Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
For many years the words of our passage today have known as the Christ Hymn. Whether it was written before Paul and then used by Paul, or whether it was written by Paul himself is open to debate. The words are much loved and have certainly inspired hymn writers – everything from ‘Servant King’ to ‘At the name of Jesus’ have this passage in mind.
As we reflect on the passage maybe the story of Adam in Genesis comes to mind. Adam sought to be equal with God but was humbled, Christ Jesus does not seek that equality for gain, rather he is born as one of us..
Why does Paul want to share these words with his readers in Philippi? Paul writes from a prison cell, his ministry has been inspired by the self sacrifice of Christ. So he tells them about Christ who takes the way of humility and lowliness all the way to the cross.
In the second part of the hymn, we get a change in tone and we read perhaps one of the highest statements about Jesus that we find in the whole of Scripture. Paul has a hope that Christ will be exalted to the place that is rightly his. Jesus’ name will be above every name and will invite devotion and worship.
Paul wants his readers to be united and to have the same mind as was in Christ. We are not to seek authority or, as Paul writes earlier in the letter, look to our own interests, but to show a right concern for each other.
may we learn from Jesus,
may we not be selfishly ambitious,
but may we take the path of humility,
the way of service.
In the name of Jesus Christ,
and to God’s glory. Amen.
The Rev’d Dr David Whiting, Minister, Sunderland and Boldon URC Partnership