Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 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, so 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. – Philippians 2:5-11
I draw this out not because it is the most memorable section of this letter, nor because it is of greater importance, but because it is the nucleus around which the letter’s themes of humility and suffering are wound. After a typical introduction and reaffirmation of the Gospel, Paul begins talking about “what has happened” to him – his imprisonment. He wants it to be known that “what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel… that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance…,” and that he has learned, “in whatever situation I am to be content.”
Paul’s visit to Philippi was precipitated by a vision he received while in Troas, in northwest Asia Minor. Acts 16 records that one night: “a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’” Paul and Silas did come to this leading city of Macedonia, baptized believers, and drove a demon out of a fortune-telling slave girl. Their brief imprisonment – ostensibly for disturbing the city, but in reality for causing financial harm to the slave girl’s owners – was a foretaste of what was to come.
This is not just a letter about Paul, though. Its mix of personal notes, commendations, and encouragements is designed to encourage a certain bearing in the Philippians. The word “mind,” as in “complete my joy by being of the same mind,” occurs six times. The word “rejoice,” nine times. Except in chapter 3, where Paul deals with “dogs” who are threatening the church – you can deduce what he’s talking about from the text – there is no presenting issue that troubles him. From beginning to end, Paul urges them to be confident that “God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
Our verse for this week is Deuteronomy 6:5: You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
The Epistle to the Philippians. Now let’s read it!
1:1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.