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LESSON 4: THE NEED FOR HUMILITY IN DISPOSITION
by Dr. Fred Wittman
Pride is a perilous and devastating trait according to Proverbs 16:18. It is presented as a temptation to everyone. Pride was part of Eve’s downfall. Pride was Satan’s downfall and he dangles pride before everyone some time or other. The contentions, strife, and divisions in the church at Corinth can be attributed to pride. Note the emphasis on ‘I’ and ‘myself’ in 1 Corinthians 1:12-17.
The church at Philippi experienced a measure of disunity. Paul emphasized the need for unity repeatedly throughout this Epistle. Evidently two sisters of the church had a falling out or at least had their differences (cf. 4:2). Paul’s exhortation to them is the apex of indication that the Philippian church lacked unity. The church needed to demonstrate practically the unity that was already true positionally in Christ. Was it not pride that caused the division and disunity in their personal relationships?
Pride is as prevalent today as it was in the first century after Calvary or in the Garden of Eden. Pride is the age-old spiritually destructive sin. Humility is the counter part of pride. The need for humility is as great in the local church today as it was in Philippi. Every one of us are responsible to endeavor to keep the unity in the bond of peace (Eph.4:3). But how can this unity be maintained? What is needed in the lives of God’s people? The great lack of unity in the churches today indicates the great need for humility of disposition. In Chapter 2:1-11 we have the third essential attitude for productive Christian living presented: ‘humility in disposition.’
“Therefore if (and it is true) any^ comfort^ |be| in 0Christ, if (and it is true) any tender consoling by love[sovereign preference for another over self and others], if (and it is true) any fellowship of 0Spirit, if (and it is true) any inner, tender-affectionate-yearning and compassions, 2fully fulfill my /joy! so that you& continually mind the same~ thing and continually have the same love, joined souls, ones continually minding the one~ thing, 3not one~ thing |done| according to strife or vainglory, but[on the contrary] with /humble-mindedness, ones deeming one another superior ones to themselves. 4You&, each one stop paying close attention to the~ things of themselves, but on the contrary each one also |be paying close attention to| the~ things of others[different kind]! 5For this is to be continually minded in you& which also |is| in Christ Jesus, 6Who, while continuously existing in 0form of 0God, did not deem the process of being equal with 0God seizure[plunder]. 7On the contrary He emptied[of glory] Himself by taking a bondslave’s 0form when becoming in similitude to humans 8and, since being found in fashion as a human, He humbled Himself and became obedient til death, in fact a cross-death. 9Wherefore also The God supremely exalted Him and graciously granted to Him a name, |namely| the~ one above every name, 10in order that at the name of Jesus every knee, of: celestial ones and earthly ones and subterranean[under dust] ones, bend in veneration 11and every tongue of itself publicly confess, ‘‘Jesus Christ, Lord!’’ unto 0Father-God’s glory[exaltation with majestic radiant splendor]” (2:1-11 APT).
I. THE PREMISE FOR HUMILITY EXPRESSED (vs.1,2).
The passage opens by the use of the word ‘therefore.’ This refers back to verse 1:27 in which he expressed concern that he will hear that they “are standing firm in one spirit, with one soul striving together for the faith of the Gospel.” Unity was necessary for the proclamation of the Gospel. The confidence that Paul had in the proclamation of the Gospel was reinforced by their partnership in the Gospel of Christ. They were partners in the fight, partners in fearlessness, and partners in affliction. Based upon that confidence and their partnership he exhorted the Philippians to be humble. Firstly, Paul expressed the premise for humility in verses 1 and 2.
“Therefore if (and it is true) any^ comfort^ |be| in 0Christ, if (and it is true) any tender consoling by love[sovereign preference for another over self and others], if (and it is true) any fellowship of 0Spirit, if (and it is true) any inner, tender-affectionate-yearning and compassions, fully fulfill my /joy! so that you& continually mind the same~ thing and continually have the same love, joined souls, ones continually minding the one~ thing” (Phil. 2:1,2 APT).
A. Four Conditions Predispose Humility (v. l).
The premise for humility is based upon four conditions which are laid out in verse one. They all begin with an ‘if.’ Therefore they are conditional clauses and the exhortation depends upon these four conditions. “If (and it is true) there is any comfort in Christ” and we can all say that there is. “If any solace or consolation by love” and there is. Then Paul introduces a phrase that is new to them and follows with the fourth phrase, “If any tender mercies and compassions” and there is. Each of these ‘if’ clauses are true. For in Greek grammar if in a series of first class condition ‘if-clauses’ there is an uncertain quality of one, but all the others are known to be true then the other must also be true. There is a “fellowship of Spirit”! Actually there are seven fellowsips mentioned in the New Testament. But what is fellowship of Spirit?
1. Fellowship of The Spirit results in unity.
Fellowship can best be described or illustrated by an equilateral triangle. The triangle is pointing downward. The Godhead is a tri-unity in perfect fellowship and equality. God The Father is at the right hand of the triangle. There is Jesus Christ the Son on the left hand on the top (on the right hand of The Father). Then at the point down below is The Holy Spirit. We can illustrate “fellowship of The Spirit” by adding a conical-shaped form enlarging downward from the point of The Holy Spirit into many points each representing an individual disciple-member in the local church. [To view the chart illustrating this click here on Fellowship of The Holy Spirit Chart.] Each individual in Philippi would be one of those points with the cone representing the fellowship of the local church. The apostle Paul wanted them to be in harmony and fellowship, sharing together the things of Christ. The local body of regenerated believers sharing together the Gospel and the outreach of the Gospel to those around them, coming together to worship, and being instructed together in God’s Word comprised fellowship of The Spirit and resulted in unity.
2. Four conditions required for unity.
Paul based his exhortation to unity upon these four conditions which he indicated already existed among them. The practical manifestation of these four conditions is essential to unity. Everyone can say, “Yes, there is comfort or encouragement in Christ. Yes, there is solace or consolation by love. Yes, there is fellowship of The Spirit. Yes, there are tender mercies and compassions in which man is moved to concern himself with those who are hurting and those in need. Since they do exist Paul wanted them to be prominent in their lives. They are to be practically manifest daily in the life of each child of God.
3. The way you think affects unity (v. 2).
This ‘if’ carries the sense of since: “if and it is true.” “Since these four exist among you,” Paul wrote, Fill full my joy, that you& keep on thinking the same thing, and keep on having the same love, joined souls, who are thinking the one thing.”
It is interesting that the apostle has used participles as verbs in verse 2 but inserts a participle which is a substantive between two of the verbal participles: ‘joined souls.’ There is no way that the substantive participle can be used as a verb. By this he is addressing them as those who are joined in soul. He exhorted that they are to keep thinking one thing. Unity is based upon confluence of thought. If unity is to prevail then they are to keep on having the same love. When each member of the local church demonstrates the kind of love that The Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated and commanded, there is unity. When everyone is ready and willing to lay down his life for his brother love prevails. Then they are to keep thinking one thing. According to context the mind fixed on the thoughts of Christ is the one goal: to please Christ. Four conditions predispose humility and reflect Paul’s concern and desire for his disciples and those in the church that supports him.
B. Unity Relates To Humility.
The common denominator between unity and humility is the attitude of the mind. Unity requires thinking the same thing. Humility is thinking lowly of oneself. It is necessary for each member of the local church to demonstrate humility in disposition in order to obtain and maintain unity. After expressing the premise of humility based on four conditions and the necessity for unity, he related what was involved in humility.
II. THE PROPOSITION FOR HUMILITY EXTENDED (vs. 2-4).
Paul proposed that their unity would fully fulfill his joy. This unity which fills his joy could only be accomplished by consideration of and care for others in humility.
Joy Consummated By Their Unity (v. 2).
Paul exhorted the Philippian saints to persist in minding the same thing and continually manifest the same love. By doing so he would have his joy fully fulfilled.
“. . . fully fulfill my /joy! so that you& continually mind the same~ thing and continually have the same love, joined souls, ones continually minding the one~ thing” (v. 2 APT).
Paul was concerned that they fulfill his joy as well as his Lord’s joy. It was not a selfish desire. Paul knew that The Lord was pleased by unity. The prayer of The Lord Jesus Christ was for the unity of His own (John 17:11,21). Paul’s life is patterned after The Lord Jesus. Unity pleases The Lord Jesus Christ and their spiritual father. Paul’s joy would be filled full by their unity.
B. Consider Others In Humility (v. 3).
Paul is concerned with those who are hindering unity. So he forbids anything which causes disunity among saints and encourages attitude and action that foster unity.
“. . . not one~ thing |done| according to strife or vainglory, but[on the contrary] with /humble-mindedness, ones deeming one another superior ones to themselves” (v. 3 APT).
The opposite of humility is self-seeking, a contentious disposition and empty pride. But the one who is lowly-minded, the one who is demonstrating humility is not self-seeking. He is not demonstrating a contentious disposition but esteems others better than himself. He considers others in humility.
C. Care For Others’ Interests First! (v. 4).
What we care for is based upon what we focus our attention and upon what we keep fixing our eyes. Paul emphatically exhorted by using the negative imperative.
“You& (all), each one stop paying close attention to the~ things of themselves, but on the contrary each one also |be paying close attention to| the~ things of others[different kind]!” (V. 4 APT).
Keep on looking—keep your eyes fixed not on the main opportunity that you have for yourself, but keep your eye fixed on the good of others. “Keep fixing your eye on the things of others.” Look on others’ spiritual gifts and esteem them as worthy and necessary for the benefit of the local church. Don’t be concerned only with your own cultivation, that is the cultivation of your own spiritual life, so that you miss the traits of others. But be concerned about others’ growth, look after their spiritual development first. Put the blessings and spiritual benefits of others before your own, but do not neglect your own spiritual development!
III. THE PERFECT EXAMPLE OF HUMILITY PRESENTED (vs.5-11).
Paul presented to the Philippians the perfect seven-step example of humility, The Lord Jesus Christ. The exaltation of The Lord Jesus Christ is the example of the sequel to such humility. First Paul declared the seven steps down from equality with The Father to the most despicable death.
“For this is to be continually minded in you& which also |is| in Christ Jesus, 6Who, while continuously existing in 0form of 0God, did not deem the process of being equal with 0God seizure[plunder], on the contrary He emptied[of glory] Himself by taking a bondslave’s 0form when becoming in similitude to humans and, since being found in fashion as a human, He humbled Himself and became obedient til death, in fact a cross-death. (vs. 5-8).”
A. Christ’s Seven Steps Down In Humility (vs. 5-8).
Paul related the seven steps that Jesus took down as an example of humility.
Step 1. He Relinquished Reputation.
Christ did not eagerly hold on to or grasp as a prize His relationship as existing in the form of The God. “He thought it not robbery to be equal with God” (AV). He did not consider that being equal with The God must be grasped (held on to) at all costs. Though He was God and enthroned in Heaven, He condescended to leave that lofty position. He relinquished His high and glorious position in Heaven seated at the right hand of God in order to communicate The God’s love to man. Pride establishes a position and holds that position, but humility takes a low position. Compare Satan’s attitude of pride, the opposite of humility in Isaiah 14:12-14. He sought to establish a position which was higher than the position to which he was created.
“ How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High” (Isa. 14:12-14).
The Lord Jesus Christ stepped down from the throne to save. Satan rose up to the throne to seize. The Lord Jesus Christ relinquished position in order to provide salvation for all mankind.
Step 2. He Purposed No Reputation.
He emptied Himself of His position by taking the form of a slave. He abased or divested Himself. He was not concerned about coming as a celebrity or in royalty. He did not seek recognition. He was lowly in birth and had a lowly birthplace. He did not seek to impress people. He did not seek to establish nor to retain a reputation. He didn’t come to Earth just as a man, but the form He left was a divine form. There is a great discussion about that of which He emptied Himself when He took the form of a slave. There are those who say that He emptied Himself of His deity. But He did not! Some claim He emptied Himself of His traits or attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, and eternality. But He did not! He demonstrated His omnipotence repeatedly through His miracles. He also demonstrated His omniscience repeatedly in astounding the doctors of law at the age of twelve, the Samaritan woman, and His disciples (Lk. 2:42,46,47; Jn. 4:15-29; Mt. 19:23-26; Mk. 10:23-27). With reference to His omnipresence, although He was limited in His presence to His body, He was also omnipresent in Spirit (Jn. 1:18). Though He was on earth yet was He in Heaven in relationship with the Father ( Jn. 3:13). While He was here on earth, He claimed to be in Heaven at the same time. He did not give up His deity, but He did empty Himself of His glory (Jn. 17:5). He did empty Himself of His riches (2 Cor. 8:9). He emptied Himself of His glory, of His riches, and in a limited sense He emptied Himself of His omnipresence (being everywhere at the one time on Earth). He was confined to a body but His Spirit was not limited to Earth. He was at the same time in Heaven (Jn. 3:13). The extent of His emptying was in these three areas: riches, glory, and universal omnipresence. He never drew attention to His importance. He purposed no reputation for Himself.
Step 3. He Refused Pomposity.
He took upon Himself the form of a slave. There was no pomp in His coming or in His living. He took the lowly place of a servant or more accurately ‘bondslave’ rather than the royalty that was due Him. His ministry was one of service to others. He stepped down from being the master of all the universe to the submissive and lowly position of a bondslave. He willingly changed in outer form from The God to bondslave when He was made in the likeness of men. He was not just a servant, but the lowliest of servants, a bondslave. He came not to be served , but to serve (Mk. 10:45). He refused pomposity.
Step 4. He Resembled Peasantry.
The Son of The God became “in the similitude of humans” (APT). He took upon Himself the form, shape, and appearance of' man whom He created. Though he was God, He took upon Himself human flesh. God, The Son took upon Himself an additional nature, that of humanity. Yet He was God, divine nature veiled in human flesh. But not the status of the noble people, rather of the ignoble. He was the son of a carpenter. Carpentry was His trade until 30 years of age. Nor did He attempt to elevate his status in life to a higher level of living. In attitude and in appearance He resembled the common man and lived on the level of the peasant. He resembled peasantry.
Step 5. He Resigned Pleasure.
He humbled Himself. Being in the likeness of men and found as a man in appearance, He humbled Himself. What a humbling experience! He became obedient to God, The Father. He changed His outer form. He changed His position. He submitted to the will of His equal! He humbled Himself by esteeming others better than Himself. He considered others first. He put the interests of others first. He emptied Himself of riches (2 Cor. 8:9) and of His glory (Jn. 17:5), but not of His love (Eph. 5:2; Rev. 1:5). He resigned His own will to the will of His Father (Jn. 5:30). He found His pleasure in pleasing His Father (Jn. 8:29). He resigned His own pleasure for the pleasure of His Father.
Step 6. He displayed Perfect Reverence.
He became obedient unto death. Obedience requires reverence. No one obeys another that he does not revere. But to willingly obey a command to die requires perfect reverence. Jesus perfectly revered and obeyed His Father. He knew why He was born (Hebrews 10:5-10). He came to do His Father’s will. He obeyed and came to Earth as a human to die. All others are born to live. He was born to die. He had perfect reverence.
Step 7. He endured Painful Reproach.
The ultimate obedience was the most shameful, most despicable, most horrible, most humiliating, most excruciating death--death by crucifixion. It was not humbling enough to die, but His death must be by crucifixion. The absence of the article indicates the quality of death—crucifixion-death, the death of the cross. To be crucified was to become a curse and a reproach. What a painful death! What an extreme reproach! He became obedient even unto the death of the cross. Christ was the perfect example of humility in every sense.
So, if we are to have the humble mind of Christ and follow His example of humility, we must take a lowly position, seek not a reputation, refuse pomposity and be willing to serve others, resemble peasantry and seek not to live on a high (luxurious) level of living, resign selfish pleasure and seek to please God by obeying The Word of God implicitly and persistently and thus display perfect reverence , and bear His reproach though it may be painful (Heb. 13:13).
Paul began his exhortation of seven steps in humility by urging that this mind, which also |is| in Christ Jesus is to be continually minded in you&. You and I as well as the Philippians are to make the thoughts of this mind of humility that was in Christ Jesus to be ours. We are exhorted as are the Philippians to have these same thoughts of humility of mind.
B. God Exalted Christ After Humility (vs.9-11).
Jesus willingly humbled Himself and laid down His life for us. Because of His humility, The God exalted His Son, The Lord Jesus Christ.
“Wherefore also The God supremely exalted Him and graciously granted to Him a name, |namely| the~ one above every name, in order that at the name of Jesus every knee, of: celestial ones and earthly ones and subterranean[under dust] ones, bend in veneration and every tongue of itself publicly confess, ‘‘Jesus Christ, Lord!’’ unto 0Father-God’s glory[exaltation with majestic radiant splendor]” (2:9-11 APT).
Because of His humility, The God supremely, highly exalted Christ and gave Him the most exalted name above all names. Paul explained exactly how The God exalted His Son, Who is the perfect example of humility. The God has said in His Word that He will exalt every child of God who follows His Son’s example (1 Peter 5:6; James 4:6,10).
C. The Result Of Humility And Exaltation (v. 11).
With regard to the name of His Son Who humbled Himself The God made a determination.
“and every tongue of itself publicly confess, ‘‘Jesus Christ, Lord!’’ unto 0Father-God’s glory[exaltation with majestic radiant splendor]” (v. 11 APT).
God determined that every tongue should by itself confess that Jesus Christ is Lord unto the glory of God the Father. The middle voice is used. This indicates that of itself every tongue shall confess and that without any outside power or influence insisting that it be done. The God will not make anyone confess Christ as Lord, but every tongue will willingly do so some day.
Paul stressed the need for unity in the local church at Philippi. In order for unity to be evident in the church humility of disposition and attitude must prevail. Each member must demonstrate humility in his life. Paul expressed the premise for humility. He stressed that four conditions including fellowship of the Gospel exist. These four conditions are: comfort or encouragement, solace or consolation in love, fellowship of The Spirit, and inner, tender-affectionate-yearning and compassions. It is essential that these be practically manifest by every child of The God. Unity relates to humility. Consideration of others that is not self-seeking and caring for others’ interests before one’s own interests are essential to manifesting humility. Christ is presented as the perfect example of humility both in how humility is demonstrated and how humility is rewarded by The God. Paul called for his readers to have the same mind and disposition of humility as Christ had. The Lord Jesus took seven steps downward in humility. (Review them!) Every child of The God is called upon to develop an attitude of humility. Without it there cannot be unity. But strife, division, and contention as well as The God’s resistance and abasement will result. Humility brings rewards and exaltation by The God. You are responsible to choose whether you will humble yourself or not. Which will you choose? What determination will you develop toward an attitude of humility in disposition?
What steps will you take to develop a better relationship with God and unity with your fellow-believers in the local church?
What effort will you exert to develop and display this attitude which is so vital in Christian growth and productive Christian living?
Now consider the practical meaning of our lesson.
1. What attitude in relation to unity is essential for productive Christian living?
2. What four conditions of relationship are essential for the development of an attitude of humility?
3. What is the common denominator between unity and humility?
4. In what two ways does one manifest humility?
5. How does the example of Christ demonstrate these two aspects of humility?
6. How does the example of Christ demonstrate the way in which God rewards humility?
7. Why is it so essential to demonstrate the attitude of humility for productive Christian living?
Answer: this question has positive and negative aspects.
| | understood $singular &plural /the 0no article +masculine ~neuter