The Humility of Christ: Pt. 1
5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
The constant battle we all fight is an unjustified preoccupation with self. We fight for our rights. We live for our purposes. We seek to satisfy our desires & our pleasures. Even our prayers are tainted, at times, with selfish ambition. We, by nature, are full of pride. Theologian, John Stott said, “Pride is more than the first of the deadly sins; it is itself the essence of all sin.”1 It has been said that pride is the contention for supremacy with God. At the core, pride is nothing more than self-glorification. C.J. Mahaney has rightly said, “The proud person seeks to glorify himself and not God, thereby attempting in effect to deprive God of something only He is worthy to receive.”2
As the essence (or root) of all sin, pride manifests itself most clearly in the context of relationships. If we have a high view of ourselves we will try to advance ourselves, look down on others, discount their desires or thoughts, grow easily irritated with others, display harsh behavior, become easily offended when others have wronged us and exact revenge. James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 tell us, among many other places in Scripture, that God opposes the proud. Mark 9:34 gives us a great example of the self-aggrandizement of the disciples. Mark 9:35 gives us a great example of self-abasement.
33And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he (Jesus) asked them (disciples), “What were you discussing on the way?” 34But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9)
This is precisely the same point Paul is making in Philippians 2:1-4. Paul is exhorting the Philippians to demonstrate their new birth by caring for one another, which can only be done when their hearts are not consumed with selfish ambition or pride. Looking for and doing what will bring about the most amount of good for others requires humility. This is the fight of sanctification every believer will fight until the day of glorification.
The basis of Paul’s exhortation, as previously stated, were the realities of the justified position the believers in Philippi stood. (2:1) The mission behind Paul’s exhortation is the advancement the gospel. (1:27) Christ accomplished the mission (Mk. 10:45) that we’re called to proclaim with every fabric of our being. The ultimate example in which the believers in Philippi could fix their gaze and take their cues from was Jesus Christ. Believers are being fashioned by God’s Spirit to bear the image of Christ. (Rom. 8:29) Paul demonstrates two distinct ways in which Christ humbled Himself – (1) identifying with humanity (vv6-7) and (2) the manner of death in which he subjected Himself. (v8)
To understand the depth of Christ’s humility we must first call attention to His glory as God, the 2nd Person of the Trinity. From everlasting, Jesus Christ is God. He’s always possessed the same attributes and privileges as the Father and the Holy Spirit. In His high priestly prayer in John 17, Jesus prayed to the Father:
5And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
δοξῃ [doxēi]) is the Greek word for “glory” in the verse above and it is referring to the majestic and divine state of the pre-incarnate Christ. Clearly, Jesus says He possessed this glory before the world existed and through His death and resurrection, He returned to that same glory.
Paul confirms the deity of Christ by saying he was in the form of God. This simply means that Christ was the external appearance of God and it carries the same idea of Jesus’ words to Phillip in John 14:9. Paul goes on to say that Jesus didn’t count equality with God a thing to be grasped. Although, He was fully God, for the sake of the mission of redemption, He didn’t hold on to all of the privileges of being God for His own selfish advantage. Instead, He made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Christ subjected Himself to the finiteness and limitations of humanity in a sin riddled world so that we could be freed from the power of sin and the wrath of God. 2 Corinthians 8:9 says:
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
Christ is not only our example of perfect humanity, but through His death and resurrection and by the power of the Spirit, we too can be humble and repent of pride. If we’re too concerned about ourselves and building our “kingdoms”, we will never understand the wonderful plan of God’s redemption nor display His excellencies to a dark and dying world. For the sake of His fame and your joy, seek the good of others and ultimately their joy in Christ.
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
- John Stott, “Pride, Humility & God,” Sovereign Grace Online, September/October 2000.
- C.J. Mahaney, Humility, (Multnomah Books, 2005), 32.