Philippians 2:6 – 11

Readings for this week March 9 – 13
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – In Very Nature God

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Philippians 2:6

This passage is a very early declaration of who God is and what he did in coming to us in the person of His Son Jesus and it involves a radical redefinition – or rather an expanded definition – of who God is. Jesus humbled himself and came to us as a servant, as one who, even though God, did not think his divinity was something to be grasped and paraded and revelled in, but was rather something to be offered up in service to others. That a God would take on human form was (and is) anathema to most; that a God would do so for humanity’s benefit – even to the extent of dying a humiliating death on a cross – was (and is) just preposterous. And that we are to imitate such as a sign of worship and love seems outrageous.

God is absolutely unique and far more powerful than all the idols that have been raised to challenge him and his authority. Here Paul is claiming something huge: that the God who refuses to share his glory with any other has actually shared his glory with Jesus, the one whose name will cause every knee to bow and every tongue to confess. And look at what Paul now has them confessing: they are not just confessing God but also that Jesus, the Messiah, is Lord. Paul affirms Christ’s pre-existence and his equality with God and includes him in the definition of who God is – something that would have seemed incredible to anyone who heard it.

Question to Consider
How is what this passage is claiming preposterous for people today?

Prayer
Lord God, you are the one who subverts all expectations, who surprises in wonderful ways, who confounds our wisdom. May we always have open ears, eyes and hearts for the new things that you are doing. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – The Humble God

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Philippians 2:6-7

Just like he does in 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul is reinforcing the fact that we are called to be imitators of Jesus. He is the one we are to be like, the one whose character and actions are to be the guide for how we are to live and carry ourselves in this world. As followers of Jesus, such imitation is not optional; it is our mandate, central to our call. Part of what Jesus models for us here is a radically counterintuitive way for God to act. It is the exercise of Godly power and love in a manner that goes against the grain of how we believe an almighty, all powerful God would act. The status that Jesus enjoys as God is not exploited by Jesus, is not grasped and used for his own selfish ends, nor exercised for his benefit, but rather is exercised in a way that might seem out of character for a divine being but is actually in character for this incarnate form of God.

Jesus is not renouncing his status as one with the Father, but is fully exercising it in a downwardly mobile, selfless act of love for those whom he has come to save and reconcile to the Father. Often we think of Jesus’ not grasping equality with God as a renunciation, a casting away of many or most of his God-like attributes, a diminution of his being, a limiting of who he is as God. But in reality, this refusal to exploit this status selfishly, and so to use it in a selfless way for others that seems like a repudiation of his status, is actually a different way of incarnating that status.

Questions to Consider
How has God acted in surprising and perplexing ways in your life? How has this expanded your understanding of who God is and deepened your experience of his love?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, help me be humble like you are humble. Help me to not grasp for what I can get but open my hand in order to give. Help me seek the blessing and benefit of others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – The Cruciform God

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Philippians 2:8

For Paul, God is cruciform. The word cruciform means “having the shape of the cross; in the shape of a cross.” Saying that God is cruciform means that Paul sees the cross of the crucified and resurrected Christ as at the centre of who God is. The cross of Christ is the definitive manifestation of the nature and character of God. God identifies himself as the one who was incarnated, lived, died and was resurrected – the cross is now part of God’s identity and the expression of himself towards his creation.

As God’s people, we are called to participate, through the power of the Spirit, in the life of the crucified, resurrected Christ. The call to be followers of Christ and to imitate him and, even more, to be transformed into his likeness through the work of his Spirit in us, means that we are called to a cruciform life, to a life shaped by the cross, moulded by the one who was crucified upon it, and imitative of the sacrificial, servant love that led Jesus to take up his cross on behalf of others. This will be a life of radical, costly discipleship, a life of participation in the very life of God. This is called theosis, a transformative process whose aim is likeness to or union with God.  In the shape of the cross of Christ we see God; when we live cruciform lives we are participating in the life of God, conforming ourselves to the likeness of Christ, and beginning the journey that will ultimately lead, on some unknown future day, to full conformity with the glorified Christ.

Questions to Consider
What does living a cruciform life mean to you? How is the cross of Christ central to the way you live your life?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, help me live a life shaped by the cross: every day, every thought, every action, every decision – may they all be guided by the sacrificial love you displayed upon the cross. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Vindicating What Was Always There

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Philippians 2:9

We mustn’t think of what has happened as some kind of promotion for Jesus. God has not promoted him. He hasn’t looked upon Jesus and decided that because of his faithful obedience and humble self-emptying he is worthy of deification or elevation to the status of God. Instead, God has vindicated Jesus and the attributes he has displayed and the actions he has undertaken. Jesus’ humbling of himself is recognised by God as the ultimate exhibition of the true divinity that Jesus already possessed. So in Jesus we see true divinity incarnated, but also true humanity displayed. Jesus fully inhabits both sides of this equation, as true God of God and the true human being. The difference between Jesus and Adam (the first human) is that, unlike Adam, Jesus does not choose to exploit his status as the image bearer of God for his own selfish purposes, but rather acts in ways that redound to the benefit of others – all others. The lordship of Jesus takes the form of servanthood, expressed through sacrificial love. This lordship that Jesus exercises will continue to subvert and overturn normal expectations about the nature and function of divine power.

Jesus shares in God’s reign over all creation. Paul puts Jesus at the heart of the definition of who God is. If you want to know what God looks like, what his character is like, what the full expression of his love for humanity involves – and therefore how his community of people on earth will act, love and carry themselves – then look no further than Jesus.

Questions to Consider
How is servanthood the true way of Lordship? Why is this important?

Prayer
Sovereign Lord, on the cross you exercised power through weakness, subverting all our worldly ways of being. Help me live in the new reality you have opened up for us, the new way of being you offer. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Counter-Imperial Living

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Philippians 2:10-11

The confession “Jesus is Lord” might seem familiar to us, and might also seem fairly obvious in its meaning. But Paul’s use of it (and the early Christians’ use of it) reminds us of a very specific meaning that has in many ways been lost to us today, or at least is now obscured behind the general sense of saying that Jesus is Lord. In the first century, to say “Jesus is Lord” was also to say “…and Caesar is not.” Though not spoken, that is what would have been heard by any Roman citizen overhearing a Christian declare the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And it would have been incredibly subversive and shocking. Caesar was a God, deified upon death, responsible for bringing peace and well-being to all citizens of the empire. The world was the way it was because Caesar said so. The power was his, the army was his; it was his likeness on the money. The Pax Romana was his doing. To suggest anything else was a dangerous heresy – dangerous to the person making such a counter claim.

To imitate Christ – and more than this, not just to be like him but to be transformed into his likeness through union with him – was to live a life in opposition and counter to the imperial lifestyle of the society around them. It was to deny the emperor’s claim to their allegiance, deny the power and attraction of both imperial edict and largesse, and instead to proclaim Jesus’ lordship over all the earth, over every aspect of life and society and culture, and to declare oneself in thrall only to him – and no one else.

Questions to Consider
What does counter-imperial living look like today? Why is it still so important? How are you living for only one Lord today?

Prayer
Lord of All, I praise your holy name, and declare you Lord of my life, Lord of everything I do, the One who rules and guides me in all things, the only one who has my allegiance and love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.