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Paul knew Jesus as victorious by self-giving love

March 2, 2024

Daily Scripture

Philippians 2:5-11

5 Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:
6 Though he was in the form of God,
        he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
7 But he emptied himself
        by taking the form of a slave
        and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
8         he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
        even death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God highly honored him
        and gave him a name above all names,
10     so that at the name of Jesus everyone
        in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow
11         and every tongue confess
            that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

History says the city of Philippi was full of retired Roman military men. If you asked most of them to name a great leader, they’d have named Alexander the Great, the Greek general who conquered nearly all the known world, or the Roman Emperor Augustus who used force to end a civil war in the empire and bring a type of “peace” by suppressing any who disagreed with him. But Paul quoted an early Christian hymn built on the belief, as scholar N. T. Wright put it, that “[Jesus] was the reality, and Alexander and Augustus were the caricature. [Jesus] is what true global sovereignty looked like.” * Paul used the hymn’s beautiful lyrics to urge the Philippians to be like Jesus (the Christ = “anointed one” in Greek), a vastly different kind of king. “Instead of using his position to gain things for himself, Christ used it to give to others.” **

  • Jesus “did not consider being equal with God something to exploit” (verse 6). Wright asked, “Who arrogantly grasped at the chance to be ‘like God, knowing good and evil’? Why, Adam in Genesis 3.” Jesus, who was God, showed “what it really meant to be divine…. the true meaning of who God is. He is the God of self-giving love.” * Paul urged the Philippians to “adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus.” Are you willing to even think about adopting that attitude? Verse 7 then said Jesus “emptied himself.” In Greek grammar, the “himself” meant “‘he was glad to…,’ or ‘he was willing to give up all he had.’” And “emptied” didn’t mean Jesus stopped being God (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19). Because he was God, he didn’t have an ego need for any “rank of dignity and glory.” He took “the form of a slave,” and died on a cross. *** Would you value Jesus more if he’d strutted around asking, “Do you know who I am?” and seeking applause? Why or why not?

Lord Jesus, I call you Lord, not despite your humble, serving life and death, but because of it. As I worship you, send your Spirit to grow more of your self-giving love in my heart. Amen.

GPS Insights

Penny Ellwood

Penny Ellwood

Penny Ellwood serves as the Location Pastor for Resurrection Blue Springs in Blue Springs, MO.

When I read the hymn that Paul quoted in Philippians 2, it reminds me of a game my mom used to have my sister and me play when we were small. She’d suggest it on those days when we were trapped inside and needed a distraction. She would have us get out hand mirrors and hold them facing up just under our noses. Then she’d tell us to go for a walk on the ceiling but to make sure we looked out for the obstacles on the way. 

Looking down into the mirror made it appear we were walking on the ceiling. You’d have to watch out for the ceiling lights and make sure to step over the door frames. Everything appeared to be upside down and you’d notice things on the ceiling that you didn’t typically give much attention. It was a whole new upside-down world for my sister and me to explore.

Similarly, Christianity is a kind of an upside-down world where everything works on principles opposite to those of the world around us. To be blessed, be a blessing to others. To receive love, give love. To be honored, first be humble. To truly live, die to yourself. To receive, first give. To save your life, lose it. To lead, be a servant. To be first, be last.

Paul used the hymn’s beautiful lyrics to urge the Philippians, and you and I, to “adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus.” He invites us to rethink our attitudes based on Christ’s attitudes and actions–to see things upside-down.  

Obviously, living up to the attitude of Christ is not easy. It’s a pursuit that takes daily fostering through things like Bible reading, listening to praise and worship music, connecting with other Christians who encourage you in your walk, serving others, and spending time getting to know Christ himself through prayer. There are a wide variety of ways you can renew your Christlike mind. The key is to do something every day.

I think sometimes we try to accomplish too much too soon. The season of Lent, which we are in now until Easter, provides us time to focus on a few specific things that might turn us back toward Christ or help us make an adjustment in our attitudes. It’s an opportunity to take a few forward steps and make a little progress and, BTW, it’s not too late to engage in the season. I’d invite you to take a walk on the ceiling! We could all do with a little upside-down perspective.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Wright, N.T., Paul for Everyone, The Prison Letters: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 101-103). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
** Jerry L. Sumney, study note on Philippians 2:6 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 377 NT.
*** Greek insights from I-Jin Loh and Eugene A. Nida, A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. New York: United Bible Societies, 1977, pp. 59-60.