Philippians 2 Restated

Posted: March 5, 2012

In preparation for a seminary class this past fall, I was working through the great christological hymn found in the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. It is one of my favorite New Testament passages and speaks with such beauty about the depth and lengths to which Christ went to enact our salvation. However, our over-familiarity with Philippians 2:5-11 might in fact obscure our understanding of what this passage is really all about. So I offer the following extended paraphrase and prayer of response in today’s vernacular in the hope that we will be once again astounded by grace and mercy of our self-emptying Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.


Jesus, you didn’t come from God’s side as a big shot, going around trying to prove to us that which you already knew to be true. You knew you were God and didn’t see a need to chase after our accolades. Instead, you blended in amongst us as God incognito. We didn’t even recognize you, you were so much like us. Yet something about your pure humanity repulsed us, so much so that we thought the best thing to do was to get rid of you. And so, we played the role of the judge and sent you to the executioner. Yet you went willingly and quietly. To us, such willingness to die was human folly. But to you, it was God’s sovereign will that you should accomplish what you did by submitting yourself to torture and to the grave.

But…no sooner were you gone when God took action and by His Spirit brought you back to life and recalled you to his side. Once there God appointed you by his authority to the highest political office—the King with jurisdiction over all kings, dictators, presidents and tyrants alike. Indeed, a day is coming, and is nearly come, when your simple name, Jesus, will mean that no one—no one who has lived, is living or ever will live—will be able to deny what you long ago already knew: That you are God. You are King. You are Creator. You are Judge. You are Saviour. Indeed, there is none like you. And even in that highest of all positions, you now rule in humility in order to honour your Father who is in heaven.

But you say our attitude should be like yours.

If that be the case, then guard me against the pride that makes me want to impress people with greatness, when all you ask of me is to live as I was created to be—a human creature reflecting your image. Rather than seeking ways to stand out, help me to seek ways to stoop alongside others, to perceive, and to accomplish, what needs to be done in service to them. But above all, let me be ready to share in your death. Even if it doesn’t mean I need to die a martyr’s death, nevertheless let me be a living martyr every day—a witness that continually says, “Not I, but Christ.”

And Lord, give my spirit the hope that you yourself had. Yours wasn’t a hope that sought for more “stuff” and greater comfort, but a hope in the raising of this corrupt and fragile body from the dead. And give me a yearning for your true justice today in the midst of all present injustices perpetrated by human judges and criminals, and indeed, myself, alike. Let my voice be one that exalts your name above my own, a life that seeks God the Father’s Kingly purposes. And let me do it all in your mighty Name. Amen.