Philippians 2: “Be Humble”

Have you ever wondered why the type is offset in Philippians 2:6-11? Typically when we see the type set like this in our bibles it means the writer is quoting from other scripture. But notice here that the text isn’t in quotes, yet it’s still off set like it’s being quoted from another source. Well, many scholars believe that Paul is quoting not just from another source, but another song. In fact, many scholars refer to Philippians 2:6-11 as the Christ Hymn because they believe this was a song that was regularly used in the worship of the early church. This ancient Hymn reveals not just the truth of God through his son Jesus, but it also reveals what the early church believes to be true as well.

Before Paul gets the challenge of how the Philippians should live, he first needs them to answer a few questions. Truth is, we can’t do or even understand the full implications of what Paul is teaching without first answer the following questions from verse 1:

  1. Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ?
  2. Any comfort from his love?
  3. Any fellowship together in the Spirit?
  4. Are your hearts tender and compassionate?

Before you go any farther, before you consider how you are to live and who you are to live for, you must answer each of these questions, especially number four! Here’s the kicker! Question four is not written to an individual! It doesn’t say, Is your HEART tender and compassionate, it says, “Are your HEARTS tender and compassionate.” Paul understands that it’s an individual that makes the whole, but he’s speaking to a faith community, not just an individual in the faith community. This is important when we recognize that verse two dives deeper into the role of the church. This is why commentators link verse 30 in Chapter 1 through the beginning part of Chapter 2. Re-read verse 30 (NLT) We are in this struggle together.

If our hearts are not tender or compassionate, then we need to stop, take stock, pray, work on that part, then proceed. One of the most powerful words in the passage is THEN! If you answered yes to the above questions; if you are affirming that this is the way you are living; if you can say your heart is tender and compassionate… (v.2) THEN…make me (Paul) truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. He continues: Philippians 2:3-4 (NLT) Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

If you pay attention to the progression in verses 1-4, you will see it progress from community to individual, but the theme for either is to be humble like Christ.

Be Humble

There is two ways to learn humility; the first way is to focus on the person of Jesus Christ. In that case consider the Christ Hymn: (v. 6-11)

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself (in obedience to God)
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

The Son of God went all the way down to the humiliation of the cross, showing us that he was a humble servant. Now he calls us to do the same.

John Wesley

As Raavi Zacharias puts it, “Fully stretched, John Wesley was 5’4.” Not exactly a towering presence when he walked up in front of an audience.” Get this:

  • Wesley traveled over 250,000 miles by horseback
  • Preached around 40,000 sermons in his life
  • Worked in 15 different languages
  • Wrote over 600 different pieces of literature
  • At the age of 83 he was angry with his doctor because his doctor wouldn’t allow him to preach more than 14 times a week!
  • At the age of 86 Wesley writes in his journal, “laziness is slowly creeping in, there’s an increasing tendency to stay in bed until 5:30 in the morning.”

Two summers ago I had the opportunity to visit the home of John Wesley in London and in the back of the property stands a simple sign that reads, “Reader, if you feel constrained to praise the instrument, stop, and give God the glory”

That’s humility.