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Imitating Christ’s Humility August 11, 2012

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Philippians 2:1-11.

Summary: Paul begins by telling the Philippians that if the following statements are true:

  • their life in Christ speaks to their hearts with a persuasive eloquence
  • they have an incentive from being loved by Him
  • they have a genuine communion with the Holy Spirit
  • they have an abode of tender feelings that manifests itself via compassionate actions

then they should complete his joy by:

  • exhibiting concord out of a common love
  • exhibiting harmony in their feelings
  • directing their thoughts to a single end.

They should not promote party interests or their selfish desires – but in their lowliness of mind they should honor each other above themselves. They should aim beyond their own interests to those of others.

Now Paul asserts that in the Philippians’ hearts, they should be like Christ. He eternally exists as God, yet He did not view His divine nature as a treasure to be retained at all costs. Instead, He divested Himself of the prerogatives of deity and took the attributes of a servant; He came to represent the human race. Moreover, He was obedient to God and even endured a death reserved for criminals. Given His humiliation, God then directed all adoration and praise to Him. Indeed, all worship and praise will be given to Christ by the whole universe – both its animate and inanimate parts. Paul concludes by reiterating that all praise and thanksgiving will be given to Christ, which will glorify God the Father.

Thoughts: In verse 8, we are reminded that our Savior, Jesus Christ, died via crucifixion. Lightfoot offers some insights on this point:

The contrast of his own position must have deepened St. Paul’s sense of his Master’s humiliation. As a Roman citizen he could under no circumstances suffer such degradation; and accordingly, if we may accept the tradition, while St. Peter died on the cross, he himself was executed by the sword.

As Christians, we often forget that our Savior died a horrible, in the words of Lightfoot, “death reserved for criminals and slaves.” This highlights the depths to which He sank in order that we might be exalted far beyond the station that we deserved – eternal damnation. Indeed, before our salvation, we were “criminals and slaves.” Christ, though He is our innocent Master, became a “criminal” and a “slave” in our stead. We will always be indebted to Him for his humility and willingness to endure unfathomable shame.

In verse 11, we see that the entire creation will praise and give thanks to God for His Son, Jesus Christ. Lightfoot offers some head-scratching thoughts on this point:

In itself the Greek word is simply, “to declare or confess openly or plainly.” But as its secondary sense “to offer praise or thanksgiving” has almost entirely supplanted its primary meaning in the Septuagint, where it is of frequent occurrence, and as moreover it has this secondary sense in the very passage of Isaiah which St. Paul adapts, the idea of praise or thanksgiving ought probably not to be excluded here.

This is a rather curious interpretation of this verse. In particular, can we assume that the entire creation in this case includes all unbelievers who have been sentenced by God to endure eternal damnation? In that case, how could those unbelievers give thanks to God in the midst of their suffering? The lake of fire cannot be a pleasant environment for a condemned unbeliever; would they even have the presence of mind to shift their focus from their pain and suffering to giving thanks to God? The primary meaning of “confess,” as Lightfoot notes above, appears to be a better fit for this verse.

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