Christian Service: A Sign of Salvation
…complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own but also to the others. Have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a grasping thing, but made hiumself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
The main point that rises from the opening exhortation of Philippians 2 is this: God shows me how He saved me as you serve me! That is, I receive a physical, visible, tangible demonstration of the way God worked to accomplish my salvation as I am served by my “gospel-partners” (as Paul loves to call believers, Phil. 1:5).
God Shows Me
Paul has just mentioned the “one mind” that governs a believers’ manner of life at the end of chapter 1. In 1:27 he encourages us that when we “stand firm in one spirit, with one mind, striving side by side for the sake of the gospel…this is a clear sign of your salvation.” Furthermore, this sign comes “from God.” In His mercy, God has ordained that believers receive a sign of His otherwise invisible gift of saving faith (1:6; 1:29; 2:13). This sign comes in the shape of “believers being of the same mind.” This mind is explicitly identified in 2:5 as “the mind which is yours in Christ.” So what we all participate in by the Spirit (2:1) is the mind of Christ. Therefore, when a saint sees a group of people around him who all share with him in the one mind of Christ, God is signaling to that saint the certainty and reality of His saving work. Believers striving together with one mind serve as a clear sign of God’s salvation.
How He Saved Me
This sign works to signal our salvation because the mind of Christ in the saints moves them to serve one another in the same way they have been served by Christ. Paul works in 2:5-8 to outline the manner of life that results from a Christ-like mindset. Christ Himself is our pattern! Christ did not count equality with God a grasping thing, that is, a privileged position from which to promote Himself. As we share His mind we will count others more significant than ourselves. He humbled Himself and took the form of a servant. So we will humble ourselves and look out for the interests of others. He emptied himself, and so we must not do anything from vain (empty) glory. Christian service is patterned after Christ’s saving work.
The operable word in both vss 1-4 (our manner of life) and 5-8 (Christ’s example) is “count.” We must “count” others more significant than ourselves even as Christ did not “count” equality with God a thing to be grasped. The significance of this word is that it does not require our response to one another to reflect the way things are, but the we consider them to be. Christ’s example makes this plain. He was the King. We were not worthy of His service. Therefore He did not humble Himself and serve us because He owed us. Rather, in humility He counted unworthy slaves to be worthy of His coming, living and dying. This “counting” is the core dynamic at work in “the mind of Christ.” Therefore as believers we choose to count one another as more important. And by this counting we choose to serve their interests ahead of our own.
This service is the heart of the gospel. In John 13 we see a vivid picture. On the night he would complete his humiliation by going to the cross, Jesus rose from supper, laid aside his outer garments, took a towel, and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciple’s feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
This majestically simple story pictures the seven verbs of our salvation. It is an eyewitness account of Philippians 2:6. As co-equal and co-eternal with the Father, Jesus rose from His seat at the Father’s right hand and laid aside the privileges of the Godhead as He took to Himself the humility of a servant’s form, tying human frailty to divine majesty. Coming to the cross he poured out his blood for our cleansing, washing away the stain of our sin and wiping away all our fearful tears. God saved us by an act of unparalleled service!
As You Serve Me
John finishes his account this way: “After washing, he resumed his place and said,“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”
From Philippians 2 we know that Christ has indeed “resumed his place”, God having highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
It is this exalted Jesus, then, who says to us, “As I have washed your feet, so you ought to wash one another’s feet.” As I have served you, so you should serve one another. As I have counted your interests more significant than my own, so you should count one another as more significant than yourselves. This is the mind of Christ. The mind that shows itself in service to the saints. When we serve one another, letting His mind direct our manner of life, we are demonstrating the saving service of Christ. It is for this reason that we can say – God shows me how He saved me as you serve me.
This sign of our salvation – saints standing firm in one mind, the mind of Christ, a mind that manifests itself in service – is given by God to encourage the church as we see in it the proof and power of our salvation. What a glorious weight and eternal purpose this passage gives to our daily work. Every need is an opportunity to demonstrate the saving service of Christ. And every need met is an invitation to worship the God of our salvation. God shows me how He saves me as you serve me.