There is a two-fold perspective on this text, almost a tension. First, it is an early Christian hymn that focuses on a critical aspect of who Jesus is: true Man and true God. The second person of the Trinity “emptied himself of divinity” or perhaps better “laid aside the privileges of being true God” and took on human flesh. The humiliation of that servanthood leads to his death. But even greater, because of it, God “highly exalts” him (2:9).
This hymn brings us to the very heart of what God’s salvation really is, in line with the OT reading, God himself coming to accomplish it. And through him salvation and rejoicing for everyone who confesses his name (2:11).
Second, this passage is set within the context of Paul writing encouragement and direction to the Philippian Christians. The attitude of the flesh (2:3) gives way to something entirely different, new, namely humility and greater concern for the other person. In fact, the Christian’s attitude is to reflect the attitude of Jesus himself, as expressed in this hymn, humility in service to others.
Such service is not groveling in the dirt, but rather an obedience that is informed, molded, and even accomplished by God in us. Paul continues after our text,
Philippians 2:12-13 ESV
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.