“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 made himself nothing, 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.” ~ Philippians 2:5-8
It is almost unfathomable to think that one can read this passage of Scripture and not be deeply moved. Here we find a magnificent view of the Lord Jesus Christ, set in a passage that seamlessly connects the highly exalted Messiah with His own volition of humility. The beauty of this passage cannot be missed, leaving us not only with a better understanding of who Jesus Christ is, but with a deeper sense of awe for what the work of Christ really meant. What an impact it must have had on the Philippian believers as they took in every stroke, every word that Paul had written about the significance of the incarnate God! And yet, while Paul wrote this passage that is now so significant to Christology, this was not the primary focus of it at all.
The Goal: A Unified Body
Paul was not simply writing theology, but compelling the Philippian believers towards a transformation in lifestyle. Paul had just written in verse 2 a call to the Philippians to be of the same mind and same love. That is they are to be united, as one body in Jesus Christ. Not being divided by the trifle details, a group of people bonded together in the same love, same accord, and same mind can have a larger impact for the furtherance of God’s kingdom than one individual can on their own. Please don’t get me wrong, God can use individuals to make a significant impact, and we should never underestimate God’s work through an individual, but one must remember that God has called every individual to be part of a larger body (Hebrews 10:25) and instead combine our gifts from God with the gifts He has given other people (1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:4-7). The weaknesses become minimized as the body instead builds off the strengths of one another. For that reason, for the sake of a rightly functioning body, the church must be one of unity.
The Means: A Unified Mind
It was the noted English theologian John Stott who said, “The battle for the Christian life is the battle for the Christian mind.” The life is dictated by the mind. Where the mind goes, the life follows, and so it is also with the spiritual life. Both Jewish writers and Greek philosophers would have agreed with Paul’s premise in Romans 12:2, that to be transformed, one must be renewed in mind. If there is one thing that the Jews, Greeks, and Paul all had in common, it was the understanding that everything is affected by the mind (although their end goal and expectation would clearly be different).
It is the mind that controls one’s attitudes. It is the mind that controls ones values. It is the mind that controls one’s actions. Thus, it is the mind that controls one’s lifestyle. Therefore, to be renewed in mind is to be renewed in life. To be transformed in mind is to be transformed in life. To win the spiritual battle, one must win the battle of the mind. Guard your mind, guard your life.
It is the understanding of the significance of the mind that Paul writes the beautiful exposé of Jesus Christ. The call is to be united in mind because out of the mind everything flows. If the body of Christ is united in mind, it naturally follows that they will be united in all other aspects of ministry and life. In order for the Philippians to be united, they must have the same mind and in order to have the same mind, they must find that sameness in Christ, and thus Paul has given us this powerful reflection of verse 5-8.
The Premise: A Unified Character
Paul writes, “Have this mind….” Quite literally, it is ‘ be minded’ or ‘set your mind upon; as in have the same mind, or the same attitude as Jesus Christ. That attitude was not one of self-exaltation but of self-denial. There is a transformation of worldview, in which the mind is changed from being focused on the self to being focused on the others. That is, be humble.
Put on the mind of Christ, in order to put on the character of Christ. That call to unity in the body is a call to Christlikeness and the call to Christlikeness is a call to humility. Humility will inevitably have a number of effects on the mind, and therefore will have a number of effects of activity. It is humility that allows one to recognize:
- A need for understanding: A mindset of humility sets aside the pride of knowledge. We often think very highly of ourselves, convinced that we need no help from others and that we already know everything that is necessary for living. However, humility forces us to look in the mirror and see who we truly are….as individuals who are seemingly insignificant when we ponder all of God’s creation. Our perspective is quite limited when you think about it. We take in perhaps only that which is in front of us, forgetting that the view extends all the way around, including above and below us. Therefore, our understanding is also limited. As we recognize in the mind our true state, our heart begins to soften, and we become teachable. God begins a work in us through His Spirit, through His word, and through others in order to transform our lives by teaching us the truth we need to know to function according to and for His will.
- A need for Christ: Humility forces each of us to acknowledge our sinfulness (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:12) especially in light of God’s perfect standard of holiness (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:3). Humility also forces us to acknowledge our inability to meet that standard (cf. Isaiah 64:6). It is only in a teachable spirit, one of humility, can any of us call out to God, “Lord, save me!” because it is only in humility that we can recognize our need for a savior.
- A Need for others: Finally, humility allows one to recognize their need for others. The Christian life is not a life of solitude. It is a life built upon one another in which the body builds each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11) and sharpening one another (Proverbs 27:17).
The implications of this verse is that for the Christians to be of the same mind, the first step is for individual humility. It is with this understanding that the unfolding of the Christian life occurs. With the Lord Jesus Christ as our example, humility becomes the pivotal point for the rest of a Christian lifestyle. It is the gateway for the transformation of mind (Romans 12:2) and thus the gateway for the sameness of mind for a unified body (Philippians 2:2). To be of the same mind is to be minded like Christ…and to be minded like Christ is to be mindful of Christ.