Philippians 2:5-11                                                    


“Think this among you which also in Christ Jesus.” That’s the Greek text literally translated. How do we supply the missing verb? To supply a “to be” verb points to the imitation of Christ, but Paul may have instead wanted convey this idea: “show among yourselves the attitude that arises from the fact that you are in Christ.” The difference is between a command to have the attitude that was in Christ Jesus and the command to have an attitude that belongs to those who are in him. That is, it is the difference between imitation and kergyma.

‘harpagmos (v 6)- something to be “grasped” (NRSV). [ NIV = “exploited;” NLT = “demand and cling to;” TEV = “by force he should try to remain equal;” Philips = “did not cling to his prerogatives as God’s equal.” ] Apparently, much debate over the language and meaning of this word; however, “to be exploited” seems closest to reaching consensus-equality with God was something that Christ already possessed, but which he chose not to use for his own advantage.


Christ did not cease to be ‘in the form of God’ when he took the form of a slave, any more than he ceased to be the ‘Son of God’ when he was sent into the world. On the contrary, it is in his self-emptying and his humiliation that he reveals what God is like, and it is through his taking the form of a slave that we see ‘the form of God.’


This piece of early Christian hymnody could move in two directions in a homily. First, the hymn provides a teaching about Christ. Like John’s prologue, incarnation begins outside of time and space and becomes particularized in our own time/space world.

The piece could also present for us Jesus as the model of humility; the entire movement would have astonished readers of the first century; such a heavenly narrative could never have resulted in a servant’s harness. Yet, that very journey has inspired thousands of those who bear his name to follow down that road of humility.

In either case this piece might simply teach that “This is the gospel. This is what God is like. This is what God has done for you, and this is what God expects you to be like. Work out what that means yourselves!”


For an example of blocking a homily on this passage, please see the DPS homily archive for September 2, 2001.



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