Saturday, May 31, 2008

Reflections on Our Identity in Christ

This morning I read and reflected on one of my favorite passages of Scripture (though I confess that I have many!), Philippians 2:1-11. This passage is one of several key passages in the Bible that describes the identity of a follower of Jesus Christ.

Paul begins in the first verse by describing four redemptive qualities in the life of every believer. In the Greek, these are all written as 1st class conditionals, which means that they are all assumed to be true. For this reason, I have written each of these statements with the word since in parentheses after the word if.

If (Since) you have been encouraged by your union with Christ . . .

If (Since) you have experienced the comfort of Christ’s love . . .

If (Since) you have enjoyed fellowship with His indwelling Holy Spirit . . .

If (Since) you have experienced God’s tenderness and compassion . . .

Paul is writing to the Philippian believers and assuming that they have all experienced, by God’s grace, the encouragement, comfort, fellowship, tenderness, and compassion that comes from having a relationship with Jesus Christ and by being indwelt by the Holy Spirit. This should be the experience of every follower of Jesus Christ.

Because this is true, because we have experienced these things, Paul describes, in verses 2-8, how we should live in light of the grace we have been given as children of God . . .

then be in one spirit and purpose (v. 2)

then do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit (v. 3)

then consider others better than yourselves (v. 3)

then look not only to your own interests, but also to those of others (v. 4)

then make sure your attitude is the same as Christ’s (vv. 5-8)

Because we are followers of Christ and have our identity in Him, we are to follow His example in being united in spirit and purpose, humility, esteeming others, looking after the interests of others, and being willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of others.

I do not live out these things perfectly. But because I am in Christ and Christ is in me, God is progressively working in me, by His grace, to radically change my heart to be more like my Savior.

Paul goes on to write in verses 9-11 how Christ’s obedience to the Father’s will resulted in His exaltation by the Father and how God bestowed upon Him the name that is above every name, so that every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the sun, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, the glory of God the Father.

Tom Constable, in commenting in this passage, wrote:

The exaltation of Jesus Christ is as much a motivation for the Christian to live a life of submissive humility as is His incarnation. God will reward a life of self-denial now in the future. That is the obvious implication of Paul’s illustration. Is it not selfish to serve the Lord for a reward? Was it selfish for Jesus to endure what He did because He knew He would receive a reward? Motivation is the key. If we submit to God and to one another for the glory of God rather than for selfish glory, as Jesus did, our motivation is correct.

Paul . . . was merely seeking to correct selfishness and party spirit in the saints. The cure of their condition is the mind of Christ. (William MacDonald)

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to live a life of self-denial, giving up our own rights and our own self-interests for the sake of others and the glory of God. But God has promised that this is a lifestyle that will be rewarded for eternity in Heaven.

1 comment:

Jeremiah Covenant Marriage said...

Even if I get what you said, my views are still so different. I guess being in so many symposiums, life discussions and
Covenant Marriage seminars have nurtured this kind of thinking.