The apostle proceeds in this chapter where he left off in the last, with further exhortations to Christian duties. He presses them largely to like-mindedness and lowly-mindedness, in conformity to the example of the Lord Jesus, the great pattern of humility and love. Here we may observe,
I. The great gospel precept passed upon us; that is, to love one another. This is the law of Christ’s kingdom, the lesson of his school, the livery of his family. This he represents (Phil. 2:2) by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. We are of a like mind when we have the same love. Christians should be one in affection, whether they can be one in apprehension or no. This is always in their power, and always their duty, and is the likeliest way to bring them nearer in judgment. Having the same love. Observe, The same love that we are required to express to others, others are bound to express to us. Christian love ought to be mutual love. Love, and you shall be loved. Being of one accord, and of one mind; not crossing and thwarting, or driving on separate interests, but unanimously agreeing in the great things of God and keeping the unity of the Spirit in other differences. Here observe,
1. The pathetic pressing of the duty. He is very importunate with them, knowing what an evidence it is of our sincerity, and what a means of the preservation and edification of the body of Christ. The inducements to brotherly love are these:—(1.) “If there is any consolation in Christ. Have you experienced consolation in Christ? Evidence that experience by loving one another.” The sweetness we have found in the doctrine of Christ should sweeten our spirits. Do we expect consolation in Christ? If we would not be disappointed, we must love one another. If we have not consolation in Christ, where else can we expect it? Those who have an interest in Christ have consolation in him, strong and everlasting consolation (Heb. 6:18; 2 Thess. 2:16), and therefore ought to love one another. (2.) “Comfort of love. If there is any comfort in Christian love, in God’s love to you, in your love to God, or in your brethren’s love to us, in consideration of all this, be you like-minded. If you have ever found that comfort, if you would find it, if you indeed believe that the grace of love is a comfortable grace, abound in it.” (3.) “Fellowship of the Spirit. If there is such a thing as communion with God and Christ by the Spirit, such a thing as the communion of saints, by virtue of their being animated and actuated by one and the same Spirit, be you like-minded; for Christian love and like-mindedness will preserve to us our communion with God and with one another.” (4.) “Any bowels and mercies, in God and Christ, towards you. If you expect the benefit of God’s compassions to yourselves, be you compassionate one to another. If there is such a thing as mercy to be found among the followers of Christ, if all who are sanctified have a disposition to holy pity, make it appear this way.” How cogent are these arguments! One would think them enough to tame the most fierce, and mollify the hardest, heart. (5.) Another argument he insinuates is the comfort it would be to him: Fulfil you my joy. It is the joy of ministers to see people like-minded and living in love. He had been instrumental in bringing them to the grace of Christ and the love of God. “Now,” says he, “if you have found any benefit by your participation of the gospel of Christ, if you have any comfort in it, or advantage by it, fulfil the joy of your poor minister, who preached the gospel to you.”
2. He proposes some means to promote it. (1.) Do nothing through strife and vain glory, Phil. 2:3. There is no greater enemy to Christian love than pride and passion. If we do things in contradiction to our brethren, this is doing them through strife; if we do them through ostentation of ourselves, this is doing them through vain-glory: both are destructive of Christian love and kindle unchristian heats. Christ came to slay all enmities; therefore let there not be among Christians a spirit of opposition. Christ came to humble us, and therefore let there not be among us a spirit of pride. (2.) We must esteem others in lowliness of mind better than ourselves, be severe upon our own faults and charitable in our judgments of others, be quick in observing our own defects and infirmities, but ready to overlook and make favourable allowances for the defects of others. We must esteem the good which is in others above that which is in ourselves; for we best know our own unworthiness and imperfections. (3.) We must interest ourselves in the concerns of others, not in a way of curiosity and censoriousness, or as busy-bodies in other men’s matters, but in Christian love and sympathy: Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others, Phil. 2:4. A selfish spirit is destructive of Christian love. We must be concerned not only for our own credit, and ease, and safety, but for those of others also; and rejoice in the prosperity of others as truly as in our own. We must love our neighbour as ourselves, and make his case our own.
II. Here is a gospel pattern proposed to our imitation, and that is the example of our Lord Jesus Christ: Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, Phil. 2:5. Observe, Christians must be of Christ’s mind. We must bear a resemblance to his life, if we would have the benefit of his death. If we have not the Spirit of Christ, we are none of his, Rom. 8:9. Now what was the mind of Christ? He was eminently humble, and this is what we are peculiarly to learn of him. Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, Matt. 11:29. If we were lowly-minded, we should be like-minded; and, if we were like Christ, we should be lowly-minded. We must walk in the same spirit and in the same steps with the Lord Jesus, who humbled himself to sufferings and death for us; not only to satisfy God’s justice, and pay the price of our redemption, but to set us an example, and that we might follow his steps. Now here we have the two natures and the two states of our Lord Jesus. It is observable that the apostle, having occasion to mention the Lord Jesus, and the mind which was in him, takes the hint to enlarge upon his person, and to give a particular description of him. It is a pleasing subject, and a gospel minister needs not think himself out of the way when he is upon it; any fit occasion should be readily taken.
1. Here are the two natures of Christ: his divine nature and his human nature. (1.) Here is his divine nature: Who being in the form of God (Phil. 2:6), partaking of the divine nature, as the eternal and only begotten Son of God. This agrees with John 1:1; In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God: it is of the same import with being the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15), and the brightness of his glory, and express image of his person, Heb. 1:3. He thought it no robbery to be equal with God; did not think himself guilty of any invasion of what did not belong to him, or assuming another’s right. He said, I and my Father are one, John 10:30. It is the highest degree of robbery for any mere man or mere creature to pretend to be equal with God, or profess himself one with the Father. This is for a man to rob God, not in tithes and offerings, but of the rights of his Godhead, Mal. 3:8. Some understand being in the form of God—en morphe Theou hyparchon, of his appearance in a divine majestic glory to the patriarchs, and the Jews, under the Old Testament, which was often called the glory, and the Shechinah. The word is used in such a sense by the LXX. and in the New Testament. He appeared to the two disciples, en hetera morphe—In another form, Mark 16:12. Metemorphothe—he was transfigured before them, Matt. 17:2. And he thought it no robbery to be equal with God; he did not greedily catch at, nor covet and affect to appear in that glory; he laid aside the majesty of his former appearance while he was here on earth, which is supposed to be the sense of the peculiar expression, ouk harpagmon hegesato. Vid. Bishop Bull’s Def. cap. 2 sect. 4 et alibi, and Whitby in loc. (2.) His human nature: He was made in the likeness of men, and found in fashion as a man. He was really and truly man, took part of our flesh and blood, appeared in the nature and habit of man. And he voluntarily assumed human nature; it was his own act, and by his own consent. We cannot say that our participation of the human nature is so. Herein he emptied himself, divested himself of the honours and glories of the upper world, and of his former appearance, to clothe himself with the rags of human nature. He was in all things like to us, Heb. 2:17.
2. Here are his two estates, of humiliation and exaltation. (1.) His estate of humiliation. He not only took upon him the likeness and fashion of a man, but the form of a servant, that is, a man of mean estate. He was not only God’s servant whom he had chosen, but he came to minister to men, and was among them as one who serveth in a mean and servile state. One would think that the Lord Jesus, if he would be a man, should have been a prince, and appeared in splendour. But quite the contrary: He took upon him the form of a servant. He was brought up meanly, probably working with his supposed father at his trade. His whole life was a life of humiliation, meanness, poverty, and disgrace; he had nowhere to lay his head, lived upon alms, was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, did not appear with external pomp, or any marks of distinction from other men. This was the humiliation of his life. But the lowest step of his humiliation was his dying the death of the cross. He became obedient to death, even the death of the cross. He not only suffered, but was actually and voluntarily obedient; he obeyed the law which he brought himself under as Mediator, and by which he was obliged to die. I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again: this commandment have I received of my Father, John 10:18. And he was made under the law, Gal. 4:4. There is an emphasis laid upon the manner of his dying, which had in it all the circumstances possible which are humbling: Even the death of the cross, a cursed, painful, and shameful death,—a death accursed by the law (Cursed is he that hangeth on a tree)--full of pain, the body nailed through the nervous parts (the hands and feet) and hanging with all its weight upon the cross,—and the death of a malefactor and a slave, not of a free-man,—exposed as a public spectacle. Such was the condescension of the blessed Jesus. (2.) His exaltation: Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him. His exaltation was the reward of his humiliation. Because he humbled himself, God exalted him; and he highly exalted him, hyperypsose, raised him to an exceeding height. He exalted his whole person, the human nature as well as the divine; for he is spoken of as being in the form of God as well as in the fashion of man. As it respects the divine nature, it could only be the recognizing of his rights, or the display and appearance of the glory he had with the Father before the world was (John 17:5), not any new acquisition of glory; and so the Father himself is said to be exalted. But the proper exaltation was of his human nature, which alone seems to be capable of it, though in conjunction with the divine. His exaltation here is made to consist in honour and power. In honour; so he had a name above every name, a title of dignity above all the creatures, men and angels. And in power: Every knee must bow to him. The whole creation must be in subjection to him: things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, the inhabitants of heaven and earth, the living and the dead. At the name of Jesus; not at the sound of the word, but the authority of Jesus; all should pay a solemn homage. And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord—every nation and language should publicly own the universal empire of the exalted Redeemer, and that all power in heaven and earth is given to him, Matt. 28:18. Observe the vast extent of the kingdom of Christ; it reaches to heaven and earth, and to all the creatures in each, to angels as well as men, and to the dead as well as the living.—To the glory of God the Father. Observe, It is to the glory of God the Father to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord; for it is his will that all men should honour the Son as they honour the Father, John 5:23. Whatever respect is paid to Christ redounds to the honour of the Father. He who receiveth me receiveth him who sent me, Matt. 10:40.