Joy in Understanding Christ’s Great Sacrifice (Philippians 2:5-11)

Philippians 2:5-11 is the passage that will be studied and the theme of this passage is joy in understanding Christ’s great sacrifice. The goal of this bible study is that the readers will peak into an in-depth look on how Christ displayed great humility and obedience through His great sacrifice for His believers. There will be several word studies included in this paper which will deepen the passage and more descriptively show the magnitude of Christ’s sacrifice for His children. The background and context will also be addressed, as it is important to know the circumstances that led Paul to write this book. Ultimately, this Bible study is intended for the reader’s spiritual growth by looking at how Christ’s sacrifice can give His believers joy.

Background and Context
Many people in this world live by happiness, and therefore they live their lives as a roller coaster. Someone who gets promoted for a job, or gets married, or has an abundance of wealth is happy for a time. Note the phrase “for a time”, because eventually happiness comes to an end. Marriages fail, people get fired, and money cannot make you happy forever. Paul, however, gives the solution to the “up and down” nature of life. Paul, who was put under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:30-31), was not in the midst of “happy” circumstances. Yet he wrote a letter on the topic of joy. Somehow, Paul was able to find joy in the midst of this persecution, and he wrote to the church of Philippi discussing the topic of joy, and how the church can find their joy in God. The church of Philippi was dear to Paul’s heart, and he admired their walk with God. This church had a very poor background, yet they still gave liberally. Unfortunately, not much is written of the church of Philippi after the post-apostolic era. Much of the history of this church can be found in Acts. On his second missionary journey, Paul founded this church eleven years before he wrote this letter to them (Acts 16:11-40). Paul had a number of reasons to write to Philippi, which all center around the theme of joy. In chapter two, the theme is joy through unity or joy in spite of people. He explains how they should be unified through humility and love (2:1-4), and then demonstrates how Christ was our example in doing this (2:5-11). In Philippians 1:27-30, Paul tells the Philippian church to stand strong against external conflicts, but in Philippians 2 he focuses on internal conflicts. In the first four verses he speaks of believers being unified, and then shows how Christ was unified in God. The focus of this paper will be joy in understanding Christ’s great sacrifice.

First, Christ demonstrated joy through humility. This humility is displayed through His thought life and His actions. First, His thought life. In verse five, Paul writes that He did not consider it robbery to be equal with God. Therefore, as Unger describes in his dictionary that humility is not thinking of oneself lower than they should, but it is a right estimation of oneself. It is not a depressing view of oneself, as the world thinks. It is not a view that is promoted in our Western culture. In his Greek New Testament commentary, Peter O’Brien writes, “‘The verb (humility) used with the reflexive pronoun , means ‘to humble oneself, since the pronounce indicates that the action was free and voluntary.’” Therefore, this was a deliberate decision for Jesus to humble Himself, and He was not humbled. Humility is a trait the world laughs at, but Jesus took joy in humility. Therefore, it is right for a Christian to think of himself as he ought, and that is not a high thought. However, through the grace of God, Christians can realize that they can make an impact in this world. Christ enables believers to joyfully realize they are nothing without Him, but this does not make them of value. Conversely, thinking lowly of oneself and thinking highly of Christ is the highest value a believer can put on oneself. Second, He also took upon him the form of a servant. Warren Wiersbe in his commentary of Philippians shows that Paul admonishes the church to be like minded and unified with one another, because there were false teachers from without in chapter three, and disagreement from within in chapter four. Paul commands them to esteem other people better than themselves, and Jesus Christ was the ultimate example of doing this. The Creator of the universe came down from Heaven, to take on flesh, and to make Himself of no reputation. One of the greatest acts of humility can be found in John 13. He knew his time was coming where He would have to die for the people He created and rejected Him. Yet, instead of thinking of Himself, He taught His disciples a very valuable lesson. He began to wash their feet. This was their Rabbi. Yet He did the job that was the job of a servant. Indeed, this is a glimpse into the heart of Jesus, the same heart that led Him to the cross. He was a servant at heart, and, although the world looks at servitude as lowly, God esteems it highly. In fact, since the beginning, pride has been the root of all sin. Lucifer fell because he wanted to be like God, Adam fell because he doubted God’s goodness, and pride has plagued our world to the point it is viewed as “good”. Yet, here was Jesus Christ, equal with God, and He demonstrated humility through constantly serving others, even to the point of the death on the cross. This is certainly an admonishment for believers around the world to “take up their cross” and follow Jesus. Through His demonstration of humility, there is much joy to be found, and believer should follow his example by estimating themselves rightly, and then demonstrating humility.
Second, Jesus demonstrated joy by being obedient to God. God the Father had a very high task for Jesus: exchange Heaven for the earth, exchange love for persecution, exchange life for His eventual death. Yet, even at this request, it pleased Jesus to please His Father. According to Strong’s Concordance, the word “obedient” in Greek is hupakouo. Meaning, “attentively listening, i.e. (by implication) submissive — obedient.” Indeed, Jesus was submissive to His Father even to the point of the death of the cross. His obedience knew no limits. Believers must follow this example of obedience to God through submission to Him. There are many examples in the Bible of obedience and disobedience. In the Old Testament times, there were many examples of those who obeyed, had to endure, and eventually prospered. For instance, Joseph was sold into slavery for doing nothing wrong. Then, when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him, he fled from temptation. Yet, he was thrown into prison. However, in at least two ways it is more joyful to obey than to disobey. While it is true that Joseph had to suffer for around thirteen years, he was eventually rewarded and was made second in command. There are many stories in the Bible like that. It is a corrupt and an unjust world, so believers suffer hardship as a result of sin, but God is still on the throne, and He still rewards obedience even in the midst of corruption. The ultimate injustice is Jesus’ own death on the cross. His obedience resulted in much suffering for him and His obedience led Him to His eventual death on the cross. Yet, even in the midst of this, there was joy. Certainly, while the crown of thorns was being shoved into His head, or while he was being whipped and beaten, or while he was nailed to a cross, there was no feeling of great “joy”. However, in Hebrews 12:1-2, there is joy still present. It reads. “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Dane Ortlund, in his book Gentle and Lowly writes, “‘For the joy.’ What joy? What was waiting for Jesus on the other side of the cross? The joy of seeing his people forgiven.’” Jesus knew the pain He would have to go through, but He also knew that His children could experience the forgiveness of their many sins through His sacrifice and obedience. Therefore, even though believers may have to suffer for a long time, there is still joy to be had.

This passage is one I wanted to study, because Christ’s sacrifice is what marks our lives. Paul writes in Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” And these words would be meaningless if Christ did not sacrifice Himself for us. There are two observations I have made through this study. One, is Christ’s great humility. Two, Christ’s faithfulness to God through His obedience. In Christ’s humility we discover that he is willing to come from Heaven down to earth, and He is willing to serve His disciples. He is God, yet He was able to humble himself to the lowly form of servitude. Not only that, but He died for us on the cross, which I will be eternally grateful for. I know I am a sinner who does not deserve His grace, yet He still died for me. In this there is no greater form of joy, than to know that Christ died for me. This is the centerpiece of every believer’s life, therefore I wanted to learn more of the mindset of Christ. His mindset was humility. It affects my life because if Jesus is God, and He still served us, then how much more should I learn to serve others? If Jesus was willing to take up His cross, then how much more should I be willing to take up my cross and follow Him? His love is something that we can never understand, and the cross is the emblem of love. Because He died for me, and because He loves me, then I should learn to not only love Him, but also people I do not like. He was spat on, betrayed, tortured, and yet He asked the Father to forgive them of their sins. Therefore, if I get betrayed, or if I get persecuted even to death, I should still be obedient to God and humble myself. To conclude, Jesus Christ gave us the greatest sacrifice of all time, and it should enable all of us to walk in unity. Which was the admonishment that Paul gave to the Philippians in the earlier part of the chapter. If we all display the love that Jesus had, then we will have unity among believers.

Paul was writing to the church of Philippi because they were struggling with unity among themselves. Then, in verses 5-11, Paul gave an example of the sacrifice of the mindset of Christ, by not thinking too highly of Himself and also thinking of others. In this way Christ showed believers how to be unified by thinking of others. Then, even though He had to endure the cross, there was still joy in the pain, because He was offering a way of eternal life to His children. In this way, humility and obedience are tied in together. To conclude, Jesus Christ gave us the greatest sacrifice of all time, and it should enable all of his believers to walk in unity. This was the admonishment that Paul gave to the Philippians in the earlier part of the chapter. If they display the love that Jesus had, then they will be unified amongst themselves.

By David Mandarano