Philippians 2:5-11; John 13:12-17
The two passages before us are words of instruction to two different audiences. That said, they are words of instruction to a single audience — they are instruction to all past, present and future believers.
In verse 5, Paul exhorts Philippian believers to let “this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” The Apostle Paul is speaking, not to the Philippians alone, but to all believers. All believers know that they are sinners dependent upon God’s gift of grace. All believers know that the gift of grace is the only begotten Son who is their ransom and the ransom for all who will ever believe. Believers are to have the mind of the Son who gave Himself for us.
The mind of Christ is revealed by the manner in which the Son chose to interact with those about Him. That manner is characterized by the apostle Paul in verses 3 and 4. We are to be lowly of mind, esteeming others to be better than ourselves, and to look upon the needs of others.
In verses 6-8, Paul expands upon the mind of Christ. Jesus walked the earth in full knowledge of His being. Jesus knew that He was infinitely greater than man whom He created. He knew Himself to be equal with God. Knowing that He was divine, He chose to take on the status of a servant. He placed the need of others before the preservation of self. He willingly chose to give up life in the flesh for others (us).
This is an unnatural thing for man to do. Behavioral scientists have studied natural man and concluded that one cannot fill the needs of others unless one first satisfies his own needs. This is true if a man must rely upon his own resources. One cannot give that which he does not possess. Christ gave His righteousness for us. He was without sin; He possessed the righteousness which He gave. We cannot give ourselves for others in the sense that He gave Himself for us because we do not have that righteousness to give.
Return to verse 5. In his instruction, Paul says: “Let this mind be in you. . .” The verb is “let”, meaning to allow or to prevent not. Paul does not say “take”, as in forcefully gaining possession. One cannot acquire the mind of Christ through the assertion one’s will. The mind of Christ is obtained not by taking, but by yielding.
It is God’s will that the mind of Christ be in believers (us) but His will cannot be realized in us unless we yield ourselves to Him. Yielding means giving up control. It means: “. . . not my will, but thine, be done.” When we yield to Him, He gives. Believers receive the mind of Christ by yielding self. We exist in a reality governed by cause and effect. The effect that Paul (and God) desires is that we be selfless as Jesus was selfless. The resource that produces that effect is the divine nature of God. It is a resource that is given to all who allow God to have His way.
Care must be taken in reading verse 9. The exaltation of the Son by God the Father is not evidence of a separation within the Godhead. Jesus was the Word from before the beginning. Death upon the cross did not transition the flesh of a man into God the Son. Christ’s sacrificial death was and is the expression of God’s divinity and love — the acts of the Son are the expressions of God the Father. There is no separation. When God the Father exalted God the Son from the grave to His right hand, it was for three-fold purpose: (1) that all (in heaven, in earth and under the earth) should bow to the Son (v. 10); (2) that all, at a future time, should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord; and (3) that it be to the glory of God. When one gives glory to the Son, the Father is the recipient of that glory through the Son.
In the second passage before us, verses 13 through 17 are words which Jesus spoke to the twelve disciples whom He had chosen. Jesus made it known to them why that He assumed the role of a servant and had washed their feet. Jesus said, “I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” Believers are called to be servants one to another.
In verse 17, Jesus stated: “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” One can read these words, make himself or herself a servant to others, and NOT be happy because one does not have the mind of Him who gave Himself for us. One acquires the mind of Christ by letting the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, lead guide and direct. It was the mind of Christ to do the Father’s will, even unto death.
May all find happiness in being the servant of fellow servants.