet these shall bow, no less than those in heaven, or on earth. In His name all must bow. Thus the difference between reconciliation and subjection is manifest. The lost must bow; the devils must bow; the lake of fire must own the glory of Him who has power to cast them there, as it is said, “unto the glory of God the Father.” But all in heaven and on earth shall be in reconciliation with God and headed up in Christ, with whom the church shall share the unbounded inheritance. (Compare Eph. 1 and Col. 1.) But all, even these in hell, must confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
But now the Apostle turns to the use that he makes of so blessed a pattern, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence.” It was the exact reverse in good of what the Galatians were in evil, for they had been cordial and bright when the Apostle was with them; but directly his back was turned, their hearts were alienated. Even he who knew them well marveled that they were so soon shifting, not only from him, but from the gospel, after he left them. But with the Philippians there was increased jealousy for Christ. They were more obedient in his absence than in his presence. Hence he calls upon them, as one that could not be with them to help them in the conflict, to work out their own salvation. Such is the force of the exhortation. This epistle is therefore eminently instructive to those who could not have an Apostle with them. God was pleased, even whilst the Apostle was alive, to set him aside and to prove the power of faith where he was not.
Hence he says, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” It is not the dread of losing the Saviour of their souls, but because they felt for His name; “for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” Therefore he intreated them to “do all things without murmurings and reasonings, that they might be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom they shone as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life.” It is a description that might almost do for Christ himself, so high is the standard for those that belong to Christ. Christ was surely blameless in the highest sense, as His ways were harmless,— “holy, harmless, undefiled,” as it is said elsewhere. Christ was Son of God in a sole and supreme sense. Christ was “without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation.” Christ shone as the true light in the world—the light of life. Christ held it forth; nay, more, He was it. For what believer would deny that, however close the conformity, there is always that dignity and perfection which is proper to Christ, and exclusively His? Let us uphold the glory of His person, but, nevertheless, let us not forget how the Apostle’s picture of the saint resembles the Master! Like another Apostle (2 John 88Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. (2 John 8)) he does not hesitate to blend with all this an appeal to their hearts for his own service in their well-being.
“That” (says he, after he had exhorted the Philippians thus to stand,) “I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain. Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith.” How truly he accounted himself less than the least of them! How gladly would he be a libation upon the sacrifice of their faith! He esteemed men better than himself. He too in love still keeps up the servant-character, and gives them as it were the Christ-character. This is the unfailing secret of it all—the true source of humility in service. “For the same cause also do ye joy and rejoice with me. But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state.”
And now there is the most lovely picture of Christ again; for it is always Christ here, and this again practically. Timothy was very dear to him, and was then with him; but he is going to part with the one that was so much the more valued by him in his solitariness and sorrow because of his circumstances at Rome. Indeed he esteemed others better than himself. He is just about to send Timothy from himself that he might know about them. “For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state.” Timothy shared the unselfishness of the Apostle’s heart. “For they all seek their own.” It might have been thought that so much the more would Paul need his love and services. Whatever he needed, love is never itself but in unselfish action and suffering. I speak of Christian love, of course. “For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s. But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel. Him therefore I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me. But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly. Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labor, and fellow-soldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.”
He loves, we see, to couple with the relationship to himself what was related to them. Epaphroditus was his fellow-servant, and indeed more than that—“my brother, and companion in labor, and fellow-soldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants. For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness.” Why? because he himself had been sick? No; but “because that ye had heard that he had been sick.” How lovely that this it was that pained him—unselfish love! the love of Christ everywhere! “For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him.” Was this all the Apostle had to say? Not so. “And not on him only, but on me also,” (what a difference is made when love interprets!) “lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be [not rejoicing here, but] the less sorrowful.” He did feel it. Love feels acutely—nothing so much; but it triumphs. “Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation” (he would turn it again to practical profit as to others): “because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.”
This chapter then looks for the working of the gracious feelings of Christ Himself in the Christian individually, showing us, first, the fullness of them all in Christ in contrast with the first Adam. But it gives us also the effect of Christ in the saints eventually—of Paul himself, of Timothy, of Epaphroditus, and indeed of the Philippian saints. It shows us grace practically in different measures and forms. But the grace of Christ wrought in them all; and that was the great joy and delight of the Apostle’s heart.