TEXT: Philippians 2:1-30
In continuation of his exhortation to the Philippians, Paul the apostle expatiates on the characteristics of Christ-like love and unity among the brethren, and humility as exemplified by our Lord Jesus Christ. Having experienced and exhibited this true love himself, he admonishes others on the practical demonstration of it. He describes Christ-like love as unifying and self- sacrificing. Where this love exists, believers identify with one another both in moments of joy or pain. Genuine love also stimulates caring and sharing, unity of purpose and lowliness of mind. The apostle goes further to set forth the unparalleled humility demonstrated by Christ in subjecting Himself to death on the Cross at Calvary in order to atone for the sins of mankind and liberate us from captivity of sin and its consequences. Paul and his faithful companions displayed their commitment in following the footsteps of the Lord by their willingness not only to endure pain but to lay down their lives in ministering to the saints.
CHRIST-LIKE EXAMPLE OF LOVE AND HUMILITY: (Philippians 2:1-11; Matthew 11:29; Hebrews 12:2; 1 Peter 2:21; John 13:34,35)
In setting a standard for Christian virtues, Apostle Paul had no other measure than that of Christ. He typifies all that is desirable in godliness and exemplifies the perfect state of the fruits of the Spirit. In Him, we have the highest level of love – agape – manifested and He is our perfect Example and pattern to follow. He went to the Cross and gave His life for humanity so that we can be saved; died so that we can
live; became poor to enrich us; His life was cut short so that we can inherit everlasting life (2 Corinthians 8:9). There can be no greater love than that a man should give his life for his friends (John 15:13). We are therefore called on to “be likeminded, having the same love…” (Philippians 2:2). True children of God must reflect the life of Christ through genuine love to others – within and outside the church. Our daily lifestyle should be spent in service for Christ and humanity. One of the best ways to do
this is to show others the way of salvation and escape from eternal damnation. When we preach the gospel to others, we are showing love. “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but indeed, and in truth” (1 John 3:18).
We are also to emulate Christ who was eminently humble. One, He left His heavenly throne and the magnificence of His glory to walk the dusty roads of Jerusalem in search of lost souls (John 17:5). Two, He made Himself of no reputation. He did, for a while, hide His heavenly fame in an earthly frame, even though he retained every single attribute of deity. While on earth, He surrendered the independent exercise of those divine characteristics to the Holy Spirit (John 5:30). Three, He took on humanity and was made in the likeness of men so as to identify with us (John 1:14, Hebrews 2:14). Four, He took upon Himself the
form of a servant. “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Five, He humbled Himself; that is, He submitted to authority (1 Peter 2:21- 24). Six, He became obedient unto death (Matthew 26:39; John 10:18, Hebrews 5:8). Seven, His suffering was unparalleled. He suffered the worst kind of death on the Cross (Galatians 3:13, Psalm 22:1-20).
“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him and given him a name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9). As a result of His love, humility, obedience and sacrifice, He has been highly exalted by God and given a name, position and place of authority above all other names. He will be universally acknowledged as Lord of all.
CHRISTIANS AS LIGHTS IN A PERVERSE WORLD (Philippians 2:12-18; 1 Peter 2:9; Matthew 5:14-16; 1 Thessalonians 2:19,20; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 5:8,9)
The Apostle continues his exhortation to love, oneness and humility with a call on believers to ensure they secure their salvation experience with all diligence and determination. They must not be careless or frivolous and allow their adversary take advantage of them. He says, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (verse 12). This is to say that believers must be careful and conscious of the possibility of losing salvation; hence, they need to work at ensuring that it is intact. This godly kind of fear is said to be a great guard and preservative from evil. Believers must conduct their Christian profession with great care and circumspection (Hebrews 4:1).
Next is the appeal to exhibit proper behavior and temperament. The Apostle enjoined them to be cheerful in obedience and not to do things with “murmurings and disputings” which negate their profession of faith in Christ. His appeal was based on the confidence he had in the Philippian brethren that they would comply. “As you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence…” (Philippians 2:12). This is a testimonial to the Philippian believers and a challenge to present-day Christians to shun eye-service.
There must be a willingness to comply with every discovery of the will of God in private as well as in the open. Though God’s grace and faithfulness abound, a believer nevertheless has a responsibility to keep himself unspotted in this polluted world, and build up himself through constant prayer, study and meditation on God’s word. Christians are to adorn themselves with gracious character through cheerful obedience to God’s commandment, doing all things without murmurings and by a peaceable,
blameless conversation towards all men.
Believers with sound and current salvation experience are lights in the world and must remain so at all times. “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15). The world has been darkened by acts of evil, wickedness and sin. Its whole substance and essence lack any form of uprightness and truth. Thus, the inhabitants grope in darkness and do not know the way of life. But believers in Christ have been enlightened by the knowledge of the truth and made to be lights that will illuminate the world. “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid” (Matthew 5:14). As light, we brighten the corners of the world where we are placed so that people sitting in the shadows and regions of darkness can see the salvation of God.
Believers are to hold fast and hold forth the word of life for their own benefit and of others. Strict obedience to this will bring joy to the heart of the Chief Shepherd and also to the under-shepherds. “That I may rejoice in the day of Christ…” (Philippians 2:16). Our steadfastness and usefulness in God’s kingdom is what fulfils and gladdens Christian leaders who labour tirelessly to build up believers.
COMMENDATION AND COMMITMENT OF FELLOW LABOURERS (Philippians 2:19-30; Acts 16:3; 17:14,15; 19:22; Matthew 24:45-47)
Paul takes particular notice of two committed ministers – Timothy and Epaphroditus. Though he himself was a great
apostle who labored more abundantly than they all, he still spared time to speak with respect of those who were less
endowed than he.
Timothy had a long contact with the church in Philippi. Concerning the Philippian church, he was a shepherd “…who will naturally care for your state” (Philippians 2:20). In relation to the Apostle Paul, he was a son, but concerning the gospel, he was a servant, willing and committed to laboring and ministering to others (verse 22). The Apostle promised to send him as a faithful representative to know their spiritual state and be comforted.
Apostle Paul referred to Epaphroditus as his brother, companion in labour and fellow soldier to whom he bore a tender affection. Epaphroditus, which means “charming”, was a Gentile believer from Philippi who had been sent by the Philippian church to minister to Paul and bring him their offering. The Apostle commented on his service, sickness and the sorrow his ill-health would have caused (verses 25-27). He had decided to send him back to the brethren at Philippi. A Bible scholar aptly summarizes his
life as being balanced and burdened (Philippians 2:25-30).
The lives of these men furnish present-day Christians with lessons in service and ministry. Leadership is about service, sacrifice and self-denial. As Christ came to minister and not to be ministered unto, so must His servants do. It is unfortunate that some Christian leaders serve without sacrifice; they seek recognition from men, make their belly their God, fleece the sheep and live in opulence. Such cannot be said to be true servants of Christ. As leaders, if we are going to receive commendations from Christ and be rewarded on the last day, we must obey His teaching on leadership with faithfulness in service. “Blessed is that
servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing…” (Matthew 24:46-47).
Genuine believers should however hold in reputation faithful Christ-like ministers of the gospel who make great sacrifices for the flock of Christ. Such ministers who preach Jesus as the only Saviour, repentance and faith in the atoning blood of Christ as the only means of reconciliation with God, holiness before God and men as requirement for entry into heaven; ministers who endure hardness as good soldiers of Christ, deny self and lift up Christ constantly to “…present every man perfect in Christ Jesus”
(Colossians 1:28) should be “…counted worthy of double honour” (1 Timothy 5:17). May the Lord find us faithful till the end.