Pastor David B. Curtis


Having the Attitude of Christ

Philippians 2:3-11

Delivered 05/25/2014

This morning we are going to look at what it means to have the attitude of Christ. Paul tells the Philippians to:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Yeshua, Philippians 2:5 NASB

This was written to the Philippian Christians in the first century, does it still apply to us? Yes, I believe it does. That may seem like a silly question to you. You may be thinking, "Well it's in the Bible so of course it applies to us." If that's the case are you looking forward to Timothy's arrival?:

But I hope in the Lord Yeshua to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. Philippians 2:19 NASB

If you are not looking forward to Timothy's arrival, it's because you understand that Paul is not talking to us in this verse, but to the first century Christians in Philippi. We must apply this thinking to the whole book of Philippians and to the rest of the Bible. This book was not written to us, but to the first century believers in Philippi. This is the hermanutical principle of audience relevance. The Bible was not written TO us, but it was written FOR us. We must first seek to understand what it meant to its original audience and then seek to understand what applies to us. I'm not waiting for Timothy because he was to come to them shortly, and what was shortly to them is ancient history to us. But when the Philippian believers are told to have the attitude of Christ, I see this as applying to all Christians. I think that Yahweh wants all believers to have the attitude of Christ. He wants His people to display the attitude of His Son. He wants all of us to be like Christ.

The word "attitude" here is the Greek word phroneo, which means: "To think, to exercise the mind, to have an opinion or attitude." The position of the pronoun "this" is emphatic and shows that the exhortation reaches back to 2:3-4 for its definition. The attitude that is being called for is the one of verses 3-4, which is one of humility:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 NASB

Here Paul calls believers to have a mind, attitude, or thinking of humility, which was Christ's attitude. This whole chapter is about humility.

What is humility? Humility is first a feeling toward God that He has absolute rights over your life--that He can do with you as He pleases and that He has absolute authority to tell you what is best for you--and that's just fine with you. It is a spirit of utterly yielding and submitting to the Lord as master. The humble person sees him self as clay in the Potter's hands.

The Bible teaches us that Humility is dependance:

"You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. "He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. Deuteronomy 8:2-3 NASB

Man lives in dependance upon God, and understanding this is humility. Pride is self-sufficient. This will affect our attitude towards our fellow man, because if we are conscience of our entire dependence on God for all our abilities, we will be humble about them.

Secondly, humility means feeling indebted to all people because of how graciously Yahweh has treated us. It's the opposite of feeling that everybody owes you something ---owes you an ear or owes you strokes or owes you time. Now, of course, there are relationships in which those things may be true--someone may in fact owe you something. But the more you are driven by what others owe you rather than by what you owe them in love and service, the less humble you are.

Humility towards others is demonstrated in our seeing them as more important then ourselves:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 NASB

This way of thinking is very much against the grain in our culture, which is extremely self-centered. We are still a part of the "me-generation." But, even though many folks claim it is their right to be selfish if that is what they want to do, we don't admire that quality in others. We like people who are interested in us, not just in themselves. We listen to people who talk about our concerns, not just their own. Therapists report that inmates of mental institutions say, "I" or "me" twelve times more often than residents of the outside world. As their conditions improve, the patients use the personal pronoun less often. It is no surprise that a Christian who is constantly talking about himself or herself, doesn't have much impact on other people.

You have to see others as more important than you are. That is a challenge. I mean, you battle your pride on that one incessantly. To be able to see others as more important than yourselves is a major spiritual victory. But that's what it takes. Don't be selfish, don't be conceited. With humility of mind, regard others as more important than yourself.

When asked what were the three most important Christian virtues, Augustine replied, "Humility, humility, and humility." Yet, this great virtue is in rather short supply in our culture. Even very good people seem to have a hard time being really humble.

Humility is not a popular human trait in the modern world. It's not touted in the talk shows or celebrated in valedictorian speeches or commended in diversity seminars or listed with core values. And if you go to the massive self-help section of Dalton's or Barnes and Noble, you won't find books on humility.

Before Christ came into the world, the worst thing that could be said about a man was that he was humble. That was considered to be a quality of a slave, not a free man. Christ came teaching a new concept. The way up is down. To be exalted, men must humble themselves. He illustrated this principle throughout His life and ministry. And He called us, as believers, to walk in humility.

Let me say a few words about humility and self-esteem. Many folks think helping people build greater self-esteem is the most important thing we can do for them. I doubt that it is the case. We need to remember that studies show that about 80% of the American people believe they are more intelligent, more honest, and more talented than the average person. Now, perhaps some of the other 20% struggle with low self-esteem, but it is clear that is not the problem for many folks. Biblical humility is not the same thing as low self-esteem, however. Yeshua, Paul, and the other apostles were very humble people, but I think it is obvious that they had a very healthy self-esteem. Humble people are really those who esteem, or think of themselves accurately. As Christians, our goal should not be low self-esteem, or high self-esteem, but humility, which is simply a realistic view of who we are--we're sinners who have become God's saints through Yeshua's death on the cross in our place.

All of chapter two centers around verses 3-4, which is a call to humility. In Philippians 2:5-11, we have an illustration of a proper attitude of humility. This is amazing when you understand what is in these verses. They deal with the incarnation, kenosis, and hypostatic union of Christ. Paul is not looking at these incredible doctrines for their own sake, but as an illustration of humility. The main point is to show the humility of Yahweh becoming man. Here you see self-sacrifice, self-denial, self-giving and humble love. Verse 5 is a transition from exhortation to illustration:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Yeshua, Philippians 2:5 NASB

We are to learn from Christ and His example of humility. We can only learn from Him as we study Him through His Word. In Philippians 2: 6-8, we have the decent of Christ to humiliation:

who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:6-8 NASB

These verses are talking about the incarnation. John put it this way:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 NASB

The "Word" is Yeshua as is made clear in:

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 NASB

The "Word became flesh" has been expressed by the theological term "Incarnation," which comes from two Latin words "in" plus "cargo" meaning: "infleshment, the act of assuming flesh." God chose to become united to true humanity. The incarnation came about through the miracle of the virgin birth.

At the incarnation, God the Son, the Second person of the one triune God, was forever joined to true humanity. This joining together has been designated as the hypostatic union. Hupostasis means: "substance or essence." In theological language, it means: "person." So the doctrine of the hypostatic union is the doctrine of the personal union of the two natures, the divine and the human, of the Lord Yeshua the Christ.

Yeshua Christ is 100% God and 100% man. This is where we get the theological term "theanthropic," which comes from theos, which means: "God and anthropos," which means: "man." Yeshua Christ is the God-Man. He is One person with two natures.

Yeshua is One person with Two natures, we cannot illustrate this in the human realm. Yeshua is different from God in that He is mankind, and different from mankind in that He is God. Yeshua is the unique person of the universe. He is the God-Man.

If you have trouble wrapping your head around the doctrine of the Hypostatic union, you're not alone. Daniel Webster, the 19th-century statesman, once dined in Boston with several eminent literary figures. Soon the conversation turned to Christianity. Webster, a convinced Christian, confessed his belief in Christ and His atoning work. A Unitarian minister at the table responded, "Mr. Webster, can you comprehend how Yeshua Christ could be both God and Man?"

"No, sir, I cannot understand it," replied Webster, "and I would be ashamed to acknowledge Christ as my Savior if I could comprehend it. He could be no greater than myself, and such is my conviction of accountability to God, my sense of sinfulness before Him, and my knowledge of my own incapacity to recover myself, that I feel I need a superhuman Savior."

who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, Philippians 2:6 NASB

This verse answers the question, "What was Christ like before his incarnation?" Two Greek words answer this question, "existed" and "form." The word "existed" is the Greek word huparcho, it is a verb that stresses the essence of a person's nature, it is to express the continued state of a thing, it is unalterable and unchangeable. Paul said, "Yeshua unalterably and unchangeably exists in the form of God." This speaks of His pre-existence.

The word "form" is morphe. It has nothing to do with shape or size:

"God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." John 4:24 NASB
"See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." Luke 24:39 NASB

Yahweh is not to be thought of in human terms. Multin and Millagan say that "morphe" is a form which truly and fully expresses the being which under lies it. It refers to the essence or essential being. Yeshua pre-existed in the essence of God.

Let's compare two Greek words for form. Morphe is the essential character of something. Schema is the outward form it takes. Morphe is the essential form which never alters; schema is the outward form which changes from time to time and from circumstance to circumstance.

The morphe of any human being is humanity and this never changes; but his schema is continually changing. I was a baby, a child, a boy, a youth, a teenager, an adult and someday I will be an old man. My morphe is manhood, my schema changes. Roses, daffodils, tulips, primroses, all have one morphe of flowers, but there schema is different.

The word "existed" speaks of His pre-existence. The word "form" speaks of His essence and essential nature. The word "equality" speaks of Christ being exactly equal with God in every way. The word "equality" is isos, and it means: "exactly the same, in size, quality, quantity, character and number." We use it this way in English, for example: Isomer--is a chemical molecule having a slightly different structure from another molecule, but being identical with it in terms of its chemical elements and weight. Yeshua is God. His enemies knew that He claimed to be God. There are many today who claim to be Christians who don't even know what Yeshua's enemies knew-- He claimed to be God:

For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. John 5:18 NASB

He made Himself equal with God because He was equal with God:

but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:7 NASB

"But emptied Himself"--the word "but" here is a contrastive--"not this, but this." The word "emptied" is the Greek word kenoo, it means: "to make empty." Figuratively, it means: "to abase, naturalize, to make of none effect, of no reputation."

This is what is called in theology the "Doctrine of the Kenosis" --the self-emptying of Yeshua. What did Yeshua empty Himself of? William Barclay says, "He emptied Himself of His deity to take upon Himself His humanity." If He emptied Himself of His deity, He would cease to exist. He didn't exchange His deity for humanity. "The Doctrine of the Hypostatic Union" teaches us that Yeshua had two natures, human and divine in one person. Yeshua was the Theanthropic person, the God-man. During the incarnation Yeshua was God without any change in His deity. The hypostatic union is undiminished deity and true humanity in one person forever.

And He didn't empty Himself of the attributes of deity-- it is impossible to surrender an attribute without changing the character of the essence to which it belongs. God cannot change. He is immutable!

So what did Yeshua empty Himself of?:

"Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. John 17:5 NASB

He is asking to have His glory restored because His glory was put aside when He became man. The Greek noun for "glory" here is doxa. At first the verb meant: "to appear" or "to seem," and then in time the noun doxa, that came from it, then meant: "an opinion." In time the noun was used only for having a good opinion about some person and the verb came to mean: "the praise" or "honor" due to one of whom a good opinion was held.

Our word "worth" is somewhat equal to the word "glory." The worth refers to intrinsic character. The worth of a man is his character. Have you ever heard someone say, "That person is worthless." By this they mean he has no character. The worth of God is God's glory. When we praise God, we are acknowledging His worth-ship. We shorten that word and we get worship. That is what worship is, folks, it's acknowledging God's worth.

When He became a man, He laid aside the brilliant manifestation of His glory, except for one brief moment on the mount of Transfiguration. Secondly, He veiled His glory in the sense that He did not demonstrate His attributes. He did not walk this earth in the power of deity, He walked this earth in the power of the Holy Spirit in total dependance. Christ veiled His pre-incarnate glory by taking on humanity, but He did not destroy or diminish any part of it.

He emptied Himself of the manifestation of Glory and Power. He considered the work of love a greater thing than the display of power and glory. This is how we are to act, according to verses 3-4. Why don't we? Because we think of ourselves very highly. We look upon our power and possessions and fame and reputation and we're not willing to give it up to serve others. This is pride, not humility. Compare your riches to that of the pre-incarnate Christ. Ours are a manure pile--yet we clutch it at all costs.

Paul uses a play on words in this chapter. In verse 3, he uses the word "kenodoxea" which means: "empty conciet." It is from kenoo -- "empty, and doxa -- glory." Then in verse 7, he uses "kenoo," which means: "empty himself." Paul says, "Don't be involved in empty glory, but follow the example of Christ who emptied Himself." We build ourselves up, we insist on our rights -- Christ didn't. How many things do we do in life so men will give us glory?

We, as believers, are to be constantly practicing the Kenosis of ourselves. We are to empty ourselves to make ourselves of no reputation.

Verse 7 goes on to say, "taking the form of a bond-servant"--the word "taking" is a circumstantial participle of manner. So the phrase explains how He emptied Himself "by" taking the form of a bond-servant. When he took the form of a bond-servant it veiled His glory. That is how He emptied Himself.

The word "form" is morphe, which means: "essential nature." We looked at this word in verse 6. This is not a mask or Halloween costume, He didn't pretend He was a servant. In His essential nature, He became a servant. He took the essence of a dulos-- a bond-slave.

In verse 6, we see that Christ was in the "form of God"--which refers to the possession of the essential attributes of deity. In verse 7, He takes the "form of a bond-slave"--the slavery of a person who has submitted Himself to a master, in order to do His will in every respect.

"Being made in the likeness of men"--the words "being made" emphasizes the notion of becoming, of a beginning. Do you see the contrast here from verse 6, Christ always existed in the form of God, but He came into existence in the likeness of men.

The word "likeness" is homoioma, which suggests similarity, but difference. Though His humanity was genuine, He was different from all other humans in that He was sinless:

Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:8 NASB

"Being found in appearance as a man"--the word "appearance" is schema--"outer appearance." People saw Him only as a man. Christ gave up the outward appearance of God (schema), but not the essence (morphe) of God. His glory was veiled and He looked like a man.

The reality of His humanity is emphasized in this verse. Our Lord possesses true humanity, which is just as important as His deity. To make atonement, He had to be a Theanthropic person. We see His humanity all through the New Testament, He hungered, thirsted, was tired, He wept.

"He humbled Himself"--we think of the humiliation as God becoming man, but the point of humiliation is from His status as man. Thirty years of preparation under discipline. The God-man spent thirty years in preparation for three years of ministry.

"By becoming obedient to the point of death"--the word "becoming" is the Greek ginomy. It is an instrumental particle, it indicates the means by which the action of the main verb is accomplished. The main verb is "humbled Himself." How did he do this? By becoming obedient. That is the best way to become humble-- by obedience. It was to the will of Yahweh that the obedience was given, and even when that will pointed to suffering and death, he accepted it. "Not my will," He said to His heavenly Father, "But Your will be done" (Luke 22:42).

"Even death on a the cross"--the word "even" calls attention to the shocking form of death. When we think of "Cross," we think--torture, but there are worse tortures. The point here is that the shame of the cross is worse than the physical agony.

There was no greater way in which people of the first century could express their utter disgust with a human being than by crucifying them. It was the chief, the most extreme form of human degradation that existed. It was in the fullest sense of the word an obscenity. In polite Roman society, the word "cross" was an obscenity, not to be uttered in conversation. Cicero said, "Let the very name of the cross be far removed not only from the body of a Roman citizen, but even from his thoughts, his eyes, his ears." By Jewish law, anyone who was crucified died under the curse of God.

Why did Christ do it? To be our substitute!:

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NASB

He died for US! Yeshua did all the work, all we need do is trust what He did. Luther said, "Nothing more is required of justification than to hear of Yeshua Christ and believe on Him as our Savior." Salvation is free but it wasn't cheep.

The act of the incarnation in which God became a man, the humble circumstances and suffering of Christ in life, and the supreme act of dying on the cross established Yeshua as the greatest illustration of one completely unselfish and entirely devoted to others. And remember where we started in verse 5, we are to have Christ's attitude.

The underlying thought of verses 5-8 is this: Surely, if Christ humbled Himself so very deeply, you Philippians (and all who are believers) should be constantly willing to humble yourselves in your own small way. Surely, if He became obedient to the extent of death, yes, death by a cross, you should become increasingly obedient to the divine directions, and should accordingly strive more and more to achieve in your lives the spirit of your Master, that is, the spirit of humility, which is pleasing to God.

The illustration doesn't stop at verse 8 with humility, the illustration continues on to verse 11:

For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Yeshua EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Yeshua the Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11 NASB

This is Yahweh's response to Christ's humiliation. The Gospel is not complete without the exaltation of Yeshua the Christ. The death of Christ alone did not secure our salvation. It doesn't stop at verse 8 with the cross; He has risen and returned!

The words "highly exalted" are the Greek word huperupsoo, it means: "to elevate to a surpassing position, to exalt beyond all others, to exalt to the highest, maximum majesty." This particular exaltation is so grand that this particular Greek word is not used anyplace else in the whole Bible. No one ever humbled Himself like Christ has, so not one will receive so great a reward.

The point of all this theology is to use Christ as an example. He humbled Himself and Yahweh exalted Him. The is true for you and me. This is a biblical practical principle that is applicable to all of us: He who humbles himself will be exalted. Yeshua taught this:

"Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. Matthew 23:12 NASB

It is one principle with two sides. It is a promise of being brought low to those who exalt themselves, and it is a promise of exaltation to those who humble themselves. We also see the principle in:

But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, "GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE." James 4:6 NASB

Yeshua, Peter, James, and Paul all said it. It is a biblical law--exaltation follows humiliation. Just as sure as the law of gravity, is the law that those who humble themselves will be exalted. And the one who exalts himself will be humbled.

So, believers, we are all called to have the attitude of Christ, one of humility. Humility towards Yahweh and toward our fellow man. The humble look to Yahweh to do what they cannot do themselves. It is the humble who realize that they are saved by faith alone! But the proud are trusting in their accomplishments.

The humble regard one another as more important than themselves; they do not merely look out for their own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. It is difficult for us to care about others when we do not have humility. The contrast to humility is self-sufficient arrogance; we estimate ourselves above other people.

John Stott calls humility: "the rarest and fairest of all Christian virtues...because it is the exact opposite of the vilest of sins, which is pride." True humility is a right understanding of our position with God and others.

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