The church (people) at Philippi was a great church but it struggled with unity. There was diversity and differences. Paul’s concerns were primarily to encourage them with Godly principles for holy living. Paul even openly highlights the differences that existed among members:
Php 4:2 “ I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.”
Paul exhorts the church thus:
Php 2:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
Php 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Php 2:14 Do all things without grumbling or questioning,
Php 2:15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
Goal of the Church: One Minded Church
Php 2:1 Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any comfort of love, if there is any fellowship in the Spirit, if there is any compassion and sympathy,
Php 2:2 then fill me with joy by having the same attitude, sharing the same love, being united in spirit, and keeping one purpose in mind.
Paul is teaching the church members to be humble and to from conflict cease. Arguments trigger anger and divisions in households, churches, workplace, neighbours, etc. He tells us not to be selfish. He tells us to aim for perfection in our lives and to shine as lights in the world. Now Jesus is the saviour of the world. He is a saviour not of words only but also of action. He is a saviour by example of his own life. While he taught radically about salvation he himself was subject to his own teachings.
Paul the turns the attention of the Philippians to Jesus who is the supreme example of humility and love:
Php 2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
We will now explore the mind of Christ so we can understand humility.
Exploring Christ’s Poverty
Christ’s poverty and obscurity during his years before ministry:
Mar 6:1 He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him.
Mar 6:2 And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man (all of a sudden) get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands?
Mar 6:3 Is not this the carpenter (He repaired my furniture, he is a labourer, how can he advise me), the son of Mary (We know the widow and her humble and simple life) and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us? (We know he is 100% an ordinary and low person by his lifestyle and not like our leaders who are respected and well off)” And they took offense at him (Useless fellow!).
Mar 6:4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.”
Mar 6:5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them.
Mar 6:6 And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.
Christ’s Provisions during his ministry
Luk 8:3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.
Luk 9:58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
2Co 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
Jesus greatest teaching on humility
The greatest lesson of humility Jesus taught the church is when he knelt down and washed his own disciples feet. He explicitly told them to treat each other as he had treated them.
Joh 13:4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.
Joh 13:5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
Joh 13:12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you?
Joh 13:13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.
Joh 13:14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.
Joh 13:15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.
Joh 13:16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
Joh 13:17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
Jesus is a saviour because of his supreme example. Adam failed but Jesus succeeded.
Jesus in the “Form” of God
Php 2:6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
Php 2:7a But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant,
Php 2:7b and was made in the likeness of men:
Php 2:8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Php 2:9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
Here Paul is saying Jesus had great glory being the only begotten of the Father and he could have aspired for royalty and demanded riches and pomp. But, he accepted the life of poverty God chose for him. As God’s own son, though he was fit to be born in a palace, God chose that he should be born in a stable. While he was of the royal line of David and the prophesied King, Herod’s palace was hostile and wanted to kill him. He was not born to live in a palace but with a poor family.
Being the will of God / the heir as the son of God and given the spirit without measure to represent God on earth as he mediator he was a morph of God.
Unlike King Solomon who spent time building a grand temple and his palaces, acquiring baboons and wives, and writing proverbs and holding councils in pomp, Jesus spent his time wondering, preaching and eating whatever people gave him. Jesus being the SON of God could have come in the glory of King Solomon and spread his message across nations like Solomon but he came as a servant. He was crowned with thorns and insulted.
So in the physical realm Jesus though he was the SON of God was not chosen to manifest himself as angels or in chariots of fire. The Greek word translated as “Form” is “morphē”
1) the form by which a person or thing strikes the vision
2) external appearance
Perhaps from the base of G3313 (through the idea of adjustment of parts); shape; figuratively nature: – form.
The word “morphē” appears only three times in writings of the New testament, twice in Philipians and one more time in Mark. So we have to understand the word from the context it is used in Mark apply it here along with the dictionary definition:
Mar 16:12 After that he appeared in another form (“morphē”) unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.
So “morphē” refers to the physical appearance in general.
The ‘form of God’ (v. 6) and the ‘form of a servant’ (v. 7), which are clearly intended to be contrasted, refers to form of appearance. Jesus’ splendour as the SON of God was to bear the divine glory in heaven but he did not demand he should have it while he lived on earth but rather accepted the Father’s will to live as a servant to serve and give his life in love for others. –
Jesus is titled a form of ‘God’ and ‘Servant’ i.e. while his role was to be God on earth (i.e. Image of the Invisible God as his mediator), yet he worked as a servant.
The message for elders in the church is that though they be spiritually advanced -perhaps by deeds and knowledge yet there were to serve the congregation as a servants, not lording over the flock but showing tender care like Jesus did.
Further even among peers Paul wants to convince us that:
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4 ESV)
He convinces us by pointing to Jesus who though was titled ‘God by role’ acted as a servant. The role of a prophet or priest is to explain God and take us to God. Jesus’ purpose of life was to take us to God and the Father had endowed him with all wisdom, understanding and power in the Spirit.
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know– this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (Acts 2:22-23 ESV)
- A MAN
- Attested to you by God
- God did through him
- foreknowledge of God
What did Jesus not Rob?
When we have rights we fight for them and fight for our freedom to express those rights. Jesus on the other hand did not demand to live in a palace and for people to carry him around in royalty. He executed no-one but was himself executed that he may save others. So here is where we get a glimpse of Jesus’ mind – He did not “fight” or “demand” his right to be treated as God though God was his Father. Imagine if you were born of the Holy Spirit and you were left alone and rejected by the leaders would that not infuriate you? Would you not be tempted to demand obedience and use force to subject your opponents? Jesus on the other hand did not do this and demand his rights for being glorified. He knew he had to first suffer before he could be glorified.
When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:23 ESV)
Only because Jesus is different from God the question of “robbery” comes in. For instance, when we look at Nebuchadnezzar, his splendor and power was from God and rather than acknowledging this he “robbed” God of the glory and made himself to be equal with God when he exclaimed:
“The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.” (Daniel 4:30-32 KJV)
If Jesus is the Father himself and not a “form”, the statement: “thought it not robbery to be equal with God” is meaningless.
If Jesus is God it is not robbery to think of himself as God.
If Jesus is a servant it is not robbery to think of himself as a servent.
For instance when he said “I and the Father are one” understood from a trinity perspective – was he a thief?
If you read the gospel records Jesus unlike Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that God was his source of power and authority. Since he was not the Father (YHWH) he never claimed that he did things by himself but it was his Father who was the source. This is so critical in understanding the humility lesson that Paul is teaching the Philippians.
In verses 9-13, it is God who hath highly exalted him and given him a name which is above every name. Jesus received this honour from his GOD because he submitted to the poverty of life and finally a humiliating death on the cross while his enemies gloated at him. Jesus being a man would have been left in the grave, but it is God who raised Jesus from the dead and honoured him for his obedience.
Act 2:32 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.
Act 2:24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.
Act 3:15 And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.
Act 4:10 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.
Act 5:30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.
Act 10:40 Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly;
Act 13:30 But God raised him from the dead:
…Gal 1:1 Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)
God raised Jesus from the dead. The most fundamental message of salvation is to believe Jesus DIED. God does not die! Men die!
Other examples of robing or being wanting to be God
Adam and Eve desired to be like God and sought equality with God:
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5 ESV)
Moses did not sin like Adam but because of the frustration with the people was rebuked by God and denied entry into the promised land:
|Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?”
(Numbers 20:10 ESV)
|Num 20:12 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”
It cannot be clearly concluded what is going on in Moses’ mind but the phrase of ‘shall we’ and depending on the ‘Magic rod’ undermined God.
Jesus on the other hand never undermined God:
Joh 10:32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?”
Joh 10:37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me;
|Moses struck the rock – not once but twice!
Num 20:11 And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock.
|God had told Moses to speak to the Rock.
Num 20:8 “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water.
When Jesus said:
Joh 15:24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father.
Jesus says BOTH me and the Father. The bible teaches that they are two distinct persons united in purpose. Jesus never claimed he was the Biune God of a Trinity Godhead. Jesus did not try to rob or take the position of his Father on virtue of the power he had.
Thought it not robbery to be equal with God contradicts the Trinity directly!
May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:2-4 ESV)
- “in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” – Notice ‘AND’ i.e. two independent entities.
- ‘you may become partakers of the divine nature’ – ‘Form of God’ – If it refers to divine nature then we are also instructed how we can partake of that divine nature.
The reality is that the Father is truly a loving Father who wants to share with us like he shared with his son. When we get ‘knowledge of HIM’ as Peter writes, then, we realise He has ‘called us to his own glory and excellence’.
“in the likeness of men having been made,”
Paul bears witness of his human life thus:
“Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands” (Hebrews 2:7 KJV)
MADE lower than angels i.e. as human. Now God is above the angels and if Jesus was made lower than the angels he was below God and angels and was fully human. He was not even equal to angels in his human form.
The writer to the Hebrews is further very explicit that he was indeed human:
“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:14-18 KJV)
Also according to Hebrews above, his human nature was essential to defeat sin, conquer death and bring about salvation. Also we are explicitly told that he did not inherit an angelic/heavenly nature but to be a descendant of Abraham – i.e. 100% human.
Jesus by birth was a fulfilment of Holy Scriptures. He was the Holy One of God. He was the Anointed. He was the promised one. As the greatest prophet of God, he was designated to represent and express ‘God’ to the people. That was his Job title or work of life – to be the Image of the Invisible God and light to the people. Given the above he was in the Form of God – Not in a physical sense as Jesus and God did not share the same hair style, but having the birth right to be heir and ruler over all the world on account of his obedience. Further we are told Jesus was a form of God and not God himself.
In many parts, and many ways, God of old having spoken to the fathers in the prophets, in these last days did speak to us in a Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He did make the ages; who being the brightness of the glory, and the impress of His subsistence, bearing up also the all things by the saying of his might–through himself having made a cleansing of our sins, sat down at the right hand of the greatness in the highest, (Hebrews 1:1-3 YLT)
While the title of being ‘God’ would have required him to be king of Israel he accepted a life of poverty and persecution. The key was that Jesus trusted his God. Jesus’ glory would follow his suffering. While he was tempted (after the fast) to take on such glory before time he refused to yield. People also at times wanted to make him king but he did not yield. Rather he endured the shame of the cross and was eventually glorified by God:
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, (Philippians 2:8-9 ESV)
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Hebrews 12:2-3 ESV)
The biggest lesson to learn from Jesus is putting our Faith and Trust in the Father. Jesus trusted that God would glorify him even though he would be scorned and killed. Jesus trusted that God would indeed raise him from the death. Since he completely surrendered his will to the Father’s will, he was able to be humble.
John Biddle (1615-1662) – His views on the above passage
Very roughly picked up from his writing (Please verify the accuracy yourselves):
Divine ‘power’ within him did not lead him astray to rob it as himself.
Form of God – for the Exercise and demonstration of Divine Power, whereby he wrought miracles in as a free and uncontrolled a manner, as if God himself had been on earth.
Emptied himself – in making no use of the divine power within him, to rescue himself out of the hands of the officers sent to apprehend him.
Form of servent – in suffering himself to be apprehended, bound and whipt as servants are wont to be.
Likeness of men – i.e. ordinary and vulgar men who are endued with no divine power.
In fashion (or habit) as a Man – in outward quality, condition, and acting no wise different from a common man.
Now this place does not speak of incarnation or assumption of human nature.