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Imitating Christ’s Humility


If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,


who, though he was in the form of God,

did not regard equality with God

as something to be exploited,


but emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,


he humbled himself

and became obedient to the point of death—

even death on a cross.



Therefore God also highly exalted him

and gave him the name

that is above every name,


so that at the name of Jesus

every knee should bend,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,


and every tongue should confess

that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.


Shining as Lights in the World

12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

14 Do all things without murmuring and arguing, 15so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. 16It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you— 18and in the same way you also must be glad and rejoice with me.

Timothy and Epaphroditus

19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I may be cheered by news of you. 20I have no one like him who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21All of them are seeking their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22But Timothy’s worth you know, how like a son with a father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 23I hope therefore to send him as soon as I see how things go with me; 24and I trust in the Lord that I will also come soon.

25 Still, I think it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus—my brother and co-worker and fellow soldier, your messenger and minister to my need; 26for he has been longing for all of you, and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27He was indeed so ill that he nearly died. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, so that I would not have one sorrow after another. 28I am the more eager to send him, therefore, in order that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29Welcome him then in the Lord with all joy, and honor such people, 30because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for those services that you could not give me.

1 If there is therefore any consolation. There is an extraordinary tenderness in this exhortation, 9393     “Ceste exhortation est plene d’affections vehementes;” — “This exhortation is full of intense affections.” in which he entreats by all means the Philippians mutually to cherish harmony among themselves, lest, in the event of their being torn asunder by intestine contentions, they should expose themselves to the impostures of the false apostles. For when there are disagreements, there is invariably a door opened for Satan to disseminate impious doctrines, while agreement is the best bulwark for repelling them.

As the term παρακλήσεως is often taken to mean exhortation, the commencement of the passage might be explained in this manner: “If an exhortation which is delivered in the name and by the authority of Christ, has any weight with you.” The other meaning, however, corresponds better with the context: “If there is among you any consolation of Christ,” by means of which you may alleviate my griefs, and if you would afford me any consolation and relief, which you assuredly owe me in the exercise of love; if you take into view that fellowship of the Spirit, which ought to make us all one; if any feeling of humanity and mercy resides in you, which might stir you up to alleviate my miseries, fulfill ye my joy, etc. From this we may infer, how great a blessing unity in the Church is, and with what eagerness pastors should endeavor to secure it. 9494     “Et que les pasteurs le doyuent procurer d’vne affection vehemente et zele ardent;” — “And that pastors should endeavor to procure it with intense desire and ardent zeal.” We must also at the same time take notice, how he humbles himself by beseechingly imploring their pity, while he might have availed himself of his paternal authority, so as to demand respect from them as his sons. 9595     “Il peust vser d’authorite paternelle, et demander que pour la reuerence qu’ils luy deuoyent comme ses enfans, ils feissent ce qu’il enseigne yci;” — “He might have exercised paternal authority, and have demanded that in consideration of the respect which they owed him as his children, they should do what he here inculcates.” He knew how to exercise authority when it was necessary, but at present he prefers to use entreaties, because he knew that these would be better fitted to gain an entrance into their affections, 9696     “Pour entrer dedans leurs cœurs, et es mouuoir leurs affections;” — “For entering into their hearts, and moving their affections.” and because he was aware that he had to do with persons who were docile and compliant. In this manner the pastor must have no hesitation to assume different aspects for the sake of the Church. 9797     “Ne doit faire difficulte de se transformer selon qu’il cognoistra que ce sera le proufit de l’Eglise;” — “Should have no hesitation in transforming himself according as he may perceive that this will be for the advantage of the Church.”

2 Fulfil ye my joy. Here again we may see how little anxiety he had as to himself, provided only it went well with the Church of Christ. He was kept shut up in prison, and bound with chains; he was reckoned worthy of capital punishment — before his view were tortures — near at hand was the executioner; yet all these things do not prevent his experiencing unmingled joy, provided he sees that the Churches are in a good condition. Now what he reckons the chief indication of a prosperous condition of the Church is — when mutual agreement prevails in it, and brotherly harmony. Thus the 137th Psalm teaches us in like manner, that our crowning joy is the remembrance of Jerusalem. (Psalm 137:6.) But if this were the completion of Paul’s joy, the Philippians would have been worse than cruel if they had tortured the mind of this holy man with a twofold anguish by disagreement among themselves.

That ye think the same thing. The sum is this — that they be joined together in views and inclinations. For he makes mention of agreement in doctrine and mutual love; and afterwards, repeating the same thing, (in my opinion,) he exhorts them to be of one mind, and to have the same views. The expression τὸ αὐτὸ, (the same thing,) implies that they must accommodate themselves to each other. Hence the beginning of love is harmony of views, but that is not sufficient, unless men’s hearts are at the same time joined together in mutual affection. At the same time there were no inconsistency in rendering it thus: — “that ye may be of the same mind — so as to have mutual love, to be one in mind and one in views;” for participles are not unfrequently made use of instead of infinitives. I have adopted, however, the view which seemed to me less forced.

3 Nothing through strife or vain-glory. These are two most dangerous pests for disturbing the peace of the Church. Strife is awakened when every one is prepared to maintain pertinaciously his own opinion; and when it has once begun to rage it rushes headlong 9898     “Sans pouuoir estre arrestee;” — “Without being capable of being arrested.” in the direction from which it has entered. Vain-glory 9999     Κενοδόξοι persons whose object is to acquire power, and who, if they see others superior to themselves, are offended. (Galatians 5:26.) This κενοδοξία vain-glory, produces contentions of all kinds; and it produces this evil besides, that persons who have gone wrong, and who might have been restored to truth and virtue by humble, friendly admonition, are often, by the interference of vain-glorious, ostentatious instructors, confirmed in error and vice.” — Storr. See Biblical Cabinet, vol. 40, p. 132, note. — Ed. tickles men’s minds, so that every one is delighted with his own inventions. Hence the only way of guarding against dissensions is — when we avoid strifes by deliberating and acting peacefully, especially if we are not actuated by ambition. For ambition is a means of fanning all strifes. 100100     “Est le sufflet qui allume toutes contentions;” — “Is the bellows that kindles up all strifes.” Vain-glory means any glorying in the flesh; for what ground of glorying have men in themselves that is not vanity?

But by humility. For both diseases he brings forward one remedy — humility, and with good reason, for it is the mother of moderation, the effect of which is that, yielding up our own right, we give the preference to others, and are not easily thrown into agitation. He gives a definition of true humility — when every one esteems himself less than others. Now, if anything in our whole life is difficult, this above everything else is so. Hence it is not to be wondered if humility is so rare a virtue. For, as one says, 101101     “Comme quelqu’vn a dit anciennement;” — “As some one has said anciently.” “Every one has in himself the mind of a king, by claiming everything for himself.” See! here is pride. Afterwards from a foolish admiration of ourselves arises contempt of the brethren. And so far are we from what Paul here enjoins, that one can hardly endure that others should be on a level with him, for there is no one that is not eager to have superiority.

But it is asked, how it is possible that one who is in reality distinguished above others can reckon those to be superior to him who he knows are greatly beneath him? I answer, that this altogether depends on a right estimate of God’s gifts, and our own infirmities. For however any one may be distinguished by illustrious endowments, he ought to consider with himself that they have not been conferred upon him that he might be self-complacent, that he might exalt himself, or even that he might hold himself in esteem. Let him, instead of this, employ himself in correcting and detecting his faults, and he will have abundant occasion for humility. In others, on the other hand, he will regard with honor whatever there is of excellences, and will by means of love bury their faults. The man who will observe this rule, will feel no difficulty in preferring others before himself. And this, too, Paul meant when he added, that they ought not to have every one a regard to themselves, but to their neighbors, or that they ought not to be devoted to themselves. Hence it is quite possible that a pious man, even though he should be aware that he is superior, may nevertheless hold others in greater esteem.

5. He now recommends, from the example of Christ, the exercise of humility, to which he had exhorted them in words. There are, however, two departments, in the first of which he invites us to imitate Christ, because this is the rule of life: 102102     “Pourceque l’imitation d’ iceluy est la regle de bien viure;” — “Because imitation of him is the rule of right living.” in the second, he allures us to it, because this is the road by which we attain true glory. Hence he exhorts every one to have the same disposition that was in Christ. He afterwards shews what a pattern of humility has been presented before us in Christ. I have retained the passive form of the verb, though I do not disapprove of the rendering given it by others, because there is no difference as to meaning. I merely wished that the reader should be in possession of the very form of expression which Paul has employed.

6 Inasmuch as he was in the form of God. This is not a comparison between things similar, but in the way of greater and less. Christ’s humility consisted in his abasing himself from the highest pinnacle of glory to the lowest ignominy: our humility consists in refraining from exalting ourselves by a false estimation. He gave up his right: all that is required of us is, that we do not assume to ourselves more than we ought. Hence he sets out with this — that, inasmuch as he was in the form of God, he reckoned it not an unlawful thing for him to shew himself in that form; yet he emptied himself. Since, then, the Son of God descended from so great a height, how unreasonable that we, who are nothing, should be lifted up with pride!

The form of God means here his majesty. For as a man is known by the appearance of his form, so the majesty, which shines forth in God, is his figure. 103103     “Car tout ainsi qu’vn homme est cognu quand on contemple la forme de son visage et sa personne, aussi la maieste, qui reluit en Dieu, est la forme ou figure d’iceluy;” — “For just as a man is known, when we mark the form of his appearance and his person, so the majesty, which shines forth in God, is his form or figure.” Or if you would prefer a more apt similitude, the form of a king is his equipage and magnificence, shewing him to be a king — his scepter, his crown, his mantle, 104104     “Le manteau royal;” — “His royal mantle.” his attendants, 105105     “La garde a l’entour;” — “The guard in attendance.” his judgment-throne, and other emblems of royalty; the form of a consul was — his long robe, bordered with purple, his ivory seat, his lictors with rods and hatchets. Christ, then, before the creation of the world, was in the form of God, because from the beginning he had his glory with the Father, as he says in John 17:5. For in the wisdom of God, prior to his assuming our flesh, there was nothing mean or contemptible, but on the contrary a magnificence worth of God. Being such as he was, he could, without doing wrong to any one, shew himself equal with God; but he did not manifest himself to be what he really was, nor did he openly assume in the view of men what belonged to him by right.

Thought it not robbery. There would have been no wrong done though he had shewn himself to be equal with God. For when he says, he would not have thought, it is as though he had said, “He knew, indeed, that this was lawful and right for him,” that we might know that his abasement was voluntary, not of necessity. Hitherto it has been rendered in the indicative — he thought, but the connection requires the subjunctive. It is also quite a customary thing for Paul to employ the past indicative in the place of the subjunctive, by leaving the potential particle ἄν, as it is called, to be supplied — as, for example, in Romans 9:3, ηὐχόμην, for I would have wished; and in 1 Corinthians 2:8; εἰ γὰρ ἔγνωσαν, if they had known. Every one, however, must perceive that Paul treats hitherto of Christ’s glory, which tends to enhance his abasement. Accordingly he mentions, not what Christ did, but what it was allowable for him to do.

Farther, that man is utterly blind who does not perceive that his eternal divinity is clearly set forth in these words. Nor does Erasmus act with sufficient modesty in attempting, by his cavils, to explain away this passage, as well as other similar passages. 106106     “Comme s’ils ne faisoyent rien a ce propos-la;” — “As if they had no bearing on that point.” He acknowledges, indeed, everywhere that Christ is God; but what am I the better for his orthodox confession, if my faith is not supported by any Scripture authority? I acknowledge, certainly, that Paul does not make mention here of Christ’s divine essence; but it does not follow from this, that the passage is not sufficient for repelling the impiety of the Arians, who pretended that Christ was a created God, and inferior to the Father, and denied that he was consubstantial. 107107     “C’est à dire d’vne mesme substance auec le Pere;” — “That is to say, of the same substance as the Father.” For where can there be equality with God without robbery, excepting only where there is the essence of God; for God always remains the same, who cries by Isaiah, I live; I will not give my glory to another. (Isaiah 48:11.) Form means figure or appearance, as they commonly speak. This, too, I readily grant; but will there be found, apart from God, such a form, so as to be neither false nor forged? As, then, God is known by means of his excellences, and his works are evidences of his eternal Godhead, (Romans 1:20,) so Christ’s divine essence is rightly proved from Christ’s majesty, which he possessed equally with the Father before he humbled himself. As to myself, at least, not even all devils would wrest this passage from me — inasmuch as there is in God a most solid argument, from his glory to his essence, which are two things that are inseparable.

7 Emptied himself. This emptying is the same as the abasement, as to which we shall see afterwards. The expression, however, is used, ευμφατικωτέρως, (more emphatically,) to mean, — being brought to nothing. Christ, indeed, could not divest himself of Godhead; but he kept it concealed for a time, that it might not be seen, under the weakness of the flesh. Hence he laid aside his glory in the view of men, not by lessening it, but by concealing it.

It is asked, whether he did this as man? Erasmus answers in the affirmative. But where was the form of God before he became man? Hence we must reply, that Paul speaks of Christ wholly, as he was God manifested in the flesh, (1 Timothy 3:16;) but, nevertheless, this emptying is applicable exclusive to his humanity, as if I should say of man, “Man being mortal, he is exceedingly senseless if he thinks of nothing but the world,” I refer indeed to man wholly; but at the same time I ascribe mortality only to a part of him, namely, to the body. As, then, Christ has one person, consisting of two natures, it is with propriety that Paul says, that he who was the Son of God, — in reality equal to God, did nevertheless lay aside his glory, when he in the flesh manifested himself in the appearance of a servant.

It is also asked, secondly, how he can be said to be emptied, while he, nevertheless, invariably proved himself, by miracles and excellences, to be the Son of God, and in whom, as John testifies, there was always to be seen a glory worthy of the Son of God? (John 1:14.) I answer, that the abasement of the flesh was, notwithstanding, like a vail, by which his divine majesty was concealed. On this account he did not wish that his transfiguration should be made public until after his resurrection; and when he perceives that the hour of his death is approaching, he then says, Father, glorify thy Son. (John 17:1.) Hence, too, Paul teaches elsewhere, that he was declared to be the Son of God by means of his resurrection. (Romans 1:4.) He also declares in another place, (2 Corinthians 13:4,) that he suffered through the weakness of the flesh. In fine, the image of God shone forth in Christ in such a manner, that he was, at the same time, abased in his outward appearance, and brought down to nothing in the estimation of men; for he carried about with him the form of a servant, and had assumed our nature, expressly with the view of his being a servant of the Father, nay, even of men. Paul, too, calls him the Minister of the Circumcision, (Romans 15:8;) and he himself testifies of himself, that he came to minister, (Matthew 20:28;) and that same thing had long before been foretold by Isaiah — Behold my servant, etc. 108108     Isaiah 42:1 cf. Matthew 12:18, — fj.

In the likeness of men Γενόμενος is equivalent here to constitutus — (having been appointed.) For Paul means that he had been brought down to the level of mankind, so that there was in appearance nothing that differed from the common condition of mankind. The Marcionites perverted this declaration for the purpose of establishing the phantasm of which they dreamed. They can, however, be refuted without any great difficulty, inasmuch as Paul is treating here simply of the manner in which Christ manifested himself, and the condition with which he was conversant when in the world. Let one be truly man, he will nevertheless be reckoned unlike others, if he conducts himself as if he were exempt from the condition of others. Paul declares that it was not so as to Christ, but that he lived in such a manner, that he seemed as though he were on a level with mankind, and yet he was very different from a mere man, although he was truly man. The Marcionites therefore shewed excessive childishness, in drawing an argument from similarity of condition for the purpose of denying reality of nature. 109109     See Calvin’s Institutes, vol. 2:13-15.

Found means here, known or seen. For he treats, as has been observed, of estimation. In other words, as he had affirmed previously that he was truly God, the equal of the Father, so he here states, that he was reckoned, as it were, abject, and in the common condition of mankind. We must always keep in view what I said a little ago, that such abasement was voluntary.

8 He became obedient. Even this was great humility — that from being Lord he became a servant; but he says that he went farther than this, because, while he was not only immortal, but the Lord of life and death, he nevertheless became obedient to his Father, even so far as to endure death. This was extreme abasement, especially when we take into view the kind of death, which he immediately adds, with the view of enhancing it. 110110     “Pour amplifier et exaggerer la chose;” — “For the sake of amplifying and enhancing the thing.” For by dying in this manner he was not only covered with ignominy in the sight of God, but was also accursed in the sight of God. It is assuredly such a pattern of humility as ought to absorb the attention of all mankind; so far is it from being possible to unfold it in words in a manner suitable to its dignity.

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