James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,Philippians 2:1-30
JOY IN SERVICE
We here touch the weak point in the spiritual life of this church: a tendency toward dissension and separation. It is sad, as another says, that this tendency “is not least likely to be operative where there is generally diffused life and vigor” in a church, just as a state of lukewarmness may favor an outward tranquility. Paul plies his arguments against it, saying in effect, if there is any such thing as comfort drawn from our common union in Christ, any such thing as fellowship in the Holy Spirit, or human tenderness and compassion, show it toward me, by giving up your pride and self-will and becoming of one mind.
EXPRESSED IN HUMILITY (Php 2:5-11)
This leads to a deeper note. Unity presupposes humility, and here the great example of Jesus Christ is used. “Being in the form of God,” (Php 2:6) is translated by Bishop Moule, “in God’s manifested Being subsisting” (compare John 17:5). “Thought it not robbery,” he translates, “reckoned it no plunderers prize,” i.e. “He viewed His possession of the fulness of the Eternal nature as securely and inalienably His own.” And so “made Himself of no reputation,” or so made himself void by His own account (Php 2:7). The idea is, that so sure was His claim of Deity, that with a sublime unanxiety he could empty himself of the manifestation and exercise thereof to take “upon him the form of a servant.” We should be careful to note however, that nothing in this passage teaches that the Eternal Word (John 1:1) emptied himself of either his divine nature or His attributes, but only of the outward and visible manifestation of the Godhead. He stripped himself of the insignia of His majesty. Taking “the form of a servant” means assuming our human nature; and then he stooped even lower i.e. unto death, in obedience to His father. And lower yet, “even the death of the cross” (Php 2:8), unimaginable as to its pain, and so humiliating that to the Jews it was the symbol of the Divine curse, and to the Romans so degrading, that Cicero said it was far from their bodies not only, but their imaginations. But think of the reward of such humility (Php 2:9-11). The
“name which is above every name” is His not only as He is from all eternity, but as He became also in time, the suffering and risen Savior of sinners. Of this whole passage Bishop Moule well says, Nothing but the orthodox creed, with its harmonious truths of the proper godhead and proper Sonship of the Lord Christ, can possibly satisfy the apostolic language about His infinite glory on the one hand, and His relation to the Father on the other.
EXPRESSED IN WATCHFULNESS (Php 2:12-16)
“Work out your own salvation” means “develop” it. It had been given to them in Christ, and now they were to set themselves to the “business of the spiritual life.” But to guard against the thought of personal ability or merit in the premises, they are reminded of the Divine indwelling (Php 2:13), by whose power it is that progressive as well as immediate sanctification is secured. The “fear and trembling” does not indicate a suspicion lest the salvation will be taken from them, but the solemn watchfulness to be exercised lest they grieve the Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:30).
THREE GREAT HUMAN EXAMPLES
The chapter closes with great human examples following the divine one: Paul himself (Php 2:17-18), Timothy (Php 2:19-23), Epaphroditus (Php 2:24-30).
Paul fears his reference to having “run in vain” (Php 2:16) may be misunderstood, and he assures them that if his life were poured out on their behalf, it would be well worth while because of their service of faith. He views them in their consecration as a burnt offering to God, upon which his own life blood might be poured out as a drink offering (compare
Numbers 15:5). How sad the thought in Php 2:20-21 ! The other Christians who were by him and whom he might send, were pleading excuses of one kind and another, but they knew Timothy of old, and could trust him (Php 2:22-23). It was necessary however, for him to return Epaphroditus to them, who had brought their gifts of love to his prison- house (Php 2:25), and who had been very sick (Php 2:27), occasioned in some way by his fidelity to them in his service for Paul. Such men as he were to be held “in reputation.”
1. What was the weak point in this church?
2. How would you interpret Php 2:1-2?
3. Who is the great Example of humility?
4. What caution is necessary in the interpretation of Php 2:6-7?
5. In what sense is Php 2:9 to be applied to Christ?
6. How are we to understand Php 2:12?
7. Name three great human examples of unselfish devotion of Jesus Christ.