The Mind of Christ

In Philippians, Paul points to the obedience of Jesus as the model for members of the Assembly to copy. His willing submission to death on the Roman cross is the pattern for the conduct and attitude of his Church. His elevation to reign over the Cosmos resulted from his obedience “unto death upon a cross.” Imitating this example is what it means to “follow him wherever he goes.”

The Apostle called believers to behave properly while living in a hostile culture, and that begins by “standing fast in one spirit, with one soul, joining for the combat along with the faith of the gospel.” They must “Let this mind be in you which also was in Christ Jesus.”

Death to Self - Photo by Julia Kadel on Unsplash
[Photo by Julia Kadel on Unsplash]

His disciples are to seek concord and live humbly with one another, especially in the face of opposition, therefore, Paul exhorted the Philippians to imitate the attitude and example of the Nazarene.

Any man who wishes to become Christ-like must “think the same thing” that he did, especially by deferring his needs to those of others. This mindset was epitomized in the self-sacrificial act of Jesus. Serving the needs of others, especially of one’s enemy, is what it meant to be the Messiah - He came “not be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” - (Mark 10:45, Philippians 2:5-11).

To illustrate this, Paul employed Old Testament language from the stories of Adam and the “Suffering Servant” in the Book of Isaiah. Unlike the former, Jesus did not attempt to seize “likeness” with God. Adam was created in God’s image but grasped at divine “likeness” when he ate the forbidden fruit.

Jesus, however, obeyed his Father and suffered the consequences. Like the “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah, he humbled himself and submitted to an unjust death. For that very reason, God “highly exalted” him.

Like Adam, Jesus began “in the form of God,” but unlike the first man, he “did not consider the being like God something for plunder.” The Greek adjective isos translated as “like” is in the dative case and means just that, “like, likeness.”

The clause alludes to the passage in Genesis where the “Serpent” tempted Adam - “For God knows that in the day you eat thereof your eyes will be opened and you will become LIKE GOD, knowing good and evil.” Adam chose disobedience and attempted to “seize” the likeness of God. Paul contrasts his failure with the refusal of Jesus to grasp that same “likeness.”


He, “being in the form of God.” This clause corresponds to the creation account when “God created man in his own image.” Likewise, Jesus was in the “image” or “form” of God. In Greek literature, the two nouns are synonymous. The Greek term translated as “being” represents the present tense participle huparchō, meaning, “to commence, begin; to start.” Thus, he BEGAN in the image of God just as Adam did.

The Greek term translated as “seize” means “plunder, booty,” something that is seized by force. Unlike Adam, Jesus did NOT attempt to seize likeness with God. INSTEAD, “he poured himself out, taking the form of a slave, having come to be in the likeness of men. And having been found in fashion as man, he humbled himself becoming obedient unto death, even death on a cross.”

In this last sentence, there are several verbal echoes of the “Suffering Servant” as described in Isaiah. For example:

  • (Isaiah 53:12) - “Therefore will I give him a portion in the great and the strong shall he apportion as plunder, BECAUSE HE POURED OUT TO DEATH HIS OWN SOUL, and with transgressors let himself be numbered, Yea, he the sin of many bare, and for transgressors interposed.”
  • (Isaiah 53:7) - “Hard-pressed, yet HE HUMBLED HIMSELF, nor opened his mouth, as a lamb to the slaughter is led.”

Like the “Servant of Yahweh,” Jesus humbled himself to the point of suffering a shameful death. That is how “he poured himself out.” Paul completed the picture by utilizing allusions to two more passages in Isaiah:

  • (Isaiah 52:13) - “Behold, my Servant prospers, he rises and is lifted up and BECOMES VERY HIGH.”
  • (Isaiah 45:23) - “By myself have I sworn, gone forth out of my mouth is righteousness as a decree and shall not turn back, THAT UNTO MYSELF SHALL BOW EVERY KNEE SHALL SWEAR EVERY TONGUE.”

Death on Cross - Photo by Dimitri Kolpakov on Unsplash
[Photo by Dimitri Kolpakov on Unsplash]

Jesus died the death of a “
slave.” This uses an image from the Greco-Roman culture.  Crucifixion was considered the most shameful form of death imaginable, and its most horrific aspect was the public humiliation attached to it. It was often used to execute rebellious slaves and revolutionaries.

The disciples of Jesus are called to embrace this same attitude, to seek nothing from self-interest or for “empty glory.” Instead, they must emulate the Messiah who did not seek to exalt himself, the same one who “poured himself out” in humble obedience to God.

His followers must conduct themselves in “humility” toward one another just as he did, laying down their lives for others when necessary. This is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and to have this “same mind.” The man who refuses to “deny himself and take up the Cross” is not worthy of the name “disciple.”

  • His Path - (Jesus proclaimed a new political reality, the Kingdom of God, one that bears little resemblance to the political systems of this age)
  • The Suffering Servant - (To be the Messiah of Israel meant suffering and death for others, and Jesus summoned his disciples to follow that same path – Mark 8:31)
  • Ransom for Many - (His disciple is called to engage in self-sacrificial service for others just as Jesus gave his life as a ransom for many – Mark 10:35-45)



The Word Made Flesh

Language of the New Testament