The Philippian Hymn

If you have listened to very many sermons, then you have probably heard a pastor bring the lyrics of a song into his sermon to illustrate his point. Did you know that preachers have been practicing this technique since the earliest days of the church? In Philippians 2:5-11, Paul brought in the lyrics of one of the first hymns of the Christian church to add to his exhortation to the Philippians to be of the same mind.
 
The hymn celebrates the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. By studying the lyrics, we learn more about the deity, the humility, and the humanity of our savior. Most importantly, we learn of the mind of Christ that is in us.
 
The first couple of lines in verse 6 represents a celebration of Christ’s deity. He was “in the form of God” and possessed “equality with God.” By existing in the form of God and having equality with God, the pre-incarnate Christ was the same in essence and nature as God the Father. He was the visible representation of all the fullness of God.
 
Jesus was what we all want to be. He was God. Remember, this is why Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. For Adam, equality with God was a “thing to be grasped.” He desired equality with God, so in order to obtain and then exploit his deity to his advantage. Jesus, according to the hymn, however, possessing the deity to which Adam aspired, did not count it “a thing to be grasped.” Other translations say, “He did not count it robbery,” or “He did not count it to His own advantage.”
 
Instead of seizing on His deity for his own advantage, Jesus poured himself out. He spent His deity to save His friends. That “He emptied Himself” does not mean that he became any less God. Rather, He added humanity to His deity. He was God, but He willingly took on the role of the suffering servant of Isaiah 53.
 
Rather than stand at a distance, He drew close to us. He put on our skin and was “found in human form.” He experienced every aspect of the human experience. He lived the human life of obedience to perfection. “He became obedient to the point of death.” He submitted himself to the Father’s will even up to the point of dying.
Paul, we believe, adds for emphasis “even death on a cross.” Jesus’ obedience was so radical that he chose not only to die but to die the most horrific death possible. The Jews believed that anyone who died on a cross was cursed. Jesus, the God-Man, took on the curse of our sin.
 
Jesus’ reward was that God “highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above all names.” The hymn implies that the latter office he occupied after his resurrection was even more significant than His pre-incarnate status, not in the sense that He was any higher, but in the sense that He became the conqueror of sin and death.
 
Jesus’ life and death were so obedient and perfect, and His reward so highly exalted that the time will come when all will grasp His greatness. On that day, all who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth will bow the knee and proclaim Jesus Christ as the Lord. All of creation will recognize Him as the visible representation of Yahweh. They will proclaim Him as the author and savior of all creation.
 
The hymn celebrates that the proclamation of every tongue confessing Jesus Christ as Lord will bring “glory to God the Father.” Time will reveal that Jesus not only served us. Ultimately He showed Himself to be obedient to God the Father, who is the one who loved us in the first place.
 

Be encouraged today that you have a Savior who is Jesus Christ, and He is Lord. He loves you so much that He chose to come and live in your skin and experience life as a human being. Even though you have not been obedient, He was perfectly obedient on your behalf. He took on your curse and died. God raised Him up and exalted Him. If you have trusted Him and confessed Him as Lord, then there is a place for you in His presence in heaven for all eternity. Not only that, but having His mind in you, you are now free to love like Him, serve like Him, and practice radical obedience like Him.