The God who conquers - Incarnation, humiliation, exaltation - Philippians 2:5-11

This is a sermon by Lee McMunn from the evening service on 7th June 2009.

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I’m sure we can all think of examples of humble actions. Let me give you two examples.

Just imagine that after the church service you went for a cup of coffee and low and behold who was serving the tea but none other than her majesty the Queen. Noticing your reaction she says reassuringly, ‘Call me Lizzie.’

This week I read the true story of what happened in a bible college in Australia. It was strapped for cash and so the college authorities appealed for students to take on the task of cleaning the college. Students signed up voluntarily for every task apart from one – the cleaning of the public loos. For two or three weeks constant appeals were made but no one signed up. Yet the loos remained clean. Every one morning, one of the students went down to the basement and he found none other than the principal of the college, on his hands and knees, doing the cleaning with a scrubbing brush.

What determines how humble an action is? The height from which a person starts and the lowness or the depth to which a person goes.

With this in mind let’s see what we discover about the humility of Jesus.

Look at what Paul says in verse 5. “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!”

What a story a humility! It is so grand because of the height from which Christ Jesus started and the depth to which he went.

We’re told first of all that he was in very nature God. That is, he was full and utterly divine. That’s what the word God means in this part of the Bible. He was co-eternal and co-equal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.

How are we to understand the next assertion made about Jesus? That he did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. Since he is fully divine then he is fully equal in status and essence to God the Father. He already has it so it cannot mean that he tries to grasp something which is not yet his. It must mean something like he doesn’t use his divine position for his own selfish ends. He doesn’t hold it tight for his own advantage.

The crucial question is why not? I think the answer is truly astounding. There must be a connection between what Paul says at the beginning of verse 6 and what he says at the end. What does he say at the beginning? That Christ Jesus was in very nature God. What does he say at the end? That Christ Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be grasped? Why not? Because he was in very nature God. That is, one of the divine characteristics is self giving for the sake of others. That is, to be a member of the divine family means you are other person centred. Each member of the divine family is other person centred. This has been the case for all eternity.

It was because Christ Jesus was fully and utterly divine that he did not use his divine position for selfish gain. Instead, he chose to leave the splendor of heaven for the sake of rebels like you and me.

That is, in the words of verse 7, he became a servant. The eternal one who deserved to be served by all of humanity became the servant of rebellious humanity. He became the servant of those who deserved his eternal condemnation.

And we’re told in verse 8 how he served us. “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!”

It’s worth pausing and asking why Paul adds those words at the end of the verse. Why not simply say he was obedient to death? Why not simply leave us with the truth that Jesus went to his death in order to serve rebellious humanity.

Paul wants to stress the type of death he died. He didn’t die comfortably and with great dignity in his sleep. Or perhaps quickly as the result of an accident on the road. Christ Jesus died a death that polite Romans in the first century didn’t even want to talk. He died on a cross.

We don’t get it. The cross today has become a fashion accessory. In Jesus’ day it was a brutal form of execution and the very form of execution was supposed to completely humiliate the criminal.

Are you beginning to comprehend the scale of Jesus’ humility? From the heights of divinity to the depths of the cross.

He did all this because he cared deeply for the eternal well being of human rebels like you and me.

It’s a great story of humility. From the heights of divinity to the depths of the cross. It didn’t stop there. Look at what Paul writes in verses 9 to 11.
 
“Therefore God [God the Father] exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Do you see how Paul connects the humility of Jesus will the exaltation of Jesus? He says, “Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place.”

This is the Father’s approval and vindication of his Son. He is not made more divine. He is given pride of place because of his completed mission. The Father delights in the Son’s completed mission. He is given pride of place.

He is also given the name that is above every name. What is this? Is it Jesus or is it the Lord? Remember what we are told in verse 5. Christ Jesus is the one referred to in these verses. See how this works out in verse 9 onwards. It cannot therefore read Christ Jesus is given the name Jesus so it must mean the name given to Christ Jesus is the name Lord.

Why is this so significant? The name of the God of Israel is the Lord. The OT also says things about how everyone will eventually relate to the God of Israel.

Isaiah 45:22-25, “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.  23 By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear.  24 They will say of me, ‘In the LORD alone are righteousness and strength.’” All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame.  25 But in the LORD all the descendants of Israel will be found righteous and will exult.”

The Father has given this position to his Son. He is the Lord. Christ Jesus is the Lord. That is why, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

All this for the glory of God the Father – other personed certained as always.

Every knee. Every tongue. Can you imagine what this will be like?

Does this mean everyone will be saved? No, look at what Isaiah 45 says. Those who have raged against him will be put to shame.

So the question for each one of us is not: Will I acknowledge this truth about Christ Jesus? But when will I acknowledge this truth about Christ Jesus?

Everyone will bow. There is no choice to bow. Everyone will confess. Your choice is when. Will you not do it now and wait until it’s too late to be saved? Or will you do it now and worship Jesus the Lord?

I do love this section of the Bible. For many reasons.

Reminds us of the true identity and position of Jesus Christ. He is fully divine and has been exalted to the highest place. Everyone will bow before him.

It reminds us why it is necessary that everyone become a follower of Jesus.

It reminds that people will not always have the opportunity to follow Jesus as Saviour.

Why does Paul speak about the humility and the exaltation of Jesus? Verse 5, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”

What is this attitude? We are to have a desire to serve the interests of other people. This involves a purposeful and often a costly sacrificing on our part.

How can we show this in our church family? Attitude, money and time.

Attitude. All those surveys. What if we filled them in with a view not to our own interests but to the interests of the congregation? What songs we sing? What people wear?

Money. When the pot is bigger it is easier to do everything we want. When there is less we will need to make choices. Make decisions in order to serve the interests of others.

Time. When the pot is bigger it easier to do everything you want. When there is less we need to make choice.

What do you say to the person who says, “I really don’t have the time to meet regularly with God’s people and do everything else I need to do on a Sunday.”? You can’t. Jesus needs to take centre position and life ordered round him.

Example of Esther.

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”

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