Bible Study on Philippians 2:5-18 May 17, 2020 | Online Bible Class | St. John Lutheran Church

For a PDF version of this study click here.

Philippians 2:5-18 [NLT]
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

12 Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. 13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

14 Do everything without complaining and arguing, 15 so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. 16 Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. 17 But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. 18 Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy.


  1. The Normative Example of Jesus (Philippians 2:5-11)

Jesus provides not only an example, but a norm for Christian relationships.

  • The Foundational Identity of Jesus: in very nature God,
  • The Remarkable Humility of Jesus: made himself nothing
  • The Powerful example of Jesus: obedient to death – even on a cross

The Encouraging Vindication of Jesus

  • Exaltation to the highest place
  • The name that is above every name
  • Universal acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,

The Ultimate Outcome of Jesus’ Work: the glory of God the Father.

Questions for Discussion/Consideration

  • What are some common norms for people’s behavior today? How are these norms related to Genesis 2:16-17; 3:6?
  • When does a norm become a sin? How do we guard against this on a daily basis?
  • Consider this diagram. Notice how it reflects the phrases of Philippians 2 & the Apostle’s Creed. How do you apply this knowledge to your faith? How does it impact your daily life? How should it?

Humiliation & Exaltation of Jesus - LHM

  • Reflect on this quote:

Len Sweet

The final three verses of this hymn [Philippians 2:5-11] reflect as high a Christology as is found anywhere in the Scriptures. God exalts the obedient Christ and then raises the name – that is, the very essence of Jesus – above every other name. That it is the human name “Jesus” that is exalted at the conclusion of this hymn is also held up as part of the “earthly” understanding of this hymn’s text. Having accomplished the goal of his mission, in his obedient death on the cross, this incarnate Jesus is now raised and exalted to complete Lordship.

Jesus’ fully divine status is revealed by the universality of his dominion. Every knee bends, every tongue confesses, “Jesus Christ is Lord.”

  • Consider the glory of God in light of Ephesians 1:6. How does God’s grace relate to God’s glory? What do you make of that?


  1. The Working-Out of Our Salvation: a Corporate Calling (Philippians 2:12-18)

“Therefore” (missing from the NLT) ties this call for obedience to Jesus’ example and victory.

“Your” is plural. This is a corporate calling for…

  • Humility
  • Obedience in fear and trembling
  • Cheerfulness
  • Shining Bright
  • Faithful
  • United

For  Reflection & Discussion

  • What do you think of when you read that we are to work out our salvation “with fear and trembling?
  • Which of these above do you personally struggle with? Which is less difficult for you?
  • Which of these above do we corporately struggle with? Which is less difficult for us?
  • How can we begin to work out our salvation together? What practical things can we do together to strengthen our witness (shining like stars) against the dark backdrop of sin and death?


Gary M. Burge

After ending the hymn, Paul continues with another “therefore.” In light of the example of Christ, Paul explicitly calls the Philippians to a life of obedience following the example of Christ. In light of his current situation of imprisonment, Paul calls them to obey while he is away, as he has known them to obey when he is there (2:12). Yet this obedience is even more important because Paul is not there. When Paul is there with them in Philippi, the Philippians may have obeyed only out of respect for Paul, not out of a genuine desire to obey God in all things. Thus, when Paul is absent, their obedience is a greater indication of their true character. This obedience is to be seen in their following Paul’s instruction: “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (2:12). This is an often misinterpreted passage. First of all, it refers to salvation in the sense of the whole community. Paul has been calling the Philippians to unity and a life lived for others, so he would not then call them to think only of working out their own individual salvation. Here he is concerned about the spiritual life and health of the community, which they are to “work at” (which is a better understanding of the phrase “work out,” just as two people “work out” their differences) until all factionalism, disunity, and selfishness are uprooted and overthrown. The phrase “with fear and trembling” is meant to emphasize that even this act of obedience is to be done in humility and reliance on God. In 2:13 the claim that God is the one who works on their will and desires crushes any interpretation of 2:12 that allows people to earn their salvation.

2020-05-17-Bible Study on Philippians 2_5-18

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