Be Humble, As Christ Was
Having said that Christians should “behave as citizens worthy of the gospel of Christ” by uniting and persevering in the faith, Paul now writes how this unity would work itself out and why it should exhibit itself thusly. In Philippians 2:1-11, Paul writes that as Christians unite, they should be humble because Christ is the perfect model for our humility.
We Need Unity
Our passage (2:1-11) actually continues Paul’s argument from 1:27-30, hence the opening “so.” Recall that the Philippians were suffering “in the same conflict” that Paul was in. These Christians needed to be reminded of their comfort and cause of joy in Christ. Do not overly examine Paul’s “if” statements at the beginning of these verses, though, because true Christians will express, to varying degrees, “encouragement in Christ, … comfort in love, … participation in the Spirit, … affection and sympathy.” Paul’s “if” in 2:1 actually should remind us (as it would have reminded the Philippians) of who we are and some of the blessings we experience even now in Christ Jesus. Knowing that we are so blessed, turn your attention to verse two: this verse is Paul’s first central command in this passage.
Because of Christ, we should “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” i.e., we should unite in Christ! Since I discussed this in the last post, I will not belabor the point here. Merely note that Paul here maintains our need for unity.
We Need Humility
Humility and unity directly correlate; as humility increases, so will unity increase. As Christians humbly “count others more significant” than themselves, they will grow in unity. In other words, 1:27-2:2 gives us the “what,” whereas 2:3-4 gives us the “how.” Consider how Christians exhibit humility to grow also in unity:
- Humility does nothing from rivalry.
- Humility does nothing from vain conceit.
- Humility counts others as more significant than itself.
- Humility looks to the interests of others in addition to its own interests.
We Need Jesus
Why, though, should we be humble? We should be humble because Christ was humble. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” Our humility should follow Christ’s perfect model of humility. How was Christ humble?
- He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, even though he was (and is) God.
- He made himself nothing by taking the form of a servant.
- He God was born in the likeness of men; he took on the limitations of flesh.
In the ultimate way, “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Will we have to physically die as our Lord died? Perhaps not, since we are blessed to live in a land founded partially on the principle of religious liberty. But even if we are spared physical death, we are not spared mental death. Jesus says to us in Matthew 16:25, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Jesus is specifically referring to physical death, but this truth applies to daily mental death as well. For Paul writes in Colossians 3:5 “Put to death therefore your members that are on the earth: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”
Jesus died once for all to atone for our sins as his people. Writing of Christ’s death and applying its reality to Christians’ lives, in Romans 6:10-11, Paul writes: “For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” We are to die daily to sin and to live constantly for the Lord who died but now lives.
And to do this, we need Jesus, apart from whom we can literally do nothing (John 15:5), but through whom we can do all things (Philippians 4:13). Jesus is our example, and he provides the strength needed to be humble through his Holy Spirit, who has poured God’s love into our hearts (Romans 5:5).
We Need Humility If We Want Reward
Philippians 2:9 opens with a beautiful word: “therefore.” Because of Christ’s humility, “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.”
God the Father exalted God the Son because of his humility. The apostle Peter understands this and applies this causal relationship between humility and exaltation in 1 Peter 5:5b-6, writing: “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,” just as he has exalted Christ.
We need Christ if we are to be humble, if we are to be united, if we are to receive reward when He comes again.