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Bailey Sadler Class
SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE – 2015
Theme: Like Glue: Making
What This Study Is About:
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!
Stick With Love
Stick With Encouragement
Stick With Forgiveness
Stick With Service
Stick With Humility
place the needs of others before your own.
Humility and Unity (Phil. 2:1-4)
and Jesus (Phil. 2:5)
and Submission (Phil. 2:13-15)
OF BACKGROUND PASSAGE:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
does the word “humility” mean?
(See Digging Deeper.)
does a “humble” person look like?
Christian characteristics does Paul present in verse 1?
do you think Paul meant by ”encouragement
in Christ” (v. 1)?
do you think Paul used the phrase “consolation
of love” (v. 1)?
would you describe the meaning of the phrase “fellowship with the Spirit” (v. 1)?
do you think “affection and mercy” should
apply to a believer (v. 1)?
did Paul want the Philippi believers to do with these traits (v. 2)?
do you think the believers were to fulfill Paul’s joy (v. 2)?
is it possible to share “the same
feelings” of fellow believers?
standard was Paul using—what was the “one
goal” (v. 2)?
do you think Paul encouraged the Philippian believers to “consider others as more important” than themselves (v. 3)?
benefit is it to a believer to “look out
. . . for . . . the interests of others (v. 4)?
How do we balance our responsibility to
ourselves and to others?
on this passage, what four spiritual experiences provide the basis for humility
what ways do you think humility and unity help fulfill Paul’s joy?
do you think humility looks like in relationship to others?
does humility contribute to unity?
Humility and Jesus
5 Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus,
whom did Paul point as the superior model of humility?
do you think Paul used Jesus as the example of humility to the Philippians?
do you think makes Jesus the perfect example of humility and submission?
is meant by “attitude”?
(See Digging Deeper.)
would you describe a person who is “full of him/herself”?
is there no room in a believer’s makeup for this kind of attitude?
would you describe Christ’s attitude?
can we make our “attitude that of Christ
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?
can relationships be strengthened when infused with attitudes of humility on the
parts of both parties?
How did Jesus’
submission even to the point of death demonstrate strength?
What impact does an
attitude that includes lots of grumbling, complaining, and arguing have on a
Lessons in Phil. 2:5:
is our only true example of humility and submission.
His Spirit, we have the mind of Christ.
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.
What circumstances in life tempt you to ignore
the instructions in these verses?
do you think Paul meant when he said that “God
who is working in you” to the Philippians?
does God work in the lives of believers?
are some barriers that would keep God from working in the life of a believer?
steps can a believer take to overcome any of these barriers?
is God’s “good purpose” worked
out through the life of a believer (v. 13)?
to verse 14, what did Paul appeal to the Philippians to avoid?
are the benefits of a believer doing ”everything
without grumbling and arguing” (v. 14)?
does it mean to be “blameless and pure,
. . . faultless” (v. 15)?
did Paul describe this world (v. 15)?
on verse 15 how did he describe the presence of believers in this world?
is the implication for believers (v. 15)?
you think this presence of believers is important?
If so, why?
impact do you think this entire passage should have on a believer?
is God working in you to present a good presence in this world?
Lessons in Phil. 2:13-15:
continually working in us.
in us will instill in us the desire to serve Him.
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.
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:
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist
Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
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)
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:
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
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
Outline — “Stick With Humility” — Philippians
Humility and Unity (Phil. 2:1-4)
Humility and Jesus (Phil. 2:5)
Humility and Submission (Phil. 2:13-15)
Commentary for the focal passage comes from three sources: “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old
“Believer's Bible Commentary,” and “The Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament; Philippians
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 (1:3, 4; 4:10),
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
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
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
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
SOURCE: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New
Testament; Frank E. Gaebelein; General Editor;
Zondervan Publishing House; A Division of Harper Collins Publishers
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
2. The tender care that
3. The sharing of the
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.
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.
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,
Let this my motto be;
Help me to live for
That I might live like
—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
But sweat-drops of blood
—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
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
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
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.
Believer's Bible Commentary; by William
MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990, 1989 by William McDonald.
Database © 2014 WORDsearch.
Complete Biblical Library Commentary: Philippians
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
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.
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
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
Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Acts. Database ©
2009 WORDsearch Corp.; World Library Press, Inc.
Bible Study; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources, 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
Bible Study; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources, 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
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.
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.
By Kendall H. Easley
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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.
Scripture quotations in this article are taken from the New International
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
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
Scripture references, unless otherwise designated, are from the New King
J. Dean, “Philippi” in Holman Bible Dictionary, Trent Butler, gen.
ed. (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1991), 1106.
Stagg, The Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1971),
R. Melick, Jr., The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press,
Hamilton, Mythology (New York: The New American Library, 1942), 16.
Barclay, More New Testament Words (London: SCM Press, 1958), 77; C. M.
Bowra, The Greek Experience (New York: The World Publishing Company,
W. Wiersbe, Be Joyful (Wheaton, ILL.: Victor Books, 1978), 54.
Easley is Associate Professor of New Testament and Greek, Mid-America Baptist
Theological Seminary, Memphis, Tennessee.
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.
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:
(adjective)—humble, lowly (8 times);
(noun)—humility, lowliness, humiliation (4 times);
(verb)—I (make) humble, I make low (14 times;
(adjective)—humble in thinking (1 time);
(noun)—humility in thinking (7 times).
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
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
Being in poverty, with resulting low social
or economic status;
Lacking freedom, being enslaved (actually,
or those with a slavish attitude);
Being downcast or “depressed” (as in
English, “I feel low”);
Groveling or flattering (in a negative
Unassuming, obedient (in a positive sense,
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
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).
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’
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.”
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
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
“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
Therefore humble (tapeinothete) yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may
exalt you at the proper time” (5:5b-6).
light of all we have learned so far, the original readers would interpret
Peter’s teaching as follows:
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
1 Pet. 3:8. tapeinophrosune:
Acts 20:19; Eph. 4:2; Phil. 2:3; Col. 2:18,23; 3:12; 1 Pet. 5:5.
All Scripture quotations are taken from
the New American Standard Bible, 1995
of “Mind” in Philippians
is professor of New Testament and Greek, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,
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
American Standard Bible translate the same word as “attitude.”
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
Behm, “et al,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Kittle, trans.
Bromiley, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), 4:948-1022.
Bertram, Dihle, Jacob, Lahse, Schweizer,
Troger, Theological Dictionary of the New
Testament, ed. Kittle, trans. Bromiley, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967),
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
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.