The purpose of this paper is to perform a thorough exegetical analysis of Philippians 2:1-11. In order to accomplish this purpose, the basic contents of the passage will be surveyed. In addition, any relevant issues from the background of the letter will be examined. This passage will be interpreted in its context so that its meaning will fit into the overall meaning of the letter. Most importantly, a verse by verse exposition of the text will be given which will trace the author’s flow of thought. Finally, a summary of this study’s findings will be given along with some points of personal application.
Step 1: Biblical Text
1If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, 2Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (KJV)
Step 2: Historical Background
Overview of Passage
Philippians 2:1-11 consists of two main sections. The first section (vv. 1-4), contains a twofold exhortation to unity and humility. In verses 1-2, Paul issues his appeal to unity. This appeal is based upon four parallel clauses describing four shared experiences of the Philippians. In verses 3-4, Paul issues his appeal to humility. This appeal is to regard others more highly their own selves. In the second section (vv. 5-11), Paul illustrates the kind of humility to which he is exhorting the Philippians by the example of the condescension of Christ. In verses 5-8 a series of clauses are strung together which detail Christ’s humble descent from the throne of God to the death of the cross. Verses 9-11, however, leave the example of the humiliation of Christ to glory in His new highly exalted position as the enthroned Lord over all creation. Verses 6-11 have been recognized as an early Christian hymn dedicated to the person and work of Christ.
Background of Philippians
The city of Philippi was formally established in 356 B.C. by Philip II of Macedon. Philippi was established as a Roman colony after a famous battle was fought there involving Mark Antony, Octavian, Brutus and Cassius. Philippi was governed by Roman law with its citizens having all the rights of property ownership and the right to civil lawsuits. Everything about Philippi was modeled after its mother city, Rome.
The church at Philippi was established by the Apostle Paul on his second missionary journey between A.D. 49 and 52. The story of the church’s origin is found in Acts 16. The first convert was a woman named Lydia “whose heart the Lord opened” (Acts 16:14). More dramatically, the Philippian jailer and his household were converted after Paul and Silas were thrown into jail after being beaten publicly. When God miraculously opened the jail doors and released the prisoners’ shackles, the jailer came in ready to take his own life. Paul shouted out that all the prisoners were present and the jailer then asked, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). To which Paul famously replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be...