Jesus Came to Teach Us How to Have “The Mind of Christ”
Scripture: Philippians 2:1-11
God’s Son takes on humanity! He leaves the glories of heaven, He lays aside the display of His glory, He humbles himself and is born in a manger. As he grows, the King of glory chooses the role of a servant.
Further, He willingly lays aside all His self-rights and becomes obedient even unto death! Why does He do this? Philippians 2:1-11 gives us one of the many reasons. In addition to providing deliverance from our sins (Mat. 1:21), Jesus came to liberate us from our self-centeredness. Such liberation is known as having “the mind of Christ.”
Paul tells us that our heavenly Father has provided all the resources we need in order to adopt the “mind of Christ” (Phil. 2:1-2d).
Then, after describing the characteristics of “the mind of Christ” (Phil. 2:2e-4), Paul illustrates “the mind of Christ” by describing Jesus’ decisions to humble Himself, to surrender His self-rights, and to obey fully the will of His Father (Phil. 2:5-11).
I. The Resources God Provides to Enable Christians to Develop the Mind of Christ (Phil. 2:1)
Every Christian, because of his new relationship with God through Jesus Christ, receives four resources designed to enable him to develop “the mind of Christ” (to be tender, loving, and kind in all personal relationships).
A. We Receive Encouragement from Christ (2a)
“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ” [the “if” clauses are assumed to be true].
To each of us is given the consolation (or encouragement) that comes from being united with Christ (“consolation in Christ”). As our Savior, Jesus demonstrates the value He places upon each Christian by adopting us into His own family (Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5).
Meditation on this gracious act of kindness should bring great encouragement and a godly sense of our value as children of the King!
B. We Receive Comfort from Christ’s Love (2b)
“if any comfort of love.”
Each of us has received personal comfort from His love for us. His love to us is without limit. He loved us when we were unlovely. He loves us though we are often slow to learn how to return such wondrous love.
The more we meditate on His unconditional love, the more He can help us to learn how to love others like He loves us.
C. We Receive the Help of the Holy Spirit (2c)
“if any fellowship of the Spirit.”
Each of us has entered into partnership (koinonia) with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s strength and transforming power is now available to us (“fellowship of the Spirit”). We are not asked to develop “the mind of Christ” through our own will power or strength.
Rather, we are to draw continually from the inexhaustible resources of the Holy Spirit so we can demonstrate Christlike attitudes and behavior toward others.
D. We Receive Gentle Treatment from God (2d)
”if any bowels and mercies.”
Each of us receives and continues to receive tenderness and compassion (“bowels and mercies”) from God in spite of our weakness, our ignorance, our slowness to “catch on” to what God is trying to teach us, and our periodic stumblings.
His goodness to us is designed to teach us, likewise, to be patient and kind to others. God provides every Christian with these four spiritual resources to enable them to develop “the mind of Christ.”
II. The Characteristics of the Mind of Christ (Phil. 2:2e-4)
The “mind of Christ” is developed by choosing to view other Christians with an attitude of cooperation,
rather than one of competitiveness or combativeness, and to develop both a compassionate concern and a positive attitude toward them.
A. The Mind of Christ is Cooperative (2:2)
“Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”
The “mind of Christ” requires that we learn to think about one another with understanding compassion rather than irritation or criticism. Paul told the Philippians that he was modeling “the mind of Christ” (Phil. 3:17;4:9) by “thinking” (phronein Phil. 1:7) charitably toward them.
He looked for and majored on their strengths, not their weaknesses or shortcomings. The verb for thinking (phroneo) is used twice in verse 2, stressing the need for proper thinking about others as a prerequisite for the “mind of Christ.”
Could it be that some of us are too quick to express disagreement?
B. The Mind of Christ is not Competitive or Combative (2:3)
“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”
The “mind of Christ” is not self-centered. Apart from the grace of God, each of us automatically focuses on our own feelings, likes, dislikes, and preferences. We too quickly forget that as servants of the Lord, we are forbidden to strive or quarrel with each other (2 Tim. 2:24a).
Rather, we are to esteem others highly and treat them as we wish to be treated. We are to choose to be patient when wronged and to be long-suffering when dealing with difficult people (2 Tim. 2:24b, 25).
The “mind of Christ “ refuses to do what the world teaches us to do – to stand up for our rights and to assert our own feelings and views. Yes, we have a right to our views, but we must learn how to avoid strife and not come across as “combative” or as a “know-it-all.” The “mind of Christ” seeks to avoid “vainglory,” which is the desire for personal recognition and credit.
Our goal is to seek God’s approval, rather than man’s approval (2 Cor. 10:18). Everything we do is to be for His glory, not our own glory (1 Cor. 10:31).
In lowliness of mind (genuine Christlike humility) we are to esteem others more highly than we esteem ourselves (2:3b).
C. The mind of Christ has compassionate concern for others (2:4)
“Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”
One of the greatest obstacles to developing the “mind of Christ” is self-centeredness, which shows itself by our being more concerned that others understand what we think and feel than what they think and feel.
We are commanded to put other people’s feelings and their good above our own feelings and our own good. Paul said,
“Don’t think only of your own good.
Think of other Christians and what is best for them” (1 Cor. 10:24).
III. Jesus: the greatest example of what the “mind of Christ” looks like (Phil. 2:5-11).
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5).
To understand the impact of this command, we need to think about who Jesus was before He was born as a babe in Bethlehem.
A. Jesus’ position prior to His incarnation (2:6a)
“Who, being in the form of God….”
As the eternal Son of God, Jesus enjoyed the glory and praise of all the angels of heaven since in majesty he was coeternal with the Father and with the Holy Spirit.
B. Jesus’ decision to become the God-man (2:6b-8)
“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.”
Because of His love for fallen mankind, Jesus willingly laid aside His glory, and also laid aside His “form” as God, and took upon Himself the “form” of a servant. This does not mean that Jesus laid aside His deity. He could not do that!
Rather He chose to set aside all of his “self-rights” – His right to be recognized as the Creator of the world, His right to be treated with honor and respect, His right to be loved – and “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Paul calls Jesus’ self-humbling and His refusal to demand His “rights” as “the mind of Christ.”
Jesus pleased not himself (Rom. 15:3). He put the needs and concerns of others above His own personal needs and concerns. And by virtue of the bond that exists between fellow-Christians who are united in Christ Jesus, we are to think about each other and treat each other as Christ treated us.
As an incentive to be Christlike in our attitudes and behavior, Paul reminds us of Jesus’ post-resurrection exaltation and glorification by the Father.
The implication is that if we take the road of humility with Christ, and develop the “mind of Christ,” someday we will also be exalted and glorified with Him (1 Pet. 5:6; Rom. 8:17; 2 Tim. 2:11).
Charles Wesley penned,
“Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity;
Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel.”
Will you, like your Savior, humble yourself and surrender to God your “self-rights”?
Will you obey the command to “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”?
Dr. Allan P. Brown teaches such courses as Christian Beliefs, Doctrine of Holiness, Wisdom Literature, Hebrew, Preaching Holiness, Romans and Galatians, and Letters to the Hebrews.
He has been on faculty at GBSC since 1996 and is the author of several books and articles.
Dr. Brown also speaks at churches, camp meetings, revivals and more.