Study 4: Unity and Humility
Sermon Date: January 22, 2017
Reading: Philippians 2: 1-11
In the Roman Empire, society was stratified according to status. Status brought prestige. The pursuit of wealth, power and prestige were driving forces in Roman society.
Christianity was counter-cultural because of the person and work of Christ, the suffering servant and Saviour, and because the Christian faith was for all and created a new community in which all were equal in Christ. The church sought to demonstrate God’s love through a life of worship, humility and service to others through which the kingdom of God was revealed.
As the book of Acts describes, from a small group of disciples in Jerusalem, Christianity spread across the world until Emperor Constantine was converted and declared pagan Rome to be a Christian nation in AD 311.
In your opinion, who are the people that our society put on a pedestal today?
What celebrities are featured on the front covers of popular magazines? Why do you think these people are famous? What does their fame tell us about what we appear to value as a society?
Who do you admire and why?
In this passage, Paul addresses what appears to be his principal concern about the Philippian church – the friction and disunity that have arisen through pride and worldliness.
This passage raises challenging questions about the nature of our love for God and each other. It may prompt us to consider the culture that we want to embrace and develop and the characteristics of our secular culture that we want to leave behind.
Questions: (see Helpful Hints at the end of this section)
1) a) According to verse 1, what are the benefits of being a Christian?
b) How may these truths help the Philippians church in the suffering that they are enduring at this time (see 1:30)?
2) Reading verse 2, what do you think Paul means, “by being like minded”?
3) Reading verse 3, is this possible? If so, how? What does Paul mean by the word “better”?
4) How does the action of Jesus in verses 6-8 demonstrate the teaching of Paul in verses 3-4?
5) What may hinder us from growing in humility and unity as Christ desires?
Prayerfully consider an area in your life in which you would like to grow in humility. If you are willing, consider sharing this with another or your group to seek their prayer and help in the weeks ahead.
Helpful Hints for discussion questions:
1 - A distinctive component of Paul’s teaching is that believers are “united with Christ”. This personal union is the basic reality of salvation. To be in Christ, engrafted into his body, is to be saved; it is to be in an intimate personal relationship with Christ the Saviour. From this relationship, flow all the benefits and fruits of salvation like encouragement; the comforting knowledge and assurance of God’s love in Christ (particularly demonstrated in Christ’s death for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life e.g. John 3:16; Romans 5:8); the fellowship among believers produced by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit who progressively works to transform believers into the nature and image of Christ.
2 - “Like minded” : Paul does not mean uniformity in thought but the shared commitment to love God and work/serve Him together and so serve others i.e. to have the attitude of Christ (see verse 5; Philippians 4:2; Romans 12:16 & 15:5; 2 Corinthians 13:11).
3 - Yes through faith in Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit – although we’re human!
“...in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Paul does not mean that we are to consider everyone else to be superior or more talented than us but that Christian love sees others as worthy of preferential treatment (see Romans 12:10; Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 5:21 & 1 Peter 5:5). Just as Christ served His Father and revealed his love to others, His disciples are to love God and our neighbours (see Matthew 22: 34-40).
4 - Christ willingly and obediently left the splendour of heaven for the darkness of this fallen world because of His love and desire to offer humanity the way to be restored to life with God. The son of God humbled himself as a man (as the worship song goes “all for love’s sake became poor”) and endured the cross so that all might be forgiven and be restored to life as God intends, in relationship with Him.
In verses 9-11, notice the pattern of humble service that may involve suffering and sacrifice and then glory. Disciples are invited to follow Christ, the way of the cross, and as we follow Him so we are drawn together in unity and love (see Luke 22:24-30). As we serve Christ, disciples abide in the love, peace and joy of God until we finally abide fully in His glory after death (i.e. in heaven).