Chapter 2

The opening words of this chapter are intimately connected with what has gone before. “If there be therefore any consolation.” “Therefore” shows that the suffering and consolation are linked together. What a motive for endurance and bearing up in the fight! “Consolation in Christ”—“comfort of love”—“fellowship of the Spirit”—“bowels and mercies”—what an array of beautiful things! The words “If any” are four times found. What an appeal to the heart! Would that they were more known and enjoyed among us. The Philippian saints had shewn that they possessed them in the past (chaps, 1:7-9; 4:10, 15), and had manifested them toward the Apostle, now he desires that they may fulfil his joy by having them in fuller measure among themselves. The things mentioned in verse 1 are the motives to what the Apostle pleads for in verse 2.

Verse 2.—“Of one accord, of one mind.” “One accord” means of one soul. Oh, how intensely earnest the Holy Ghost is that the souls of God’s people should be united: that they should be fused together by the love of God, one heart and one soul actually there. “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us by the way” (Luke 24:32). “The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32). What “fellowship of the Spirit,” what “bowels and mercies “were among the saints of those early days!

“The saints were of one heart and soul,
And love to Christ inspired the whole.”

This is the secret of all true unity: apart from this all else is mere empty form and boast. “Of one mind” — literally—“thinking the same thing.” It is a serious thing for Christians to have different “views” of God’s truth, and as a result to act differently, and become divided among themselves and before the world. The Spirit of God teaches the same thing “to all, and the Word of God is the one rule of faith for all the saints, and for all time. Differences on matters regarding which God has spoken, ought not therefore to be regarded lightly. One must be wrong, both may be, and it is a solemn matter to err in the mind of God, and we shall hear of it at the judgment seat. The more we cleave to Christ, and are taught of the Spirit, the more shall we be of one mind in the Lord, not agreeing after the fashion of men, but taught by the one Spirit, from the one Book, we shall grow into oneness of mind and judgment in all things. This is the way to bring about true unity, “and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you” (chap. 3:15).

Verse 3.—“Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory.” This shews in what spirit the warfare is to be carried on. “Strife,” putting down or out-doing others is not to be our motive. “Vain-glory”—empty pride, the bringing into prominence of self. Not only will our service, but the hidden motives of the heart that prompted it, be laid bare at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor. 4:5). How small some of the things that are highly esteemed among men will appear there! Let us anticipate the time of that judgment seat, by scrutinising our motives in the presence of God and by the light of His Word. “In lowliness of mind”—the same word as “humility of mind” in Acts 20:19, and “humbleness of mind” in Col. 3:12. The perfect Servant could say, “I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29). There is a false humility, which doubts salvation, and assumes a low place, but this is the devil’s counterfeit of true humility, which takes the place assigned to it by God, and abides therein doing the work or enduring the trials meted out to it without murmuring or clambering for a higher place. “Esteem others better than themselves.” The word “better “seems a hard word to nature. It can only be reached by denying self, by continual warfare against proud thoughts of self. I wonder how many of us have got into this, or try to get into this state of mind?

Verse 4.—“Look not every man on his own things.” Selfishness is natural to us; and by yielding to it we lose much. Occupation with “our own things” is the greatest hindrance to true fellowship. “All seek their own” (verse 21), is just as natural to man as it is for water to run downhill. The only way to overcome it, is by opening our hearts like the sunflower to take in the warm beams of His love, and thus make them expand, and the more of that love of His that we thus take in, the more shall we be delivered from self, and looking only to our own things. Divine love welling up in the heart, gives a Christ-like care for others, and a real interest in their joys and sorrows.

Verse 5.—The perfect example of this was seen in the Lord Jesus. No one ever looked upon the things of others and set Himself to serve as He did. “Who loved me, and gave Himself for me “(Gal. 2:20). Serving and giving were characteristic of Him. He came not to be ministered unto, but “to serve, and to give His life a ransom” (Matt. 20:28). “Let this mind be in you.” Then our service will not be fitful, but the fixed purpose of the heart and mind.

Verses 6-8.—These verses trace the path of the Lord Jesus from equality with God, to the death of the Cross. What a wonderful path was His! He abased Himself, and has been exalted. Satan sought to exalt himself, and has been abased; and Eve fell because she wanted to “be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). Here in the scene of man’s rebellion and disobedience, the Lord Jesus trod the path of obedience, going lower and lower until it ended at the Cross. Farther down than this He could not descend. From thence God exalted Him, far above all heavens. The path of Christ is here traced by the Spirit: in chapter 3 the path for the believer—“That I may know Him.”

Verse 6.—” Who being in the form of God.” I do not know of language stronger than this “Who existed in the form of God.” “The Word was with God and the Word was God (1 John 1:1). He began at the top, on equality with God, yea He was God. Some there are who deny this boldly, many who would fritter it away and weaken it. But we must hold it fast, with an unrelaxing grasp: it is fundamental to the Gospel. Our first parents fell because they wanted to be on equality with God, but He who had no need to clutch at equality with God, for He was God, came down. This verse takes us back to the time when there was no creature: before a star was in the firmament He was there, the “I am” of Eternity, co-equal with the Father. Whatever form God has, Christ had. “Thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” The allusion is to Adam: he sought to be as God and he fell. Christ was at the top to begin with, He could get no higher. But He chose to make himself inferior. He did not esteem His equality with God an object of plunder. Had he not been God it would have been no humiliation to be a servant, nor could it be a stoop to take such a place. The highest creature is but a servant, and can never rise above that position, but is bound to stay where God has put him. But Jesus voluntarily took that place, which shews He was no creature.

Verse 7.—“But made Himself of no reputation” — literally, “Emptied Himself” (R.V.) Of what did He empty Himself? This is a question difficult to answer, and our wisdom is not to dive too deeply into what God declares to be a “mystery” (1 Tim. 3:16), or to pry into what is beyond the finite mind of men. He did not and could not cease to be God, yet He parted with the glory which He had with the Father “before the world was” (John 17:5). He who was rich, for our sakes became poor (2 Cor. 8:9), so poor that He had not where to lay His head in the world His hands had made. “And took upon Him the form of a servant,” literally “a bondservant—a slave,” and was made in the likeness of men. These two expressions, “The form of a servant” and “the likeness of men,” tell what is meant by “He emptied Himself.” That He who was “in the form of God” should stoop so low as to take “the form of a bondservant,” is what we cannot understand; we simply believe it because the Holy Ghost has told us, and bow our heads in reverent worship. He was not bound to become a servant. He chose it of His own voluntary will. Oh the wonders of His love! we shall know it more fully when we see Him as He is, and when we see no longer as through a glass darkly, but face to face.

Verse 8.—“He humbled Himself.” There are two explanations of this: 1, “He became obedient unto death”: 2, “The death of the Cross.” What a sweep! What a path! Having of His own choice become a servant, He learned obedience; we are to be made like Him, and to learn it also. Once it was strange to Him, and to us. He learned obedience (Heb. 5:8), by being above it, we learn it by being beneath it. He was the only perfectly obedient servant God ever had upon earth. His delight was to do His Father’s will (Ps. 40:8). His meat and His drink was to always please Him (John 4:34; 8:29), and that path of obedience led Him on to the Cross. The path of obedience is a path of humiliation and suffering. This is the path that Jesus trod, and in which He beckons us to follow. It is easy enough to obey fitfully, to do what is pleasant and which involves no cross, but a persistent, steady purpose to obey God, will bring us into reproach and abasement before the world. This is what makes that path unpopular. A Christianity that will please the flesh, and that will be well thought of in the world, is the snare into which the devil will seek to lead us. Let us beware of his wiles, and ever remember that to follow Christ fully, putting our feet into the footprints He has left, brings suffering and loss. “The death of the Cross”—a death of ignominy and of shame, a felon’s death. Whoever could have conceived of the Son of God, the Creator of heaven and earth hanging on a cross between two thieves! That Mighty one who made every star in the sky, left to die alone; to say in the agony of His soul—“I am a worm and no man.” He went down step by step until He could get no farther; the “death of the Cross” was the lowest place. Then God put forth His hand. That perfectly obedient one was the Lamb of God, and from the depths of His humiliation, God raised Him up to the highest pinnacle of glory.

Verse 9.—“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him.” He trusted God in the depths of his humiliation and suffering, and God honoured Him by raising Him up and exalting Him to the throne. What an encouragement to go on trusting God, even when all seems to be against us, and pursuing the path of implicit obedience, even when it seems to bring nothing but shame and loss. No one ever lost by trusting and obeying God: in the long run it will be found to have been the only path of real prosperity and reward. “The Name which is above every name.” The Name of Jesus once written on His Cross of shame, and still despised and rejected of men, shall yet be owned and honoured above every name. How it will gladden the heart of God and cause His saints to sing for joy, to hear that Name extolled and exalted in all the earth beneath and in the heavens above. And how it grieves God’s heart to see any other name exalted above the Name of Jesus now. How does it affect us? Do our hearts grieve to see other names put up alongside of His, or do we connive with it, or glory in it. Even now, His God has exalted Him “far above all principality, and power, … and every name that is named” (Eph. 1:21). Do we give Him that place, and seek even now to own His claim as our only Lord. On the transfiguration mount God would allow no other name, however honoured as His servants, to be put up alongside of His, and God will yet see that His place and His honour are given to the Lord Jesus, and that His claims are owned by all. How our hearts shall join in that universal song to “Crown Him Lord of all.”

Verse 10.—“In the Name of Jesus every knee should bow.” His saints shall bow and own Him willingly; His foes compulsorily; but every knee must bow, for all must own His Lordship and every tongue confess it, to the glory of God the Father. The former is the owning of His personal glory as Jehovah. The other His acquired glory as the Lord. As Peter told the Jews at Pentecost, “God hath made that same Jesus whom ye crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36), so the owning of that will be to “the glory of God the Father,” who hath placed Him there. Oh what a Being is the Lord Jesus! In the bosom of the Father, the Creator and Sustainer of all things; in the manger at Bethlehem, an infant of days; in the world a despised stranger; and on the Cross a sufferer, and a sacrifice for sin. Now exalted on the Father’s throne as Lord of all, and presently to sit upon His own throne to reign and be owned by all. His smile will gladden all in heaven above; His laugh will fill all in hell with awe. “Every knee shall bow.” In Colossians 1:20, we are told He will re-adjust the relation of all things in heaven and earth. The real inhabitants of heaven are not brought there yet, they are the saints redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. These will lead the worship of the heavenly host above (Rev. 5:8, 9), and be first to own His claim and worth. “In heaven.” Those “on earth,” His earthly people Israel, and the nations, will own Him as their King, for in that day there shall be one Lord and His Name one (Zech. 14:9). “Under the earth”—even His enemies shall be made to own the Name and confess the greatness of His glory, but there is not a word to indicate that they will be saved. He has had many bold and defiant enemies, but they were only so while the breath was in them. In hell there is no defiance and no infidelity. The devils believe and tremble, and the lost have to own too late their folly, in despising Him as Saviour and Lord, who was the Sent One of God to die, and the Exalted One to rule.

Verse 12.—“Wherefore, my beloved.” The word “wherefore” connects with what has gone before. It is as if the Holy Ghost has said, Pursue the same path, trust in the same God, and He will see that you are well rewarded. “Ye have always obeyed.” They had made a good start in the path of obedience, and their obedience had been “much more” since he had left them, but they were to go on and on in that path, treading the path that Jesus trod, even if it led them down and deeper down, and so give up everything as He did in obedience to God’s will. What had He when He reached the end? A Cross, and a borrowed grave! Then God raised Him to the throne. Thus were they to work out their “own salvation.” Notice, it is not work for your salvation, for salvation is brought by the grace of God (Titus 2:11), and immediately a sinner believes on the Lord Jesus Christ he is saved (Acts 16:31). How well the jailor and all the rest of the saints at Philippi knew that. But now that salvation was their “own” they were to work it out, according to the perfect pattern shown in the foregoing verses. Salvation is viewed in various aspects in the Word. In the past: “By grace ye are saved” (Eph. 2:10). “Who hath saved us” (2 Tim. 1:8). In the future: “Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” (Rom. 13:10). And here in the present: “Work out your own salvation.” It must be “our own” before we can work it out. Christ has earned it for us: God has given it to us, and if God says it is mine, I am sure He will never take it from me. But I am told to work it out, after this pattern, “Give up get down, be obedient.” Three short words, easily uttered, but all opposed to the way of the world, and alas! to the way of many who profess Christ’s Name. So it is a real conflict and agony, but the recompense is sure. See where God has put that perfectly obedient One, who went down to the death of the Cross! Is not that enough to assure us that the path of humiliation and obedience is the path to glory. “With fear and trembling”—not fear of being lost, but because we are in the wilderness with danger all around, and with the flesh within ever seeking to lead us into disobedience and insubjection to God.

Verse 13.—“For it is God that worketh in you.” Each movement in real spiritual life, each step in the path of obedience is the work of God the Holy Ghost in us. Oh how near this brings God to the soul: “It is God that worketh in you.” The Holy Ghost always leads the saints along the same path of obedience in which Christ walked, and will lead them onward and upward to the same goal.

Verses 15, 16.—“That ye may be blameless and harmless.” Words are not enough. It is possible to be very fluent and fervid, and yet lax in our lives and unlike Christ in our actions. “Actions speak louder than words,” and the world looks at the ways and works of God’s people. No one should be able to say a true word against us. We are to be “blameless”—without rebuke. The apostle tells of some who were not so in this Epistle. Some were bent on “seeking their own”; others were “minding earthly things.” These were certainly not shining as lights, or “holding forth the Word of life.” It is a sign of real fellowship with Christ if one is shining and serving, shedding forth the heavenly light and holding forth the life-giving Word. “Sons of God without rebuke.” All believers are sons, for God never gives salvation and then withdraws it, never gives life and then quenches it; but here is the manifestation of that new life, and that new relationship. God would not only have us as His sons, but He would have us so to live that people around shall not be able to say a just word against us. A man who has the Holy Ghost dwelling in him—and all God’s sons have—ought to have power to so keep self down and shew forth Christ, that people will see and feel that Christ is in him. He has power to curb the passions and lusts of the flesh, and to overcome the world.

Verse 16—“That I may rejoice in the day of Christ.” He had the judgment-seat in view: evidently it filled His soul in all His service; he carried the remembrance of it ever with Him. That will be the day that will test our work of what sort it is, and when the Lord will reward all that has been done for Him, and to His pleasing. These Philippian believers would be stars in His crown in that day, for they not only had life, but were shewing it, and holding out the Word of life to others. The Lord had joy in them, as He has in all obedient ones, and Paul had joy in them, and looked forward to them as his “crown of rejoicing” in the day of Christ. What a joy to the true servant it will be, to see in that day the full fruit of his toils and tears all shining in the image of Christ.

Verse 17.—“And if I be offered.” Here is a bright instance of unselfishness. The apostle views the Philippians’ faith like a sacrifice, his own life like the oil that was poured out upon it. See, too, the lowliness of mind of this unselfish and devoted man. He regards theirs as the great thing, “the sacrifice”; the surrender of his own life as a very little thing, only a drink offering, poured out upon the sacrifice Oh that there were more of such devotedness and lowliness among the saints of God! How like the perfect Pattern was the apostle! How closely he followed in the steps of God’s lowly Servant, whose devotion led Him on to the Cross.

Verses 19, 20.—“All seek their own.” A striking contrast! Some seeking to follow closely in the footsteps of Christ, others seeking their own, and living selfish lives, yet professing Christ’s Name. People nowadays hardly let the glory of Christ, or the claims of Christ enter their calculations unless for their own private good. Rest assured, that if you put Christ in the second place and your own things in the first, you will hear of it at the judgment seat. The Holy Ghost makes two exceptions: He delights to record the faithfulness of God’s saints, even of individuals in a day of failure, when the mass are in a state of decline. “Ye know the proof of Him.”

Timothy was Paul’s “own son in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2), and as a son with a father he had served with him. Young believers generally become like those whom they company with. How blessed to see them growing up to follow in the footsteps of faith, “imitators of us and of the Lord” (1 Thess. 1:6). And how important that those acting as “guides” in the Church should so live that younger ones may not stumble. “Whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever” (Heb. 13:7, 8).

Verses 25-28.—Epaphroditus is another example of unselfishness. “He was sick nigh unto death.” Probably he got his sickness through travelling as the bearer of the message and gifts (chap. 4:18) from the Philippians to Paul. What a bright example of devotion to Christ! How few give up their lives in service to Christ! How one feels rebuked by such instances. Paul could not heal Epaphroditus; he could pray for him, and it is implied that he did. “God had mercy on him.” Sickness is often permitted to continue that we may be led into deep exercise of soul, and made partakers of His holiness. It is not always sent in rebuke, but we should be exercised to learn why it is allowed. When a person was healed miraculously in those early days, I have no doubt the Spirit of God caused the healer and the healed both to know that it would be for the glory of God, and when otherwise for the same reason. Life may be prolonged not to God’s glory, as in the case of Hezekiah (Isa. chaps, 38 and 39).

Verse 30.—“For the work of Christ he was nigh unto death.” It is a rare thing to break down in real work for Christ. It seems like another climate from what one is accustomed to nowadays. “All seek their own.” How delightful to Paul to record the devotion of Epaphroditus! How sweet the fragrance of it wafted to the courts of heaven. “For the work of Christ.” What a motive! Will Christ be in his debt? Nay: He will reward him abundantly, and all who serve from love to Him. Shall we spend our little while down here serving Him, or in heaping up wealth and making ourselves as comfortable as we can on earth as if it were our home?