Christians should act like it
Do you think like Jesus?1 Given what you’re going through, do you find any comfort in Christ? Any encouragement from his love? Any esprit de corps with the Spirit? Any tenderheartedness or compassion? 2 If you do, I’m happy about it. And let me tell you how you can make me happiest of all. Work through any disagreements you have and reach compromises so you’re all pulling in the same direction, united in love, spirit, and purpose. 3 Don’t do anything for reasons that are selfish or conceited. Keep it humble. Think of other folks as more important than you are. 4 It’s okay to take good care of yourself. But take care of others, too. 5 Think the way Jesus thought.
He was God in every way
But he didn’t hoard his equality with God.
He traded the image of God for the image of a man.
8 He humbled himself.
Obeying God, he humbled himself to death—the most shameful death of all: crucifixion.
9 That’s why God honors him most of all,
And has written his name at the top of all names.
10 At the very mention of the name “Jesus,”
Everyone in heaven, on earth, and underground should take a knee and bow.
11 Every soul with a tongue should admit it out loud
As an expression of gratitude to God the Father:
Jesus Christ is Lord.
Keep up the good work12 Dear friends, you were always obedient souls when I was visiting with you. Now, more than ever, with me gone, you should continue working on your salvation with a serious and reverent attitude. 13 God’s at work in you. He’s giving you the will and the way to do the right thing. 14 Do it. And do it without complaining or arguing. 15 That way people will have no reason to criticize you, because you haven’t done anything wrong. As God’s children, keep your lives squeaky clean. Let me tell you, if you do that in this crooked and messed up world of ours, you’re going to shine like stars in the night sky. 16 Hang on tight to the words that give you life. If you do, I’ll be bragging about you when the Messiah comes back. I’ll talk about how happy I am that I didn’t waste the time I spent with you. 17 If my situation takes a turn for the worse, and my lifeblood becomes like a liquid offering poured on top of the sacrifice you’ve made through your faith, I’ll be happy—celebrating our salvation together. 18 I want you to be happy, too. Celebrate with me.
Kind words for Timothy19 I’m hoping to send Timothy to you soon, if our leader Jesus allows it. I’m hoping that when Timothy comes back, he’ll bring me encouraging news about you. 20 Timothy cares for you more than anyone else who’s here with me. 21 Everyone else looks out for Number One. They care about what they care about. They don’t care about what Jesus cares about. 22 You know Timothy’s solid character. You saw how he served me like a child serving his father while I preached the Good News. 23 I hope to send him as soon as I find out what’s going to happen to me. 24 I’m also trusting that the Lord will let me visit you soon.
Kind words for Epaphroditus25 Meanwhile, I think it’s important for me to send Epaphroditus back to you. He’s not just the messenger you sent to minister to me by helping me with my needs while I’ve been here. He’s my brother, a colleague in ministry, and a fellow soldier in our Lord’s army. 26 I’m sending him back because he’s distressed that you found out he had been sick. He’s longing to see you again. 27 He certainly was sick. He nearly died. But God had mercy on him and me as well, so I wouldn’t get double-dipped in sorrow. 28 I’m anxious to send him on his way so you can see him soon and celebrate his homecoming. That way, I can stop worrying. 29 So welcome him in hope and joy that comes from the Lord. Treat him and people like him with high honor. 30 After all, he nearly died working for the Messiah. He risked his life to take your place and give me the help you couldn’t give.
Sense of companionship, fellowship, or comradery.
Crucifixion was a form of execution reserved for the worst offenders: traitors, murderers, insurrectionists. Victims were tied or nailed to a cross and left to suffer a lingering death. It could take many hours or even days to die. Roman citizens were usually exempt from this torturous form of execution.
Perhaps a more descriptive phrase would be “Jesus the Messiah is our Leader.” Christ is the Greek word for “Messiah.” Lord was a word often used to describe a boss, a master, or a person of high status or respect.
“With fear and trembling.”
Possibly a reference to the kind of sacrifices described in Numbers 15:1-10.
Paul says, “Given what you’re going through, do you find any comfort in Christ? Any encouragement from his love? Any esprit de corps with the Spirit? Any tenderheartedness or compassion?” (2:1). How do you think it’s possible for anyone to know the answer to those questions?
“Don’t do anything for reasons that are selfish or conceited” (2:3). What do you think Paul had in mind at the time? And what examples come to mind in our day and age?
Paul told the people of Philippi to think like Jesus. Then he illustrated this, in Philippians 2:6-11, perhaps by quoting an early Christian song or a poem about Jesus. Whether Paul wrote these lyrics himself or quoted them, what one line or thought do you think stands out most as the best example of what Paul meant?
Paul tells the people at Philippi to keep up the good work and to “continue working on your salvation” (2:12). It’s not clear what he means by that. Any guesses?
Philippians 2:17 is tough to picture. Some Bible experts say Paul was comparing himself to a liquid offering priests sometimes poured onto an animal offering or a grain offering being sacrificed (see Numbers 15:1-10). What message do you think Paul was trying to communicate?
Paul actually seems to get a little bit snarky when he says he is sending Timothy. It could sound as though he’s getting a dig in at other Christians with him. “Everyone else looks out for Number One. They care about what they care about. They don’t care about what Jesus cares about” (2:21). It’s anyone’s guess who he’s talking about. What would you guess is going on?
It sounds as though Epaphroditus didn’t want the home folks to find out that he had gotten deathly sick on the trip. Paul told the people of Philippi, “I’m sending him back because he’s distressed that you found out he had been sick. He’s longing to see you again” (2:26). Can you relate to that? What do you think would make a person so upset about something like that? Upset enough that they would want to rush home?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul’s request to Christians in Philippi is that they get along with each other: “Work through any disagreements you have and reach compromises so you’re all pulling in the same direction, united in love, spirit, and purpose” (2:2). That’s a fairly common request of Paul’s as he wrote to different churches (1 Corinthians 1:10; Galatians 5:15; Ephesians 4:3). What do you think makes it so hard for Christians to do that—to get along with each other?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul said Jesus “humbled himself to death” (2:8). Jesus voluntarily traded his comfort in heaven for nails on a cross. That’s quite the fall from glory to humility. When have you seen someone take the highway of humility because they knew that where they were headed was a good place to go?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul said, “God’s at work in you. He’s giving you the will and the way to do the right thing” (2:13). What would be modern-day examples to illustrate what Paul is saying?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul asks for Christians to do what they know God wants them to do, and to do it without complaining or arguing (2:14). Some people in the church complain a lot. What do you think is a good way to deal with someone like that—beyond simply telling them, “Hey, you complain too much”?