Friday, April 29, 2011

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday May 1, 2011

(Unity through humility)
(Philippians 2:1-11)

The city of Philippi was named after Philip II of Macedonia, who was the father of Alexander the Great. He captured this city from the Thracians in 358 B.C. Philippi is located about 10 miles northwest of the seaport of Neopolis. It was near Neopolis that Mark Anthony and Octavius, who later became Caesar Augustus, defeated Brutus and Cassius, who had murdered Julius Caesar in an attempt to takeover leadership of the Roman Empire. In 42 B.C., the city of Philippi became a part of the original Roman Empire, as a Roman colony.
In A.D. 52, Paul and Silas visited Philippi while on Paul’s second missionary journey. Philippi later became the first European city, in which a Christian church was established. Lydia and her family, as well as the Philippian jailer and his household, were all converted to Christianity by Paul and Silas, before, and during their incarceration there (Acts 16:6-40).
Ironically, Paul wrote this letter to the Philippian church while under house arrest in Rome, some 10 years later. It was written in response to the financial aid and generosity of the Philippian church, both during, and after his visit there in Macedonia. Paul says that they were the only church to respond in such a way to his delivering to them, the good news about CHRIST JESUS (Philippians 4:15-16).
“Fellowship with the SPIRIT” is a result of the SPIRIT’s permanent indwelling ministry, at work within us. GOD’s love in a person’s heart produces a spiritual unity that transforms the life of the recipient of HIS favor. In Philippians chapter 2, verses 1-11, Paul writes of how his joy in his fellowship with the Philippians could be even greater, if they would begin to exhibit more unity, by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, and loving one another, working together with one heart, and for one purpose.
This is perhaps scripture’s clearest portrait of the humility that is called for by CHRIST JESUS. It exhibits not a weak man’s surrender, but rather, it is a depiction of a strong man’s rejection of all things selfish. It paints a picture of one who has a desire to be actively and genuinely concerned with the needs of others.
This unity would be made possible because of the four qualities mentioned by Paul in verse 1. They are qualities that are very realistic, and do not lend themselves as goals that cannot be achieved. They are; Encouragement (that which comes as a result of being united with CHRIST), Comfort, (that which comes from GOD’s love), Fellowship (which comes from the indwelling HOLY SPIRIT), and of course, Tenderness and Compassion (that which comes as a result of experiencing the whole of GOD).
In the biblical Greek, the word used for “self-emptying” is “kenosis”, and it describes the attitude that CHRIST JESUS exemplified throughout HIS three-year earthy mission. In verses 6-11, Paul uses JESUS as the great example of what “true humility” in a Christian should look like. It is believed that these verses come from one of the great hymns of the early church. This particular passage also constitutes a grand statement on Christology, as we see how JESUS took the humble position of a slave, and appeared to us, in human form. During that time, even though HE was GOD, HE did not demand, or cling to HIS rights as GOD, but rather, HE obediently humbled HIMSELF even further, by allowing HIMSELF to die a criminal’s death on the cross, by Roman method, for our sake.
It is because of JESUS’ great sacrifice at Golgotha, that GOD raised HIM up to the heights of Heaven, and gave HIM the name that is above all other names. And it is at the very mention of HIS name, JESUS, that, one day, every knee will bow, and every tongue will have to confess, that JESUS CHRIST is LORD. And on that day, it will all be, for the glory of GOD the FATHER, WHO sent HIM, to save us from ourselves.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

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