The Christ Hymn

April 9, 2006
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Philippians 2:1-11

Join Hearts And Be Of One Mind

1. Today we read together the epistle that Paul addressed to the church at Philippi. He says to the people of the church, "So then, if among you, in any amount, there is encouragement from Christ, the comfort of his love, fellowship from 'the Spirit,' or hearts of tenderness and compassion, be of the same mind, fulfill my joy by holding to the same love, uniting your hearts, and acting as one mind," (Philippians 2:1-2). Paul is presently in jail. Perhaps he might be alive but he cannot get out. What Paul [in that position] wanted so earnestly was not that he himself be freed. [He wanted] the people in the church at Philippi to "unite hearts and act as one mind." When you read this letter, Paul's mind speaks out quite sharply.

2. But, oh how hard it seems to be for people to unite their hearts with others! It may not be so very difficult to end all the superficial squabbles and the disorderliness. If you're just trying to keep order, it can be done by some higher compelling authority. If one "uv 'ems tough," order can be preserved. However, one cannot pull off "the uniting of hearts" by the force of government or command or by some compelling power. It goes beyond there being [apparent] tranquility and calm. Paul demanded it from them.

3. This should also be surprising in a sense. All kinds of people assemble in a church. Hold it, to put it more accurately, [all kinds of people] are assembled by Christ. Thus, the people who belong to it are different even in their respective environments in which they were born and raised. The situations in their day to day living differ. They have assorted backgrounds even regarding social ideas and concepts. [In Paul's day] some were slaves. Some were free. Some were Jews and some were Gentiles. Yet, in regard to that church as it was, in a very sincere tone he asked them to "be of the same mind, hold to the same love, unite your hearts and act as one mind."

4. Why [did he ask for] that? Paul said, "if among you, in some measure, there is encouragement from Christ, the comfort of his love, fellowship from 'the Spirit,' or hearts of tenderness and compassion ..." That's why [he asked for it]. As for the the substance of the content, the words translated here as "if ... there is" should be translated "because there is." Paul wasn't supposing that they didn't have any of these things. They were given the encouragement from Christ, the comfort of God's love, and the fellowship from the Holy Spirit. That's why Paul is saying, "act as one mind and fulfill my joy."

5. The encouragement from Christ, the comfort of God's love, and the fellowship from the Holy Spirit -- haven't these been given to us right here? Haven't these been given to Shoei Church? If we don't have [these gifts] completely, then [we're] not a church. If we're "a church" and we've been given these [gifts] "in some measure," I would think that we too should require of ourselves that we "be of the same mind, hold to the same love, unite our hearts, and act as one mind." Saying "You aren't becoming one" and criticizing [everyone] except our own selves is easy. But, however much we speak out against this, we won't become one or anything close. The main thing is that we put ourselves into it and pursue it together.

Not Acting Out Of Self-Interest And Self-Glory

6. So, what ought we to do specifically? Paul says, "Do not do anything out of self-interest and self-glory, but humble yourselves, consider each other superior to your own self, and each one of you pay heed to other people's matters and not just your own," (verses three and four).

7. [The scripture] is speaking of only ordinary things, things so uninvitingly flat. Everyone is to think on such things and to speak on them every where. Whenever everyone is moving from self-interest and self-glory, we cannot become one or act as one. It's what you'd expect. Everybody will see how that the pride that thinks of oneself as superior to others will bring division to the community. Going by the degree to which I've spoken about it, don't you think that nothing at all about this should even have to be mentioned in a worship service of a church?

8. Actually it does. This has meaning for the very reason that it is spoken about in church worship. [I say that] because self-interest, self-glory, humbled hearts and all that are related to the motivations behind human actions. And in the truest sense, where the part about motivations will most likely be challenged is not [so much] in the presence of the people, but in the presence of God.

9. When it's just a human being that you're dealing with, that part is patchable for the most part. We can say, "I'm doing this for you, not for me." We can claim "This is for society." We can claim "It's for God; it's for Christ." But, really, in the person there it's most likely selfishness and conceitedness that is moving the person. The person could be pretending to look humble. But, what's really going on in him or her is a haughtiness in which he or she glories in one's humble self. The human heart is deceitful. It even deceives itself. It is the time when a person worships God that light will shine into [one's heart] in a true sense. This message from Paul will have meaning precisely because it has been read out loud now, it is being spoken now in a worship service.

10. Therefore, Paul doesn't end his speech here. A beautiful piece of prose is written in verses six and following and they say this section was probably a praise song that used to be sung in the churches back then. It is called "The Christ Hymn." I quote from the praise hymn sung during worship. "While being in the rank of God, Christ did not want to insist on being equal to God, but instead he made himself into nothing, he became the rank of servant, and he became equal to a human being. He appeared in human form, he humbled himself, he was obedient even to the point of death, even to the point of death on the cross. For that reason, God lifted Christ high and gave him a name more excellent than any other name. Thus, the things in heaven, the things on earth, the things under the earth, all of it all, kneels down to the name of Jesus, every tongue will declare publicly that 'Jesus Christ is the Lord,' and will extol God the Father with the highest of praises," (verse six through eleven).

Even To A Death On The Cross

11. As we can see right away even in reading this song in Japanese, it is divided into two sections. The first half is from verse six to verse eight. The second half is from verse nine to verse eleven. But though, the first section is a little bit longer. The part that throws off the rhythm of it as a song is where it has "even to the point of death on the cross." They say that this is probably the part that Paul tacked on to it as he was quoting it. In this manner then, Paul did quote it and even put his hand onto the song just a bit, and more particularly, we see right away that it is the first section that has a connection to his exhortation just before that they "do nothing out of self-interest and self-glory, but humble yourselves ..." because in verse eight the message "humble yourselves" can be found. Being sung about here in this text is the One who did not live in any self-interest whatsoever, the One who had totally humbled himself.

12. But, if by showing the figure of Jesus as completely humble, he was only wanting to say "Learn from Him, [this One so selfless, so humble]," he wouldn't have needed the words "even to the point of death on the cross." If Christ originally only showed us just a model of humility, there probably wouldn't have been this [part] of his being killed by being crucified. For, normally when a person as a model of humility is respected, he or she would not be executed by capital punishment on a cross. Therefore, the reason Paul broke convention and added on "even to the point of death on the cross" must be because he was thinking of something more than "Learn from him."

13. When you've been thinking about it like this, then the saying in verse eight to "humble yourselves" doesn't seem to be about some kind of virtue of "humility or self-humiliation." To begin with, the main thing in "humbling oneself" is "Before whom did you humble yourself?" It goes without saying that, in this case, it is "before God." That's why the phrase "he was obedient" comes next. That Christ "was obedient" means that he obeyed the will of God the Father.

14. So, how does one define the will of God? The scriptures thoroughly speak about the will of God; it is the salvation of human beings. The will of God which Christ obeyed is defined as none other than the will of God that wants to save people. It is the will of God that desires to save us human beings whose condition is like sheep which are wandering the wilderness having lost our shepherd, having turned our backs in rebellion against God, and separated from Him. It is the will of God that desires to save us human beings whose condition is like the prodigal son who ran away from home and then ended up in rags. In order for a sinner who has rebelled against God to be restored into fellowship with God, God willed that he place the burden of the sins of all persons upon his sinless son, and find him guilty of those very sins. That is the will of God. Indeed, the one who followed that will in obedience is Jesus Christ, the sinless son [of God].

15. In brief, it is not a humble figure that we're supposed to use for a model that is being sung about in this song. It is the figure of Christ as the savior. Christ did not want to insist on being equal to God, but gave up [his] glory, became a man, became completely lowly, and went to [his] death on a cross in order to save us. [He did it] in order to save sinful us, who move around according to the self-interest and selfishness that lies at the core of our being, who plan things in order to satisfy our self-glory and conceit, and who cover up our pridefulness through some great cause. [He did it] in order to save us so truly difficult to save, who are satisfied by looking down upon others, and who pursue only our own things. In order to save us the way we were and to bring us to life, Christ gave up the glory of God and went to his death on the cross. That figure of Christ was for me and for you.

16. It is the will of God to love us. It is Jesus Christ the son who followed that will and loving us he was obedient even in going to a death on the cross. It is we who now lift up our faces towards God, are made to live in fellowship with God, and worship together in God's presence because of [Christ's] deeds. The words of this exhortation was spoken to us as we are precisely because of how we are, saying, "Do not do anything out of self-interest and self-glory, but humble yourselves, consider each other superior to your own self, and each one of you pay heed to other people's matters and not just your own."

17. Since this is being said [to us] in the presence of the Lord and since we're hearing it as that kind of message, what answer will we give to it? In the presence of the Lord where every pretense and so-called fix becomes insignificant, isn't the only thing that we can say just, "O Lord, have mercy on sinful us?" And I'd say that's quite all right.

18. "O Lord, have mercy on sinful us" -- Here we are in this place [but] when we truly pray that way from the core of our being, and when we can keep on making a prayer like that, we can and will change. This church can change. I believe that. Then in a real sense, our selfishness and conceit will begin to collapse. Nobody will need to tell himself or herself, "I had better humble myself;" and then we should be expecting to begin walking on the path that goes towards "being of one mind, holding to the same love, joining our hearts, and acting as one mind."