Will We EVER Understand Humility???
1 Peter 2:21–25; Philippians 2:1–8
1 Peter Lesson #073
December 1, 2016
“Father, we are thankful for this opportunity to come together this evening. We are thankful for the fact that you provide for this congregation in so many different ways. Father, we are thankful for the place where we meet. We are thankful for the technology that we have where we can broadcast the services, put them on the Internet, and people all over the world can watch either live or via recordings.
Father, we are thankful that You use Your Word in this way, and we pray that it will go forth and bring fruit in terms of those who are saved and those who are responsive to the Word and growing spiritually.
Father, we know there are many people—even locally—in the congregation that are unable to attend anymore due to health reasons. We pray that you would strengthen them and encourage them in their time of illness and that you would sustain them through the prayers and encouragement of other believers.
Father, we pray for us tonight as we study Your Word, that you would help us to continue to have a better understanding of what it means to be humble and its relationship to obedience and submission. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We are studying in 1 Peter 2, and we are studying the section that begins in 1 Peter 2:13 that is talking about submission to government. Then in 1 Peter 2:18 it talks about servants, or slaves, being submissive to masters. In 1 Peter 3, it will go on to talk about wives being submissive to their own husbands.
Throughout this entire section, the framework is, “How do you deal with unjust suffering?” That which is undeserved, that which is horrible in some cases, extreme in some cases. But because we are in circumstances in the devil’s world, the issue often comes down to submission, in terms of authority. And that is related to humility. Humility is related to grace orientation. But humility and grace orientation are the foundation for impersonal love; for so many things in life are grounded on this idea of humility, which is so difficult for us.
I have titled this message, “Will We Ever Understand Humility???” There is so much talk about pride and arrogance and humility, and usually the people who are criticizing other people for their lack of their humility are exhibiting their arrogance in the process of criticizing others for a lack of humility. It has always amazed me that in the midst of churches and congregations, that you have Christians who are critical of other Christians for one thing or another, and often they are condemning and judging other believers when their very attitude is one of arrogance. That’s just as much a problem as anything that the other person may have done.
So, as we have worked our way through 1 Peter 2, Peter’s argument is that no matter how unrighteous the master may be, no matter how wrong the master may be, no matter how unjust the circumstances, no matter how difficult the situation, no matter how painful or miserable the situation might be, the model, the example, for us to follow is that of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Just by way of quick review. 1 Peter 2:18, Peter says, “Servants, be submissive” [the word we are studying is that word HUPOTASSO, which is a word used throughout Scripture, and it means, “to submit, to obey.” It is authority orientation. Recognizing that in every sphere of life, God has established certain authorities, and if you don’t learn to submit to authority, you can never truly be a good leader or be someone in authority.
That’s a basic principle of any kind of leadership. First, you have to learn to follow before you can learn to lead. They exhibit this in the Israeli army. In the U.S. Army, you can go to ROTC in college, or you can go through boot camp and you may be selected while you’re going through basic training to go on to officer candidate school. In the Israeli army, you have to come up through the ranks; you have to actually serve for a while as enlisted before you get a recommendation, based on your exhibited leadership ability, to advance and become an officer.
They don’t have officer schools or ROTC programs, things like that, that you can defer out after high school, go through some sort of higher education, including military training, and then, when you come out with the degree, you get a commission. Everybody comes out of high school, they go into the IDF, they serve, and if they exhibit those leadership traits, then they will be selected to go on to leadership training. So it’s done a little bit differently there. You learn to lead by being a good follower.
What we see here in this connection with submission in 1 Peter 2:18 is what follows in 1 Peter 2:19, where Peter says, “For this is commendable.” The word there is just the basic word for “grace.” This is grace. “Commendable” is not quite the idea. Peter understands that submission to authority flows from grace orientation.
In 1 Peter 2:20 he says the same thing. “But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable.” This is the same word again, CHARIS. It means, “This is grace before God.”
Then, in 1 Peter 2:21, he says, “For to this you were called.” That is, to suffer unjustly and to demonstrate grace orientation in the midst of that unjust suffering. The example he gives is Christ, who suffered on our behalf. Talk about someone undeserving; He went through extreme physical suffering as He was taken to the Cross—the beatings, the lashings, the pain that was involved in all of that, carrying His cross, the cross piece, to Golgotha to prepare for crucifixion. All that was involved in that far surpasses any of the pain and misery that we focus on and think that we have a justified reason to rebel against an authority.
So Christ is our example, “that you should follow His footsteps.” Arguing in 1 Peter 2:22, that He was absolutely sinless, so He did not deserve any kind of suffering.
I want to plug this in to what we’ve studied in the past with spiritual skills. I want to structure this a little differently. What we have in the spiritual life are these 10 basic spiritual skills.
Now, I’ve always loved this, because this is a tremendous categorical framework for helping us think about application of Scripture. We study through Scripture, and we look at different passages and situations. For example, we looked at one Tuesday night in 1 Samuel 19. When we think about this human behavior, human interaction, we think about it in terms of a difficulty, a challenge that’s presented there in the text. It’s the problem that David had facing Saul.
If it’s a problem, if it’s a challenge, if it’s difficult, what are the basic spiritual skills that you would use in handling that kind of a problem? It involved, as I pointed out on Tuesday night, the faith-rest drill, trusting God, turning it over to Him.
In every situation we have to deal with the faith-rest drill. We have a binary choice, one of two options: either we believe what the Scripture says in defining the circumstance and that God and God alone is the circumstance, or we believe that our friends, our family, our emotions, our circumstances tell us more about how to handle the situation than God does. You boil it down even further: either God knows what He’s talking about and we can trust Him, or we know more than God does.
God, who is omniscient, knows everything and always has known everything and says that He has provided us everything we need to handle any situation, or we are saying that God is a liar and we know better. Those are the basic options. There may be various permutations on each side, but those are the basic options.
Now, in order to use these spiritual skills, we first have to be in right relationship with the Lord. That’s why the foundation is confession of sin. First John 1:9—something we all know, we practice this, go through it every time we have a Bible class. Some people have said, “Well, that just seems mechanical.” I have not addressed that in a while, but I had a meeting with someone not too long ago and they made that observation. And I said, “Every system of training seems mechanical at first.”
Whether you’re learning how to tackle somebody in football, whether you’re trying to learn how to shoot a free-throw, whether you’re trying to play music on a piano or some other musical instrument, or dance, you’re learning something new and at first you have to do it by the numbers. Then, gradually over time, it becomes more natural to you, and it reaches a certain fluidity of application; you don’t think about it anymore, and it’s no longer mechanical. But if you’ve ever tried to dance, or you’ve ever tried to play piano and play technique exercises, it seems extremely, extremely mechanical. But that’s just the learning process.
So we have confession of sin. Now, as soon as that happens, we’re back to where we are walking by the Holy Spirit. I put the first one in black, because we’re in sin and we are walking in darkness. The way out of it is to confess sin, and so once we do, we are walking in the light, we are walking in the truth; we are walking by the Holy Spirit. While we are walking by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is filling us with His Word for application.
Then there are three skills that are basic and fundamental to everything else that we have to master, and so I’ve put them on the second row. There’s the faith-rest drill, grace orientation, and doctrinal orientation. In the faith-rest drill, we are mixing faith with the promises of God. It’s very simple: We trust God. You either trust God or not. When you trust God, you obey Him; and when you’re not trusting God, you won’t obey Him. That hymn says it all:
“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
“Happy in Jesus” is joy. That’s the end result of these spiritual skills. That’s the top floor. So we go through this process.
Grace orientation means we have to truly come to grips with what it means to be oriented to grace. That means you have to come to grips with how unworthy you and I are to be saved! God doesn’t save you because you have a scintillating personality. God doesn’t save you because you look good. God doesn’t save you because you have such great talents. God doesn’t save you because you have done something that’s great and wonderful and is extraordinary. God saved us because He loved us, despite our obnoxiousness and how horrible we were in relation to His righteousness.
Once you come to grips with this you can begin to understand what grace is towards others, and that you never deserved anything in this life. When we come to grips with the fact that we are so undeserving, when other people say things and do things and hurt our feelings and one thing happens or another, then we can handle it better because we realize that they’re just as much of a malfunctioning, corrupt creature as we are. Therefore, because God forgave us, we can forgive others. That’s grace orientation.
Doctrinal orientation means that we study the Word so that we can orient our thinking to God’s plan, so that we can think about situations. We have a personal conflict. One of the places you can go for an illustration of how to handle that is 1 Samuel 20, which we studied the other night. This is where David and Jonathan are working out a way to handle the situation with Saul.
Those are the basics. Then we get into the next level, which is a personal sense of our eternal destiny, when we are living today in light of eternity. We are seeking the reward of our inheritance—Colossians 3:24 and 1 Peter 1:4, which we’ve already studied. Notice I use these 1 Peter passages here since we are in 1 Peter. 1 Peter 3:18, “we grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ”, so it’s used for grace. It is used for doctrine—we grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ—personal sense of our eternal destiny. We have an inheritance that is undefiled, that is reserved in Heaven for us. So we are living today in light of eternity.
Then we have three more intersecting and interdependent spiritual skills. Personal love for God. We grow in our love for God as we come to know Him and come to understand His Word. Loving God is not just having a nice feeling about God and having gratitude.
Gratitude is not love. One of the things that young people should understand, whenever they think they have romantic inclinations, is that gratitude is not the same thing as love. Just because somebody is nice to you and you’re grateful for it, that doesn’t mean you love him. Just because God has provided salvation for you and you are grateful, it doesn’t mean you yet love Him. Love is the result of time and learning, knowledge, and building that relationship.
Then as a result of our love for God, we learn to love others. We learn what love truly is. Whether we know them—in which case it’s impersonal love because we don’t have a personal relationship with someone if we don’t know them; or, if we do know them, in which case it would be unconditional love, we are going to love them in the same way. You might use as an illustration a dog that loves you as its master. There are no conditions. That dog is happy to see you, whether you’re in a good mood or bad mood. No matter what you’ve done to that dog, that dog is going to be happy to see you and loyal. So that would be unconditional love.
Occupation with Christ. Hebrews 12:1, we are fixing our hope on the Author and Finisher of our faith. The result of all of this is that we can then have real joy in our soul. We can “count it all joy,” James 1:3. John 15:11 and John 17:13 are two passages where Jesus said that He would give us His joy. Because it’s His joy, it’s a joy that is not dependent upon circumstances or situations or people or their responses to us. But because it’s grounded in the immutable character of God, it is not going to be shaken. It’s achievable by everyone here, because Jesus made the promise that He was giving it to us.
This is the example that Peter gives, and I pointed this out last time. 1 Peter 2:21, “Christ also suffered for us.” He is the Lamb of God. He’s unblemished and spotless.
The picture from the Old Testament was that he was brought to the temple. Then you would place your hand upon that innocent lamb, you would recite your sins, and they would be transferred to that lamb.
And then the lamb would have his throat cut because of your sin. That’s what happened to Jesus on the Cross.
“Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness.” All of this is really a picture of Jesus’ humility and grace orientation toward us, His humility toward God, and toward the human authorities—the wicked, evil, unrighteous human authorities—that forced Him to submit and to die.
I want to talk about humility. I think that whenever you study a doctrine, one of the better ways to approach it is to start at the beginning of the Bible and see how this doctrine is developed down through the ages—starting in Genesis and going through the Scriptures. I’m not going to do a detailed study in the Old Testament, but that’s going to be our starting point—an Old Testament passage in Numbers 12.
In Numbers 12:3 there is a parenthetical statement about Moses. Moses was very humble. There are some passages that talk about Moses as being meek, and that is also a way in which this particular word is used. This is stated in the midst of a rebellious situation. If you look at Numbers 12 briefly, you have a rebellion being fomented by his own siblings—by Miriam and Aaron. They are speaking against Moses because he has married an Ethiopian woman. That would indicate that he has taken a second wife, because his first wife, Zipporah, was a Midianite.
So he’s taken the second wife. In Numbers 12:2, “So they said, ‘Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses?’ ” They are challenging his spiritual credentials, and they are jealous of the way God is only speaking through Moses. We are told, in the midst of this rebellious attitude on their part, that the Lord hears it. Then, parenthetically, we read in Numbers 12:3, “(Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.)”
We ought to think about this just a little bit. The word that is translated “humble” is the Hebrew word anaw, and it’s usually translated, “being humble or being meek,” a concept we have a terrible time dealing with in our culture—probably other cultures as well. It’s often distorted. Pseudo-humility is rampant among those who can only operate on the works of the sin nature, and we all have that problem.
The way the average person hears “humility” is something like this, “I need to be a doormat. I need to let people walk all over me. I just need to give up all my rights and let everybody take advantage of me.” Now, do you picture Moses doing that, leading 3 million Jews through the wilderness? I don’t think so. He never would have lasted 40 years. They would have left him by the side of the road, worn out and used up within the first two weeks.
The idea of humility in the Bible, as we are going to see, is someone who has authority orientation, somebody who is obedient to God and therefore can lead other people—can be an example to other people. It’s only when you are properly oriented to God’s authority that you can be properly and truly humble.
Now, the result of this was that the Lord brought punishment on Miriam and Aaron as a result of their disobedience. He is clearly affirming Moses, and the Holy Spirit’s assessment of Moses’ character here is his humility.
You have the Hebrew word on the left and the word I put on the right is the Greek word PRAUS. This is how it was translated into the Septuagint. That’s important to understand. There are two Greek words we are going to see tonight that are used in the passage we are headed to, which is Philippians 2:5–11. It’s not used in that passage, but it’s one of three words that form the three basic synonyms that talk about different facets of this idea of humility and what is translated “meekness” and “gentleness.”
Jesus is gentle and meek when He is manhandling the moneychangers in the temple—both at the beginning and at the end of His ministry. He goes into the temple, and He is physically grabbing these men and bodily throwing them out of the temple; He is physically violent with them. He’s not tapping them on the shoulder and saying, “Would you please leave?” He’s not doing that. He is grabbing them, and He is throwing them out. He is picking up their heavy tables, and He is turning them over and scattering all of their money. He is physically removing this from the temple precinct. That is meekness. That is Jesus being gentle, because Jesus is never not gentle and not meek.
So what this means is that we have got to completely overhaul our concept of what it means to be meek and gentle. It so happened that there was a series of Facebook comments on the page of a pastor friend of mine in California the other day from somebody who apparently had constantly given him heartache on his Facebook page. He is a pastor in California. And California is the land of the fruits and the nuts and the people who are meek and mild and don’t know any better and are scared of their own shadows. This person made a comment that he was just too violent. He’s a pastor friend of mine. He is as black pastor. He is a strong advocate of the Second Amendment. He was saying, “You need to be meek and mild like Jesus. Jesus was never violent.”
Sometimes it’s a lot better for somebody else to defend a pastor than for him to defend himself. So I stepped in and made a few appropriate comments about how “meek and mild” Jesus handled circumstances, and that this individual needed to redefine what he understood as humility and meekness and mildness. Of course, I know millions of people will read that, but it needed to be said in a teachable way. Unfortunately, it fell on deaf ears, because it turned out that my friend had unfriended and blocked this individual after so many years of him giving him a hard time.
But that’s the problem. You do it; I do it; unbelievers do it. We have a frame of reference and a definition and concept for something that is shaped by human viewpoint pagan culture, and then we take that definition and that idea and we read it into Scripture.
What we need to do is go to the Scripture, see how these words are used and exemplified, and then change our concept of what it means to be “Jesus, meek and mild.” Jesus is the one who told His disciples to make sure they had a couple of swords with them. Today, He would say, “Do you have your AR-15s and your 30-round magazines, and are they loaded up, and do you have one in the chamber, locked and loaded?” That’s what He would have said. We have to understand who Jesus really is, as the Creator God of the universe.
So we have these two words here. The main one, because we are working in the New Testament, is PRAUS, and it is sometimes translated, “gentle, meek, or kind.” But that always has to be understood that it’s done within the context of the love of God, the justice of God, the righteousness of God, and how those mix together in the character of God.
Let’s look at another passage in the New Testament, and we will see these same words that show up, Matthew 11:28–30. Jesus is talking to His disciples, and He is talking to them about discipleship. This is not a verse telling people how to get saved, or justified. This is talking to disciples. It is in the context of the Pharisees, who are leading their disciples astray. That’s the background here, because it’s talking about this concept of a yoke.
A yoke, as is pictured on the slide, was two wooden collars that are joined together that you would put around the neck of two oxen so that they would pull in tandem and pull together in strength. Often when you were training a young oxen you would put him with an older oxen, and he would be brought into submission to the older one.
This idea of a yoke carries the connotation of learning submission and learning respect for authority. It was used in pharisaical language, as I’ve taught many times in our study on Sunday morning on Matthew. I ought to say, “Who can stand up and tell me what that background is?” I’m not going to do that. But that’s the test.
What did the Pharisees do? They talked about two yolks—the yoke of the Kingdom and the yoke of the Law. The yoke of the Kingdom was binding on everybody and that’s basically fulfilling the Shema and the Shema requirements in Deuteronomy 6. That was binding on women of all ages and all children. But when a male became a son of the covenant at his bar mitzvah—that’s what that means in Aramaic, “a son of the covenant.” When he enters into the covenant, then, according to pharisaical theology, he took upon himself the yoke of the Law. This meant that he had to not only fulfill all 613 commandments in the Torah, but he had to also take upon the burden of all of the secondary and tertiary applications—the thousands and thousands of other traditional commandments, the halakha, and the oral law of the Old Testament. This was a burden. Nobody could carry that load. So that’s what Jesus is talking about.
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden.” They are laboring to gain approbation from God by obeying the Law. Jesus said, “Come to Me … and I will give you rest.” How will you do that? You will, “Take My yoke upon you [grace orientation] and learn from Me.” See, that’s the discipleship element.
When Jesus is announcing His woes, His condemnation, the seven woes in Matthew 23, one of those was … The Pharisees traveled far and wide. They traveled everywhere to find disciples that they would convert to Pharisaism. Most people believe they were not just looking for converts to Judaism, they were looking for Gentiles who were proselytes at the gate, who had not accepted the full burden of the Law—usually because they didn’t want to be circumcised. The Pharisees were making them full proselytes, which meant that they would completely come under all of the obligations of Pharisaism and all the traditions of the fathers. So that was the yoke of discipleship and Pharisaism.
Jesus is saying, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” You are not laboring under legalism. Then He said, “For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
The two words we have, in the Greek, for “gentle and lowly” are significant here. We have the word PRAUS, which is the same word we saw used in the Septuagint in Numbers 12:3, and it has that idea of being gentle, or meek, or kind. And TAPEINOS, for lowly, is the basic part of a word group that relates to humility. The original meaning under classical Greek was “low,” somebody who is low; they are low in the economic strata. They have been brought low by the circumstances of life. Then it became used as a figure of speaking of someone who was not exalting himself; so that came to refer to humility.
Paul uses the same two words in 2 Corinthians 10:1. “Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.” Another synonym is used under gentleness that I’m not going to go into, but you have “meekness” used in this verse. Then Paul relates it to himself, “who in presence am lowly among you.”
He is using PRAUTES—that’s a form of the word we just looked at—meaning, “gentleness or kindness,” and TAPEINOS as synonyms. TAPEINOS, meaning, “humble, or low.” You are going to see this as we go through the slides—I’ve kept the same color. You are going to see TAPEINOS show up in several places.
This is the same word that is used in 1 Peter 5:5. So my point here is that PRAUTES and TAPEINOS are synonyms. What is interesting in the historical study of these words is that they were never used in a good sense by the Greeks until after Christianity. This often happens with several words in the New Testament. Divine revelation gives them a whole new connotation and a whole new significance.
Being humble was a bad thing in Greek culture; it meant you were a nobody, and nobody wanted to be a nobody. So the words never had a good connotation until you get revelation in the New Testament and it’s applied to Jesus. Then all of a sudden these words for the most part, following the New Testament period, are never used with the same negative connotation they had by the Greeks prior to that. The language is changed.
Just as a side note, ideas change the meaning of words and change language. When you change the language, it’s a reflection of the change that is taking place in a culture. Divine revelation in the New Testament changed how characteristics of love, and joy, and peace, and humility were understood in the Greco–Roman world, and that is what transformed the paganism of the Greeks and the Romans into what became known as Western civilization.
Without Christianity, Western civilization would just be as pagan, and brutal, and violent, and disrespectful of individual human beings and human life, as every other pagan culture. But the Word of God transformed it so that all of the glories that were produced in Western civilization can be traced back to the change that was brought to the Greco–Roman culture by Christianity. This word is just one example of that.
1 Peter 5:5. When we come to the end of 1 Peter, we have that these two words used again. Peter is talking. “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders.” There’s our word for submit again, HUPOTASSO. “Yes, all of you be submissive to one another.” It’s an attitude of humility toward one another—and towards those who are in positions of authority.
“And be clothed with humility.” You can’t be submissive without humility, and humility leads to proper submission. They were to be clothed with humility. That’s the word on the left. This is a form of TAPEINOS. Here on the right is the adjective, but then you have it joined with this PHROSUNE ending, which indicates a characteristic or a quality. That is that the broad word that is used there.
So, you’ll be clothed with the character quality of humility, because “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble [TAPEINOS].” Those words are important.
Now, we come to the passage that I want to go through. This is the prime illustration. I just love this passage, Philippians 2. It was one of the very first passages I really studied as a young Bible student trying to learn how to do Bible study methods in preparation for teaching some kids on camping trips with Camp Peniel when I was young. So I was taking this the year before, and I was learning how to do verse-by-verse study and exegesis and do word studies on my own and all of those things. So much that I studied and dug out at that time has paid off down through the years. I also had an opportunity to write an exegetical paper on this in seminary, and I have taught it several times, but I have always loved this passage.
It tells us what humility is. Philippians 2:8, talking about Jesus, says, “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient.” What we will see is that loses some of the sense here. “He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”
I want you to turn to Philippians 2. We will start in verse one. But what we see in Philippians 2 is a passage that is at the very center of understanding who Jesus is. There are three other passages that are important: John 1, Colossians 1, and Hebrews 1. If you can remember those three books and the first chapter, you’ve got it, and then Philippians 2. You will understand the Person and work of Jesus Christ if you can grasp what’s taught about Him in those three chapters.
“And being found in appearance as man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient.” We saw this in 1 Peter 5:5, the connection between submission, which is the flipside—the other side of the coin from obedience is tied to humility. We can’t be submissive and genuinely obedient from the heart—from our soul—unless there is the development of genuine soul humility.
This is what we see, of course, in the perfect Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. He humbled Himself by being obedient, that tells us a whole lot about what humility is. It is authority orientation, being obedient to the point of death. What kind of death? A justified death? A deserved death?
No. A horrible death, a death that violated the law of Israel at the time. It was a violation of the witnessing requirements that were found in the Mishnah. It was basically a manufactured case against Him, and the Roman government managed to get manipulated into crucifying Him. It was just a horrible circumstance. But that’s exactly what God used to bring about our salvation.
Now, here is a point of application. We may be in a horrible set of circumstances. We may be in something that makes us feel very uncomfortable. We may have to work with, or spend time with, people who are treating us in a very disrespectful manner, or who don’t like us, or who are actually seeking to do us harm—to abuse us in some way. And we think, “God would not want me to stay here.” That’s what we always say. “God would not want me to be in this kind of a situation; God wants me to be happy.” That’s how post-moderns reason.
“God wants me to be happy.” Where do you get that? God wants me to be happy, but that happiness is only by being in right relationship with Him, not by coming up with your own ideas of what God wants you to do.
Jesus could have said, “God wants Me to continue to be happy. I’m not going to be happy. I’m sweating blood here at the Garden of Gethsemane. I don’t really want to go through this tomorrow. Guess what? I’m just not going to do it. And then I’ll be happy, and God will be happy, and we will all just go sing Kumbaya together.” Is that what happened? No! Because sometimes God is going to produce something through the difficult circumstances we have to go through that we cannot comprehend.
Once again, we are faced with a situation, we’re in a negative set of circumstances, there’s hostility against us, and we say, “I can do it my way, or I can do God’s way. My way is going to be better because God would never want me to be unhappy.” That’s how a lot of people reason, because they don’t understand that God wants you to be happy in the midst of misery, because that’s what brings glory to Him—because your happiness isn’t based on your circumstances.
So Jesus submits to God’s authority and goes through the worst abuse of power that we can imagine in human history. Why does Paul go into this? It goes back to the first four verses. He’s talking to the Philippians, because there are some personal conflicts among the Philippian congregation. Later on, we are going to see that two of those people who had problems are named Euodia and Syntyche.
Somebody once said, “This is Euodia and ‘Soon Touchy’.” She’s a little touchy, and they have a problem. In 1 Peter 4:2, Paul says, “I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.” You can’t get there without humility.
“Same mind” is what we have in Philippians 1:1–4. He’s talking about what it means to be of one accord and one mind right here at the end of 1 Peter 2:2. He’s dealing with the fact that some people have had their feelings hurt. Whether it’s justified or unjustified isn’t the issue. Jesus had His feelings hurt—He had a lot hurt—and it wasn’t deserved. That’s where humility comes in.
So he says, “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy.” If you were taking Bible Study 101, what would be some of the first things you would observe in that passage? You had better come up with the fact that there are four “if” clauses there—if, if, if, and if.
If you want to decide what kind of “if” that is, you would have to look a little bit at the Greek, because the Greek language expresses conditional clauses four different ways in the New Testament. This is a first-class condition, and that is where the “if” clause is assumed to be true. In this passage—it’s not true in every place that you have a first-class condition—but I think in this passage it comes pretty close to the idea expressed by our word, “since,” because it’s assuming that this is true. Therefore, Paul is saying, “Because you have these four things, then you can fulfill the command.”
Therefore, he says, “If [or since] there is any consolation in Christ.” Christ is the focal point for believers—for each one of us. The issue in life—as much as I hate the little trite saying that has shown up on bumper stickers and wristbands and God knows what else—T-shirts and baseball caps—it’s “what would Jesus do”. It really is. But it has to be the Jesus of the Bible and not the Jesus of liberal imagination, or your imagination, or my imagination. It is that Jesus has provided this consolation, this coming alongside, this encouragement that we have.
And it’s, “in Christ.” He’s the source of it. It’s not medication; it’s not going to the psychiatrist. Not that those things may not have a place in terms of some circumstances or situations. There is consolation in Christ; Christ has to be the ultimate solution.
“If any comfort of love.” There is only one Person who loves us unconditionally, and that’s God the Father, God in the totality of the Trinity. If there is any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit. He is the PARACLETE, the PARAKLETOS, the One who comes alongside to strengthen us.
“If any fellowship of the Spirit.” Yes, there is. That PARAKLETOS is consolation. This is a fellowship, KOINONIA; it’s the partnership of the Spirit Who is working in our life.
“If any affection and mercy.” Yes, that is part of what we have in Christ. Then we have the command to, “Fulfill my joy.” Paul’s joy, in one sense, just as our joy in one sense, is dependent on circumstances; we get excited when we see believers grow and do the right thing. I get excited when I see believers grow and do the right thing. I get excited when people come to Bible class regularly, because I know that they are truly interested in the Word.
“Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love [for one another], being of one accord, of one mind.” Remember, in Galatians 5:19–21, part of the work of those who walk according to the sin nature is divisiveness, antagonism, resentment, bitterness, creating divisions, and heresies; all of that breaks apart a congregation. That happens as a result of people letting their sin natures be in charge.
Paul is saying that the flip is that you have to be like-minded, you have to have the same love. “Love one another,” Jesus said, “as I have loved you,” “being of one accord, of one mind.” Remember that, because He’s going to tell us what that one mind is when we get to verse five.
He then says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit.” Don’t let your little self-absorbed sin nature, and your power lust, and your approbation lust, be the source of what you are doing. You are not to do it to build your own kingdom—there are too many pastors who have built their own kingdoms and too many people in the pews who have let them and worship them as if they are the final word in everything.
“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind.” That’s our word, TAPEINOPHROSUNE; it means humility. Lowliness of mind. How do you become humble? He’s going to tell them in the next paragraph.
Preview of coming attractions: It’s by being submissive to God’s authority. “In humility of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” Don’t think of yourself as always being in the right; don’t think of yourself as being the one who needs to be the focal point; we are to esteem others more than ourselves. We are to be serving one another. When we are doing that genuinely, then we are not going be walking around getting our feelings hurt, becoming upset that this person said that, or that person did this, or this person is out to get me.
“Let each of you look out not only for his own interests.” See, it’s not wrong to look out for your own interests. It’s not wrong to esteem yourself. But, in addition, you esteem others as yourself, and you look out for their interests as well as your own interests.
So this defines the circumstance and brings us to where we were at the beginning of Philippians 2. Jesus was found in appearance—talking about His humanity. “He humbled Himself.”
Now here is the question. Jesus is the God-man. Is He humbling Himself through His human volition, or is He humbling Himself through His divine volition? Human volition. This is all about the humanity of Christ; this is not about His deity.
This is about the humanity of Christ doing the right thing because He is submitted to the Father. He only exercises His deity in certain situations and circumstances when He has to demonstrate who He is as God, but He faces the challenges and problems and difficulties in His life through His humanity, using the Spirit of God and the Word of God as the example for us.
How can we follow His example if He’s doing it through His deity? We don’t have deity; we can’t do it through omnipotence or omnipresence or omniscience. So none of this, at this point, has to do with His deity. It’s His humanity, using the Word of God and His own spiritual resources through the Holy Spirit. “He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death on the cross.”
As Paul introduces this, he says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” That seems to be what we are talking about here. Verse two—we are to be like-minded. What is the paradigm for that mind, that mentality? It’s the mentality that was in Jesus Christ. We are to be of one mind, at the end of verse two. That is what is being defined here—this mind which was also in Christ Jesus.
If we are all imitating Jesus, in His thinking, then how can there be interpersonal problems in the body of Christ? There won’t be any. The only reason you get people who are out of step is because they quit walking by the Spirit. They quit focusing on Jesus, and they are focusing on themselves. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”
Let’s take it back to Peter before I wrap up. I keep getting almost into Philippians 2—and we will have to finish this next week. Think this through in terms of a subject who is being unjustly treated by the tyranny of Nero, or Caligula, or any of the Caesars. You think of a slave who has a harsh master—that’s the example given in 1 Peter. You think of a wife who is in a difficult marriage. You think of any individual who is working for a tough taskmaster—somebody who is not concerned at all about him.
There are all kinds of situations. You can be in a situation where you have a professor who has it in for you. I know of circumstances where there have been evangelical young people who have gone to college and it’s been obvious because there’s the manipulative nature of some professors who expose the fact that they are evangelicals right off the bat and then they pick on them.
It was the Vietnam era when I was in college. I was in ROTC, went to college on an ROTC scholarship, and we had to wear our uniform one day a week. That was just what you had to do. That day I had a political science class, and the poli-sci teacher was as liberal as he could be. He hated the military, and he would pick on the guys in ROTC that were in class. I hated having to wear my uniform, because it made me a target. No matter how good you did, you were never going to do good. So that’s the kind of unjust situation that we go through. But that’s how we learn authority orientation, so we have to do that.
Next time I’ll come back, and we will go through Philippians 2, working our way through this important passage.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to think through these things, to come to understand that each of us needs to learn to control our sin nature through God the Holy Spirit and to submit to You and to Your Word as Moses demonstrated, as the Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated, and to do what we are supposed to do willingly, freely, in the power of God the Holy Spirit, because we know that is the right thing and the best thing and that is the essence of humility and a manifestation of grace orientation.
We pray that you would challenge us with these things and that we would be responsive—positively responsive—to that challenge. In Christ’s name. Amen.”