Living and Dynamic

Living and Dynamic

Recognizing False Dichotomies in Approaches to Theology

False dichotomies abound in our churches today. Considering the endless variety of personalities sitting in the pews, it is no surprise conflicts arise. For example: Many services have a slavish devotion to rituals, which overshadow genuine appreciation of God’s grace. There are those who believe in salvation by works and those who believe in salvation by faith. There are even dichotomies between love and hell (How can an all loving and merciful God send anyone to hell?)

It is challenging to avoid such tensions.

One such false dichotomy is that of Faith versus Reason. Kapic went into great detail of how the two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, “reason rightly works in the service of faith; and because of this, faithful theology does not despise rational reflection.”[1] To use a common phrase, it is a two-way street.

I have personally encountered this situation many times in my Christian walk. Faith versus Reason seems to be a common “go-to” counterargument when witnessing to non-Christians in particular. Non-believers assume that to be Christian is to abandon Reason. They also assume that by choosing Faith, we are being narrow-minded. However, according to Kapic, quite the opposite is true. “Faith expands our horizon, whereas a rejection of faith closes down inquiry and possible knowledge.”[2]

A common false dichotomy in contemporary worship is the dreaded word: change. There are members in every church who have a rigid loyalty to how the service was performed by their parents and their parents’ parents. There are also members who want to try something new even if it hasn’t been tested. On the one hand, if we stubbornly refuse to be flexible in our approach to worship then we run the risk of growing stale and stagnant. Conversely, if we defiantly forsake the “tried and true” practices of our predecessors, we run the risk of veering off course and missing the mark.

From Herman Bavink’s statement, “theological dogma is always a combination of two elements: divine authority and churchly confession,” Kapic concluded “we can value tradition without elevating it to the status of sacred writing.”[3] I believe he would advise the church to never forget it’s corporate purpose: to be a “living and dynamic response to God’s Word,” in whatever situation. It would require one to be mindful of the past and mindful of the future for one to be considered “living and dynamic.”

An obvious solution to this common dilemma is another dreaded word of our times: compromise. If both sides acknowledged the validity and importance of the other, a mutual respect could be attained. For example, if the source of tension is contemporary praise music as opposed to traditional hymns in the service, then each camp could concede in allowing both. The practical application would be for each praise song, a hymn could be sung. Meeting in the middle, so to speak, a balance is reached.

I propose that conflicts are inevitable, why not embrace them? A policy of open dialogue is far more conducive to ministry than a policy of cold shoulders. In John 13:35 Jesus revealed how Christians would be recognized. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for another (NIV).” Recognizing and resolving false dichotomies is just one of a million ways that we can demonstrate love to our fellow Christians.

[1] Kelly M. Kapic. A Little Book for New Theologians (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012), 52.

[2] Ibid., 54.

[3] Ibid., 78.


Kapic, Kelly M. A Little Book for New Theologians. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012.

Submitted to Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of the course SEMI 500.


Tasks of a Pastor

Top 5 Tasks of a Pastor

The pastor of a congregation wears many hats. He has his finger constantly on the pulse of his church’s spiritual wellness. He is available to the Lord’s call and to the call of his flock. He is a servant to the servants. Although there are a multitude of tasks that a pastor may find himself performing, here are the top 5:

  1. Preaching
  2. Under-shepherding
  3. Praying
  4. Modeling
  5. Loving/Serving

Preaching: Not that this list is in any particular order, but preaching is given priority because when one thinks of a pastor or preacher, one automatically thinks of a person in a pulpit giving a Biblical message. After all, preachers preach. Teaching his flock the Word of God is of utmost importance to one called to the office of pastor (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:9).

Under-shepherding: The word “pastor” comes from a Latin word, which means, “shepherd.” Jesus is the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4) and pastors are His under-shepherds. In His absence, Jesus instructed Peter to feed His sheep (John 21:15-17). As a literal shepherd guards, protects, and tends to his flock, a pastor guards, protects, and tends to the needs of the congregation (1 Pet. 5:2; Acts 20:28). There is no more tender and powerful metaphor than this.

Praying: A pastor’s first responsibility is to God, the Father. An open dialogue and intimate relationship is absolutely vital to successful ministry (Eph. 6:18). The early church fathers practiced “night and day praying exceedingly” (1 Thes. 3:10). How much more should contemporary pastors?

Modeling: Pastors are to live a life worth imitating (1 Pet. 5:3). Paul was able to say, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). How many Christians could say that? This doesn’t mean that pastors are supposed to act like they “have it all together” all the time. It means being honest about successes and shortcomings. Pastors represent Christianity to the world and therefore ought to do their best to do so “justly and blamelessly” (1 Thes. 2:10).

Loving/Serving: These two tasks are co-joined because, could they ever be separated? Just as Christ came to serve (Matt. 20:28), likewise, a pastor is to lovingly serve his fellow man. A local pastor once said that becoming a pastor is not a step up, but a step down into servitude. Christians in general, but pastors in particular, are called to a life of serving “one another in love” (Gal. 5:13). A pastor who loves, serves and a pastor who serves, loves. It is a win-win.

Submitted to Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of the course LEAD 635 Theology of Pastoral Ministry

Systematic Theology

Doesn’t all this talk of theology just complicate matters that are already confusing enough? What is systematic theology? What is theology for that matter? In order for two people to have any kind of dialogue, they need a common vernacular and common ways to relate beliefs, thoughts, and concerns. That is where systematic theology proves its worth.

In Elwell’s “Evangelical Dictionary of Theology,” B.A. Demarest defines systematic theology in an abbreviated fashion as, “The attempt to reduce religious truth to a coherent and relevant whole for the church.”[1] Later in his article, He expands the definition of theology:

“Theology might be more fully defined as the discipline that (1) presents a unified formulation of truth concerning God and his relationship to humanity as set forth primarily in divine revelation and secondarily in classical church teaching and the field of human knowledge and that (2) applies such truths to the entire range of human life and thought.”[2]

This definition of systematic theology relates to other disciplines of theology such as biblical theology, historical theology, and philosophical theology by—as Demarest concludes—“incorporating”[3] them all. However, before exploring these relations, it may be prudent to define biblical, historical, and philosophical theology.

Biblical Theology

Millard J. Erickson in “Christian Theology,” states that one can think of biblical theology as “the theological content of the Old and New Testaments, or the theology found within individual biblical books.”[4] For example, one can look at the teachings of Paul across multiple epistles or isolate Paul’s specific message to an individual church. Either way, this is an example of constructing a biblical theology. Simply put, Erickson says biblical theology is a “theology that is biblical, that is, based on and faithful to the teachings of the Bible.”[5]

Historical Theology

Historical theology is the study of “how others have done it before us.”[6] It looks at systematic theology through the lens of time. If biblical theology is the “raw material”[7] from which systematic theology works, then “history is theology’s laboratory”[8] where those materials can be observed. Historical theology offers the invaluable attribute of hindsight.

Philosophical Theology

Erickson expounds that philosophical theology may “(1) supply content for theology, (2) defend theology or establish its truth, and (3) scrutinize its concepts and arguments.”[9] If we envision systematic theology as a product, philosophical theology would be the research and development step in the process of producing said product. It is the step that tests, weighs, and hones the prototype. Ultimately, this step improves the product and readies it for release.

Systematic Theology in Relation to Biblical Theology

Systematic theology relates to biblical theology by being “dependent on the work and insights of the laborers in the exegetical vineyard.”[10] As Erickson puts it, “biblical theology is the raw material”[11] from which systematic theology draws its conclusions. To remove, alter, or nullify the source, would be absolutely detrimental to systematic theology. Systematic theology really starts from biblical theology. It grows from its rich soils.

Systematic Theology in Relation to Historical Theology

Systematic theology relates to historical theology by allowing its practitioners to delve into the annals of time and glean important insights, learn from past mistakes, and study pathways blazed by previous generations. By employing historical theology, modern readers can draw upon Christianity’s rich heritage. As Erickson remarked, “The study of the theologizing work of a John Calvin, a Karl Barth, or an Augustine will give us a good model and should inspire us in our own activity.”[12] Historical theology also allows contemporary theologians the luxury of crosschecking to distinguish if cutting-edge ideas are really just “new forms of old conceptions.”[13]

Systematic Theology in Relation to Philosophical Theology

Erickson explains that systematic theology relates to philosophical theology in the sense that it “may serve to justify in part the endeavor in which theology is engaged.”[14] That is to say, it appraises any claims, terms, or ideas and attempts to “sharpen the message for clarity.”[15] Philosophical theology is a bit of an “odd man out” with this group so to speak. As Erickson remarks in his footnote of this section, “Although philosophy cannot prove the truth of Christian theology, it can evaluate the cogency of the evidence advanced, the logical validity of theology’s arguments, and the meaningfulness or ambiguity of the concepts.” Therefore, it can measure the evidence but not prove it either way.

The Most Important Theology-type in My Current Ministry

Any proper ministry will be well rounded by borrowing from and partnering with each of these schools. As Demarest says, “they are overlapping disciplines.”[16] However, systematic theology as it relates to biblical theology is the most important in context to my own personal ministry. It may seem redundant to state that I desire for my theology to be biblical, but (strangely and sadly enough) this is not the case with every ministry one may encounter. The gospel of Christ is the power of God (Rom. 1:16) and I can think of no higher source from which to draw.


[1] Bruce Demarest, “Systematic Theology,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 1,162.

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid., 1,164.

[4] Millard L. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 11.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., 13.

[7] Ibid., 12.

[8] Ibid., 13.

[9] Ibid., 14.

[10] Ibid., 10.

[11] Ibid., 12.

[12] Ibid., 13.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid., 14.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Bruce Demarest, 1,163.


Demarest, Bruce “Systematic Theology,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001.

Elwell, Walter A., ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013.

Submitted to Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of the course THEO 525 Systematic Theology I

Was Paul a Mystic?

Was Paul a Mystic?

Paul’s Mysticism

I would say Paul’s theology was based on mystical experiences. Without the Damascus Road experience, Paul would have most likely continued on his destructive path of persecuting the church and consequently, Jesus. Also, let’s not forget that Paul said that he was taken up to Heaven and looked around (2 Cor. 12). So, yes, what we would consider “mystical” seems to certainly be the base. However, one must factor in Paul’s Jewish upbringing and Rabbinic education as well as the supplemental education Paul received from Peter and the disciples after his conversion. Therefore, it started with a mystical experience and then was aided and strengthened by more traditional external factors.

Well, what is a mystic—or mysticism for that matter?

F.F. Bruce defines the term “mysticism” in regards to Paul and his visions by quoting scholars Albert Schweitzer and Evelyn Underhill. Schweitzer defined mysticism as a term applicable “to every religious tendency that discovers the way to God through inner experience without the mediation of reasoning” and Underhill stated mysticism in a more positive fashion as, “the name of that organic process which involves the perfect consummation of the Love of God: the achievement here and now of the immortal heritage of men.”[1]

The “mysteries” that Paul received related to his ministry and the church by taking on the form of direct union with Christ (rather than direct union with God).[2] This was unique to Paul and is most easily displayed with his central teaching of being in Christ, or “Christocentric.”[3] Bruce calls it, “Pauline mysticism.”[4] Paul’s experience is also unique—especially to the Apostles—in the sense that Paul met the Risen Christ, not Jesus.[5]

Think about it this way: how would you respond to someone who said they just spoke with the Lord in person and then was taken on a little trip to Heaven? I would respond to a person today who claimed to have mystical revelations from God just like anyone else in today’s cynical society: with extreme skepticism. I suppose (just like everyone else) I would need proof. It would be hard to imagine anyone accepting something so controversial as this without hard proof. In our technological society, proof would mean photographs, video, or at least eyewitnesses. Even then, it would be hard to really accept because everyone has a computer and the majority of people know how to use Photoshop or AfterEffects to manipulate images digitally.

[1] F. F. Bruce, Paul, Apostle of the Heart Set Free, (Carlisle, Cumbria, UK: Paternoster Press, 2000), 136.

[2] Ibid., 137.

[3] Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament Its Background and Message. 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2003), 354.

[4] Bruce, 137.

[5] Robert Wayne Stacy, TheDocinabox, “Paul and the Jesus Tradition,” accessed January 28, 2015,


Bruce, F. F. Paul, Apostle of the Heart Set Free. Carlisle, Cumbria, UK: Paternoster Press, 2000.

Lea, Thomas D., and David Alan Black. The New Testament, Its Background and Message. 2nd ed. Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2003.

Stacy, Robert Wayne. 2012. “Paul and the Jesus Tradition,” TheDocinabox, January 10, 2013. Accessed January 28, 2015,

Submitted to Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of the course NBST 520 New Testament Orientation II

A Closer Look at Phil. 2:1-11

A Closer Look at Phil. 2:1-11

We will be looking at Philippians 2:1-11. First, we’ll view the passage in its entirety through various translation comparisons:

6. Phil 2 1-11

The above screenshot from represents Philippians 2:1-11 from a formal equivalent translation (the New American Standard Bible [NASB]), a functional equivalent translation (the New Living Translation [NLT]), and “the best known example today”[1] of a paraphrase translation (Eugene Peterson’s The Message [MSG]).

Differences Between Translations

At first glance, the most obvious difference is the length of each translation. The formal equivalent NASB is by far the shortest. Surprisingly, the longest translation isn’t the Message’s paraphrase; it is the functional equivalent NLT. I say this is a surprise considering how the Message’s paraphrase version —with its loose stream-of-consciousness style—typically seems to be longer than most versions.

Another obvious difference is the chapter titles. Even though they cover the same exact text, each translation has a different chapter title: “Be Like Christ” (NASB), “Have the Attitude of Christ” (NLT), and “He Took on the Status of a Slave” (MSG). Although the headings are different, the same basic idea still stands. The subtle discrepancies in the chapter titles perfectly sums up how each translation has its own specific nuance, which I will elaborate on later.

Lastly, the NLT translation indents verses 6-11 whereas the others do not. We will be diving into this section in greater detail later on (a little preview to wet your whistle: verses 6-11 are what most scholars consider to be an early Christian hymn—hence its indention). The NASB is the only translation of the three to have its reference to Isaiah 45:23[2] —“EVERY KNEE WILL BOW”—in all caps. The other two translations keep the reference in lower caps.

Although the same “gist” is detectable across the three translations, there are subtle differences that could potentially create significant problems. Take verse 5 for example. The NASB says to “Have this attitude in yourself which was also in Christ Jesus,” but the NLT makes the same words seem more like an order, “You must have the same attitude that Jesus Christ had.” The MSG defuses the sternness of the NLT by going to the opposite extreme and making it seem more like a suggestion than a flat-out command. It says, “Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself,” and then goes on to expound on that thought. So, how should one interpret verse 5? Is it a command, like the NLT declares? Is it a state-of-mind as the MSG insinuates, or is it a suggestion as the NASB hints? I suppose the answer could be a combination of all three: a suggested command of state-of-mindedness.

An advantage of the NASB for this portion is that it is the most succinct. It does not meander along, as the MSG is prone to do. Consequently, a disadvantage to the NASB—in this same manner—is that it doesn’t flow as naturally as the NLT or the MSG.

Naturally, an advantage to the MSG is that it reads extremely smoothly. It is like reading a normal conversation. It seems more relaxed and personal. However, this very attribute could be deemed a disadvantage seeing as it adds—what some may consider unnecessary—length and is, quite frankly, overly wordy.

An advantage to the NLT is that it is an excellent middle ground between the NASB and the MSG. It is neither long-winded nor rigidly brief. The MSG may appear a little too informal at times and the NASB may seem a little too stuffy at times. However, the NLT comes across as both respectable and modern. However, one disadvantage to the NLT is as Mounce says, it can “take greater liberties with grammatical structure”[3] and shouldn’t be recommended for serious studies. Another personal disadvantage to the NLT (and the MSG for that matter) is that it does not capitalize the pronoun, “He” when referring to Jesus as the NASB does. I cringe every time I come across this occurrence.

Lexical Analysis

Mounce says to look for a verse that “hangs” on a word.[4] Similarly, this whole section hangs on a verse (the sixth one). We can break the passage into the following sections: Section I is comprised of verses 1-4 and Section II is comprised of verses 5-11. Sandwiched almost perfectly in the middle, verse 6 is the hinge on which the entire passage swings. Also, I found verse 6 to be the most perplexing and thought provoking verse of the passage. As Blomberg states, “As a general rule of thumb, any word that seems somewhat confusing to the contemporary reader of Scripture is good fodder for a word study.”[5] My instincts were confirmed when I checked the other translations and noticed that the sixth verse had the most discrepancies.

  • KJV: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
  • NIV: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
  • NASB: who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
  • NLT: Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
  • YLT: who, being in the form of God, thought [it] not robbery to be equal to God,

It is the word “robbery” that I find interesting. The same concept is translated as robbery, something to be used to his own advantage, and a thing to be grasped. Which is most accurate to Paul’s intended meaning? According to Strong’s Concordance, robbery is from the Greek word, ἁρπαγμὸν [Strong’s #725] translated “something to be grasped.” It is the transliteration of “harpagmon.” The cognate is harpagmos, “the act of seizing or the thing seized.” Harpagmos is a masculine noun. Its semantic range is extraordinarily limited: This is its only occurrence in the whole Bible.[6] (BDAG and Kittel, Vol. I, 473). Interestingly, the most closely related word to harpagmos is harpazo; plunder. Given this evidence, the translation of harpagmos as robbery seems correct.

The context of this passage is unity and being like Christ. Paul says we do this by having the same mind as Christ. The concept Paul is trying to convey is that Christ is our supreme example. Paul instructs his readers to have the attitude of Christ. In verses 1-4, Paul preaches about unity and humility with others. In verse 6, Paul switches the focus to Christ. Jesus showed ultimate humility by taking on the form of man. Yet, He did not regard His equality with God to be “robbery.” This shows how much He loves us. He did not consider Himself robbed of His equality with God. He did not consider His coming down from Heaven as an act of seizing something away. He gave up His Heavenly home willingly. Although He is completely equal with God, He did not consider Himself a victim of robbery by humiliating Himself by putting on flesh and coming to earth. If Christ is our supreme example, then we should show the same kind of humility that Jesus demonstrated when he lowered Himself to man’s level. We should show the same kind of love for our fellow man that Jesus demonstrated by His actions. You cannot steal something that has been freely given away.

Exegetical Outline

Continuing with the framework roughly started in the above section, we get a sense of the flow of the text. As mentioned, our passage is easily divided into two parts: Section I (verses 1-4) and Section II (verses 5-11). Section I points the Philippians to “unity of minds and hearts”[7] through a series of ‘if’ clauses (‘if x means anything to you, then prove it now’[8]). Then it shifts gears to Section II, which points the Philippians to “Christ, the Focus and Model for Discipleship.”[9] Of special note on Section I, Craddock rightly suggests “2:1-11 is tied inseparably to [Philippians] 1:27-30. The conjunction ‘then’ or ‘so’ (2:1) looks back to what has been said and builds upon it.”[10] Let’s look at that quickly:

  • 27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. 29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me. [NKJV]

Therefore, Paul is discussing Christian “experiences they have all shared”[11] Paul is also reminding his flock that they should act in a manner consistent with a Christian whether he is there or not. Therefore, the “entire passage before us is rich with images of the Christian life; soldiers, citizens, athletes, gladiators, and others, but as we shall see, it is the image of servant, of which Christ is the supreme model, which effectively focuses Paul’s discussion of living the gospel.”[12]

The “If” Statements


When we use “if” today, we are saying it “to express uncertainty or a condition contrary to the fact.”[13] As in, “I will need an umbrella if it rains.” Surprisingly however, the Greek usage here is with a sense of certainty: “‘If I were the king (but I am not)’ or ‘If I am your friend (and I am)’”[14] It changes the circumstance from something unsure to something implied or assumed. In this regard, we can almost replace the ‘if’ with a contemporary ‘since.’[15] [‘If I am your friend’ becomes, ‘Since I am your friend.’] Therefore, instead of reading unpredictability into the opening ‘if” statements, we can imagine Paul expressing affirmations! The point is: Paul is not calling attention to their past mistakes, in fact, he is doing the opposite.


According to theologian Ronald J. Allen, the conclusion of Paul’s conditional statement (the “then” part), is “the language of koinonia[16] (which) is the background of Philippians.”[17] The term is translated as “sharing” or “fellowship,” but it “often implies something relationally stronger, as ‘partnership.’”[18] With partnership in mind, there is an overtone of commitment (as in, “to carry out a mission”[19]). When “fellowship” is used in 2:1, the word is loaded with the meaning of “community, joint application, and communication.”[20] That is what and how a Christian community should operate, in harmonious and united koinonia. Paul indicates that these things listed in Section I, “must be demonstrated in practice.”[21] That is, we are to walk the talk we talk. But how do you practice congenial koinonia when the situation is far from congenial?

Tough Love

Taking Section II with its emphasis on the servant heart of Christ to heart, one is encouraged to take stock of his or her attitudes with fellow sojourners (believers) and fellow humans (unbelievers). Renowned Jesuit Priest and professor at St. Louis University John F. Kavanaugh, had an interesting take on the practical application of Phil. 2:1-11. He called it “Love’s Labor.”[22] Kavanaugh in his refreshingly honest paper, states that sometimes “in 24 hours I begin to hate the best of men… I become hostile to people the moment they come close to me.”[23] He quotes Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov wherein a character mentions, “’I love humanity, but the more I love humanity in general, the less I love people in particular.’”[24]

We all have people in our lives that are tough to love. It may be a negative employee or a nagging in-law. It’s always easy to love those who are easy to love, but Paul tells us that Christ loved everyone, even those who plotted against Him. He even loved those who actually murdered Him! Therefore, loving God and loving our neighbors are intrinsically tied together (Mark 12:31). In other words, you cannot have one without the other; to love the Creator is to love His creations! To go around professing devotion to Yahweh and then criticizing, bickering, and insulting people is to be false.

How does one enter that kind of a life? The door to that attitude is “an emptying of the self, a desire to serve rather than to be served.”[25] Jesus loved us in a way to be the example of how we are to love each other: As verse 7 tells us, He emptied Himself of His majesty in order to walk this earth with us and show us true love.

The Hymn

Lyrics and Music by…

Verses 5-11 of Section II are often referred to as the “hymn of Christ.”[26] It is quite the infamous portion. Scholars call it the “carmen Christi.”[27] I say, infamous, because its origin is still regularly debated. As D.A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo tell us, some scholars view the hymn section as a “pre-Pauline composition, perhaps coming from the early Palestinian church.”[28] F.F. Bruce says the hymn “was current as early as the Hellenistic mission in Syrian Antioch.”[29] If this is a hymn in the traditional sense, then the structure 2:6-11 has also sparked debate. Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black explain “though most agree that Paul used the hymn to urge humility upon his readers, interpreters disagree over the number of verses in the hymn, the original source of the words, and the theological meaning of its content.”[30]

Some of the vocabulary is different than typical Pauline writing. Also atypical to Pauline writing is the focus on Christ as servant. Carson believes if the poetry was Hebrew or Aramaic in origin and then translated into New Testament Greek, then “the language and the rhythm would perhaps fit.”[31] Considering that Paul’s first language was Aramaic, (Acts 22:2; 2 Cor. 11:22) it also fits that he could have composed the lines himself. Still yet, “the most common opinion is that Paul has taken someone else’s composition and adapted it to his purpose.”[32]

As you can see, there are numerous ways to look at the origin of this text and therefore, coming to a conclusion about it could only ever be speculation. More important than answering the question of origin, is understanding the purpose of this section.

The Name


Using concise phrases, the hymn section basically sketches “the entire mission of Jesus Christ.”[33] Paul tells us that Christ left His home in Heaven, humbled Himself to the form of a man and ultimately, gave His life on the cross and therefore—God highly exalted Him and gave Him a name above all names. That name is “’Lord’ (kyrios).”[34] ” He goes on to say that at that name, all shall bow and all shall recognize the great work of Jesus (a reference to Psa. 110:1). This will result in every person confessing that Jesus is Lord. All of this is to the glory of the Father. Now we have the end-result of all that has transpired. Jesus has gone from the very bottom and ended up on the very top. Jesus is exalted by the Father and the Father is glorified. Just as Jesus finished His Father’s business (Luke 2:49), His Father rewarded Him. Likewise, we can expect to be rewarded for also being about our Heavenly Father’s business.

In Matthew 10:32, Jesus says that whoever confesses His name before men, He will confess to His Father. It all starts, ends and is through Jesus (John 1:3, 3:35). Frederick G. McLeod in his commentary on Philippians says, “This was his [Paul’s] intent; to teach the Philippians that humility is good, with the potential to reward one who so acts.”[35]

Whatever—specifically—was happening at the church in Philippi we do not know, but we know that it was serious. Serious enough that Paul invokes Jesus as the cosmic Christ. Paul reminds them that Jesus currently is reigning over the entire universe. Therefore, as Craddock puts it, “in Paul’s judgment what the church needs is not a scolding but a reminder of the event that created and defined their life together.”[36] And further, “that which makes the church the church is the ‘in Christ Jesus’ mind.”[37] This whole section is a call to servitude and obedience. It all starts with Jesus.


Regardless of which translation of the Bible you personally study and disregarding which school of thought you privately subscribe to with respect to how the hymn section of Philippians 2 came about, one cannot deny the timeless and incredibly important message Paul is making in this precious portion of Scripture. As our society silently assimilates into an increasingly anti-social world (even though we call it “Social Media,” it is, in fact, quite the opposite), Paul’s words ring all the louder: Cultivate a spirit of koinonia. Plant fellowship, till community, and we will harvest unity! Sure, it is a laborious task, this harmony. But the benefits far outweigh the struggle.

Paul urgently reminds us to look to Jesus Christ as the supreme example in all our endeavors. The fruit of our hard work will be a life that reflects His. As Paul noted, Christ emptied himself and became a servant. We too, should empty ourselves and become servants. Just as Christ received His reward for His toil, so shall we for ours.

Raymond Pelly, in his article “From Below: Christ, the poet and the pilgrim” states, “Paul’s answer is that Jesus’ actions were through and through motivated by love of others.”[38] How much more so should ours? Dr. R. Wayne Stacy refers to Philippians as “a ‘love fest’ between a church and missionary.”[39] Ultimately, our life should be described as a “love fest.” Wouldn’t that be nice?

[1] Craig Blomberg and Jennifer Foutz Markley, A Handbook of New Testament Exegesis (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2010), 42.

[2] “Philippians 2,” Bible Study Tools, accessed on January 14, 2015,

[3] William Mounce, Greek for the Rest of UsUsing Greek Tools without Mastering Biblical Greek (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 27.

[4] William Mounce, 201.

[5] Craig Blomberg and Jennifer Foutz Markley, 124.

[6] Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed., ed. Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), 133.

[7] John Muddiman and John Barton. “Pauline Epistles.” Oxford, GBR: Oxford University Press, 2010. Accessed March 3, 2015. ProQuest ebrary, 194

[8] Ibid., 195

[9] Ibid.

[10] Craddock, Fred B. 1985. Philippians. Atlanta, Ga: Westminster John Knox Press, 1985. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed March 3, 2015), 35.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid., 31.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid., 35.

[16] James Strong, The Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, 21st ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 1.

[17] Ronald J. Allen, 2007. “Philippians 2:1-11. (Between text & sermon).” Interpretation Jan 2007Christian Periodical Index, EBSCOhost (accessed February 16, 2015), 72.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words: with Topical Index(Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996), 1.

[21] “Ambrosiaster Commentary on Philippians”. 2009. In Ancient Christian Texts: Commentaries on Galatians–Philemon. Westmont: IVP Academic.

[22] Kavanaugh, John F. 1996. “Love’s labor.” America 175, no. 7: 39. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed February 16, 2015), 39.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 2,282.

[27] David Alan Black, “Paul and Christian unity : a formal analysis of Philippians 2:1-4.” Journal Of The Evangelical Theological Society 28, no. 3: 299-308. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed February 16, 2015), 299.

[28] D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament. 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 500.

[29] F. F. Bruce, Paul, Apostle of the Heart Set Free, (Carlisle, Cumbria, UK: Paternoster Press, 2000), 131.

[30] Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament Its Background and Message. 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2003), 444.

[31] D.A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, 499.

[32] Ibid., 501.

[33] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 2,283.

[34] F. F. Bruce, 131.

[35] McLeod, Frederick G. 2009. Theodore of Mopsuestia. London: Routledge, 2009. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed March 3, 2015), 111.

[36] Craddock, 42-43.

[37] Ibid., 43.

[38] Pelly, Raymond B. 2009. “From below: Christ, the poet and the pilgrim.” Stimulus 17, no. 1: 9-16. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed February 16, 2015), 10.

[39] Robert Wayne Stacy, TheDocinabox, “Lukan Authorship of Acts,” accessed January 14, 2015,


Allen, Ronald J. (Ronald James). 2007. “Philippians 2:1-11. (Between text & sermon).” Interpretation Jan 2007Christian Periodical Index, EBSCOhost (accessed February 16, 2015).

“Ambrosiaster Commentary on Philippians”. 2009. In Ancient Christian Texts: Commentaries on Galatians–Philemon. Westmont: IVP Academic.

Bauer, Walter. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. Edited by Frederick William Danker. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Bibles, Crossway The ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008.

Bible Study Tools. “Philippians 2.” Accessed January 14, 2015.

BibleGateway. “Philippians 2.” Accessed February 9, 2015.;NLT;MSG.

Black, David Alan. “Paul and Christian unity : a formal analysis of Philippians 2:1-4.” Journal Of The Evangelical Theological Society 28, no. 3 (September 1, 1985): 299-308. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed February 16, 2015).

Blomberg, Craig, and Jennifer Foutz Markley. A Handbook of New Testament Exegesis. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010.

Bruce, F. F. Paul, Apostle of the Heart Set Free. Carlisle, Cumbria, UK: Paternoster Press, 2000.Kittel, Gerhard. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Translated and edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965.

Carson, D A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

Craddock, Fred B. Philippians. Atlanta: Westminster John Knox Press, 1985. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed February 17, 2015).

Kavanaugh, John F. “Love’s labor.” America 175, no. 7 (September 21, 1996): 39. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed February 16, 2015).

Lea, Thomas D., and David Alan Black. The New Testament, Its Background and Message. 2nd ed. Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2003.

McLeod, Frederick G. Theodore of Mopsuestia. London: Routledge, 2009. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed March 3, 2015).

Mounce, William D. Greek for the Rest of UsUsing Greek Tools without Mastering Biblical Greek. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003.

Muddiman, John, and Barton, John, eds. Pauline Epistles. Oxford, GBR: Oxford University Press, 2010. Accessed March 3, 2015. ProQuest ebrary.

Pelly, Raymond B. “From below: Christ, the poet and the pilgrim.” Stimulus 17, no. 1 (February 1, 2009): 9-16. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed February 16, 2015).

Stacy, Robert Wayne. 2012. “Philippians,” TheDocinabox, February 3, 2013. Accessed February 14, 2015,

Strong, James. The Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. 21st ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.

Vine, W.E. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words: with Topical Index. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996.

Submitted to Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of the course NGRK 505 Greek Language Tools

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