River City Spokane

The Jesus-Centered Life: Philippians 2:5-11

Hello, friends!

Welcome to “Gospel Home Brew,” a resource from River City Spokane. May the word of God brew in you today as we continue our study through Philippians.

Before we jump in, let me tell you a little about myself:

My name is Colten Lindberg, and I am a member of the Emerson-Garfield gospel home on Monday nights. I first arrived in Spokane in August of 2011 to attend Moody Bible Institute. In a daring endeavor, my (now) wife Miranda moved to Spokane soon after her graduation from Truman State University in Missouri. Miranda and I have been friends since the summer of 2008. I wish I could say that we were high school sweethearts, but unfortunately that is not the case. I was an idiot, and she was patiently crushing from afar – haha. Our friendship rekindled in May of 2013 when I was home in Missouri interning as a youth pastor. And after I finally awoke from my boyhood blindness, I asked her out on a date that November. Flash-forward to November of 2014, just shy of a year of our first date, ‘I put a ring on it’ and asked her to be my wife, while our favorite band, Penny & Sparrow, serenaded us, persuading Miranda to say nothing but, “yes.”

Miranda and I were married during the summer of 2015 – and it was perfect. Since then, I have completed my degree at Moody Bible Institute where I majored in Biblical Studies and minored in Education; and, more importantly, Miranda and I have been blessed to welcome in our lives our first child – our baby girl, Chloe June – just three weeks after graduation. So, I guess you can say it has been a busy couple of years – Haha.

In addition to being a husband and a father, I am also a teacher. I currently teach both Bible and math at a school in Spokane. It was at this school where I first met Thomas, the Emerson-Garfield gospel home shepherd. After a couple of weeks establishing our relationship as co-workers during the fall of 2015, Thomas and I began to share with each other who we were and what we were about. These conversations quickly led us to conversations of ministry, and, therefore, of River City.

After experiencing the genuine gospel-love of those who make up River City, it became evident to Miranda and I that River City would be an excellent fit for our family.

As I alluded to earlier, I have a dual-passion for teaching and shepherding. Miranda and I are unified in this because the Lord has called us to become people who genuinely embody gospel-love to the world, and more specifically, to the community in which we live. River City offers us a unique platform by allowing our family to work full-time in the world of education, while also learning the in’s-and-out’s of the gospel home model first-hand. Miranda and I are convinced that the Lord has led us to River City to hone-in on the calling that he has given us as a family, both vocationally and missionally.

Now before we transition into Philippians, I would like to share a brief scenario followed by a question:

Miranda loves quoting movies and tv shows, and for her it’s not a forced thing. It’s more like this freakish reflex that happens in her brain – like, we’ll be having a conversation with each other, and, next thing I know, she’s spouting-off lines from a show or a movie. And what’s even more ridiculous is that she does this so seamlessly that I won’t even notice what she’s doing until it is done and she gives me that smug-smirk of hers.

— Can you think of a conversation or situation in which you were reminded of lines from a fictional scene that applied your real life scenario? Perhaps for you, it is song lyrics. This kind of freakish wit can even be found in a pun, or in a “dad-joke” (as they say).

I ask this because these are precisely the types of off-the-cuff, text-to-world connections that Paul made as he was writing to the Philippians.

As we have been reading the past few weeks, the Philippian Church is a very special church to Paul. It is evident that Paul and the Philippian Church deeply love one another. However, as we will see later in chapter four, not all is well within the Church of Philippi. In fact, some of the tension has been alluded to already. To us, and those who are estranged from the initial context, we cannot see this tension that well, but to the Church in Philippi, as soon as Paul began motioning toward the ideas of selfishness, pride, and rivalry, and its contrast, spirit-sanctioned harmony, the ears of the Philippians began to burn and took Paul’s message to heart.

Why is this so? It appears as though the Philippians had been acting in a spirit of selfish-stubbornness, thinking themselves to be better than others, perhaps believing that they were more important than their brothers and sisters, and therefore, free from serving them. It is against this very idea that Paul busts out his freakish wit in the form of an off-the-cuff quotation of a hymn applied – the “Christ hymn.”

Philippians 2:6 -11 contains the oldest known Christo-centric (Christ-centered) hymn in all of history, perhaps even the first Christ hymn to ever be written! Do not be fooled by its seemingly stoic appearance – its musical cadence cannot be seen in our English translation, but rest assured, in the greek it is there. But let’s be clear of one thing: Paul’s inclusion of the hymn is not spontaneous in the slightest. Paul referenced this hymn precisely because this hymn was regularly sung liturgically during the Philippian worship gathering, by the Philippians themselves.

It is therefore crucial to mention this text’s hymnic nature because we now know the purpose for which it is to be applied: (1) to praise God for his mighty deeds in creation and redemption, and in so doing, making his once-for-all acts in salvation our story today; (2) to follow after our Master in The Way of humility and obedience.

Let’s go ahead and read the Christ hymn together:

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)

Simply put, the Christ hymn that is found in Philippians 2:6-11 traces the saga of salvation: from the descent of Jesus in his incarnation as the suffering servant, to the ascent of Jesus as the exalted Lord over all creation.

Before we move any further, we must remember that Paul’s inclusion of this hymn was not intended to be a theological treatise, but rather a pastorally poetic plea, compelling the Philippians to practically live-out humility in their every day walk of life. We see this ever-clearly in verse 5: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” We may also phrase verse 5 like this: “act in this way, as it is fitting for those who are in Christ Jesus.” This verse purposely prefaces the hymn precisely because it is the lens for which we are to view this hymn.

The Saga of Salvation as our Story

Earlier I mentioned that this hymn is purposed for two things: (1) to praise God for his mighty deeds in creation and redemption, and in so doing, making his once-for-all acts in salvation our story today; (2) to follow after our Master in The Way of humility and obedience.

Our first question we must ask ourselves is this: how exactly is this hymn a reflection of salvation?

Great question. I would like to direct our attention to the design of the hymn once again.

We know the hymn is poetically orchestrated to be a piece of music that was liturgically sung in the Philippian Church as an act of worship. We also know that Paul purposely included this hymn in his letter to the Philippians. But we must make the mental note that Paul integrated this hymn into his letter; he did not compose this hymn himself. The author himself is unimportant, but the genre of hymn is of great importance, for the genre of this hymn is the key that unlocks the door to understanding what this hymn is all about. How come? The more we know about the details surrounding this hymn, the more we can understand Paul’s purpose for including this particular hymn in the letter.

That said – and I’ll be brief – the genre of the hymn tells us two things:
(1) the hymn reflects an ancient Greek worldview, particularly one that focuses on the ascent and descent of the gods. In other words, this hymn portrayed the a Herculean worldview – a worldview that reveled in god/man myths, myths such as Hercules. And when I say “myth,” I am referring to a genre. This culture was infatuated with the awe-inspiring tales that portrayed this kind of human-hero *slash* divine king tension, especially when it revolved around cosmic drama. That being said, the Christ hymn would be incredibly appealing to those within the Philippian Church.

(2) But what makes the Christ hymn not only appealing, but immeasurably powerful is the subliminal content contained within this hymn. Within the heartbeat of this hymn lies the reversing of the Adam-story as told by Genesis 3, particularly seen in the humility and obedience of the 2nd Adam, Jesus. Though Adam is not named, the parallel of the 2nd Adam is undeniable.

Let’s take a look!

I will first read the reversing actions of Jesus as portrayed by the Christ hymn, followed by the failed actions of Adam that we find elsewhere in Scripture.


Let’s summarize:

Jesus freely chose to clothe himself in humanity, in the form of the suffering servant, perfectly obeying the law of his Father – to the point of death, no less – therefore bringing about his God-given exaltation over all creation, as well as the giving of life to all who profess his name.

On the other hand, Adam freely chose to pursue and possess life, knowledge, and divinity by distrusting and disobeying his Father, therefore resulting in not only death and suffering for himself, but leading all of humanity – all of creation – in his condemnation as well.

How is this hymn a reflection of our salvation, you ask?

Jesus gave-up his divine “rights” in order to give humanity life.

We now arrive at the second question we must ask ourselves: how might this hymn be applied?

Another great question!

Given the timeless principles of the Christ hymn, the hymn is to be applied in the same way today as it was to be applied in Philippian context: to propel us to follow after our Master in The Way of humility and obedience.

The Way of Humility and Obedience

In many ways the Christ hymn functions as a sort of thesis for the book of Philippians. Think about it – thus far we have worked through Paul’s greeting, his prayer, his heartbeat for kingdom advancement, and a glimpse into the historical setting. But it isn’t until v. 27 of ch. 1 that we see a shift in focus, from Paul to the Philippian Church. Before Paul introduces the Christ hymn, he begins to develop a train of thought by teasing out the ethical implications of gospel-living. This is – once again – where we see Paul tap-into that freakish reflex of his, where, in the middle of a conversation – boom – lines from a song spew out of his mouth that fit the situation perfectly. If we then choose to see the Christ hymn as the thesis to his letter to the Philippians, then everything else – literally, everything else – is an application or an outworking of the truths within this hymn.

Let’s test this theory out by looking at a few surrounding passages:

“Think alike. Love alike. Be of one soul. Be of one mind. Do not act out of a spirit of rivalry, nor out of empty conceit. Instead, act with humility and consider others better than yourselves. Each of you must look to the interests of others rather than to the interests of yourselves.” (2: 2-4)

“Act in this way, as it is fitting for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (2:5)

** insert hymn **

“Well then, dear friends, just as you always obeyed, so continue to obey.” (2:12)

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, in order that you may become blameless, flawless, and faultless, the children of God surrounded by crooked and perverse people. Shine among them like lights in the sky.” (2:14-15)

“Well then, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord!” (3:1)


If we were to boil down the Christ hymn to a single point of application, it would be this: “To live as Christ is to give as Christ.”

By making this statement, I am not suggesting that we seek to re-attempt Jesus’ once-for-all act of redemption, for we cannot re-create the incarnation; we cannot re-create perfect obedience; we cannot re-create a substitutionary death for all mankind …

… but we can, however, pour ourselves out; we can lay ourselves down; we can deny ourselves the *air quote* rights that we think that we have to sacrificially serve others, even if that means we suffer ourselves in doing so. We can love our neighbors as we love ourselves. I’ll say that again: we can love our neighbors – our literal neighbors – as we love ourselves. That is, after all, the second greatest commandment, isn’t it?

“To live as Christ is to give as Christ.”

As we saw in the Jesus/Adam parallel, Adam *took for himself,* and received death; but as we also saw in the Jesus/Adam parallel, Jesus gave – he gave himself – *solely for the sake of others,* and received life, not just for himself only, but for all of humanity, as well as all creation.

Jesus modeled for us The Way of humility in his obedience to his Father as the suffering servant. The irony is that, through having been the suffering servant, Jesus now brings life to all humanity.

The question we must ask ourselves is this: am I giving? Am I giving like Christ? If so, in what capacities? For what cause? For whom?

Sometime throughout this next week, I challenge you to sit down and ask yourselves these questions. While you are doing this, I challenge you to read all of Philippians – preferably in one sitting – and identify the many mentioned ways of applying the Christ hymn to your life, and specifically, to your relationships.

If you are feeling especially daring, I challenge you to do this with your family, or with your close friends, or in your gospel home.

Finally, if you think you can handle it, I challenge you to the most daring of all challenges: pray. Ask the Lord to give you the desire to give as Christ gave. Ask the Lord to check your motives behind the giving you might already be doing, and also the giving you are seeking to do. Ask the Lord to make known to you the person – or persons – he specifically wants you to give to. Afterward, listen.

“To live as Christ is to give as Christ.” and “To give as Christ is to live as Christ.”

This – in our living and in our giving – this is how we live a Jesus-centered life.

This is Colten, and I am praying that we follow after our Master in The Way of humility and obedience.

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