Philippians: Real Joy in Real Life
Part Four – Philippians 2:1-11
- Jesus’ Story as the Gospel Message (6-11)
Jesus’ humble obedience is not forced, but chosen.
- True humility is not something that can be forced; we choose to take the road of service for others voluntarily.
To the Roman authorities, crucifixion was a display of Roman power over all bodies. It was a show of how Rome ‘wins’ – triumphs – humiliates all who come against it
But God uses Rome’s evil methods to as the site of victory over evil. The cross can now be a symbol, not of Roman power but of God’s love.
- Paul is somehow able to see even the pain in his own life through this lens of the cross: that God can use the most horrendous, and painful things – like a cross, or a prison cell – and make that the site of God’s victory.
- Jesus’ Story as the Pattern for Christian Life (2:1-11)
Paul seeks the bring joy to the Philippians, convinced he will ‘remain’ alive and able to serve them (1:25). Now he wants them to make his joy complete. How? By adopting Jesus’ own way of life in their relationships (v.5).
“Being of the same mind (phroneo)…
“…of one mind (phroneo)… (v.2)
“…have the same mindset (phroneo) as Christ Jesus.” (v.5).
Phroneo = “pattern of thinking,” and in some contexts “pattern of thinking, feeling, and acting.”
Avoiding the Vices:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit”
- Selfish ambition (eritheia): “wanting to be better than someone else” or “wanting to make people think they are better.” “making yourself look bigger.” (see 1:17).
Adopting the Virtues:
“Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
But what does it mean to: “Value others above yourselves” or “consider others above yourselves”?
- It doesn’t mean that people are in of ‘more value’ as in, we’re not somehow equal.
- It does mean assume the ‘lower’ status/position as servant.
- It is using your ‘power’ or ‘status’ – not for your own benefit, but to benefit others.
Connecting our Lives to the Jesus-Story
“In your relationships with one another, have the same pattern of thinking, feeling and acting as Christ Jesus.” Phil 2:5
- Only Through Self-Giving Love Will You Know Real Joy in Real Life
Love for God and self-giving for the sake of others is what we were made for.
“For when He [Jesus] was crucified on Calvary He did that in the wild weather of His outlying provinces what [for all eternity] He had done at home in glory and gladness….“From the highest to the lowest, self exists to be abdicated [given up]…This is not a…law which we can escape…What is outside the system of self-giving is… simply and solely Hell… that fierce imprisonment in the self… Self-giving is absolute reality.””
– C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
“We were made to serve and live for God’s glory, not our own. We were made to serve God and others. That means paradoxically that if we try to put our own happiness ahead of obedience to God, we violate our own nature and become, ultimately, miserable .” – Tim Keller, The Meaning of Marriage
“My good God, Father, and Saviour, grant me aid by your Holy Spirit to now work fruitfully in my vocation, which is from you, all in order to love you and the people around me rather than for my own gain and glory.”
– A portion of John Calvin’s prayer for the workday
Real Joy in Real Life: Life Group Studies
How would you define ‘humility’? Is it a generally positive trait among your peers/co-workers/class mates, or generally negative? Why would you say so?
Dig In: Read Philippians 2:1-4
- In 1:25-26, Paul says that he is sure he will “remain” alive “for your progress and joy in the faith,” now here in 2:2 he wants the community there to make his joy Why do you think the church’s unity and humility would contribute to Paul’s joy?
- In verse 1, Paul lists four reasons (or “grounds”) that provide the basis for the unity and humility he wants to see developed in the Christian community. List them here:
(Note: when Paul says: “If there is any…” he means this in a rhetorical, almost ironic sense. We could translate: “If there is any encouragement from being united with Christ…as of course there is!” Or put differently, it almost functions like a rhetorical question: “Have you experienced…the comfort from Christ’s love…common sharing in the Spirit…?” To which the answer is, “Of course we have!”).
- Paul begins in verse 1 by stressing that Christ has first given us encouragement from union with Him, comfort from His love, sharing in the Spirit, and compassion.
Why do you think Paul begins by listing these “grounds” before simply asking the church to follow his instructions in 2-4? How does reflecting on what Christ has already given you/done for you help when it comes to living in a way that is not self-centered, but focused on others and what they need?
- Notice the commands of vv. 2-4. List them under the categories below:
Positive Virtues to Practice Negative Vices to Avoid
- In his book Life Together, theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer supplies seven principles for eradicating selfish-ambition in Christian communities. Read and discuss what you find helpful and challenging in this list.
- Hold their tongues, refusing to speak uncharitably about a Christian brother or sister
- Cultivate the humility that comes from understanding that they, like Paul, are the greatest of sinners and can only live in God’s sight by his grace
- Listen long and “patiently” so that they will understand their fellow Christian’s need
- Refuse to consider their time and calling so valuable that they cannot be interrupted to help with unexpected needs, no matter how small or menial
- Bear the burden of their brothers and sisters in the Lord, both by preserving their freedom and by forgiving their sinful abuse of that freedom
- Declare God’s words to their fellow believers when they need to hear it
- Understand that Christian authority is characterized by service and does not call attention to the person who performs that service.
Which areas do you want to see grow more in your life this week?
- The word used here for “like-minded” in v.2 is the Greek word “phroneo”, which doesn’t mean: “think all the same thoughts” as in “be a carbon-copy of your Christian brothers and sisters.” It means: “display a common pattern of thinking, feeling and acting.” We then have to ask: So what is this ‘pattern’? The answer comes is in verses 5 – where the word “phroneo” is used again: “Have the same “phroneo” as Christ Jesus”. And then Paul goes on to describe that in vv.6-11.
Paul uses verse 5 to tie these community-oriented commands (vv.2-4) to the example and story of Jesus’ humility and exaltation in vv. 6-11. What do we learn about Jesus’ own “attitude of mind” (or “pattern of thinking, feeling and acting”) from verses 6-11? How would adopting this pattern “change you?”
- When reading vv.2-4 this past week, a friend of mine said: “this sounds like breathing under water!” He means: this seems unnatural and actually impossible. Do you agree with him? What would make the impossible….well…possible? (See, again, 2:1). How does 2:13 answer this issue?
Prayer: Take time to pray as a group. Be brave, and share an area of where you would like to grow in the list of virtues Paul lists, or to have areas of the vice list shrink in your life. Pray also that as a community, we could come to display this “pattern of thinking, feeling and acting” in a deeper, more consistent way.