How To Appreciate Your Saviour – The Character of Christ


One of the most important things any young believer can do is to study passages of scripture concerning the character of Christ. There are many we could look at but the one that we want to consider, briefly in this article, is Philippians chapter 2 verses 1 to 11. A detailed study of these verses will be richly rewarding as we can only skim the surface within the constraints of this article.

The problem presented

Paul starts the section by highlighting four facts, v. 1, that will produce four fruits, v. 2, that will be a remedy to counter the faults that he highlights in verses 3 and 4. Paul’s appeal is that instead of advancing self, they would have an appreciation of the saints, v. 3, and that instead of serving self, they should be serving the saints, v. 4. This is the exact opposite to how the world would have us act. The world achieves success by putting others down, ‘strife’, and by promoting themselves, ‘vainglory’, and by prioritizing their ‘own things’. Indeed, social media is built around this idea of self-publicity that is the opposite of Christlikeness - my life, my family, my activities are put on display for the world to like and admire.

Let us consider the facts Paul presents in verse 1. These are:

  • The consolation, or encouragement, that comes from being ‘in Christ’;
  • The comfort, or stimulation, that comes from His love for us;
  • The common interest we have through the indwelling Spirit; and The compassion, or feelings of concern, that we have for other believers which is evidence of genuine conversion, 1 John 3. 14.

An appreciation of these things will result in cultivation of the fruit that is listed in verse 2.

Our attitude will be affected, as we seek to occupy our minds with Christ, as all believers should - we should be ‘likeminded’. Our affections would be stirred for Him and for His people - we should have ‘the same love’. Our actions will be different, as with ‘one accord’ we work together in the assembly, like an orchestra producing a delightful symphony. Our aims would be far greater, as with ‘one mind’ we put the interests of God and His assembly first rather than our personal interests, which so often cause us to pull in a different direction

The perfect pattern

Paul now brings before them the perfect example of One who put the interests of others above His own, vv. 5-8. Here we have a Christ to follow.

This is a sublime portion of scripture that takes us from glory to glory. It begins with deity taking up humanity and ends with humanity in absolute sovereignty.

In these verses, we have presented to us first what Christ has done, vv. 6-8. We start with His essence and equality, v. 6, we then consider His humanity, v. 7, and end with His humility, v. 8.

‘Who being’, v. 6, carries the thought of something that is a permanent possession. The ‘form of God’ means the expression of what He is essentially. In other words, there was never a time when Christ did not possess every attribute of the Godhead. He is in His very essence eternally divine. He ‘thought it not robbery to be equal with God’. He did not obtain it as a robber; it rightfully belonged to Him. He did not have to seek to attain it, for it was ever His. It was not something He had to hold on to for no one could ever rob Him of it. Neither was it something He held on to for self-indulgence.

He made Himself ‘of no reputation’, v. 7. What a contrast to those who seek position and place or who always put their own interests first. This expression is sometimes translated as ‘emptied Himself’ ESV, but we need to appreciate that this does not mean that He emptied Himself of any divine attributes. Nor does it mean that in any way He became less than what He was before by setting anything aside. Both would be impossible, as we have seen in verse 6. In incarnation, He veiled the outward manifestation of the Godhead and willingly ‘took upon him the form of a servant’. In bondservant character, He came that He might serve others as Mark chapter 10 verse 45 reminds us, ‘the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister’. The final expression in this verse is that He ‘was made in the likeness of men’. This clearly conveys the truth of His pre-existence as He became a man with a difference. The term ‘was made’ may be better translated ‘taking his place in [the] likeness of men’, JND. Yes, He was a real man, but He was impeccable and divine, as 1 Timothy chapter 3 verse 16 reminds us, ‘God was manifest in the flesh’.

In verse 8, we have His humility emphasized. The One who ‘was made in the likeness of men’ took another step down in submission to the divine will as ‘he humbled himself’. Here we have the purpose of His incarnation - that He might lay down His life, John 10. 15. He ‘became obedient unto death’ - not that He was subservient to death but rather His obedience caused Him to give His life. He was never liable to death, John 10. 18, but He willingly laid down His life in death and what a death it was -‘the death of the cross’!

The proper place

Because of what Christ has done, we are now told, in verses 9 to 11, what God has done. The exaltation of God, v. 9, expectation of government, v. 10, and expression of greatness, v. 11. This all declares the pre-eminence of the One who thought ‘on the things of others’, v. 4. The ‘name of Jesus’ that is linked with His humanity and service will now be associated with His honour and subjugation of all things. This is the consequence of faithfulness as He is exalted to His rightful place and His authority is universally acknowledged. This will ultimately result in the ‘glory of God the Father’.

The name that is so often on the lips of men as a profanity will then be on their lips in praise as His Lordship is acknowledged. The challenge for us now is whether our lives reflect what our lips profess?

Do our lives reflect the fact that we have confessed Him as Lord? Or must it be said of us that ‘all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s’ v. 21? Let us be encouraged to follow His example and put the things of God first.