Lesson

Regard Others Before Yourself (Philippians 2:1-11)

Bible Passage: Philippians 2:1-11

This is a well known passage that includes an ancient christological hymn. It is one of the clearest teachings in the New Testament on the nature of the incarnation, emphasising that though Jesus was truly God, he did not lean on his divine nature but humbled himself in becoming human, and submitting to the shameful death of the cross, before being raised and exalted to the highest place. The context of the hymn may be slightly surprising, as it is given as an illustration of an ethical instruction to the church community in Philippi to get along with one another and put the needs of one another before their own.

Put each other first (v1-5): The situation in the Philippian church is one of conflict between two women named Euodia and Syntyche (see 4:2) and it is in light of this situation that Paul is writing. He wants the believers to put the faith they have into practice by forgoing selfish ambition and instead showing humility in valuing others above themselves. As we see the interests of other people as a higher priority than our own ambitions then we will be showing the same mindset that Jesus has shown towards us. He is the ultimate example of humility, and we are called to follow in his footsteps.

The humility of Jesus (v6-8): Paul shows how Jesus was the ultimate example of humility. He started in a higher place than any of us, as he is in very nature God. Despite being divine, Jesus did not see this as something for his own advantage but was willing to lay his power and privilege aside for the good of others. This led him to take on human nature, become a servant and even submit himself to the shameful death of the cross. Jesus went from the highest place possible, but continually chose to lower himself and serve the interests of others. If Jesus could lay aside even the privileges of his divine nature, then how much more can we lay down our own interests for the needs of others?

The exaltation of Jesus (v9-11): These verses show the consequences of Jesus’ humility and sacrifice. He emptied himself, but did not stay in the low place. Verse 9 starts with the word ‘therefore’, showing that the reason God exalted Jesus was precisely because he had emptied himself. Jesus was raised from the dead, ascended to heaven and given the place of all authority, where he is worshipped and acknowledged as Lord by all of creation. These verses are a call for us to join with every knee bowed and every tongue confessing, and give our worship and allegiance to the name that is above every name.

Potential Applications:

  • There is a challenge for us to show humility in the way we relate to one another, putting each other’s needs before our own.
  • There is a call to bow the knee to Jesus as Lord. Perhaps you could invite a response for people to do this for the first time.
  • The passage flows nicely into corporate worship. You could open up a time where people speak out their own praises to Jesus.