I want us to turn together in the word of God to Philippians chapter 2 to our scripture reading, Philippians chapter 2, and we begin to read at verse 1. We began, last week, a glimpse at the Christian pattern, looking at the person of our Lord Jesus and specifically the stoop that He took as He left heaven to come down to earth to be our Saviour. We only got a few - the first three - steps looked at last Lord's Day morning, and God willing we want to look at the last four today, and slightly at His exaltation.
But we'll begin reading at verse 1: "If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 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. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father". Amen.
We were looking last week, as I said, at the Christian pattern - the stoop that our Lord Jesus took. This is a great portion of scripture, some scholars believe it was an ancient Christian creed, a basis of belief; others believe it was a hymn, a doxology of praise, Christologically speaking - outlining the condescension of our Lord Jesus from heaven to earth. Of course, I don't think there's any other portion of Scripture that can match in majesty and beauty the wonder of what it was for our Lord Jesus to leave heaven and come down to this sinful earth. But you will remember that the most important thing, perhaps, that we noted last week contextually from this passage is that it is found in the context of Paul's exhortation to these Christians in Philippi to behave like this towards one another. That the whole point of this passage, it's not just to give us a Christological doctrine of theology of what it meant for the Lord Jesus to be in the form of God, and step down, and left His glory aside and came into humanity, and humility, and all that the cross meant for Him, and then was subsequently exalted by God because of His stoop - it's more than that. It's giving us an example, and Paul is using this great theological truth to show us that as Christ stooped, so we must stoop - one toward another, of course.
That call is found in the first four verses of our passage, and it is a call to unity. 'If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy' - my joy is when you are humble toward one another, when you're 'likeminded having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind, and letting nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves'. It is a call to unity - now note: it's not a call to uniformity, that we all have to be clones of one another, that we all have to in every single iota believe the same as one another. Of course it's speaking fundamentally of the things that we believe, the faith delivered once to the saints - we've all got to stand one together, with one mind. You remember the previous verses of chapter 1 that told us how we had to stand together firm in the faith, and fight for the faith, and strive together in the faith.
It is to be of one mind, to be in unity, not uniformity, to be in unity. But of course Paul tells us that the way of unity is to have the mind of Christ. Verse 5: 'Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus' - and in verses 5 to 11 that we'll study today, Paul describes how this mind of humility, and esteeming another better than yourself, is found actually expressed in God Himself, and how God Himself in the person of Christ had stooped down in humility toward humanity. In later studies we'll look at verses 12 to 16, but in preface I'll tell you that that simply is another expression of this humility, another expression of the mind of Christ in the assembly at Philippi. In verses 17 to 18 we find the expression of the mind of Christ in humility in the great apostle Paul himself. In verses 19 to 24 we find the mind of Christ expressed in Timothy, Paul's servant. In verses 25 to 30 we will find the mind of Christ expressed in Epaphroditus.
What Paul is saying is this, it's a great epistle of joy as we know, and he's already expressed that the joy of Christ will be experienced in the assembly of God when we love one another, when we have peace with one another, and when we put one another before ourselves, when we in lowliness of mind - which is the mind of Christ - esteem one another better than ourselves; then we will know the joy of Christ in our experience. The tragedy is that the tendency of ourselves, and even the believers in Philippi at this time, is to magnify our differences and minimise our agreements, the things that we have in one mind. This verse 5 could be translated: 'Let the attitude be in you which was also in Christ Jesus'. It seems today, as it was in Paul's day, that we as believers often strike our attitudes on the ground of our disagreements, rather than striking our attitudes on the ground of our agreements. Now I'm talking about fundamental things here, I'm not talking about agreeing with those who deny the fundamentals of the faith. We would have to agree in this room this morning that many of us will disagree on little matters, and it is our prerogative to do that, and we believe in the freedom of conscience. But we must believe, perhaps, 95% of biblical things in one mind and with the one spirit, we must be in agreement at least on 95% of things. But the tendency, and I believe it's the tendency of our old Adamic human nature, is to focus on the disagreements, to strike our attitude to one another on the grounds of the things that we disagree on, and maximise our disagreements until eventually they eclipse what we do agree on, and they become the focus of everything that we are and do.
The fact of the matter is that this was what Paul was speaking against. He says this, and I think you will see that it's very clear right throughout the whole theme of this epistle, that true biblical spirituality that will engender joy in your life is a man and a woman who is able to work with those whom he disagrees with. He's able to esteem another better than himself, and put away a petty difference, and work with that man in the unity of Christ and for the furtherance of the Gospel. The fact of the matter was that this church in Philippi was in Philippi, and there were no motorcars or buses or trains for them to go to another church, when they had a disagreement with one another they had to put up with one another because they lived in Philippi and they had to worship there. But Paul's fear was that because of the strife that potentially was going to erupt from within them, that what happened to the Jews would happen to the Christian church, in that they would be smashed into many fragments, perhaps right across the whole world. He didn't want that to happen - and I wonder today has that fear of Paul been realised in the many denominations and factions and sects that we have in Christendom?
Paul is saying that you've got to put aside these differences - not doctrine now, not teaching and the things that become sound doctrine, but petty personal differences - that is the right thing to do, Paul says. Any of us who have tried to do it will know that the right thing is always the hardest thing. I think that's probably catholic with regards to everything in Scripture, it's universal that the right thing to do is always the hardest thing to do. Have you ever tried to do what's found in verse 3: 'Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves'? Do you always esteem other people better than yourself? That's mighty, isn't it? Do I esteem other preachers better than myself? You might think that's not too hard for me, but perhaps put it on you: something that you think you're good at, do you esteem the other person to be better than you at that particular thing?
Now we have a human nature, and often we say: 'Well, my human nature isn't like that' - but we must remember that God has given us a new nature. I know that it's inevitable that within our human nature this old Adamic sense and temptation and passion will rise up in us to think of ourselves better than another, and to look down our noses at others; but we must remember that God has made us new creatures in Christ Jesus, and all the old has to be passed away and everything become new. Really what Paul is saying is that we are no longer to be selfish. The Christian New Testament believer is no longer to be selfish! So, in verse 1 to 4 he's inspiring us to think of others - the last word of verse 4. He's thinking of our personal conduct, what we learnt last week: that our personal conduct is to be modelled upon the person of Christ and His condescension, He is the Christian pattern in the stoop that He took when He came from heaven to earth.
Now we saw last week, let's quickly recap over it: first of all of He was being found in the form, the nature of God - He had conscious dignity. We found last week that this was speaking to us of the fact that because He was lofty in His character, He was able to condescend. Because He knew who He was, and He knew that no-one could take away from Him what He was in nature, He was not afraid of humbling Himself. One has said: 'Self-assertion is alien and superfluous to a person in himself who has an undisputed right to deity'. He didn't need to self-assert Himself, He didn't need to push Himself forward as if He was God, because He was God and He knew He was God - and the very first stepping-stone to His condescension and humiliation was His own recognition of His dignity as God.
What a lesson we learnt from that, because we realised that we will not be afraid of what other people think of us or say of us if we know who we are and what we really are - if we have a conscious dignity. Of course, all of us are the same in the sense that we are all the sons of God, and we've got all the promises of God. Then the second stoop we saw was voluntary surrender - look at verse 6: 'He thought it not robbery to be equal with God', or as it has been translated: 'He thought it not something to be grasped at'. We saw that that word 'grasped' means something seized or carried off by force, or it can mean a prize or an award. In other words, He didn't need to steal a reputation as God, because He had it - He had the conscious dignity in Himself. But neither did He strive toward it as a prize, because He didn't need to win it as a prize because He was God. But I think in the context of what Paul is saying here, trying to encourage believers to be humble toward one another, the main point that he's making is this: that He willingly yielded up His rights as God in a voluntary surrender - He didn't grasp at what was rightfully His, He didn't strive towards it as a goal, He didn't steal at it, but He gave it up. Just as the first Adam in the garden of Eden aspired to be like God, the Lord Jesus, the last Adam, did not grasp at it. Adam fell, but Christ is exalted - for the pattern of God is that when you abase yourself you will be exalted.
Voluntary surrender...the third thing was complete surrender, we saw that it wasn't just surrendering something, but it was surrendering everything. Verse 7: 'He made himself of no reputation', and we saw that that word literally means 'nothing', or 'emptied Himself'. Now let me say this: the false 'kenosis' (sp?) theory that says that Christ emptied Himself of His deity is a lie! Let me make that clear! The word 'kenosis' is in this passage, but I want you not to misunderstand me: He did not empty Himself of His deity, for if He emptied Himself of His deity, He emptied Himself of the form, His nature. If you empty yourself of your nature you cease to be what you are - just as you, if you emptied yourself of your nature, you would cease to be who you are. It was impossible for Him to do it, nevertheless the word means and insinuates: 'Emptied Himself of all' - a complete emptying.
Now, what was it a complete emptying of? Let me recap with you: His divine glory was hidden in human flesh; He emptied himself of His independent, divine authority to use His attributes without God the Father, He never ever did that; He emptied Himself of the voluntary exercise of some of His divine attributes; He emptied himself of His eternal riches - He was rich, for our sakes became poor - and the poverty was not the poverty of the earth, so much as the poverty of being stripped of the riches of heaven. That's the point! He emptied himself of the unique, intimate, face-to-face relationship with His Father. Temporarily on this earth He was not in the communion that He always knew, but He was separated in a body - and even when it came to Calvary He cried out: 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?'. What humiliation there is there! I think it was C.I. Schofield said: 'He laid aside the outward insignia of the glory of deity'. He didn't lay aside His deity, neither did He lay aside the glory of deity, neither did He lay aside the attributes of deity - but He laid aside the manifestation of them all.
Now let's look at the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh stoops. The fourth is found in verse 7: 'He took upon Himself the form of a servant' - this is the surrender of the will. The surrender of the will: 'the form of a bondservant', it could be translated. Now this does not mean that He put upon Himself the clothes of a servant, nothing like that. The sense is that He became as completely a servant as He was completely God! Do you see that? We would not dispute this morning that He was absolutely, perfectly God; but in the same sense He was absolutely, perfectly and completely a servant. The Greek word is 'doulos', which spoke of a servant who owned nothing, not even the clothes on his back, everything belonged to his master. You don't need to read too far in the Gospels to find out how our Lord owned no land, no house, no gold, no jewels. He had no business, no boat, no horse - and even when it came to His death He rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey; and when He was crucified, just before it He went up to the upper room which was borrowed; and after He died He was buried in a borrowed tomb.
But it's more than that: He is our servant - and this is marvellous, because we know from Isaiah 53 that the Lord literally has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him! He is made our servant - He is the servant of Jehovah, but He is actually going through crucifixion serving us! He became the servant of Jehovah to fulfil the will of God toward us. People get confused about the garden of Gethsemane, and let me say that I am very confused about a lot of it. But one thing that has been explained to me in these studies in Philippians 2 about where the Lord Jesus says: 'Not my will, but thine be done', is the confusion of some where they say: 'Well, was the Lord's will against the Father's will, that He had to resign Himself to the Father's will?'. No, it wasn't and it couldn't. It wasn't that the Lord didn't want to go to Calvary that He said: 'Not my will, but thine be done' - that was impossible, for He rebuked the disciples for even the insinuation of holding Him back from Calvary. But the point here is this: that the Lord Jesus had a human will, and even His human will that was not opposed to God still had to be surrendered up to God! Do you get it? He learned obedience by the things He suffered, Hebrews says - it's not that His will opposed in any way God's will, but He had a will to give up to God: 'I must always do those things that please Him'.
Now I think you would agree with me that man, as we know it, would rather be a king in a cottage than a servant in a palace. I want you to see this: Jesus, the great Creator who created all things, who ruled all things, who sustained all things by the word of His power, is now stooping to be a servant in His own world, to be controlled by His Father's will and even the will of others! He even stooped to be in subjection to those around Him: the crowd, the blind man, the deaf, the lame, the dead who needed Him and who wanted His help - it's remarkable! Even the disciples, He subjected Himself as the servant to their whims. When they wanted to lean on His breast by faith, as a child would lean on their mother for comfort and help, He was always there for them! It's amazing that in the end - and you mark this, and this is tremendous - He even submitted Himself to His enemies, and at last allowed them to deprive Him of His liberty and of His life. It's a complete and an utter surrender, He yielded all step-by-step, sacrifice by sacrifice, until at last He was led as a Lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is dumb.
Surrender of the will...then there was His earthly position: 'He was in the form of a servant, and was made' - verse 7, the end - 'in the likeness of men'. This is lower still, each step gets lower. He wasn't just a servant, He was - Paul is saying - the lowest of men, the humblest of the race. He suffered the humiliation of human birth! The God that had designed it went through it! He suffered the humility of the feebleness of infancy, He was a little baby in that manger! He didn't become a man in the sense of a pre-fall Adamic man - and you mark this: some people think that the Lord Jesus walked around as Adam walked around before the fall. It wasn't like that at all, let me tell you. I've even heard it said that the Lord Jesus couldn't suffer pain until that last week of His crucifixion, as if God took some kind of cosmic shield away from Him and allowed Him to suffer and know weakness and pain - that is nonsense! He took upon Himself the lowest position of humanity, apart from sin - yet He took upon Himself the frailties, the limitations, the problems, the sufferings that were the heritage of humanity in the fall although He had no sin of His own.
You can see that in the fact that He was hungry, and those were hunger pangs - pains - in the desert 40 days and 40 nights, and if you'd been hungry that long you would know that. He was thirsty, He suffered pain and He felt sadness at the tomb of Lazarus. Like other men He was tired, He was weak, He needed sleep - and Roman says, and here's the verse if you want it: 'He was made in the likeness of' - not pre-fall flesh, but - 'in the likeness of sinful flesh'. He wasn't made like sinful flesh, He wasn't made sinful flesh, but He was made in the likeness of it. What a position: He could have taken the likeness of an unfallen angel, yet the great Creator became passive. In that little manger His own creatures, fallen and sinful, could lift Him up in their arms and set Him down at their own will! What about that? The Creator at the pleasure of others - not a child of royalty, or wealth, or honour; but born among the poor and lowly, of a maiden whose circumstances even threw upon His birth a shadow of suspicion and dishonour, He was called a bastard, the lowest of the low. He made Himself of no reputation.
Why did He do it? Because He must know what our human experiences are - He must! He needed to be perfectly united with man, just as He was and always had been perfectly united to God, because He had to become our merciful High Priest! He had to make intercession for us, and how could He make intercession for us if He never knew what it was like for us? Praise God, He knows, He knows.
The sixth step was obedience right to death: 'Being found in fashion as a man', verse 8, 'he humbled himself, and became obedient right unto death', would be a better translation, because He wasn't obedient to death, death had no hold on Him, but He humbled Himself to be obedient right unto death, He gave Himself up to death. Now He had been obedient already to the pangs of birth in Mary's womb, He had been obedient to Mary and Joseph as His own parents - the God of heaven obedient to them! He had been obedient to Joseph in the carpenter's workshop, to the sweat of employment, and not once did He save Himself from a human agony by the drawing of His divine power - not once. You even go to Matthew chapter 4, to the temptation of the Lord Jesus Christ, and you watch the first and second temptations that came to Him from the devil, and what were they? One: turn these stones to bread; two: cast Yourself off the peak and the angels will give themselves guard over Thee - what where they? They were temptations to get the Christ of God to turn and use His own divine attributes, but He didn't turn to them - why? Because He had to face temptation as a man, not as God! You don't face temptation as God, do you? You face it as a man, and praise God you can be a victor because Christ was the victor before you.
But the final shame, as it were, was He died, He died! He need not have died, because He had no sin, and death is the wages of sin. He said it Himself in John 10:17-18: 'No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again'. In that transfiguration on that Mount of Transfiguration, Christ - you mark this - would have had every right to have turned His back on His disciples, and stepped back into heaven and never saved them at all! But He didn't do it, because He was obedient to death, which was obedient to His Father's will! With calm deliberation and full knowledge of all that awaited Him at Calvary, He bowed His meek head below death's sceptre.
Seventh: His final sacrifice, He was obedient right unto death, even the death of the cross. No illustrious death for the Son of God, no heroic tragedy, but that which was given to the criminal, to the scum of the earth was the death of Jesus the Son of God! They put Him outside the city wall, do you know why? Because a criminal was thought to defile the holy precincts of Jerusalem, and they put Jesus out in case His filth would defile them! What a final sacrifice, between two common thieves as if He Himself was a convict; buried in stranger's grave as if He was worthless. I know and you know that there are thousands of people right across our world this very morning who are willing to sacrifice themselves, blow themselves up, give their whole livelihood for something heroic if it brings them distinction, if they get a halo of heroism and fame around their brow - but there was no fame for Christ!
'Man for man will boldly brave
The terrors of the yawning grave,
And friend for friend, and child for sire,
Undaunted and unmoved expire
For love, or piety, or pride -
But who can die as Jesus died?'
He chose the most degrading, painful form of death - and let me say to you: He could not have gone any lower. Our imaginations could well have put Him in the house of Mary and Martha and Lazarus in Bethany, lying on a bed dying, with Mary wiping His brow, and Martha running in and out and getting His aid, with the window open with the fresh breeze coming from Jerusalem - but that wasn't His death! He chose to be butchered on a cross that He might go as low as He could, that He might bring us as high as He would go! He tasted death for every man so that the great martyrs and reformers, and apostles and disciples of the faith, He could enter into what they went through to be a sympathising Saviour.
Here's the crux of the message: 'Let this mind be in you', that's what Paul said! This consciousness of dignity and voluntary surrender, this complete surrender, this surrender of the will, this lowly earthly position, this obedience right to death, and even the final sacrifice of losing all dignity and having all shame poured upon you. One of the greatest books that have ever been written by a Christian man is that which is called: 'The Imitation of Christ'. My friend, it is a good book and I commend it to you, but let me warn you of this at the end of this study in Philippians 2: that you might as well try and imitate Christ as a canary imitate Pavarotti - it cannot be done. You cannot do it in your own strength, and Christ in this passage is not so much an example, but He is the very power to live this life which is His life. Mark what verse 5 says: 'Let this mind be in you, this mind which was also in Christ Jesus' - His mind, it's His mind! It's not you trying to make your mind like His mind, or your life like His life, but dying to yourself and letting Him live through you.
If there's a truth that needs to be known in Christianity, this is the deepest truth: it is no longer I that live, but Christ that liveth in me. This is the mystery of godliness: Christ in you, the hope of glory. Do you want humility, esteeming others better than yourself? Submit to Christ and let His life live through you! Do you want love? Well, open your heart to a baptism of love from the Son of God - His love. If you want patience it will have to be His patience; courage, His courage; wisdom, His wisdom - whatever it is, it's got to be His! You might think: 'Well, this is very confusing' - well, I'll tell you it's not, because it clears up a lot of problems, you know why? Because it makes things less complicated: all you need is Christ!
Great simplicity, not 101 steps, just one: Christ. It takes all complications out of it, that you're not watching yourself and your steps, but you're keeping your eyes on the Lord Jesus, and you're abiding in the Vine, and you're letting the Vine live through your life because you're dead, and He is life in you! Do you get it? The way to be exalted is what Jesus did: 'Wherefore God hath also highly exalted Him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord'. My friend, if you want to be exalted it must be the way of the cross. This passage is teaching you that the way up is the way down, the way to win is the way to lose, the way to strength is the way of weakness, the way to glory is the way of shame, the way to life is the way of death - and this is God's law of recompense, because nobody ever stooped so low and no-one was ever exalted so high!
The greatest step He took led to the greatest honour that anyone ever had, and I want you to mark - we don't have time to lineate this - but there were seven steps down, and there were also seven steps up. Seven is the number of perfection as you know, and that speaks that perfect humiliation and submission and surrender will lead to perfect exaltation, and He had it! He had it. Brethren and sisters, such a mind must be in us, we must be willing to lay aside our ambition, our own glory and self-seeking, our little thrones of comfort, respect, to serve others in the church and in the lost world. There are plenty of us like the two who would sit at the right hand and the left hand of Christ in the kingdom, but He says if we want that we must drink of His cup, we must be baptised with the baptism that He is baptised with.
Paul could say in his great epistle to the Corinthians: 'I think also that I have the mind of Christ' - do we? I'll leave you with this little piece called 'Others':
'Lord help me live from day to day
In such a self-forgetful way,
That even when I kneel to pray
My prayer shall be for others.
Help me in all the work I do
To ever be sincere and true;
And know that all I do for thee
Must needs be done for others.
Let self be crucified and slain
And buried deep, and all in vain
May efforts be to rise again,
Unless to live for others.
And when my work on earth is done,
And my new work in Heaven's begun,
May I forget the crown I won
While thinking still of others.
Others, Lord, yes others,
Let this my motto be,
Help me to live for others
That I may live like Thee'.
Our Father, we thank Thee for the massive step, the immeasurable, unquantifiable step that Christ took when He left Thy right hand and came and walked among men. Lord, we are only paddling at the water's edge this morning, and we pray that we will be given a deeper appreciation - but, our Father, we have found out that Thy will is that we should have a deeper appreciation, when we ourselves suffer the same humiliation that He suffered. Lord, help us always to be a people that step down, that God may raise us up again. Help us to be a people that love one another, and esteem one another better than ourselves in lowliness of mind. Lord, help us all to realise today that we ought not to go away and try to be imitators of this example, but that we should die, and allow Christ to live in us - mind, body, soul and spirit, that our attitude may be that of Christ Jesus. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the twelfth tape in his Philippians series, titled "The Majesty And Humility Of Christ Part 2" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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