“The Incarnation: A Motive for Humble Unity”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Philippians 2.1-11.sermon
Philippians 2…Beginning in chapter 1 verse 27, Paul is addressing their need to live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
Philippians 1:27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
They are to conduct their lives in a certain way. And the idea here is like citizens of heaven. They are to conduct their lives like worthy citizens of the good news…the gospel, that Jesus died an effective death to take away sin and he is raised from the dead. This is the good news. Jesus has conquered our greatest enemies, sin and death. And for all those who place their trust in him, they receive eternal life.
And he’s doing that because he knows they are tempted to be discouraged. The reason why they are tempted to be discouraged is because there is opposition.
There is opposition to the faith of the gospel. End of verse 27 …
Philippians 1:27-28 27 …with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28 in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.
If they were conducting themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel, they would stand firm in one spirit and with one mind striving together…. These are phrases to describe a spiritual tenacity and determination …. they stand firm in one spirit with one mind striving together…. For what? …for the faith of the gospel.
They are to be spiritually tenacious, they are to be spiritually determined and active in their holding of the true faith of the gospel of Christ. That is because, verse 28, there are opponents. There is opposition, but they are not to be alarmed by their opposition … And their lack of alarm would be a sign of destruction for their opposers and also a sign of salvation for them.
And this suffering and opposition is from God… “what do you mean it’s from God?” …. Well, because verse 29 … it’s been granted… Philippians 1:29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,
Two things have been granted to these Philippians: Saving faith and suffering for Christ’s sake. Clearly the suffering during the opposition is from God… We also know it’s from God, because…they are experiencing, verse 30, the same conflict that was in Paul. So, clearly they are not out of God’s will or anything.
So they are experiencing opposition within the will of God. To properly resolve this, these believers are commanded, verse 27, to stand firm in one spirit and with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. In other words, they are to be unified. They are to be spiritually tenacious… Insistent, and resolute. And they are to be this way together, they are to stand firm with one spirit and one mind striving together the faith of the gospel.
They are to be dogmatic and certain and tenacious, standing firm, striving together in these times when there is opposition to true faith in Christ. So they are to be unified and they are to be spiritually tenacious for the faith of the gospel, defending the faith.
That is what it is, verse 27 says, to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. It takes a spiritual tenacity and unification, walking worthy of the gospel. So therefore true spiritual growth cannot happen by itself. Any struggle that a believer may face he is to face it within this context of the fellowship of other believers. Therefore, it is unchristian to run from assembling with God’s people simply because times are tough.
No, you are to allow all of us to come around you to encourage you. But this kind of unity is not easy. This kind of unity and allowing others to come along side of you during times of difficulty is hard for people. Why is that? We want to do it ourselves, we want to handle our own problems, it’s quite simple … it’s difficult to let others help us because of pride.
C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity wrote …
“As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on thing[s] and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.”
James and Peter both reference Proverbs 3:34, God is opposed…actively opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
And now beginning in chapter 2, Paul is going to enlarge the application of this. Not only are we to be unified in times of suffering, we are to be unified when we’re simply tempted not to. We are to be unified always, especially when we’re tempted not to.
In Phil 4:2, Paul warns Philippians 4:2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.
I mean, you could picture some issue that they are debating and they are tempted not to live in harmony in the Lord. And Paul is addressing that in chapter 2. And what they need is humility. And Paul will use the example of Christ in the incarnation.
So, to the degree we comprehend the incarnation and work of the Messiah, to that degree we will be humble. Chapter 2 verse 3 …. With humility of mind regard one another is more important than yourselves… Verse four, do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others…. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.
What attitude? This attitude of humility… Although he existed in the form of God …. Verse seven he emptied himself.
We need to be humble like Christ is humble. To the degree we comprehend the incarnation and work of the Messiah, to that degree we will be humble. And humility will empower unity in an assembly.
So, I’d like to preach on “The Incarnation: A Motive for Humble Unity.”
First, in verses 1-2 Paul offers his plea for unity…
And remember true unity requires humility. That’s why Paul is addressing this. First, he’s giving his plea for unity.
The Plea for Unity (Phil. 2:1-2)
In verse one, he is going to motivate us to unity and then in verse two, he will describe the unity he’s aiming for.
Verse 1, the motivation to unity…
Motivations to Unity (v1)
Philippians 2:1 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,
The “if” statements here are not meant to cause doubt. Paul is not saying if there is any encouragement in Christ … I don’t know if there is or not, but if there is then verse 2… Philippians 2:2 make my joy complete …
No, this word “if,” that occurs four times in the verse, is meant to carry the emotional and motivational plea for unity in verse two.
And Paul lists 4 things here … first, is there any encouragement in Christ … Have you experienced any encouragement from other Christians? Of course you have! So these statements are certainly true and are designed to carry motivations to fuel the command in verse 2 to be united. Paul is saying, “Since you’ve received encouragement and these other things because of Christian fellowship, make my joy complete by being unified.”
ILL: It’s like someone on the street saying … if you have a pair of mittens, could my child us them?
And so of course you have a pair of mittens! Oh, my heart is pulled out of my chest…
And of course you have experienced encouragement from other Christians. Are you kidding? My heart is being pulled out of my chest!
Second, is there any consolation of love? Has love from other Christians ever brought you consolation? Has any other believer in our assembly ever expressed love to you and then you received comfort?
“…ah, yes…yes I have” … ok then … be unified.
Third, how about any fellowship of the Spirit? “Paul this is killing me!” … Now come on, have you rejoiced in the true Christian fellowship from the Holy Spirit? “I know you have!” Have you been in a good, godly conversation that has brought you a true sense of fellowship with that believer and with the Lord himself? “Yes, Paul … “ Ok then, be unified with those believers then.
Fourth, any affection and compassion? “Paul do you have to keep going with this?” Has there been a true affection and care and kindness and compassion and helping one another and encouraging one another … have you seen this? Have you experienced yourself?
Again, Paul…yes…yes, I have …well then…verse 2…Paul says…
Unity Described (v2)
Philippians 2:2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
In other words, if you have experienced these four things of Christian fellowship, make my joy complete by being united.
A congregation makes their Christian leadership joyful when they have this kind of mindset with one another: same mind, same love, united, same purpose.
And so he balances his fourfold appeal in verse one with a fourfold plea in verse 2.
He gives four evidences of true Christian Fellowship in verse one and assumes we have received this, then verse two, he gives four-fold appeal to spiritual unity in Christian fellowship.
First, being like-minded. The first one and the fourth one are very similar, almost identical. Being of the same mind and intent on one purpose. These are very similar. This is to think the same things or be unified in mind.
And the second and third ones are meant to reinforce the same concern of unity. To have the same love and to be united in spirit. This is spiritual oneness.
Now, let me make the point that unity is not the same thing as uniformity. Uniformity is forced, like external rules… In this case, you’re not allowed to think for yourself, only what is in agreement with the whole. Unity however, is a matter of the heart…mind, love, spirit, purpose … these are heart terms. When need to graciously and lovingly work toward agreement … And if there is disagreement over nonscriptural issues, there is a desire to graciously agree to disagree and remain unified and intent on one purpose, going the same direction. And then to move on in full spiritual fellowship with each other, not to maintain rivalry and a proud desire to win out against the other.
But when disagreements breed disunity, there is a spiritual problem. There’s no harmony. But silencing the opinions is not going to solve the spiritual problem. What’s going to solve the spiritual problem is the recognition we are selfish and proud. We need to confess that along with the failure to be in humble unity with one another.
ILL: Like a choir with different members… each member of the choir is different, but they contribute those differences and the groups uses them to work for the common good.
Now, let me hasten to clarify … there are nonnegotiable’s as we concern ourselves with the truth of Scripture. We are to endeavor to have outward agreement, even, as it concerns the Scripture. We need to make sure that we are holding to the truths of Scripture.
And similarly with maintain the same love and united in spirit. Spiritual unity.
TRANS: But when there is disagreement on nonscriptural issues, there must still be unity: same thinking, same love, spiritual unity, striving after the same purpose of accomplishing God’s mission in us and through us in the world.
But how do you fix the problems? I think you’ll agree we’ll address that … But first, where is that power for unity going to come from? How does God work it in us? This is verses 3-11, the Power for Unity.
The Power for Unity (Phil. 2:3-11)
In verses 3-4, Paul describes humility, then in verses 5-11, Paul gives the example of humility, and in verses 9-11 the exaltation of humility.
So Paul aims to describe humility and he gives the incarnation as the example of humility and then gives the benefit of humility, all so that we will have power to be unified in the church.
The Description of Humility (Phil. 2:3-4)
So first, the description of humility in verses 3-4. Philippians 2:3-4 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind [do 2 things… number 1…] regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 […and number 2…] do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Instead of selfishness or empty conceit, have humility of mind. And with humility of mind do these 2 things: regard one another as more important than yourselves and to not merely look out for your own personal interests but also for the interests of others.
Selfishness or empty conceit: this is the opposite of humility of mind. What would selfishness or empty conceit do in a congregation? It would breed disunity and turmoil.
People are thinking of themselves and acting on behalf of himself and they are proud and trying to climb their way up the ladder in the church, this is going to breed disunity and impede the cause of Christ in that assembly.
…And thankfully, I haven’t caught wind of this in our assembly. But we must be careful to guard against. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”
And so acting on behalf of self and for one’s own purposes, his empty conceit, is to be illegal in Christ’s church.
Differences of opinion are not to be obstacles to unity. Self-centeredness in those differences will be an obstacle to unity. This word selfishness has the idea of feeling resentfulness because of jealousy… And it implies rivalry. There ought be none of that!
Again … C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity
“Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man… It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition is gone, pride is gone.”
That’s the term selfishness in the text, jealousy and rivalry. But neither is there to be empty conceit, or pride for no reason. And there is never a reason to express pride and to “tote your own horn” in Christ’s assembly….in Christ’s assembly! No, He gets the highest station here! There is no ladder to climb!
Instead, we are to have humility of mind, a lowliness of heart. CS Lewis again from Mere Christianity said that “true humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” In other words, true humility is not looking down on yourself and criticizing yourself all the time. No that is pride, you are too preoccupied with yourself. True humility forgets self. Neither will true humility will not be overly occupied with the heinousness of one’s sinfulness, but occupied with God who gives deliverance.
In coming weeks, we’ll be discussing how to cultivate humility in your heart. It’ll take some diligent study and prayer…studying humility and pride in Scripture and asking God to reveal pride. It’ll take knowing the greatness of God as well, so that we realize our own smallness. So a study of God’s perfections and immensity.
Now, with this humility we are to do two things. First, verse three we are to regard one another is more important than ourselves. Regard or think of the other as more important than yourself.
ILL: I like to think of this as rolling out the red carpet for others. We have this idiom in English “to roll out the red carpet.” To roll out the red carpet for someone is to treat someone like royalty.
Let’s picture that this morning. Let’s say you are the servant of the most prestigious, most honorable human on earth, whoever you think that might be. And you’re the servant. And you’re in a car and you are riding, not in the front seat… And no you’re not even worthy to drive this person around, you’re in the back seat …. No wait, you’re in the trunk… The car is pulling up to a stop in order for this most prestigious person to meet with other extremely prestigious persons so they can eat one of those $1000 meals.
And it’s your job to get out of the trunk, take hold of the red carpet that’s in the trunk, and place it at the car door out of which will come this most prestigious person whom you are serving. And you are to roll out the red carpet for that person and then step back and let that person have all the glory…while you get back into the trunk.
You are regarding that person as having greater importance than yourself. You are to be that way toward each believer in this assembly.
You are to look out for the interests of others, not looking out for our own personal interests. If we have this “roll out the red carpet” mindset toward one another, this is humility of mind….
APP: … and we would prevent pride, wouldn’t it? If we have this attitude, there would be no rivalry and selfishness and pride. And so we serve one another and care for one another and value each other’s opinions. This is the way it ought to work in the church and in the home. And we love one another by … sometimes by rebuking one another and correcting each other. And when others have needs, we seek to meet those needs. We look out for their interests.
And sometimes what is in their best interest is to be rebuked for their sin, or in some cases, to overlook their sin. In either case, it’s done out of love.
TRANS: Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d like to see a real life picture of this. I like to see this in action. Paul gives us one…Christ himself! Christ himself was this way when he came to us in the incarnation. So verses 5-8, we have the example of humility.
The Example of Humility (Phil. 2:5-8)
Philippians 2:5-8 5 Have this attitude in yourselves [what attitude? This same humble attitude as I described, says Paul…this humble attitude] which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but […He Himself, as it were, got in the trunk!…or better, the stable in a manger… He] emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Now, as you can see we are not detailing these verses this morning but to simply relay the overarching point, which again is that humility empowers unity. And the incarnation is the example.
And so this Christmas season, where we celebrate the incarnation, that God took on the likeness of sinful flesh … This time of year reminds us of … have you thought of it this way … it reminds us of the humility of God. God himself in the incarnation is providing the example for us to follow.
And I like to think of the incarnation here as a stairstep, where each line is a step down.
Philippians 2:6-8 6 who, although He existed in the form of God [….that simple means he is God, not that that was his form, but that it was really the case. The word “form” here refers to who he really is, His essence, His nature. His nature is that He is God! …And although He is in His very nature God….keep going …. He], did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped [King James says … “thought it not robbery to be equal with God”…In other words, He didn’t regard equality with God….He didn’t regard that reality as something to use for his own advantage …, In other words, he wasn’t proud he did not have selfish ambition, but instead….verse 7 …. He], 7 … emptied Himself [and everybody wants to know … He emptied himself of what? And the answer is that he emptied himself of himself of using His equality with God for His own advantage…He emptied himself of that…. Again the context is one of humility and not being selfish … So he emptied himself of “self” and instead, keep going … he ], taking the form [the real essence of, the nature…God the Son took on the true nature …] of a bond-servant [a self-made slave], and being made in the likeness of men [he actually was made into man, but sinless humanity]. 8 Being found in appearance as a man [We saw him to be a man because He really became a man…when that happened], He humbled Himself [even God the Son humbled Himself how? …. ] by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
So God himself is the example in the incarnation of the humility that motivates and empowers unity in any assembly.
ILL: And you know the guy in the trunk in my earlier illustration, he may not dare even to die for the one he serves. But Christ humbled himself to the point that he went to his death, yes, even the death of the shameful cross to die, not for prestigious people, but for even sinful, poor people.
Romans 5:7-8 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Paul’s example of Christ in the incarnation is more empowering than the guy in the trunk!
And so because of the example of the incarnation, there is absolutely no room for pride and rivalry and self-seeking in a local assembly. Anyone in a local assembly who thinks of himself as being something when he is nothing and seeks a position, not out of grace, but out of pride and rivalry … Trying to climb the ladder, stepping on people to get it… Though this individual give gifts to others at Christmas time, the Bible would say he does not know God in the incarnation. He has no idea the magnitude of the work of God in the incarnation.
TRANS: Now, if you take this humble attitude with you, you won’t be in the trunk for long! No, this humble attitude is the path of life!
ILL: Martin Luther is credited with telling a tale of two mountain goats who met each other on a narrow ledge just wide enough for one of the animals to pass. On the **left** was a vertical cliff of some distance, and on the **right** a steep wall. The two were facing each other, and it was impossible to turn or to back up.
How did they solve their difference of opinion? If they had been sinful humans, they would have started butting each other with their horns until they plunged into the chasm together. But according to Luther, the goats had humility… One of them lay down on the trail and let the other literally walk over him—and both were safe.
If you are humble, there are some benefits! We have some benefits in verses 9-11, the exaltation of humility. The exaltation of humility.
The Exaltation of Humility (Phil. 2:9-11)
Philippians 2:9-11 9 For this reason also [For what reason also….this reason of His humility in the incarnation… Because he humbled himself…], God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
We have the example of the incarnation for our humility and certainly the exaltation here is for our encouragement, too, as we humble ourselves. It is also written for our sakes to give the benefit of humility, exaltation!
James says … James 4:10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
It’s interesting to note that in Philippians 2:9, the word for exalt is, you could say, a super exaltation. An exalting to the highest height. And in James 4:10, it’s the same word without the ‘super’ at the beginning of the word.
But this shows that we can be certain that as we humble ourselves before the Lord, he will exalt us. He super exalted the Lord, and he will exalt us, too, nonetheless….but not every knee will bow to us thankfully, but only to Him, since he is the only one super exalted…
And certainly in the end, every knee will bow to him and every tongue will confess that he is Lord…whether they do so in this life or the next… and as we humble ourselves and confess that He is Lord and seek not only our own interests, but also the interest of others, he will exalt us, too.
And this shows you another one of the paradoxes, this one in Christian living: “The way up, is the way down.” “Humiliation is the only path to exaltation.” All other paths that promise exaltation, only lead to humiliation. It’s like Jesus said, “If you lose your life for me and the gospel’s sake, you will save it.”
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Philippians 2.1-11.sermon
And so this example of Christ proves that Christians will one day share in Christ’s glory. If you humble yourself before Him, you, too, will be exalted.
If you have trusted Christ alone and have hated your sin, and God has, Phil. 1:29 granted it you and has declared you righteous in his sight, you will share in His exaltation…
Romans 8:17 …[as] children, [we are] heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.;
2 Thessalonians 2:14 It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ
2 Timothy 2:12 If we endure, we will also reign with Him;
And in the end Christ
Philippians 3:21 … will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.
The incarnation is the supreme example of humility. It is that example that motivates humility, which in turn motivates our unity towards one another. To gain humility, understand the incarnation. So this we say then that you conduct your life as a worthy citizen of the kingdom of heaven and you be spiritually one with your brothers and sisters in Christ here… And let Christ in his humble incarnation be your example.
93 Merry XMAS!