Philippians 2:5-8

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.”

(Luke 14:11)

 

  1. John Stott, “Pride, Humility & God,” Sovereign Grace Online, September/October 2000.
  2. C.J. Mahaney, Humility, (Multnomah Books, 2005), 32.
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The Grace of A Rebuke

We currently live in an age where truth is projected as a fleeting fantasy or it’s reconstructed as an oppressive notion.  The ideas of our postmodern age, sadly, have infiltrated and contaminated the professing church through enemies of the cross and undiscerning ears.  It is because of the failure to adhere to truth that the church exhibits stagnation and retarded growth.  The failure of adhering to truth is not of a theoretical issue alone, but a practical one.  We do the truth of the gospel no good when we fail to exhibit it practically.  We bear the fruit of postmodern theory when we fail to walk in truth.  So what does it mean to walk in truth? Psalm 86:11 says this:

 Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.

First, walking in truth involves understanding His ways, His commands and precepts.  So there is an instructional aspect.  Next, the Psalmist prays for the effect of the LORD’s instruction: to obey His truth.  The Psalmist is praying for comprehensive obedience.  And this comprehensive obedience is for what end?  To deliver him from the duplicity resident in his heart.  We must have undivided, right and reverent affections, with the chief affection being the glory of His name.  This is what it means to fear His name.

But let’s be a little bit more specific. I am going somewhere with this!

What does walking in truth look like in the relational dynamic of the brotherhood, which is united in one Spirit?

To put it simply, we are to walk in love toward one another for the advancement of the gospel for the glory of Christ.

Let us not be naïve to think that this love is a cocktail of warm thoughts, nice gestures, and complimenting words.  It is much more.  It is much harder. Why?

The core of our relationships with one another is about the glory of Christ.  I believe this should be the primary focus of our relationships, which takes grace from God to comprehend such a blessed reality. (Philippians 1:27)  But the precursor to that is to see the beauty and perfection of Christ Himself to rejoice in such a privilege.  Such is the reason for our sanctification.  We were predestined and saved to be His image bearers. (Romans 8:29) And in the wisdom and love of God,  He’s designed for that sanctification to happen through relationships, which involves transparency, honesty, humility, and at times painful rebukes. Yes, rebukes!

It angers me that it seems like the church (at least in America) thinks it’s above being reproofed.  As long as we are on this side of glorification, biblical reproofing is to be done when necessary.  It is the foolish and prideful person that refuses to take heed of his sin.  It is also the  jaded individual who accuses the reproofer of being uncharitable.  That is severely unbiblical!  In fact, Scripture tells us that discipline is an expression of love.   The writer of Hebrews says to Israel:

 “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
   nor be weary when reproved by him.
6For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
   and chastises every son whom he receives.”

 7It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

That’s grace!!  The purpose of reproofing is that we may turn from sin, share in His holiness which leads to the peaceable fruit of righteousness.  It would be highly unloving of God to not discipline His children and instead let them persist in sin and reap the damaging consequences thereof.

There will always be a constant fight to preserve our self image versus abandoning ourselves humbly to the obedience and glory of God.  Abandoning ourselves to God involves a constant tearing down of the high place of self-idolatry.  This is what Jesus meant when He said, “Abide in me…”

I can guarantee that before we go to be with our Lord, we will find ourselves on both sides of this issue.  When we see the need to rebuke someone, let our motivation be love for our brother or sister, their repentance and God’s glory.  When we find ourselves on the receiving end,  let us respond humbly understanding that this a practical demonstration of the love and grace of God toward us.  That is walking in truth!  That is walking in the fruit of the gospel of grace!

 Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness;
   let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head;
   let my head not refuse it.

Psalm 141:5

Lord, continue to give us the grace to not be practical postmoderns and soften our hearts to receive your correction when needed.

Grace & Peace,

d.