philippians 2:1-11 [Christ’s example of humility]

humility, church

Written by Ryan Tate

Ryan is a writer, blogger, engineer, father and husband from Cuyahoga Falls Ohio. He blogs at The Compelling Parade.

July 4, 2011

humility, church


Read Philippians 2:1-11 (ESV, NIV, The Message)

If we are not careful, culture rather than God will actually define reality for us. This is the core of many problems in discipleship today. American Christians need not worry of persecution from the world, but seduction by the world. The world we live in is full of seductive, deceptive, half-truths centered on the false promises of glory and power.

Deception is the satan’s favorite tool, and most effective. The root of all sin (Genesis 3) didn’t stem from murder, genocide, rape, or some other hideous act. It stemmed from the simple idea that two humans thought they knew better than God and considered equality with God something to be grasped. They were deceived in the reality of God.

This is why I love the way Dave Moser ended the last post on Philippians 1:18b-30:

Preach the gospel to yourself. Preach the gospel to your family. Preach the gospel to those who are not Christians. Preach the gospel to those who have been Christians for decades.

We must proclaim the gospel over and over in our lives. It is not only the gateway to life in Christ, but the maintenance of life in Christ as well. The Apostle Paul was obsessed with the gospel and the humility of Christ within the story of the gospel. There was nothing more real to him, nothing more compelling, nothing more worthy of making his joy complete. The gospel is true reality. This is what Paul explains at the beginning of chapter 2.

Jesus himself regularly rejects the notion of worldly power and self promotion, specifically during the temptation from the devil who uses his same old deception techniques (Luke 4:1-13). Christ’s mission was to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28) which culminates in and through the story of the Cross – hardly a normal place of power. The death of the innocent Lamb – the most intense ruthless suffering ever to happen in the history of the world – worked out for the most good ever known to man. John Stott rightly says, “God sacrifices his son for man, putting [Jesus] in the position where only man deserves to be.”

Ponder the words of Paul in Philippians 2: Jesus forsake communion with the Father (v.6), made himself nothing (v.7), humbled himself as a man (v.8), and was obedient in death (v.8). That is not just humility, but aggressive humility. Jesus sought power and glory through aggressive humility. God responded to Jesus’ aggressive humility by exalting him to the highest place and making his name famous (v.9). Our response to Jesus’ aggressive humility is aligned with centering our attitudes in humility (v.5) and confessing Jesus as our Lord and Savior (v.11). He deserves our full worship. He is the only thing worthy of imitation.

Jesus delivers on everything that the world promises to deliver but cannot. Disciples understand true power and glory are defined in the humility displayed in and through the gospel of Jesus Christ. We too must reject the seductive ploys of the world that offer us power and glory. In imitating him, we must decrease (John 3:30), prepare ourselves as servants, and consider others better than ourselves (v.3). We must be aggressive in our humility.

Eventually, every tongue will confess, willingly or not, that Jesus Christ is Lord. This is not something we can do a public relations job on. The gospel cannot be limited to political correctness or reduced to a morning devotional. True disciples live in the reality of aggressive humility and reject the false reality of the world for the compelling reality of the gospel.

Paul’s desire for us is to meditate on and be encouraged by the power of the gospel. My desire is that you would walk in the reality of the gospel as a disciple who imitates the humility of our powerful Savior and Lord.


  1. Charles Bailey

    Paul says of Jesus that he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of a cross. The great characteristics of Jesus’s life were humility, obedience, and self-renunciation. He did not desire to dominate men but only to serve them; he did not desire his own way but only God’s way; he did not desire to exalt himself but only to renounce all his glory for the sake of men. Again and again the New Testament is sure that only the man who humbles himself will be exalted. If humility, obedience, and self renunciation were the supreme characteristics of the life of Jesus, they must also be the hall-marks of the Christian. Selfishness, self-seeking and self-display destroy our likeness to Christ and our fellowship with each other. What a wonderful study from Ryan Tate.

  2. Rochelle Itsnotaboutme Hairsto

    This a most blessed study!!

  3. Daniel Humphries

    Ryan, I love the concept of proclaiming the Gospel as not only as the method by which we establish our relationship with Christ, but also the way we nurture it. For some that proclamation may take the form of mounting a pulpit every week or leading a small group, but for most of us, I suspect it manifests in ways Paul encourages in 2:4 — mowing a sick neighbor’s lawn, taking a shift at the homeless shelter, helping a grandma disinfect her virus-ridden PC… The ways to express and proclaim the love of Christ are limited only to the needs we encounter around us and our willingness to address them.

    While it’s possible to represent yourself as one who models Christ without displaying humility, I think without walking out the humility that comes with servanthood, Christians cheat themselves of a deeper relationship with God and those to whom we’re called to serve.

    Great study.

  4. Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    “…be encouraged by the power of the Gospel.”

    I complicate things too much. Thank you for this reminder.


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philippians 2:1-11 [Christ’s example of humility]

by Ryan Tate time to read: 4 min