The opening verse of chapter 2 appears to be an allusion to the
supplies from the Philippians which had reached Paul by the hand of
Epaphroditus. These gifts had been to him a very refreshing expression
of the love and compassion that marked them, and of the true fellowship
of the Spirit that existed between himself and them. As a result his
heart had been filled with consolation and comfort in the midst of his
afflictions. Whilst recognizing however, the immediate application of
this first verse, do not let us miss its more general bearing. Christ
is the source of consolation; love it is that produces comfort; the
Spirit of God, possessed in common by all true believers, is the
fountainhead of fellowship. These facts abide in all ages, and for us
These things being facts, the Apostle uses them as a kind of lever
in his exhortation. The "if," repeated four times in the first verse,
has really the force of "since." Since these things are so, he begs
them to fill up his joy to the brim by being like-minded and getting
rid of the last vestige of dissension.
Experience proves, we think, that dissension is a work of the flesh
which is amongst the last to disappear, and our passage shows how great
was the desire of the Apostle that it might be removed from the midst
of the Philippians. Note the variety of expressions he used in setting
forth his desires for them.
First of all they were to be likeminded. It is obviously a great
thing when believers all think alike, yet there is also to be
considered the spirit that underlies their thinking. If that be wrong
mere thinking alike will not guarantee absence of dissension. Hence he
adds, "having the same love." Only love can produce that of which next
he speaks, "being of one accord," or, more literally, "joined in soul,"
which in its turn leads to all minding one thing.
When we reach Phil. 3 we shall find Paul saying "One thing I do." He was a man of one object, pursuing one thing, instead of frittering away his energies in the pursuit of many things. Here he exhorts others all to mind the
one thing. Only the man, whose mind is centred on the one thing of all
importance, is likely to be characterized by the pursuit of the one
thing. It is not difflcult to see that if we are all minding the one
thing, under the control of the same love, there will not be much room
Still, even so, the Apostle has yet more to say on this point. Verse
2 does indeed bring in the great positive elements that make for
practical unity, but he will also labour to exclude the elements of
evil that destroy it. Hence verse 3. It is very possible for us to do
many things which are quite right in themselves in the spirit of
strife, as we saw in considering chapter 1, where we read of brethren
preaching Christ "of envy and strife." Moreover, vainglory is an evil
product of the flesh which lies very deeply ingrained in the fallen
heart of man. How often have we done what was right enough, but with
the secret desire of gaining credit and glory amongst our fellows? Let
us give our consciences time to answer, and we shall feel the keen edge
of these words.
Vainglory lies at the root of a vast proportion of the strife and
dissension that is distracting Christians, even those who otherwise are
spiritually minded. The opposite of vainglory is that lowliness of mind
that leads us to esteem others better than ourselves. Lowliness of mind moreover leads to that largeness of
mind which is indicated in verse 4. If I am self-centred, aiming merely
at my own interests and glory, I naturally am only considering my own
things. If on the other hand I am Christ-centred, aiming at His
interests and glory, I look also on the things of others. And if the
things of others are really more for Christ's glory than my things are,
I shall look more on the things of others than on my own.
At this point the Apostle seems to anticipate that the Philippians
might wish to say to him, "You have exhorted us to be of one spirit, of
one accord, of one mind. But how are we to bring it about? There is no
denying the fact that differences of thought and judgment prevail
amongst us. Whose mind is to prevail?"
His reply is, "Let this mind be in you"-the mind that was "in Christ
Jesus." By "mind" here we have not to understand just a thought or
opinion, but a whole way of thinking. Christ's way of thinking is to
characterize us, and this is a very much deeper thing. If His way of
thinking does characterize us we shall be delivered from dissension
even though we do not see eye to eye on every point. Phil. 3: 15, 16
What then was the mind that was in Christ Jesus? We may reply in the
three words that occur in verse 8, "He humbled Himself." The fact is
that the mind that was in Christ is the exact opposite of the mind that
was in Adam. The Lord's own words in Matthew 23: 12 illustrate it.
There was found in Adam the self-exalting mind, and as a consequence he
fell into the depths. In Christ there was found the self-sacrificing,
self-humbling mind, and, as we see in this passage, He is exalted to
the supreme place.
We start from the supreme heights in verse 6. He was in the form of
God. Our first parents were tempted to grasp at something far above
them-at becoming as gods, as Genesis 3: 5, bears witness. That place
was not for them, and their grasping at it was sheer robbery. But there
was nothing of that with our Lord. In His case equality with God was
not something to be grasped at. It was His to start with, for He was
God. He could not be higher than He was. Before Him there lay but the
alternative of staying as and where He was, or of coming down in
Blessed be God, He chose the latter. Verse 7 is the beginning of
this wonderful story. Though originally in the form of God, He took
upon Him another form, the form of a servant, being made in the
likeness of men. This involved the making of Himself "of no
reputation," or "emptying" Himself.
Years ago when the unbelieving critics of the Bible found themselves
running into conflict with the words of our Lord, they invented the "kenosis theory"
so as to be able to maintain their own denials of His words, while at
the same time paying Him a certain measure of respect and homage
instead of utterly rejecting Him as a fraud. Kenosis is a
word coined from the Greek word used in this passage, with the literal
meaning of "emptied," but translated, "made . . . of no reputation."
The theory represents Christ as emptying Himself so fully of all that
was divine that He became a Jew, just as ignorant as the majority of
Jews living in His age. Hence the critic of the nineteenth or twentieth
century, propounding this theory and fortified with modern learning,
feels himself quite able to contradict or correct the Son of God.
Such is the kenosis THEORY-a web spun by the critical spiders out of their own unbelieving hearts; for they are the liars, and not the
Son of God. A web which, sad to say, has served the devil's purposes
only too well. Many an unwary fly has been trapped in that web. It has
given them some kind of a reason for thinking exactly what they wanted
Now while we turn away with abhorrence from the evil theory, we must
not overlook the fact that there is a true "kenosis," a true emptying,
for this passage speaks of it. If we desire to understand what it means
we turn to the Gospels, and there we see what His Manhood involved,
just as we also see what His Godhead involved, shining, as it did,
continually through His Manhood. Just two or three examples may be
cited, to illustrate what we refer to.
Having become Man, Jesus was anointed with the Holy Ghost and with
power. Consequently instead of acting in the simple strength of His own
Godhead He acted in the power of the Spirit. It was a case of God doing
things by Him (Acts 10: 38; Luke 4: 14; Acts 2: 22).
He is the Creator, as Colossians 1: 16 so plainly states, yet in Manhood He stated that places in the coming kingdom were not His to give (Matt. 20: 23).
In keeping with this He disclaimed individual initiative or movement
in His words and works. He attributed all to the Father (John 5: 19,
27, 30; John 14: 10).
Considering these things we at once see that this true emptying,
which was His own act, was in order that His taking the form of a
servant might be a real thing. Were it not for this we might have
jumped to the conclusion that the words, "took upon Him the form of a
servant," simply meant that He took a servant's place only as a matter
of form, just as the Pope of Rome is said occasionally to assume the
place of a servant in washing the feet of certain poor beggars. He does
it in form, but they see to it that in reality it is accomplished in
surroundings of elegance and splendour. When our Lord Jesus took the
servant's form, He took it in all the reality it involved.
Verse 8 carries the story of His humiliation to its climax. If verse
7 gives us the amazing stoop from Godhead's fullest glory to man's
estate and place, this verse gives us the further stoop of the Man, who
was Jehovah's Fellow, to the death of the cross. All His life was
marked by going downwards, it was marked by an increasing humbling of
Himself until death was reached, and that a death of extremes" shame
and suffering-the death of the cross.
His way of thinking then was to go down, and that way of thinking is
to be in us. Only as born of God and possessing the Spirit of God is it
possible for us to think in that way. Thank God, it is possible for us
so to think. Then let us do so. The obligation rests upon us. Let us
accept it, and let us judge ourselves by it.
The three verses which detail His humiliation are now followed by
three which declare His exaltation according to the decree of God the
Father. Still He takes everything from the Father's hand, and is
granted a Name which is absolutely supreme. In this passage "name" is
used, we judge, in the same way as it is used in Hebrews 1: 4. No
particular name is referred to, whether Lord, or Jesus, or Christ, or
any other, but it refers rather to His fame or reputation. The once
despised and rejected Jesus has such fame and renown that ultimately
every created being will have to bow before Him and confess His
Lordship. And when an assembled universe does Him homage, whether they
do it with glad willingness or with grief under compulsion, all will be
to the glory of God the Father.
In verse 12 the Apostle leaves this delightful theme and returns to
his exhortation, which began with Phil. 1: 27. He longed that their
manner of life might be in everything in keeping with the Gospel, that
they might be marked by earnest labour for the Gospel with oneness of
mind, and courage in the presence of opposition. In the past, when Paul
had been in and out amongst them, they had been marked by obedience to
what was enjoined. Now, let them be, if possible, even more obedient to
his word since they were bereft of his personal help. Dangers
threatened them from without, and there was this subtle danger
threatening from dissension within, let them then with redoubled energy
seek to have and manifest the mind that was in Christ Jesus. Thus would
they be working out their own salvation from all that threatened. Let
them do it with fear and trembling, remembering their own weakness.
Once Peter thought he could work out his own salvation without fear or
trembling, and we know what came of that.
This evidently is the simple meaning of this much used, and abused,
verse. Can we not each apply it to ourselves? We certainly can if we
will. So may God make us willing to do so. We need not shrink from
doing so in view of verse 13. We are to work out our own salvation, but
it is God who works in us, to the willing and doing of His good
pleasure. Let us note that. God works the willing as well as the doing,
and the willing comes first. Thus God's work and our work are
considered as moving harmoniously together. God's work must ever take
precedence of ours both as to time and importance. Yet the thing is not
presented in a way that would turn us into fatalists. Rather our
working is mentioned first, and the responsibility as to it is pressed
upon us. The fact that God works is brought in as an encouragement and
Thus, taught of God to love His will, we do it, and if the mind of
Christ be in us we do it in the right way. Not grudgingly with
murmurings and disputings, but as harmless and simple children of God,
bearing the character of God, whose children we are. Mankind has become
a crooked and perverted generation and we are to be living in a way
that presents the sharpest possible contrast. Only thus shall we be
lights amidst the darkness of this world.
The word translated "shine," is a word, we are told, which is used
for the rising or appearing of the heavenly bodies in our skies. This
gives us a striking thought. We should appear as heavenly luminaries in
this world's sky. Are we doing so? Only if we are altogether
distinguished from the generation of this world, as indicated in the
earlier part of the verse. Only then can we effectively hold forth to
others the word of life.
There must be life as well as the testimony of our lips if the word
of life is to be held forth. The word of testimony most frequently
becomes the word of life to others, when it has first been translated
into the life of the witness. If that were accomplished in the case of
his beloved Philippian converts, Paul would have the assurance that his
labours on their behalf had not been in vain. He then could anticipate
abundant cause for rejoicing when Christ should appear and inaugurate
His day. He could regard God's work in them, of which he had spoken in
Phil. 1: 6, as being carried to its crown and completion.
Having set before the Philippians the supreme example of the Lord
Jesus, who was "obedient unto death," and having exhorted them to
obedience which would mean the doing of God's "good pleasure" from the
heart, the Apostle again alludes to his own case in verse 17. Though he
had expressed his anticipation of still continuing amongst them for a
season (Phil. 1: 25) yet here he contemplates the possibility of his
speedy martyrdom. Some people set great store by their "impressions"
and elevate them to a certainty and authority almost, if not quite,
equal to the Scriptures. This is a mistake. Paul had his "impressions"
as to his future, and we quite believe them to have been justified by
the event. Yet even he, apostle as he was, entertained the thought that
the event might falsify his impressions.
The word "offered" in verse 17 is "poured forth" as the margin
shows. Paul uses the same word in 2 Timothy 4: 6, when his martyrdom
was impending. He alluded of course to those drink offerings which the
law enjoined. A "fourth part of a hin of wine" was to be poured over
certain sacrifices, before the Lord.
This being so, two very striking things confront us in verses 17 and
18. First, he calls the gifts of the Philippians, sent out of their
poverty by the hand of Epaphroditus, "the sacrifice and service of your
faith." That is, he considers them to be the major sacrifice.
His own martyrdom he considers as a small quantity of wine poured over
their sacrifice as a drink offering: i.e. as the minor sacrifice.
An extraordinary way of putting things surely! We should have reversed
the matter, and thought of the self denial of the Philippians as a
drink offering poured over Paul's great sacrifice as a martyr.
Why did Paul esteem things in this way? Because he was looking not
"on his own things but . . . also on the things of others" (Phil. 2:
4). He was a striking example of what he had urged on the Philippians,
and of the worth and excellence of the mind which was in Christ Jesus.
There was no affectation about Paul, no paying of mere compliments.
Delighted with the grace of Christ as seen in his beloved converts, he
meant what he said.
The second striking thing is that he actually contemplated his own
martyrdom as calculated to provoke an outburst of rejoicing, for
himself and for the Philippians-mutual rejoicing. A most unnatural
proceeding truly! Not natural, but spiritual. The fact is, Paul REALLY believed what he had said as to departing and being with Christ. It really IS, "far better." He
knew that the Philippians so truly loved him, that in spite of grief at
losing him, they would rise above their own feelings to rejoice in his
joy. We are afraid that we often turn Philippians 1: 23, into a pious
platitude. It was much more than that to Paul.
Still he was not anticipating martyrdom just at that moment, as he
had already told them, and so he contemplated sending Timothy to them
shortly, that he might help as to their spiritual state and also that
through him he might hear of their welfare.
Now of those available just at that moment no one was quite so
likeminded with himself, and so zealous for the good of the
Philippians. The mass, even of believers, were characterized by seeking
their own things rather than Christ's. Timothy was a happy exception to
this. He was a true son of his spiritual father. The mind that was in
Christ was also in him.
We are afraid that this seeking of our own interests and not
Christ's is sadly common amongst believers today. No servant of God can
so effectually serve the saints as he who moves amongst them seeking
nothing but the interests of Christ.
So Timothy was the one he hoped to send to them before long, and
indeed he hoped to be released and able to come himself. Still he
wished for some speedier means of communication with them in
acknowledgement of their gifts and so was dispatching back to them
Epaphroditus, who had been their messenger to him, and who now became
the bearer of the epistle we are considering.
We are now, verses 25-30, permitted to have a glimpse of the kind of
man this Epaphroditus was, whom Paul calls, "My brother and fellow
workman and fellow-soldier" (N. Tr.). He too was like-minded, and we at
once see that when just before the Apostle had said, "I have no
man like-minded," he had meant, "I have no man amongst those who have
been my immediate helpers and attendants in Rome." Epaphroditus was a
Philippian and so not in view in the earlier remark.
Many there were, and are, who, though to be acknowledged as
brothers, can hardly be spoken of as workmen or soldiers. Epaphroditus
was all three, and not only so but a workman and a soldier thoroughly
"fellow" to Paul. They worked and warred together with identical
objects and aims. Could such testimony be rendered to anyone today? We
believe it could, inasmuch as the New Testament informs us so
fully as to the doctrine, manner of life, and service of Paul this
pattern servant of God. At the same time we are afraid that in actual
practice it is rare. Every believer is called to be a worker
and a warrior. The trowel and the sword should mark us all. But do
they? And are we characterized as "fellow" to Paul in our use of them?
In carrying out his service and journeying to Paul, Epaphroditus had
nearly died of sickness. Twice over do we find the expression, "nigh
unto death." God indeed had had mercy upon him, and averted this great
sorrow both to Paul and the Philippians, yet he had not regarded his
life for the sake of the work of Christ, and hence was to be honoured.
So in Epaphroditus we see another who followed in the steps of Paul
and Timothy, even as they followed Christ. The mind that was in Christ
Jesus was found also in him, for not only did he venture his life in
order to serve his Lord, but when he had been so sick that he was near
to death, he was "full of heaviness," not because of his own malady,
but because he knew his brethren at Philippi had had news of his
sickness and would be sorely grieved on his account. This was a fine
case of a man not looking "on his own things, but . . . also on the
things of others." It was unselfishness indeed!