The Rooted Podcast

How do we live like Jesus today? What does the Christ hymn teach us?

Today we discuss the link between Philippians 1 and 2, especially the importance of unity and selflessness in Church community. We talk about humility and valuing others above ourselves. We go on to look at the Christ hymn and Paul's challenge for Christians to live in humility and love as Jesus did, being counter-cultural in the way we treat others.

  • (00:00) - Intro
  • (00:54) - The link between Philippians 1 and 2
  • (02:30) - Unity as a church
  • (05:15) - Do nothing out of selfish ambition
  • (08:08) - Valuing other people
  • (14:37) - The Christ Hymn
  • (17:07) - The humility of Jesus
  • (24:07) - Do we humble ourselves today?
  • (26:27) - Every knee bowing to Jesus
  • (28:32) - A challenge to be humble

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#Philippians #ChristHymn #Humility #LivingLikeJesus 

Creators & Guests

Esther King
Esther is part of Bible Society's Communications team.
Mark Woods
Mark is a Baptist minister and sometime journalist, who now heads up Bible Society's comms team.
Noël Amos
Noël is the editor of Rooted, Bible Society's devotional journal.

What is The Rooted Podcast?

Join the team behind Rooted, Bible Society's devotional journal, for in-depth conversations about Scripture and how we can apply it to our everyday lives.

You're listening to the Rooted Podcast from Bible Society, a Christian organization that invites people to discover the life -giving power of the Bible. In each series, we dig deeper into a theme or book of the Bible and explore its message for us today. This is series two, Philippians. Welcome back to the Rooted Podcast. Today, we're going to be looking at the Christ hymn in chapter two of Philippians.

I'll start this chapter talking about the unity that we're meant to live in and what she also touched on in chapter one and then kind of dives into how we see that humility in Jesus' life. If you have any questions about anything that we say in this episode or any episodes in this series, we are going to have a Q &A episode at the end of the series where we'll try and answer as many questions as we get so you can submit them to biblesociety .org .uk forward slash rooted questions.

I think something interesting about chapter two, at the very start, the first word, at least in my translation, and I'm sure in others, is therefore, meaning that this does link back to chapter one, to what we've just read in the last passage, in what Paul is saying about living like Christ. And so I think when I read this, I go back to verse 27 of chapter one, where Paul says, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

That's kind of his final main exhortation in chapter one. And then when I go to chapter two, he's kind of talked about that a bit and he says, therefore, and then we kind of go into this example of Christ and kind of how we can do that, how we can live lives worthy of the gospel. And that is to live them the same attitude that Christ had. Let's start just by reading through to verse five, kind of the first section of this chapter.

Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind, regard one another as more important than yourselves.

Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus. And then it goes into the hymn in verse six. The thing that speaks to me a lot when I read this is that this was not necessarily something that Paul was saying to an individual, but to the church, right? So we're thinking about this in a church context of how we're supposed to treat each other and interact with one another. Is it kind of just,

a rhetorical flourish, the way he keeps saying, if, you know, in that first bit, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love. Is it a question saying, do you have that? Or is he trying to say, look, you are united in Christ already? Because if sounds conditional, but I think if they are believers and they are in Christ, they have the same Holy Spirit in them.

So I don't know, I just wondered what you thought about the way he phrases that. That's really interesting. And one of the commentaries I looked at went into this in quite some detail, actually. And the consensus seems to be that it is a sort of rhetorical flourish. And really it means since. And he's not saying that there's a question over whether they have this or not. He's saying, well, actually, they do have it. And since they have it, these are the implications.

you know, this is how you are towards God in the light, in the eyes of God. And then he goes on to, well, these are the consequences for how you ought to be amongst each other. So I suppose then, if he's reminding them what they have, the unity that they have in Christ, and then going on to say, do nothing out of selfish ambition and so on, perhaps there's been a bit of a mismatch in what is reflected in the behavior of the Philippian believers.

I think we probably all recognize if we're honest with ourselves, sometimes we struggle with these things too. But he's saying, look, so you are united, but now show that in your behavior. I think the other thing to bring out here maybe is the last verse of the previous chapter, which is actually about persecution and it's about suffering for Christ. So that's the context in which this chapter is set, you know, this bit of chapter two of Philippians is set.

You are going to face really, really tough times. And the way that you do that is by remembering who you are. You know, that you are one in Christ, you are united, you've got all these things tying you together. And that's one of the things maybe that will give you strength to come through all this. So the whole point of this unity is it's all for the cause of the gospel as well. That is the thing to be single -minded on. You're united in Christ. Be single -minded about the cause of the gospel.

And then after that, in verse three, we've got kind of this direct command from Paul, not to do things out of selfishness or vain conceit, but to consider others as higher than ourselves. It's so simple in a way, isn't it? Don't be selfish, don't be conceited. But also, I don't know whether I'm always as conscious as I could be about when I'm being selfish and conceited. For example, I love singing.

I love worshiping God in song and I know that I've had unhelpful thoughts. Like, perhaps if I've been invited to be part of the worship team and I'm singing and you know, instead of focusing on God and the beautiful meaning of the words I'm singing, I'm actually thinking, I'm singing really well here. And sometimes afterwards, like people will come up to you and say, that was beautiful. The way that the worship team led us through that. I love your voice. And then,

you start to feel prideful. And again, instead of thinking about God and why he's worthy of all the praise, you're puffed up with, you know, full of praise for yourself. It's a danger that you might become conceited. But I don't think that's what this is about, to be honest. I mean, Esther, I think, well, I've heard you sing, I think you have a lovely voice. And I think it's fine to just accept that that is a gift from God and you can rejoice in that. I suppose if you're thinking about how much better you are than other people, that's maybe not so fine.

And I think this isn't so much about undervaluing our own skills. It's more about valuing other people's skills and valuing other people's contribution and what they can bring to it. It's interesting. I have a sort of similar story really, because I was a minister for about 20 years, you know, preaching every Sunday, all that kind of thing. And I like to think I wasn't bad at it, you know, I mean, I could hold a congregation. People very rarely fell asleep. And then.

life took me in a different direction. I became a religion journalist. And so from being up there every Sunday, I had to learn to sit in the congregation. And I can tell you that for months and months, that was really difficult because every time I heard a sermon, I was thinking, well, that's not how I would have done it. And are you quite sure that's right? And well, I'm sure I could have done much better than that. And so on. And I had to learn.

to appreciate what other people were giving. And I had to be able to sit under other people's ministry. And, you know, I learned an awful lot just from that process of humbling, actually. And maybe that's got something to do with this. You know, it's learning to receive from other people and just putting aside your own preconceptions about how wonderful you are and realizing that actually they're pretty wonderful too.

Yeah, and there's a second part to this as well in verse four, not looking to your own interests, but each of you to the interests of others. I do think this is a real challenge to me because so often I will go to church and think like a consumer. So, you know, if I didn't, if the service didn't quite touch me as much as I hoped that it would or, you know, something like that, I can end up thinking,

Well, I wish they talked more about that or I wish. Yeah, just always thinking about this impact on me instead of the body as a whole. And maybe there was somebody in the congregation who needed to hit exactly that point that was expanded on. I think you're absolutely right to put this in a church context because that's what it's about, you know, set in a church context. But my mind also went to a work context as well, actually.

I mean, obviously we work for Bible Society, it is a lovely organization, it's not sort of cutthroat at all. And I think people do genuinely care about each other at work and genuinely want to build each other up. But there are plenty of organizations, plenty of work situations out there where the culture is not really like that, where the assumption is that you're out for what you can do and what you can get. And maybe it's not so much about building each other up and appreciating each other and so on.

Maybe it is about highlighting your own achievements and maybe stabbing other people in the back if that's what it takes to get ahead. Again, not talking about Bible Society here. It just makes me wonder if maybe there are people listening to this podcast who, you know, you could model a different way of being at work. A few years ago, I was at a wedding and during the couple's vows, the husband said to the wife,

I will consider your interests ahead of my own." And I remember I thought to myself, that's ridiculous. I would never, I would never vow that on my wedding day because surely I'm not going to follow through with it. Surely there's going to be a time in my marriage in which I value myself above my husband. But I think you're right, Mark. It's not that we can always do it, but...

It's the idea that I see you as someone who is so valuable and I want to do that. I want to try and value you as higher than myself. And it's a way of life, isn't it? And obviously it's going to take a lot of practice. But yeah, it is a way of showing love, really. And you're happily married, presumably, no? I am. I'm happily married. Sorry, if you did say that in your wedding vows, good on you. That's very beautiful. It is a very beautiful thing to want to say to someone else. But it is a commitment there.

It's huge, isn't it really? And it's that level of commitment which Paul is saying we should have to each other. Well, but also this is a picture of a church living, you know, people in a church living and relating to each other in a completely different way to how they do in the world. And that's why it's a beautiful picture, because things would be so much better if we did all treat each other like this. And I think...

modern kind of discourse is, well, we're very concerned, aren't we, about if we put all of this effort in, then other people should do that for us. And if they don't, then forget them. You know, we worry a lot, don't we, about burning ourselves out, giving too much, and maybe not receiving a return. And, you know, there are some good things in what we say about self -care and making sure not to do that. But,

doesn't mean that we shouldn't be considering others before ourselves and putting ourselves out sometimes in a costly way for others. And when we do do that, it is a beautiful picture. And the other thing to add to that is that in a properly functioning community, a biblically functioning community, other people ought to be looking after us as well. So it's not just

you saying, well, I must do this and I must do that. And have I talked to so and so, you know, could I fulfill my responsibility to X or Y or Z? And then it becomes a burden. But it's other people looking at you and saying, well, you know, what can I do for you, Esther? What can I do for you, Noel? You know, how can I make your life easier? And so it becomes this network of mutual support. And that's how it ought to work. But maybe another thing to put in this.

This is from my commentary reading. It's reminded me again of this, but how counter -cultural this was at the time. You know, you talked about us being consumers and that being our culture. Well, back in the day, back in Paul's day, Greek culture, Roman culture was highly class -based. It was utterly rigid, the class system. And it was all about status. It was all about...

hanging on to who you were and what you had. And if anybody kind of infringed on your class rights, then you could really resent that. And one of the things that was just unique about Christian communities like this was that when you walked through the door, all of that was gone. And you had the masters and the slaves. And, you know, it didn't add that.

time changed their legal relationship and, you know, that's another discussion there really. But they were equal, they were level when it came to the things of Christ and that was just utterly radical. So then in verse 6 through to verse 11 we've got the actual hymn. Mark, would you read this for us? Yes, I will. I've got the new international version here. So it begins in my version of verse 5, your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.

who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross. Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

I mean, it almost just makes you want to stop talking, doesn't it really? I think for me, it's just the scale of the vision of Jesus that it outlines. I mean, Noel, you introduced it by talking about the Christ hymn, and the thinking is that this was not written by Paul.

to the Philippians. It may have been a hymn or a chant, but certainly something which was composed and which was in use by the early church and which Paul included here because it perfectly illustrated what he was trying to say. It apparently doesn't translate very well back into Aramaic.

which was the language spoken by Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, in Judea. And so they think it was probably composed in Greek rather than composed by an Aramaic speaking Christian. You've got the first three stanzas, to put it like that, talking about the descent of Christ to earth to be with us. And then,

it turns and the second half is about his ascent and God glorifying him. Yeah, I mean, the whole thing just really makes you pause and feel awe for who Christ is and what he's done. I think the thing that is important to read as well is that he, the idea isn't just that he humbled himself, but that he had the full right as God to basically not do so.

He had the full rights while he was on the earth. There are times where he says, in terms of protecting himself, he says to the disciples, I could call down legions of angels right now, but he doesn't do it. So there's this understanding that he has ultimate power and instead of using it, he gives it away. I was reading another translation of this, but the word in verse eight, he humbled himself. Another word is he emptied himself.

And it's not the understanding that he made himself nothing, but that actually this power that he had, he gave it away. He sought to give his power away instead of clinging to it. I think this is like one of the main passages I look to when I think about how to live as a Christian is that the things that I want to clutch to that are my rights or the things that I should be able to have, actually Christ had the ultimate power and the ultimate authority and rights and gave it away.

and instead emptied himself. So yeah, this profound example we have from him. Yeah, and I mean, there's obviously really famous passages in the Gospels of Jesus kind of demonstrating this, like when he washes the disciples' feet. At the beginning of that passage, it says that, you know, he knows who he is.

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power and that He'd come from God and was returning to God. So He got up from the meal and He washes their feet. So He's confident in who He is. He's got all the power and privileges like you've just described, but Him washing His disciples' feet doesn't take any of that away. He is all about serving them. That's how He explains it to them. He says,

I've come to serve, not to be served. And that's what he makes explicit. This is my example to you, because no servant is greater than his master. There's this thing that we see too of non -dominance that Jesus has. The fact that, you know, if I wasn't a Christian, maybe you were a new Christian coming to God, one of the things that would be profound to me is the fact that you can kill this God.

And we would say as Christians, no, you can't. He came back from the dead, but they killed him. So basically he came and said, my will is this. And they said, well, our will is this actually. We don't accept you and we're going to kill you. And he could have said, no. And instead he actually was non -dominant and he actually removed his will to make space for another will. And instead there's ruled at that time and he was killed.

I think that's powerful as well when we're thinking about the things that we want and how we would have things. Actually Christ was very willing to say, you know, I'll perform a miracle in front of you. And they could reject him and say, no. And he went, okay. And that was that. He wasn't forcing anything on anyone, right? He didn't sort of break character, as it were. He was completely true to the mission that God had given to him.

And, you know, apart from anything else, that's just a tremendous example. I think one of the other interesting things about this is that he didn't just identify himself as a man, as a human being, but as it says in these verses, he made himself nothing and he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross. So that's identifying himself with the very least and the most despised and the lowest.

And I think this is just a way of saying that there is nobody outside the love of God. And this goes back to the Greco -Roman thing where it's all about status. And in descending to the lowest, Jesus is sort of catching everybody up in his great sort of gospel net, as it were. I was looking at some

what crucifixion, how crucifixion was regarded at the time. And for the Romans, it was the ultimate shame. And it was not even spoken about in polite society, actually. Roman citizens were never crucified. Cicero, who's a famous Roman writer, wrote, to bind a Roman citizen is a crime, to flog him an abomination.

to slay him is almost an act of murder, to crucify him is what there is no fitting word that can possibly describe so horrible a deed. And that's what Romans thought about crucifixion. And it was only for slaves and it was only for the worst of slaves as well. I mean, this whole point about status that you've just made is so interesting. It makes me think of,

The account in Matthew chapter 20, basically the mother of two of the disciples, the sons of Zebedee, comes to Jesus and says, you know, well, can my sons basically sit on your left and on your right when you're in your kingdom, when you're ruling in your kingdom? And so I guess what she's thinking about there is that they'll share in his power and authority. And I mean, maybe we can sort of identify with that. In churches, we talk about

one day we're going to reign with Christ within a rule with Christ. And that seems like a good thing to seek after, doesn't it? Being God's people and ruling with him one day. But his response to them is, well, are you going to share in my suffering? Can you drink from the cup that I'm going to drink from? And so that ties in with this, this reference here in the passage to his death on the cross. That's what he was obedient to.

Can they really share in that suffering? And right at the end of that, because the other disciples are really indignant, you know, what about us then? They're still thinking about power and status in the kingdom of God. And he's saying, look, don't be like the Gentiles who lord it over each other and wield their authority and power for their own glory. That is not how it's going to be for you, my disciples. If you want to become great,

then you have to be a servant. It's that complete upside down idea that must have really spoken, like you've said, Mark, into that culture of status being so rigid and so important. Yeah, I think today, though, the thing I think about is I don't actually think that this is something that's very easy for a lot of Christians or that we want to accept humility and humbling ourselves. And the bigger question, I think,

for me is how does one practically do that? How do I, you know, I can't just say, okay, I'm going to be more humble or I'm just going to try to be more humble. And then it suddenly happens. Like, of course I work with the Holy Spirit and I ask him to humble me. But actually to pray to the Lord and ask him to humble you is a scary prayer because I don't want humiliation. I don't want humbling really. It's not always a pleasant thing, is it? But I guess, I guess I would just wonder what, how do I actually practically become more humble?

So I'm just wondering whether it's possible to be humble and know that you are humble. You know, it's a bit of a philosophical question really, because as soon as I realized that I'm humble, I cease to be humble because I'm proud of myself for being humble. So maybe the whole thing about humility is that we live in such a way that other people see it in us, but we don't really, you know, we don't really think about it. You know, we just get on with the job.

And we do things that need doing because they need doing, not because, you know, they are of a sufficiently important status for them to be worthy of our exalted attention. I've heard the saying, humility isn't thinking less of myself, but thinking about myself less. And I think that's really good. Yeah, I think there is a way that you can practice self -denial. And I actually think the more that I practice denying myself,

the less upset I'll be when someone else denies me something. And I think that is a bit where humility comes in to play a bit. So I agree with you, Mark. I don't think it's something we should be focusing on a ton of, like, I've got to become more humble. But I do think that part of it can be a practice of becoming more like Christ. Well, it comes back to, and it's a similar idea to humility. In those final verses we read,

9 to 11, it's reminding us who we are submitted under, isn't it? Because ultimately we will all, great and small, one day be bending our knee to Jesus and praising him. Yeah, verse 10 which says, in the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, there's another great hymn there, in heaven and on earth and under the earth. So this idea of under the earth is

It reflects the view of the time so that you've got a sort of three -decker universe. So you've got heaven and then earth and then Sheol, which is where the spirits generally go. And we don't think about things in those terms nowadays, but that's the sort of thought world that Paul was operating in. But the point is that absolutely everything, all created things, will bow down and worship before God.

before Jesus, which is an amazing thought. And it just makes you think, well, how big is that? I led the service at my church last week and I showed them a picture of the Andromeda galaxy, which is, you know, it's a Hubble Space Telescope thing. And it's just this ocean of stars.

And at the center, there's a bright spot and the bright spot is there because the star density is so much that it's not possible to pick out individual stars. There are so many of them there and every, you know, I don't know if every star has a planet, but lots of stars have planets. Who knows? Is there life on other planets? No idea. But, you know, but there is just this set and that's just one galaxy of perhaps millions of galaxies.

and that the size of the universe, I think that's what I'm getting at. And it may be that we're the only planet with intelligent life on it, of course it may be, but even so, just the idea of everything, you know, the whole cosmos bowing down in worship to Jesus is just completely mind blowing.

So maybe that's something that you could take away for yourself, be thinking about as we've just discussed. Where can you bring humility into your church, into your relationships, into your family? Where can you humble yourself this week? Where can you deny yourself? Where can you be like Christ and as Paul says, have the same attitude that he had? So that's it. We'll see you next week and...

Thanks for listening. If you have any questions, please submit them for our Q &A episode to biblesociety .org .uk forward slash rooted questions. Feel free to leave us a review or rating if you'd like, if you love listening to the podcast. And thanks as always for being here with us and we'll see you next week. Thanks for listening to this episode of The Rooted Podcast.

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