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Adventures in the New Testament - Philippians
by Pastor Geoffrey C. Kragen, Jr.

Chapter 2:1-2:11
“Quit Looking Out For Number One”

There is a dangerous trend occurring today. It comes dressed as a lamb, but in reality it is a ravening wolf. This is the pro-animal movement. Now concern for the unnecessary use of animals for testing of products, concern that there is no unnecessary pain given to them is reasonable. Certainly, we shouldn’t contribute to the extinction of species of animals.

Much of what groups like Green Peace, and World Wildlife Federation do aids in the protection of animals and the education of people regarding their needs. And as Christians we must be concerned with the abuse of God’s creation.

But, the down side is that most of these groups are not based on a Biblical view of creation, and therefore a accurate view of this world. This becomes most obvious when we hear extreme groups who say that all animal life must be protected, who discuss animal rights. Not only would they eliminate all testing, even that which is necessary for the saving of human life, but they would eliminate all use of animals for food, cloths and even the use of animals in zoos, circuses, etc.. “Humans must stop exploiting the animals,” And, any use of animals by people is, by definition, exploitative.

Just this week we have been hearing that in San Francisco there is action to enforce calling pet owners, “animal guardians.” I did read in one letter to the editor that no one owns cats, cats have staff. The problem here though is that the underlying view of this kind of nutty thinking is, animals are equal, even higher, that is, more important than people. If we must give up our life, our jobs, our society to protect a few fish, or a handful of owls, then that’s appropriate. The animal rights extremists don’t care if they undermine the economy and society at best. And at worst, some actually believe the best thing for “mother” earth would be the elimination of the human race, or at least the bulk of it.

If you investigate how these groups use their funds you’ll often see they send funds to Planned Parenthood. We often find these people working hand-in-hand with the pro-abortion groups to eliminate people. This is why we need to be careful in which ecologically concerned groups we support, and there are some Christian “green” organizations.

Essentially these people would agree that this would be a wonderful place except for the people. And in one sense they’re right. People are a problem. But the problem isn’t the existence of people, it is the selfishness of people. The problem is a world that says, “we must look out for number one.” And as we live this way ourselves, as well as living among people who function this way, it is no wonder people can steal our joy. And what is the answer to this? Why, quit looking out for number one.

We have seen we can allow circumstances to be a stealer of joy. Hopefully though, we have learned that it is through a focus on Christ, and the life that He has called us live, that we can experience the joy He desires for us and rise above circumstances. As we examine them in the light of His love and our trust in Him, we will find our joy will not be as frequently stolen by circumstances.

So we’ve taken care of circumstances, but what of people? “‘I love mankind,’ says a famous comic strip character. ‘It’s people I can’t stand!” 1 And certainly people can be stealers of joy. But just as with circumstances the real issue isn’t the circumstances or the people, it is our response to them, which allows our joy to be stolen.

In Chapter two we will see how Paul deals with people as joy stealers. Here too the bottom line is our relationship to Christ. We have the greatest model of all to help us understand how we are to live. Christ provides the model. It is as we look at Him for an example and at others through Him, that we will find we will be less effected by the actions of others.

  1. The Submissive Mind Chapter 2
    (Key Verse—2:3)

    1. The example of Christ Chapter 2:1-11

      Verses 1-2: Paul starts this section by reminding the Philippians what they have. He gives a short list of the blessings that come with being a believer. “All are stated as “if” clauses (with the verb understood), but the condition is assumed to be true.” 2 The blessings are first, being united with Christ. Think about it, we are united with God. What can be greater for the creature than being united with the creator? But with this relationship comes responsibility. This responsibility is to obey Christ and the teachings of the Apostles.

      “ As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).

      Second, Christ’s love was the source of the Philippians comfort and encouragement. Oh, that we might truly receive that comfort. And it is this comfort and encouragement that should lead to the response of the unity of purpose.

      Finally, these believers had unity through fellowship with the Spirit. We are one in the spirit. “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:13).

      The Philippians had fellowship with the Holy Spirit. As a result they had the opportunity for practical unity. So the very presence of God dwells within us. How can anything, anyone cause us to stumble or to lose our joy, if we allow Him to live through us?

      Last, the Philippians, as a result of these blessings, were able to experience the tenderness and compassion of God. This also would reinforce their unity which came from being part of the body of Christ. And as they, as we, experience all these things our focus shifts from ourselves and to God. And as a result of this focus we will develop humility which will help us deal with people as joy stealers. Therefore, we will be able to experience His joy as we deal with others.

      As a product of these factors Paul expects there should be a response which produces these characteristics required of the Philippians; a unity of focus, of love, of spirit and of purpose. The very things which allowed them to rise above circumstances would also effect how they related to each other and those outside the body. As these things appear within the body, then Paul finds joy within his own life, an example of his own humility, and the putting of the needs of others ahead of his own and reaping joy from others being blessed.

      Verses 3-4: How we are affected by people seems to be a product of how we relate to them. Paul is concerned the Philippians didn’t live out of a self-centeredness. He had pointed out he could praise God because the word was going out, even when it was put out by people function with the wrong motives. Nevertheless, he still wanted the Philippians to live out of the right motives.

      Paul demanded a life of humility, putting others first. As I’ve noted before to be truly humble simply means to have an accurate self-image before the Lord. As we come to truly know Him and to see ourselves in light of who He is our response must be humbling. To be humble means realizing our dependency on God, our own inadequacies and therefore giving up the need to protect ourselves from the pain caused by the actions of others. In other words we must quit looking our for number one by realizing that we’re not really number one. God is!

      Now this is the antithesis of the worldly view. All we hear is the importance of a good self-image. We even hear Christians teaching the importance of having this. Now I’m not saying that we must have a bad self-image. What we must have is an accurate one. And as we develop this perspective we will desire only that which the Lord wants, then we will find it much easier to put the needs of others ahead of our own.

      If we have an accurate self-image we will always desire the things of the Lord ahead of ourselves and therefore His desire for our life ahead of our own. There is no way we can live this way on our own. We must depend on the Holy Spirit to empower us and look to the example of the Lord for our model.

      Verses 5-11: Paul lists the qualities displayed by Christ, the example of true agapé, that is putting the needs of others ahead of our own. Christ is our model. The pattern of His life must be the pattern of ours, if we truly desire to life the real Christian life. If we desire to be obedient, them as we face the choices of life we must ask, “What would Jesus do?” or as we saw last week, “To live is Christ….”

      Paul, in these verses, gives one of the clearest statements of who Jesus was found as in

      Scripture. First, He is described as the pre-incarnate God. There is no question that Paul is saying Jesus is deity in human form. Christ is God. He made a similar reference in 2 Corinthians 8:9.

      “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)

      And as God, Christ wasn’t concerned with protecting Himself, and His rights, He was concerned with what needed to be done to provide salvation to fallen mankind. The Creator took on the form of creature. Kent notes that,

      “…Paul implies that even though Christ became a genuine man, there were certain respects in which he was not absolutely like the other men. (He may have had in mind the unique union of the divine and human natures in Jesus, or the absence of a sinful nature.)” 3

      Can anything be more humbling than God taking on human form? Now note the starting point. First Christ, in His mind, was more concerned with the needs of others than Himself. This is the attitude of humility. And if that wasn’t enough, Christ who is very God, was willing to allow His creations to put Him to death in the most despicable way, the death of the cross. There was nothing that God was willing to withhold to provide the way of salvation. It isn’t enough to simply have an humble attitude, one must also be willing to have this attitude expressed in action.

      Even service isn’t the bottom line though. Let’s face it, there are many unbelievers who take action in their lives which benefit others. There are many people who are willing to care, to a point and to even put themselves out for a time. Even today the Jewish people are known for their humanitarian acts, regardless of the quality of their faith.

      True humility then goes beyond service into sacrifice. Some of what Jesus did in His ministry, while being service if people performed it, was sacrifice because God carried it out. Jesus followed up the attitude of humility with the actions of a servant, and finally the sacrifice of His tasting of separation from God and death on the cross. His servanthood meant that all He did was in obedience to the Father. This is why he is our example.

      “ So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am [the one I claim to be] and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me”” (John 8:28).

      Keeping these facts in mind, we can see why people can’t steal our joy, if we put them ahead of ourselves. They can’t steal our joy if we give to them with no need to receive anything in return. Jesus was willing to die for us because of His love, not because He was anticipating the results of that act. He would have died even if none had ever accepted His sacrifice.

      And God rewarded Christ for His sacrifice for us. Christ became the only way by which any can be saved. He was “superexalted.” All creation will bow before Him. Even those who reject that gift of salvation, will one day be forced to acknowledge who Christ is.

      “By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear … “It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’”” (Isaiah 45:23; Romans 14:11).

      The message that we must get out to the unbeliever is that one day you will acknowledge the deity of Christ. Will you do so willing now, or later when it is too late?

      How can the acts of any person steal our joy, when we think on the total unselfishness of God and His love of us? How can we do anything other than rejoice when we are so loved of Him? And we will see next time that Christ isn’t the only example of Biblical humility available to us. We wouldn‘t be able to say that “of course Jesus could live this way, He’s God, but don’t expect this of me. After all I’m only human.”

      We have been looking at these verses in light of how we can experience joy in our life. But in this section we have seen verses that are some of the most important found in the New Testament, when it comes to understanding just who Christ is. Therefore, I want to do something different. Next week I want to go back over verses 6 through 11 specifically and in greater detail in the light of what it teaches about the deity of Christ.

      People can steal our joy, but it is only because we allow them to. And really, people can only steal our joy if we are living for our own happiness and comfort. If we are living for self, then certainly the behavior of others will interfere with our desires for ourselves.

      If Paul had been not only concerned with the giving out of the gospel, but with his own reputation and glory in that work, then it would be understandable why those who were preaching with the intent of making him look bad would get to him. But clearly his concern was only with the giving of the word. His emotional well being wasn’t based on the motives or actions of others. Their behavior couldn’t steal his joy. On the contrary, their efforts at disseminating the word were one of the sources of his joy.

      With circumstances the key to maintaining joy is a singularity of focus on Christ and his call to action. With people the key to maintaining joy is humility as modeled by Christ. As we put Him first and then the needs of others ahead of our own, then the acts of others will not be as likely to effect us. It is our own selfishness that is the basis for our loss of joy as a result of the acts of others. As Andrew Murray put it,

      “The humble person is not one who thinks meanly of himself; he simply does not think of himself at all!” 4

      Christ’s call is a call to service. It is a call to serve others even, if God requires to it to our own detriment. How can this be? We’ll again look at our example. Jesus was willing to serve us even at the cost of His own life. How can we do any less? Now notice I’m not talking of self-destructive, self-motivated suffering. I’m speaking of living for others as the Lord leads.

      One of the reasons we have such a difficulty experiencing joy then is because we have never really learned to maintain a consistent focus on the Lord and to really have an accurate self image. I constantly fall into the trap of believing I really have it together and try to live out of my own strength.

      But praise the Lord, He loves us and gives us the opportunity to continue to grow in our rela-tionship and therefore dependency on Him. And He doesn’t leave us out here helpless to conform to His will, but provides His Spirit to guide and empower us.

      And so we will experience true joy as we become more Christ like. Let us then pray that the Lord will show us how we have fallen into the trap of putting ourselves first so that we can truly put number one first, the Lord and then we will rise above circumstances and people.

      What joy, what freedom.
      Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord,
      Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord,
      And He shall lift you up,
      Higher and higher
      And He shall lift you up. 

      1. Wiersbe, Warren W., Be Joyful, Victor Books, Wheaton, IL, 1988, p. 57.
      2. Kent, Homer H., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, “Philippians,” Zondervan Interactive Publishing House,Grand Rapids, MI, 1990, Electronic text hypertexted and prepared by OakTree Software, Inc.
      3. Ibid.
      4. Wiersbe, p. 58.
      5. Hudson, Bob, Humble Thyself in the Sight of the Lord, The Celebration Hymnal, Word Music, 1997, # 622.


Chapter 2:1-11
“Quit Looking Out For Number One”

III. The Submissive Mind Chapter 2
(Key Verse—2:3)
A. The Example of Christ Chapter 2: 1-11

  1. Showers of Blessings
    (Ephesians 4:1-3; 1 Corinthians 12:13)
    1. _________ with Christ.
    2. Christ’s ___________.
    3. Unity through ____________ with the _________ ____________.
    4. ______________ and ________________.

  2. How Do You Relate?

  3. Christ our Model
    (2 Corinthians 8:9; John 8:28)
    1. The ___________________ God.
    2. Deity in ____________________..
    3. True __________________.a

  4. People Can’t Steal Our Joy
    (Isaiah 45:23; Romans 14:11)

  5. Being Humble


Personal Application: “We speak often of what we deserve to get in life. The ideal that we should be rewarded for our actions is ingrained in Western culture. More than any other person who has lived, Jesus Christ deserved to be glorified, but was willing to be treated as a servant. In what ways has Christ been your servant?” 1

Prayer for the Week: thank you God for those You have placed in my life to be a godly example. Help me to use these examples to continue to give me the heart of a servant. 2





  1. 1 Baker, Donald, Philippians, Jesus Our Joy, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1999, p. 21.
  2. 2 Ibid., adapted from p. 20.

[email] gkragen@aol.com