Lesson 7: Humility

There is something in humility which strangely exalts the heart.

– St. Augustine

Devotion: Read Philippians 2:1-11. Humility is the driving force of this powerful passage. If we have gained any sense of community, comfort, compassion, etc., then we are called to work toward greater unity. And humility is the virtue we must have to be like-minded and loving. “Regard others as better than yourselves” leads Paul to quote an early Church hymn celebrating the humility of God embodied in Christ. The song describes the grand journey of Christ from pre-existence with God, through descent into humanity, submission to death, and then the dramatic exaltation of Jesus back into the presence of God. The clear message throughout is humility is the driving force behind both the incarnation and the ultimate celebration of Jesus as Sovereign. Remember, the hymn is offered in order to encourage us to embody humility in our lives. How does the calling of this passage parallel our call to be the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12-31)? What does the hymn say must happen for a group of believers to have the same love, spirit, and mind?

Personal Worship Option: Read 2 Corinthians 13:13. What does this benediction express about the nature of Christian community? How can you live today so that others experience this benediction’s desires for them?

Dig A Little Deeper:

2:1 Questions asked in Greek are written in such a way as to assume a positive or negative response. Paul presents a complex, four-fold, conditional clause using an “if…then…” structure that assumes a positive response. It begs a “yes, there is” for each condition.

2:2 Once again we hear a call to receive grace that sanctifies and moves us to completion. In this case, the call is to unity through humility. He states this in both negative and positive ways.

2:5 “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” does not refer to conformity in thought but focus on the same desire: setting aside selfish goals for the good of others. Why is this message difficult for us to hear? How do people misinterpret the idea of sacrificing self for others?

2:6 Paul’s use of a hymn shows the extent to which the early Church has established worshipping communities. “As something to be exploited” is the translation of a difficult Greek phrase. Other translations use “to be grasped,” “to be achieved by grasping,” and “to be used to his own advantage.” The point in context seems to be the free surrender of divine equality and privilege.

2:7 “Emptied himself” has also been translated “made himself nothing.” The mystery of pre-existent divinity and incarnation is beyond words, so all phrases fall short. What is the difference between these two translations? What aspects of divinity does Jesus need to retain to be considered “God?” How does each translation work in conjunction with the image of “taking the form of a slave” later in the verse? Compare these images to 2 Corinthians 8:9 and Galatians 4:3.

2:8 Because it breaks the hymn’s structure, scholars believe Paul added the phrase “even death on a cross.” Given the hymn’s words to this point, what does it mean that Jesus “humbled” himself? How does Jesus inform the call for humility within the church (2:3-4)?

2:9 Humility leads to elevation in God’s eyes. The “name” given to Jesus is “Lord” or “Sovereign,” which is defined in the hymn as sovereignty over the creation.

2:11 The creation which rejects him will recognize Jesus’ rightful place as Sovereign (1 Cor 12:3; Rom 10:9). The Church, in its confession of Christ, begins a song of praise that will eventually be sung by all the cosmos.

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