Our Call to Service Philippians 2a
Stephen Caswell © 2003
William Carey, served the Lord in India for many years. He gradually became very concerned about the attitude of his son, Felix. The young man had promised to become a missionary, but later reneged when he was appointed ambassador to Burma by the Queen of England. Carey wrote to his friend, asking prayer for his son with these words: Pray for Felix. He has degenerated into an ambassador of the Queen of England when he should be serving the King of Kings. Are you serving this world or the one to come? The Kingdom of God or kingdom of men?
In Philippians chapter 1 we saw that Paul had the single mind. Jesus Christ was his life. In Philippians chapter 2 Paul speaks of the submissive mind. Others have second place. Paul was a servant of Jesus Christ. Continuing on from chapter one Paul explains how to restore unity in the Philippian Church. Paul didn't give them a list of rules to accomplish this. Biblical unity comes from God's power within. The Spirit uniting God’s people together in service. When Churches are busy serving the Lord they don’t have time for conflict. Today, we will see 3 motivations for Christian service: Christ’s Enablement, Christ’s Example & Christ’s Exaltation.
1. Christ’s Enablement
a. Christ's Assistance
Philippians 2:1-2: Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
The word if doesn't mean maybe, but rather it states a fact. Since is a better translation. Since, we have consolation, comfort, fellowship and affection in Christ. It’s a certainty.
1. Consolation in Christ - This refers to the encouragement we receive from union with Jesus Christ. Consolation comes from the word paraklhte or Holy Spirit. He comes along side us.
2. Comfort of Love - Believers receive comfort from God's love. Romans 5:5b because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
3. Communion of the Spirit - Believers enjoy sweet fellowship in the Holy Spirit. Remember that fellowship koinwnia means to have in common, to share, to participate, communion.
4. Compassion - One of the Spirit's ministries is to produce within each believer; a concern and love for other members of God's family.
The apostle is saying, in effect: Since there is so much encouragement in Christ, since His love has such a tremendous persuasiveness, since the Holy Spirit brings us all together in such a wonderful fellowship, and since there is so much tender affection and mercy in Christianity, we should all be able to get along in harmony with one another.
b. Christian Attitudes
2:2: fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
These resources have been provided by God to produce spiritual unity. However we can reject the Spirit's working and thereby forfeit His joy and unity. The Holy Spirit works within us so that we will think and feel the same way about ministry as Christ did. He leads us into Christian service. Jesus said this at the start of His ministry. Luke 4:18-19: The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. Believers who are yielded to the Spirit serve others. Paul would rejoice in their unity of mind, heart and purpose.
Dangerous Mental Patients – Disunity
A visitor to a mental hospital was astonished to note that there were only three guards watching over a hundred dangerous inmates. He asked his guide, Don’t you fear that these people will overpower the guards and escape? No, was the reply; lunatics never unite. Let’s not be like that!
c. Christian Actions
Philippians 2:3: Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Right belief must lead to right behavior. As believers rely on the Holy Spirit they put the concerns of others before themselves. The key to joy is Jesus First and Others Second. This results in believers being humble and helpful. Paul asks believers to esteem others as being better than themselves. The word esteem hjgeomai means to consider, reckon or judge. This requires a choice on our parts to be humble. This inevitably leads to looking out for the other’s needs. Contrary to the TV advertisement, the most important person in the world is not you, it’s others.
Romans 12:3: For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
The key is drawing on Christ's resources made available through the Holy Spirit. Seeing a need and meeting it if we can. It is a natural thing for us to look after our own needs. But God wants us to consider the needs of others and help them too; like the Good Samaritan. Christian attitudes must lead to Christian actions. Unfortunately some people only want to criticize others who are serving the wrong way, in their opinion.
D L Moody's Critic
A critic of D L Moody told him that he disapproved of his methods. Moody graciously replied, I don't like them too much myself; What method do you use? Why I don't have one, said the critic. Moody tartly replied, I think I like the way I do it better than the way you don't. A Christian is a mind through which Christ thinks; a heart through which Christ loves; a voice through which Christ speaks; a hand through which Christ helps.
d. Command To Be Christ Minded
Philippians 2:5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,
After asking the Philippians to have one mind, he commands them to have the mind of Christ. The words to be minded φρονέω mean to think, regard, view, hold an opinion or attitude. This command is in the present tense. We must continually think like Jesus Christ. What was Christ’s attitude to others? Mark 10:45: For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. What is Paul commanding us? He is telling us to have the humble, obedient heart of a bond servant. A bond servant was one who obeyed their master for life, out of love.
Are you drawing on Christ’s resources? We have received the love of God, the Spirit of God and the comfort of God to unite us together. Are you drawing on these? Are you serving others? Are you working together with your brethren? Does Christ control your attitudes and actions?
Secondly Paul shared:
2. Christ’s Example
a. Christ's Sovereignty
Philippians 2:5-6 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,
1. Exists As God
Christ exists in the form of God. This speaks of His characteristics, not His outward shape. Colossians 1:15 tells us that he is the image of the invisible God, the Firstborn of all creation. The passage goes on to tell us that He made everything in heaven and on earth. Jesus Christ is the visible representation of the invisible God. He has an exalted position over all creation because He made it for Himself in the first place. John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Christ had fellowship with His Father from eternity past.
2. Equal With God
Christ is equal with God. He is not inferior to the Father in any way. Jesus Christ is not a lesser God as some religions claim. He is God the Son and always has been. The angels await His every command. All creation lies beneath His feet. The praise of heaven is continually offered unto Him. He has great power and privileges. Revelation 1:7-8 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, says the Lord, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
b. Christ's Submission
Philippians 2:7: but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.
Here we see the Sovereign Creator put aside His divine privileges for the sake of others. The NASB translates verse 6 like this. Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped. He did not hold on to His divine privileges and power, but shared them with unworthy sinners. He thought of others. Christ put God first and others second. 2 Corinthians 8:9: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.
1. He Emptied Himself
Firstly we see that Christ made Himself of no reputation. The Greek word kenow means to divest oneself of personal perogatives, to empty oneself. Some say that Christ laid aside His Divine attributes and power. But that would make Him less than God. That’s not what Jesus did. He laid aside the right to use His power and privileges. He obeyed the Father completely limiting His divine power to the Father's plan. He was no less God than He had been before. He simply gave up the right to exercise His power and privileges. He still possessed them.
2. He Enslaved Himself
Secondly He enslaved Himself. Christ willingly became the servant of mankind. So that people wouldn't feel compelled to obey Him out of fear, Christ shielded His glory. The Son of God became the Son of Man. Yet He didn't lose His deity through this, rather He added perfect humanity to His perfect deity. Why would Christ become a bond servant? Because He loves us. Because He wanted to show us how to live an abundant life. A joyful life through service.
Jesus Christ the Lord of heaven had every right to expect worship and service from mankind. Yet He chose to become a servant instead. The Almighty Creator became a servant. He ministered to the poor, cleansed lepers, raised the dead and healed the sick who came to Him. He even washed the disciples feet. John 13:13-15: You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.13: If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.
Sovereign Lord (worshipped & obeyed) > Servant (humbled, obeyed); Infinite God > Finite Man
Creator > Creature; Son of God > Son of Man; Giver of Life > Dies for His creation
Man Only Wanted King’s Friendship
The story is told by the Persians of the great Shah Abbas, who reigned magnificently in Persia, but loved to mingle with the people in disguise. Once, dressed as a poor man, he descended the long flight of stairs, dark and damp, to the tiny cellar where the fireman, seated on ashes, was tending the furnace. The king sat down beside him and began to talk.
At mealtime the fireman produced some coarse, black bread and a jug of water and they ate and drank. The Shah went away, but returned again and again, for his heart was filled with sympathy for the lonely man. He gave his sweet counsel, and the poor man opened his whole heart and loved this friend, so kind, so wise, and yet poor like himself.
At last the emperor thought, I will tell him who I am, and see what gift he will ask. So he said, You think me poor, but I am Shah Abbas your emperor. He expected a petition for some great thing, but the man sat silent. Gazing, he said, Haven’t you understood? I can make you rich and noble, can give you a city, can appoint you as a great ruler. Have you nothing to ask? The man replied gently, Yes, my lord, I understood. But what is this you have done, to leave your palace and glory, to sit with me in this dark place, to partake of my coarse fare, to care whether my heart is glad or sorry? Even you can give nothing more precious. On others you may bestow rich presents but to me you have given yourself; it only remains to ask that you never withdraw this gift of your friendship.
When was the last time you served someone in need? You might think that you aren't the servant type. You might think that this is for others with the gift. It is simply beneath you. After all service is humiliating. God has made me a leader not a servant. Christ spoke on this. Mark 10:43a-44: whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. Look at how Christ served us. It wasn't beneath Him.
c. Christ's Sacrifice
Philippians 2:8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
1. He Obeyed God
Jesus Christ humbled Himself as a man. He endured the scorn of men. He obeyed His Father's will for Him. He allowed men to treat Him shamefully. He, the Sovereign Lord humbled Himself and obeyed the Father's plan. Did His obedience have any limit to it? No it didn't.
2. He Offered Himself
How far then did Christ's obedience go? He was obedient unto death. The Lord Jesus Christ laid down His life for others. He sacrificed Himself for the sins of the world. Christ was willing to obey God even though it cost Him dearly. In the Garden He said not my will but Thine. Why did Christ allow Himself to be put to death when He was innocent? To obey His Father's will. To be the perfect sacrifice, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Christ suffered greatly. He became our sin bearer. He was scorned and put to shame and separated from His Father. How could He pay such a high price? Because there was no other way. Service that costs nothing accomplishes nothing. If there is to be any blessing there must be some bleeding. Service and Sacrifice go together. Christ looked passed the shame to the blessing that would follow.
Hebrews 12:2: looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. If you want to serve God it will cost you something. Paul knew what it meant to suffer. He eventually gave His life for the Lord. Hudson Taylor knew what it meant to suffer for Christ. But O how God blessed the work in China.
Service Of Henry Martyn
Henry Martyn had already done more than his share of missionary service in India when he announced he was going to Persia. Doctors had told him that the heat would kill him if he stayed in India, and the heat in Persia was worse. Martyn arrived, studied the Persian language and translated the New Testament and Psalms in an amazing nine months. But then was told he must have the Shah’s permission to circulate it. Martyn traveled 600 miles to Tehran, only to be denied permission to see the Shah.
He then turned around and made a 400-mile trip to find the British ambassador who gave his credentials and said, This is all I can do. You will have to present them yourself. Barely able to stand, Martyn rode at night on the back of a mule and rested in the daytime, protected only by a strip of canvas from the sweltering heat. He was received by the Shah who gave permission for the Scriptures in Persian to be circulated. Ten days later, in 1812, he died in Turkey. Shortly before he had written in his diary, I sat and thought with sweet comfort and peace of my God. In solitude my Companion, my Friend, and Comforter.
1 John 3:16: By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. C T Stud said if Jesus Christ be God and died for me then no sacrifice I can make is to great. He went China as a missionary working with Hudson Taylor. One Pastor complained that his men were changing the words of the hymn from Take my life and let it be to take my wife and let me be! Are you a servant of Jesus Christ? He gave His all for you? What does your service for Christ cost you?
3. Christ’s Exaltation
a. Christ's Universal Worthiness
Philippians 2:9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,
Because Jesus Christ freely gave His life as a sacrifice for sinners, God has exalted Him. The words highly exalted ujperuyow means to elevate to the highest position, to super exalt. Sinners ridiculed the Son of God and mocked Him. They beat Him and put Him to death. But the Father has given Him a name that is above every other name. The name Jesus means Jehovah Saves. God raised Christ from the dead and exalted Him to His own right hand. He has placed everything under His feet because He is worthy. His name is honored.
Romans:1:3-4: concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. Psalm 110:1 The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool. Beginning with the resurrection God has exalted His Son. Luke 24:25-26: Then He said to them, O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory? First the Cross and then the Crown. Paul told Timothy the same principle applies to believers. 2 Tim 2:12: If we suffer with Him we will also reign with Him.
On The Stadium
In races, athletes are not rewarded right below the stadium, but called up to the stage for reward. In our earthly race, we are rarely rewarded on earth, but will be later on a higher platform!
b. Christ's Universal Worship
Philippians 2:10: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,
God has also deemed that all creation will bow the knee and worship His Son. On earth Jesus bent the knee to serve others, but now they will bow before Him. This includes both the redeemed and the lost. It includes all the angelic hosts both elect and evil. However, the damned will not be saved through this worship, they will simply be giving Christ the worship He is worthy of. Today sinners can bend the knee to Christ voluntarily and be saved. The day is coming when the lost will bend the knee to Christ and be condemned. Romans 14:11-12: For it is written: as I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.
c. Christ's Universal Witness
Philippians 2:11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Not only will all creation bow the knee, all creation will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, or literally God. Notice that Jesus Christ was exalted by the Father after He humbled Himself as an obedient servant of God. An important principle is stated here, Service comes before Exaltation. Joseph served for 13 years as a slave before God exalted him. David served as a shepherd and then as a soldier before becoming King. If you want God to lift you up then humble yourself and become His servant. James 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. Are you serving the Lord? Will He be able to exalt you for your faithful service?
Today people deny that Jesus Christ could be God's Son. They say that they can accept Christ as a good teacher, or an example, but don't believe that He is the Son of God. One day they will agree with God's confession of His Son, This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased. The Jehovah's witnesses and Mormons deny that Christ is God the Son.
They will not worship and kneel before Him now. They say we will worship only God. Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons claim we commit idolatry. But God has deemed that all creation will worship His Son. As the world worships Christ God the Father is glorified. What a Savior.
How do find you joy in the Christian life? By serving others. How do you persevere when it’s hard, when you suffer? By following Christ’s example and looking past the shame to the joy that will follow. The Lord will reward His children for their faithfulness in ministry. Believers will also rejoice in seeing people in heaven because of their service. I trust this is this your desire.
2 Corinthians 13:14: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.