In Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, it seems he has a need to appeal to them to greater adherence to the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. No surprise there, right? After all, you don’t get a letter of congratulations from a teacher, you usually get further instruction, even when you get some things right! So what was the problem that the church of Philippian believers were struggling with? Egregious sin like the Corinthians? Conflict and division like the Romans? No, it was (among other things) arrogance.

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

Philippians 1:1-13

This problem manifested in several ways, including complaints and grumbling against fellow believers. But the underlying disease that Paul was concerned with was that lack of humility. Remember that humility is not merely pretending that you aren’t capable or downplaying your resources. That’s false humility. Humility is knowing who you are and acknowledging that that is because of who God is. Working out ones own salvation, therefore, refers not to your ability to earn salvation for yourself but to minding your own business in regards to comparisons that favor you over others.

“If the rest of the church was just like me then we’d have no problems.” “If brother so-and-so would pull his weight like I do…” Those things were so much of an issue, Paul had to remind them of Jesus’ own humility. He emptied himself of the ambition of claiming Godhood in its fullest form on Earth, in order to attain to the goals that God had set forth, by becoming a servant. That’s the pattern for us.

Ethan Kirl