The Humility of Jesus

Philippians 2:1-11

October 2, 2022

Dr. Timothy Melton, Lead Pastor

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Proverbs 11:2 - When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

Proverbs 3:34 - Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.

Micah 6:8 -   He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Luke 14:10 -   For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Proverbs 15:33 -  Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the LORD, and humility comes before honor.

Psalm 25:9 - He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.

Psalm 149:4 - For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.

Romans 12:3 - For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

Romans 12:16 - Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Matthew 23:11-12 - The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, 

and those who humble themselves will be exalted.


All throughout scripture we find this tension between pride and humility. 

James 4:6-8,10 tells us that, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. . . 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Author W.W. Wiersbe tells how this phrase “submit yourselves to God” was a military phrase that meant “get into your proper rank.”  Literally, “know your place.” When a private acts like a colonel or a captain like a general there will be problems. 

In the same way when we, as children of God, want to be the lord of our own lives, take the credit for things that God has done, think too highly of ourselves, or brag about our achievements, we have forgotten our place and pride has taken root. 

The solution to gaining humility is coming into the presence of God. When we are in His presence, He is raised to His rightful place, and we are brought low to take ours. As we are humbled in His presence we find ourselves treasured, secure, loved, and at peace.

When we distance ourselves from God the opposite will be true. We will lose perspective and begin to think less of God and more of ourselves. Pride will take root. At this point our spiritual growth will be brought to a halt and the soil of our hearts will not bear fruit.

In the words of Andrew Murray, 

“Humility is the only soil in which the graces root; (since our dependence on God is the source of our deliverance) the lack of humility is the sufficient explanation of every defect and failure. Humility is not so much a grace or virtue along with others; it is the root of all, because it alone takes the right attitude before God, and allows Him as God to do all.”

Humility is the doorway to all other Christ-like characteristics. In humility we admit our weakness, our dependence, our foolishness, our need for God. As we bow our hearts before God the way is opened for the Spirit to work mightily in our lives. 

In Barclay’s commentary it reads, “Only when a man realizes his own ignorance will he ask for God's guidance. Only when a man realizes his own poverty in the things that matter will he pray for the riches of God's grace. Only when a man realizes his weakness in necessary things will he come to draw upon God's strength. Only when a man realizes his own sin will he realize his need of a Saviour and of God's forgiveness.

Humility is essential if we, as a church, are going to go further in faith. Humility is Paul’s theme as he continues writing to the Philippians. 

In Philippians 2:1-11 Paul is calling the Philippians to unity within the church. Their church was made up of people from different ethnic groups, religious backgrounds and socio-economic levels. If they were not careful it could become a breeding ground for dissension, division and conflict. For the church to be united it had to start with humility and humility must flow out of an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ and the example that they found in Him. Philippians 2 begins with these words. . . 


So, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 


In this verse Paul is stating the obvious. They are encouraged in Christ. They have received comfort from love. They have participated in the Spirit and have experienced affection and sympathy. With all of this in common Paul is exhorting them to be in one accord by having the same mind and same love that comes through knowing Christ. It was this unity that would complete Paul´s joy as he thought about this church in Philippi.

This oneness could have only come from Christ. Their relationship with Christ was the only thing they shared in common. As they each walked near to Christ, vertically, the natural overflow would be unity, horizontally, as they followed Him together. In the words of William Barclay, “The fact that we are all in Christ should keep us in unity. No man can walk in disunity with his fellowmen and in unity with Christ.”

The love of Christ that we have received is to compel us to love others. 

Let me give you an example that’s not from the Bible.  It is written by a man named Victor Hugo. The story is named Les Miserables. It is the story about a man named Jean Val Jean. 

When he was younger he stole some bread for his sister’s family that was starving. He got caught and thrown into prison. He was supposed to be in prison for 5 years, but he tried to escape so many times that he ended of spending 19 years in prison before he finally successfully escaped. The only problem was that in France at this time in history if you had been in prison you had to carry a yellow identification card. That means it was almost impossible to find a job, to stay in a hotel, or to find a place to live. Jean Val Jean became a homeless man who was living in the streets. This was during the years in France before the French Revolution. One night on the street Jean Val Jean met a Catholic Bishop who invited him to come and stay at his home for the night. Everyone in the house went to bed and in the middle of the night Jean Val Jean got up and stole all of the silver objects from the house and left. The next morning the Catholic Bishop was awakened by a knocking at the front door of the house. He opened the door and was greeted by two policeman who had captured Jean Val Jean with all of the Bishop’s silver. The policemen were proud of what they had done. But instead of getting angry the Bishop said to Jean Val Jean, “O my friend, what are you doing? I told you you could have all of the silver and you forgot to take the stands that hold the candles.” He then went and got them and gave them to Jan Val Jean. The policemen stood there in shock. They finally apologized to the Bishop for waking him and left the house. 

The Bishop was left standing there with Jean Val Jean. Jean Val Jean could not believe what just happened. No one had ever treated him like this. The Bishop then said to him, “Be an honest man, and treat people well.” So, the rest of the story is Jean Val Jean walking through life in that time in France trying to reverse the wrong he had done in the past, trying to regain the man that he had once been, and trying to make a difference in other people’s lives. If you watch the movie you will see that he still struggled, but he worked the rest of his life giving away the grace that had been given to him.”

In scripture we are called to do the same. We love because He first loved us. Forgive as you have been forgiven. The Christian life is an act love for others in response to the love that we have received from Christ.

Verse three and four then continue. . .


3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 


The self-centered life was to be set aside and replaced by the God-centered, other-centered life. In response to all that they had received in Christ they were to put away selfishness and serve others. 

“Counting others more significant than yourselves” is not a commandment of low self-esteem or self-abasement. It is putting the needs of others before our own. It is a Christ given desire to selflessly meet the needs of others, even if it calls us to sacrifice. It is living as if others are more significant than ourselves. 

Seeking to meet the needs of our fellow man is a characteristic of being a child of God. We see various examples of this in scripture.

Abraham followed God into the unknown so his descendants could be a blessing to the world. Moses returned to Egypt to free the Hebrew people. David fought Goliath to save the Israelites. Esther risked her life to save the people of Israel. Paul preached the gospel at the risk of his own life for the sake of the salvation of many. This living for others is a characteristic of a child of God.


5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,  6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 


Paul had started out calling them to unity because of what they had received in Christ. He then described how it should affect the way that they live. He then pointed them to Christ as their example.

Jesus is our ultimate example of humility. Jesus Christ, who was divine, left His place in heaven, took on the form of a man, and came to earth. But that was not all. He willingly laid down His life on the cross. He counted Himself amongst those who were cursed by being killed on a tree (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). For our sake God made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Humility not only characterized Christ in His death, it also was the way that He lived His life.  We see it in His humble birth in a manger. We see it as He took time for unappreciated children, as He touched the unclean leper, as He spoke to the sinful Samaritan woman, as he ate with tax collectors and called uneducated, normal men to be His disciples.

Jesus never pursued man´s accolades, reputation or political power. Even though He had the authority to call a legion of angels to save Him and a crowd that at one time wanted to make Him King, Jesus still chose the way of washing feet and loving the unloveable. He came to seek and save the lost. He was the lamb who came to take away the sins of the world. Although He was God, He walked in humility.

When thinking of Jesus´ humility we find a helpful passage in John 13:1-17. It is the story of Jesus washing the disciples´ feet. “Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. . . The evening meal was being served.” It tells how Jesus took off His outer clothing and wrapped a towel around His waist. He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet. It was a shocking experience for the disciples. How could Jesus Christ, the Son of God, wash their feet?

The key to these verses is found in verse three. 

3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God.” 

Jesus knew his relationship with God the Father, and it put him in the right mindset to humble Himself before others and serve them. It is the same with us. When we are reminded of who we are in Christ we once again “get into our proper rank. We find our place.” As we draw near to Christ we are humbled in comparison and at the same time secure because we are His.

We no longer have a need to look good to others or win their approval. In Christ we have been forgiven, loved, accepted and valued. The Savior of the world loves us. Because we already have been given all that we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4) we can humble ourselves before others and serve them. We no longer “need” anything from them. 

A humble heart has no room for ego or pride or arrogance because it recognizes that all we have and all we are comes from God, As Paul reminded the Corinthians: “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). Every gift, every talent, every breath we take—all are from God, as is our most precious gift, salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). “Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded…by the law of faith” (Romans 3:27).

Paul was calling the Philippians to unity through humility, and Jesus was their example to follow. Paul then wrote of the law of humility and exaltation.


9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


Because Christ had humbled Himself, God exalted Him. This truth, on a smaller scale, is promised for us as well. In Matthew 23:11-12 Jesus stated to his disciples, “The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” James 4:10 echos a similar sentiment, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you."

In Christ we find this truth magnified to its full extent. Christ, 

“though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

“9 Therefore, God has highly exalted him. . .” 

Ultimate humility was rewarded with ultimate exaltation. 

“so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Acts 2:6-11)

It is a picture of Jesus Christ returning to His rightful place of lordship. Where every person will respond in submission when faced with the presence of Christ. With that in mind we must remember. . .

In the presence of God, who rules over the entire universe, humility is one´s only option. Ask Isaiah who encountered God in the temple in Isaiah 6 and was driven to his knees and utter repentance, confession and service. For one to be a Christian and at the same time walk in pride is an indicator of how far we have drifted from Christ. It is similar to one standing out under the billions of stars of heaven on a dark night and bragging about how great they are. It is unthinkable.

Or it is like the Eiffel Tower, in Paris, France. From a distance it looks interesting.  Up close it leaves you in awe. The same is true with God. From a distance God seems domesticated and controllable, but up close, when we walk with Him intimately we are overwhelmed by all that He is. 

As we draw near to God His holiness will convict us of sin. His strength will reveal our weakness. His wisdom will expose our ignorance. At the same time, He will heal our brokenness. He will provide for our needs. He will love us unconditionally. He will be our security and our peace. He will be our everything and our response to this Savior, who draws near . . . will be humility. When we see Him clearly, we will be humbled completely.


Practically speaking. . .

When we lack humility, and instead are carried along by pride, we think more highly of ourselves than we ought. We become self-sufficient, self- righteous, over-bearing, easily offended, and defensive because we must protect our position. Life becomes a competition where we seek to make ourselves look better and others look worse. We compare ourselves to others, horizontally, resulting in pride, instead of seeing ourselves vertically, in light of God, which results in humility.  

We appear strong when we are fragile and insecure. We build our identity and worth on unstable ground and live with fear that our self-made castle will be torn down by another. We wear a mask, fearing that others will find out about our imperfections. 

That is a godless way to live. As Christians we don´t need the mask anymore. That is a relic of the past. As Christians we all have confessed our sin and our need for Christ´s redemption. We have been forgiven and are now fully known and fully loved. We have been brought low by the conviction of the Spirit and raised up to walk in newness of life. We can now live in the reality of our imperfections because our house is built upon the rock of grace.

Pride no longer serves any purpose in our lives. Christ is now our confidence and the exalter of all who walk in humility. The Gospel ushers us into true humility and the riches of the Christian life.

In our moments of pride, when we are wronged, in our hearts we cry out, “I deserve better!” But do we? How can we act the part of the righteous judge? Have we not sinned against a holy God? Do we not deserve eternal condemnation? Can we even claim to deserve the simplest beat of our hearts or the breath that we just breathed? In Christ, have we not already been blessed beyond anything that we could ask or imagine? Humility remembers that it all is an undeserved gift and responds to difficulties and even difficult people with a grateful heart.

If we are children of God, then humility is God´s will for our lives. That leaves us with two options. We either humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord or He will do it for us. Examples of this are John the Baptist and King Nebuchadnezzar.

In John 3 we see the humility of John the Baptist. Once Jesus began His public ministry the crowds began to follow Jesus more than John. When John was asked about this, he told of how his role was to prepare the way for the Christ and that his joy was now complete. Speaking of Jesus, John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” No pride. No fighting for position or popularity. John willingly humbled himself because he knew his place, who he was and whom he served.

We see the opposite in the life of King Nebuchadnezzar. God took Him through various experiences to show the king the greatness of God and yet the king did not humble himself. In the end God took away his sanity for seven years. The scriptures say that the king ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles' feathers, and his nails were like birds' claws” (Daniel 4:33). Only then did the king humble himself, lift up his eyes to heaven, and “bless the Most High. . . who lives forever.”

We see this same working of humility in the lives of David, King Hezekiah, Peter and even Moses who was used by God in miraculous ways but of whom it was still said, “He was more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3)

For those who seek humility and desire to join with God in the process, here are some practical ideas.

Intentionally choose the position and posture of humility. In it you will find peace and freedom, also remembering that God will exalt those who humble themselves. As this posture of humility becomes a habit, pray that God will make it the condition of your heart.

Give your full attention to walking in the presence of God. Throw off anything that is drawing you away from God and add to your life that which will nurture your relationship with Him. In His presence your heart will be brought low and strengthened in Him.

Practice gratitude. Admit your weaknesses. Be transparent about your imperfections. Serve others. Gladly receive conviction. Pray to be made humble. Think of Christ often.

In this, may the Spirit guide you into all humility which will open the door to all that God has planned for you.