Identities, Part 2
September 29, 2019
Phil 1 & 2
Phil 1 & 2
Phil 1:1–2: Identities, Part 2
Good morning to you all. It’s a wonderful blessing to be able to gather here today. To be able to stand behind this pulpit and to see everyone. That statement takes on a new meaning when I tell you this story. Recently in conversing with a member her, she confessed that when I first came that she thought I was so short that I would need a stool to stand on to preach. Fortunately, that’s not the case. I am thankful to be here and to see everyone this morning.
This morning we continue our study of Identity in the first two chapters in Philippians. In last week’s sermon, I answer the questions, from Phil 1:1–2, of “Who is Jesus?” and “Who are We?” I answered the first by stating that “Jesus is Divine.” The second I answered by stating that “We, as a church, are Holy.” This morning I will answer a different question. That question is this: “Who am I?” “What is my personal identity as a Christian?” This question is geared and directed towards the believer, not the unbeliever.
Before I unpack what our personal identity is, I want to first take a dive into our 21st-context here in America. Context matters. Context isn’t everything but it’s something. It’s very important. In order to better understand our personal identity, we need to dig into how large swaths of our culture tells us how we are to view ourselves, what our identity is. This is our first point this morning. If you take notes, writes, “Our Context.”
To begin our study of our context, turn to Rom 12:2. This is what Paul states here:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
In this passage, Paul has just concluded his lengthy theological argument, starting in Rom 1 and ending in Rom 11, where he explains the righteousness of God as revealed in the gospel. In chapter 12, he pivots to a new section. This new section is littered with commandments. How are Christians supposed to respond to the righteousness of God as revealed in the gospel? One way is found in Rom 12:2. Christians are to “not be conformed to this world, but are to be transformed by the renewal of the mind.” Conforming to the world happens in several ways. They way that Paul specifies here, though, is conformity of thought. “Do not be conformed to how this world, this present age, thinks. Rather, be transformed in your thinking.” That’s the idea.
Ideas are not neutral. There are good and there are bad ideas. The church is a place where you can find good and bad ideas. It should be a place where only good ideas are taught, but that will not occur until Christ returns. Bad ideas creep into the church. Specifically, bad ideas with reference to our identity do and have creep into the church. We must confront these ideas. Expose them and show them for what they are—false and demonic in origin.
One such false idea about our identity that has and does exist in the church is the idea of selfesteem. This is a new idea. It originated in the 1960s with the publication of the book The Psychology of Self Esteem. Even though it is movement somewhat began in 1969, it has had a powerful influence in the western world. Listen to what Timothy Keller writes about this phenomenon. This is an extended yet important quote from the book The Freedom of SelfForgetfulness, so bear with me. Keller writes,
Up until the 20th century, traditional cultures (and this is still true of most cultures in the world) always believed that too high a view of yourself was the root cause of all the evil in the world. What is the reason for most of the crime and violence in the world? Why are people abused? Why do people do the bad things they do? Traditionally, the answer was hubris—the Greek word meaning pride or too high a view of yourself. Traditionally, that was the reason given for why people misbehave. But, in our modern western culture, we have developed an utterly opposite cultural consensus. The basis of contemporary education, the way we treat incarcerated prisoners, the foundation of most modern legislation and the starting point for modern counseling is exactly the opposite of the traditional consensus. Our belief today—and it is deeply rooted in everything—is that people misbehave for lack of self-esteem and because they have too low a view of themselves. For example, the reason husbands beat their wives and the reason people are criminals is because they have too low a view of themselves. People used to think people act badly because they had
too high a view of themselves and had too much self-esteem. Now we say people act badly because we have too little self-esteem.
Breaking down this quote, what Keller is saying is that our Western culture, us in the good ol’ USA, we see man’s greatest problem is that he doesn’t respect himself. What we need is to of ourselves in a better way. We need to think thoughts like, “I’m strong. I’m beautiful. I need to forgive myself, accept myself. I’m good. I’m worthy of respect. I can do it. I need to love myself. I feel good about myself. I don’t have regrets. I need to think positive thoughts. Other people don’t know what their talking about. I’m the way I want to be. My feelings matter.” Etc.
This tendency can be seen in the way that people are respond to evangelism. So many times, when I have brought up sin and judgment with persons in conversation, they respond, “You can’t judge me. Your judging me. Who are you to judge?” In those moments, their feelings are ultimate. How they perceive themselves is what matters. Self-perception is god for them. And when you begin to question their self-perception, they respond with animus.
The self-esteem movement teaches that the way you should view yourself is positively. Never think a negative thought about yourself. View yourself as ultimate. Esteem yourself greatly. Your feelings towards yourself matter the most. Avoid accountability, self-examination, and criticism at all cost. Attack those who say anything not praiseworthy of you. Is this the way that Scripture tells us how we should think of ourselves? A million times no. Turn back to Phil 1:1.
This whole sermon, the whole idea I develop here, is built upon this word “servant” in Phil 1:1.
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus
Paul refers to himself and Timothy as “servants.” To understand this word, we must first understand how to translate it. The Greek word here is δοῦλοι. This word is the plural form of δοῦλος. Different translations translate δοῦλος differently. The ESV, as I’ve read, translates it as “servants.” The KJV and NIV translate it as “servants” as well. The NASB and NKJV translate it as “bond-servant.” Other translations, the New Living Translation, the NET (the DTS translation), and the Holman Christian Standard Bible (a Southern Baptist translation), translate the word as “slave.” Anytime you compare different translations and see considerable diversity, you need to be aware there is an interpretive issue going on. That’s what we have here. What is
the best translation?
The best way to translate this term is as “slave.” Listen to what one of the authoritative NT dictionaries says of δοῦλος:
The meaning [of δοῦλος & the word group] is so unequivocal and self-contained that it is superfluous to give examples of the individual terms or to trace the history of the group. . . . The emphasis here is always on “serving as a slave.” Hence we have a service which is not a matter of choice for the one who renders it, which he has to perform whether he likes or not, because he is subject as a slave to an alien will, to
the will of his owner.
“Servant” misses the mark because “servant” implies the notion of freedom, the very thing that “slave” entails. “Bond-servant” is okay but it is a more complex way to express the idea of a slave. A “bond-servant” is a servant who is bound. A servant who is bound is a slave. Slave ought to be preferred.
The reason for the differences between translations partially comes down to how issue has been understood within the English-speaking context. Within our context, the word “slave” brings up troubling memories of our nation’s history. Thus, many translation committees shy away from translating δοῦλος as “slave,” and instead prefer “servant” or “bond-servant.” Nevertheless, the Word of God is the Word of God.
This notion of slavery entails two ideas. First, it entails as Christians we have a master. Repeatedly, the NT refers to Jesus as Lord. This is one the central affirmations of the NT. Jesus is Lord. Jesus is Master. The Bible says that we have been redeemed by Jesus Christ. We have been purchased by him. Through his atoning death for our sins, he has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of light. He has rescued us from the power of the devil. He has also rescued us from ourselves. Lastly, Jesus has rescued us from himself. He has rescued us from the righteous anger that he looks upon sinners with. As a result of this rescue mission, he is now our Lord. That’s what Paul says in 1 Cor 6:19–20:
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, glorify God with your body.
Second, it entails that our lives are in complete subjection. We are not our masters. We are not our own lord. What ultimately matters is not how we regard ourselves, but how Christ regards us. It’s not self-esteem, it’s Christ-esteem. How does Christ esteem us? That’s the question. Selfesteem teaches that we are ultimate, that we can do it, that our self-perception is what matters most. Paul doesn’t teach that. He teaches that it’s not about us, it’s not about our perception of ourselves. It’s about what Christ thinks. We are his slaves. We don’t need to think of ourselves in a better light. We need to think of Christ in a better light.
This is some hard stuff. Some hard truth. That we are called to see ourselves as slaves of Jesus Christ, those who have no will other than to do the will of their master. Wow. Some raw stuff. “What’s in it for me, Pastor?” you might think. It’s a good though. A though Scripture itself addresses. Look at Phil 2:5–11. Let’s read it in full.
You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death–even death on a cross! As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will 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.
This is a powerful passage. What it teaches is that there is great reward for those who think of themselves as slaves of Jesus Christ. First, notice in v. 7. It says that Jesus emptied himself. How did he empty himself? Well, he took on the form of a “servant.” The Greek word here is δοῦλος. The same Greek word in Phil 1:1. So, Jesus became a slave. Wow. As a slave—that is, as a human—Jesus humbled himself to the point of death. That’s specified in v. 8. What did God the Father do as a result of Jesus becoming a slave? That’s found in v. 9. God the Father exalted Jesus Christ. He bestowed upon him the “name that is above every name.”
What we see here is that the Father exalted Christ because he became a slave. He rewarded him. He exalted him. He established him. What true of Christ, is also true of us. Jesus became a slave. We are to be slaves. The Father exalted Christ as a slave. The Father will exalt us because we are slaves.
There is a cost to being a Christian. To be a Christians means that we are to be slaves of Jesus Christ. And as slaves of Jesus Christ, we are called to follow his will for our lives, not our own. We are called to sacrifice. Sacrifice is very hard. It is very costly. You can’t have Christianity without this notion of sacrifice. God calls us to deny ourselves. To resist ourselves. To abandon ourselves. He calls us to become slaves.
This call, though, is not to our neglect, however. In our rejection of ourselves for Christ and others, there is great, tremendous rewards to be found. It is a reward of the Father’s provision, care, and, use of us—an eternal reward.
In seminary, you must read a lot. There is lots of assigned reading. Like any good academic program, the education at DTS is one where you must interact with large portions of literature. Not every book is of the same value. Some books, even in seminary, are a waste of time to read. It’s not all great. I did have favorite books. I also had favorite quotes.
Out of all that I read, thousands of pages, this was my favorite quote out of all of them. This is absolute gold. You want something to base your life off of? I have it right here. This quote comes from a book by Jonathan Edwards, one of my favorite theologians. In this quote, he deals with the concern that those who sacrifice their lives serving as Christ slaves will be neglected. Listen to what he says,
If you seek the glory of God and the good of your fellow creatures, it is a sure way to have God seek your interest. If you devote yourself to God as making sacrifice of your own interest to him, you will not throw yourself away; though you seem to neglect yourself, and to deny yourself, God will take care of you, and he will see to it that your own interest shall be provided for. You shall be no loser what you spend for his glory. If you are selfish, and make yourself and your own private interest your idol, God will leave you to yourself, and let you promote your own interest as well as you can. But if you seek the things of Jesus Christ, the things of others, God will make your interest and happiness his charge; and he is infinitely more able to provide for it and to promote it than you are.
As Edwards so eloquently remarks, there is great reward for those who identify as slaves of Jesus. Great reward. God exalts the slaves of Jesus Christ. And this exaltation is eternally more valuable than anything we can attain ourselves. To be a slave of Jesus Christ is to receive the greatest blessing of all. Will you accept this call to be Christ’s slave? If you do, God will never leave you or forsake. He or she who trusts in the LORD will not be put to shame.