So how do we apply this? What use do we make of this? This is why reading Paul’s whole argument, including context, is so helpful. Paul himself gives us the application of Jesus’ humility and exaltation. “Therefore” he says, “as you have always obeyed… continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” It is in light of Jesus’ authority as king that we are to obey him. But it is his example of humility and obedience that inspires us and leads us to do so. It is through the power of the Spirit that we are transformed to his likeness, including his humility and obedience, as “God works in us to will and to act according to his good purpose.”
Jesus’ example both of humility and of exaltation is why we are to consider others as better than ourselves. Now this term “better” than ourselves does not mean better than us in value, that others are more valuable or that we are not valuable. Rather, it means caring for them and their needs, that their needs and concerns surpass our own. That was what Jesus did. He didn’t consider us more valuable than himself. He is God and we are merely his creatures! The creature is not more valuable than the Creator. However, he considered our needs and concerns to be greater than his own needs and concerns. Out of that attitude of not looking to his own interests, but the interests of others, he humbled himself to the point of death.