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15 September 2019

Let This Mind be in You - (Philippians 2:6-11)

Jesus on Trial
The Apostle Paul uses the example of Christ's obedient death as the paradigm for Christian service to others (Philippians 2:5-11); the submission of Jesus to an unjust and shameful death becomes the pattern his disciples are summoned to emulate. The Son of God’s elevation to become the lordship of all things resulted from his obedience; glory did not precede abasement.
In the letter’s proposition, Paul calls for believers to live as proper “citizens” of the kingdom of God in the midst of hostility by “standing fast in one spirit with one soul, joining for the combat along with the faith of the gospel.”
This letter calls for concord and unity among believers in the face of opposition. Paul's first argument is found in Philippians 2:1-18, an appeal to emulate Christ’s example of faithful obedience. A Christian must manifest kingdom citizenship by “thinking the same thing” as Christ did and defer to others. Insisting on one's “rights, seeking personal glory or enrichment does not fit this pattern.
Paul exhorts the Philippians to emulate the humility epitomized in Christ’s death. This is not portrayed as a “divestiture of divinity” or a “descent from heaven,” but as Christ’s willing obedience to God, even when that meant a shameful and horrifying death on a Roman.
To illustrate Christ’s example, Paul weaves in Old Testament language from the stories of Adam and Isaiah’s “Suffering Servant.” Jesus was highly exalted only after his humiliation.
Adam was created in the image of God but grasped at divine “likeness” when he ate the forbidden fruit. In contrast, Jesus obeyed God and suffered the consequences, thus enduring the shame of the cross.
Paul begins by describing the attitude of Jesus: “Who, commencing in form of God, did not consider being like God something for plunder.” The Greek adjective isos or “like” is in the dative case. It means “like,” not “equality with.”
The clause, “being like God,” alludes to Genesis 3:5, “For God knows that in the day you eat thereof your eyes will be opened and you will become like God knowing good and evil.
When confronted with a choice of whether to obey, Adam chose disobedience and attempted to “seize” the likeness of God. Paul contrasts Adam’s failure with the refusal of Jesus to grasp at God’s likeness.
The “form of God” does not mean that Jesus was God; that notion is precluded by the genitive construction, “form of God.” It means he was in “the form of God,” not God Himself. This corresponds to the creation account: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him”. Jesus was in the “image” or “form” of God. In Greek literature the two nouns are synonymous. 
The clause, “being in the form of God,” uses a present tense participle that means “commence, begin, start,” not “to be” or “exist” (huparchō). It does not indicate eternal existence, but that Jesus commenced or started in the form or image of God, just as Adam did.
The Greek noun rendered “seize” means “plunder, booty”; something seized by force. Unlike Adam, Jesus did not attempt to seize equality or likeness with God. Instead, Jesus "poured himself out taking the form of a slave, having come to be in the likeness of men. And having been found in fashion as man, he humbled himself becoming obedient unto death, even death on a cross.”
There are several verbal and conceptual allusions in this statement to the “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah. Note the following phrases that correspond to what Paul writes in Philippians:
(Isaiah 53:12) - “Therefore will I give him a portion in the great, and the strong shall he apportion as plunder, because he poured out to death his own soul, and with transgressors let himself be numbered, Yea, he the sin of many bare, and for transgressors interposed.”
(Isaiah 49:5) - “Now, therefore, says Yahweh, forming me from birth to be slave to him, to restore Jacob unto him, and that Israel unto him might be gathered.”
(Isaiah 53:7) - “Hard-pressed, yet he humbled himself, nor opened his mouth, as a lamb to the slaughter is led.”
In fulfillment of Isaiah’s “Suffering Servant,” Jesus chose to humble himself even to the point of death rather than grasp at God’s likeness. In this way, “he poured himself out even unto death” in humble obedience. Paul completes his picture by utilizing allusions to two more passages from Isaiah, as follows:
(Isaiah 52:13), “Behold, my Servant prospers, he rises and is lifted up and becomes very high.”
By myself have I sworn, gone forth out of my mouth is righteousness as a decree and shall not turn back, that unto myself shall bow every knee shall swear every tongue."
The passage in Philippians 2:6-11 is an example from the sacrifice of Jesus used by Paul to illustrate his appeal already in verses 1-5. Note the parallels between the two passages:
(Verses 1-5) - “If, therefore, any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any partnership of spirit, if any affections and mercies, fulfill my joy that you be thinking the same thing, Having the same love, of one mind, in unity thinking the same thing; Nothing according to self-interest, nothing according to empty glory; but with humility be regarding one another surpassing yourselves, Not each watching out for their own things, But even everyone for the things of others. Be thinking this among you, that even in Christ Jesus.”
(Verses 6-11) - “Who, commencing in form of God, considered the being like God something not to be seized, but he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, having come to be in the likeness of men. And having been found in fashion as man, He humbled himself becoming obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted him and granted him the name that is above every name, that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow of beings heavenly and earthly and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, To the glory of the Father, even God.”
By emphasizing that Jesus died the death of a slave, Paul plays up conceptions about crucifixion common in the Roman world. Crucifixion was a form of execution used for rebellious slaves and political rebels. It was considered the most shameful form of death imaginable. So much so, that by law, Roman citizens could not be crucified. The aspect of crucifixion that horrified Romans the most was the shame attached to crucifixion.
Christians are called to have this same mind, to seek nothing from self-interest or for “empty glory.” They are to emulate Christ who did not seek to be “like God” or to exalt himself. Rather than grasp at “empty glory,” Jesus “poured himself out” in humble obedience to his Father for the sake of others.
Believers are to conduct themselves in “humility” towards one another, just as Christ “humbled himself.” That is Paul’s real point in this passage.
In fulfillment of Isaiah’s “Suffering Servant,” Jesus chose to humble himself even to the point of death, rather than grasp at God’s likeness. In this way “he poured himself out even unto death” in humble obedience.
The exaltation that followed Jesus’ humiliation is described in verses 9-11: “Therefore also God highly exalted him and granted him the name that is above every name, that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of beings heavenly and earthly and under the earth, and every tongue should confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father, even God.”
In God's economy, exaltation follows obedience and self-sacrifice. It does not precede them. This is what it means to become a disciple of Jesus.

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