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Philippian Studies: Chapter 5 - Unity in Self-Forgetfulness: The Example of the Lord

By H. C. G. Moule

         "Our glorious Leader claims our praise
            For His own pattern giv'n;
         While the long cloud of witnesses
            Shew the same path to heav'n."

      PHILIPPIANS ii. 1-11

      Dissensions incident to activity--Arguments for heart-union--"No plunderer's prize"--"The name"--The tone of the great passage--What the "Kenosis" cannot be--It guarantees the infallibility--Doctrine and life--"Only thou"

      In the section which we studied last we found the Apostle coming to the weak point of the Christian life of the Philippians.   On the whole, he was full of thankful and happy thoughts about them.   Theirs was no lukewarm religion; it abounded in practical benevolence, animated by love to Christ, and it was evidently ready for joyful witness to the Lord, in face of opposition and even of persecution.   But there was a tendency towards dissension and internal separation in the Mission Church; a tendency which all through the Epistle betrays its presence by the stress which the Apostle everywhere lays upon holy unity, the unity of love, the unity whose secret lies in the individual's forgetfulness of self.

      Such dangers are always present in the Christian Church, for everywhere and always saints are still sinners.   And it is a sad but undeniable fact of Christian history that the spirit of difference, dissension, antagonism, within the ranks of the believing, is not least likely to be operative where there is a generally diffused life and vigour in the community.   A state of spiritual chill or lukewarmness may even favour a certain exterior tranquillity; for where the energies of conviction are absent there will be little energy for discussion and resistance in matters not merely secular.   But where Christian life and thought, and the expression of it, are in power, there, unless the Church is particularly watchful, the enemy has his occasion to put in the seeds of the tares amidst the golden grain.   The Gospel itself has animated the disciples' affections, and also their intellects; and if the Gospel is not diligently used as guide as well as stimulus, there will assuredly be collisions.

      Almost every great crisis of life and blessing in the Church has shewn examples of this.   It was thus in the period of the Reformation, the moment the law of love was forgotten by the powerful minds which were so wonderfully energized as well as liberated by the rediscovery of eternal truths long forgotten.   It was thus again in the course of the Evangelical Revival in the last century, when holy men, whose whole natures had been warmed and vivified by a new insight for themselves into the fulness of Christ, were betrayed into discussions on the mysteries of grace carried on in the spirit rather of self than of love.   "We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burthened."   The words are true of the believing individual; they are true also of the believing Church.   That which is perfect is not yet come.   In the inscrutable but holy progress of the plan of God in redemption towards its radiant goal, it is permitted that temptation should connect itself with our very blessings, both in the person and in the community.   And our one antidote is to watch and pray, looking unto Jesus, and looking away from ourselves.

      It was thus in measure at Philippi.   And St Paul cannot rest about it. He plies them with every loving argument for the unity of love, ranging from the plea of attachment to himself up to the supreme plea of "the mind that was in Christ Jesus" when He came down from heaven.   He has begun to address them thus already.   And in the wonderful passage now before us he is to develope his appeal to the utmost, in the Lord's name.

      Ver. 1.   +If therefore+, in connexion with this theme of holy oneness of love and life, +there is such a thing as comfort+, encouragement (paraklesis), +in Christ+, drawn from our common union with the Lord, if +there is such a thing as love's consolation+, the tender cheer which love can give to a beloved one by meeting his inmost wish, +if there is such a thing as Spirit-sharing+,[1] +if there are such things as hearts+ (splagchna, viscera) +and compassions+, feelings of human tenderness and attachment, through which I may appeal to you simply as a friend, and a friend in trouble,

      Ver. 2.   calling for your pity; +make full my joy+, drop this last ingredient into the cup of my thankful happiness for you, and bring the wine to the brim, +by being[2] of the same mind+ (phronma, feeling, attitude of mind), +feeling+ (echontes) +the same love+, "the same" on all sides, soul and soul together (sympsychoi) +in a+

      Ver. 3.   +mind which is unity itself+.[3]   +Nothing+ (muden, implying of course prohibition) +in the way of+ (kata) +personal or party spirit;[4] rather+ (alla), +as regards your+ (tu) +humblemindedness+, your view of yourselves learnt at the feet of your Saviour, +reckon[5] each other superior to yourselves+; as assuredly you will do, with a logic true to the soul, when each sees himself, the personality he knows best, in the light of eternal holiness

      Ver. 4.   and love.   +Not to your own+ interests +look+ (skopountes), +each circle of you, but each circle[6] to those+

      Ver. 5.   +of others also.   Have this mind+ (phroneite) in +you+, this moral attitude in each soul, +which+ was, and is,[7] +also in Christ Jesus+, (in that eternal Messiah whom I name already with His human Name, JESUS; for in the will of His Father, and in the unity of His own Person, it was as it were His Name already

      Ver. 6.   from everlasting,) +who in God's manifested Being[8] subsisting+,[9] seeming divine, because He was divine, in the full sense of Deity, in that eternal world, +reckoned it no plunderer's prize[10] to be on an equality with God+;[11] no, He viewed His possession of the fulness of the Eternal Nature as securely and inalienably His own, and so He dealt with it for our sakes with a sublime and restful remembrance of others; far from thinking of it as for Himself alone, as one who claimed it unlawfully would have done,

      Ver. 7.   +He rather (alla) made Himself void by His own act+,[12] void of the manifestation and exercise of Deity as it was His on the throne,[13] +taking[14] Bond-servant's+ (doulou) +manifested being+ (morphe), that is to say, the veritable Human Nature which, as a creaturely nature, is essentially bound to the service of the Creator, the bondservice of the Father; +coming to be+, becoming, genomenos, +in men's similitude+, so truly human as not only to be but to seem Man, accepting all the conditions involved in a truly human exterior,

      Ver. 8.   "pleased as Man with men to appear."   +And+ then, further, +being found+, as He offered Himself to view, +in respect of guise+ (scheati), in respect of outward shape, and habit, and address, +as Man+, He went further, He stooped yet lower, even from Humanity to Death; +He humbled Himself, in becoming obedient+,[15] obedient to Him whose Bondservant He now was as Man, +to the length[16] of death, aye+ (de), +death of Cross+, that death of unimaginable pain and of utmost shame, the death which to the Jew was the symbol of the curse of God upon the victim, and to the Roman was a horror of degradation which should be "far not only from the bodies but from the imaginations of citizens of Rome."[17]

      So He came, and so He suffered, because "He

      Ver. 9.   looked to the interests of others."   +Wherefore also God+, His God (ho theos), +supremely exalted Him+, in His Resurrection and Ascension, +and conferred upon Him+, as a gift of infinite love and approval (echarisato), +the Name which is above every name+; THE NAME, unique and glorious; the Name Supreme, the I AM; to be His Name now, not only as He is from eternity, the everlasting Son of the Father, but as He became also in time, the suffering and risen Saviour of sinners.[18]   In His whole character and work He is invested now with the transcendent glory and greatness of divine dignity; every thought of the suffering Manhood is steeped in the fact that He who, looking on the things of others, came down to bear it, is now enthroned where only the Absolute and Eternal King

      Ver. 10.   can sit; +so that in the Name of Jesus+,[19] in presence of the revealed majesty of Him who bears, as Man, the human personal Name, Jesus, +every knee should bow+, as the prophet (Isa. xlv. 23) foretells, +of things celestial, and terrestrial, and subterranean+, of all created existence, in its heights and depths; spirits, men, and every other creature; all bowing, each in their way, to the imperium of the exalted Jesus,

      Ver. 11.   JEHOVAH-JESUS; +and that every tongue should confess+, with the confessing of adoring, praising, worship (exomologesetai), +that Jesus Christ is+ nothing less than +Lord+, in the supreme and ultimate sense of that mighty word, +to God the Father's glory+.   For the worship given to "His Own Son" (Rom. viii. 32), whose Nature is one with His, whose glories flow eternally from Him, is praise given to Him.[20]

      So closes one of the most conspicuous and magnificent of the dogmatic utterances of the New Testament.   Let us consider it for a few moments from that point of view alone.   We have here a chain of assertions about our Lord Jesus Christ, made within some thirty years of His death at Jerusalem; made in the open day of public Christian intercourse, and made (every reader must feel this) not in the least in the manner of controversy, of assertion against difficulties and denials, but in the tone of a settled, common, and most living certainty.   These assertions give us on the one hand the fullest possible assurance that He is Man, Man in nature, in circumstances and experience, and particularly in the sphere of relation to God the Father.   But they also assure us, in precisely the same tone, and in a way which is equally vital to the argument in hand, that He is as genuinely Divine as He is genuinely Human.   Did He "come to be in Bondservant's Form"?   And does the word Form, morphe, there, unless the glowing argument is to run as cold as ice, mean, as it ought to mean, reality in manifestation, fact in sight, a Manhood perfectly real, carrying with it a veritable creaturely {98} obligation (douleia) to God?   But He was also, antecedently, "in God's Form."   And there too therefore we are to understand, unless the wonderful words are to be robbed of all their living power, that He who came to be Man, and to seem Man, in an antecedent state of His blessed Being was God, and seemed God.   And His "becoming to be" one with us in that mysterious but genuine Bondservice was the free and conscious choice of His eternal Will, His eternal Love, in the glory of the Throne.   "When He came on earth abased" He was no Victim of a secret and irresistible destiny, such as that which in the Stoic's theology swept the Gods of Olympus to their hour of change and extinction as surely as it swept men to ultimate annihilation.   "He made Himself void," with all the foresight and with all the freewill which can be exercised upon the Throne where the Son is in the Form of the Eternal Nature.   Such is the Christology of the passage in its aspect towards Deity.

      Then in regard of our beloved Lord's Manhood, its implications assure us that the perfect genuineness of that Manhood, which could not be expressed in a term more profound and complete than this same morphe doulou, Form of Bondservant, leaves us yet perfectly sure that He who chose to be Bondservant is to us only all the more, even in His Manhood, LORD.   Was it not His own prescient choice to be true Man?   And was it not His choice with a prescient and infallible regard to "the things of others," to "us men and our salvation"?   Then we may be sure that, whatever is meant by the "made Himself void," heauton ekenosen, which describes His Incarnation here, one thing it could never possibly mean---a "Kenosis" which could hurt or distort His absolute fitness to guide and bless us whom He came to save.   That awful and benignant "Exinanition" placed Him indeed on the creaturely level in regard of the reality of human experience of growth, and human capacity for suffering. But never for one moment did it, could it, make Him other than the absolute and infallible Master and Guide of His redeemed.

      We are beset at the present day, on many sides, with speculations about the "Kenosis" of the Lord which in some cases anyhow have it for their manifest goal to justify the thought that He condescended to be fallible; that He "made Himself void" of such knowledge as should protect Him from mistaken statements about, for example, the history, quality, and authority of the Old Testament Scriptures.   I have said once and again elsewhere[21] that such an application of the "made Himself void," heauton ekenosen, of this passage (from which alone we get the word Kenosis for the Incarnation) is essentially beside the mark.   The Kenosis here is a very definite thing, as we see when we read the Greek.   It is just this--the taking of "Bondservant's Form."   It is--the becoming the absolute Human Bondservant of the Father.   And the Absolute Bondservant must exercise a perfect Bond-service.   And this will mean, amidst all else that it may mean, a perfect conveyance of the Supreme Master's mind in the delivery of His message.   "He whom God hath sent, speaketh the words of God."   The Kenosis itself (as St Paul meant it) is nothing less than the guarantee of the Infallibility.   It says neither yes nor no to the question, Was our Redeemer, as Man, "in the days of His flesh," omniscient?   It says a profound and decisive yes to the question, Is our Redeemer, as Man, "in the days of His flesh," to be absolutely trusted as the Truth in every syllable of assertion which He was actually pleased to make?   "He whom God hath sent, speaketh the words of God."

      The dogmatic treasures of this wonderful passage are by no means exhausted, even when we have drawn from it what it can say to us about the glory of the Lord Christ Jesus.   But it is not possible to follow the research further, here and now; this imperfect indication of the main teachings about Him must be enough.

      But now, in closing, let us remember for our blessing how this passage of didactic splendour comes in.   It is no lecture in the abstract.   As we have seen, it is not in the least a controversial assertion.   It is simply part of an argument to the heart.   St Paul is not here, as elsewhere in his Epistles, combating an error of faith; he is pleading for a life of love.   He has full in view the temptations which threatened to mar the happy harmony of Christian fellowship at Philippi.   His longing is that they should be "of one accord, of one mind"; and that in order to that blessed end they should each forget himself and remember others.   He appeals to them by many motives; by their common share in Christ, and in the Spirit, and by the simple plea of their affection for himself.   But then--there is one plea more; it is "the mind that was in Christ Jesus," when "for us men and for our salvation He came down from heaven, and was made Man, and suffered for us."   Here was at once model and motive for the Philippian saints; for Euodia, and Syntyche, and every individual, and every group.   Nothing short of the "mind" of the Head must be the "mind" of the member; and then the glory of the Head (so it is implied) shall be shed hereafter upon the member too: "I will grant to him to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne."

      What a comment is this upon that fallacy of religious thought which would dismiss Christian doctrine to the region of theorists and dreamers, in favour of Christian "life"!   Christian doctrine, rightly so called, is simply the articulate statement, according to the Scriptures, of eternal and vital facts, that we may live by them.   The passage before us is charged to the brim with the doctrine of the Person and the Natures of Christ.   And why?   It is in order that the Christian, tempted to a self-asserting life, may "look upon the things of others," for the reason that this supreme Fact, his Saviour, is in fact thus and thus, and did in fact think and act thus and thus for His people.   Without the facts, which are the doctrine, we might have had abundant rhetoric in St Paul's appeal for unselfishness and harmony; but where would have been the mighty lever for the affections and the will?

      Oh reason of reasons, argument of arguments--the LORD JESUS CHRIST! Nothing in Christianity lies really outside Him.   His Person and His Work embody all its dogmatic teaching.   His Example, "His Love which passeth knowledge," is the sum and life of all its morality.   Well has it been said that the whole Gospel message is conveyed to us sinners in those three words, "Looking unto Jesus."   Is it pardon we need, is it acceptance, free as the love of God, holy as His law?   We find it, we possess it, "looking unto Jesus" crucified.   Is it power we need, victory and triumph over sin, capacity and willingness to witness and to suffer in a world which loves Him not at all?   We find it, we possess it, it possesses us, as we "look unto Jesus" risen and reigning, for us on the Throne, with us in the soul.   Is it rule and model that we want, not written on the stones of Horeb only, but "on the fleshy tables of the heart"?   We find it, we receive it, we yield ourselves up to it, as we "look unto Jesus" in His path of love, from the Throne to the Cross, from the Cross to the Throne, till the Spirit inscribes that law upon our inmost wills.

      Be ever more and more to us, Lord Jesus Christ, in all Thy answer, to our boundless needs.   Let us "sink to no second cause."   Let us come to Thee. Let us yield to Thee.   Let us follow Thee.   Present Thyself evermore to us as literally our all in all.   And so through a blessed fellowship in Thy wonderful humiliation we shall partake for ever hereafter in the exaltations of Thy glory, which is the glory of immortal love.

      [1] Koinunia pneumatos: "participation in the Spirit"; sharing and sharing alike in the grace and power of the Holy Ghost.   I venture to render pneumatos as if it were tou Pneumatos, having regard to the great parallel passage, 2 Cor. xiii. 14, he koinonia tou hagiou Pneumatos.   With a word so great and conspicuous as pneuma it is impossible to decide by the mere absence of the article that the reference is not to the (personal) Spirit.   Kurios, Theos, Christos, are continually given without the article where the reference is definite; because they are words whose greatness tends of itself to define the reference, unless context withstands.   Pneuma in the N. T. is to some extent a parallel case with these.

      [2] Ina . . . phronute: my English is obviously a mere paraphrase here.   More exactly we may render, "make full my joy, so as to be," etc.; words which come to much the same effect, but are less true to our common idioms.

      [3] To en phronountes: a difficult phrase to render quite adequately. We may paraphrase it either as above, or, "possessed with the idea, or sentiment, of unity."   But the paraphrase above seems most satisfactory in view of the similar phrase just before, to auto phronete.   This phrase seems to echo that, only in a stronger and less usual form.   The thought thus will be not so much of unity as the object of thought or feeling as of unity as (so to speak) the substance or spirit of it.

      [4] Kata eritheian: my long paraphrase attempts to give the suggestion that the eritheia might be either purely individual self-assertion or the animus of a clique.

      [5] Hegoumenoi: the participle practically does the work of an imperative.   See Rom. xii. for a striking chain of examples of this powerful and intelligible idiom.

      [6] Hekastoi, not hekastos, should probably be read in the first clause here, and certainly in the second.   By Greek idiom, the plural gives the thought of a collective unity under "each."

      [7] The Greek gives no verb.   I have written "was, and is," in the paraphrase, because the limitation of the reference of our blessed Lord's phronema to the pre-incarnate past is not expressed in the Greek.

      [8] En morphe: morphe is imperfectly represented by our common use of the word "form," which stands often even in contrast to "reality." Morphe is reality in manifestation.

      [9] Uparchon: R.V. margin, "originally being."   The word lends itself to such a reference, but not so invariably as to allow us to press it here.

      [10] Arpagmon: the word is extremely rare, found here only in the Greek Scriptures, and once only in secular Greek.   Strictly, by form (-mon), it should mean, "a process of plunder" rather than "an object of plunder" (-ma).   But parallel cases forbid us to press this.   The A.V. rendering here suggests the thought that our Lord "thought it no usurpation to be equal with God, and yet made Himself void," etc.   But surely the thought is rather, "and so made Himself void."   So sure was His claim that, so to speak, with a sublime un-anxiety, while with an infinite sacrifice, He made Himself void.

      [11] Isa Theo: the neuter plural calls attention rather to the Characteristics than to the Personality.--Through this whole passage we cannot too distinctly remember that it occurs in the Scriptures, and in the writings of one who was trained in the strictest school of Pharisaic Monotheism.   St Paul was not the man to use such terms of his Saviour and Master had he not seen in Him nothing less than the very "Fellow of JEHOVAH" (Zech. xiii. 7).

      [12] Eauton ekeose: Heauton is slightly emphatic by position; I attempt to convey this by the words "by His own act."

      [13] See further below, pp. 98, etc.   [Transcriber's note: page 98 is indicated in this text with "{98}".]

      [14] Labon: the aorist participle, in Greek idiom, unites itself closely in thought with the aorist verb ekenose just previous.   The resulting idea is not "He made Himself void, and then took," but "He made Himself void by taking."   The "Exinanition" was, in fact, just this--the taking the form of the doulos: neither less nor more.

      [15] Note again the aorist verb and aorist participle: etapeinose . . . genomenos.

      [16] The Greek, mechri thanatou, makes it plain that the Lord did not obey death but obeyed the Father so utterly as even to die.

      [17] Cicero, pro Rabirio, c. 5.

      [18] Bishop Lightfoot has well vindicated this reference of the onoma here.   I venture to refer the reader also to my commentary on Philippians, in The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges.

      [19] Not "the Name Jesus," but "the Name of, belonging to, Jesus."   The grammar admits either rendering, but the context, if I explain it aright, is decisive.   "The Name" is still the Supreme Name, JEHOVAH, as just above.--"In the Name" should be explained, in view of the context, not of worship through but worship yielded to the Name.   See Lightfoot for examples of this usage.

      [20] Chrysostom brings this great truth nobly out in his homiletic comments here (Hom. vii. on Philippians, ch. 4): "A mighty proof it is of the Father's power, and goodness, and wisdom, that He hath begotten such a Son, a Son nowise inferior in goodness and wisdom . . . like Him in all things, Fatherhood alone excepted."   Nothing but the orthodox Creed, with its harmonious truths of the proper Godhead and proper Filiation of the Lord Christ, can possibly satisfy the whole of the apostolic language about His infinite glory on the one hand and His relation to the Father on the other.

      [21] In my Veni Creator and To my Younger Brethren, and more recently in a University Sermon quoted at the close of a little book published Easter, 1896, by Seeley: Prayers and Promises.

         "Make my life a bright outshining
            Of Thy life, that all may see
         Thine own resurrection power
            Mightily shewn forth in me;
         Ever let my heart become
         Yet more consciously Thy home."
                     MISS J. S. PIGOTT.

Back to H. C. G. Moule index.

See Also:
   Preface and Introduction
   Chapter 1 - Introductory
   Chapter 2 - The Intimacy of Human Hearts in Christ
   Chapter 3 - The Apostle's Position and Circumstances
   Chapter 4 - The Christian's Peace and the Christian's Consistency
   Chapter 5 - Unity in Self-Forgetfulness: The Example of the Lord
   Chapter 6 - The Lord's Power in the Disciple's Life
   Chapter 7 - Timotheus And Epaphroditus
   Chapter 8 - Joy in the Lord and its Preserving Power
   Chapter 9 - Christian Standing and Christian Progress
   Chapter 10 - The Blessed Hope and its Power
   Chapter 11 - Purity and Peace in the Present Lord
   Chapter 12 - The Collection for St Paul: The Farewell


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