The Mind of Christ

Why did the Apostle Paul include in his letter to the church at Philippi a hymn containing one of the richest Christological passages in all of Scripture (2:6–11)? Because Christ’s humiliation and subsequent exaltation are the motive for Christians to treat one another well (2:1–4)! In Chapter 4 he would call out two of the saints by name, but instead of harshly rebuking them, much less mocking them, he would plead with them to be of the same mind in the Lord. In Philippians 2 the entire church is urged to be like minded.

Clearly, harsh treatment of fellow believers is not a new problem. But in our world of instant electronic communication, the temptation to be quick to criticize is hard to resist. And the problem is exacerbated by Christians who have, perhaps unconsciously, adopted the censoriousness of the world. It is far too easy to treat even minor differences among brothers and sisters as though they were denials of the faith. Too often I have heard calls for moderation in how we communicate dismissed with a scornful, “Tone police!”

Note that Paul could give thanks even for those preaching the gospel out of a motive of envy — because the gospel was being preached. Yes, he was harsh with the heretical teachers in Galatia. But may God give us the grace to pause and ask ourselves whether the gospel is at stake in the differences we have, or whether we are discussing lesser, but still important, matters. Getting our theology right is important and worth discussing, because ultimately our theology is reflected in our lives. (Sometimes the theology reflected falls short of the theology we profess, unfortunately.)

Before the inspired Apostle gives the imperative of being like-minded, he reflects on the indicative — the benefits that flow out of union with Christ. And then he goes on to call us to have the mind of Christ, to reflect the pattern of grace and humiliation he showed in his incarnation and humiliation. That, and not our insistence that we get our own way, is the path to exaltation. May God give us the humility to have the mind of Christ.

“Chapter 2 is the key that unlocks the entire book. Paul relates to the church at Philppi how they are to overcome division with the church — they must embody Christ’s service and humility…. The church is to be ‘like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind’ (2:2). The Philippians, like most churches, ancient and modern, struggle with unity (cf. 4:2). Paul describes how unity is possible in the overlap of the ages: ‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves’ (2:3). The exhortation reaches its climax in 2:5: ‘Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus,’ the ultimate example of humility and service.”

G. K. Beale & Benjamin L. Gladd, The Story Retold: A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament, p. 296