Philippians (06): The Backstory of Humility

Date: 8/26/2012
More audio from All Saints Church
Type: Sunday Sermon
Topic: Humility
Organization: All Saints
Price: FREE

Philippians 2:1–11 . . . Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves  . . . Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 2:6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 2:7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 2:8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 2:9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name.

The Backstory Problem - Philippi was a healthy church but not a perfect church. There were issues of disunity and disharmony (ch. 2-4). They needed the direct command, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing” (2:14). Paul extorted two women by name to, “live in harmony in the Lord” (4:2).  In ch. 2 he urges the church to make his joy complete “by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (2:2). Paul gives a deeply poetic basis for unity resulting from humility.

The Backstory Person -  Paul paints a vivid portrait in chapter 2. On the canvas are the Philippians with the faces of two women in the congregation perhaps in the foreground. In the center is the Cross but somewhere less obvious is another person hiding and ashamed. The Greek terms used to express Jesus is in the “form of God” and “in the likeness of men” are synonyms for the term “image,” as in “image of God.” The subtle contrast is that Adam was to be the image and likeness of God but shattered God’s reflection. Yet Jesus was in the “form” of God and took on the shattered “likeness” of Adamic man. Whereas Adam failed and the image of God in him was marred, Jesus is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Col. 1:15). Adam failed as the King, but Jesus succeeded as the Servant. Adam exalted himself, but Jesus humbled Himself. Adam went to the Tree for himself, but Jesus went to the Tree for us.

The Backstory Prophecy - When we do not understand the story Paul has in mind, we will create many abstract theological problems (e.g., kenosis). So here, the Suffering Servant of Isaiah (chapter 53) is the backstory. The Servant of the Lord (Is. 53) empties or “pours out” himself unto death. He bears griefs and sorrows, is wounded, is bruised, is chastised, is oppressed, is afflicted, is cut off, is stricken, is put to grief, is an offering for sin, and has poured out His soul unto death. Paul summarizes the entire humiliation of the Servant in “emptying Himself.”  All of this, as Isaiah 53 anticipates, brings about an exaltation. The stone table of death is shattered when He was “bruised for our iniquities.” “If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days . . . He will see it and be satisfied” (Is. 53:10-11).

Gregg Strawbridge Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more