by John F. Klem
In the doctrine of Christ, Philippians 2 is a foundational New Testament passage. It is the key theological passage regarding what Christ did to leave His eternal abode and to take on flesh and blood so that He would be the eternal and effective sin payment for us. In theology, this passage is referred to as the Incarnation text, incarnation being a reference to Christ taking on human flesh.
Philippians 2 is also a key New Testament passage about the gospel. The good news of this passage is the humility and obedience of Christ to a death by crucifixion followed by an exaltation to the highest place in Heaven that resulted in confession, praise, and worship of Him.
It is a key New Testament passage dealing with how redeemed sinners care for and relate to one another. Philippians 2 is our lamp and light to direct us in a gospel-focused life of outreach and “one another” care. With this in mind, how can this passage unlock our understanding of the Advent season? How can Philippians 2 shape our hearts and affection during this Christmas season? For insight, let’s take a quick look at the textual details before us.
The opening four verses of Philippians 2 are an appeal for unity in our relationships with one another based upon our redemptive position in Christ. There is encouragement connected with being united to Christ. There is comfort associated with His love. There is fellowship connected with the Spirit. There is tenderness and compassion. Because of who we are by virtue of Christ’s redemptive work, we should be like-minded in how we care for one another.
Verse 2 might prompt the question, Whose mind sets the standard for us? The like-mindedness exhorted in 2:2 is explained in 2:5. The exhortation envisions a community of people, redeemed sinners who are thinking in a Christlike manner. This exhortation is a call to a certain way of life, a like-Christ kind of life. This is a call to a way of life found in Christ and the gospel.
This community is exhorted to be a Christ-minded people who act toward one another with radical self-denial and service. They are urged to avoid selfish ambition and not to inflate their egos with exaggerated self-evaluations. Most importantly, they are to think of others instead of themselves (2:2–4).
The next movement of the chapter is the motivation and enablement for unity in our relationships with one another (2:5–11). The incarnational life of the Lord Jesus Christ is the impeccable example of how we should and can live in unity and service to one another.
The Lord Jesus Christ, Who is identified with God (2:6, 11), did not steal anything from God to enhance His credentials. Instead, the Son of God willingly took on the form of a servant and then humbled Himself to fully execute the redemptive plan that included death by crucifixion. Crucifixion, death, and the grave did not thwart the eternal plan of the triune God. Instead, these things served that plan and resulted in exaltation and worship of Christ.
This key Christological text speaks the gospel into our Advent season. During a time when the spirit of goodwill toward one another is expected, this text exposes the shallowness of our human efforts to be kind to one another. We can all be good and kind to one another to a point. This text, however, calls us to a Christlike kindness, unity, and selflessness. More importantly, Philippians 2 gives us the enablement for this kind of life. The example of Christ encourages us to make the most of life, particularly this season.
John F. Klem is director of Regular Baptist Press.
Regular Baptist Press is committed to providing educational resources that point people of all ages to Christ not just at Christmas, but throughout the year. RBP offers a wide range of curriculum, VBS programs, Bible studies, books, and training seminars that are Biblically sound, cover the entirety of Scripture, and designed for spiritual growth.
- Read the entire series of Advent meditations.