Monday, May 02, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ The Divinity of Christ: Phil 2.5-6

Last week, we outlined this whole section that runs from Philippians 2:5-11. Today, we’ll look more closely at the first two verses of this “song of Christ” that deal with his divinity and our humility.

How do you go about counting others as more significant than yourself, when you don’t think they’re more significant than you?

Paul’s way to humility is not in your denying the native giftings and abilities and talents and capacities that you possess. Yes, of course we should always recognize that all those things come from God, but it is interesting that that is not the tack that Paul wants to take here in order to help us count others as more significant than ourselves. He takes a more radical tack. He asks us to consider who we are in light of who Christ is. That’s why this passage starts with a consideration of the divinity of Christ.

Humility consists in a right estimation of who we are. That begins with being disabused of a false high estimation of ourselves, but it is not corrected by having a low estimation of ourselves, but by seeing ourselves in light of God—His holiness, in light of our sinfulness, in light of Christ. We measure ourselves against the Lord Jesus Christ, and suddenly we realize that our task in humility cannot compare to His task in humility.

So often we look out when we are called to count others as more significant than ourselves, and we’re faced with the realization that we may know more than the person that we’re called to be humble before, or we may be more upstanding than the person that we’re called to show humility in the presence of; or, we may be more righteous than the person whom we have been called to count as more significant than ourselves. But when approach with that kind of attitude, we’re measuring ourselves against the weakness of our brother and sister, and we’re providing an argument as to why we don’t have to do what God has told us to do in His word. Paul starts responding to this saying, “Count others as more significant than yourselves” – and then: Consider…Christ. He’s smarter than you. He knows more than you. He works harder than you. He’s better than you. In fact, He is perfect in every way. And yet He has humbled himself for you.

You know, it is a humbling thing to realize that even if you stoop to serve, to humble yourself before, and to count as more significant than yourself someone who is far, far below you in some way, that you will never ever in this world or any other serve someone lower than yourself than Christ humbled himself in serving you.

And what does Paul say in verses 5-6? He says that Jesus is the very form of God. He is equal with God. And what is he saying when he’s saying that?

In the Old Testament, the people of God go way out of their way to make it clear that God does not have a body like man. He manifests Himself in the Old Testament in glory, the Shekinah glory cloud comes down upon the tabernacle, and then the temple; and God manifests the form of His glory, for in Ezekiel 1 and 2, a passage in which the glory of God is described and which was considered so holy that the rabbis suggested that no one be allowed to read it before they were thirty years old. And here is Paul saying, ‘Consider Jesus, because He is the glory; He is the very form of God; He is the Shekinah in the flesh; and He counted you as more significant than himself.’ And you will never ever be able to account someone as more significant than yourself who is comparatively lower in relation to you than you are in relation to Him, because He is God—in the flesh!

And so Paul bids you begin your journey of humility by looking to Jesus. That means two things.

First, we need to become zealous students of the Scripture, to span all of the pages, from Genesis to Revelation to learn of our Savior; to become students of our Savior; to know what He is like, to know what He does, to know His works, to know His will, to know His ways. Not so we’ll know more stuff than other people, but so that we will have a right estimation of ourselves in comparison to the glory that He is. Because until we see our greatness in light of His greatness, we will not see our smallness. And we will not be able to serve people that we think of as small, until our smallness has been humbled in the presence of His greatness. So we need to become students of Christ in His word, looking to know everything that we can possibly know about our Savior so that our mind would be conformed to His.

Second, this very exhortation shows you why you need the gospel. Because if Paul said this: “Be humble like Christ, and God will forgive and save you,” do you know where we would be going? Straight to hell. The glory of the gospel is that it says you are so focused on yourself, and you are so prideful that the only One in the universe who deserved to say “I stand on My rights, and on My merits and on My deserving,” abdicated all of that and humbled himself to save you from your pride. Because you couldn’t have done it!

You see, the gospel is God giving His Son, who has humbled himself in your place. And because He has done that, and because you have rested and trusted in Him alone for salvation, now here’s how you live life: Humble yourself like Jesus, so that His glory, the glory of His humility, is manifested in you. And the world can see that humility did not come from earth; it came from heavenly grace.

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