Philippians on Friday: Relinquishing our Rights

Thanks for joining me for our Philippians on Friday devotion.  Today we’re continuing on in Chapter 2:

Philippians 2:5–8 (KJV) – Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

In the first four verses of Chapter 2, Paul, who knew firsthand the importance of unity, gave the Philippians practical steps on securing and protecting unity in the church. In our last devotion we discovered some practical steps in these verses about how to keep disunity and strife at bay:

  • Keep motives in check (avoiding rivalry and self-promotion)
  • Think more about others than self (preferring one another)
  • Show interest in the affairs of others

Beginning in verse 5, Paul offers some more practical advice on nurturing unity. In fact what Paul writes in this amazing passage may be the single greatest key to unity in the Body of Christ:

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

PhilippiansThese verses are rich with deep theological truths! They remind us of the glorious incarnation – God robing Himself in flesh and becoming a man to save us from our sins! It reminds me of the words of the song, “Down from His Glory:”

What condescension, bringing us redemption,
That in the dead of night, not one faint hope in sight,
God, gracious, tender, laid aside His splendor
Stooping to reach, to win, to save my soul!

______

Without reluctance,
Flesh and blood His substance
He took the form of man,
Revealed the hidden plan.
O glorious myst’ry,
Sacrifice of Calv’ry,
And now I know Thou art the great “I AM.”

_____

O how I love Him! How I adore Him!
My breath, my sunshine, my all in all!
The great Creator became my Savior,
And all God’s fullness dwelleth in Him.

While these verses in Philippians depict the masterpiece of redemption, keep in mind, Paul is still on the subject of unity.  Jesus had the attitude of a servant. He was God manifest in the flesh, yet He willingly took on the role of servant. He was God and should have been served by others, but He was the One doing the serving. He was God and should have been ministered unto, but He said in Mark 10:45:

45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

philippiansThis is a key to unity! Selfless attitudes and serving one another promote unity. How can there be division and strife among us when we are selflessly serving one another? How can we be divisive and critical when we are busy washing one another’s feet?

The enemies of unity are usually the ones who are serving themselves! The culprits of division and strife in the church are usually the ones who desire to be ministered unto, not the ones interested in ministering to others.

The New American Standard Version (as well as most other translations) explain verse 6, like this:

…who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,

He was God, but didn’t retain His rights as God. He willingly laid down His rights as the creator and became my Savior!

What does that mean? Jesus was God! The Man, Christ Jesus, was God manifest in the flesh. It would not have been “robbery” for Him to be considered “equal” with God, because He was God. It would not have been wrong of Him to accept the praise and worship of men because He was God. Contrary to the Jew’s accusation, He was not blaspheming by forgiving sins because He was God. And it wouldn’t have been wrong to “grasp” at those rights!

But He relinquished what was rightfully His and took upon Himself the form of a servant. He let go of what was due Him. He was God, but didn’t retain His rights as God. He willingly laid down His rights as the creator and became my Savior!

Not only is this a stirring depiction of God’s grace and love, it is a key to unity! Paul is telling the Philippians how to have unity:

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…”

In other words, Christ was willing to relinquish His “rights” for the good of the church.  Unity grows when we have this same mindset of Christ.  Think about it. Most disunity and strife in a church come from people grasping their “rights” in some matter.

  • “I’ve been unjustly treated, I have a right to retaliate.”
  • “I’ve been overlooked, I have a right to be heard.”
  • “My feelings were hurt, someone owes me an apology.”
  • “If I don’t stand up for myself, no one will stand up for me.”
  • “I have a right to feel this way.”

Perhaps you are justified in being offended. Maybe you do have the right to demand something. You may be the victim of genuine mistreatment. But nothing fosters unity like willingly and joyfully relinquishing what may actually be our rights so that unity prevails.

There’s never been a man who was more justified in demanding what was rightfully His than Jesus. Yet he willingly:

“Made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men…he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

And He did that for you and me. He did that for the good of the church! What a great example He left us to follow – an example of how to nurture unity in the Body of Christ!

~Matthew Ball

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