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Christian Biblical Studies
All Scripture citations are to the King James Version (KJV), unless indicated otherwise.
Philippians 2: 5 –
THE MIND is the mental faculty that enables one to think, will, and feel, and is the seat of the intelligence and memory. It constitutes the essential person, one’s identity. What Bacon calls man’s melior natura (better nature) is due to the mind, which elevates the human species above the animals. Only Man is capable of being objective and subjective at the same time: to be conscious of being conscious. To stand outside of Self and look back on Self as a separate entity. This me-awareness is an extraordinary function of Mind. Its existence is at odds with the now pervasive evolutionary assumption that all faculties and abilities inherent in Man are by-products of a Mind-less process.
Altruism and sacrifice of the self in order, say, to defend another, is certainly a phenomenon of the animal world, though this is not a manifestation of the self-conscious variety common to humankind. Man’s mind has an innate capacity for self-examination, including that of comparison – setting personal interest against that of another person. One may decide to act on selfish motives or subordinate one’s preference in order to do good to someone else. This is a moral action.
Such an action is nowadays interpreted as one imposed on the human mind by a legacy of evolution, the only ‘goal’ of which is to promote the long-term advantage of the species. This seems like an adaptation of a fact to fit the theory. It stops any discussion of morality dead in its tracks. The long-term consequences of such an approach ought to be obvious. In the absence of a true, absolute morality, one has to be cobbled together from these psycho-evolutionary ‘remnants’ in order to maintain some semblance of civilised order.
The Christian man or woman is called to cultivate a state of mind which finds only a lesser counterpart in the normal social order. Self-denial for eternal interests is at the root of the Christian life. And its associated quality, that of self-sacrifice, is in Christian theology elevated to a degree usually thought peculiar by the ‘natural’ mind. Indeed, we might say Christianity is a relinquishment of the ‘natural’ mind, concentrating as it does on the abrogation of the self for the eternal benefit of others.
The Apostle Paul enunciates this principle in 1 Corinthians 15 when discussing the resurrection of the world in the earthly kingdom. In verse 19 he asserts that the Christian life might be considered worthless had Christ not been raised from the dead:
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
After his commentary on the Millennial reign of Christ and the elimination of all enemies – including death itself – he returns to the question in verse 29:
Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?
This baptism ‘for the dead’ is an oblique reference to the reward promised to the members of the Church, the Little Flock, that they would live and reign with Christ and would, with Him, bestow blessings of eternal life on the world of mankind. In other words, their consecration – the figurative baptism – and their sacrifice in this life prepare them to do eternal good to the non-elect world – an exquisite example of heavenly-minded altruism that sees beyond one’s present existence to an as-yet unrealised future.
In the text quoted at the head of this article (Philippians 2: 5), the English word ‘mind’ is not translated from any Greek literal equivalent. In the Greek the text reads, ‘let this be in you as it was in Christ Jesus’. The meaning of ‘mind’ is therefore derived, and may also be read as ‘disposition’ or ‘attitude’. It is another way of saying, ‘be like Him’. The Apostle then calls forth his illustration:
6 [Jesus], being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
In this King James Version, the nature and status of Christ is made equivalent to that of God: ‘thought it not robbery to be equal with God’. In other words, this rendering implies that Jesus did not regard His being on equal terms with God as unusual, or a usurpation of power.
Such a conclusion is at variance with the lesson Paul sets forth in verses 3 and 4:
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
The flow of the argument, therefore, is that the brethren should not try to gain advantage of one another – one-upmanship – but that they should submit to one another.
The following translations vary in their rendering of Philippians 2: 6 (we’ve highlighted the relevant section):
New International Version (British) (NIV-UK):
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped
Revised Standard Version (RSV):
who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped
American Standard Version (ASV):
who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped
New English Bible (NEB):
This last translation renders the phrase ‘in the form of God’, found in other translations, as ‘divine nature’, and as synonymous with the Almighty God. Additionally, it contradicts itself by hinting at the possibility of a usurpation, in the words ‘[Christ] did not think to snatch’ at it. However, the Scriptures allow that Jesus became divine after His resurrection (John 5: 26; ‘life in himself’ – self-sufficient existence, immortality). Then, too, the Gospel-Age followers of Christ – the Little Flock – are said to inherit the divine nature at their resurrection (2 Peter 1: 4). Their divinity does not make them the functional equivalent of God.
The translations cited depart from the rendering in the KJV in that they accurately reflect the rank of Jesus relative to that of Almighty God. For if Jesus already had Personal equality with God – ‘co-equality’ as asserted by the doctrine of the Trinity – He had no need to contemplate a usurpation. By implication, therefore, His being ‘in the form of God’ cannot be equivalent to the belief that Jesus was, or is, God Himself.
In other articles we have explained that Jesus had a pre-human existence – in the form of God, as shown in John 1: 1. The translations quoted above reflect this important truth. And in so doing they unintentionally reinforce the doctrine that Jesus in his pre-human existence was inferior to God.
In some remarkable way not revealed to us, the pre-existing life of Jesus was transferred to a (perfect) human nature, several orders of being lower than the nature He had before. (Man is a step below the angelic order; the angels are lower than the divine.) In this regard then, as the Apostle Paul says, Jesus ‘humbled’ Himself, taking on the ‘form of a servant’ (doulos, slave), the antithesis of the ‘form of God’.
The intended meaning of Philippians 2: 6 seems to be this: Though Jesus was God-like, He did not attempt to take over God’s position. This is the first principle that the Apostle seeks to inculcate in the Philippian brethren: Do not compete with or try to outdo one another, regarding the other as a rival. Rather, he says to them, you should love one another and co-operate, considering the other as better than yourself, putting yourself second. In this you should be like Jesus . . . and so forth.
Because of His faithful ministry and death on the cross, thus fulfilling the will of His Father, Jesus was raised from the dead and rewarded with exaltation to a position above all (except God) verse 9). This statement implies that Jesus was promoted to a rank or status that He did not have before.
Drawing on the example of Christ’s humility, the Apostle affirms the principle which runs through Scripture, that God is a rewarder of all who do His will. None shall ‘lose their reward’ (Matthew 10: 41, 42). God sets His seal on this by the exaltation of Jesus, just as His death guarantees the resurrection of the saints and, in God’s Kingdom, the resurrection of the non-elect world of mankind (John 5: 28, 29).
As consecrated, self-denying Christians, we should emulate Christ Jesus, the Pattern. We ought not to live for self-gratification or pursue advantage over others from envy or jealousy, nor be overly insistent on our ‘rights’, whatever we perceive them to be. Like our Saviour, we should cultivate our desire to do the Father’s will and to love right principle for its own sake.
In short, to let His mind be in us.
Scriptures not quoted in the text:2 Peter 1: 4 (KJV)
4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
John 1: 1 (KJV)
Philippians 2: 9 (KJV)
9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name.
Matthew 10: 41, 42 (KJV)
41 He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.
42 And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.
John 5: 28, 29 (KJV)
28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
Copyright October 2010 ukbiblestudents.co.uk
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