We have been emphasizing like-mindedness and its relationship to joy. But like-mindedness cannot be cobbled together from side-to-side. If you tied two people’s legs together, what you get is not unanimity, but rather a three-legged race at the picnic, and people falling down. So the like-mindedness that we must pursue must be pursued through our imitation of Christ. Paul said in the first chapter that he wanted them to be of “one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27). He exhorted them in Phil. 2:2 to be like-minded. In the next verse he commends lowliness of mind (Phil. 2:3). And here we come to the capstone of all of this—which is the mind of Christ.
This is how we are to understand how it all ties together: one mind > like-minded > lowliness of mind > the mind of Christ.
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5–11).
Summary of the Text
There are good arguments for considering this passage (vv. 6-11) to be an early Christian hymn, one that Paul inserted here to anchor his point about humility of mind. He begins by exhorting them to cultivate the same mind that was in Christ (v. 5). Earlier in v. 3, he told us that we were to have lowliness of mind. Christ was perfect, and Christ was humble. That is not an contradiction.
And here the hymn begins. He was in the very form of God, and so it was not grasping for Him to consider Himself equal with God (v. 6). He was with God, and He was God (John 1:1). So He, infinitely majestic, made Himself to be of “no reputation.” God became a nobody. He was in the form of God, but took on the form of a slave (doulos), and was made in the likeness of men (v. 7). And being found in that form, that schematic, of a man, He humbled Himself—further—and was obedient to God, all the way down to death on a cross (v. 8). Because He was obedient down to this nadir of degradation, what did God do? God has exalted Him, and has exalted Him above every possible name (v. 9). Because His name is above every name, the result will be that every knee will bow, whether they be the knees of creatures in Heaven, or on earth, or subterranean (v. 10). Not only will every knee bow, but every tongue is also going to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, and the end result will be that God the Father will be glorified (v. 11).
Form of God, Form of Man
As we see here in this text, and as we learn from the creeds, the Lord Jesus was not an admixture of Deity and humanity. He was and remained fully God. But He did not grasp for the prerogatives of that reality, but rather submitted to the will of His Father. When He did this, He took on the form of a man. He added humanity to Himself, subtracting nothing, and with that union accomplished by the Holy Spirit. This was not a mingling or a mixture. He was and remains fully God and He became fully man. As the Athanasian Creed puts it—“One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by assumption of the Manhood into God. One altogether; not by confusion of Substance [or essence]; but by unity of Person.” In this, the natures of Deity and humanity are not blurred or smudged together. Rather, they are joined, and their distinct natures kept distinct, with the intersection where they meet being the person of our Lord Jesus.
Cultivate This Mind . . .
So according to carnal calculations, the mind of Christ would have no reason to be humble. Why should perfection be humble? But He was absolute perfection, and this means that His humility was absolutely perfect. Humility is one of the attributes of perfection.
And it is here that we must learn to make an important distinction. There is a difference between being humble and being humiliated, shamed, or embarrassed. Now these latter sensations can actually be good for us, and frequently are. God can use them in our lives to great profit. Being taken down a few pegs in such ways can set the stage for growth in humility, but they are not the same thing as humility.
Growth in humility does not mean identifying yourself as a lousy worm. That would be humiliation, which might be a gospel duty. If you have been behaving like a lousy worm then you should admit it. Such humiliation is good for you. But that is not humility. Humility is the attitude that receives such humiliation. And growth in humility means learning to not think of yourself at all. Humility is that which receives the humbling and does not notice the promotion.
What It Means to “Not Notice”
There is a not-noticing that is humility, and there is a not-noticing that is simply ignorance and stupidity. Christ has been exalted to the highest place, and it is not as though He does not know this. When Joseph was exalted to high position in Egypt, he certainly knew that this had happened. When Daniel was promoted in Babylon, he was aware of it.
So what do I mean by “noticing” and “not noticing?” I mean noticing your accolades, or your honors, or your promotions, treating them as sweet morsels for your ego. You keep each one of them like a lozenge under your tongue. That kind of thing is perilous for the soul.
Looking to Christ, and Not to Man
“How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?”
John 5:44 (KJV)
In order to have the mind of Christ, you must look to Christ. When you look to Christ, the author and finisher of our faith, your lust for the praise of man will start to evaporate. And the more you look to man for his praise, the harder it becomes for you to understand the mind of Christ.
The difference can be put in a nutshell. Looking to man means that you want to go straight to the crown. Looking to Christ means that you want to follow Him through the cross to a true crown, the kind that never perishes.