Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Imitating Christ

Philippians 2-6-11 is one of those "mountain range" passages.  It reaches majestic heights and even when we have been awhile in the foothills the highest peaks seem ever lofty.  Here is the One--fully man and fully God--in his humiliation and in his exaltation.  The passage has all sorts of Christological implications and yet this is not Paul's main point--as if he thought he needed to express some systematic theological insights from "out of the blue."  The context is on the congregation and its unity for the sake of the gospel.  Philippians 2.5 states, "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus" and then comes the classic passage of verses 6-11.  Christ is being set forth as a model for congregational living.  Some commentators and theologians grow nervous about this but Gordon Fee has some appropriate comments to ease the nervousness.
That Christ serves for us as a paradigm for Christian life is not, as some fear, a betrayal of Paul's gospel.  On the contrary, it reinforces a significant aspect of his gospel, namely that there is no genuine life in Christ that is not at the same time, by the power of the Holy Spirit, being regularly transformed into the likeness of Christ.  A gospel of grace, which omits obedience, is not Pauline in any sense; obedience, after all, is precisely the point made in the application that follows (v. 12).  To be sure, the indicative must precede the imperative, or all is lost; but it does not eliminate the imperative, or all is likewise lost.   
    Gordon Fee Paul's Letter to the Philippians (NICNT), p. 272.
That last line is utter brilliance!   Holding the indicatives of what God has done for us in Christ Jesus and the imperatives of obedience--holding these in the proper relationship is crucial.  Fee, in one line, nicely captures some of the important relationship between them.