TEXT: PHILIPPIANS 2:5-8
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
1. TO GROW IN HUMILITY, WE MUST UNDERSTAND THE INCARNATION AND DEATH OF JESUS CHRIST.
Although many volumes have been written on these verses, the basic thought is quite simple and clear: That Jesus Christ voluntarily left the highest position in the universe and went to the very lowest position on earth in order to rescue from God’s judgment people who did not in any way deserve it. There can be no greater example of lowering oneself than what Jesus did on our behalf. If your heart is cold toward the things of God, think on who Jesus is and on what He did in leaving the splendour and purity of heaven and coming to this wicked world to be made sin on your behalf. It should fill our hearts with love and devotion and make us realize that no personal sacrifice we make, no humiliation we go through, can ever match what our glorious Saviour did for us!
A. TO GROW IN HUMILITY, WE MUST INDERSTAND CHRIST’S INCARNATION.
When Paul states that Jesus existed in the form of God (1:6), he is referring to His pre-existence before He was born of the virgin Mary. Jesus is not a created being, but rather is the second person of the triune God. As John opens his gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:1-3). A few verses later John explains further, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Or, as Jesus said to the Jews who challenged His claims, “Before Abraham was born, I am”Light foot, following the early Greek fathers, gives the sense as, “Be humble as Christ was humble:
He, though existing before the worlds in the form of God, did not treat His equality with God as a prize, a treasure to be greedily clutched and ostentatiously displayed: on the contrary He resigned the glories of heaven.” He goes on to observe, “For how could it be a sign of humility in our Lord not to assert His equality with God, if He were not divine? How could such a claim be considered otherwise than arrogant and blasphemous, if He were only a man?” Paul goes on to say that Jesus “emptied Himself.” Clearly, God cannot cease to be God, and so Jesus did not, as some have asserted, give up any of His divine attributes. He limited the independent use of certain attributes and prerogatives while on this earth. And, His preincarnate glory was veiled (John 17:5), except for the brief time on the Mount of Transfiguration, and perhaps when the soldiers in the garden fell backwards after a flash of His glory (John 18:6). Paul explains the main sense of how Christ emptied Himself in the rest of verse 7 and in verse 8: by taking the form of a servant and being obedient to death on the cross. When Paul says that Jesus took on the form of a bond-servant (2:7), he means that He voluntarily adopted the very nature of a servant. He did not cease to be God in any sense, but added to His divine nature a true human nature. Jesus’ human nature was exactly like ours, except that it was joined to a divine nature (not mixed or blended); and, it was without sin, although His body was subject to the results of the fall, such as weariness, aging, and death. When Paul says that Christ was “found in appearance as a man” (2:8), he means that if you had looked at Jesus, you would not have thought, “There is a superman or a god,” but rather, “There is a normal-looking man.” He was born into a family as a baby, grew to maturity as we all do, and in every other observable way was completely human. Thus, the orthodox statement concerning the person of Christ is that He is undiminished deity and perfect humanity united without confusion in one person forever. To deny either the full and perfect deity of our Lord or His complete humanity is to veer into serious heresy. So what Paul is showing is that the Lord Jesus went from the highest place in the universe, as eternal God, to take on human existence, and that, not as a king or powerful warrior, but as a lowly servant. But, He went even lower:
B. TO GROW IN HUMILITY, WE MUST UNDERSTAND CHRIST’S DEATH.
It would have been amazing enough for the eternal God to come to this earth as a mighty king. It was even more amazing that He came as a humble servant. But it’s almost beyond comprehension that He would even go lower and die. And, even more staggering, His death was not a noble death, but a horrible, ignoble death of a common criminal. For the Jew, whoever was hanged on a tree was accused of God (Deut. 21:23). For Gentiles, death by crucifixion was the lowest, most despicable form of death imaginable. Roman citizens were exempt from crucifixion. The Roman poet, Cicero, said, “Far be the very name of a cross, not only from the body, but even from the thought, the eyes, the ears of Roman citizens” So, Paul is saying that Jesus went from the height of heights to the depth of depths. We will never begin to know what glory He gave up or what humiliation He suffered on our behalf until we are with Him in glory. But, to grow in humility, we must think about the staggering implications of what it meant for the holy, glorious, eternal Son of God to take on human flesh; and, not the flesh of a king, but of a servant; and, stooping even lower, He willingly and obediently went to the cross for our sins.
2. TO GROW IN HUMILITY, WE MUST INCARNATION AND DEATH TO AFFECT THE WAY WE ACT TOWARD ONE ANOTHER.
In our day humility is hardly ever emphasized as a Christian virtue that we must pursue. In fact, we extol the opposite, self-love, as a healthy quality that we need to work on that we must pursue humility, what does it look like? Christ’s humility teaches us several aspects of true humility:
(1) True humility is a proper attitude toward self that results in proper actions toward others. “Have this attitude in yourselves ....” Jesus Christ could rightly have thought, “I’m the eternal God. I’m not about to become a human being, let alone be a servant, let alone die!” I’m glad He didn’t think like that!
Who are we? According to Scripture, we are rebellious sinners at heart, who have gone our own way and despised the God who created us. But, by His undeserved favour, we have become His children through faith in Christ. By grace, He has forgiven all our sins and has made us members of Christ’s body. He has entrusted spiritual gifts to us to use for His kingdom and glory (not our own kingdom and glory!). As a result, we have the great privilege of serving others for Jesus’ sake.
(2) True humility means renouncing self for the sake of others. Jesus had to renounce any self-will when He came to earth and went to the cross. In the garden, He prayed, “Not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Of course, He had no sinful will to renounce, whereas we fight it every day. But humility means dying to self-daily so that we can do God’s will.
(3) True humility means lowering myself to lift others up. That’s what Jesus supremely did in giving up the splendour of His glory in heaven to hang naked on the shameful cross for our sins. It would be impossible for us to go to that extreme. But we do need to lower our view of ourselves so that we can serve others. If you ever find yourself saying, “That task is beneath me,” you’d better check your pride.
(4) True humility yields any rights for the sake of serving others. Did Jesus have a right not to come to this earth in the humble way He did? Of course, He did! Did He have a right not to go to the cross? Of course! But, He yielded all His rights and became a bond-servant for our salvation. A bond-servant was the extreme bottom of the ladder when it came to rights, because he had none. He didn’t have a right to his own time. He didn’t even have a right to his own life. This doesn’t mean that we become the slaves of everyone else’s whims or desires. Jesus was obedient to the Father, not to what others thought He should do. Even so, we become enslaved to do what God wants us to do. Jesus told the disciples that when a slave comes in after a day of working in the field, his master doesn’t serve the slave dinner. The slave has to fix dinner and serve the master, and only then is he free to eat. Jesus concluded by saying, “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done’” (Luke 17:10). The only right I have is the right to hell. Any privileges I enjoy are by God’s undeserved favour.
(5) True humility serves others in obedience to God, even at great personal cost. The cross was painful beyond description for Jesus, not just because of the physical pain, but because He who was totally without sin endured the wrath of God by becoming sin for us (2 Cor. 5:20). Any personal cost we have to bear in serving Christ is nothing by way of comparison, even if it means laying down our lives. As Isaac Watts put it, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”.
Pride is like that. Just when we think we’ve conquered it and we turn to accept the congratulations of the crowd, pride stabs us in the back. It won’t be dead before we are. Fight it by focusing on what the Saviour did for you by leaving the glory of heaven and coming to die for your sins. Have that same mind in you which was in Christ Jesus: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (2:3, 4). That’s the way toward harmony in our church and in our homes.