In some sense that’s where we will come on Sunday morning. For the past three weeks, in our study of Philippians, we have been at a considerable elevation. Among all of Paul’s letters, none soars as high with supernatural joy than this one. But this week we begin our ascent to the grandest peak of this letter. In Christian theology Philippians 2:511 is called the Kenosis text. In the mid-19th century, Gottfried Thomasius, a German Lutheran, began to develop “Kenotic Theology” that focuses on the person of Christ in terms of self-limits on, or “emptying” by the pre-existent Son in becoming a man. Kenosis literally means emptying. And it is this “emptying” of the divine prerogatives of the second person of the Trinity that captures Paul’s attention and ours in chapter 2. Indeed, it is one of the grandest peaks in all of Christian theology.
But we’re not there yet. Philippians 2:1-5 is a kind of base camp that is absolutely necessary for anyone seeking to properly ascend this peak and understand the view. It is in this “base camp text” that Paul sets forth an absolutely imperative picture of the human condition. You will remember from last week that the Philippians are facing the same kind of conflict Paul himself faced during his three visits to Philippi (see 1:28-29). But what we find in 2:1-5 is that Paul doesn’t just mention the conflict and offer advice on how to rise above it, he offers a deep and cogent explanation of all human conflict. We find the crux of his argument in verse 3, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
This verse is a treasure trove! The more you examine it, the deeper you dig, the more you find it provides necessary information for understanding the full import of the gigantic peak that follows.
As we dig in this Sunday, in a message entitled, “The Joy of Nothingness”, I believe you and I will discover truths about ourselves and Jesus that have the power to radically transform our Christian lives. I can’t wait to dig in with you!
In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
1. Read Isaiah 53.
2. What do you think of this statement? “Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.” Do you agree?
3. How did Paul determine to come to Philippi in the first place? (see Acts 16)
4. What is the nature of the conflict Paul refers to in 1:29?
5. What do the terms “selfish ambition” and “conceit” mean? (see verse 3)
6. How does the story of Adam and Eve relate?
7. How is “self ambition” the intrinsic pattern of every human conflict and “conceit” the motive?
8. What linkage can you find between “conceit” and Christ emptying Himself in 2:7?
9. How does Jesus free us from our self ambition and conceit?
10. How does Jesus fill our emptiness by emptying Himself?
See you Sunday!