Have you ever noticed how much it affects you when someone you deeply respect rebukes, or encourages you? If they rebuke you, it shakes you to your core and convicts you to do some serious soul searching. If they encourage you, the words can impact your whole life. But when someone you don’t respect says the same words, it’s like hearing fingernails scrape across a chalkboard. For you millennials, it’s like trying to text on a phone with a cracked screen.
In Philippians 2:1-11 it is no less than the apostle Paul encouraging us to adopt the humility of Christ. Were it any one else, these words might not have carried as much weight, but because it’s Paul, a man who perhaps more than any other exemplified a life wholly yielded to God, it demands our attention.
When it comes to being promoted in the kingdom of God, Paul’s words are exactly in line with Christ’s teaching: “And whosoever of you will be the [greatest], shall be servant of all” (Mark 10:44). So, when discussing Christ’s exaltation, Paul focuses first on His humiliation. The apostle tells us that Jesus “made Himself of no reputation” (2:7). It means He emptied Himself of self so that God could have full control. When the Father asked the Son to do this, to humble Himself so completely, Jesus could have demanded His rights. He could have demanded His place on the throne. Unlike Satan, He would have been justified to do so. But He “took upon Him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men” (2:7). The phrase Paul adds next is powerful: “And being found in fashion as a man” (2:8a). Yes, Jesus did this voluntarily, but the wording gives the sense that this was done to Him more than by Him. Jesus willingly allowed Himself to be humbled in this way. How many of us are willing to suffer humiliation for the cause of Christ? We’re often embarrassed to leave a tract, let alone give a bold gospel witness. Our Lord gave it all up. Not only was He obedient; He was “obedient unto death” and not just any death, but the “death of the cross,” (2:9) the most humiliating kind of death anyone could suffer – and it was for our sins. He suffered being completely innocent.
We, on the other hand, think we deserve recognition and promotion in the kingdom of God. Like Pharisees, we often do things to be seen of men. Paul admonishes us to have our minds in line with the frame of mind that was also in Christ Jesus (2:5). Someone with that frame of mind doesn’t do things out of selfish ambition or conceit (2:3). They do what they do, like Christ, out of humility. What does that look like? It looks like someone who sees needs and serves them for no other reason than to please the Lord. This kind of person isn’t looking for promotion or accolades. Their desire is just that others would see Christ. What kind of blessing does a person like that receive? God highly exalts them like He highly exalted Christ (2:9). Think about the people in your own experience, your own churches, whom you respect and admire. Many of them have been raised by the grace of God to higher and higher levels of responsibility in their local assemblies, not because they have campaigned for office, or “fought their way to the top,” but because they served. They lived the mind of Christ.
That way of living isn’t limited to people like the apostle Paul, or those people you know who exemplify living the mind of Christ. That way of life is expected of all believers. We must all be living the mind of Christ.