Its no secrete that many (in fact most) NT scholars say that Philippians 2:6-11 is an early hymn that Paul either quotes and makes it his own for his pastoral purposes in the letter or is an early hymn he himself has composed. What is often overlooked is the applicable value of this hymn to the Christian life. Some treat it as though its value is found only in drawing us to a life of willful humiliation for the sake of others to the glory of God. Others treat it in terms of its theological value alone making much of its high Christology but poorly developing or passing over its value for Christian ethics. The truth of course lies in between, and I think Morna Hooker has captured that better than most in the quote below;

What in fact we have is a typically Pauline fusion of these two themes. The behaviour which is required of those who are in Christ is required of them – and possible for them – precisely because they are in Christ, and this being in Christ depends on the saving acts proclaimed in the gospel. The Christian response is not simply to join in the chorus of adoration and confess Jesus as Lord – but to obey the one named as Lord, and to give glory to God by being conformed to the image of his Son.” Morna Hooker, Philippians 2:6-11 in Jesus and Paulus: Festschrift for Werner Georg Kummel zum

Christ is indeed majestic and it is no wonder that this was used in the early churches worship but Paul doesn’t use it as a momentary chorus for everyone to join in. Paul’s ethical exhortations are based upon it, it is their climax. Indeed Paul views his own life in the light of it as he demonstrates in Philippians 3. What was counted as glory must be lost for the sake of the glory of God who will himself lead us into the true expression and experience of glory! Something Christ himself has fulfilled and modeled for us all…

(Photographic art by Dave Kallem, piece entitled “Conform::Remix“)