Tuesday, April 26, 2011
We come to one of the greatest passages in all of the writings of the Apostle Paul, one of the great passages in all of Scripture. It will take us a long time to peer into the depth and the richness of this passage.
In verse 5, we have an exhortation; in verses 6-8, a display of Christ’s humiliation; and in verses 9-11, we see Christ’s exaltation. We’ll look at exaltation on Thursday.
Paul has been exhorting these Philippian Christians, and you and me, about how to face the oppositions and persecutions that always come in a fallen world. Paul has been exhorting them to gospel unity, gospel humility, and gospel helpfulness.
Now he gives an example in order to exhort them to that end, in order that they would be able to stand fast against the opposition and live in gospel joy. Paul holds up before them as an example is Jesus. And you’ll already see that in essence the exhortation (in Philippians 2:5) is “Be like Jesus.”
Now, it’s very important to know: “Be like Jesus” is not the gospel. Because nobody can be enough like Jesus to be accepted with God. Paul is not saying be like Jesus and you will be saved.
Paul is talking to believers who have realized their sinfulness, and turned in faith to Christ and said, ‘Lord Christ, forgive me, because I’m not like You. Forgive me because I’ve not lived like God wants me to live.’ He is giving this exhortation to be like Jesus to those who are trusting in Christ, not in themselves, in order that they might experience the joy, unity, and fellowship God intends believers to experience in the world together, facing all kinds of opposition from the world, the flesh, and the devil.
It will take the grace of the Holy Spirit to be like Christ, and his message to us, “Be like Jesus,” is not the way of justification, it’s the way of sanctification.
Paul is writing to a congregation that he loves, but is manifesting fairly common, routine, mundane problems in their relationships to one another.
There isn’t a congregation that hasn’t faced these kinds of problems before. We are sinners – and you put a bunch of sinners together and you ask them to live with one another, and they’re going to hurt one another’s feelings. Some are going to be self-centered, some are not going to be sufficiently concerned about unity, some are going to be prideful; and, thus, they are going to lack a proper humility which is necessary for unity in the congregation. Paul attacks the everyday problems with a lack of unity, humility, and helpfulness, with this massive theology of Christ in Philippians 2:5-11.
It boils down to this: Embrace the outlook of Christ. The mindset of Christ, the outlook of Christ, the attitude of Christ is humility.
II. Christ’s humiliation.
In verses 6-8, he says you see it in six ways.
First of all you see the humility of Christ in realizing who He is. He is divine, so you understand the reality of Christ’s humility only when you understand His supreme divine status. Look at what he says in verse 6: “Christ Jesus was in the form of God” He was the exact representation of God. He is pointing to the divinity of Christ, and he’s saying you will not understand Jesus’ humility until you understand who He was as He humbled himself. He’s not just a poor man, an outsider, a wise prophet speaking against the power structures of His day. Paul is saying if that’s all you think Jesus is, you’ll never understand how humble He was. The man I’m about to talk about is God.
The second manifestation of Jesus’ humility is His refusal to stand on His own right and demand to be treated as He deserves. He could have made the whole world prostrate before Him, but He didn’t.
The third is, He abased himself. He not only refuses to stand on His rights and prerogatives, but He abases himself and He empties himself.
And especially, fourthly, we see that He does that in His own voluntary servitude “He took the form of a servant.” Now the word “servant” is saying that Jesus became a “bondslave.” This is what Paul is saying that Jesus has done. He has willingly taken up servitude for you. His humility is seen in that He is divine and has emptied himself, and taken upon Himself the role of a slave for the well-being of His people.
Fifthly, His condescension in becoming man. Jesus has become man. Now, being born a person is not an act of condescension by you and me, but for the living God to be made manifest in humanity, to take upon Himself the fullness of humanity and to live in our flesh and blood – that is an act of condescension!
Sixthly, He endures ultimate humiliation and shame: “He humbled himself by become obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” His humiliation culminates in His embrace of the ultimate shame.
We really need to take this in. The Heavenly Father pouring out His wrath on His Son in such a way that His Son bears ultimate shame and humiliation, treating His Son as if His Son has rebelled against Him. He bears the humiliation that we ought to have borne in our place.
The Apostle Paul says, ‘Christian, look at your Savior. See what He has done for your redemption. Now, as you live the Christian life towards one another, be like Him.’
Posted by Ligon Duncan at 12:40 PM