Expository Sermon Philippians 2:5-11
Why is the church so concerned about the doctrine of the Trinity? In light of the social problems facing the church is it really essential to hold to the full deity of the Son and the Holy Spirit? Yes it is because the doctrine of the Trinity has implications which are at the very heart of Christianity.
1) If Jesus is a created being and not fully God, then it is hard to see how He as a creature could bear the full wrath of God against all of our sins.
2) If Jesus is not fully God then justification by faith alone is called into question. If Jesus isn't fully God, then we could rightly doubt whether we can fully trust Him to save us completely.
3) If Jesus is not fully God, should we pray to Him? Who but and infinite God has the ability to hear and respond to all the prayers of all of God's people? Would it not be idolatry to worship Jesus (no matter how powerful) if He isn't fully God? Yet in Philippians 2:9-11 and Revelation 5:12-14 we are taught to worship Jesus.
4) If somebody denies that Jesus is fully God who has always possessed all the attributes of God; yet nonetheless say that it was Jesus who saves us; then this teaching wrongly begins to attribute credit for salvation to a creature and not to God Himself.
5) If Jesus is not fully God, then the independence and personal nature of God is at stake: If there is no Trinity of three persons, each of which are fully God, then there were no interpersonal relationships within God before creation. Without interpersonal relationships, it is difficult to see how God could be genuinely personal and how we could relate to such a being.
Open your Bibles to Philippians 2:5-11.
The city of Philippi was formerly known as Crenides and was the capital of the province of Macedonia. It stood near the head of the sea about 8 miles northwest of Kavalla. Sometime around 356 B.C. King Philip of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great, fortified and expanded the old Thracian town of Crenides and renamed it after himself. In 168 B.C. the Romans captured the city. In 42 B.C., just outside the city, the forces of Brutus and Cassius were defeated by those of Antony and Octavian (who later became Augustus). Octavian turned the city into a Roman colony, which means that it was a military settlement of Roman soldiers planted there for the purpose of controlling the district which was recently conquered. Luke records this in Acts 16:12 saying that Philippi was the most important city in that part of Macedonia and a colony.
The Philippian church was founded during Paul's "Macedonian call" on his second missionary journey which had led him to the city. Lydia and others where converted but Paul and Silas beaten and imprisoned. However, this resulted in the conversion of the Philippian Jailer! As Acts 16:37-40 reports, the magistrates were placed in a dangerous position from the beating of Roman citizens because there wasn't a trial first. This oversight may have prevented the Philippian church from future reprisals and allowed it to grow and become the first church Paul founded on European soil.
The epistle to the Philippians centers around the person and power of Christ, and perhaps the most crucial and significant christological passage is Philippians 2:5-11. It is significant because condensed in this passage are some profound insights concerning the preexistence, incarnation, humility, and exhalation of Christ.
To give you the context of the chapter, in Phillipians 2:3-5, Paul says that we are to follow Christ's example of humility and "let each esteem other[s] better than themselves" (verse 3). Paul is not telling us they we are actually inferior to one another since every Christian cannot be inferior to every other Christian (which would give the body of Christ the ultimate inferiority complex). Rather, Paul is teaching us that we ought to treat each other as if they are better than we are. Then Paul gives us the ultimate example of Christ Himself.
Christ was not actually inferior to God and could have claimed the right to be equal to God; but He chose instead to make himself as a man to the point of death (vv.7-8). This fits the doctrine of the Trinity perfectly, since it teaches that the three persons are equal in nature but are so perfect in love that they seek to glorify each other rather than themselves.
Now lets read verses 5 and 6:
5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
People often point out verses which say that Jesus is inferior to the Father to try to disprove the doctrine of the Trinity. For example, people will often quote John 14:28 where Jesus says "my Father is greater than I," or John 20:17 where Jesus calls God His God. Do verses such as those disprove the doctrine of the Trinity? No! What we must keep in mind (as the next verse will clearly state) that Jesus was not only fully God (as verse 6 affirms), but also fully man. In this we ought to head the warning Paul writes in Colossians 2:8-9 which reads:
8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
The point that these gainsayers are missing is that you cannot properly read the four gospels unless you realize that Jesus sometimes speaks from His humanity and at other times from His Divinity. In His humanity Jesus is inferior to the Father in office; but in His Divinity He is equal with the Father.
Lets pick it up again from verse 7 remembering the subject is Christ:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
This is passage is important. In my wonderings and dealings with liberal theologies, this particular passage tends to get smeared all to often to support the notion that Jesus isn't God or to support a liberal idea known as the kenosis theory. The word kenosis comes from the Greek verb kenoo, which means "to empty" and is oftentimes translated "emptied himself" in many Bibles. There are many kenosis theories but the one that I wish to address is the one that began in the 19th century and says that Jesus gave up some of His divine attributes (omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence for example) while He was on earth as a man. This "emptying" is viewed as a voluntary self-limitation on Christ's part which He did to carry out the work of our redemption. This version of the kenosis theory is an error because it tries to prove too much.
Upon closer inspection Philippians 2:7 does not say:
o Christ emptied Himself of some powers.
o Nor does it say Christ emptied Himself of some divine attributes.
Rather, if we read verses 7 & 8 again we see what Christ did in this "emptying" of Himself: "He took on the form of a servant" and "he humbled himself." The context of verses 7 and 8 interprets this "emptying" as equivalent to "humbling himself" and taking on a lowly position.
The larger context of the passage makes this interpretation clear as well:
"Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves" (Phil 2:3). Paul continues, "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Phil. 2:4). Paul is persuading the Philippians to be humble and to put the interests of others first, he then illustrates this by using Christ as the supreme example of one who did just that! One who humbled Himself for others.
Philippians 2:7-8 is not saying that Jesus is a creature of the creation; nor is it saying that Jesus gave up any of His divine qualities. Instead it is saying that Jesus who is God took on the form of a man. It is not saying that the Son of God set aside any of His divine qualities or attributes. It is saying that Jesus gave up the status and privilege that were His in heaven. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 8:9 of Christ, saying of Him: "though he were rich, yet for your sake became poor," once again speaking of the privilege and honor that He deserved but temporarily gave up for our sake.
Jesus Himself speaks of the "glory" he had with the Father "before the world was made" (John 17:5). This again points that the "emptying" was not any divine attributes, but the setting aside of the rights and privileges of the Creator.
The kenosis theory is not a correct understanding of Philippians 2:5-7; for if the kenosis theory were true, then we could not affirm that Jesus was fully God while He was here on this earth. Because of this, ultimately the kenosis theory undermines the full deity of Jesus Christ by making Him something less than fully God.
I want to stress that what these verses do affirm and teach is that Jesus is not only 100% God but that He also is 100% man! Therefore, this passage in Philippians also refutes a early heresy known as docetism which argued that Jesus only seemed to be a man, but really wasn't. This heresy has yet again resurfaced in the Christadelphian church, a pseudo Christian cult which is why I make mention of it.
Again for emphasis Philippians 2:5-8 does not say that Jesus released Himself of His Divinity! This passage is saying that Jesus set aside His glory and assumed the form of a man; which is the necessary state for the proper atonement of mankind.
9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
What does this say? A name above every name! This passage reinforces the idea that Jesus is the Lord Almighty; If He isn't God then we have a problem because it then conflicts with Isaiah 42:8 in which the Lord Himself says that He will not share His glory with another! Remember John 17:5 Jesus shared in the glory?
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
This passage ties Jesus in with being God as well; for in Isaiah 45:22 God the Father declares:
22 Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.
23 I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.
Philippians verse 10 proves Jesus is the Almighty because we are told in Isaiah that the Almighty will not share His glory with any other! And if we look at Revelations 5:12-13 the worshippers in heaven are giving glory onto the Son
11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:9-11 is affirming for us to worship Jesus! In context with the whole passage, it is teaching that we are to worship Jesus because He is God and we are able to fully trust Him. And that is the significance of the passage. Jesus is God and we are to worship Him and trust him for only God can be our Savior. I want this to sink in. Remember Isaiah 43:11:
11 I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.
Do you understand the significance? Jesus cannot be our Savior unless He is fully God!
Friends we live in a world that is seeking significance and yet views everything as insignificant because isn't all truth relative to the beholder? Our society not only has forgotten how we might test for truth; but it has forgotten why truth is significant. As such we live among a people that chases after every new move of spirituality that hits our shores because they no longer no how to weigh the facts before them to determine there significance.
Yet what could be more significant and life changing than to realize and come to understand that the founder of the entire universe died to atone for your sins? What holds more value and significance in our lives today than to believe and be rebirthed in the knowledge that you are a saint of God covered by the infinitely significant blood of Jesus Christ?
A wise man once observed that the dove Noah released from the ark soared across the wide seas that engulfed the world, found no roost, and sought again the refuge of the great vessel. So also has man departed from the truths of the Bible, using his wings of independence to seek distant horizons and strange lands. But like the weary dove, through the years many have returned to the changeless certainty of God's Word after following years of aimless flight. As one generation begins to drift from the Gospel, the following generation finds it anew, clinging tenaciously to its teachings as though they were the first to discover them.
Why is the contemplation of this wise man's thoughts significant?
1. It is not significant for those of us who have followed the ways of the world before and having found them insignificant embraced the eternal significance of Jesus Christ as our Savior.
2. It is not just significant because of those of us who have not been life long Christians can relate to its keen observation.
3. No, that is not the reason it is significant.
It is significant because as we see and hear the pain that our society puts herself through we must all remember that this is not the first time that a society has moved away from the will of our Lord. Nor is it likely to be the last time. Amidst the awakening of humanism to spiritual matters; we as servants find that a spiritual famine has spread throughout our land as people grasp at straws and follow every wind of doctrine. They would rather parrot religious slogans rather than understand what and why they believe and ponder its depths.
Though each one of us within the body of Christ may be great or small, every one of us has at least one talent that we can offer these lost souls; these potential saints:
Each one of us can witness the glory and magnificence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ who is our Divine Savior and each one of us can reason our faith before skeptics and gainsayers of our faith!
While the natural man may ask the question what is the meaning of life; Christians know the greater question is how are we to die?
Once we know how to die, then we will know how we are to live! This is the significance of Jesus Christ crucified and raised. For Christians know that we do not become holy to seek God as the natural man would suppose. Rather, we seek God to become holy!
The apostle Peter wrote:
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:15).
Therefore beloved, let us all earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints so that other may also believe with all the humility, all the love, and all the authority that the Lord in heaven has granted us (ref. Jude 1:3).
For we are not freelance scholars of religion, but trustees of the deposit of faith that we, like our forefathers, have been charged with passing on intact to the next rising generation.
Return to the Protestant Apologetics and Theology page