Closing the Gap – Week 43 Study Guide

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! Phil. 2:3-8

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. John 13:14-17

Commentary on Phil. 2:3-8; John 13:14-17

Phil. 2:3-8 The Example of Christ: There is the suggestion in this passage of disunity in the Philippian church (see also 4:1–3). Paul appeals to them on the basis of their Christian experience to have unity of mind and heart and to put others ahead of themselves. What motives are there for unity in the church? Christ is the greatest incentive; if we are in Christ, we ought to be able to live with one another! Other incentives include love, the fellowship of the Spirit, the deep-seated desires we have in Christ, and the joy we can bring to others. Paul saw strife and selfish ambition among the Roman believers (1:14–17), and he warns that it must not be present at Philippi. “Lowliness of mind”—this is the submissive mind that thinks not of itself but of Christ and others. “Humility is not thinking meanly of ourselves; it is just not thinking of ourselves at all.” Paul points to the attitude of Christ before His incarnation. Was He selfishly trying to hold on to His privileges as God? No! He willingly laid aside His glory and “put on” the form of a servant. He did not cease to be God, but He did lay aside His glory and the independent use of His attributes as God. His life as the God-Man on earth was completely subjected to the Father. “I do always those things that please Him” (John 8:29). Jesus humbled Himself to become flesh, and then to become sin as He willingly went to the cross.

But Christ’s experience proves that exaltation always follows humiliation. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,” promises 1 Peter 5:6. The person who exalts himself will be humbled (Luke 14:11). Remember what happened to Pharaoh, King Saul, Nebuchadnezzar, Haman, and Herod? We do not worship a “babe in a manger” or a “sacrifice on a cross”; we worship an exalted Lord seated on the throne of the universe. Christ’s life, death, and resurrection proved eternally that the way to be exalted is to be humbled before God. There is no joy or peace in pride and self-seeking. When we have the submissive mind that Christ had, then we will have the joy and peace that He alone can give.[1]

John 13:14-17 Humble Servant: The love of Jesus for His disciples, and those who would come to be His disciples, is shown in the washing of the disciples’ feet. The servant motif, so prevalent in the Gospel of Mark (Mark 10:45), is here revealed as well in the Gospel of John. Servanthood is a direct extension and representation of love (13:1). What enabled Jesus to perform this act of utter humility was a keen understanding of who He was, where He had come from, and where He was going (13:3). This is a key to humility in all persons—a healthy and balanced understanding of who they are.

If Jesus, Lord and Teacher, washes our feet, how much more should we wash one another’s feet (13:14). What is at hand is not the institution of an ordinance of foot-washing, as this passage has sometimes been interpreted, but the lifestyle of humble servanthood.[2]

Study Guide:

  1. Terry’s sermon focuses on the heart attitude of putting the needs of others above your own. Think for a moment about the current culture; think of Terry’s opening story about the men on the Titanic; how would you score our culture’s adherence to putting the needs of others above their own needs?
  2. Today’s culture seem to say, “It is absurd to put the interest of others first,
    so why should I?” How would you respond to this line of thinking?
  3. Read Phil. 2:3. What did Terry mean when he said, “Selfish ambition is not ambition in general?” How does Christ make people who follow Him better in their ambitions?
  4. When Terry talked about vain conceit, he said “This is not a challenge to think more poorly of yourself.” What did he mean by this statement?
  5. Discuss the following: When self-image is ordered under Christ, then people do not think less of self they think of self less.
  6. The end of verse 3 says that in humility, put others ahead of yourself. What does this mean? What does it not mean?
  7. What did Paul mean when he stated that our “attitude” should be like Christ?
  8. The bar is set high, but why would aiming for something less than Christ’s example be something less than Jesus?
  9. Often it makes sense to us to put ourselves first; Jesus always did what made sense to him as well. But what is the difference between us and Jesus?
  10. What would happen if I lived a life that put this interest of others first? If I put the interests of others ahead of my own, who will look out for my interests?
  11. Where are you at when it comes to putting the needs of others above your own? Will you make a commitment to make small choices to put others first, to move through life with a growing awareness in every situation of the opportunities to represent Christ by loving and serving others? What is keeping you from doing this? Will you tell someone?
  12. It is important that as we serve and put the interests of others first, we do so in ways that are actually moving us towards becoming like Christ in character.
  13. Will you let the mind of Christ become more and more your mind? Know that there is power, joy, meaning, and impact in doing so.


[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (pp. 563–564). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[2] White, J. E. (1998). John. In D. S. Dockery (Ed.), Holman concise Bible commentary (p. 482). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

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