Christ: Humility and Exaltation Exemplified
leads to Exaltation. There is no greater example of that than Jesus Christ. The
passage before us is the premier Christological passage in the New Testament.
This is made of two sentences, one is short (only verse 5), and one long
sentence (verses 6-11). O’Brien writes that this “is the most important section
of the letter to the Philippians and provides a marvelous description of
Christ’s self-humbling in his incarnation and death, together with his
subsequent exaltation by God to the place of highest honor.”While many takes this as a hymn that Paul incorporated into his text,
it is not necessarily so, since Paul is capable of composing in a highly poetic
style (cf. 1 Corinthians 13). It is used as an example of true
humility and reveals the mind of Christ.
Paul’s Exhortation 2:5
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was
also in Christ” (Phil. 2:5). To try to disconnect this passage from what
has been said in Philippians 2:1-4 as some have argued (Kasemann, Martin), is
impossible. This is a transitional
verse, drawing a conclusion of verses 1-4, and at the same time introducing the
subject of the humility of Christ. There is a connective that is not
translated in some versions, it is the connective gar (for, indeed). This
connects the two sections (2:1-4 with 2:5-9) together. Thus it could be
translated “For let this mind be in you.” The word mind or attitude is the verb
phroneistho (a present imperative) or phroneite (second
person plural) depending on the manuscript. Both words have the meaning a state
of mind, fixed attitude toward something, or a fixed way of thinking. Gromacki
notes that the “concept behind the verb is that of a mind fixed on a specific
purpose, not that of a casual thought.”
The difference is the way it should be translated. If it is a present
imperative it adds the idea of continually having this mind to the command.
However, most accept it as a second person plural, meaning it is referring to
the whole group, and could be translated “you all.” The word “this” (touto) refers back to the
exhortation in 2:1-4, connecting it with the same verb of like-minded or of one
mind in verse 2.
second half of this exhortation begins with the relative clause—“which was also in Christ Jesus.” This
links the exhortation with what follows in the text, as well as, identifying
the type of mind we are to have. The phrase designates the type of mind we are
to have. It is that attitude or state of mind which Christ had. It makes
Christ’s mind the example of the mind which we are to have. The rest of the
passage describes that mind. It connects the way we are to think with how
Christ thought. He is the supreme example. Calvin says this in this verse, the
two clauses, first, “persuades us to imitate Christ;” and second to put us on
“the road by which we attain true glory.”
Jesus’ Humility of Mind 2:6-8
mind of Christ is a humble mind. His humility was displayed in every aspect of
His being. It is the highest example of setting aside one’s self for the
interests of others. In giving this example, Paul gives the most comprehensive
Christological truth found anywhere in Scripture. It is almost universally
accepted that this is a hymn, but not all.It started with his preexistence, continued in his incarnation, and
displayed by his obedience, climaxing in exaltation. The mind or attitude of
Christ involved three aspects:
The Attitude of Selflessness 2:6
takes us back before the incarnation to the preexistence of Christ—“who, although He existed in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Phil. 2:6). The
first part of the phrase speaks of His eternal being and deity. There are two
key words in the first phrase:
is the word existed (hyparcho) means to be,
exist, or subsist. The word denotes prior existence. In the Greek it is not
past tense (as translated in English), but is in the present tense indicating a
continual condition. “The thought is that Christ always has been in the form of
God with the implication that He still is.”
He is, was, and ever will be. He is eternal, even though the phrase points
backward to a time before His incarnation.
is the word form (morphe) and has the basic meaning
of shape or form. It is found only 3 times in Scripture (Mark 16:12, Phil. 2:6,
7). There is much debate as to the force
of the word.
The precise nuance is unclear. It is a difficult word to grasp. Lightfoot
stresses the classical usage that it speaks of the essential attributes or the
specific character of the person. Others try to equate it with the word “image”
which I think is weak in that image is applied in creation of man, but man is
never spoken of has having the form of God. Second, Christ took on more than an
image when he took on the “form of a
servant” (Phil 2:7). However we take the word form it must equate with the meaning in verse 7, “form of a servant.” Others take it as visible appearance.
This may have some merit, for the word form
in Mark 16:12 contains the idea of an appearance. However, this seems
somewhat limiting here in Philippians 2, for the change from the “form of God” to the “form of a servant” entails much more
than physical appearance
Another attractive view is that the word form is equal to the word glory.
This seems unlikely, because it is difficult to equate this with a servant
(form of a servant). Nature is more equivalent to the Greek than the idea of
glory. It seems best not to over complicate or over think the word. It should
be understood as the nature of the object. I agree with Tyler who writes:
Christ was in the "form," or better, the
of God. There
are two Greek words for "form,"
and both are used
in our passage. One word denotes an essential form of something. The other, found in verses 6-7,
or "likeness." Thus, Christ had the "nature" or "likeness" of God.
By the “form of God”
is meant neither the abstract essence nor being of God, not merely the external
form or appearance of God, but His divine nature, which is inseparable from His
person and in which the Divine Being realizes Himself in His immanent,
inherent, divine glory and godly attributes.”
second part of the phrase—“did not regard
equality with God a thing to be grasped”—speaks of His attitude or
mind-set. I am struck immediately with this mind-set in comparison to that of
Lucifer. Lucifer’s mind-set was that of selfishness and pride. He wanted not
only to be equal with God, but to replace God and be God. He acted to grasp
deity. This is reflected in the “I will’s” of Isaiah 14:12-14. On the other
hand, Christ’s mind-set was that of selflessness. He “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.” Because of
their attitudes one would become the vanquished; the other will be the victor.
more literal reading of the Greek, could translate this verse: “Esteemed it not to be robbery; the being
equal with God” (author’s translation). There are three things to be
brought out by this phrase:
This emphasizes and connects the mind-set of Christ with how we are to think “do not merely look out for your own personal
interest” (2:4). The word “esteem”
is hegesato denotes to think, to lead the way in thinking, consider,
to esteem, or to regard. It points to a conscious decision to not be selfish
It also connects the “form of God”
with being “equal with God.” In the
Greek the phrase the definite article is found and implies connection, for it
points back to something already mentioned.The “form of God” equates with
being “equal with God.”
The word translated “robbery” or “grasped” is an interesting word. The Greek
word harpagmon has an active and a passive meaning. Gromacki summarizes
the differences well:
As active, it would refer to the act of seizing or
grasping, where the passive would emphasize the result of grasping. The active
would imply that He wanted to become equal with God, but the passive looks at
the equality as a prize already held. In this context, the passive is the
This passive view is confirmed by the rest of Scripture.
John makes clear His equality with God (John 1:1; John 5:18; John 10:30, 33). Tyler points out that, “Here, a divine status is something
Christ held, but refused to use in an exploiting
His thinking is to be our thinking. He is an example of not merely looking out
for ones own personal interest. Thus, the mind of Christ is one that does not
take advantage by self-exploitation, but a selfless attitude or mind-set.
Sharing this that I received this by e-mail from Charles Woodruff:
ENEMIES OF THE CHRISTIAN THAT RISE AGAINST HIM
We know that the world, the flesh and the devil are our enemies. We may have our worst
problems with the flesh, though that very flesh may lead us to say “the devil made me do it”. The
flesh brings the believer these problems:
1. Indifference= spiritual coldness.
2. Ingratitude= unthankful to God.
3. Inconsistency= unstable in all our ways.
4. Inactivity= Not interested in the things of God.
5. Indecency= Immorality, sin, rebellion.
The remedy can be found in Psalm 3:3, 4 (cw)
Who does not want to improve their preaching? Daniel
Overdorf has delivered a helpful book on doing just that. I am amazed when
talking to Pastors how many once they leave BibleCollege
or Seminary do very little to expand their preaching ability. I spent time over
the years reading a number of books on preaching. However, many of them lack
practical suggestions on how to improve by exercises one could do. This is the
value of this book. It gives you a year’s worth of practical exercises to help
you improve your presentation, sharpen your skills, and to become a better
He addresses eight categories that one should try in improve
and gives practical exercises to do so. This includes: Prayer and Preaching;
Bible Interpretation; Understanding listeners;
Sermon Construction; Illustration and Application; Word Crafting; The
Preaching Event; Sermon Evaluation.
Of the 52 suggestions, they are not coming out of simply an
academic exercise, but each has been tried in real life churches by real life
preachers. Each section has testimonials at the end by Pastors who have tried
the exercise and how it worked for them. This is not to say that every
suggestion will work for a certain preacher, but it does indicate these
exercises are worth a try. It does not mean that one should try a different
exercise every week. I would expect a preacher to be subjective and try exercise
over a month or so, evaluate if it was worthwhile, and then go on to another.
However, you decide to do it, and even if a specific exercise does not work for
you, over time this book will help you improve your skills. Much in this book
is not new or unknown, but it does stimulate to look at the skills in a
practical way in order to improve them. I wish this book came out 40 years ago
when I was first starting out as a preacher. Even if you are doing what is in
this book, it will make you think about what you are doing and how you are
doing it. I saw some things in these exercises that I already did, but never
gave them much thought. It did make me think about those things. Preacher, get
this book! Use it. You will be better in
preaching of the Word.
[Thanks to Kregel Publishing
for providing a free copy of this book for my honest review.]
1. The starting point of the study of prophecy is history.
The historical circumstances of the time and context
determine if the prophecy
is didactic or predictive. All prophecy begins in a historical context. On
should determine the historical background of the prophet and his writings. For
example to understand Obadiah one must understand the history of Edom. Ramm
observes: “that although history is
necessary to understand the prophet, and that some historical event occasioned
the giving of the prophecy, prophecy is not to be limited to purely historical
There is one main error in regard to the relation of
prophecy and history. Some say prophecy is a way to write history after the
fact. In other words the author writes history as prophecy. This is the liberal
or naturalistic view. This is a great error. In fact if that were true, prophecy would
contain more historical details than it actually contains. Prophecy never gives
full historical details of an event or prophecy.
2. Determine if the prophecy is predictive or didactic;
distinguish between forth-telling and foretelling. The word prophecy comes from
two Greek words meaning “to speak for or before.” Forth-telling is exhortation,
reproof, correction or instruction. The major job of the prophet was to tell
forth the truth of God. It spoke to the times. Foretelling is prediction of
future events, either immediate or distant. Tan says “that every fourth verse in the Scripture was predictive when
3. If predictive, then determine the fulfilled, unfulfilled,
unconditional or conditional elements of the prophecy. Many prophecies are fulfilled
either in the New Testament and the Old Testament. If mentioned in the New
Testament as fulfilled, you must compare it with the Old Testament passage to
see how the New Testament uses the Old Testament passage.
New Testament used the Old Testament in 4 ways:
Example the Virgin Birth. Matthew 1:23.
prove a point or doctrine. John 6:45; Matthew 22:32.
explain a point. Hebrews 12:20
illustrate New Testament truth. Romans 10:6-8, 18.
If fulfilled in history, let history interpret the passage.
Example: Daniel 11.
If it is conditional, it may or may not be fulfilled. Zephaniah
If fulfilled, the problem is difficult. One should be guided
by how the passage is fulfilled. Determine the theme that is treated elsewhere
and try to get guidance from all the passages regarding it. Example: Day of the
4. Determine what elements of the prophecy are local.
Example: 2 Samuel 7:12-17.
5. Forget about chapter and verse division and look at the
whole context. Example: Malachi 2:27 belongs to 3:1. Chapter and verse divisions
are somewhat arbitrary and can be misleading. They are not inspired, nor
original in the text. Do not let these divisions limit your understanding.
6. Rightly divide the Word (2
Timothy 2:15). This will help you correctly apply the prophecy. Not all
prophecy is to you or for you. As Miles Coverdale wrote so long ago: “It
shall greatly help ye to understand the Scriptures if thou mark not only what
is spoken or written, but of whom and to whom, with what words, at what time,
where, to what intent, with what circumstances, considering what goeth before
and what followeth after. ”