3. Exhortations, 2:1-18

ii] Humility based on the example of Christ


Paul encourages the Philippians to follow the example of Christ's self-humiliation, adopting an attitude of humility shaped by the example of Christ. It is this humility of servant-hood which will reinforce unity within the fellowship and thus produce steadfastness in the face of trouble.


i] Context: See 2:1-4. This passage sitting within Paul's exhortation to the Philippian church, 2:1-18.


ii] Background: See 1:1-11.


iii] Structure: The example of Christ:

Introduction, v5.

The hymn of Christ:

The divine origins of the Christ

who played the role of a slave, v6-7b;

The life of Christ in his humanity -

birth, suffering, obedience, death, v7c-8;

The exalted Christ, lord over all to the glory of God, v9-11.


Numerous structural arrangements are proposed for this passage. Lohmeyer's arrangement of the passage in six three line stanzas (Heidelberg 1928) is as good as any and is accepted by many commentators, cf., Silva. See O'Brien for the development of views on the literary form of v6-11. O'Brien follows Hooker who argues that the hymn falls into two parts, v6-8 and v9-11, with the two finite verbs in each section describing Jesus' self-humbling and the Father's action of exalting him. These notes follow the arrangement of verses proposed by Reumann.


iv] Interpretation:

It is often argued that this passage is not originally from Paul's hand, but that he quotes a poem or hymn. It is of course rather foolish to assume that Paul is incapable of composing high prose / hymn / poetry. None-the-less, it would not be unreasonable for Paul to quote the words of a hymn in a letter. The arguments in favor of v6-11 being a hymn are as follows: i] The passage seems to intrude in the flow of Paul's argument; ii] It is liturgical in style, easily arranged into six stanzas; iii] It contains some six words not commonly used by Paul; iv] Its focus on Christ as the Servant of God is not a common Pauline theme (note the Servant Song echoes, Isa.52:13-53:12).

A quick survey of the many commentaries on Philippians indicates a variety of interpretations of what is one of the most profound passages in the New Testament. The sticking point seems to be Paul's intention / purpose. Of the many answers provided, we do well to follow Silva when he argues that it all comes down to context: "If the opposition being experienced by the Philippians calls for steadfastness, if steadfastness is impossible without spiritual unity, and if unity can come about only from an attitude of humility, then surely Paul must reinforce the critical importance of humility in the heart of believers. And what better way to reinforce this thought than by reminding the Philippians of the attitude and conduct of him to whom they are united in faith? When admonishing the Corinthians to contribute generously for the sake of the poor in Jerusalem, Paul set before them the example of Christ: though he was rich, he became poor on account of you, so that through his poverty you might become rich, 2Cor.8:9." Similarly in the passage before us, Paul appeals to the spirit of servanthood that brought Jesus to his death - a death which, incidentally, has overflowed in life for the Philippians.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 2:5

Humility, v5-11: i] Driving home the exhortations toward mutual consideration within the Christian fellowship, v1-4, Paul encourages his readers to fully adopt this attitude, an attitude evident in the perfect self-giving of Christ. So, take on the mind of Christ / think Christianly, v5. "Adopt towards one another, in your mutual relations, the same attitude that was found in Christ Jesus", O'Brien.

gar "-" - for. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument, although a Western text variant, usually discounted.

en + dat. "[your] / in [your] relationship with one another" - [you must think this] in [you]. Local, expressing association, "with", so "among yourselves", and not as Lightfoot, "in your hearts." The personal pronoun uJmin is reflective, so "in yourselves (the Christian community at Philippi)."

[to fronhma (a atoV)] "attitude" - the way of thinking, attitude, thoughtful planning. An ellipsis is assumed here by most translations, so Moule etc., "you must think this way of thinking among you."

froneite (fronew) pres. imp. "should be" - you must think. The present tense is durative, so "you must continue to think [this way of thinking among yourselves]." "Think" in the sense of setting one's mind / attitude in a certain direction, so "orient", Barth; "your frame of mind aught to be ...", Cassirer.

touto pro. "the same as / the same mindset as" - this. This pronoun can refer backward, or forward; here it possibly does both. In verses 1-4 Paul calls for self-giving within the Christian fellowship, and so here he asks his readers to adopt this attitude / way of thinking among themselves. Yet, this attitude / way of thinking is also evident in the life of Jesus Christ, the divine man who is the supreme example of humble self-giving; "have this frame of mind in you, [a frame of mind which is also evident in Christ Jesus]", Zerwick.

o} kai "that of [Christ Jesus]" - which was and = also. The neuter pronoun o} refers back to the neuter touto, "this", so "this way of thinking." There is no verb in the second clause so the verb to-be is assumed in most translations, although unnecessary in the Gk.; "which is also", present tense???? The conjunction kai is adverbial, adjunctive.

en + dat. "[Christ Jesus]" - in [christ of jesus]. Local, expressing space / incorporative union. Our thinking should be like Christ's. The thinking which is en uJmin "in you" should be kai "also" (the same as) o} "which" (this way of thinking) en "in" (which exists in) Cristw/ Ihsou, "Christ Jesus."


ii] Using high prose, Paul proclaims Christ, v6-11. "The Christ-hymn presents Jesus as the ultimate model for Christian behavior and action, the supreme example of the humble, self-sacrificing, self-giving service that Paul has just been urging the Philippians to practice in their relations one toward another, v1-4", O'Brien. The Hymn: a) The divine origins of Christ who played the role of a slave, v6-7b. Christ, in the form of God, existed in a manner equal to God: he possesses a divine nature; he is a divine being. Divinity was his by right and he did not need to grasp onto it as if he might lose it. Yet, he willingly made himself nothing; he emptied himself.

o}V pro. "who" - Possibly "the one who", subject of the following verbs and participles.

uJparcwn (uJparcw) pres. part. "being" - existing. The participle is adverbial, possibly temporal, "while being", or concessive, "though being", Moffatt. "Existing" in the sense of to be, subsist, continue eternally, although the idea of eternal existence derives from the context. The word in common use concerns prior existence rather than eternal existence; "he always had the nature of God", TEV.

en + dat. "in" - Here adverbial, expressing the manner of his being.

morfh/ (h) "very nature" - the form, appearance. Possibly "likeness", in the sense of outward display, but more likely "nature / form / essence", in the sense of expressing an inner reality, the essential attributes of something; "he was divine by nature", Moffatt.

qeou (oV) gen. "God" - of god. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, identifying the possession of a derivative characteristic; "he shared God's very being."

ouc .... hJghsato (hgeomai) aor. "did not consider" - did not regard, consider, deem, have an opinion. Jesus was not of the opinion that ..... "he did not regard his equality to God a thing to be clutched to himself", Barclay.

to einai (eimi) pres. inf. "[equality with]" - the to be [equal to god]. The articular infinitive introduces a noun clause, the direct object of the negated verb "to consider"; "did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped."

qew/ (oV) "God" - Dative complement of the adverb "equal with."

aJrpagmon (oV) "something to be grasped" - something to be plundered, taken as spoil, a prize to be won / grasped. Accusative complement of the object "equality with God" serving in a double accusative construction. The word is uncommon and therefore its exact meaning is unsure. Possibly, as of plunder to be won and held onto at all cost. Yet, it is likely that the sense is "grasped"; "the attitude one will take towards something which one already has and holds and will continue to have and hold", Wright, so Moule; "exploited", NRSV. "Though he existed in the form of God, yet he did not look upon equality with God as a prize which must not slip from his grasp, rather he emptied himself, taking upon him the form of a slave", Lightfoot.


This clause, expressing Christ's divesting himself and taking the likeness of a slave, is understood in a number of ways:

• He gave up the form of God;

• He placed himself under demonic powers;

• He played the part of the Servant of the Lord;

• He became the righteous sufferer;

• He took the form of a slave;

• He became a slave to God and is the Lordly Example, cf. O'Brien.

O'Brien, Bruce, ... opt for the last option. Christ empties himself by setting aside his divine rights, without setting aside his divinity, in taking to himself the divine vocation of becoming the incarnate servant of the Lord for the salvation of all who believe. As such he stands as the perfect model for those who would similarly serve the Lord.

alla "but" - Strong adversative serving within a counterpoint construction; "not ....., but ....."

ekenwsen (kenow) aor. "made [himself] nothing" - he made empty, of no effect. Usually understood in the sense of divested; "he stripped [himself] of every advantage", Phillips.

eJauton reflective pro. "himself" - Accusative direct object of the verb "to empty." Jesus divested himself of divine prerogative, although not of his divinity, in taking the form of a servant. The emphasis on "himself" indicates it was his doing to voluntarily so act; "in his own free will", TEV.

labwn (lambanw) aor. part. "taking [the very nature]" - taking [the form, likeness]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "he made empty"; "and took upon himself the form of a servant", AV, "and really and truly became a servant", Barclay. Moffatt opts for an instrumental sense "by taking the nature of a servant." "Assuming the form of a slave", REB.

doulou (oV) gen. "of a servant" - of a slave. The genitive is adjectival, attributed, "he stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature", Phillips, but possibly possessive, so Varner. Jesus takes the form of a slave, metaphorically speaking.


b) The life of Christ in his humanity; his birth, suffering, obedience and death, v7c-8. "Born in humanity's likeness, and in appearance perceived as a human being, he experienced humiliation for himself, becoming obedient to the point of death - yes, death on a cross", Reumann.

genomenoV (ginomai) aor. part. "being made" - having become = come into existence, born. Along with euJreqeiV, "having been found", an attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "he humbled" (v8) - as a man and recognized as a man, he accepted the humiliation of crucifixion; "Born in human guise and appearing in human form, he humbly stooped in his obedience even to die", Moffatt. Of course, if a new sentence / paragraph does not begin here, then it is possible that this participle modifies the verb "he made empty / he made [himself] nothing", v6.

en "in" - in [likeness]. Probably adverbial, expressing the manner of his birth, born "with" humanity's likeness. "He was born like other human beings", O'Brien.

anqrwpwn (oV) gen. "human" - of men / humans. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "likeness"; "human likeness."

oJmoiwmati (a atoV) "likeness" - likeness, image, copy. Used in the sense of identical to the original, thus referring to Christ's "essential identity with the human race", O'Brien.

euJreqeiV (euJriskw) aor. pas. part. "being found" - [and] having been found. Attendant circumstance participle, see above.

schmati (a atoV) dat. "in appearance" - in outward form, appearance, shape. Dative of respect / reference, "with respect to his appearance." Jesus is the divine man, but appears as a mere man, cf. Isa.53:2,3. "He became like one of us", CEV.

wJV "as" - as, like. Not as a comparative, Jesus is not like a human, rather the particle serves to indicate a characteristic quality, Jesus is as a human; he was "found to be a human being."

anqrwpoV "a man" - a man, human. "a human being", TNIV.


Not only did the divine Christ empty himself, in that he took upon himself the role of a servant, but he also subjected himself to humiliation. Christ submitted himself to the will of God and so faced the reproach of his fellows, a reproach that ended in shameful death.

etapeinwsen (tapeinow) aor. "he humbled" - he made low, humbled, humiliated [himself]. Main verb, expressing Christ's abasement. It has been noted that this verb stands in a chiastic relation with "he emptied himself." "He lowered his own dignity", Knox.

genomenoV (ginomai) aor. part. "and became [obedient]" - having become [obedient]. Possibly attendant circumstance, as NIV, or forming a modal adverbial participial construction expressing the manner by which Christ humbled himself, or even instrumental, expressing the means by which Christ humbled himself.

mecri + gen. "to" - up to, until [death]. A preposition which is adverbial, temporal, in use. "He walked the path of obedience all the way to death", TEV.

de "even" - but/and. Transitional, but with ascensive / intensive force, emphasizing the extent of Jesus' humiliation; "yes, even ...."

staurou (oV) "on a cross" - [a death] of a cross. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / of place, "a death which takes place on a cross", or of produce, "a death which is enacted by a cross." Not only did Jesus take on the likeness of a human person, even a slave, even a slave faced with death, but he "even" took upon himself the degradation of public execution as a common criminal.


c) The exalted Christ, lord over all to the glory of God, v9-11. As a consequence of his humiliation, Christ was exalted by God. The verdict of humanity, led by the powers of darkness, is set aside by God. As for the name Jesus is given, it is the name of God, Yahweh, "Lord", a name which depicts Christ's power, authority, dignity and divinity.

dio "therefore" - therefore, that is why [also]. Inferential; here with a climactic / ascensive kai, "also". As a consequence of Christ's humiliation, although possibly "this is why", Goodspeed.

uJperuywsen (uJperuyow) aor. "exalted" - [god] highly exalted [him]. The force of the prefix stresses "exalted", so "highly exalted."

kai "and" - Possibly ascensive, "even gave to him the name ...." Silva suggests that the conjunction here is epexegetic.

ecarisato (carizomai) aor. "gave" - graciously gave, gave freely, showed favor. "Bestowed on him", NEB / REB.

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - to him. Dative of indirect object / interest.

to onoma "the name" - Accusative direct object of the verb "to give, favor." The "name" represents the person, their identity. Some suggest that the bestowed name is Jesus / Jesus Christ, but this seems unlikely; See Moule's flip flop on this in 1st. and 2nd. ed. of IB. Probably the title "Lord" is the name which is bestowed, a title which serves as an allusion to the divine name, God's person, with its associated divine dignity. Jesus' self-humiliation is countered by the divine bestowal of God's own name, Lord / Yahweh, and with it the prerogative of universal authority / rule.

to "that" - the one. The article serves as an adjectivizer turning the prepositional phrase "above every name" into an attributive relative clause limiting "the name", "which is above every name", as NIV.

uJper + acc. "above [every name]" - above, over and above, beyond, more than [every name]. Spacial, here metaphorical. The name Yahweh is a name which is greater than any other name. "Gave him the name which is above all other names", NJB.


The ones who bow before the exalted Christ are the totality of rational beings. There are three such groups: spiritual beings / angels; humans; deceased persons.

iJna + subj. "that" - that [..... should bow ...... should confess (v11) ...]. This construction expresses either purpose, "in order that", or consequence, "with the result that." In the NT there is often a blurring of these actions and so hypothetical result, "so that", often seems the best choice.

en "at" - in. Here adverbial, expressing association, "with", "with the mention of the name", or attendant circumstance, "in connection with the name", even possibly temporal, "when the name is mentioned."

tw/ onamati (onoma) dat. "the name" - the name. Possibly that every knee should bow at the mention of Jesus, but more likely, at the glory and dignity associated with the name that Jesus bears, namely Yahweh / Lord.

Ihsou (oV) gen. "of Jesus" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive. Lightfoot argues that "the personal name of Jesus cannot be meant", but the issue has been long debated.

kamyh/ (kamptw) aor. subj. "[every knee] should bow" - [all knees] should bow / bend. The whole creation should bow before Jesus; "should kneel in reverence and submission", Barclay.

epouraniwn gen. adj. "in heaven" - of heaven. This genitive, as with "of earth" and "of under the earth", is adjectival, possibly possessive "every knee of those / that belongs to those living in heaven / the heavenly community ......", or idiomatic / of place, "which is found in heaven ......"

katacqoniwn adj. "under the earth" - [and] of under the earth. The adjective serves as a substantive. Probably a reference to Hades / Sheol, the residence of the dead. The point is, Christ's reign is universal.


Every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, even the powers of darkness will confess his lordship.

exomologhshtai (exomologew) aor. subj. "should confess / acknowledge" - [and every tongue] should consent fully, agree to completely, openly and plainly acknowledge. Lightfoot argues that since the word is used primarily in its secondary sense of "offer praise", "thanksgiving" in the LXX, it is most likely that Paul is following the lead of the LXX. Therefore, the meaning here would be "proclaim with thanksgiving."

oJti "that" - that . Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what every tongue should confess.

"is [Lord]" - [jesus christ is] lord. The verb to-be is usually supplied so instead of kurioV IhsouV CristoV, "Lord Jesus Christ", it is usually translated as "Jesus Christ is Lord." In the Gk., "Lord", which would serve as the predicate noun with the verb to-be, is placed first in the emphatic position, giving the sense "[the] Lord/Yahweh is Jesus Christ", so Reumann - high theology indeed. The reverse order makes the same point, although the suggested order is more startling.

eiV "to [the glory]" - to, into [the glory]. This preposition here possibly expresses purpose, "for", but probably better, result; "so that." "The Lordship of Christ is therefore within the ambit of the divine glory and far from masking it actually reveals it", Hawthorne. "All that Jesus did in his self-emptying, self-humbling, and obedient death on the cross, led to the glory of God the Father because the self-giving of Jesus expresses the very nature of God....... All that God did in exalting Jesus and giving him the name Lord to be worshipped by all creation,

kai "and [gave]" - Silva suggests that the conjunction here is epexegetic; "even gave to him the name ..." led to the glory of God the Father because the Lordship of Jesus Christ expresses the very nature of God", Hansen.

qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - The genitive may be taken as adjectival, possessive, "the glory that rightly belongs to God the Father", or verbal, objective.

paroV (hr roV) gen. "the father" - the father. Genitive standing in apposition to "God".


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