Humility Exemplified – Philippians 2:5-8

Last week we studied the importance of humility in the church and how it’s through humility that we achieve unity. I think most believers need encouragement in this area of the Christian life. You might think you already have this area pretty well mastered but I’d venture to guess we all could improve our measure of humility.

Orla Shup shared this in a Christian magazine…

“When I babysit for my minister's 3-year-old, one of our favorite games is Go Fish. One evening, after winning several rounds, she kept bragging about how good she was. Jokingly, I said to her, "I'm going to have to teach you a little humility." Immediately she looked up and asked, "How do you play that?" 1

We don’t learn about humility by playing a game. (Well, maybe some of us do.) But as we continue this week in our study of the book of Philippians we’ll see how we can learn about humility by looking at the man who was the ultimate example of humility. Jesus Christ taught us about humility when he came to earth as a man. We’ll see how Christ modeled humility for us and as His followers how important it is for us to follow His example. Let’s look at Philippians 2:5-8 together.

Philippians 2:5  Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6  who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7  but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

We’ll be looking at three key areas this morning in which Christ modeled humility for us. It was through surrender, servanthood and sacrifice Christ showed us the path to humility.

In verse 5 of our passage it says…

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,

The NASB puts it this way,

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,

Paul clearly states that we are to have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had when He came to this earth as a man. We are called to the same humility that Christ displayed through His life on earth. We examined verse 4 last week.

4  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

If you were wondering how it is that you’re to look out for the interests of others wonder no longer. If you’re going to look out for the interests of others just follow the example of Jesus Christ who showed us what true humility is. In verse 6 we see the first key to humility in the example of Jesus Christ—Surrender.

Surrender (6)

6  who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,

Jesus Christ was in the form of God. What does this mean? Referring to the form of God, Warren Wiersbe notes that,

The word “form” means “the outward expression of the inward nature.” This means that in eternity past, Jesus Christ was God. 2

Jesus Christ is God and He made that clear when He spoke these words in John 10:30—I and My Father are one.

This phrase in Philippians 2:6—form of God—refers to the deity of Jesus Christ. He is God. Again in verse 6 we see His deity affirmed in the phrase equal with God. He is equal with God because He is God.

The phrase did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, is translated in the NASB,

did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,

In other words as John MacArthur points out,

Because Jesus already possessed equality with God, the meaning of to be grasped is not taking hold of but of holding on to, or clinging to. He had all the rights and privileges of God, which He could never lose. Yet He refused to selfishly cling to His favored position as the divine Son of God nor view it as a prized possession to be used for Himself.3

Instead of clutching and hanging onto His privileges as God, Jesus Christ was willing to set aside his privileges to come to earth as a man and to die on the cross for our sins and be our Savior.

I have often watched as one of my small children holds on tightly to a toy while his little brother tries to take it away. The natural selfish tendency of a child is to cling tightly to any toy that someone else wants and not surrender it.

But instead of selfishly clinging to the rights and privileges He possessed as God, Jesus Christ surrendered those rights and privileges.

As followers Christ if we are to have the same attitude as Christ we’ll need to be willing to do the same as Christ. Now we are human and we don’t have the same rights and privileges that Jesus Christ does as God, but there are times when we want to demand our rights and cling selfishly to them instead of looking out for the interests of others.

We also live in a world where people are constantly demanding their rights. But Jesus surrendered His rights and privileges as Lord of the Universe to come to earth.

Dottie Rambo penned these words that describe what Jesus did.

He left the splendor of heaven,

Knowing His destiny,

Was the lonely hill of Golgatha,

There to lay down His life for me.

Think about it! Jesus surrendered His rights and privileges to the splendor of heaven to come to earth and live as a man.

John Sartelle, in Christianity Today illustrated what Jesus did this way,

I would not choose the slums of Calcutta, India, for my vacation. There were extraordinary people who worked among the deformity and decay of leper colonies 150 years ago—that is not where most of us would want to live out our lives.  Multiply the distance between where we are now and those places by 1000 and we still don't come near the awful distance traveled by the Son of God in the Incarnation. 4

If we’re going to look out for the interests of others we’ll need to follow the example that Jesus set for us and be willing to surrender our rights as He did. If each of us is selfishly clinging to our own rights and refusing to surrender for the good of others, there won’t be unity in the church. But if we follow the example of Christ and are willing to surrender and relinquish our rights for others we’ll promote unity. And the church isn’t the only place we need to follow Christ’s example of surrender; we need to practice it in our homes, in the work place and in all of our relationships.

Servanthood (7)

The second key to humility is found in verse 7.

7  but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.

In this verse we see that Christ who was fully God became fully man. The phrase made Himself of no reputation, is literally “emptied Himself.” He didn’t empty Himself of His deity. He didn’t stop being God but He did empty Himself of His self interests and His privileges to take the form of a servant to become a man. He was fully God and fully man. There are those who have wrongly interpreted “emptied Himself” to mean that Christ lay aside some of His deity but that clearly is not the case as we see in Colossian 2:9 where it says,

For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;

Christ was fully God and fully man and as a man He came as a servant. Jesus said of Himself in Matthew 20:28,

"just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

In modeling humility for us Jesus didn’t come so that others could serve Him but so that He could serve others.

Do we have that same attitude as His followers? We aren’t in the church to be served but we are here to serve.

Do you want to experience real peace? Do you want to experience real unity in the church? If you do the answer to how you accomplish this is in what Paul tells us and in what Jesus lived. We’ll need to have a servant’s heart. We need a heart that sees a need in the life of another and seeks to serve to meet that need. Jesus showed the heart of a servant when He washed the feet of His disciples.

Let’s look at Jesus words in John 13:14-15.

14  "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15  "For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.

Jesus modeled servanthood for them and then commanded them to do the same for each other. Just as Jesus was willing to serve them so should they be willing to serve one another.

Oh how we need to follow the example of Jesus and be servants. We shouldn’t be asking ourselves, “How can I be served?” but instead ask ourselves, “How can I serve?” And if we follow Christ’s example of serving we’ll promote unity in the church. If we seek to be servants instead of how we can be served we’ll be following the example of Jesus who showed us what true humility was through his servant’s heart.

The church today needs followers of Christ with a servant’s heart. Your home needs followers of Christ with a servant’s heart. Your school your place of employment your neighborhood needs followers of Christ with a servants heart. And a servant looks out for the interests of others.

Note with me in verse 8 the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Sacrifice (8)

8  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

Dr. J.H. Jowett has said, “Ministry that costs nothing accomplishes nothing.” If there is to be any blessing, there must be some “bleeding.” At a religious festival in Brazil, a missionary was going from booth to booth, examining the wares. He saw a sign above one booth: “Cheap Crosses.” He thought to himself, “That’s what many Christians are looking for these days—cheap crosses. My Lord’s cross was not cheap. Why should mine be?” 5

Jesus Christ made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. He willingly laid down His life to pay the penalty for our sins. He suffered death on a cross which was punishment reserved in Rome for those who were non-citizens and the worst of offenders. Death on a cross carried much shame. And it was on a cross that Christ suffered. His sacrifice makes it possible for those who believe in Him and trust Him to be forgiven of their sins and to inherit eternal life. Our salvation came at a great cost to our Savior, Jesus Christ. There was nothing cheap about it.

As followers of Christ, we must follow the example He set. He was willing to sacrifice so much for us. But are we willing to sacrifice for the sake of others? Are we willing to sacrifice our time or maybe some of our earthly goods to serve one another in love?

In the well known hymn, Am I Soldier of the Cross?, Isaac Watts wrote…

Must I be carried to the skies

On flowery beds of ease,

While others fought to win the prize

And sailed thru bloody seas?

Are we willing to sacrifice for the sake of others or are we traveling on flowery beds of ease? Is our own comfort more important than sacrificing for the sake of others?

Jesus Christ exemplified humility for us. He surrendered His privileges to come to earth as a man. He came to earth in humble circumstances to serve instead of being served. Vance Havner said of Jesus coming to earth,

At Christmas we say much of the meaning of His coming to earth, the mission, the message, but we sometimes overlook the manner of his Advent.  God set it up in a pattern we never would have dreamed.  He was born in a stable to a lowly peasant couple in an insignificant town in an obscure corner of the Roman Empire.  Think how we would have arranged it [today] in this publicity-mad day!  That same pattern my Lord followed all His days; and the Church might take a hint today, when Hollywood sets the style. 6

Christ modeled true servanthood for us. He also paid the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. Jesus Christ was the greatest example of humility there ever was and ever will be.

Are you following His example? If we’ll follow His example of surrender, servanthood and sacrifice we’re going to be unified. We’ll experience the joy of unity through our humility. May our attitude be like the Lord Jesus Christ and may we follow His example of humility, as followers of Christ.


Kevin A. Pierpont
Higgins Lake Baptist Church
9/19/04


1 Orla C. Shup, Albion, PA.  Today's Christian Woman, "Heart to Heart." Bible Illustrator

2 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"–Jkt. (Php 2:5). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

3 MacArthur, J. F. (.). The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Philippians (electronic ed.) (Php 2:9).

4 John Sartelle in TableTalk (Dec.1989). Christianity Today, Vol. 34, no. 8., Bible Illustrator

5 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"–Jkt. (Php 2:8). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

6 Vance Havner in A Treasury of Vance Havner. Christianity Today, Vol. 36, no. 15.