Philippians 004 – The Practicality of TheologyPhilippians 2:1-11 • Dr. Andy Woods • April 26, 2020 • Philippians
The Practicality of Theology
April 26, 2020
Dr. Andy Woods
Father, we’re grateful for your truth, your word, your people. Grateful, for the chance that you’ve given us to minister online. And so I just pray for your hand of blessing today in our online service. I pray that as the word is taught consistently that people’s lives will be changed. We acknowledge, Lord, that we’re not here to change the Bible. The Bible is here to change us. And so I just pray the Spirit would be at work doing that great work in us and amongst us. And if anybody is listening, Father, that does not know Christ personally as their Savior, I pray that today would be the day of salvation. And these are only miracles, Father that you can do. So we ask these things in Jesus name and God’s people said, Amen.
All right. Well, let me welcome you to Sugar Land Bible Church, main service. If you could take your Bible and open it to the book of Philippians. Chapter two and verse one. See if we can make it through verse 16 today. The title of our message this morning is The Practicality Of Theology. I mean, is theology really all that practical or is it just sort of the hobbyhorse of ivory tower theologians? I think Paul is going to answer that question very definitively today as we begin to take a look at Philippians Chapter two, which many have argued is the high point of Christology. Christology, of course, is the doctrine of Christ. I mean, you can’t get much higher than what Paul will explain to us a little bit later in about verses five through 11. And as majestic as all of that is, It’s so important to understand that Paul is writing to real people having real problems in a real church. The church at Philippi. So by way of review, we’ve studied the introduction to the book. Paul, of course, in Rome in the west, writing to this church at Philippi, a church that he himself founded probably about10 to 11 years earlier. And one of the concerns or the overriding concern, I think, that Paul has, and you see this through the repetition of the word rejoice or joy, is he, I think, is concerned that the Philippians are lacking in joy. So he’s dealing with not so much an issue about how to become a Christian, but how to walk in joy as a Christian. Joy, of course, I would understand as well-being that a person can experience, immaterial or irrelevant to their circumstances. People can have this joy as a divine right, whether they’re prospering or not. Whether things are going well or not. Whether they’re advancing in their career or not. Whether they’re healthy or not. And one of the reasons I wanted to take a look at this little four chapter book is I felt it was highly relevant, given the self quarantine and lockdown people are under. They’re wondering about their future, quite naturally. They want to know, is everything going to be okay? What about circumstances? And here Paul is talking about something that we can experience regardless of circumstances. Chapter one verses one through 11. We worked our way through that. It’s basically an introduction to the book containing a greeting, a Thanksgiving, and a prayer. And then from there, we moved into, I believe this was last week, the first major part of the book, which is in chapter one. And that’s the glass is not half empty, but the glass is half full chapter. Paul had developed the mental discipline necessary to see the hand of God no matter what negative circumstance he was in and he was in the midst of a negative circumstance. In house arrest, just like you’re in house arrest to some extent, as I speak. I’m in house arrest to some extent, as I speak. During this COVID 19 pandemic or epidemic. Paul was experiencing house arrest. And yet, in spite of it, he saw, no matter what negative thing happened He saw God doing something positive. Paul was never a prisoner of his circumstances because he saw the hand of God in every negative circumstance, from the human perspective. And so he explains that through four different realities there in Chapter One. And at the end of that chapter, verses 27 through 30, as is so common with Paul, he explains something happening in his own life. A paradigm where he could see the positive in spite of the negative and he takes that paradigm and at the end of the chapter he applies it specifically to the Philippians who are experiencing similar adversities, and he gives them their three points of application. And so that’s what we saw last week. And this morning we start to move into chapter two, which is a change of subject for Paul, deals with a lifestyle and a mindset amongst Christians of servanthood. He wants us as Christians to see ourselves as servants. In other words, we don’t exist for ourselves. We exist for the benefit of somebody else. That’s what a life of service is like. And you might be saying to yourself, Well, what does this have to do with joy? And the fact of the matter is, it has everything to do with joy. Because the most joyful people you’ll ever encounter on this earth are people that have a servanthood, a Service mindset. The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 11 verses 24 and 25 says this. There is one who scatters and yet increases all the more. There is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results in want. The generous man will be prosperous, And he who waters will himself be watered. I mean, a basic principle of life. We think we’re getting ahead through self service. And the reality of the situation is you don’t get ahead in life in any area until you see yourself as a servant to somebody else.
Luke six and verse 38, Jesus says, Give and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure–pressed down, shaking together, and running over. For by your standard of measure. It will be measured to you in return. Paul in Acts 20 verse 35, quotes something Jesus said that you don’t find in any of the Gospels, but you do find Paul referring to apparently a statement that Christ had made. Acts 20 verse 35, as Paul is speaking to the Ephesian Elders, he says, Remember the words of the Lord Jesus that he himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. So many of us go through life feeling empty. Feeling a lack. Of. Satisfaction, feeling like. Our lives really don’t count, really don’t matter. And the problem typically relates to the fact that we have become the center of our own universe. Our Holy trinity consists of me, myself, and I. And people that live like that cannot tap into the joyful life or the abundant life that God has for them. Many people approach church that way. They come to church for what they can get. They come to church for what they can receive. And of course, there’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself. But that’s not the New Testament definition of church. Church is there for what you can give. And I’m not speaking here just financially. I’m speaking of the way that the Holy Spirit has placed spiritual gifts into the Body of Christ. Every spiritual gift that’s employed has as its object somebody else. The gift of mercy is applied to someone that needs mercy. The gift of giving is applied to someone that needs financial help. The gift of teaching is applied to somebody that needs learning. And so God has put into the Body of Christ spiritual gifts in fact, I would argue that every Christian has at least one spiritual gift, and as you begin to faithfully use your gifts, you’ll find that you are no longer the object of life. God is using you as a vehicle to bless somebody else and there’s nothing more rewarding or satisfying than walking in that service. In fact, in my life, I’ve had a chance to go a lot of places and do a lot of things, and to be honest with you where I’m most fulfilled as a Christian, as a person, as a human being, is doing exactly this kind of thing that I’m doing here in the place of teaching, which is in the place of giving, which is in the place of helping others to grow in their faith. You know you can go on a cruise and I enjoy those, too, believe me. But they get old after a while because when you go on a cruise, you’re sort of the focus of everything. All of the servants and everything that’s set up is designed for you and to help you have a good time and that’s fun for a few days but it really doesn’t give you the level of satisfaction that a level of service gives and so that’s why Chapter two is in this book on joy. If you’re lacking in joy as a Christian, you might want to reevaluate your life and say, Well, what? What am I here for? Am I here for myself or am I here for somebody else? Because you really don’t start to live as a human being until you live for a cause greater than yourself. If I’m not living for a cause greater than myself, I’m really not living. I’m not really walking in the abundant life that our Lord has for us. And so you start here with verses one through Four, and it kind of lays out generically what I’m speaking of this life of service. And notice what he says there in verse one. He says, Therefore, if there’s any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion. Now you’ll notice here that he talks about Fellowship of the Spirit. And as we progress in the Book of Philippians, what we’re going to discover is that was being challenged by two quarrelsome fighting people or factions within the church that we’ll read about in Philippians Four verses two and three. That type of civil war or animosity or division within the body of Christ that will destroy joy faster than any other single thing. And that was happening in the church at Philippi not because of some great truth issue or doctrinal issue. There was no great doctrinal issue at stake. It was two people fighting. Largely, I would guess about not having their way about something. And as you look and study church conflicts that happen in churches, I would say this, 99% of the time the conflict is not related to the truth. People sometimes will masquerade it as the truth. It relates to someone not getting their way about something. They’ve taken their own preferences and elevated it to what they think is a biblical truth and it really isn’t. And so most of the church schisms and most of the church splits when you study those out, what you’ll see is it has to do with petty turf wars or people upset about decor or the color of the carpet or whatever. And that’s what was happening In Philippi. It was destroying this church. And Paul says the problem is a lack of a servant mindset. He goes on in verse two and he says, Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. We need some unity here. It’s very similar to what he said concerning the Ephesians, another prison letter that he wrote around the same period of time that he wrote the book of Philippians. In the book of Ephesians, chapter four and verse three he said, Being diligent to preserve the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. See the Ephesians, just like the Philippians, were positionally united. I mean, Paul is very clear about that in Ephesians two And three, the dividing wall has been torn down. We are all one in Christ Jesus. That’s our position. And so many times we’ll get into a tiff with another believer and we’ll forget the fact that we’re unified in the body of Christ and we don’t act consistently with the position that God has declared us to be. It would be like my right hand and my left hand fighting with each other when they’re supposed to work together. And that’s what he means when he says maintain the unity of the bond of peace. In other words, act consistently with the position that God has decreed about you. Now as modern-day psychologists would come into a church and say, okay, we all need to take these sort of temperament tests. And we need to get this. This temperament doesn’t work well with that temperament and these sort of personality tests. And that’s the source of division in churches. You’ll notice that the biblical writers don’t say that at all. What they say is it relates to people acting out of self-ambition. And that’s why Paul is dealing with this issue of self-ambition here. And notice what he begins to say in verse three. Look at what he is. He gets right to the bottom line. You don’t get a big discussion about personality types. What he says is, Do nothing from selfish ambition and empty conceit. Now, when he says self-ambition, what exactly is he speaking of? Well, the ultimate entity that we know of in the Bible that was involved with self-ambition was Satan. Satan in Isaiah 14 verses 12 through 15, which is a passage which describes the sin of Satan as a high-ranking angel leading to his fall, gave the five I will statements. There’s an awful lot of I in what Satan is saying here. I will ascend to heaven. I will raise my throne above the stars of God. I will sit enthroned on the mound of the assembly. I will ascend to the tops of the clouds. I will make myself like the Most High. An awful lot of repetition of I, me, my, my way. In fact, this actually may be the first time a will in God’s created universe entered the picture as that will was functioning independent of God. I mean, it’s very, very different than what Jesus says. Where he says, Not my will be done, but Thy will be done. Satan, though, doesn’t do that He acts from self-ambition. And really when you think about this, the root issue is pride. The parallel passage in the book of Ezekiel of Satan says Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty. You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor. First comes pride, then comes a fall. And this is why the Bible is very clear about being careful about who you appoint as a leader within the church.
The selection of elders and deacons. First Timothy three, verse six, concerning the selection of elders. It says, Not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. What a disaster it is when somebody who really doesn’t have the character for the position is put in a position like that. And they become lifted up with pride and suddenly it’s no longer the Lord’s will, but it’s my will and my turf and my power and m preferences. That’s exactly what you have happening there in Philippi. And when you put yourself on the throne, not only does it destroy the unity of the church, but it destroys joy. Because one man spelled joy this way. J-O-Y. Joy, what does that stand for? J stands for Jesus. O stands for others. Y stands for yourself. Jesus, Others, Yourself. And as long as you keep that order correct, you’ll walk in joy. Jesus first. Others second. Myself third. I’m not against people, of course, petitioning the Lord for their individual needs. We’re told to do that. But so many times our prayer life is all about myself. All about my wants. All about my desires. All about my needs. And we forget that it’s supposed to be about Jesus first, Others second, Yourself, third. Well, gee, Andy, I’m just not really walking in the Joy that God has for me. Well, have you got the letters inverted? Has the Y usurped the O or the J? It doesn’t spell JOY anymore, does it? And so Paul here specifically says in verse three, Do nothing, Not, Don’t do 95% of the things. Or 80%. Says, Do nothing from selfish ambition or empty conceit. Now notice the words empty conceit, vain conceit. The life of self- centered-ness is vanity. It never produces the lasting fulfillment that God has for us. And of course, as you look at our culture, it’s all about self-help. There’s even a magazine I think called self. Self-empowerment. Everything seems to relate to me somehow.
And we wonder why there’s a general emptiness in people, why they go to the bars night after night after night to numb the emptiness that’s inside of them. While they spent hours and hours and hours and weeks and weeks and weeks and years and years and years under some sort of counseling system, trying to rectify the emptiness inside of us. And Paul says the answer is very simple. The reason we’re so empty is we’re so self-centered. That’s our nature. And we need to develop a servant mindset and a servant attitude and think how, think how many churches across this country and across this world could be healed. Just by people taking self off the throne and pursuing the things of God. I would venture to say countless churches would be healed. We might even have a spiritual awakening in this country if that happened. So do nothing out of selfish ambition. Now you look at the second part of verse three into verse four. He says, But with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves. Verse four, Do not look out or, do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. And one of the things that’s interesting about the Bible is the Bible does not promote self-love. The Bible assumes self-love. The Bible basically says we already love ourselves. I mean, I don’t have any problem looking out for myself. You know, getting my needs met, making sure I get enough rest, feeding myself, taking myself on vacation. I mean, all of that comes very naturally to me. My problem is taking the basic self-centeredness that I already have and transferring it to someone else. That’s where I have a problem and someone so much in modern psychology. They tell you you’ve got to spend all of this time getting in touch with yourself. Getting in tune with yourself. Learning to love yourself. And I’m here to tell you that I think that’s mostly a waste of time. Because the Bible says we already love ourselves. We have no deficiency in that area. You know, you listen to people, they say they hate themselves. Well, why do you hate yourself? Well, I’m a failure. Well, if you really hated yourself, wouldn’t you be happy you’re a failure? Oh, I hate myself. Why do you hate yourself? Well, I’m so ugly/ Well, if you really hated yourself, you’d probably be happy that you’re a failure and ugly. So a lot of our, and I’m not, of course, calling anybody a failure or ugly, what I’m saying is a lot of the statements that we promote as somehow self-debasing really are self-promoting. They evidence our natural love for self.
Now, this principle is as old as Mount Sinai. People think that Jesus is the one that came up with this saying, and certainly, he repeated it, but it goes all the way back 1500 years before the time of Christ to Mt. Sinai in the Book of Leviticus, chapter 19 and verse 18, it says, You shall not take vengeance nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; For I am the Lord. He doesn’t tell everybody at Mt. Sinai that you guys really need a course on how to love yourselves better. They already knew how to do that. We already know how to do that. What he says is the love you already have for yourself you need to transfer it to somebody else. And once we do that, you know what happens in our lives? Consistently? We start to walk in joy. Now, you might be saying, well, gosh, this is a hard teaching. Do you have any examples that we can follow? And I’m so glad you asked that question because Paul gives us four examples based on his generic comments. Verses one through four. He gives us four examples: A.) Christ, verses five through 16. B.) Paul himself, verses 17 and 18. C.) Timothy, verses 19 through 24, and D.) A man named Epaphroditus, verses 25 Through 30. Obviously, Christ is mentioned first because Christ is our ultimate example of being a servant. Notice what he says here in verses five through eight, and then we’ll make a few comments and read verses nine through 11. Having this attitude in yourselves, which is also in Christ Jesus. Wow. So, this selfless servanthood mindset that we’re supposed to be following as Christians is exemplified to us through the person of Jesus Christ. Verse six, who, Although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as a thing to be grasped, but he emptied himself– and you should take your Bible, if you’re an underliner, and underline that word empty– Taking the form of a bondservant– another way of saying that is a slave, doulos– And being made in the likeness of men, verse eight Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient. to the point of death, even death on a cross. Now, this is speaking of what we call the incarnation. Speaking of the inflection point Of God. In fact, in the Word Incarnation, you’ll recognize the word carny as in carnivorous meat eater, It’s literally talking about the In meeting of God. It’s talking about how Jesus Christ, the eternally existent second member of the Godhead, stepped out of eternity into time, taking on human flesh. Which he did at the point not just of the virgin birth. That was when he was birthed into our world, but the miracle of the virgin conception.
When he was conceived in the womb of a virgin, the Virgin Mary, what happened his eternally existent deity, something was added to him. Not subtracted, not exchanged, but humanity was added to Him. He became the unique God-man. 100% God, 100% man. John Chapter one, verse 14, calls him the only begotten, which is the word monogenous. Mono, you recognize as in one, like in Monopoly one, and then genous, you recognize that as in species or kind. Jesus was one of a kind. Why is that? Because he’s the only entity that has ever lived that is 100% God and 100% man in the same person. John one–And this started, his existence didn’t start. His existence has always been. But his humanity started at the point of the miracle of the Virgin conception. John one verse 14 says, The word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory. Now, why could John see it? Because he saw Jesus as a man. He was the God-man. We saw his glory, glory of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. Now, why did he do it? It says it right there in verse eight to die on a cross. And the cross, as you probably know, is the grizzliest ways a human being can die. It was a method of execution that was, I think, historically invented by the Assyrians. The Assyrians killed people this way. This is why Jonah, in the book of Jonah, didn’t want God’s grace to go to the Assyrians because of their barbaric tendencies. And the Romans by the time of Christ reached back into history and they said, you know, this is a great way to kill people, to execute capital criminals and this will certainly keep the masses in line out of fear and so they brought it back in terms of popularity and Jesus became a man to experience that form of death on our behalf. Psalm 22, verse 16, Speaking of the death of Christ in terms of a prophecy a thousand years in advance says, Concerning the death of Christ, they have pierced my hands and my feet. Now, how can they pierce his hands in his feet unless God has hands and feet? So why did Jesus become a man to have his hands and his feet pierced in this terrible form of death called crucifixion and they didn’t just pierce His hands and His feet, they, as you know, thrust the spear into his side, piercing Him yet again. So here is God himself giving up, not deity, but the privileges of deity and all of the glory that was available to Him at the right hand of the Father relinquishing it, not deity, but its privileges and its prerogatives. For a season, for the purpose of coming into our world and dying this terrible death in our place. Notice what became of all of that verses nine through 11 for this reason, What reason? The Cross, verse eight, For this reason, God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name, which is above every name, verse ten, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow of those who are in Heaven and on the earth and under the earth and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord to the glory of God the Father.
Because Jesus behaved in this selfless way, He was exalted. Compare that back to verse three. Remember we studied verse three, Do nothing from selfish ambition or empty deceit the way of Satan. I, Five “I will” statements. going the opposite direction. Jesus didn’t say, “My will.” He didn’t say, “I…” He said, “thy will be done.” In fact, as you know, the story and Gethsemane, as Dr. Luke tells us, he sweat great drops of blood. He prayed that the ordeal could pass from him and yet there was no other way for the barrier between sinful humanity and Holy God to be erased. And because of this act of humility, he has now been exalted above every name. You know, it’s interesting in the Bible the way down is up and the way up is down. I mean, if you don’t want to enter into this type of service and you want to promote yourself then you go down. Just like Satan did. And yet the opposite is true. The way down is up and the way up is down. Jesus humbled himself and look what happened to him as a result. He’s been exalted over every name. I’m reminded of first Peter, chapter five, and verse five, which says, You younger men, likewise be subject to your elders and all of you clothe yourselves with humility towards one another for God as opposed to the proud. But He gives grace to the humble. We in the world system, we have the whole thing backwards. The way to get ahead is self-promotion. And yet that’s not what Jesus exemplified. In fact, Jesus is at such a privileged place now because of His humility, that the Bible says at the name of Jesus every knee will bow those who are in heaven, those who are on the earth, and those who are under the earth And how that passage is misunderstood and misread today by Universalists who claim that everyone’s going to get saved. That’s not what the passage says. The expression “under the earth” should be a dead giveaway, shouldn’t it?
What it’s saying is because of the privileged position of Jesus, every creature will articulate at some point that Jesus is Lord. Now you’ll either do that volitionally, this side of eternity, or it’ll be coerced from a person’s lips in hell. But everyone’s going to acknowledge this, even the Christ-haters and God-haters of our world. They themselves will be forcibly forced to acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ at some point. That’s how high Jesus is in his position., because of his act of humility to die on our behalf. And you’ll notice verse Seven, which is very, very important. But he emptied himself, now that’s the Greek verb. I’ve got it there in brackets. It’s where we get the noun Kenosis. So theologians will refer to Philippians two as the kenosis passage. It means the emptying of Christ. But he emptied himself, taking the form of a bondservant and being made in the likeness of men. Now, watch very carefully here, because if you don’t keep things straight, your theology can go astray really quick with a passage like this. John Walvoord in his excellent book, Jesus Christ Our Lord, explains the passage as follows: “The act of Kenosis in Philippians 2 may therefore be properly understood to mean that Christ surrendered no attribute of deity, but that he did voluntarily restrict their independent use in keeping with his purpose of living among men and their limitations.”
What did Jesus exactly surrender? A lot of people say, “Well, he surrendered being God.” That’s false doctrine. A lot of people say And I’ve had many charismatic Christians trying to argue with me on this, some of them that used to go to this church, arguing that what Jesus gave up is the attributes of deity. He couldn’t perform miracles, they say. The only way he could perform a miracle is if he depended upon the Holy Spirit. Now that fits charismatic theology very nice, doesn’t it? Because they think as they yield to the Spirit they can do the exact same miracles that Jesus did. But that’s not what this is saying. He did not give up deity, He did not give up the prerogatives of deity. What he gave up was the privileges of deity. For a season, and he submitted his attributes, which he could have used to stop the whole crucifixion. He submitted those to God the Father. That’s what this passage is speaking of here. Charles Ryrie puts it this way concerning the emptying of Christ, “emptied Himself. The kenosis (emptying) of Christ during His incarnation does not mean that he surrendered any attribute of deity, but that he took on the limitations of humanity.”
As he walked as a man, he was sinless but he experienced the same limitations that we experience. He knew what it was like for his heart to be broken because he had been betrayed by a friend. He knew what it was like, Matthew four, to hunger. He knew what it was like, John four, to be thirsty. He knew what it was like, Matthew 24 Verse 36, to not understand everything, not in his deity, but in his humanity, where he had to rest completely upon God, the Father. The kenosis emptying of Christ during his incarnation does not mean that he surrendered any attribute of deity, but that he took on the limitations of humanity. This involved a veiling of pre-incarnate glory. That’s why at the end of his life, just prior to his crucifixion, he said in John 17, verse Five, Glorify me, Father, with the glory that I had with you before the world was. He wanted to return to that place of privilege. This involved a veiling of his pre-incarnate glory. And the voluntary non-use of his divine perogatives during the time he was on earth like in Matthew 24, verse 36 where in his humanity he didn’t even know when he was coming back. And then Ryrie makes a point here of the Greek word form Greek, morphae. And he says the same word as is used in verse seven, just as it is used in verse six. He was completely God and truly man to deny either the deity or humanity of Christ requires denying the other. If you look very carefully at verse six, you’ll see the word form. Who although he existed in the form of God. And then if you look down at verse seven, I believe it is, you’ll see a repetition of the word form. But he emptied himself, taking the form, Same Greek word, morphae, of a bondservant. That’s who Jesus is. You can’t say he’s God, but not man or man, but not God. He’s the God-man. Is Jesus God or is Jesus Man? Subsequent to the Virgin conception the answer is yes, He’s both in a single entity. This man Jesus Christ. And so people get very confused on their theology and they think that somehow the incarnation is a subtraction. Nothing was subtracted from Christ. At the point of the virgin conception and incarnation. What the incarnation is, is an addition, not a subtraction. A lot of people think it’s an exchange. Well, he took off one coat, the deity coat, and put on the human coat. Not correct either. No subtraction, no exchange, but in addition, where humanity is added to eternally existent deity. For what purpose? So his hands in his feet could be pierced. Because without that, God doesn’t have any hands and feet and he doesn’t have a side to thrust a spear into. And during this whole time he retains His deity and his prerogatives. He just submits those to the will of God, the Father. In fact, when you understand this, then you understand what Satan is doing in Matthew four. Matthew four verses two and three, after he had been fasting for 40 days, He was hungry and Satan says, “Command these stones to become bread.” What Satan is doing is he’s trying to drive a wedge in the triunity of God. He’s trying to drive a wedge between the Father and the Son and he’s trying to get Jesus to give up the independent exercise of his attributes, which Satan himself knew he still had. Just use those attributes independently of God, the Father. And so what Jesus did is he gave up, not deity, but the privileges of deity. The pre-incarnate glory. What he gave up was not his attributes, but The independent voluntary exercise of those attributes for a season, to, according to verse eight, die on a cross. Now that’s– you can’t get higher Christology than that. I mean, that is the doctrine of Christ as clearly as it can be expressed in writing. And yet, why does Paul surface all of this? Hey, I’ve got some random thoughts I want to share with you today. Gather around. We’re going to share some systematic theology on Christology today. That’s not what Paul is doing.
He is taking what probably is the highest Christological statement that one can find in the entire Bible and he’s aiming it at the Philippine church that is splitting because of two warring people or warring factions. He’s aiming it at the Philippine church to teach the Philippine church how to walk in joy and that’s why when I was trying to come up with a name for the sermon, the name that naturally came to me is the Practicality of Theology. Bible writers don’t sit down and say, Let’s develop a systematic theology. Believe me, I’m not against systematic theologies. We should develop them. But that’s not why the Bible was written. The Bible is what we call crisis literature, meaning that there was a real problem in Philippi just like there was a real problem in Corinth or Rome or whatever and Paul is taking this high theology and he’s applying it to daily life. The practicality of theology.
So you give yourself to theology and doctrine. You’re giving yourself to the most practical thing you could give yourself to because it teaches you how to interact with other Christians that get on your nerves and you don’t like and you’re holding a grudge against. I have a number of quotes here and I don’t think I have time to exhaust them, but it’s just one quote after another where ministers are getting in the pulpits and trashing the study of theology. One pastor says “sermons here are not about extracting truth from the Bible to apply to people’s lives.” Well, then, if you’re not doing that, then what in the world are you doing, sir? “It isn’t about exegetical or expository preaching,” says another. People want to know about God, or they want to know God. They want to know less about God. I mean, one after the other of disparaging comments on doing, basically what we’re doing here in this sermon dealing with doctrine. One says, “beyond Christianity needs to be beyond a system or doctrinal array.” You’ve heard many of these people say, “don’t give me doctrine, just give me Jesus.” Can I ask you a question? How do you know which Jesus it is you’re talking about? Is it the Mormon Jesus? The Jehovah’s Witness, Jesus? The Islam Jesus? The New Age Jesus?
Doctrine tells you whether you’ve got the right Jesus or not. What really matters is Christ, not creed. What matters is devotion, not doctrine. What counts as behavior not beliefs. One popular pastor says “God will never ask you a question about your doctrinal views.” “We’re to love each other. That’s our point, not our doctrinal beliefs.” “Today, many assume that spiritual maturity is measured by the amount of biblical information and doctrine that they know. The Bible is more than a doctrinal guidebook. The last thing many believers need to do is to go to another Bible study.” On and on and on we can surface these citations and yet the reality of the situation is doctrine is absolutely pivotal to Paul’s thinking because he uses it to resolve practical issues, limited joy, and lack of a service mentality in the Church of Philippi because people are acting through self ambition. “How can you do that?” Paul says. How can you act in self-ambition when you look at the example of Jesus, The ultimate servant? Second Corinthians, Chapter eight and verse nine, Paul says this for we know that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. We know of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. That though he was rich. Yet, for your sake He became poor so that through his poverty, you might become rich. Do you know where that quote is found? Second Corinthians eight and nine? He’s getting ready to pass the offering plate, so to speak. To get the Corinthians to give money to a project that he had been working on for the suffering saints in Jerusalem. Before Paul makes any appeal to money, he gives them Christology, The Doctrine of Christ. Acts two, verse 42. It’s the very first thing the early church gave themselves to. 3000 are saved roughly on the day of Pentecost. What do you do with 3000 people? Acts two, verse 42 tells us. They were continually devoting themselves to apostolic teaching, and there’s a lot of other things on the list that follows, but the first thing they gave themselves to was doctrine because if you understand doctrine, you understand how to live. You understand everything else on this list. Now, don’t get me wrong, doctrine was never intended to be a first step. Let me rephrase that. Said that wrong. Doctrine was never intended to be a last step. It was intended to be a first step.
So the Bible is not set up in such a way that the end game of spiritual reality and spiritual growth and spiritual maturity is just in the accumulation of doctrinal knowledge. If doctrine is not informing life and relationships, In other words, if knowledge does not become wisdom, What is wisdom? It’s knowledge applied, right? Then it doesn’t serve its purpose. It’s short of why God gave it. But oh, my goodness, how we need it today. I mean, it is so practical that it will even prevent a turf war in a congregation. And it will even prevent a split within a congregation that’s unnecessary, and it will even cause the people of God to walk in joy because self is no longer on the throne because Jesus didn’t put self on the throne either, did He? In his incarnation. Paul does this here in Philippians. a couple of other places where this happens in the Bible is over in Mark ten beginning in verse 37. They said to him now this is James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Grant that we may sit one on your right and one on your left in your glory. How about that for a request? Lord, when you enter your glory, I want to be here on one side and my brother on the other side. And then you would think the other disciples would just laugh it off as immaturity, but Mark ten, verse 41, says, Hearing this, the ten, that’s the other members of this group of 12, began to feel indignant with James and John. Hey, they’re going to get ahead and not us. That’s what the rest of them were thinking. And how does Jesus deal with this? I mean, how would you deal with this in your church that you’re pastoring? Jesus points the spotlight on Himself as the servant. Exactly what Paul is doing here in Philippians two. Calling them, Mark 10:42, to himself Jesus said to them, You know those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles, Lord it over them and they’re great men exercise authority over them. In other words, you’re thinking like the world system thinks. You climb the pecking order and you dominate people under you. But it is not this way among you whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant. Now, isn’t that what Paul just said in Philippians two? The way up is down, and the way down is up. It’s the exact opposite of the world system. And whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. James and John weren’t honoring that as they were looking for a leg up.
So who’s the example? Verse 45. Mark ten for even the son of man. Here comes the Christology. For even the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. You see, are you having a problem in your Christian walk and in your Christian life through ambition and self promotion? Pursuing, as Paul says, empty, selfish ambition. Then maybe there’s a deficiency in one’s Christology, and maybe you might have the Christology down cold and you can pass the doctrinal exam. But it’s just knowledge. It’s never been translated consistently into wisdom, which is the point of doctrine. One more example and then we’ll close. Jesus does the exact same thing in the upper room in John 13 verses three through five, it says Jesus knowing the Father had given all things into his hands and that he had come forth from God and was going back to God, he got up from supper, laid aside his garments, taking a towel He girded himself and then he poured water into the basin and began to wash the disciples feet to wipe them with the towel, which he was girded.
Are you kidding me? You mean– I mean, what if you were there in the upper room? Think of your reaction to that. It’s how Peter reacts. God and human flesh is down on his hands and knees and he’s washing my feet. Of course, Peter has– Jesus has this exchange with Peter. And then here comes the spiritual lesson. John 13 verse 14 If I then, the Lord and teacher washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. In other words, Christology is altering how you live as a believer and there’s no room for self-ambition here, is there? There’s no room to the idea that I’m going to get ahead and trample a bunch of people down in the process. John 13 verse 15 for I gave you and as an example that you should do as I did to you, truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master. Nor is one who sent greater then one who sent him. You know, servant is not above his master. This is what I do and I’m God in human flesh. This is what you’re to do if you’re one of my disciples. Then he makes the statement in verse 17, John 13. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. Now notice this here, very important. The blessing does not come from knowing. The blessing comes from doing. The blessing comes not from knowledge, it comes from wisdom. The blessing comes not from learning the doctrine. It’s walking it out consistently. That’s where you walk in, joy and fulfillment, which is what was lacking there in Philippi.
That’s what’s going to heal the wounds in Philippi. About two women who Paul loved, obviously Christians because their names are in the Book of Life. Eudia and Syntyche fighting like cats and dogs, like common pagans. It’s a lack of knowing Christology. And even if you know it, it’s a lack of following it out as a servant. Jesus, being the ultimate servant. And from there, as Paul typically does, he then moves into four points of application. Verses 12 to 16, where he takes the paradigm he’s just unleashed and he applies it to the circumstances of the Philippians. That’s exactly what he did at the end of chapter one. I’m out of time, and so I can’t do that today. But we’ll reconvene next Lord’s Day and see how this applies to daily life.
In our Segway into the Gospel today is Jesus became a man to die on a cross. Why? Because he’s a servant. And he wants to serve the human race by bridging the gap between fallen humanity and a holy God. Without that, the gap can’t be overcome. It can only be overcome through the God-man who can represent God before man and man before God then the unique monogenous, God-man. And so our exhortation every single sermon we give here is if anybody is listening and they’re unclear about their eternity with God to fulfill the only condition that God has set forth. To have a relationship with Him, which is to trust, not in one’s own works through some kind of manmade religious system, but to trust or believe or rely upon or depend upon the work Jesus did 2000 years ago, which is magnificently applied here and explained in verses five through 11. So our exhortation is for people out there hearing this to do that if you need more of an explanation, we would encourage you to send us an email. You can find our email address, on the Sugar Land Bible Church website, or you can put a comment down there on Facebook. We love to talk with you about how to become a Christian. Christianity is 100% what He did and we rest in that.
And then as we rest in that it’s so easy to go back to the old sin nature and the world system and pursue selfish ambition. And yet the example of Christ continues on as our role model concerning servanthood. And as we walk out in servanthood, boy, that abiding life. That certainly starts to become a reality, doesn’t it? So the ironic benediction as we conclude, may the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. God bless you. You’re dismissed.