Series on Philippians, III Oneness Through Service, C The Example of Christ, Text: 2:5-11, Title: Follow Me


In this text you are looking at an early Christian Hymn. Nobody knows whether Paul composed it or if he used someone else’s composition. However, it is one of the most important theological statements of the New Testament and has fostered much discussion and debate over 2000 years. Since theology is the study of God, we need to learn what this passage says. I cannot belabor you with all the various opinions. I will just tell you what it means. Jim Elliott, missionary to the Auca Indians who was martyred once said that missionaries were a bunch of nobodies trying to exalt somebody.  J. Gresham Machen, who founded  Westminster seminary and was a leader in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and actually a pioneer in the conservative Presbyterian movement away from liberalism was a former Princeton Professor and world renowned theologian. He accepted lowly work while serving as a YMCA volunteer during World War I.  He was assigned the task of making hot chocolate at a canteen. Since it had to be ready at 7 a.m., Machen would get up before 5. He'd take bars of chocolate and shave them into slivers.  Then he'd melt them, gradually adding condensed milk and water as the mixture heated.  From 7 till 9 he kept busy serving the hot chocolate, often not getting his own breakfast until the middle of the morning.  Although Machen would have been an excellent counselor to the servicemen, he honored God by accepting a mundane task without complaining. In spite of his theological excellence God honored him for portraying Christ. So let us consider what Paul says here about our Savior.

I The Eternal Counsel

Verses 5 and 6 remind us of the eternal counsel of God. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. The KJV says form of God, but that conveys a misimpression. He was not in the form of God, He was God. The Bible clearly teaches that God is a triune God. People are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as equals according to Matthew 28:19. This means that the Son of God personally surrendered his position as an equal and became subject to the Father in carrying out the plan of salvation. He did this to teach us about true humility. Most of us who have been involved in marriage counseling know that we are going to encounter couples who insist on being equal. We get a red flag at this point because the Bible says that the Husband is to be the leader of the family. So where is the understanding that equals can submit? It’s lacking in our culture, our government, our churches and our families. Submission is directed by Scripture and patterned by our Lord. The Eternal counsel is the submission of one equal to another. And so he came to be humiliated to the end of the cross.

II The Expected Cross

And in verses 7 and 8 the Apostle says, But made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross! Theological speculation has followed this text like the shadow of a man facing the sun. It is paramount therefore that we realize that the main reason Paul wrote these words was to reveal the servant character of God. Though He is Lord of all, he is also servant to all who trust in Him. They were not written to engender speculation, but rather imitation. Nevertheless, there are terms used here which might confuse some and they need elaboration. The New International Version has translated a word meaning form by the word nature in both verses 6 and 7. If you are using a King James or New King James Bible it says being in the form of God and taking the form of a servant. To us the word form implies something transient, external, and not real. Actually the Greek word is morphe from which we get morphology and metamorphosis. In the history of the Greek language the word “form” implies identity. For example when a moth or butterfly emerges from the cocoon it is a change in outward from, but it is the same individual with the same DNA. In the case of Jesus this means he did not lose his identity as God. The other word that is confusing is the word “appearance.” This is also a word that implies a lack of reality in our current usage. However, although it is talking of Jesus’ external  appearance as a man, think of it this way. When a new mother first shows off her baby people always say the baby looks like you, or he or she looks like the father. This does not change the baby’s identity. Whether the baby looks like its Father or Mother does not change who it is. The term is not saying that he was not truly man: it is just saying that people could view his humanity. The Bible is clear as we read in John 1: 1 and 14. The Word was in the beginning and the Word was made flesh. BUT he was made flesh for a purpose that was ordained before time. Revelation 13:8 reminds us that Jesus is the lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

III The Exalted Christ

The climax is in verses 9-11, Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Let me remind you that Paul’s whole point here is to induce humility. We go back to Genesis 11. There after the flood the survivors gathered in Babylonia and said we will build a tower that reaches to the heavens. What was their motivation?  Genesis 11:4 says, Let us make us a name so that we will not be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. What was God’s original command? Rule the earth and subdue it. They did not want to be scattered. Guess what happened. God confused their languages and they were scattered. There is no other way to make a name than to obey. That’s why Jesus has A NAME THAT IS ABOVE EVERY OTHER NAME. Now compare this to modern culture. I did not name my children Herbert Hoover Clark, or Franklin Delano Clark, or Ronald Reagan Clark, or Jonas Salk Clark, or George Bush Clark, etc. I understand that people still want to make a name for themselves. O to be famous, recognized and respected! So in the corporate and political world people are constantly stroking one anothers’ egos. The world does not understand that the only way to get a name is through Jesus. He gave up everything to earn everything. He did it for you. I guarantee that one day when every knee bows to the name of Jesus every knee will also bow to your name because it says in Hebrews 2:10-13, In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.  He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again he says, “Here am I, and the children God has given me.” If you want a name, you know where to find it. I have a longtime Mission to the World friend in India, Gordon Taylor. He was there fifty years and his father was there sixty years before that. His kids are named David Livingstone Taylor, Martin Luther Taylor, Calvin Knox Taylor, and Susanna Wesley Taylor. What do you think he was thinking of when he and his wife named them?