Philippians 2.17-18 – A Drink Offering

After writing that the believers at Philippi ought to be shining as lights in the world, Paul now adds what he is willing to add to the faith life of the Philippians. 

He says that he will be glad and rejoice with them all even if [he was] to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of their faith (v.17). A drink offering (Numbers 15.4-5, 28.7) usually accompanied another sacrifice and enriched what was already given. So, in this case, Paul says the sacrificial offering of the Philippians is their faith and its service, their serving God and His purposes. If Paul is to be imminently martyred (as his grammar indicates), he is urging the Philippians to be glad and rejoice (v.18). 

Paul is willing to be poured out as a drink offering to enrich the faith life of the Philippians,

and he wants them to rejoice and be joyful over this (cf. 1.19-26).

 As for Paul and the Philippians, so for Jesus and you. He was willing to be poured out for you, He was willing to go beyond that and actually be the sacrifice, not simply enrich something else. This, of course, we cannot ever emulate for others. But, we can today certainly consider who around us we can enrich and encourage and equip and edify as a drink offering. As Paul was willing to do for the Philippians, go and be willing to do for someone today!

Seven Signs – John 5.1-9

In John 5.1-9 we see the third sign, miracle, or wonder in John’s gospel. The main point of miracle, what the sign is pointing to is that Jesus’ Word and will are enough.

 For you, for me, for us, this is freeing, liberating, and invigorating. The burden of trying to get things done, trying to make sure that everything and everyone in our lives is healthy and well and taken care of is not on us anymore. 

The man at the centre of this sign had been, as we read, invalid/disabled for many years. Without Jesus being present and active in his life, he was always going to be like that. This shows us that we’re hopeless and helpless without Him. The man was at the very edge of healing, as close and as ready as he could possibly and humanly be, but all of his unsuccessful efforts to get into the pool had only made it more and more obvious that his earthly efforts were never going to save him, heal him, or restore him.  

In the same way, for you and for me, working towards salvation ourselves will leave us like this man was; unable to actually get there. We might feel close, but in reality, we’re not. As that old saying goes, so close yet so far (at least we feel close). 

This man was hanging on to former traditions, man-centred religious traditions and teachings, but was powerfully confronted by a Saviour who simply said to him, ‘do you want to be made well, do you want to be healed…’.

Just think, that man could well have said ‘Well, you know, if I wait long enough I’m sure my day will come and I will work myself to healing, restoration, wellness‘, but he didn’t.

For you, what are you waiting for?

Why are you waiting?

Why are you waiting and being content with how things are? 

Jesus is saying get up, lift up whatever has been your safety net, your crutch, your bed, and be active, go, do, walk.

Just like this man needed someone to heal him, we need someone to save us.

Just like this man needed someone to save him from his limitations, we need someone to save us from ours. Compared to the physical infirmities, the sin-stained consequences we need saving from are far more serious and far more pressing.

Just like this man was offered healing and help by Jesus, we too are offered healing and help by Jesus. There is never a guarantee of physical healing in the Word (spiritual healing and restoration, yes, cf. Joel 2.32, Romans 10.13, John 3.16, Ephesians 2.8-9, John 5.24, Revelation 3.20, we could go on and on…), but just think, if Jesus can heal a lifetime of disability simply by His Word and His will, what can He do for you? 

Just like this man heard, believed, obeyed, and acted, we are called to do the same. 

So, what is enough for you? Are you looking for spectacular spectacles, or are you earnestly and with all your heart, mind, soul, and spirit pursuing the Word and will of Jesus?

Philippians 2.14-16 – Shine as Lights

How concerned are you for other people? Honestly, truthfully, how often do you think about other people and their welfare? Here in vv.14-16 we really see Paul’s pastoral heart on show for the saints in Christ Jesus who [were] at Philippi.

Paul wants to know that they have heard him, understood him, and are doing something about it (v.16b). He is concerned that they are taking seriously his words to work out your own salvation. He implores them not to make the same grumbling or disputing mistakes as rebellious Israel did whilst wandering (Deuteronomy 32.5), and writes that this kind of behaviour is part of the command, essentially, from v.12. Part of working out our own salvation, then, is to be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish.

We know that being blameless in the eyes of God comes only from having put faith in Jesus and from nothing we can do in our own strength, don’t we, but here Paul is focusing on this truth’s outworking in our lives. 

Almost as an assumption he writes that the behaviour of the believer is to be different among those whom grumble or dispute, so different that believers shine as lights in the world. 

Notice Paul doesn’t encourage the Philippians to shine, rather assumes that they already are shining as lights in the world. 

So, believer, are you shining as a light in the world? Are you doing your earthly best to not grumble or dispute, to be blameless and innocent…in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation? 

Again, this is assumed, not encouraged. Think of it as part of your witness, the evidence you give to the world that you are a believer, the fruit you bare that shows others what the Christian life looks like. D.Martyn Lloyd Jones wrote on this in his book ‘Spiritual Depression’ and said, loosely, that not to live like this is a pretty woeful witness. 

So friends, go today and shine as lights in the world!

Philippians 2.12-13 – Sovereignty and Free Will

Many times we are told that God can either be this or that, but that He cannot be both. Same for our lives, really. In some instances, this is absolutely correct. So, God cannot be both good and evil. God cannot be both darkness and light. They are contradictions and God is absolutely non-contradictory. But sometimes, this and that do go together. One case, I’m going to suggest, is that He is totally Sovereign yet a respecter of your free will. 

Paul writes in v.12 that we are to work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling. He doesn’t mean that we work to earn it (that would contradict what he wrote elsewhere), but that we are to use this wonderful gift ourselves, activate it, put it to work in our lives. This takes decision and action in your life, doesn’t it, this takes you exercising your own free will to do so.

But, in v.13 he writes that this is to be done for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Exercising our own free will is the what, and the why is here, because it is God who works in you. God works in you, so, use His Sovereignty and power and energies to work out your own salvation. 

This might seem confusing; a Sovereign God works in me (v.13), and because of this I am to work as hard as I can to live a completely Christian life (v.12). David Guzik wrote this, 

‘Those that are really God’s servants use their understanding of His sovereignty and omnipotence as a motivation for greater, more dedicated service to Him.’

God’s Sovereignty and our own free will are not as opposite as we might have been led to believe. They can and do work together. Simply, because we are serving a life giving, never ending, totally in control, ever flowing spring of omnipotence in a Sovereign God we are to take this and use this and put this to work in our own lives. As Paul writes here, it is God who works in you…so work out your own salvation!

Philippians 2.1-11 – Who Are We Talking About?

Today, I’m going to challenge you to read something a little longer, and a little deeper about this passage. This is something I wrote a couple of years ago and since has been published by the GoodLion Network. It was written in response to an essay titled ‘Christ, Adam and Preexistence Revisited’, by Lincoln D. Hurst, found in a book called ‘Where Christology Began: Essays on Philippians 2’.

The passage of Philippians 2.1-11 seems to have been a source of contention for those on both sides of the orthodox fence, so to speak. On the one hand, we have those who say Jesus cast aside His Deity to become fully human. On the other, those who say that Jesus added humanity to His Deity. The heretical teachings to come from this are as vast as they are varied, so, what is the truth?

Hurst begins by stating the main line of enquiry to be followed;

‘…does the passage refer to the action of a preexistent being who “empties himself” and “becomes” man, or does it refer from start to finish to the action of a human being, Jesus of Nazareth?’

Hurst then goes on to write that for the most part, scholarly opinion agrees that the ‘…referent of the language is the preexistent Christ…’. 

I must admit, although Bible scholar I am not, that this would be my own interpretation of this passage too; that the preexistent Christ is being discussed, not simply His human nature and body post-incarnation. When you really stop and think about the wider narrative of God’s Word, separating the man Jesus from the Divine Jesus seems to jar with the consistent message of the theanthropic Godman (John 1.14, 8.58, Colossians 2.9, 2 John 1.7, 10.30, Hebrews 2.14). 

It is not surprising, then, given the dual-natured theanthropic person of Christ, that some may suggest that here in Philippians 2.1-11 the human natured, physical bodied Jesus of Nazareth is being discussed. It almost goes without saying that wherever there are two or more possibilities of a certain line of thinking, there will be two or more groups form who will then put forward their case for their own interpretation. So simply, some will argue for the passage being about Divine Jesus, others will argue for human Jesus.

Hurst does a fine job of detailing the position of J.D.G. Dunn who asserts that the hymn of Philippians 2 is, in fact, dealing with the human nature of Christ, rather than Christ in His preexistent Deity, the ‘anthropological approach’, as Hurst titles it. 

Charles C. Ryrie, in his book ‘A Survey of Bible Doctrine’ writes with great clarity on the kenosis of the Divine Christ. He states,

‘The meaning of Philippians 2:1-11 has been greatly debated in relation to the person of the incarnate Christ.’

Immediately, then, Ryrie seems to be of the position that the preexistent person of the Divine Jesus is the subject of the hymn, rather than the human natured Jesus of Nazareth. The second half of the quoted statement, in particular, gives this impression. To elucidate in the simplest possible way, the human natured human being of Jesus of Nazareth simply cannot be described as the person of the incarnate Christ.

The dispute, in the mind of Ryrie at least, seems to be around the kenosis (a Greek word found in v.7), the act of emptying, rather than the vessel that is to be emptied, human or Divine. Interestingly, as he continues this line of thinking, Ryrie writes that the kenosis of Christ does not mean emptying or losing at all, rather, it means that Christ took on humanity. He states,

‘… the kenosis cannot be understood to mean a subtraction of deity but the addition of humanity with its consequent limitations.’.

A seminary professor of mine phrased it like this – in the incarnation, there was no loss of Deity, only the addition of humanity.

To elaborate a little further on the doctrine of kenosis, as it ties in so well with the aforementioned point, Ryrie writes,

‘The concept involves the veiling of Christ’s preincarnate glory (Jn 17:5), the condescension of taking on Himself the likeness of sinful flesh (Ro 8:3), and the voluntary nonuse of some of His attributes of deity during the time of His earthly life (Mt 24:36).’ (1972, P59).

Clear to see, then, the weight of evidence and logic behind the position that the referent of the passage of Philippians 2.1-11 is the preexistent, Divine Christ.

To further strengthen this position we can turn to Henry Clarence Thiessen, who in his excellent book ‘Lectures in Systematic Theology’ draws on something often sadly and tragically missing from Bible interpretation: proper and careful reading of the text. 

To elaborate, we must start at the beginning of what is now divided as Philippians chapter two.

‘So if there is any encouragement in christ, 

any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 

complete my joy by being of the same mind, 

having the same love, 

being in full accord and of one mind. 

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, 

but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, 

but also to the interests of others. 

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus’

(Philippians 2.1-5).

It is clear to see for the careful and proper reader of the text that we are reading here of non-physical things; encouragement, affection, sympathy (v.1), joy, the same mind, love, one mind (v.2), selfish ambition, conceit, humility (v.3), interests, the interests of others (v.4), and again, this mind (v.5). Paul then goes on to write ‘Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,’ (2.5). Clear, then, that Paul is writing about attitudes and in particular, attitudes of mind.

If, then, Paul is urging us to take on such attitudes, to adopt the aforementioned frame of mind, it goes by logical corollary that as he transitions into saying that we can do this and have this attitude through being in a right relationship with the risen Jesus (2.5), that he would go on to reference Jesus as our example of this attitude.

To exhort us to take on a specific frame of mind, but then reference some physical act of Christ which we are simply unable to emulate would seem illogical, wouldn’t it? The Bible as a flawless, inerrant and logical living piece of literature would not, I believe, exhort an attitude from you, tell you it is yours in Christ, but then display the ultimate example of Christ but in a physical sense in one sentence.

To reference the correct definition of the kenosis above, and to consolidate this position, Thiessen writes that many have misunderstood or misinterpreted and that,

‘They say that Christ emptied himself of his relative attributes…while retaining his immanent attributes…This, however, is not the case.’

When we begin to understand the kenosis correctly, we begin to see that the passage of Philippians 2.1-11 is urging us to adopt the attitude and frame of mind that Christ did, even though He in His Divine nature could not empty, change, or add to His perfect self.

As Christ voluntarily took on humanity, the ‘form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.’ (2.7), as Christ so readily and willingly demonstrated for us the attitude of humility which we should take, the attitude of humility which is to be the mark of our walk with the Lord, we see only more clearly that the referent of Philippians 2.1-11, that the subject of the contrast with Adam, is in fact the preexistent, preeminent and prestigious Divine Christ.

This flows so well when one looks to the text,

Have this mind among yourselves

which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, 

did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped’

(2.5-6).

When this passage is read with the focus on the attitude we are exhorted to have, as Thiessen alludes to, it is almost impossible not to see it this way.

On this point, David Guzik writes,

‘It is all too easy for us to read the following description of Jesus and admire it from a distance. 

God wants us to be awed by it, but also to see it as something that we must enter into and imitate. [Have this mind] means that it is something that we have choice about.’

To turn to the application of this point, as Hurst writes, the whole point and meaning behind this section is to inspire action for followers of Christ, and I believe it circles back the attitude of humility discussed above. Hurst states,

‘…Christians have rights, 

but they must be willing to surrender those rights if they clash with a greater principle, love.’.

Here the application lends itself to further strengthening the argument that the subject of the passage is actually the Divine Christ. The application calls for the humility of the believer with the model of the Divine Christ as the star to follow. 

For us to adopt this humble attitude that is so often called for in Scripture (1 Peter 5.5-6, James 1.21, Colossians 3.12, Ephesians 4.2, and many more), we look for the supreme example, and, as per usual, we find it in Jesus Christ. He,

‘…though he was in the form of God, 

did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, 

by taking the form of a servant,

being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, 

he humbled himself 

by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross’ 

(Philippians 2.6-8).

I would wholeheartedly agree with Hurst who writes that the idea of contrasting the upward grasp of Adam in the garden with the humble taking-on of humanity by Christ helps to give context and understanding to the passage of Philippians 2.1-11.

So, preexistent Christ having added humanity to His Deity, or Divine Christ casting aside His Deity to walk as a man as an example to you and me of a human in right relationship with God; one is orthodoxy, one is a rehashing of ancient heresies such as Nestorianism.

God’s Word is clear on who Jesus is, are we?