Follow the Example of Christ's Humility Page 1 of 3 (series: Lessons on Philippians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Date: 7/20/18
Lesson #12
Title: Follow the Example of Christ's Humility

Scripture: (Philippians 2:5-11, NIV)
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature{1] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature{2] of a servant, being made in human likeness.8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

1. In very nature, or “in the form of,” can be used to describe outward appearance; shape; “that which truly characterizes a given reality.
2. Very nature, or “the form.”

The act of incarnation in which God became man, the humble circumstances and sufferings of Christ in life, and the supreme act of dying on the cross established Jesus Christ as the greatest illustration of one completely unselfish and entirely devoted to others.

A careful examination of this passage will reveal that Christ retained His complete deity, but restricted its manifestation and did not use His divine powers for His own benefit.


5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Before considering Christ’s “mindset,” we need to understand what Paul means by his directive, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” Does it mean we automatically think like Jesus because we are united to Him by faith? Or does it mean that Jesus displayed a certain “mindset” that we must adopt in our “relationships with one another?” It is true that our union with Christ brings tremendous spiritual benefit. But this particular passage emphasizes that Christ is our perfect pattern. He is the image to whom we must be conformed (Romans 8:29{3]). We must think like Him.

By “mindset” he means literally that we should think within ourselves, or in our hearts, just as Christ did when he became incarnate. In brief, we should think Christ’s thoughts. Christ, in spite of His divine attributes, His eternal glory, and His rightful claim to worship and obedience, willingly put aside the insignia of divinity and put on the robes of humanity.

Paul now gives emphasis to his call for humility by describing Christ as the supreme example of self-sacrificing love. He would have us to be like Jesus in everything we do, for He showed Himself to have self-sacrificing love in the innermost core of His being, when He became poor. He that was rich became poor in order that we by His poverty might be made rich. If we are to follow Christ, we must, every one of us, not in pride but in humility, not in lowness but in lowliness, not degrade ourselves but forget ourselves, and seek every man not his own things but those of others. Our self-denial is thus not for our own sake, but for the sake of others. And therefore, Christ does not call us to mere self-denial, but specifically to self-sacrifice. Self-denial for its own sake is in its very nature harsh. It concentrates all our attention on self-knowledge, self-control—and can therefore eventually result in nothing other than the very greatest of selfishness. It is not to this that Christ’s example calls us. He did not cultivate self, even His divine self: He did not dwell on His own importance. He was led by His love for others into the world, to forget Himself in the needs of others, to sacrifice Himself once for all upon a rough wooden Cross. Self-sacrifice brought Christ into the world. And self-sacrifice will lead us, His followers, not away from but into the midst of men. It should be noted that the appeal here is to the church as a community and not merely to isolated individuals. There is such a thing as the sanctification of the congregation as well as of the individual believer.

3} (Romans 8:29) “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”

6 Who, being in very nature{1
God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

Who, being in very nature{1] God,
This clause refers to Christ’s pre-existing state and points to indefinite continuance of His being. The term “nature”{1] designates external manifestation, but it is more than mere appearance or a disguise; it may include things such as shape, gender, a bodily form and the essence of a thing or person. Theologically, the word refers to the inner, essential and abiding nature of a person or thing. And here the meaning is that Jesus Christ has the same nature as God. Jesus Christ, the Father and Holy Spirit are the three persons of the God-head (Holy Trinity) and Jesus being originally, natively, essentially God in the full possession of all that is distinctive of God in His majesty and glory; the dignity of perfect Deity.

This is brought out in such passages as Romans 8:29{3], 2 Corinthians 3:18, and Galatians 4:19, where the “form” or being “conformed” refers, not to the outer but the inner nature. Being in the “nature” of God states, then, that externally, in eternity past, He had manifested what He really is—the eternal God. The word translated “being” means prior existence. Although it is a different word than the verb to be which would directly affirm eternal existence, theologically it is tantamount to affirming His eternal existence. The point here is merely that before He became a man He had the “nature” (form) of God—Christ’s inner character and divine attributes; the essence of His character is the very nature of God. The writer of Hebrews said that the son of God is “the brightness of his (Father’s) Glory, and the express image of His person” (Hebrews 1:3). Paul further confirms this truth by declaring that Christ is perfectly equal with the Father.

did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
This focuses upon the humiliation{4] which was involved in Christ’s preincarnate decision not to cling to His divine “indisputable glory, the majesty of His revelation, the greatness and splendor of His manner of being.” As Paul reminded the Corinthians of this great act of leaving heaven behind to encourage their generosity (2 Corinthians 8:9{5]), so he administers an implicit rebuke to the quarreling Philippians by showing them that Christ did not insist upon His rights but in love willingly waved them so that he might save the lost (vv 7, 8).

In the incarnation, however, Christ by becoming man “did not consider equality with God something to be used for his own advantage”; that is, He did not hold the outer manifestation of His deity as a treasure that had to be grasped and retained. Christ in His incarnation did not concern Himself with retaining the outer manifestations of deity which He had prior to His birth. Hence, verse 6 can be translated, “Who, being in the form of God, completely manifesting His divine nature, did not consider the display of His attributes demonstrating that He is equal with God, something to be held onto as a rich prize.” In becoming man, Christ therefore, divested Himself of the outward appearance of deity while retaining all the attributes that belonged to God.

So what is the disposition of deity? Even in His eternal state, the Son of God expressed humility in the way he thought. He didn’t hold on to His equality with God the Father like one who selfishly clings to a treasure unwilling to let it go. He didn’t hoard things; he gave them away. He “thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” In other words, equality with God does not consist of grasping but of giving away. His disposition is that of a giver.

4. “Humiliation” is a word that could be applied to Jesus Christ, first in His incarnation, next in His passion, and then, perhaps, His entire earthly existence. I don’t believe we can have any idea of what it was like for Him to leave heaven, come to earth, live as a man experiencing everything we do, and then to be crucified and buried.
5. (2 Corinthians 8:9) “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”

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