Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Gleanings in Philippians ~ Live Life in Light of the Humiliation and Exaltation of Christ: Phil 2.12-13
Thursday, May 12, 2011
Paul, in Philippians 1:27, has opened the whole middle section of this letter up with an exhortation that we would live a life that fits the gospel. And he elaborates and deepens on that in this section, especially to emulate Jesus’ humility and selfless love manifest in His humanity and servanthood.
Today we’ll examine the humility of Christ manifest in His obedience in death, even the death of the cross as we look at four different ways that Paul shows us how Jesus humbled himself for us.
I. Jesus humbled himself by obeying His whole life long for us.
Paul emphasizes that in the words of Philippians 2:8, “He was obedient to the point of death, indicating that Jesus was obedient over the whole course of His life. Paul’s point here is that Jesus obeyed His whole life long for us, all the way up to the point of death.
Paul is stressing that Jesus’ obedience involves the whole course of His life and ministry, all the way up to the cross.
Do we appreciate that Jesus’ obedience for us was not just on the cross of Calvary, but includes the whole course of His life? And it is not just that Jesus was obedient to the law of God, though He was. He kept the law of God in a way that no human being before or since Him has kept or will keep the law of God, until we are made perfect in glory.
But not only did He do that, He did more. He did something that none of us are able to do in our obedience: none of us are able to undertake a plan whereby we can save a multitude that no man can number. Paul is saying, ‘Christian, you need to celebrate the humility of Christ in embracing this kind of lifelong obedience; obedience to a course of suffering, obedience to a course of humiliation. And He did it because of His love for you and His desire for your salvation.’
II. Jesus humbled himself by embracing the humiliation of the cross.
Paul’s emphasis is not simply that Jesus willingly died for us, but that He embraced the painful, shameful, cursed, humiliating death of the Roman crucifix for us, the most shameful, humiliating death conceivable in both the Gentile and the Jewish world.
Crucifixion was reserved for those criminals who were non-citizens and deemed the vilest of human beings. Moses also tells us that “cursed is he who hangs on a tree.” Jesus not only embraced a death that was shameful in the eyes of the Gentile Romans, but He embraced the death that was shameful in the eyes of Jews. The Jews knew that one who was hung upon a tree was being given a sentence and a punishment that indicated that that person was outside of the believing community, cut off from the promises of God, unloved by any in the family of God’s people, cut off from the inheritance promised to God’s people. In death He embraced the humiliation of the cross that involved pain and shame and curse.
But there’s not only pain, there was shame. Hebrews 12:2 states, “Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith, for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…despising the shame.” He knew that by bearing the cross He was inviting shame, but He did it anyway.
And Christ embraced humiliation. Paul is pointing to the Jesus who served us in humility, in His obedience all His life long, and in the Jesus who humbled himself by embracing even the pain, shame, curse, and humiliation of the cross.
III. He obeyed for our sanctification so that we could be made holy
It’s so important for you to understand that it is not only your justification that is by grace, but your sanctification is by grace.
God is at work, Paul will say in verse 13, both to will and to do his work in you. Jesus humbled himself in His humanity all along the whole course of His life and ministry by embracing obedience to the will of His heavenly Father, an obedience that entailed personal pain and incalculable suffering, shame, curse, and humiliation for your sanctification. Not only did He do this so that you would be justified, but He did this so that you would be made like Him, so that on the last day He would stand in the assembly of His brethren and He would say, ‘These are my brethren, and they are without spot or blemish or wrinkle. They are perfect.’ So that on the last day when the accuser points his finger and says, ‘But that man, that woman, is a sinner!’ Jesus will say, ‘Not any more.’ His work not only forgives us, but it sanctifies us.
IV. Jesus’ humility is manifested by obediently dying, by agreeing to die
Paul is saying that Jesus’ obedience involved His voluntarily giving up His own life. This is like nothing that we’ve ever seen in this world. We have seen brave people who were willing to rescue others at the cost of their own lives, but Paul is not just saying that Jesus voluntarily gave up His life in order that we might live, he is saying that Jesus voluntarily chose to give something that nobody could have taken away from Him.
Paul is elaborating on John 10:17-18, that Jesus, in dying for us, chose to give up something that no one could have taken from Him. He is the only man in the history of the world for which the phrase “chose to die” makes sense. All of us in this fallen world will die one day, unless the Lord Jesus comes back before. But Christ chose to die for us.
Paul puts these things before us in order to move us to have this same attitude of selfless love and serving humility which was in our matchless Savior, and which is ours by grace.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Monday, May 09, 2011
Thursday, May 05, 2011
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
We are preparing to study the “song of Christ.” Monday, we reminded ourselves that the song is an illustration of Christ’s humiliation, in which Paul tells us that those who want the joy spoken of in verses 9-11 must embrace the way of Christ, even His humility and His humiliation. And then there is the motivation, and the motivation is seen in verses 9-11 in the exaltation of Christ, and the glory and the joy, and the love and the peace, and the contentment that are experienced by Him and by all who trust in Him.
Now Paul will move from the deity of Christ to Christ’s equality with God and the implications that has for us. There are four things in particular in this very short but powerful and important phrase.
Paul is telling you that Jesus is fully divine. What he is talking about in this passage is not His divesting himself of deity: He couldn’t do it if he wanted to. The Apostle Paul is stressing to us that Christ has always been and He continues to be God by His very nature. But in spite of that fact, and even because of that fact, for our salvation He does not insist upon the manifestation of the majesty of His deity.
II. Christ did not insist upon the manifestation of His majesty.
In expounding this passage, John Calvin liked to use the word veiling: that when Jesus took upon himself our poor flesh and our poor blood, He did not divest himself of deity, but He veiled His deity in the flesh, and we sing about that at Christmastime:
“Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see;
Hail the incarnate deity;
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emanuel.”
It is not that He is any less God, yet the One who was very God was laid in a manger, and His divinity was veiled to our eyes. Even when He was on the cross, men looked up and what did they see? They saw a condemned criminal. They saw a lunatic. His glory was veiled. Only a few times in His earthly ministry did that glory shine forth, like at the Mount of Transfiguration when Moses and Elijah conversed with Him and something of His transfigured glory shined through; and Peter doesn’t want to leave, because he’s seen a glimpse of Christ as He is.
Everything in this world belongs to God, He could have claimed everything for himself when He first appeared, because in fact we do belong to Him! Everything does belong to Him! He is Lord. He is our Maker. And yet when He came into this world, He did not claim His privileges and prerogatives. The way in which Jesus accomplished our salvation was not to stand on His privileges and prerogatives, but to give them away, to veil His majesty, to deny himself the rightful privileges and prerogatives that were His.
IV. Christ did not cling to His equality with God.
He did not claim His rights, but He poured himself out for others and He took upon himself the role of a slave. He voluntarily set aside His rights for the salvation of His people for their eternal well-being. Paul is saying ‘Christian, that is how you ought to live, in that kind of radical and self-giving in the context of the congregation.’
This kind of Christ-like, other-worldly, self-giving love is to be manifest in the body of believers tangibly as a witness to the grace work that God has done in the hearts of His people.
I hasten to say quickly that Paul is not telling you the way to be saved here. If the way to be saved is to give yourself away in Christ-like love to one another, we’re all going to hell. God is showing here what Christ did to save you. (And by the way, in the very showing of what Christ has done to save you, He’s showing you that you can’t save yourself.) Having been saved by trusting in Jesus Christ alone for salvation as He is offered in the gospel, then Paul says ‘The way you know the joy of Christ in this fallen world is by following the way of Christ.’
So, what does this mean for us today?
Let’s look first at how this plays out in the Christian community. Though we want to be loved and we want to be understood, and we want to be comforted, and we want to be esteemed and thought highly of, and though we want to be ministered to – we will have as our mindset and attitude that says, ‘I am not here to be served, but to serve, because that was the way of my Master who saved me by grace.’ And though, yes, we do want to be loved and understood and comforted and esteemed, following Jesus means that we adopt His mind; and that our first order of business becomes not to be loved, but to love. You see how radical this is.
This is how the joy comes in! When you give yourself away, and you decide, ‘OK, life is not about me being served; life is about me giving myself away in service,’ what happens when the church collectively decides to do that?
What about the world? We are surrounded on all sides – religious and secular – by a self-centered culture. The world looks at both secular and religious manifestations of self-centeredness and says, ‘You know, they’re all just saying the same thing.’ But what if we were to say, ‘How could we stand aside from the claims to our rights and privileges and seek your well-being? To love you, to care for you?’ The world would have no answer for that. Because there is no answer to love. There’s no argument against love.
May God grant that we show to one another and to the watching world this kind of self-denying, self-giving love.
Monday, May 02, 2011
Last week, we outlined this whole section that runs from Philippians 2:5-11. Today, we’ll look more closely at the first two verses of this “song of Christ” that deal with his divinity and our humility.
How do you go about counting others as more significant than yourself, when you don’t think they’re more significant than you?
Paul’s way to humility is not in your denying the native giftings and abilities and talents and capacities that you possess. Yes, of course we should always recognize that all those things come from God, but it is interesting that that is not the tack that Paul wants to take here in order to help us count others as more significant than ourselves. He takes a more radical tack. He asks us to consider who we are in light of who Christ is. That’s why this passage starts with a consideration of the divinity of Christ.
Humility consists in a right estimation of who we are. That begins with being disabused of a false high estimation of ourselves, but it is not corrected by having a low estimation of ourselves, but by seeing ourselves in light of God—His holiness, in light of our sinfulness, in light of Christ. We measure ourselves against the Lord Jesus Christ, and suddenly we realize that our task in humility cannot compare to His task in humility.
So often we look out when we are called to count others as more significant than ourselves, and we’re faced with the realization that we may know more than the person that we’re called to be humble before, or we may be more upstanding than the person that we’re called to show humility in the presence of; or, we may be more righteous than the person whom we have been called to count as more significant than ourselves. But when approach with that kind of attitude, we’re measuring ourselves against the weakness of our brother and sister, and we’re providing an argument as to why we don’t have to do what God has told us to do in His word. Paul starts responding to this saying, “Count others as more significant than yourselves” – and then: Consider…Christ. He’s smarter than you. He knows more than you. He works harder than you. He’s better than you. In fact, He is perfect in every way. And yet He has humbled himself for you.
You know, it is a humbling thing to realize that even if you stoop to serve, to humble yourself before, and to count as more significant than yourself someone who is far, far below you in some way, that you will never ever in this world or any other serve someone lower than yourself than Christ humbled himself in serving you.
And what does Paul say in verses 5-6? He says that Jesus is the very form of God. He is equal with God. And what is he saying when he’s saying that?
In the Old Testament, the people of God go way out of their way to make it clear that God does not have a body like man. He manifests Himself in the Old Testament in glory, the Shekinah glory cloud comes down upon the tabernacle, and then the temple; and God manifests the form of His glory, for in Ezekiel 1 and 2, a passage in which the glory of God is described and which was considered so holy that the rabbis suggested that no one be allowed to read it before they were thirty years old. And here is Paul saying, ‘Consider Jesus, because He is the glory; He is the very form of God; He is the Shekinah in the flesh; and He counted you as more significant than himself.’ And you will never ever be able to account someone as more significant than yourself who is comparatively lower in relation to you than you are in relation to Him, because He is God—in the flesh!