The Pattern of Christ’s Exaltation by Humiliation
Text: Philippians 2:5-11
As we have seen over the past two weeks, in the opening words of this chapter we find Paul’s call to congregational unity. We have seen him use incentives, and arguments based upon self-denial.
Now Paul gives the ultimate gospel pattern of self-denial and humiliation. Christ is always the great motivation for the people of God. If Jesus Christ does not move your heart, there is a much greater spiritual problem than the problem you’re trying to solve.
So Paul says, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…” and he gives a real life example of what it is they are to seek to practice. What their life, attitude, and conduct should look like.
The language of this portion is one of the most profound in all scripture. It is called the Christ Hymn, and through it Paul exemplifies how a Christ-centred theology is the answer for practical problems in the church.
One of the things I’ve noticed since coming here is how psychologically based the preaching is on the radio. The psychologizing of the Bible is so common it’s shocking. Every Bible passage, every Bible truth is turned into an opportunity to dish out some pseudo-biblical psychological medicine. They announce their text, give a story or illustration, then proceed to say… “let me give you 5 ways to…”, “let’s look at 7 reasons you might be…”.
There’s no mining out the biblical text from the context, and there’s little real application of the gospel. It’s a psycho-gospel, and I imagine to many exegetical preaching must feel rather taxing on the old grey matter.
I believe the Bible is not merely the only rule for faith and practice, but the sufficient rule for faith and practice. You don’t need a psychology degree to preach the Word, and you don’t need psychology to live the Christian life. It is the Word, always the Word, and only the Word, and there’s an element of unbelief evident in the one who things counselling requires something more than the gospel of Christ.
So Paul doesn’t get psychological in his efforts to promote spiritual unity among the brethren, he gets to Christ and applies the gospel. His desire is that we put into practice what the Lord taught in John 13:13-17. An example of self-denying, humble service to others as the pattern of our lives, and not merely as a one-off annual event.
And in order to help us, we’re not directed to a 12 step program, but to Christ, and we are shown here the example of one who exalted humanity through humility.
I. THE PATTERN IS ELEVATED BY HIS PERSON v6-8
“who being” i.e. existing in a form of God. Here we have the deity of Jesus. He is not like God, or created by God, He is God. “thought it not robbery to be equal with God” – i.e. deity is not something He took that didn’t belong to Him. He IS God. And at a specific point in history God became man and dwelt among us. God was manifest in the flesh.
And yet… v7-8 – the mystery of his humiliation. What a mystery there is in how God became man without ceasing to be God. “Veiled in flesh the godhead see, hail the incarnate deity, pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel.”
II. THE PATTERN IS EVIDENCED BY HIS PILGRIMAGE
i) The Pilgrimage to the Cross – “he made himself of no reputation” – i.e. He made himself of no account. He laid aside all thoughts of Himself, and placed His thought upon His people. This is Jesus fulfilling v4. He looked at us in our sin and shame, in our guilt and condemnation, in our plight and hopelessness, and seeing us He looked not upon His own things. He should have hated us all like Esau, but no, He looked upon some like Jacob, and instead of looking at His own things, He loved them.
He cast away His reputation as held by the host of Heaven, to condescend to save a wretched sinner like me. “took upon him the form of a servant” – this is the one whom angels hid their face from, and we’re told He becomes a servant. This is self-denial to a degree we cannot grasp. He plumed the depths of man’s depraved state, to lift up the most vile among humanity.
ii) The Pilgrimage of the Cross – “even the death of the cross” – i.e. it required the death of the cross. His death at the hands of Herod in His infancy would have been a failure. His death by the hands of Jews trying to push Him off a cliff would have been a failure. His death at the hands of the Jewish Sanhedrin as they judged Him would have been a failure – it had to be the cross.
It was the pinnacle of his obedience
It was the proof of His love – I don’t understand all that happens in my life. But Calvary is enough for me to understand He loves me.
It was the payment of our debt
It was the punishment for our sin – every sin will be paid for, either by the sinner or the Saviour. All that the justice of God required for sin was suffered by Christ.
It was the removal of God’s wrath – propitiation.
III. THE PATTERN IS ENCOURAGED BY HIS PREEMINENCE – v9-11
Having been brought to the lowest depths of separation from the Father and the eternal sufferings for sin, Christ is exalted to be the preeminent one and the one who is now in the glory receiving glory and honour.
So what is this name? The view that the name Jesus is the name given by God appeals to the support of the next line: That at the name of Jesus. Advocates of this view point out that the name Jesus is truly a name, not a title, such as the title Lord. However, most interpreters suggest the exalted name is ‘Lord’, and that the hymn postpones revealing the name until the last line, “Jesus Christ is Lord”.
This exaltation of Christ was not, as some understand, a reward for His obedience. God ‘exalted’ and ‘gave’ which indicates the reward is not on merit, but by favour. It was not earned, but given. And point is that the lower one stoops to serve, the higher God exalts in His divine favour. And this is the beginning of man’s betterment. It is not by personal development, but by the Son of God descending to the depths of Calvary, rising from the dead to ascend to the right hand of the Majesty on High, and setting a pattern that once grace is instilled in our hearts, we should do likewise.
Every knee. Every tongue. Angels, devils, and every man ever born will worship and confess Him from a place of glory for some and a place of condemnation for others.
Clear allusion to Isaiah 45:22-24 – “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed.”
Which further evidences the fact that Jesus Christ is God, “I am God…unto me every knee shall bow…”
What a joy and mercy it is beloved, to be here this morning to and to want to worship Him! What a miracle of grace we all our, and what benefactors of divine mercy!
There are some of you and I genuinely wonder if you’ve ever worshiped Him.
Close – “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill; That he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people.” Ps 113:7-8
This being the case, how can we be so proud in service for the Lord? The Church is not ours with which to get our own way. We are to serve in a lowly spirit like Christ. How unlike Him we are!