Imitating the Mind of Christ

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5-11

At The Name of Jesus

Paul purports a high Christology. He is enamored with the person, the ministry, and the position of Jesus Christ. He maintains that the only way the Church of Jesus Christ can live up to its mandate in unity is by modeling Christ-like behavior. In the previous sections, Paul pleads with the Philippians to forgo “their personal ambitions and their pride and their desire for prominence and prestige, and to have in their hearts that humble, selfless desire to serve, which was the essence of the life of Christ.” Paul is seemingly obsessed with Christians imitating Christ. In Romans 12:2, he tells the believers to be transformed by the renewing of their mind so they can be like Christ. In Ephesians 5:1, he exhorts the believers to be imitators of God, as beloved children. He personally wanted to live like Christ, suffer like him, and even die like him. Paul believed that when a person accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, they are a new creature that is transformed into the image of Christ. In verse 6, he begins his commentary about what it means to have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. He first states that Jesus being in very nature God. The KJV says, “being in the form of God. “Two words are most carefully chosen to show the unchangeable Godhead of Jesus Christ. The word which the King James Version translates being is from the Greek verb huparchein, which is not the common Greek word for "being.” That word describes the unchangeable nature of a person. Essentially, Paul begins by saying that Jesus was essentially and unalterably God. Jesus’ divine nature did not change despite his humanity.

The second word in that phrase is “form.” There are two Greek words for form, morphe, and schema. They must both be translated form because there is no other English equivalent, but they do not mean the same thing. Morphe is the necessary form which never alters; schema is the outward form which changes from time to time and from circumstance to circumstance. For example, the morphe of any human being is human, and this never changes, but his schema is continually changing. A baby, a child, a boy, a youth, a man of middle age, an old man, etc.” In verse 6, Paul uses the Greek word morphe to speak of Jesus as being in the “form” of God. This is to highlight that Jesus’ unchangeable being was divine. His schema changed as he went from a baby in a manger to a man sacrificed on a cross; however, his morphe remained in essence, divine. In the second part of verse 6, Paul drops another profound Christological statement. He says Jesus consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage. The KJV says, did not think it robbery to be equal with God. From the “Koin” (Greek New Testament), it can be read that “Jesus did not regard existence in equality with God as something to be snatched at.” “The word used for robbery, which we have translated a thing to be snatched at, is harpagmos which comes from a verb meaning to snatch, or to clutch. The phrase can mean one of two things, both of which are at heart the same. (a) It can mean that Jesus did not need to snatch at equality with God because he had it as a right. (b) Or that he did not clutch at equality with God, as if to hug it jealously to himself, but laid it willingly down for the sake of humanity. However, we take this; it once again stresses the essential Godhead of Jesus.”

In verse 7, Paul says that he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant. The KJV says, Jesus “made himself of no reputation.” Paul uses the Greek kenoun that means to empty. That word “can be used of removing things from a container until the container is empty; of pouring something out, until there is nothing left. Here Paul uses the most vivid possible word to make clear the sacrifice of the Incarnation. The glory of divinity Jesus gave up willingly to become a human being. He emptied himself of his deity to take upon himself his humanity.” Paul continues to say that Jesus took the morphe (form) of a slave. Paul uses that word to indicate “when Jesus became human, it was no play-acting but reality. He was not like the Greek gods, who sometimes, so the stories ran, became men but kept their divine privileges. Jesus truly became human. But there is something more here. He was made in the likeness of men; he became like men. The word which the King James Version translates made and which we have translated became is a part of the Greek verb ginesthai. This verb describes a state that is not permanent. The idea is that of becoming, and it describes a changing phase that is completely real but which passes. That is to say, the manhood of Jesus was not permanent; it was utterly real, but it passed.” In verse 8, Paul reiterates that Jesus was found in the appearance of a man. In other words, Jesus was a man anatomically though he retained his divine morphe. He was unmistakably male. Moreover, he was a humbled man who remained obedient unto death for the redemption of sinners.

In verse 9, Paul uses the adverb “therefore” to indicate that because of the emptying of Christ and his willingness to humble himself to death, though he retained his divine morphe, God, the Father, “made certain that someday, sooner or later, every living creature in all the universe, in heaven, in the earth and even in hell, would worship him.” “Further, Paul says that, as a consequence of his sacrificial love, God gave Jesus the name which is above every name. What then is the new name given to Jesus Christ? We cannot be quite certain what exactly was in Paul's mind, but most likely, the new name is Lord. One of the common biblical ideas is the giving of a new name to mark a new stage in a man's life. Abram became Abraham when he received the promise of God (Genesis 17:5). Jacob became Israel when God entered into a new relationship with him (Genesis 32:28). The promise of the Risen Christ to both Pergamos and to Philadelphia is the promise of a new name (Revelation 2:17; Revelation 3:12).” In the early Church, Jesus was known by the great title of Kurios, Lord. This word or title has an illuminating history. It began by meaning master or owner. After that, it became the official title of the Roman Emperors. That title also became the title of the heathen gods in the pagan world. It was the word by which the Hebrew Jehovah was translated in the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures. Therefore, by calling Jesus Kurios, Lord, it meant that he was the Master and the Owner of all life; he was the King of kings; he was the Lord in a way in which the heathen gods and the dumb idols could never be; he was and remained the Sovereign Lord and creator of all things.

Application

This is an impressive Christological commentary. Many Christians do not fully comprehend the identity of Christ. The more we understand who our Savior is, the easier it becomes to proclaim his mighty name. The point is that Jesus is unique in every way. He cannot be compared with any other deity or religious leader. For a starter, he did not create a religion. He embodied the fullness of God.

As I read Paul’s theological commentary about Jesus, I am even more determined to proclaim that awesome name. Indeed, the world needs to know what a mighty God we serve in the person of Jesus Christ. The purpose of the great commission is precisely that we might proclaim that name all over the world.

This is an excellent evangelism text to share with those who wonder why the fuss about Jesus. Whereas it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict and convince people to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, it is our responsibility to explain to them why we confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts that Jesus is God. The most powerful evangelism tool is our personal testimony.

In verse 11, Paul reminds the Philippians that every tongue will confess that Jesus is Kurios, Lord. Everyone has the freedom to decide whether Jesus is their Lord. However, the time will come when followers and haters will have to acknowledge the lordship of Christ. Until then, we have to continue to share the good news of his gospel so sinners can be saved.

Prayer

Blessed Lord, thank you for sending Jesus to be our redeemer and our Savior.

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