3 October 2014

Philippians 2:1-11

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” (v. 5)


Chapter two of the letter begins with a call to unity asking the people to take the commandments of Jesus seriously, asking that they should be loving and compassionate with one another and of one mind and one determination to be true to the commitment they made when they first came to faith.

Paul then spells out the life of Christ in a very poetical form (verses 6-11). Some authorities think that the words here are a fragment of a hymn that had come to be used in some of the earliest Christian communities, rather than from Paul himself. If this is so it would seem that Paul is quoting from the hymn, perhaps modified slightly, to suit his purposes, to press home the point of his sermon. The theme of the hymn is the humility and obedience of Christ, not so much as illustrating the activities he undertook in his earthly life; but more as clues to the understanding of who Jesus was. It reflects to some extent the beginning of John's Gospel (John 1:14) where we read that Christ humbled himself relinquishing his equality with God to take up human existence, exposed to the full experience of a human life before going to his death a humiliating death on a cross.

Verses six to eleven spell out in a very succinct form the very being of Christ, but also the whole purpose of his coming into the world in the way that he did. As he lived amongst the people he showed the true nature of God, being willing to obediently go to his death. The very purpose of this was that he should call all people to know him and through him glorify God himself.

The last verse of Charles Wesley's hymn Glory be to God on high reminds us that we too should rejoice in the life and being of Jesus. "We, earth's children, now rejoice, and Prince of Peace proclaim; with heaven's host lift up our voice and should Immanuel's name; knees and hearts to him we bow; of our flesh and of our bone, Jeus is our brother now, and God is all our own."

To Ponder

  • In the first verses of Chapter 2 Paul is calling on the people to be people of unity, and of the same mind. To what extent do you think that the churches should in our day speak with one voice to enable the world to believe?
  • How far do you find that the 'hymn' form of verses 6 to 11 is helpful as a concise way of spelling out the gospel?
  • If you could write your own poem about the person of Jesus how would it begin?

Bible notes author

The Revd Pat Billsborrow

Pat Billsborrow is a supernumerary minister in the Northwich and Winsford Circuit, and is at present part of a district ministry team working within that circuit with pastoral care of four churches. She is ecumenical officer in the Cheshire part of the Chester and Stoke on Trent Methodist District.