Philippians 2:5-11 Essay.
The paper will be divided into two sections. In section one, your principal objective is to state what the main point of the passage is, and explain how the passage develops this main point, supporting your statement with evidence from the text and from your investigation. In this section, you should consider the following questions as you analyze the text:
- What is the situation that Paul is addressing?
- How does what we know about the author and audience help us understand the “occasion”?
- What cultural factors impinge upon the interpretation of this text?
- What is the purpose for Paul’s letter?
- What is the main message of Paul’s letter?
- What has Paul said thus far in the letter? How does this passage relate to Paul’s overall purpose in the letter?
- How does this passage fit in with what follows in Paul’s argument?
- What does this text affirm about God and His world, and/or the responsibility of His people?
- What are the key interpretive difficulties in this passage?
- What is the main point of the passage and what evidence supports this main point?
As you perform your analysis on your given passage you must consult three commentaries, and list those in your bibliography. Additionally, you must consult one peer-reviewed journal article that is related to your passage.
In section two, you must reflect upon the ways in which the church can live out the message of this passage, and/or ways in which this passage challenges current practices and attitudes in the church.
Present your research and reflection in no less than five pages (no more than six), using proper English grammar, and double-spaced with one-inch margins. Include a bibliography of resources on the final page.
Paul wrote the letter to Philippians when he was still in jail. One of the things that we know about the author is that he was a vigilant preacher of the gospel of Christ. He was the spiritual father of the Philippians and was thankful for the support the church gave him. This helps us understand his concern for the growth of the church as well as the reason for his concentrations with the message of enduring joyfully. The audience of the letter on the other hand, was a church based in Philippi that had both its strengths and weaknesses. Its strength included its love for Paul, especially as the spiritual father. Its weaknesses included the failure to stay in unity (Gray, 2016). Through this knowledge, we understand the emphasis of Paul for them to stay united.
In Philippians 2:5-11, Paul is addressing the issue of leadership. The church had an issue of conflict among the leaders whom did not agree on the correct mode of leadership or the church of Philippi. Within the passage, Paul encourages accountability among the members to enable transparency within the congregation. Paul teaches that the leaders should be emulating the example of servitude set by Christ. Humility is a crucial aspect of leadership. Hence, the leaders should be focusing on the serving of the followers rather than being focused on gaining power and taking privileges for grunted. The members of the church should humble themselves before God, as He rewards humility. This is based on the story of Christ, whom God rewarded massively for humbling himself despite the power available to Him (Taylor, 2008). Therefore, the passage encourages leadership by serving.
The issues the passage deals with are in line with the purpose of Paul’s letter, which was to address the issues that the Philippi church was facing as well as commend them for their good work. The church had supported Paul when he was arrested due to his faith in Christ. Although in some ways Paul saw the Philippians as a good example of Christ’s followers, he knew that they were not perfect and needed to grow towards perfection as Christians. He therefore takes the platform provided by the letter to address issues that the church should work on in order to be perfected in Christ. One of these issues is disunity (Mischke, 2010). By reading the content of the letter, the Philippians would be encouraged in their walk with Christ and be able to endure the trials and sufferings they would face because of their relationship with Christ.
Moreover, in the book of Philippians, the main message that Paul seeks to communicate is facing hardships joyfully. Paul encourages the Philippians to rejoice in their suffering throughout the letter. In chapter 1 verse 21, he states that if the suffering that the Philippians go through is for the benefit of the kingdom of God, then they should accept the challenges they face in life joyfully. The message is further seen in chapter 4 he informs the Philippians to rejoice always. He further tells them to give thanks in all situations (Bible Gateway, 2016). All these instructions were meant to encourage the Philippians to handle everything that they faced in life, both good and bad, joyfully. The reason behind this is that they can conquer everything that comes their way through Christ. The joy that they should have when facing troubles should be triggered by their focus on the victory that they are promised.
The content of the letter so far has covered the issue of disunity and rejoicing during suffering. In chapter 1, Paul encourages the Philippians to do everything for Christ. He informs the church that he has no problem going through anything in life as long as it will be for Christ’s glory. He further instructs the church to lead righteous lives, not because Paul will know about it but because it is all for Christ. He also informs them of the requirement to stay in unity because they are of one spirit. The Philippians 2:5-11 relates to the purpose of the letter through its concentration on the importance of unity in the church. He gives Christ as the example of the humility that the church should have (Taylor, 2008). With humility amongst the Philippians, they would be able to live in unity because none of them would look down on others.
The passage compliments sections in arguments presented by Paul later on within the letter. One of these arguments is the view that Christians should rejoice in salvation despite any hardships they might be faced with. The passage compliments this point of view through the presentation of the requirement to remain loyal to God. As such, the believer should be bold enough to trust in God’s plan to be fulfilled through the hardships. Another argument addressed by Paul later on in the letter is the issue of leadership within the church. This is in agreement with his proposition that leaders should be humble and follow the example set by the savior (Wittman, 2016). The leaders should not seek after embracing power and its accompanying privileges but should focus on observing humility and servitude.
Although the text may appear clear in its meaning, there exist various interpretive difficulties. One of them is the intentional use of the term ‘in the form of God’ instead of saying ‘as God’ (vs. 6). One can assume that the use of the term ‘form’ indicates that Christ humbled Himself through emptying His glory before His existence as a man on earth. However, the metaphorical use of the word ‘form’, which is translated from ‘morphe’ is used in reference to Christ taking the nature of a servant and of God. ‘Morphe ’indicates that Christ had external features of a servant and His character was a reflection of what is essential to be God. Thus, although Christ became a human being, He did not cease to be divine.
The second interpretive challenge lies in the use of the term ‘servant’ in the NIV Bible. The original text contains the word ‘doulos’ which means ‘slave’. There exists a contrast between the two words, since a servant may have more privileges than a slave may. Use of the word servant therefore contrasts the phrase ‘made Himself nothing’. However, the use of the word ‘slave’ does not indicate inferiority of Christ to humans. Rather, it shows that He became as man, who was still a slave to the law and thus the use of the term ‘human likenesses’ (Vs. 7) (Bible Gateway, 2016).
There are also cultural factors that may impinge upon the interpretation of this text. One of them is the issue of equality. Although some countries have equality rights, that prevents discrimination based on ethnicity, gender, and level of income, inequality is prevent in a number of regions. Thus, the church can face an obstacle in addressing people who have a superior standing in the society to consider the ‘inferior’ as better than they are. Moreover, the example in the land on leadership may interfere with the perspective of humility. The hierarchical order in the society grants some the power to make decisions without considering others (Mischke, 2010).
Nonetheless, Philippians 2:5-11 affirms various aspects between the relation of God and His people. One of the affirmations of God’s plan within the passage is the plan of salvation. Ever since the fall of man, God set a plan in motion to reunite humankind with his former self before falling. The pinnacle of this plan was fulfilled through the death of Christ, as referred within the passage. The perfection of God is also affirmed through the passage. This perfection is the state to which the plan of salvation seeks to restore man’s state. God and Christ exhibited this sinless nature. This is evident in the passage, in the claim that Christ exhibited equality with God. The passage also affirms that salvation is attained through Jesus Christ (Gray, 2008). According to the scripture, Christ is the sole way to salvation hence God. The text affirms this information by persuading the church to follow the example set by Christ.
Philippians 2:5-11 has an important role to play in the church today. Christians can use the teaching to promote unity through considering others better than self as Christ did when He emptied Himself to the level of accepting death at the cross. However, the church can also opt to leave out the message, thus, reduce the influence of the passage from churches. One of the ways of leaving out the message is through embracing the concept of lordship. Each person could lack to have the mindset of Jesus Christ of taking the humble status, and therefore tend to assert his or her perspectives of various issues on others. Instead of living by James 4: 10 that indicates that the Lord lifts the humble and adhering to Matthew 23:12 that shows that God humbles those that exalt themselves, the church members could be looking for means of indicating that they are more superior than others.
One can trace a number of examples of how the Church has violated the passage. For instance, most people who tend to belong to a high social status may opt to use their level of influence to pursue selfish ambition without any consideration for people in lower classes. As an illustration, the church parking lot could be set aside for the rich only while the other members could have to struggle for other spaces to secure a parking space. On the other hand, the poor may act out of envy. Consequently, there would be existence of rivalry and disunity. Another example is church leaders overlooking the concept of servant leadership. From the scripture, Paul is insistent on how Christ, who had the nature of God and the likeness of man, demonstrated humility. He did not use His power for His advantage. However, He considered man better than him, and thus died on the cross for us. Overlooking the scripture thus results in church leaders using their resources and position to exploit the other church members (Wittman, 2016).
the church should emulate the example of Christ. Christians should be ready to
serve but not receive service regardless of their status quo. Humility should
be their way of life. For those in need of acquiring riches, and honor, they
should be humble. This concept is reflected in various parts of the Bible, such
as Proverbs 22:4, Matthew 23:11, and James 4:10.
Bible Gateway. (2016). The Example of Christ. Retrieved from: http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Phil/Example-Christ
Gray, D. (2008). Christological hymn: the leadership paradox of Philippians 2:5-11. Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership, 2(1), 3-19.
Mischke, W. (2010). Honor and shame in cross-cultural relationships. Scottsdale, AZ: Crossway Bibles.
Taylor, W. (2008). Commentary on Philippians 2:5-11. Retrieved from http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=47 Wittman, C. (2016). Sermon: Jesus wants humble service – Philippians 2. Retrieved from http://lifeway.com/Article/sermon-what-jesus-wants-humble-service-philippians-2