Explore the Bible Study: Joy Through Humility

10:22 AM

Do you believe one who demonstrates humility is someone who is content? Do you believe they experience joy through humility, or do you believe it is a frustrating action that is only exhibited by those who are weak? The Explore the Bible Study: Joy Through Humility, will answer these questions as Paul's instructions regarding authentic, biblical humility are examined in Philippians 2:1-15.

Humility is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “freedom from pride or arrogance: the quality or state of being humble.” Some common synonyms for humility are demureness, down-to-earthness, humbleness, lowliness, meekness, and modesty.

A biblical view of humility is something we struggle with understanding because many believe humility portrays a position of weakness. Humility from a Christian perspective is a positive word, not a negative one.  Paul provides a clear explanation of the path one should take in order to practice biblical humility.

First, Paul tells us that the practice of biblical humility brings joy and unity - Philippians 2:1-4

Paul begins with a series of “if’s” – If, there is any . . . encouragement in Christ; consolation of love; fellowship with the Spirit; affection and mercy. These four “ifs” were used by Paul as an appeal to the Philippian believers and send a message to us as well. He is making an appeal based on the assumption that these qualities or actions are present because of a personal relationship with Christ.

Notice the emphasis in this passage on unity. He uses the words same, united, one to introduce each of these actions. Then, in verses 3-4 Paul describes the actions that demonstrate true biblical humility. Notice the phrases Paul uses– Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit (v.3); Consider others as more important than yourselves. (v.3); Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others. (v.4)

  • Which of these actions is most difficult for believers to practice today? 
  • What would happen to all the divisions we are currently experiencing in our society if believers consistently demonstrated biblical humility? 
  • How would biblical humility enable believers to share and show the good news of Jesus to others?

Paul tells us that joy is only made complete when we experience unity of purpose, mind, spirit, and love that is produced when believers practice biblical humility.

Then Paul gives us a biblical humility role model to follow - Philippians 2:5-11

Paul tells us in verse 7 that Christ emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant (slave) and taking on the likeness of humanity. Many get confused by this phrase because they assume that Jesus gave up his deity to become human.  This is not the case. The key is in verse 6 and the word existing. Existing is present tense and states Christ’s continuing condition. He did not just possess the nature of God; He is God. He was 100 percent God even when He was a baby.  There was never a moment ,and there will never be a moment, when Jesus is not God.

Therefore, the word “assuming” or “taking” in verse 7 does not imply an exchange, but rather an addition. Nothing was taken away, but humanity was added along with the perspective of being a slave.  He willingly took it upon Himself. His perspective shifted from that of Master to slave – a slave to salvation for mankind!  One who possessed the form of God took on the outward appearance of a man and was obedient even unto death!

This is a true and perfect picture of biblical humility. He desired to serve mankind to the point of death so that man’s broken relationship with God (with Himself) could be restored.

  • If you had been in Christ’s position, what would you have found most demeaning about humbling yourself and serving humans?

Paul tells us in verse 9 that Jesus was highly exalted. One might then consider Paul’s instructions a formula or list of steps one could take to be exalted. This is not a formula. Christ did not empty Himself, take on the form of a servant, take on the likeness of humanity, become obedient to death to be exalted. He was already exalted; therefore, He chose to humble Himself. 

Understanding this, we should make sure we aren’t “faking humility” to gain something. If your motivation for becoming humble is so that you can be exalted, then you aren’t practicing biblical humility at all. The reality for believers is that practicing biblical humility has nothing to do with gaining some type of position or being exalted. As believers, our position in Christ is secure and we have been “exalted” through a personal relationship with Christ.

Here are just a few things the Bible tells us about our position in Christ as believers: 

  • We have been given eternal life (Romans 6:23). 
  • We are no longer condemned (Romans 8:1). 
  • We have the Holy Spirit residing in us (John 14:15-17). 
  • We are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). 
  • We share in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). 
  • We walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). 
  • We are united in Christ (Romans 6:5-6). 
  • We are made alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5). 
  • We are part of the body of Christ (Romans 12:5). 
  • We are blessed “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:3). 
  • We are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). 
  • We are called God’s children (1 John 3:1; Romans 8:17). 
  • We are co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). 

Even though we have been given so much through a personal relationship with Christ ,we still struggle with practicing biblical humility. We are tempted to “get ahead” by using tactics and adopting attitudes that don’t demonstrate biblical humility. We are tempted to win arguments, prove points, gain position, and pursue power. Social media has only exasperated the temptation to exalt oneself over practicing biblical humility. All of this robs believers of their joy. 

There are two key phrases Paul uses in verses 5-6 that reveal how we overcome this temptation. Paul tells us in verse 5 to adopt the same attitude as Christ. He describes Jesus’ attitude in verse 6 – Jesus did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited.

Have you ever heard the term “take the high road”? It means to behave in a moral way when other people are not behaving morally – To choose the most noble, ethical, or diplomatic course or method, especially after or in the face of negativity or ill treatment. This road or path of humility is not to be be exploited but to be used to serve others and demonstrate the gospel. It is the path one must choose as a believer because Christ gave us the example and it is the only way to experience true joy.

Practicing biblical humility reveals Christ to a lost world – Philippians 2:12-15

Notice the phrases where Paul uses the words “work” or “working.” Paul is not telling us that one can earn salvation through works. This is obvious because Paul also tells us that this is only possible when God works in and through us. What he does instruct us about is our attitude -- fear and trembling. This is indicative of one who is sincerely humble.

Paul goes on to explain that biblical humility isn’t demonstrated through grumbling and arguing. If we are working out our salvation with fear and trembling, we will be less likely to grumble and argue with one another.

One should be reminded by Paul's instructions that actions are so important, especially during these uncertain and trying times. Most of us could probably give examples of or recognize times when we haven’t necessarily adopted the attitude of Christ when it comes to practicing humility. Paul reminds us in verse 15 that there is a world that is watching how we live and respond, especially to challenging situations. May we all strive to practice biblical humility so that we may be found blameless, pure, and faultless before a crooked and perverted culture. May the good news of Jesus shine like stars in this broken world who is in such a need of the Savior.

  • Has your response to fellow believers over these past months demonstrated biblical humility? If not, what needs to change?
  • Has your response to those with whom you interact demonstrated biblical humility? If not, what needs to change?
  • Have your comments on social media or in other venues demonstrated biblical humility? Have you been a shining light of the gospel? If not, what needs to change?

Author C.S. Lewis says that humility is “not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” The path to experiencing joy through humility is to adopt the same attitude as Christ. It is not a position of weakness, but it is the high road of strength that shines the light of the gospel brightly to a broken and dark world. Take the high road this week by practicing biblical humility.

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. Be sure to use this as a supplement to your study of the Explore the Bible Study resources provided by LifeWay.

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