Faith in Christ leads to action
page 11 of 14
Jesus Our Lord and the Model for Us
A non-believer in the first century may have read this passage with curiosity mixed with perplexity about who is Christ, mentioned prominently in the passage. Since belief in Jesus as Christ or Messiah was not accepted, or even known about, in most parts of the ancient world at that time, most non-believers would probably not have given his letter much thought. The non-believer may have considered Paul’s letter as reflecting a faction of Judaism. “Paul’s letters also indicate that relationships with Gentile outsiders was overall positive.” Nonetheless, the non-believer would be perplexed: how could Jesus Christ be compared to a slave and also be called Lord (Philippians 2:7, 11), a term used for the emperor? In this sense, the passage in Philippians could have been considered an affront to the emperor and subversive to Rome. “The earliest information from Gentiles about their perceptions of Christianity come from the early 2nd century. . . . Upon investigation, Pliny concluded that their faith was superstitio – a designation Romans gave to religions they considered strange and non-Roman.” Since Pliny’s observations were made approximately fifty years after Paul’s letter to the Philippians, this designation may not have applied to the letter at the time it was received by the Philippians. Nevertheless, the observation may offer insight into the general view of non-believers toward Christian beliefs.
Philippians 2:1-11 is an important passage for Christians and for the church. Although the circumstances vary greatly, Paul’s message is as relevant to today’s Christians as it was to first-century Christians. The themes of unity, regarding others as highly as oneself, and humility are timeless truths needed to guide Christians. Paul points to Jesus Christ as our model, and even more, as the One who voluntarily gave up the form of God in which he eternally existed—to
 R. Scott Nash, “Christianity in the Eyes of Non-Christians,” in The Eerdmans Companion to the Bible, ed. Gordon D. Fee and Robert L. Hubbard Jr. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2011), 630.
 Nash, Christianity, 631.
Act_17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.