Philippians 2:1-11 (2) Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What attributes, or forms of grace, are found in Christ and are made available to His people? See Philippians 2:1 (printed below)

So then, if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any comfort from his love, if there is any fellowship with his Spirit, if there is any compassion and tenderness, (2) cause me to be filled with joy by living together in harmony, by sharing the same love, by being united in spirit, by having the same purpose. (Philippians 2:1-2)

In verse one the apostle mentions the following forms of grace that are found in Christ and that He has made available to His church. The grace of “encouragement.” The Greek term literally means “to stand beside someone, calling out words of encouragement or exhortation” as the need may be (illustration: a basketball coach on the sidelines calling out words of encouragement or exhortation to his players on the court). The grace of “comfort” that comes from Christ’s love. What is being spoken of here are expressions of comfort and sympathy and understanding motivated by Christ’s own love for us and communicated to one another in a loving manner. The grace of “fellowship” with Christ’s Spirit; here is the communion with God and with fellow Christians created by the Holy Spirit. The grace of “compassion and tenderness;” we as Christians are to be tender-hearted towards one another, entertaining feelings of brotherly affection as opposed to ill will.

2. How does the apostle Paul want the church to use the forms of grace that Christ has made available to us? See Philippians 2:1-2 (printed above under question #1)

In verses 1-2 the apostle Paul is saying to the Philippians, “If you are acquainted with the reality of the graces that Christ ministers to His church, use them to preserve and promote Christian unity; use them for building up the spiritual body of Christ.” As Christians, we are to put into practice the mind of Christ by applying the graces that Christ has bestowed upon His church to preserve and promote Christian unity and build up His spiritual body, the church.

3. What does Paul exhort the Philippian Christians not to do? See Philippians 2:3a (printed below)

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but with a humble mind let each one consider others as occupying a higher position than himself. (Philippians 2:3)

The apostle Paul exhorts the church, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.” The Greek term translated “selfish ambition,” originally referred to the self-seeking pursuit of public office by unscrupulous means. What is in view here is the lust to have the pre-eminence at any cost; an attitude of total self-centeredness. “Vain conceit” is referring to the effort to gain or maintain self-image, social status, and respectability in the sight of the world.

4. In positive terms, how are the Philippians to treat one another? See Philippians 2:3 (printed above under question #3)

In positive terms, Paul exhorts the church, “with a humble mind let each one consider others as occupying a higher position than himself.” The Greek usage of the term “humility” originally had a negative connotation, for it speaks of putting others first (note Mark 10:42). Within the church of Christ we are to regard the other person as occupying “a higher position” than ourselves. The Greek term usually translated “better” actually has the meaning “higher.” What Paul is telling us is that we are to view our brethren as being in the place of Christ and thus serve them (note Matthew 25:34-40). Viewed in another way, we are to assume the role of Christ in His role as the One who came to minister rather than to receive ministry (note Mark 10:45).

5. What further exhortation does Paul give the church in verse 4 (printed below?)

Let each one be concerned not only about his own interests, but also about the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)

The apostle goes on to exhort, “Let each one be concerned not only about his own interests, but also about the interests of others.” We are not to be self-absorbed with our own life, our own problems, our own ambitions, etc.; but rather we are to be sensitive to the needs and concerns of others. We must remember that the second great commandment is, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39)