Fairview Baptist Church
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"Where Everybody Is Somebody and Jesus is Lord"


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Bailey Sadler Class



Study Theme: Like Glue: Making Relationships Stick

What This Study Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

This study is a continuance of the fact that service to others should be the goal of every believer—delivered with an attitude of humility—looking to their needs first!



April 26

Stick With Love


May 3

Stick With Encouragement


May 10

Stick With Forgiveness


May 17

Stick With Service


May 24

Stick With Humility


May 31

 Stick With Acceptance



Humbly place the needs of others before your own.


Philippians 2:1-5,13-15





Humility and Unity (Phil. 2:1-4)

Humility and Jesus (Phil. 2:5)

Humility and Submission (Phil. 2:13-15)


The town of Philippi, which Luke referred to as “a leading city of that district of Macedonia” (Acts 16:12), was located in eastern Macedonia, approximately 10 miles inland from the Aegean Sea.  It took its name from Philip II, Alexander the Great’s father.  Octavian (Augustus) made the town a Roman colony for retired soldiers and gave its occupants full Roman citizenship.  On his second missionary journey, Paul received a vision during the night to help the church in Philippi (16:9-10), and he immediately set out for the city.

Paul visited Philippi on at least two occasions (Acts 16 and 20), and , during his first visit, established the first church in Macedonia.  Between the two trips, Paul developed a very close relationship with the believers at Philippi.  On several occasions they sent him financial aid (2 Cor. 11:7-11; Phil. 4:15-16) and also helped with the financial needs in Jerusalem (2 Cor. 8:1-5).

From prison in Rome, Paul penned his letter to the Philippians, which he probably sent through Epaphroditus [ih-paf-roh-DIGH-tuhs] since Paul was restricted from what would have otherwise been his normal activities and comings and goings.  In this situation, Paul likely reflected much on his ministry over the years.  In writing to this church, he certainly wanted to thank them for their generous financial gift they had sent.  And, although the Philippian church did not have the doctrinal issues of some of the other new Christian churches, he wanted to curtail any building dissension.  So this letter, rather than having a criticizing and correcting tone, is one of love and affection, urging humble unity that looks after correcting tone, is one of love and affection, urging humble unity that looks after the needs of others.

SOURCE: Holman Bible Handbook; General Editor David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.


Humility is a character trait that many people equate with weakness; they wrongly equate humility with being a doormat or being passive and totally pliable.  For many, the idea of being humble allows the other person to be domineering or dictatorial, and there is no real bond in that type of relationship.  The Book of Philippians paints a far better picture of humility, and it points us to Jesus to see just how humility is to be carried out.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


Humility and Unity (Phil. 2:1-4)

1 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on one goal. 3 Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. 4 Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.








1.   What does the word “humility” mean?  (See Digging Deeper.)

2.   What does a “humble” person look like?

3.   What Christian characteristics does Paul present in verse 1?

4.   What do you think Paul meant by ”encouragement in Christ” (v. 1)?

5.   How do you think Paul used the phrase “consolation of love” (v. 1)?

6.   How would you describe the meaning of the phrase “fellowship with the Spirit” (v. 1)?

7.   How do you think “affection and mercy” should apply to a believer (v. 1)?

8.   What did Paul want the Philippi believers to do with these traits (v. 2)?

9.   How do you think the believers were to fulfill Paul’s joy (v. 2)?

10.   How is it possible to share “the same feelings” of fellow believers?

11.   What standard was Paul using—what was the “one goal” (v. 2)?

12.   Why do you think Paul encouraged the Philippian believers to “consider others as more important” than themselves (v. 3)?

13.   What benefit is it to a believer to “look out . . . for . . . the interests of others (v. 4)?

14.   How do we balance our responsibility to ourselves and to others?

15.   Based on this passage, what four spiritual experiences provide the basis for humility and unity?

16.   In what ways do you think humility and unity help fulfill Paul’s joy?

17.   What do you think humility looks like in relationship to others?

18.   How does humility contribute to unity?


Lasting Lessons in Phil. 2:1-4:

1.  As believers, the encouragement and love we show for others can only come from Christ.

2.  As believers, we are to be united in purpose, working together to achieve Christ’s purposes.

3.  We are always to consider others as more important that ourselves.



Humility and Jesus (Phil. 2:5)

5 Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus,

1.   To whom did Paul point as the superior model of humility?

2.   Why do you think Paul used Jesus as the example of humility to the Philippians?

3.   What do you think makes Jesus the perfect example of humility and submission?

4.   What is meant by “attitude”?  (See Digging Deeper.)

5.   How would you describe a person who is “full of him/herself”?

6.   Why is there no room in a believer’s makeup for this kind of attitude?

7.   How would you describe Christ’s attitude?

8.   How can we make our “attitude that of Christ Jesus”?

9.   Do you think making our own needs and desires the top priority prevents the development of an attitude of humility within a believer”?  Why, or why not?

10.   How can relationships be strengthened when infused with attitudes of humility on the parts of both parties?

11.   How did Jesus’ submission even to the point of death demonstrate strength?

12.   What impact does an attitude that includes lots of grumbling, complaining, and arguing have on a relationship?  Why?


Lasting Lessons in Phil. 2:5:

1.  Jesus is our only true example of humility and submission.

2.  Through His Spirit, we have the mind of Christ.

3.  When we have the mind of Christ, we put the needs of others above our own.



Humility and Submission (Phil. 2:13-15)

13 For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose. 14 Do everything without grumbling and arguing, 15 so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.

1.   What circumstances in life tempt you to ignore the instructions in these verses?

2.   What do you think Paul meant when he said that “God who is working in you” to the Philippians?

3.   How does God work in the lives of believers?

4.   What are some barriers that would keep God from working in the life of a believer?

5.   What steps can a believer take to overcome any of these barriers?

6.   How is God’s “good purpose” worked out through the life of a believer (v. 13)?

7.   According to verse 14, what did Paul appeal to the Philippians to avoid?  Why?

8.   What are the benefits of a believer doing ”everything without grumbling and arguing” (v. 14)?

9.   What does it mean to be “blameless and pure, . . . faultless” (v. 15)?

10.   How did Paul describe this world (v. 15)?

11.   Based on verse 15 how did he describe the presence of believers in this world?

12.   What is the implication for believers (v. 15)?

13.   Do you think this presence of believers is important?  If so, why?

14.   What impact do you think this entire passage should have on a believer?

15.   How is God working in you to present a good presence in this world?


Lasting Lessons in Phil. 2:13-15:

1.  God is continually working in us.

2.  God’s work in us will instill in us the desire to serve Him.

3.  We are to serve God in love without complaining or being defensive.



We live in a power grabbing world where the person with great honors, the highest attainments, and the most prestige have the most influence and tend to be valued above others.  Jesus long ago turned that worldview upside down.  He called for humility of spirit and for His followers to think of others first and foremost.  Paul had many things he could have boasted about, but in the end he knew those things were not that important.  In fact, he regarded them as rubbish (Phil. 3:4-8).  Such was the attitude Paul aspired to for the Philippians.  And it is the attitude, disposition, and approach to life still needed among believers today.

So, where do you stand when it comes to presence of humility in your daily lifestyle?  How Christ-like are you in the exhibition of humility in your world?  What priority do you give the interests of others above your own?  When it comes to humility and putting the interests of others above your own, how do you rate?  On a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (utmost), what does your rating look like?  Would it please God?  If not, ask God’s Holy Spirit to guide your growth.

What are the implications of these truths for your life?  THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!

REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.


Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.



Focal Passage from three different translations of God’s Word:

King James Version: Philippians 2:1-5,13-15:

1 If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, 2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.

13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.  (KJV)

New International Version: Philippians 2:1-5,13-15:

1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.

13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. 14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe   (NIV)

New Living Translation: Philippians 2:1-5,13-15:

 1 Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. 3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.  5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. 14 Do everything without complaining and arguing, 15 so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.   (NLT)


Lesson Outline — “Stick With Humility” — Philippians 2:1-5,13-15:




Humility and Unity (Phil. 2:1-4)

Humility and Jesus (Phil. 2:5)

Humility and Submission (Phil. 2:13-15)


(NOTE:  Commentary for the focal passage comes from three sources: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament,Believer's Bible Commentary,” andThe Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament; Philippians 2:1-5,13-15:

Exhortation to Unity and Humility Toward Those in the Church 2 1 11

2:1 The following exhortation also concerns unity, but this time the focus is turned on problems within the church. To encourage the fulfillment of this injunction, Paul listed four incentives. All are stated as “if” clauses (with the verb understood), but the condition is assumed to be true. Thus, the sense of the first clause is “If there are any grounds for exhortation because you are in Christ, as indeed there are ....” As Christians, they were in a vital union with Christ and this placed obvious obligations on them. They were responsible to heed the orders of Christ as issued by him either directly during his ministry or through his apostles. Second, the comfort and encouragement provided by love should prompt the Philippians to join hands in common action. Their love for Christ and for their fellow believers (including Paul) ought to impel them to desist from divisiveness in any form. Third, the fellowship produced by the Holy Spirit should stimulate the practical exercise of unity. They have been made one by the Spirit (cf. 1Cor 12:13) and thus are partners with him and with each other. Recognition of this theological truth would find expression in their lives. Fourth, the existence of tenderness and compassion among them would make the unity that was being called for the normal and expected thing.

Paraklesis (“encouragement,” NIV) may be translated as either “exhortation” or “consolation.” To understand the term in this context as implying more than just comfort is consistent with other Pauline statements on unity. In Ephesians 4:1-3 the unity of the believers is made the subject of an exhortation. The translation “encouragement” can convey both ideas.

In the third of the conditional statements in this verse, pneumatos (“Spirit”) can be either objective or subjective. If objective, the sense is “fellowship with the Spirit,” as reflected in RSV and NIV and supported by scholars such as Martin. Others, such as Beare and Hendriksen, understand the expression more broadly to include both aspects—the participation in the Spirit and the common life produced by the Spirit to form the Christian community. That the subjective aspect (“fellowship produced by the Spirit”) should be included in the concept is strongly suggested by two of the other clauses, in which the exhortation comes from their being in Christ, and their comfort comes from love.

2:2 The exhortation itself is first stated and then elaborated on. Paul exhorted the Philippians to make his joy full by minding the same thing. He was already experiencing joy because of his associations with this church (1:344:10), but one thing was yet needed to make his joy “complete” (plerosate). They needed to be “like-minded” (literally, “mind the same thing”). Of course, this was not a command for unity at the expense of truth. It assumes that “the same thing” is also “the right thing.”

The enjoinder to maintain unity in their thought and action is elaborated on in four participial phrases. By complying with these instructions, the readers would create a climate where true unity would flourish. First, they should be possessing a mutual love. Inasmuch as it is assumed that all were believers indwelt by the same Spirit (2:1), the love that is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22) ought to be demonstrated in every Life. Second, they should be setting their minds on unity with oneness of soul. This phrase repeats the thought appearing earlier in the verse and reinforces the conclusion that there was a problem of disharmony within the congregation. It may be unfair to center the problem on Euodia and Syntyche (4:2), but they were at least involved.

2:3 Third, they should avoid selfish ambition and conceit and consider others above themselves. Paul had experienced adverse effects from this sort of selfish ambition among some unworthy preachers at Rome (1:17). Persons who seek to advance themselves usually enjoy glorying in their success, but all such glory is “vain conceit” (kenodoxian). The Christian attitude should reveal itself in “humility” (te tapeinophrosune). This concept was not highly regarded in Greek literature. Grundmann observes that the Greek concept of a free man led to contempt for any sort of subjection, whereas the Bible proposes that we should be controlled by God and thus assumes that to subject ourselves to God is praiseworthy. This paved the way for the Christian ethic that calls for believers to be humble toward one another, mindful of their spiritual brotherhood and their ultimate subjection to Christ. In the exercise of humility, Paul instructed his readers to “consider others better than yourselves.” This does not mean that we must have false or unrealistic views of our own gifts as compared with those of others. Moral superiority is not in view. What Paul means is that our consideration for others must precede concern for ourselves (Rom 12:10). This will go far toward removing disharmony.

2:4.  Fourth, they should be looking not only to their own interests but also to those of others. The self-centeredness that considers only one’s own rights, plans, and interests must be replaced by a broader outlook that includes the interests of one’s fellows. “But also” indicates that our own affairs need not be totally ignored, but that the interests of others must also form a part of our concern. The believer should not neglect the welfare of himself and his family (1Tim 5:8) in order to involve himself in the good of others. What Paul is calling for is a Christian concern that is wide enough to include others in its scope. When each member of the Christian community exercises this mutual concern, problems of disunity quickly disappear.

2:5.  The great example of humility is Christ Jesus. Although verses 5 to 11 contain one of the outstanding Christologies in the NT, they were written to illustrate the point of humility and selflessness. Another instance where Paul makes a sublime statement about Christ almost incidentally in illustrating a practical point is Ephesians 5:25-27.

The literary form of the beautiful passage before us leads many to regard it as an early Christian hymn that Paul incorporated into his Epistle (see Introduction, 5). But Paul himself was quite capable of a highly poetic style (cf. 1Cor 13), and may well have composed these exalted lines. Regardless of their precise origin, the passage provides a masterly statement of Christology, and serves well the author’s purpose of illustrating supreme condescension.

The exhortation comes first: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” Here the Greek text could be literally rendered “Keep thinking this among you, which [attitude] was also in Christ Jesus.” This rendering fits the context better than another suggestion that has been offered: “Have the same thoughts among yourselves as you have in your communion with Christ Jesus.” Believers, of course, cannot duplicate the precise ministry of Jesus but they can display the same attitude.

2:13. Paul describes the enablement to carry out the exhortation as being furnished by God himself, who produces in believers both the desire to live righteously and the effective energy to do so. God does not demand of us what we cannot do. Furthermore, the provision from God takes into account our every need. It is not always enough to “will” something, for good intentions are not always carried out. Paul sees believers as having their wills energized by God and then also having the power to work supplied by him.

2:14. Compliance with Paul’s exhortation should be “without complaining or arguing.” The first term describes the grumbling discontents among the congregation, and the second depicts the evil reasonings and disputes that usually follow. Are these directed against God or against each other? Neither alternative is foreign to the context. The passage is influenced by Deuteronomy 32:5, and the example of Israel’s complaining, which was chiefly against God, was used elsewhere by Paul to instruct the church (1Cor 10:10). On the other hand, the problem of disunity in the congregation has already been seen in this letter (2:2), and more is to come (4:2). Perhaps the command is sufficiently general to cover both.

Emphasis in the command falls on the word everything (literally, “all things”), which is actually the first word of the verse in the Greek text. Most Christians are able to do some things without complaint. It is when we are exhorted to be doing “all things” with a joyful spirit that the difficulty comes. Yet the outworking of our Christian faith in daily life lays this responsibility upon us.

2:15.  The purpose of the exhortation to work out their salvation was that the readers might be pure and uncontaminated light-givers in the world. By regeneration they had already become children of God in nature and position. Now as they progressed in sanctification, they would become “children of God without fault,” particularly as viewed by the world around them. By faithfully adhering to the word of God as contained in scripture and taught them by Paul, their lives would be free from anything blameworthy (amemptoi, “blameless”), as well as devoid of matters foreign or improper in the heart (akeraioi, “pure”). Their nature as God’s children would be clearly evident, with no obvious flaws (amoma “without fault”) to disfigure their witness. The apostle is mindful of their location within a corrupt society. In OT language (Deut 32:5) he depicts mankind generally as “a crooked and depraved generation.” By “generation” he was probably thinking of mankind as morally the product of one sinful stock (John 8:44), rather than merely a group of contemporaries. Amid this moral blackness, the children of God should stand out as stars at midnight. Believers are the possessors of Christ, the Light of the world (John 8:12), and so are now light-givers to the world (Matt 5:14). “You shine” states the present fact. They are not told to shine, but are reminded that they already do. The challenge was to let the light shine out unhindered.

SOURCE: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament; Frank E. Gaebelein; General Editor; Zondervan Publishing House; A Division of Harper Collins Publishers


Believer's Bible Commentary – Philippians 2:1-5,13-15:

Exhortation to Unity Based On Christ's Example of Humility and Sacrifice

Although the church at Philippi was exemplary in many respects, and Paul had occasion to commend the saints warmly, yet there was an undercurrent of strife. There was a difference of opinion between two women, Euodia and Syntyche (4:2). It is helpful to keep this in mind because in chapter 2 the apostle is dealing directly with the cause and cure of contentions among the people of God.

2:1. The if in this verse is not the "if" of doubt but of argument. The verse lists four great considerations which should draw believers together in harmony and cooperation. The apostle is saying, in effect: "Since there is so much encouragement in Christ, since His love has such a tremendous persuasiveness, since the Holy Spirit brings us all together in such a wonderful fellowship, and since there is so much tender affection and mercy in Christianity, we should all be able to get along in happy harmony with one another."

F. B. Meyer describes these four motives as:

1. The persuasiveness of Christ.

2. The tender care that love gives.

3. The sharing of the Spirit.

4. Humaneness and pity.

It is clear that the apostle is making an appeal for unity based on common devotion to Christ and common possession of the Holy Spirit. With all that there is in Christ, the members of His Body should have unity of purpose, affection, accord, sympathy.

2:2. If these foregoing arguments carry any weight with the Philippians, then Paul begs them, on the basis of such arguments, that they should fulfill his joy. Up to this time, the Philippians had indeed given Paul much joy. He does not deny that for a moment, but now he asks that they should fill the cup of his joy to overflowing. They could do this by being like-minded, having the same love, and being of one accord and of one mind.

Does this mean that all Christians are expected to think and act alike? The word of God nowhere gives such a suggestion. While we are definitely expected to agree on the great fundamentals of the Christian faith, it is obvious that on many minor matters there will be a great deal of difference of opinion. Uniformity and unity are not the same thing. It is possible to have the latter without the former. Although we might not agree on minor matters, yet we can submerge our own opinions, where no real principle is involved, for the good of others.

To be like-minded really means to have the mind of Christ, to see things as He would see them, and to respond as He would respond. To have the same love means to show the same love to others that the Lord has shown to us, a love that did not count the cost. To be of one accord means to work together in harmony toward a common goal. Finally, to be of one mind means to act so unitedly as to show that Christ's mind is directing our activities.

2:3.  Nothing whatever should be done through selfish ambition or conceit, since these are two of the greatest enemies of unity among the people of God. Selfish ambition is the desire to be number one, no matter what the cost. Conceit speaks of pride or self-display. Wherever you find people who are interested in gathering a clique around themselves or in promoting their own interests, there you will find the seeds of contention and strife. The remedy is found in the latter part of the verse. In lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. This does not mean that we must consider criminals as having better moral characters than our own, but rather that we should live for others unselfishly, putting their interests above our own. It is easy to read an exhortation like this in the word of God, but quite another thing to appreciate what it really means, and then put it into actual practice. To esteem others better than ourselves is utterly foreign to the human mind, and we cannot do it in our own strength. It is only as we are indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit that it can ever be practiced.

2:4.  The cure of troubles among the people of God is to be more concerned with the interests of others than with the things of our own lives. In a very real way the word others forms the key of this chapter. It is as we give our lives in devoted service for others that we rise above the selfish strife of men.

Others, Lord, yes, others,

Let this my motto be;

Help me to live for others,

That I might live like Thee.

Charles D. Meigs

2:5.  Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. Paul is now going to hold up before the eyes of the Philippians the example of the Lord Jesus Christ. What kind of attitude did He exhibit? What characterized His behavior toward others? Guy King has well described the mind of the Lord Jesus as: (1) The selfless mind; (2) The sacrificial mind; (3) The serving mind. The Lord Jesus consistently thought of others.

He had no tears for His own griefs,

But sweat-drops of blood for mine.

Charles H. Gabriel

2:13. Now Paul reminds them that it is possible for them to work out their salvation because it is God who works in them both to will and to do for His good pleasure. This means that it is God who puts within us the wish or desire to do His will in the first place. Then He also works in us the power to carry out the desire.

Here again we have the wonderful merging of the divine and human. In one sense, we are called on to work out our salvation. In another sense, it is only God who can enable us to do it. We must do our part, and God will do his. (However, this does not apply to the forgiveness of sins, or to the new birth. Redemption is wholly the work of God. We simply believe and enter in.)

2:14. As we do His good pleasure, we should do it without grumbling or questioning: "Not somehow but triumphantly." Complaining and disputing usually lead to graver offenses.

2:15.  By refraining from complaints and disputes, we may be blameless and harmless (sincere and guileless). To be blameless means that no charge can be sustained against a person (see Dan. 6:4). A blameless person may sin, but he apologizes, confesses, and makes it right whenever possible. To be harmless here means to be sincere or without deceit.

Children of God should be without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. By lives without blemish, God's children will stand out all the more clearly against the dark background of this world.

This leads Paul to think of them as lights in a dark night. The darker the night, the brighter the light appears. Christians are lights or light-bearers. They cannot create any light, but they can reflect the glory of the Lord so that others may see Jesus in them.

SOURCE: Believer's Bible Commentary; by William MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990, 1989 by William McDonald. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.


The Complete Biblical Library Commentary: Philippians 2:1-5,13-15:

2:1. Christians are not only to be imitators of Christ in conduct, but also in humility. Paul's "therefore" here indicates a definite connection with his appeal for unity in 1:27-33. Humility is a very important requisite for unity, and without unity God's people cannot experience the joy of the Lord.

In the Greek grammar Paul's "if" here does not question the existence of what he is about to mention. Rather, it carries the meaning "since" or "in view of the fact." His first statement indicates that encouragement or consolation does exist. Secondly, God's love brings comfort as it flows among His people. Christians also enjoy fellowship, or joint participation, in the Holy Spirit. Lastly, "bowels and mercies" or tenderness and compassion do exist in God's church. By using this form of address the apostle not only was affirming the reality of these qualities, but he was also appealing for them to be exercised in the assembly.

2:2. The fourfold appeal listed in verse 1 immediately precedes a fourfold declaration of results in verse 2. The statement "fulfil ye my joy" shows that the Philippians fell somewhat short of Paul's expectations. Here we see a slight glimpse into the apostle's philosophy about spiritual progress in the believer's life. He probably commended the Philippian church as much or more than any other group to whom he wrote, but he realized they still had room for growth. "Be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind" are all terms that show an same love, being of one accord, of one mind" are all terms that show an intentional piling up of expression to emphasize the necessity of unity.

2:3. Verse 3 seems to imply that some egotism and boastfulness existed in the Philippian assembly. Each exalted self and his own group. Humility serves as an antidote to such a sinful spirit. Paul's statements about it indicate a humble person refuses to do anything for selfish ambition or vain conceit.

"Strife" (eritheian) contains the idea not only of strife but of rivalry, so a person who practices this approach does things at the expense of other people in order to elevate self. "Vainglory" (kenodoxian) contains the word for glory, but Paul amplified it by adding the word for empty or vain, implying that this kind of activity brings a kind of glory that has no substance and therefore is meaningless. "Let each esteem other better than themselves" does not mean putting down self, but refers to being concerned about the needs of others before the needs of self.

2:4. So, instead of following party spirit and promotion of self, Paul enjoined Christians to put the interests of other people first. A truly humble person encourages and helps others.

2:5. Paul used the perfect example of humility to illustrate his point and appealed to believers to share the attitude of Christ. While verses 5-11 contain some of the most important Christological truths in the Bible, they were written in a context which should encourage Christians to emulate the example of Christ in humility. Thus, having the mind of Christ means "to think as Christ thought."

2:13. God, of course, not only gives the will to please Him, but also the ability. So, verse 12 delineates human responsibility and verse 13 divine responsibility. It is never "either/or." The scriptural approach is not "let go and let God," but "get in there with God." Paul exhorted the followers of Christ as if he were an Arminian. At the same time he prayed as if he were a Calvinist. Both approaches contain truth. In a sense Christians "were saved" the moment they believed; they "are being saved" as the Holy Spirit applies the sanctification process to their lives; and they "will be saved" at the resurrection.

2:14.  After carefully instructing the Philippians about the necessity of allowing the sanctification process to work, Paul added that they should do so without "murmurings" and "disputings." "Murmurings" is an onomatopoetic word (gongusmōn), a word in which the sound resembles its meaning. It refers to undertone mumbling and is constantly used in the Septuagint for the prolific murmuring of the Israelites in the wilderness when they journeyed from Egypt to Canaan. "Disputings" relates to ill-natured controversies.

2:15. Instead of murmuring and disputing about the process through which the Holy Spirit takes us, Christians should become "blameless and harmless." "Become" (NIV) shows the progressive nature of the experience. "Blameless" literally means "free from defect," and "harmless" has the sense of "unadulterated." The latter term often was used in that day to distinguish wine that had been watered down. All this beautiful process takes place in a "crooked" or "wicked" and "perverse" generation. Christians live in a real world rather than growing in a "greenhouse" setting.

SOURCE: The Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Acts.  Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.; World Library Press, Inc.




SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources, 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources, 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources, 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

HUMILITY: A personal quality in which an individual shows dependence on God and respect for other persons.

Old Testament: The Old Testament connects the quality of humility with Israel’s lowly experience as slaves in Egypt—a poor, afflicted, and suffering people (Deut. 26:6). The Hebrew word translated as humility is similar to another Hebrew word meaning “to be afflicted.” In Old Testament thought, humility was closely associated with individuals who were poor and afflicted (2 Sam. 22:28).

What God desires most is not outward sacrifices but a humble spirit (Psa. 51:17; Mic. 6:8). Such a humble spirit shows itself in several ways: (1) a recognition of one’s sinfulness before a holy God (Isa. 6:5); (2) obedience to God (Deut. 8:2); and (3) submission to God (2 Kings 22:19; 2 Chron. 34:37). The Old Testament promised blessings to those who were humble: (1) wisdom (Prov. 11:2); (2) good tidings (Isa. 61:1); and (3) honor (Prov. 15:33).

The experience of many kings indicated that those who humble themselves before God will be exalted (1 Kings 21:29; 2 Kings 22:19; 2 Chron. 32:26; 33:12, 19). Those who do not humble themselves before God will be afflicted (2 Chron. 33:23; 36:12). The pathway to revival is the way of humility (2 Chron. 7:14).

New Testament:  Jesus Christ’s life provides the best example of what it means to have humility (Matt. 11:29; 1 Cor. 4:21; Phil. 2:1-11). Jesus preached and taught often about the need for humility (Matt. 23:12; Mark 9:35; Luke 14:11; 18:14). He urged those who desired to live by Kingdom standards to practice humility (Matt. 18:1; 23:12).

 The person with humility does not look down on others (Matt. 18:4; Luke 14:11). Humility in the New Testament is closely connected with the quality of “meekness” (Matt. 5:5). While God resists those who are proud, He provides grace for the humble (Jas. 4:6). Primary in the New Testament is the conviction that one who has humility will not be overly concerned about his or her prestige (Matt. 18:4; 23:12; Rom. 12:16; 2 Cor. 11:7).

Paul believed that quality relationships with other people, especially those who had erred spiritually, hinged on the presence of meekness or humility (1 Cor. 4:21; Gal. 6:1; 2 Tim. 2:25). The New Testament affirms, as does the Old Testament, that God will exalt those who are humble and bring low those who are proud (Luke 1:52; Jas 4:10; 1 Pet. 5:6). The Greek world abhorred the quality of meekness or humility, but the Christian community believed these qualities were worthy (2 Cor. 10:18; Col. 3:12; Eph. 4:2).

SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.

Attitude: 1. A settled way of thinking or feeling.  A position of the body indicating a particular mental state.

2.  Informal, chiefly N. Amer. Truculent behaviour.  Self-confident behaviour: she snapped her fingers with attitude.

SOURCE: Concise Oxford Dictionary; Tenth Edition; Oxford University Press


SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.


SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.




JOY The Meaning

By Kendall H. Easley

Kendall Easley is professor of New Testament and Greek, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, Germantown, Tennessee.

WE FIND PAUL’S LETTER to the Philippians to be the most joy-filled book of the New Testament.  Every chapter refers to joy or rejoicing.  What did he mean?

Paul’s starting point for understanding joy was the Old Testament.  Several Hebrew words are translated into English Bibles by such terms as “joy,” “enjoy,” and “rejoice.”  Joy was for the people of ancient Israel, just as it is for us, an emotion, which by its nature sought expression.  The subjective feeling of joy with no outward manifestation was unknown.  A good example is the first biblical mention of any sort of joy.  As Jacob fled from Laban, his father-in-law, Laban, finally asked, “Why did you run off secretly and deceive me?  Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of tambourines and harps?” (Gen. 31:27).1

Hebrew Scripture shows rejoicing as the active response of the covenant community to God’s blessings.  In fact, the Israelites were commanded to assemble for joyful celebrations.  Deuteronomy contains several examples, such as: “There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you” (12:7).  If we were suddenly transported back to ancient Israel, we would find great joy in everyday life.

The Book of Psalms overflows with joy.  The psalms exhort God’s people to rejoice, especially because of His salvation.  Consider Psalm 64:10: “Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him; let all the upright in heart praise him.”  For centuries Christians have used such psalms of rejoicing to help express their own joy in God.

The biblical prophets looked forward to a time of great joy after the restoration of all things.  God Himself shares in this joy: “But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.  I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people” (Isa. 65:18-19).  Such expressions are remarkably similar to the joyful hope for heaven that we Christians express.

Joy In The New Testament

In the New Testament we discover three Greek word groups associated with joy.  The agalliao words emphasize loud, public expressions of joy in worship.  The euphraino  words focus on times of community joy in festival or banquet settings.  The chairo words, the focus of this study, are by far the most frequent.  Both the activity of rejoicing and the things that cause joy can be called joy in this sense.

In the New Testament, joy centers on Jesus Christ.  Paul’s friend Luke stressed the joy that the birth and life of Jesus brought.  As Christ’s life on earth began, the angels announced to the shepherds: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).  Then at the close of Jesus’ earthly life, after His ascension to heaven, the disciples “worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (24:52).

When Paul planted the church in Philippi, joy erupted.  God opened Lydia’s heart to the gospel; a slave girl was set free from an evil spirit; the town jailer was dramatically converted to Christ after a midnight earthquake (Acts 16:13-40).  After the jailer’s family was baptized, “he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God – he and his whole family” (v. 34).  More than 10 years passed between the time Paul preached the good news in Philippi (about A.D. 50) and the time he wrote the Epistle to the Philippians (about AD 61).  Many more in their city had received the gospel.  When Paul wrote Philippians, he was being help captive in Rome, but his circumstances did not rob him of joy.  He was a joyful Christian busily serving God through the ministry of praying, writing letters, and preaching to those within his hearing.

Within only 104 verses, Paul used joy or a derivative 16 times.  He used the noun chara (joy) 5 times (1:4,25; 2:2,29; 4:1), of a total of the 59 New Testament instances.  Paul used the related verb chairo (rejoice) 9 times in Philippians (1:18 [twice]; 2:17,18,28; 3:1; 4:4 [twice],10), of a total of the 75 New Testament occurrences.  In Philippians 2:17-18, Paul twice used the compound verb sugchairo, meaning rejoice with or co-rejoice, of a total of the 7 New Testament instances.

The Noun Joy In Philippians

Paul’s use of “joy” (chara) in Philippians corresponds well with the other uses of the word in Scripture.  Joy was never simply an inner feeling for Paul but something he expressed.

In Philippians 1:4, Paul showed joy in the way he prayed for his friends: “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.”  If Paul could pray with joy from prison, we too can be encouraged to pray with joy.

In Philippians 1:25, Paul expressed confidence that he would be restored to the Philippian believers “for [their] progress and joy in the faith.”  Believers experience a greater degree of joy when other Christians minister to them, perhaps through the Word or through deeds.  Philippians 2:29 is similar.  Here Paul asked the church to welcome the return of their friend Epaphroditus “in the Lord with great joy.”

Joy is a subjective individual emotion that cam be enhanced or made complete – the theme of Philippians 2:2.  Paul said that when believers were “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose” his joy was made complete.

Paul’s final use of the noun “joy” is in Philippians 4:1.  Here he used “joy” with the meaning that which causes joy (rather than joy as an emotion).  The believers themselves were Paul’s “joy and crown.”

Paul’s Rejoicing

Paul used the verb “rejoice” in Philippians in two ways.  First, he spoke of his personal rejoicing in three verses (four instances).  In Philippians 1:18, Paul stated twice that the preaching of the gospel by anyone (even with ulterior motives) caused him to rejoice, both in the present and in the future.  Thus whenever we hear that the true gospel has been proclaimed, rejoicing is in order.

Philippians 2:17 recorded Paul’s joy even as he contemplated his death.  He knew his death would bring him closer to displaying the fruit of his ministry on “the day of Christ” (v. 16).  In this same setting he used the verb sugchairo to say that “I . . . rejoice with all of you” (v. 17).  Joy for Paul wasn’t private by shared. 

Paul’s final reference to his personal joy is Philippians 4:10.  Because of the Philippians’ generous gift, Paul wrote, “I rejoice greatly in the Lord.”  When someone enriches our lives – spiritually, financially, or in other ways – we believers ought to rejoice aloud.

The Philippian Christians’ Rejoicing

Second, in four verses Paul used the verb chairo with reference to the rejoicing of the Philippians.  Most are imperatives (commands) rather than indicatives (statements of fact).

In Philippians 2:18, Paul asked the Philippians to rejoice (chairo) in light of his coming death (see the reference to 2:17 above).  He made sure this was a matter of co-rejoicing (sugchairo) with others: “So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.”

In 2:28, Paul alluded to the Philippian believers’ future rejoicing at their reunion with their dear friend Epaphroditus.  This rejoicing closely connects to the usage of the noun “joy” in 2:29, reminding us of the earlier point that joy is a result of Christian ministry.

In Philippians 3:1 and 4:4, three times Paul used the present imperative form of the verb to charge the Philippians to keep on rejoicing.  In both verses, such rejoicing is “in the Lord.”  Perhaps we find it strange to think of joy as something that is commanded to believers, but the Hebrew Scriptures established this pattern.  This becomes possible when we realize that joy “in the Lord” is because of His greatness and goodness and not because of our circumstances.

What does joy mean in Philippians?  It is about people, not things; God’s gospel, not circumstances.  Joy comes when the gospel is preached and when Christians minister effectively.  Joy comes in praying and because of generous giving.  Joy “in the Lord” is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22) that all Christians are to express and share with each other, just as Paul did.

1.  All Scripture quotations in this article are taken from the New International Version.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Fall 2003.


The Servant – CHRIST

By Bob Evans

Bob Evans is retired professor of religion, Hollums Chair of Bible, Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee, Oklahoma.

PAUL CAME TO PHILIPPI in response to the Macedonian call (Acts 16:9,12).1 A church was established there as a result of his and Silas’s ministry.  The initial converts were Lydia (Acts 16:14-15), a slave girl (Acts 16:16-18), and a jailer and his household (Acts 16:31-33). It was the first church on the European continent.2

Philippi was located in northeastern Macedonia and was named for Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great.3 Antony made it a Roman colony.  After the defeat of Antony, Augustus Caesar reestablished Philippi as a Roman colony.4 Reliefs depicting the religious cults popular in the city were prominently displayed on some walls in the city.5 Everyone who entered the city was confronted with the images of the gods worshiped there.

The Greeks created their gods in their own images.6 Attributes given to their deities were those of humans, usually magnifying weaknesses such as anger, temper, envy, selfishness, and jealousy.  “Almost every one of the radiant divinities could act cruelly or contemptibly.”7 Their gods were feared rather than reverenced.8

The cardinal sin for the people who worshiped the gods of Philippi was hubris, pride, defined as the “envy of the gods.”  It is described as man usurping or taking the role of the god.  When man became too prosperous, he became a threat to the status of the god and became the target of the deity’s capricious anger.9 Rather than man’s being blessed and enjoying good things from the god, the god was to be served and placated.

Zeus, the chief of the Greek gods, who was worshiped at Philippi, was viewed at tyrannical, egotistical, despotic, and whimsical.  “One could never tell where Zeus’s thunderbolt would strike.”10 The people were to sacrifice that a selfish god might be satisfied.11

Religious thought prevalent in Philippi was that the gods were to be appeased.  In contrast, Paul wrote to the church there: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5).  The picture of Jesus that Paul presented was different from that of the gods of the culture and religion of the Philippians.  Jesus gave up everything to meet the needs of mankind (Phil. 2:6-7).

In contrast to the concept of the gods’ being worshiped and feared by the Philippians is the picture throughout the New Testament of Jesus being a Giver.  On one occasion jealousy erupted among Jesus’ disciples (Matt. 20:20-28).  The mother of the sons of Zebedee asked for special consideration to be given James and John.  She requested that her sons be given the privilege of sitting on the right hand and left hand of Jesus when He came into His kingdom.  Jesus’ rebuke contained an explanation indicating she did not understand what she was requesting.  When Jesus came into His kingdom, sacrifice would be involved.

When the other disciples heard the request, they were indignant and jealous (Matt. 20:24).  Jesus explained that their ideas concerning greatness were influenced by the Gentiles and a worldly, secularistic value system (Matt. 20:25).  He corrected their thinking by emphasizing “It shall not be so among you.”  He emphasized that greatness is achieved, not by favor or position, but by service (Matt. 20:26-27; compare 23:11).  He then gave the pattern for greatness: “just as the Son of Man did not come to be saved, but to serve, and give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).  The phrase “just as” means “in like kind.”  The word “ransom” pictures one who is worthy paying the price to secure the freedom of a lowly slave.  Jesus came as a Servant to enable all who are in bondage to go free (Isa. 61:1; Luke 4:18).  The example of Jesus’ sacrificial service was to become the model duplicated (“just as”) by His followers.  The disciples were to have the mind of Christ, to think and act “just as” He would think and act.

When Paul was writing to the Corinthians, he encouraged them to consider Jesus’ example when they made their commitment concerning how much to give to an offering for needy people.  “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).  He called to their attention Christ’s servant-spirit.  Paul was referring to Jesus’ being Lord of everything in glory and giving that up and becoming “poor,” having nothing in humanity (Luke 9:58).  Jesus, through His poverty, made it possible that the Corinthians might become rich.  Jesus gave up the riches of heaven that, though His sacrifice, they might have spiritual riches.  That  was to be the example that should be considered in deciding the amount of the benevolent gift.

Christ’s servant-spirit is most clearly portrayed in the events in the upper room that last night of His earthly life.  As the disciples prepared for the Passover, Jesus girded Himself with a towel, took a basin of water, and washed His disciples’ feet.  The slave assigned the role of washing the guests’ feet had the lowest position of servitude.  Jesus humbly assumed that task.  Nothing except Jesus’ death on the cross revealed the extent of His servant-spirit as clearly as this action.  Jesus said, “You call Me . . . Lord . . . so I am” (John 13:13).  “If I . . . your Lord . . . have washed you feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:14-15).

Jesus was God and had every right to make that claim (Phil. 2:6).  Yet being “in the form of God,” He took “the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:6-7, KJV).  Paul used the same word for “form” in each instance.  Just as Jesus was in reality God, He in reality became a Servant.  The word “form” signifies “’the outward expression of the inward nature.’ Jesus did not pretend to be a Servant . . . .  This was the true expression of His innermost nature.”12 Jesus’ becoming a man and a servant did not mean He ceased to be divine.  His coming into the world was not giving up divinity but the willing acceptance of servanthood.13

People become like what they worship.  Those who worshiped false gods became like the gods they worshiped.  “Their idols are silver and gold.  The work of men’s hands . . . Those who make them are like them; So is everyone who trusts in them” (Ps. 115:4,8).  Those who worshiped the gods of the Greek and Roman world of Philippi envisioned them as selfish and egotistical.  Their followers had many of the same characteristics.

Paul challenged the Philippians to have the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5).  To have the mind of Christ means to think and act like Him.  Paul emphasized that Jesus is God but He willingly became a Servant.  He challenged the people at Philippi to become like the One they worshiped.  Since Jesus had an humble servant-spirit, they should willingly humble themselves and have the same servant-spirit (mind).

1.  All Scripture references, unless otherwise designated, are from the New King James Version.

2.  Robert J. Dean, “Philippi” in Holman Bible Dictionary, Trent Butler, gen. ed. (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1991), 1106.

3.  Frank Stagg, The Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1971), 11:178.

4.  Dean, 1106.

5.  Richard R. Melick, Jr., The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1991), 32:23.

6.  Edith Hamilton, Mythology (New York: The New American Library, 1942), 16.

7.  Ibid., 18.

8.  Ibid., 17.

9.  William Barclay, More New Testament Words (London: SCM Press, 1958), 77; C. M. Bowra, The Greek Experience (New York: The World Publishing Company, 1957), 51.

10. Hamilton, 18.

11. Bowra, 17.

12. Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Joyful (Wheaton, ILL.: Victor Books, 1978), 54.

13. Stagg, 196.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Summer 2000.



By Kendall H. Easley

Kendall Easley is Associate Professor of New Testament and Greek, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, Memphis, Tennessee.


HE ENGLISH WORD “humble” often expresses the positive attitude of “lacking arrogance” or “not haughty.”  We generally admire this kind of humble person.  “Humble” can also express a neutral attitude of “deference to another person,” as in “a humble apology.”  “Humble” also can convey the undesirable sense of “low status” on a social, economic, or other scale, as in “a humble dishwasher.”  We do not usually aspire to this kind of humility.

In the New Testament five Greek terms belong to the “humility” word group and they occur 34 times.  The first three are simple forms found in both the Gospels and the Epistles; the last two are compounds found only in the Epistles.  The main idea for each, along with their frequency, is as follows:

·      tapeinos (adjective)—humble, lowly (8 times);

·      tapeinosis (noun)—humility, lowliness, humiliation (4 times);

·      tapeinoo (verb)—I (make) humble, I make low (14 times;

·      tapeinophron (adjective)—humble in thinking (1 time);

·      tapeinophrosume (noun)—humility in thinking (7 times).

Matthew and Luke together account for 11 instances; Acts has 2; Paul’s letters have 13 instances; James and 1 Peter have 4 each.1  These terms are not found in Mark nor in John’s writings.

In Classical Greek

The original classical sense of the tapein-group was literal.  The terms referred to an object that was physically low lying, below something else.  Soon, however, tapein-words came to be used figuratively of persons.  People were considered “low” for a variety of reasons.  Usually this characteristic was undesirable or even shameful for the Greeks.

1.     Being in poverty, with resulting low social or economic status;

2.     Lacking freedom, being enslaved (actually, or those with a slavish attitude);

3.     Being downcast or “depressed” (as in English, “I feel low”);

4.     Groveling or flattering (in a negative sense);

5.     Unassuming, obedient (in a positive sense, quite rare).

The two compound words (combined with the verb phroneo, “think”) developed later.  In secular Greek these compound forms always had a strong negative sense of something to be avoided: thinking poorly or amiss, being faint-hearted, or having a cringing attitude.

Tapein-words occur in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) about 270 times, translating several Hebrew words.  What is surprising is that the translators used tapein-words in a positive way as something for God’s people to desire eagerly.  These are often placed opposite the pride that God hates.  God brings down the proud and arrogant and blesses the lowly.  A good example is Psalm 10:17: “O Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear.”2

In Jesus’ Life and Teachings

Jesus did not teach in Greek, but the inspired gospel writers used tapein-words to report His teachings.  He forever made humility desirable.  He chose it, lived by it, and taught it.  Many of His first followers had low social or economic status, but He was more concerned that they reject pride.  He said, “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am “humble in heart” with “gentle,” Jesus meant the attitude and behavior that rejects pretentious or arrogant ways.  Those with this perspective live without having to be noticed.  Paul explained Jesus’ attitude this way: “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8).

Matthew 18:1-14 records one of Jesus’ extensive teachings on humility.  For Him, humility was a voluntary attitude rather than a social status imposed by life’s circumstances.  He insisted that people express childlike faith to be part of His kingdom: “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:4).  John’s Gospel does not use any of the tapein-terms.  It contains, however, one of the greatest examples of personal lowliness: Jesus washed the apostles’ feet as a common slave would (John 13:1-15).

In the Apostles’ Teachings

The apostles followed their Master in practicing humility.  They chose to submit themselves to one another and to the Lord Christ.  They rejected pride or self-seeking and never “strutted their own stuff.”  Often the surrounding society responded by giving them low social status.  A good example is Paul’s testimony in Acts 20:19: “[I was] serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews.”

This verse illustrates an interesting development.  Paul used a compound form of humility (tapeinophrosuné), emphasizing that a humble mindset or attitude is the primary concern—despite secular society considering this to be shameful.  A trace of the original negative sense is found in Paul’s warning to avoid humility for humility’s sake.  There is a flase humility that ends up being self-serving (see Col. 2:18,23, where tapeinophrosune is translated “self-abasement” in NASB).  Nobody is more detested than one who is “humble and proud of it.”

In the First Epistle of Peter

Of all the epistles that use the tapein-words, 1 Peter was likely the last to be composed.  Peter masterfully used four different words in his four uses of the concept:  é

·      “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble (tapeinophrónes) in spirit” (3:8).

·      “Clothe yourselves with humility (tapeinophrosunén) toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble (tapeinois).  Therefore humble (tapeinothete) yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time” (5:5b-6).

In light of all we have learned so far, the original readers would interpret Peter’s teaching as follows:

1.     I must understand humility based on its scriptural roots rather than it secular Greek meaning.  First Peter 5:5 quotes the Greek Old Testament version of Proverbs 3:34 to reinforce its teaching.  God hates proud people and blesses the humble, even though secular society may think such humility is disgraceful.

2.     Humility is the willing attitude expressed when I reject pride, submit eagerly to God’s will, and put the needs of others first in word and deed.  Nobody can force humility.  It is voluntary.  First Peter 3:8 is all about encouraging Christians to relate well to others; so is the fuller command of 1 Peter 5:5-6.

3.     Jesus is my greatest Model of humility.  Peter’s vivid picture of “putting on” humility as a garment (5:5) is surely based on his memory that once Jesus literally clothed Himself as a slave and washed Peter’s feet (John 13:1-15).

4.    Active humility may result in my having low status before people, but one day God will give high status to all His humble followers.  One early Greek meaning of “humble” was “having low social status.”  Jesus’ followers are sometimes despised or ill treated (given low status by society) because  they submit to God and put others first.  When this occurs, believers are to be confident in spite of their adversity.  In due time God will exalt them and openly confess that they are great in His kingdom (Matt.18:4).                                                                                                                                  Bi

1.  The 34 times tapein-words appear in the New Testament are: tapeinos: Matt. 11:29; Luke 1:52; Rom. 12:16; 2 Cor. 7:6; 10:1; James 1:9; 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5.  tapeinosis: Luke 1:48; Acts 8:33; Phil. 3:21; James 1:10.  tapeinoo: Matt. 18:4; 23:12 (twice); Luke 3:5; 14:11 (twice); 18:14 (twice); 2 Cor. 11:7; 12:21; Phil. 2:8; 4:12; James 4:10; 1 Pet. 5:6.  tapeinophron:  1 Pet. 3:8.  tapeinophrosune:  Acts 20:19; Eph. 4:2; Phil. 2:3; Col. 2:18,23; 3:12; 1 Pet. 5:5.

2.  All Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 update.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Summer 1998.


The Concept of “Mind” in Philippians

By John Polhill

John Polhill is professor of New Testament and Greek, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.


HAT DID PAUL MEAN IN PHILIPPIANS 2:5 when he spoke of having the “mind” of Christ?  A quick sample of the various translations reveals that the answer may not be obvious.  The King James Version and Revised Standard Version speak of “mind” in Philippians 2:5, but the  New International Version, Today’s English Version,  and the  New American Standard Bible translate the same word as “attitude.”

All total, four different Greek words are translated “mind” in our five sample translations.  The most striking observation of all is that the normal Greek word for “mind,” the word nous, is not translated as “mind” by any of the five.  It occurs only in Philippians 4:7 where our translations render it either as “understanding” or “comprehension.”  The translations are right in not translating the word as “mind” in 4:7, for Paul did not use the word in the technical sense it carried with the Greek philosophers.  In its broad range of meanings, nous could refer to one’s mental disposition or to thoughts, opinions, insight, or understanding.  With the classical Greek philosophers and their successors, “mind” came to refer to the highest human attribute, to humankind’s knowledge and power over things.  It was viewed as an inner divine rational principle that links humans to the gods.  Though they saw the body as corruptible, they viewed the mind as immortal and divine.  Popular philosophies like Stoicism believed that people lived the fullest life, a life in harmony with all creation, when they live by this inner divine principle centered in the mind.

Paul did not share the philosophers’ optimism about the human mind.  He used the word nous a number of times, 21 of the 24 total times it occurs in the New Testament.1  Far from viewing it as divine, he often noted how easily it can be corrupted.  Thus, in Romans 1:25-28 he spoke of the depravity of the mind of the Gentile who perverted God’s revelation, worshiping the creation rather than its Creator.  In Colossians 2:18 he spoke of false teachers whose minds were “fleshly,” that is, fixed on worldly things rather than on God.  In Philippians 4:7 Paul’s reference to mind/understanding is almost a polemical statement against the philosophical view of the mind.  In 4:6 he urged the Philippians to be anxious about nothing but rather to turn to God in prayer.  In 4:7 he assured them that God would bring them a peace that surpasses all human mind/understanding by keeping their “minds and hearts” in Christ Jesus.  The second “mind” word in the verse is the Greek word no_mata, which comes from the same root as nous and means the product of the mind, its thoughts.  The philosophers urged their followers to tap their inner resources, their minds, in order to find peace and equilibrium in life.  Paul flatly rejected this view.  For him, the human mind that is not directed by God will only lead one to greater anxiety and distraction in life.  Only the mind and heart that are under Christ’s control will find the true inner peace of God that transcends all human comprehension.  Paul naturally linked mind with heart in 4:7.  In Hebrew thought, not the brain but the heart was seen as the organ from which proceeded not only feelings but thoughts and intentions as well.  Given Paul’s Hebrew background, mind and heart were probably virtually synonymous terms for him.

Three of our five representative translations have the phrase “with one mind” in Philippians 1:27 (KJV, RSV, NASB).  The other two reflect the broad range of meaning of the underlying word: TEV has “purpose,” and NIV renders it “spirit,”  The Greek word is psuch­_, the word that lies behind our English word “psychology.”  In its ancient usage the word referred to the life principle of all human beings, to what makes them animated breathing beings.  In the New Testament psuch_ often means simply “persons.”  For example, the 3,000 who were converted at Pentecost are described as psuchai, “living beings,” “souls” (Acts 2:41).  One’s psuch_ is the breath of life itself.2  Thus, Paul described Epaphroditus as being willing to sacrifice his life (psuch_) in order to minister to Paul (Phil. 2:30).  Paul used the word with a different emphasis in 1:27.  There the phrase “one mind” (psuch_) is parallel to and virtually synonymous with the phrase “one spirit” (pneuma).  Paul was urging the Philippians to come to a unity of mind and spirit, to a common purpose and commitment to the gospel.  This idea of “unity” is a the heart of all Paul’s “mind language” in Philippians.

In the tradition of the KJV and RSV, the word most frequently rendered “mind” in Philippians is the verb phrone_.  It is translated “mind” 6 times in both versions.  It occurs 10 times in Philippians.  The Greek verb developed from a noun that refers to the mind or the understanding.  In its broad usage, the verb means “to think, to reason, to understand, to be disposed toward, to have a certain attitude.”  For the Greek philosophers, the noun (phron_sis) was virtually equivalent to nous, the inner principle of reason.  Viewing it as more excellent than mere wisdom (sophia), they considered phron_sis to be practical and moral knowledge, knowing what to do and how to live.  In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the word was often used for the wisdom and understanding that only God can give.  From the Old Testament perspective, the understanding (phron_sis) must be informed by God.  When it is not directed by God, it becomes “foolishness” (aphrosun_).3

Paul used the verb phrone_ in a number of his epistles, accounting for 24 of its 27 total occurrences in the New Testament.  He generally used it with the meaning to develop a mind-set and attitude or a manner of understanding.  Thus he could speak of his own personal concern for the Philippians, how it was right for his mind to be set on them (Phil. 1:7).  Likewise, he expressed his gratitude that once again the Philippians had revived their concern for him (Literally, “set their minds on him”) by send material support for his ministry (Phil. 4:10).

A person’s mind can be set on the wrong things.  It can be focused on worldly, “fleshly” things rather than on the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:5).  It can focus on things, leading to the empty conceit of those who trust in their wealth rather than in God (1 Tim. 6:17).  The wise Christian will set his mind on spiritual realities, seeking the things above rather than those on earth (Col. 3:2).  Paul had seen false teachers come to his congregations whose minds were set on earthly things.  He warned the Philippians about such people, whose minds were consumed by their physical appetites rather than by Christ (Phil. 3:19).  He also warned the Philippians about “perfectionists,” who felt they had already attained the ultimate goal of the Christian life.  Paul assured them he had not reached the goal himself but was still running the race, seeking to grow in Christian maturity (Phil. 3:12-14).  With a bit of irony, he told the Philippians that a truly “perfect” mind-set was to be aware that one was not perfect and had not yet reached the goal (Phil. 3:15).

Perhaps Paul’s most characteristic use of the verb phrone_ was in urging his churches to be united in mind and purpose.  A favorite phrase of his was to “be of the same mind,” to “set their minds together” (Greek, to auto phronein).   The church in Rome seems to have had its divisions, apparently drawn along lines of Gentile Christians differing with the Jewish Christians.  Paul urged them to accept each other’s differences, to be “of the same mind” (Rom. 12:16; 15:5, NASB).  The Corinthian church was even more divided.  Throughout both Corinthian Epistles Paul urged them to overcome their differences.  In his final charge to them he challenged them to be of the same mind, which was at the same time to “live in peace” with one another (2 Cor. 13:11, NASB).

Throughout Philippians Paul appealed to the congregation to be unified in Christ.  The appeal began in 1:27, with Paul urging them to be united around their common faith.  The appeal concluded in 4:2, where Paul asked two persons in the congregation to think the same in the Lord.  Apparently the two were central figures in the disunity the church was experiencing.  The Philippian division doesn’t seem to have been very deep.  Perhaps it was a clash of Personalities or leadership preferences.

Paul’s clearest focus on unity occurred in Philippians 2:1-11.  Three times in verses 1-5 he employed the verb phrone_.  He used it twice in verse 2, where he told the Philippians that they would bring him personal joy if they would set their minds (phrone_) on the same thing.  This is followed by three appositional phrases that further describe what such unity of mind consists of: it is sharing the same love, being of like spirit, setting their minds (phrone_) on one thing.  Verses 3-5 continue Paul’s description of a unified mind-set: it is to consider other as being more important than oneself, to look out for the needs of others rather than looking out for one’s own concerns.  Verse 5 contains the third use of phrone_ in 2:1-5: one is to have the mind-set of Christ.  The verse lacks a verb, which must be supplied.  This leads to two possible interpretations.  Paul may have meant that the Philippians were to pursue the sort of mind-set or attitude that was in Christ, that He exemplified in His earthly life.  Paul also could have meant that the Philippians should possess the kind of attitude that is proper for those who belong to Christ.  Whether one supplies “was” or “is,” Paul’s message to the Philippians would be the same.  In verses 6-11 he followed with an eloquent reminder of how Christ did not insist on His own rights be left His heavenly glory, emptying Himself, taking on the earthly form of a slave, and being obedient to God’s purposes, even to death on the cross.  This “hymn to Christ” has provoked much scholarly discussion.  Its purpose in its context is clear, however.  Paul challenged the Philippians to be like Jesus, to adopt His mind-set, His selfless attitude.  The mind of Christ, His attitude, is the ultimate model for all Christian unity.                                                                      Bi

1.  Behm, “et al,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Kittle, trans. Bromiley, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), 4:948-1022.

2.  Bertram, Dihle, Jacob, Lahse, Schweizer, Troger, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Kittle, trans. Bromiley, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), 9:608.

3.  Bertram, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Kittle, trans. Bromiley, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967),9:224.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 41, No. 3; Spring 2015.




What Is The Answer To & Where In The Bible Is This Week’s Trivia Question Found? (05/24/15) Who said “[I was] serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials . . .”?  Answer Next Week?

The answer to last week’s question:  (05/17/15)  When he was approached by Jesus, who said, ”What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God”  I adjure you by God, do not torment me.”? Answer:  Legion; Mark 5:7.