THE LETTER TO THE PHILIPPIANS
Lesson 2
Chapter 2: Having the Mind of Christ

Merciful Lord Jesus,
It is a great comfort to know when we experience suffering that we can unite it with Your suffering on the Altar of the Cross. We know that You came not only to defeat sin and death and open the way to Heaven but also to give our human suffering meaning and value. When we unite our suffering to Yours, it has redemptive value in Your plan for our salvation. Give us the strength of faith in all circumstances, even in our sufferings, so that we can agree with St. Paul that "all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose" (Rom 8:28) for their lives. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.
2 Corinthians 4:7-8

At the end of Chapter 1, Paul brought up the topic of redemptive suffering, writing: 29 For to you has been granted, for the sake of Christ, not only to believe in him but also to suffer for him. He wrote the Romans expressing the same concept, telling them that Christians are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, ...if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him (Rom 8:17).

The Old Testament Book of Job exposed us to the pain and incomprehensibility of suffering in the world. In the Book of Job, God does not deny the existence of suffering or dismiss its impact on the human condition. He did not create suffering or death; everything God created was good (Gen 1:4, 10, 13, 19, 21, 25, 31; Wis 1:13-14; 2:23-24). However, the cleansing of the earth of sin in the Great Flood showed us that so long as humanity has the gift of free-will there are those who will abuse the gift and will rebel against God, choosing to sin. The result will be that their sin will cause suffering and evil to continue in the world. When men and women cry out to God because their suffering becomes too great, St. Augustine wrote, "God does not say, Man, you are too small to complain to me.' He says, The thing about which you complain is bigger, that is deeper, than you are'" (cf. City of God, XX.2). God does not fully answer the question concerning the suffering of the innocent until He shows us His suffering in the humanity of Jesus Christ.

The Vatican II document, Gaudium et Specs (Joy and Hope), proclaims that Christ, in His suffering, "fully reveals man to himself" (Gaudium et Spes, 22.31). In his encyclical on human suffering, St. Pope John Paul II wrote, "Christ does not explain in the abstract the reasons for suffering, but before all else he says: Follow me! Come! Take part through your suffering in this work of saving the world, a salvation achieved through my suffering! Through my Cross!'" (Salvifici Doloris, 26). The Church's teaching is that Christ reveals that human suffering has meaning when it is united to His Passion and receives a salvific quality. Jesus of Nazareth's suffering and death in His Passion followed by His Resurrection and Ascension in glory is the greatest reversal of a life in human history. The great enemy of humanity that is the curse of death becomes the answer for humanity's escape from suffering into eternity in the Divine Presence of the Most Holy Trinity.

St. John Paul II wrote, "Human suffering has reached its culmination in the Passion of Christ. And at the same time it has entered into a completely new dimension and a new order: it has been linked to love" (Salvific Doloris, 18). He also wrote "In the cross of Christ not only is the Redemption accomplished through suffering, but also human suffering itself has been redeemed" (Salvific Doloris, 19).

St. Paul will write to the Colossians, Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the Church, of which I am a minister in accordance with God's stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God, the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past... (Col 1:24-26a). Paul is not suggesting that anything was lacking in Christ's ultimate sacrifice. Instead, he is suggesting that his mystical unity with Christ allows him to call his sufferings "the afflictions of Christ." Paul's point is that the total offering of Christ in His Passion and suffering reveals the "dimension of love" in human suffering, and our blessing in uniting our suffering to Christ's suffering is understood as a share in Christ's redemptive suffering.

St. John Paul II also wrote: "Christ has opened His suffering to man... Man, discovering through faith the redemptive suffering of Christ, also discovers in it his own sufferings" (Salvific Doloris, 20). In 2 Corinthians 4:8-11, St. Paul wrote: We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

Paul discovered the depth of the meaning of redemptive suffering when he begged the Lord three times to heal him of the pain he was enduring from a physical condition. He heard Christ say to him in reply, My grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection (2 Cor 12:9a NABR). Paul understood that human suffering is transformed in Christ, and as His disciples, we can accept Jesus' invitation to have the courage to pick up our crosses of suffering to follow Him! Also see CCC 1500-1513.

Chapter 2: Paul's Appeal to the Philippians to Reflect the Mind of Christ in Unity and Humility

Philippians 2:1-4 ~ The Necessary Qualities for a Christian Community
1 If there is any encouragement in Christ, [if] any solace in love, [if] any participation in the Spirit, [if] any compassion and mercy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one [the same] thing. 3 Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, 4 each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others. [...] Greek text, IBGE, vol. IV, page 534.

The four "if" clauses do not suggest that Paul doesn't have confidence in the Philippian community:

  1. If there is any encouragement in Christ
  2. [if] any solace in love
  3. [if] any participation in the Spirit
  4. [if] any compassion and mercy

Paul has already praised them and gave thanks for the "good work" God began in them, and he acknowledged the joy their partnership in grace gave him (1:5-6).

Question: Why then does Paul give them this warning?
Answer: Paul wants them to be aware that it is a good beginning, but they must strive to continue until the "day of Christ" when He returns in both glory and judgment.

The Philippian Christians have encouraged him with their letter and their financial support, and he returns the favor by encouraging them. In Greek, the word "encouragement" is paraklesis: a word related to parakletos that means "consoler," comforter," counselor," or "advocate." Parakletos is Jesus' title for God the Holy Spirit in the Gospel of John (Jn 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7). The progress of the church at Philippi has been a source of joy for Paul, and now he tells them how they can complete that joy.

Question: What four ways does Paul express his desired continued progress for the community in verse 2?
Answer:

  1. being of the same mind,
  2. with the same love,
  3. united in heart,
  4. thinking one thing.

In the first and fourth phrases, Paul uses the verb phroneo, meaning "to think, form/hold an opinion, judge," "set one's mind on, be intent on," "be minded/disposed" (Strong's Concordance and Bible Dictionary; Hamm, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: Philippians, page 93). Paul often refers in his letters to doctrinal unity as essential to a community (see Rom 16:17; Gal 1:8-9; Eph 4:13-14). However, here the "sameness" he refers to has more to do with a unity of spirit than with ideas and concepts. The two middle phrases also point us to his desire that they have unity of spirit in Christ.

3 Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, 4 each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others.
Next, Paul clarifies his statement with a negative followed by a positive by emphasizing attitudes and behaviors that damage unity followed by urging them to act with right behaviors:

  1. Do nothing motived by selfish desires or ego.
  2. Act with humility toward others, placing their needs and interests above yours.

Paul's mention of selfish motives recalls what he wrote in 1:17 concerning his opponents who proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not from pure motives. Every community has to defend itself against such people, and Paul wants to warn the Philippian Christians to be wary of people who threaten the unity of the community. The qualities and behaviors that should identify Christians are those revealed in the Incarnation, life, Passion, and death of Jesus Christ, which is the example Paul will introduce in the next verses in his beautiful hymn to the self-sacrificing love of Jesus Christ.

The hymn is in two parts. There are six 3-line stanzas where the subject of every verb in verses 6-8 is Christ, and the subject of every verb in verses 9-11 is God.

Philippians 2:5-11 ~ Paul's Christ-Hymn of Jesus' Self-Emptying Love and Service
5 Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus,
6 Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
7 Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
8 he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death,
even death on a cross.
9 Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

5 Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus...
Verse 5 completes the exhortation that began in 1:27 and is a bridge to the Christ-hymn in the next six verses. The "same attitude" as Christ refers to the attitude described in the last four verses.

Verses 6-11 are believed to be an early Christian hymn in which St. Paul gives a profound exposition of the true nature of Jesus Christ. The passage contains some of the most profound Christological verses in the New Testament. Christology is the branch of Christian theology relating to the person, nature, and role of Christ in salvation history. Paul's other great Christ-hymn is found in Colossians 1:15, 15-20 and expresses many of the same concepts.

Paul begins his Christ-hymn by describing God the Son as one, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Since God is Spirit, the "form" of God is the visible manifestation of His holiness and power through His mighty works that the Old Testament calls God's "glory." The Fathers of the Church interpreted verse 6 in two different ways:

  1. It is a reference to God the Son who chose to become incarnate (enfleshed) as a man.
  2. It is a reference to Jesus in His human existence who refused to yield to Adam and Eve's temptation to be god-like when He was tempted by Satan (see Gen 3:6).

That Jesus did not regard equality with God something to be grasped supports the traditional view that Paul is referring to Christ's incarnation. Becoming human, the Son of God concealed the glory of His divinity, majesty, and privileges that belong to Him as fully divine. Paul also refers to Jesus' humanity as being the Messiah "in the flesh" in Romans 9:5 and in Titus 2:13 refers to Jesus' divinity calling Him "our great God and our savior Jesus Christ." Also see where Peter quotes Jesus' claim to divinity in Acts 2:34 where Jesus quotes Psalm 110:1 in Luke 20:41-44 and Revelation 5:13 where the host of heaven worship Christ, the slain Lamb standing before the throne of God (Rev 5:6).

There are several interpretations of the phrase something to be grasped because the Greek word harpagmos, translated "grasped," is a rare term and only found here in this passage in the New Testament. Ancient and modern Biblical scholars express four leading interpretations:

  1. A number of the Latin Fathers took it to mean "something seized" and that Jesus did not consider equality with God something he had aggressively acquired for Himself since it belonged to Him by nature and right.
  2. Several Greek Fathers understood it to mean "something held fast" in that Jesus did not regard His divine prerogatives as a prize possession to which He needed to hold on to at all costs.
  3. Others preferred the interpretation "something to be seized that is not already possessed." Suggesting that Jesus, as a man, did not see the prerogatives of God as something He should reach for or seek to acquire.
  4. Still others interpret the term as part of a Greek idiom that means "something to be exploited for personal gain." Uses of this word in secular Greek refer to "robbery." This interpretation would indicate that Jesus, unlike ambitious rulers in ancient and modern times, did not view His divine dignity as something to be used for selfish or ambitious purposes. Instead, the Son of God lowered Himself into the human condition to come among us as a slave/servant like Isaiah's prophecies of God's Suffering Servant (see Is 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12; and see Lk 22:27; Rom 15:3, 8; and Phil 2:7).

The fourth interpretation is probably the most popular among modern scholars.

7 Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave...
Paul uses the Greek verb keno that means "emptying out" or to "render void." Christ emptied Himself by compressing the great glory of His Godhead within the smallness of our humanity.
Paul's point isn't that Jesus divested Himself of His divinity when He united Himself with humanity, but He restricted the rightful exercise of His glorious divinity and accepted certain limitations in His humanity (like feeling emotions, being hungry, and feeling pain). The word "slave" is meant to contrast the vast difference between humanity and divinity. In other words, God the Son made Himself "poor" in human weakness (like a "slave" at the very bottom of the social order) to make us rich in His grace: For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich so that by his poverty you might become rich (2 Cor 8:9).

Paul acknowledges Jesus' humanity, but he also clearly professes His divinity using the word "Lord" in verse 11. Taking into consideration Paul's Christ-hymn in Colossians 1:15-17, and the Christological passages in the Letter to the Hebrews, most scholars agree that verse 6 and the beginning of verse 7 refer to Christ humbling himself by becoming a human being. In coming to live among humanity in the flesh of a mortal human man, Jesus did not claim His divine prerogatives. What Paul writes mirrors what St. John wrote concerning the nature of Jesus in the prologue to his Gospel in John 1:1 and 14: In the beginning was the Word ... And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth.

7 ... coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, 8 he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.
The end of verse 7 and verse 8 is the center of the passage in which Paul proclaims the extreme to which Jesus' humility brought Him. Born as a human being in the image of God and having the appearance of an ordinary man (Gen 1:27), Jesus obediently accepted death on the Cross. His obedience, says Paul, is the supreme example of His humility because death on a tree was the ultimate human indignity (Dt 21:22-23). It was a form of execution that the Romans reserved for non-Roman criminals, slaves, and insurrectionists. However, Jesus' humiliation does not simply lay in his becoming a human person like us and hiding His glorious divinity in human form. The act of taking on a human body brought him to a life of suffering and sacrifice which reached its climax on the Cross where He was stripped of everything He had, like a slave.

9 Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Then, in verses 9-11, Paul describes Jesus' exaltation in glory.
Question: What is "the name" Jesus receives that is above every name? See verse 11
Answer: >He receives the "name" Lord.

The name "Lord" identifies Jesus' divine nature. In the Greek Old Testament, Kyrios, "LORD" is the substitution for the Divine Name "Yahweh." That Jesus has now been revealed to be the Lord in the full sense of His divinity and may be an allusion to the Greek translation of Isaiah 45:18-20: I am the LORD*, and there is no other... Turn to me and be safe, all you ends of the earth, for I am God, there is no other! By myself I swear, uttering my just decree, a word that will not return: To me every knee shall bend; by me every tongue shall swear, saying, "Only in the LORD* are just deeds and power. Before him in shame shall come all who vent their anger against him. In the LORD* all the descendants of Israel shall have vindication and glory" (Is 45:18-20 NABRE; *LORD replaces the Divine Name YHWH in the Hebrew text).

Acclaiming Jesus Christ is Lord is the most basic confession of Christian faith! The expression matches Paul's credo in 1 Corinthians 8:6: Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom all things are and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are and through whom we exist.

When Jesus completed His mission, God exalted Him by raising Him from death to life in the visible manifestation of His divinity. In His Resurrection, Jesus again bears all the glory of His divine nature which His human nature has merited. God the Father then enthroned God the Son in Heaven as the King of kings and our great High Priest in the heavenly Sanctuary. It is a destiny of the heavenly reality that awaits all who humble themselves and submit their lives to God as Jesus did to join Him in that reality (Lk 14:11; Phil 3:21).

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth...
Paul alludes to the fulfillment of God's divine oath in Isaiah 45:23-24 ~ By myself I swear, uttering my just decree and my unalterable word: To me every knee shall bend; by me every tongue shall swear, saying, "Only in the LORD are just deeds and power..." Yahweh swore to His prophet that the day would come when all humanity would acknowledge His lordship by bowing down before Him. Paul applies this prophecy to Jesus' glorious Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven where Jesus took His place at the right hand of the Father (Mk 16:19; Acts 2:33-34; 7:55; Rom 8:34; Col 3:1; Heb 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Pt 3:22; Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed).

Paul lists three parts of creation that will give glory to Christ. Christ will receive homage from:

  1. The angels and saints in Heaven.
  2. Humans and animals on earth.
  3. The dead in Sheol/Hades/Purgatory.

And all these will 11 ... confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The confession mentioned in verse 11 is an oath of belief like all Christians take at Baptism or Confirmation (if baptized as infants) and in the declaration of belief in the Creed at Mass. In Paul's interpretation of Isaiah 45:23, quoted from the Septuagint Greek translation, he writes in Romans 14:10-12: Why then do you judge our brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written: "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bend before me, and every tongue shall give praise to God." So [then] each of us shall give an account of himself [to God].

For this great act of bringing salvation to mankind, St. Paul declares in his doxology of his Christ-hymn that Jesus deserves the worship and praise of every living creature and the confession that He is Lord of all.1 "Jesus Christ is Lord" was a common early Christian acclamation (cf. Rom 10:9; 1 Cor 10:3), but Paul does not leave out the Father when, at the end of the doxology of the Christ-hymn, Paul adds: to the glory of God the Father.

See Paul's Christology reflected in three passages from his letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Hebrews (but not limited to these passages):

Some of St. Paul's Great Christological Passages
Topic Philippians 2:6-11 Colossians 1:15-22; 2:6-15 Hebrews 1:2-18
Jesus' divine relationship to God the Father Form of God
(Phil 2:6)
Image of the invisible God
(Col 1:15, 19)
Revelation of God
(Heb 1:2)
Equality with God
(Phil 2:6)
Status of Firstborn
(Col 1:15, 18)
Status of Firstborn
(Heb 1:6)
Slave of God
(Phil 2:7)
Son of God
(Col 1:13)
Son of God
(Heb 1:2a, 5, 8)
Jesus' divine work:      
In creation   All things created
(Col 1:16-18)
Created universe
(Heb 1:2, 3, 10)
In salvation Suffering for our salvation
(Phil 2:8)
Reconciling all things
(Col 1:19-22; 2:6, 13-15)
Sustains all things that exist by His word
(Heb 1:3; 2:10, 11)
Jesus' divine work:      
Exclusively God Christ is Theos/God
(Phil 2:6, 11)
Theotetos/Godhead
(Col 2:9)
Theos/God
(Heb 1:8)
In the flesh Coming in human likeness
(Phil 2:7, 8)
Of the deity bodily
(Col 2:9)
Blood and flesh
(Heb 1:6; 2:14-18)
Pre-existence   Created all things/before all things
(Col 1:16-17)
At the beginning made the earth; your years will have no end
(Heb 1:10-13)

Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2018

Compare with Christological passages in the Gospel of John: 1:1-3, 12, 13-14, 18; 3:16; 14:6-7, 18.

Philippians 2:12-18 ~ Obedience and Service in the World
12 So then, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work. 14 Do everything without grumbling or questioning, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world, 16 as you hold on to the word of life, so that my boast for the day of Christ may be that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 But, even if I am poured out as a libation upon the sacrificial service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with all of you. 18 In the same way you also should rejoice and share your joy with me.

Having presented his Christ-hymn, Paul applies it as a model of Christian living for the Philippian community and himself. He teaches that "working out" our salvation is a gift of God and a communal task. It involves personal sacrifice and is not to be taken lightly.

In verse 12, Paul warns that a confession of belief followed by baptism is only the beginning of one's faith journey to Heaven. The Christian must make the continuing effort to demonstrate the Gospel in their words and deeds and strive to pursue a heavenly reward. The term "fear and trembling" is an Old Testament expression indicating the seriousness of committing oneself to God's service (see Ex 15:16; Judt 2:28; Ps 2:11; Is 19:16). Our initial salvation has nothing to do with our works and is a gift of God's grace (Eph 2:8-9). However, our final salvation depends on:

  1. a lifetime of keeping the faith (2 Tim 4:7-8)
  2. following the commandments (Mt 19:17; Jn 14:15)
  3. persevering in good works (Mt 25:31-46; Rom 8:13)
  4. striving for a life of holiness (Mt 5:8-9; Heb 12:14)
  5. maintaining a relationship with Christ through prayer (Eph 6:18; 1 Thes 5:17)
  6. resisting the forces of evil (Mt 6:13; Rom 13:12; Eph 6:11-12)
  7. resisting the selfish and destructive demands of the flesh (Rom 8:13; 13:14; 1 Cor 9:24-25)

13 For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work.
Paul does not want anyone to misunderstand; he is not saying salvation is something people can acquire on their own. It is God working to bring the Philippians to salvation. God moves them spiritually from within to do what is good, and He gives them the desire and energy to complete what He desires. In the next five verses, Paul uses several Old Testament allusions to bring home the points he wants to make.

14 Do everything without grumbling or questioning, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world, 16 as you hold on to the word of life, so that my boast for the day of Christ may be that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

Question: Paul writes that the Philippians must not be grumbling or questioning like what other "crooked and perverse generation"? See Ex 16:7-8; Num 14:11, 26-27, 34-35; Dt 32:5; Ps 78:8.
Answer: God accused the Exodus generation of being crooked and perverse because they continually grumbled and challenged the authority of God despite His many miracles on their behalf.

Question: How was the Exodus generation like Jesus' generation?
Answer: No other two generations in salvation history had witnessed so many mighty works of God that should have produced belief and obedience.

15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish...
Paul's call for the Philippian Christians to be blameless recalls God's call to Abraham to "walk in my presence and be blameless" when He renewed His covenant with Abraham and his descendants (Gen 17:1). In referring to the Philippians as "children/sons of God," Paul applies the term God used for His special covenant people chosen out of all the peoples of the earth (Ex 4:22; Ps 82:6/9; Hos 11:1; for the New Covenant see Mt 5:9; Lk 6:35; Rom 8:15-16). Paul's exhortation to be "without blemish" uses a term from the Sinai Covenant reserved for the unblemished animals offered in the Temple sacrifices (i.e., Lev 1:3, 10; 3:1, 6; Num 28:3; etc.). He will use a similar reference at the end of the passage. Paul's point is that New Covenant Christians must be the reverse of the Old Covenant's disobedient and rebellious children of God. They must obediently offer up their lives with Christ as an unblemished sacrifice dedicated to God's service.

15 ... among whom you shine like lights in the world...
Christ is the "light of the world" (Jn 1:5-9; 8:12; 12:46), and He calls His disciples to reflect His light (Mt 5:14-16; Jn 12:36; 1 Thes 5:5; 1 Jn 1:5-7). For a third time, Paul uses the phrase "day of Christ" referring to Jesus' return and His day of divine judgment. Paul writes, if the Philippians remain strong in faith, then, when Paul faces Jesus' throne of judgment, because of them he can boast that his labors were not in vain.

17 But, even if I am poured out as a libation upon the sacrificial service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with all of you. 18 In the same way you also should rejoice and share your joy with me.
Verses 17-18 are the conclusion of Paul's exhortation. Using the language of liturgical sacrifice, Paul writes that the Philippian's struggles and his struggles are a cause for rejoicing because they are participating in the self-emptying love of Christ (celebrated in his Christ-hymn in 2:6-11). Paul is probably thinking about his martyrdom. The prospect of his martyrdom is something Paul is willing and prepared to face even though he still hopes to be released from prison (1:19, 25-26). The mention of his life being "poured out as a libation" means he is thinking about the twice daily liturgical sacrifice of the Tamid. It was the single sacrifice of two lambs: one in a morning liturgy and the second in the afternoon. Each lamb was offered along with flour mixed oil wine, a priestly offering of an unleavened bread wafer, and a wine libation that is poured out against the altar (Ex 29:38-42; Num 28:1-10; Mishnah: Tamid, 5:2D; 7:3A-k).2It will be the same way Paul's life will be poured out in martyrdom as a sacrifice to the Lord.

Paul expresses the thought that to lay down his life like Christ would be the highest form of worship. Earlier in his letter to the Christians in Rome in c. 56/58 AD Paul wrote: I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship (Rom 12:1). And later in a letter to Timothy from Rome, perhaps during his second imprisonment and before his martyrdom (c. 67 AD), Paul will write: For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance (2 Tim 4:6-8).

The Travel Plans of St. Paul and His Associates

Philippians 2:19-24 ~ St. Paul and Timothy
19 I hope, in the Lord Jesus, to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be heartened by hearing news of you. 20 For I have no one comparable to him for genuine interest in whatever concerns you. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know his worth, how as a child with a father he served along with me in the cause of the gospel. 23 He it is, then, whom I hope to send as soon as I see how things go with me, 24 but I am confident in the Lord that I myself will also come soon.

Paul intends to send Timothy to the Philippians to deliver his letter and to offer them Paul's continued instruction and encouragement. Timothy is well-known to the community, and they "know his worth" since he is a spiritual son of Paul (see 1 Cor 4:17), and he was a member of the missionary team that founded the church with Paul (Acts 16).

23 He it is, then, whom I hope to send as soon as I see how things go with me...
"As I see how things go with me" suggests that Paul expects his trial to take place soon and he will know if he will be acquitted or condemned to death. However, in verse 24, Paul still expresses the hope that he will be released from prison and will visit them.

Philippians 2:25-30 ~ St. Paul and Epaphroditus
25 With regard to Epaphroditus, my brother and co-worker and fellow soldier, your messenger and minister in my need, I consider it necessary to send him to you. 26 For he has been longing for all of you and was distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 He was indeed ill, close to death; but God had mercy on him, not just on him but also on me, so that I might not have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I send him therefore with the greater eagerness, so that, on seeing him, you may rejoice again, and I may have less anxiety. 29 Welcome him then in the Lord with all joy and hold such people in esteem, 30 because for the sake of the work of Christ he came close to death, risking his life to make up for those services to me that you could not perform.

Epaphroditus is a member of the community and the messenger who delivered their letter and financial aid Paul in his imprisonment. Paul writes that Epaphroditus' stay was prolonged because he had fallen seriously ill but has since recovered. Paul asks the community to welcome him back with joy and esteem because he risked his life in his "work of Christ" to deliver their letter and material support. Their brother Philippian Christian is a living example of the kind of dedication and self-sacrifice in service to Christ that Paul has been writing about in this part of his letter.

Question for discussion or reflection:
Are you aware of God at work in your life? What has He asked to give up that is not beneficial to your faith journey? How does Paul's advice that you must "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" influence you to divest yourself of what is still holding back your advance in holiness on your faith journey? Is what is holding you back a person or an activity?

Endnotes:
1. The word doxology comes from the Greek word doxa, meaning "opinion" or "glory," and the suffix logia, which refers to an oral or written expression. For Christians, doxology means an expression of praise and glorification that usually concludes a prayer or hymn. For example, the doxology we add at the end of the Our Father/Lord's prayer: "For thine is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory forever" is not in the Bible but is a glory acclamation (doxology) added in the earliest years of the Church.

2. According to rabbinic tradition, the priestly wafer offering took place between the flour offering for the Tamid and the wine libation (Kurtz, Offerings, Sacrifices and Worship in the Old Testament, page 353). Mishnah: Tamid, 5:2D; 7:3A-K). See the e-book, "Jesus and the Mystery of the Tamid Sacrifice."

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2018 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Catechism references for this lesson from Philippians Chapter 2 (* indicates Scripture is either quoted or paraphrased in the citation):

2:5-8 (CCC 461) 2:10-11 (CCC 633*, 635)
2:5 (CCC 520*, 1694, 2842*) 2:12-13 (CCC 1949)
2:6-11 (CCC 2641*, 2667*) 2:13 (CCC 308)
2:6-9 (CCC 1850* 2:14-17 (CCC 1070*)
2:6 (CCC 449) 2:15 (CCC 1243*)
2:7 (CCC 472, 602*, 705*, 713, 876, 1224) 2:25 (CCC 1070*)
2:8-9 (CCC 411, 612, 623) 2:30 (CCC 1070*)
2:9-11 (CCC 449*, 2812)