The Greatest are the Least
Philippians 2:3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (NKJV)
Paul wrote this letter to the Church at Philippi in Macedonia, which is now northern Greece. It is thought that he wrote this during his first Roman imprisonment when he was under house arrest.
The time of the writing is about 62 A.D. Epaphroditus visited him in prison and Paul sent this letter back with him to deliver it to the church.
Philippi was abandoned in the fourteenth century after the Ottoman conquest. The current city of Fillipoi is located near the ruins of Philippi.
At the time of Paul’s letter, Philippi was a principal city. Paul established the church on his second missionary journey.
The church at Philippi was the first known church in all of Europe and it supported Paul financially. In many ways it was a model church.
Paul is writing to the believers at Philippi. Therefore, these are also God’s instructions to Christians of today.
Paul begins this passage by writing “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit” (v. 3a). Literally, in the Greek, this phrase reads “nothing according to rivalry or self-glory.”
So, we should not have rivals or seek self-glory. This does not mean that Christians should not be competitive.
When we do our best, we glorify Christ. But we should not think of our competition as enemies or seek to glorify ourselves. End zone celebrations come to mind.
Paul continues “but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (v. 3b). Instead, we should humble ourselves and put others first, always glorifying Christ.
Paul writes “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others“ (v.4). The words translated “look’ and “for” in this verse is the same word in the Greek. It is the word “skopeo” which means “to watch out for.” The Greek literally reads “not the things of themselves each looking at, but also the things of others each.”
So, we should not watch out just for our own interests, but we should also watch out for the interests of others. We should not disregard our own interests, though. If we do, we will become a burden to others.
Paul continues “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (v. 5). Christians should always strive to have the attitude of Christ. We should stive to be Christ-like, always.
Paul writes “who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God” (v. 6). Christ, through whom all things were created, did not consider it a loss to be equal to the Father and Holy Spirit in the Godhead.
Paul writes “but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” (v. 7). Christ, even though He was wholly God, lowered Himself to become wholly man and made Himself a servant to God the Father, even though, in the Godhead, He is equal.
Paul continues “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (v. 8). Christ humbled Himself even to the point of giving His own life in a shameful and humiliating death on the cross.
As humans, we should humble ourselves and become obedient to Christ by allowing His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, to work in and through us. We show our love for Christ by being obedient to Him.
Paul writes “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name” (v. 9). Because of His obedience, the Father exalted Jesus in two ways.
Paul continues “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth (v. 10). The first way that the Father has exalted Jesus is that every knee will bow to Jesus.
He makes clear that EVERY knee will bow: everyone in Heaven; everyone on earth; and everyone in Hell. Paul describes Hell as an even lower place than earth, not by geography but by God’s favor.
Paul writes “and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (v. 11). The second way that the Father has exalted Christ is that “every tongue”, again of those in Heaven, on earth, and in Hell, will worship Christ.
Everyone will eventually confess that Jesus is Lord, so that the Father will be glorified by all people. Even those who refused to confess His name and went to Hell will wind up doing it anyway.
They will just trade Heaven for Hell because of their obstinance. What a waste.
In conclusion, as Christians we are called to, like Christ, lower ourselves in order to be obedient to God. “For he who is least among you all – He is the greatest” (Luke 9:48).
So, as we strive to be Christ like, we must remember His humility. In God’s book, you are the greatest when you make yourself the least.
Online Bible Commentary