After love, humility is the most discussed virtue in the New Testament.
While many biblical verses and books speak on humility, Philippians makes a unique contribution to the conversation. For that reason, WordPartners staff recently read through Philippians with a special eye on growing in humility in order to be better servants of Christ and ministry partners. Below are ten observations from Philippians our staff shared.
“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus”
The book’s first verse shows the humility of Paul, not only by donning the “servant” title but also by not emphasizing his apostolic office (although we know sometimes it’s needed; see Galatians 1:1 and 2 Corinthians 1:1). Paul is known by many as the church’s greatest theologian and most influential missionary, yet here he chooses the title of servant. Do you view yourself as a servant?
Paul wrote Philippians from prison and yet is filled with joy. Suffering for the cause of Christ shows tremendous humility in the apostle and reflects a deep and abiding faith.
When considering those who preach Christ from envy or rivalry to afflict Paul in his imprisonment (1:17), Paul rejoices that Christ is proclaimed and refuses to compete with such preachers. Paul doesn’t want to win an argument; he wants Christ to be proclaimed.
Verses 1 and 2 of chapter 2 remind us that the Holy Spirit works in born-again believers to produce unity. Then Paul exhorts us to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (2:3) and to look to the interests of others (2:4). In Christ, these commands are not impossible to follow but should become easier and more joyful to obey as we grow in grace.
Our Lord is the ultimate example of humility:
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
The Creator of the universe donned human flesh and wrapped a towel around his waist to serve. He could have avoided the cross and instantly struck His enemies down, exalting Himself. Instead, He obeyed the Father’s every command. Christ’s later exaltation (2:9-11) reminds believers of how those who humble themselves before the Lord will be lifted up (James 4:10).
Paul counted his earthly credentials as a “loss for the sake of Christ” (3:7). His treasure is Christ, not the fleeting pleasure of human recognition.
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”
What would you have a hard time giving up for the sake of Christ? Your ministry or ministry credentials? If you treasure anything over Christ, you settle for second best and reject a greater glimpse into His sufficiency and glory.
Our heavenly citizenship has a direct impact on how we view our bodies. While donning our humble earthly bodies in the present, we must remember the glorious bodies Christ will grant us in the future. These bodies are a gift and are not our own. This future vision should stoke the fires of hopeful perseverance.
Paul wrote Philippians to confront Euodia and Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Those last three words (“in the Lord”) repeat three times in these four verses. Believers are to “stand firm thus in the Lord” (4:1), “agree in the Lord” (4:2), and “rejoice in the Lord” (4:4). This means believers humbly and rightfully place the Lord’s priorities over their own and don’t rejoice in airing their own opinions. This means putting our agendas on the backburner for the sake of the gospel.
When dealing with and avoiding conflict, reasonableness (sometimes translated as gentleness) is crucial to a peaceful resolution. Reasonableness lays aside our desire to be right and instead focuses on conflict resolution.
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Paul knows its not by his own strength that he perseveres. He knows that the strength and provision of Christ extends to every situation—and he rejoices.
Much more can be said about humility from Philippians. Our prayer is that your humility would grow and lead you to greater joy in Christ and gospel partnership.
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