Empty yourself of all independence.
Phillipians 2:1-11
There is a right kind of uniformity of thought even in a fragmented postmodern world driven by and independent thinking.
Published December 29th, 2021; Updated December 30th, 2021
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Main point summary
Philippians 2:1-11
Main point summary
If you have begun to share in the joys of Christ, then let them bring you into a complete unity, emptying yourself of you so that God might receive all the glory, just like Christ did.
Throughout my time in public school I was taught to think independently. Always independence was the goal in the various different writing and reading assignments that we had. On the other hand uniformity of thinking was seen as bad, and if you were found simply thinking like somebody else thought you were considered just a sheep following the crowd. As I think back to this time, I reflect on how much of the motivation was an appeal to pride, to stand out, to stick out above the crowd, to have a novel idea. Of course there is a certain kind of conformity of thinking that we should avoid, namely that of thinking a certain way because another man thinks that way. And yet the push for independence of thinking seems like a clear over-compensation as well. Are we really to be forever thinking differently--never coming to any sort of a consensus or agreement upon which we can unify? Are we to be forever fragmented more and more until we live in a world in which we are the only ones with whom we can agree? Could it be true that the presupposition "always think independently" might actually be just as conforming of an idea as that of uniformity and leave us just as sheepish? It has been said of the hipster movement of the early 2000s that hipsters are a group of young people all screaming together with one voice "non-conformity!" Is that our only option? In the passage below we are exhorted to have a unified mind or way of thinking. We are to have "the same mind" or "one mind" (2b). To some of us raised in the postmodern era, we might kick against this idea due to a sense of its limitation. It would be easy to think God is stripping us of our independence by forcing us into a conformity of thinking, just simply making us a bunch of sheep again. The fact is, however, that we are sheep, we are not wise enough to pave our own way, and we were never created to. The sheep of the world can either follow other sheep into a pit (worldly uniformity), or scatter with the rest of the sheep that are scattering (another kind of worldly uniformity). Either way we lose. This passage gives us the answer to the conundrum of uniformity and independence by centering us on the only possible principle of uniformity--Christ. The condition of having one mind is this, that we have begun to experience the joys of Christ (1a-1e). If we have begun to experience the joys of knowing Christ, then we are truly free to allow ourselves to be brought into a uniformity of thought with others. Why? Because of the false appeal to pride behind our desire to think independently is gone. We are no longer trying to stick out or be independent for the sake of the attention, because to think like Christ is to think completely un-ambitiously (3a). Independent thinking is no longer the goal, but rather Christ-like thinking (5a). Our concern is no longer our interest but that of others (4b). We are no longer trying to boast in that which is unique about ourselves, but rather we are emptying ourselves of all are so-called novelty and uniqueness (7a). This is called humility, and there is great freedom in humility. One might respond, "if we allow ourselves to go down this road, then what happens to our freedom and independence?" The resistance to the idea of conforming to another's way of thinking is that we feel we might lose our identity. The truth, however, is that our identity is established. As we follow the road that Christ took, we see that it was because of this very humility that God exalted him and gave him a NAME that is above every other name (9b). It was precisely because Jesus chose not to grasp at what was truly significant about himself in independence, his identity became established by God. How much more should we, who only have a perceived significance or independent way of thinking, release our grasp on it--relishing in the joys of knowing and bowing to Christ. Our identity too will be established in Him, even while our thinking is brought into conformity with that of our brothers.
Philippians 2:1-11
Philippians 2:1-11
So if there is any encouragement in Christ,
Therefore (because your called to have a manner of life worthy of the gospel) if you are experiencing any level of the encouragement that comes from knowing Christ,
any comfort from f love,
or are experiencing any of relief in your heart from being touched by God's love,
any g participation in the Spirit,
or if you sense you are able to fellowship at any level with the Spirit of God,
any h affection
or if you like each other at all,
and sympathy,
or feel even the tiniest bit of compassion for a brother in pain
i complete my joy
then I already rejoice! Finish my joy
by being j of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind .
by letting it bring you together completely. Align your intentions, your thoughts being centered on the same aims, and have the same fullness of agape love toward each other agreeing with one another, and thinking the same way.
Do nothing from k selfish ambition or l conceit,
There are two practical steps each of you can take to do accomplish this: First , you need to completely give up on thinking that the people in your life are simply stepping stones for your advancement, or that you are better in any way. You can't think like that!
but in m humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Rather , you must counteract that tendency of human nature by simply believing others to be more important than you. Make yourself their stepping stone!
Let each of you n look not only to his own interests,
Second , don't just think about your issues, whether needs, pleasures, or burdens, or desires. This will isolate you in a box of selfishness.
but also to the interests of others.
But rather , though you must think about your issues (it's impossible not to), include other's issues and needs into your thinking as well. Consider what others go through, what their burdens are, and what they might desire.
o Have this mind among yourselves,
Here is our primary example for the kind of mind you must have,
which is yours in Christ Jesus, 1
(this mind is already given to you if you are in Christ Jesus)!
p who , though he was in q the form of God,
Christ, even though he was the spitting image of God the Father, and welcomed by nature into the unity of God,
did not count equality with God r a thing to be grasped,
didn't pursue his own interests, trying graspingly to prove to men that he was what he truly was!
but s emptied himself,
Rather than doing that he emptied himself of all that was independently godlike,
by taking the form of a t servant, 1
by doing two things: coming with every indication that his purpose was simply to serve,
u being born in the likeness of men.
and fully embracing manhood.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself
And once those two things were accomplished, he didn't stop his stooping there, but humbled himself all the more
by v becoming obedient to the point of death,
by obeying His Father and walking openhandedly into death
w even death on a cross.
even a shameful death of a criminal on the cross--the lowest possible point a man could find himself in.
x Therefore y God has z highly exalted him
And because He willingly went so low, obeying his Father, God reversed the process and lifted him as high as possible
and bestowed on him a the name that is above every name,
and gave him the most honored possible name.
so that at the name of Jesus b every knee should bow,
God did all this so that every body, whether rebel or true, might bow to Him,
c in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
everybody, in hell, in heaven, or still on earth,
and d every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is e Lord,
and that every body with their mouth must must must declare that He is the LORD
to the glory of God the Father.
and all this God accomplished in Christ so that God Himself might have all the glory. (Seek to glorify God in the same way)
When he speaks of the "same mind" he is referring to verse 1. It is not just saying, "complete my joy by making every thought that you think the same." It is saying, if you have already begun to experience the things mentioned in verse 1, then center your thinking on Him. In other words, you've begun to think the right way and feel the right way about Christ--that should bring a general unity of thinking about all sorts of other things as well. This passage has often perplexed me because I am resistant to the idea of conformity of thinking. If I walk into a place and everybody is just sort of repeating each other, I don't trust it. And yet, maybe I'm jaded, because I know that, as I do in fact experience the joys of Christ, I am not so resistant to thinking the same way as someone else. One example of this for me comes from the idea of cliches. I hate them, I never just want to sputter them out in certain moments without thinking through them well. And yet many of them are true! As I grow near to Christ, and I see that a cliche might actually mean something true, I am not so hesitant to use it. I think this passage is saying that there is a desire for independent thinking that is driven by pride, simply the desire to be different, to have a novel idea. So that even though we ought to challenge each other and have some give and take, those who are close to Christ will recognize that pride and submit themselves to not think independently. Intellectual pride is driven by the push for novelty. I see it in scholars and I hate it. Some idea pops up that's way out of the box, but because it's different there is attention on it. If I am emptying myself of self, the need for a novel idea drifts away, and find myself simply desiring to bless others with the truth given to me rather than stand apart with independent ideas. So thought we don't force conformity of thought among people, those who are close to Christ will be thinking like Him--together.
It doesn't just mean conformity of thought. It means conformity of how motivation and aim, of intention. A mind that is saturated with the knowledge of God looks like verse 1. Verse 1 indeed is describing the beginnings of the experiences of the man whose mind is saturated with the knowledge of God. If these are happening, then complete my joy by being together in them. We may have some different ideas, but they will all lead to one aim and one means. The aim is the glory of God, the means is humility.
The opposite of humility
Holding up the importance of another person. That they are important in their own right. This is how a person thinks who is truly humble. They are not primarily thinking of their lowness, but of the other's person's great importance. People are the important thing, they are the divine image bearers standing before us, no matter what kind of person they might be. Count them significant, and more significant than yourself in order to counteract the tendency to the contrary.
One of the arguments against humility is simply, “look I’m great it’s just true, I’m just telling the truth.” Pride is very tricky in this way--some people actually do have strengths other people don’t have. They therefore begin thinking their pride is justified. But Christ was truly great by the only standard of greatness that exists, and yet he emptied himself of all independent right or claim to it. This is a glorious thing in Gods eyes. How much more should we, whose perceived greatness is only a gift from Him, empty ourselves of any claim to it, and the independent use of it, and become dependent.
If this is really a comparison, then what is the comparison? In 2b we are being told to have one mind with each other. But here there is no "object" or "other." He is not having the same mind as someone else, he is having a lowly mind, he is humble. What is really the comparison? I think it does relate, I don't think these sections are like independent series. So if it is really a comparison, it must read like, "You guys have one mind, and this is going to take humility, so be like Christ who humbled himself, and whom God exalted to His glory in the end."
Fascinating that, though humility leads to less independent thinking in the end (see verse 2b) it is still the road to exaltation. We have a generation of people trying to come up with new ideas and independent thought, but they are driven by the desire to stand out. And yet here Christ emptied himself of all that he actually was that stood out, and leaned on his Father and learned of Him, and conformed himself to Him, and God honored this humility by causing Christ to stand out as "the name above every other name." Young men go to college and dream of intellectual greatness and reputation. That's so tired. You're not going to get anything new or glorious that way. Humble your thinking, consider others, conform to Christ's way of thinking, that's the way to really stand out. That's the novel idea.
Brent Karding
If you have begun to share in the joys of Christ, then let them bring you into a complete unity, emptying yourself of you so that God might receive all the glory, just like Christ did.
An accurate and succinct summary of the largest brackets.
Brent Karding
Your devotional has a good level of detail, unpacking "the same mind" from the text, and thinking through implications.
Brent Karding
Excellent work throughout! Accurately done; everything makes sense as you have displayed the logic.
Brent Karding
Have this mind among yourselves,
At first I didn't agree that 5a and following should be subordinate to 2b-4b, but your explanation of what "this mind" refers to makes sense.
Disclaimer: The opinions and conclusions expressed on this page are those of the author and may or may not accord with the positions of Biblearc or Bethlehem College & Seminary.