Thursday, May 12, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ The Obedience of the Death of Christ: Phil 2.8

We are still in the “hymn to Christ” section of this great letter from Philippians 2:5-11, which celebrates Christ’s humiliation and His exaltation.

Paul, in Philippians 1:27, has opened the whole middle section of this letter up with an exhortation that we would live a life that fits the gospel. And he elaborates and deepens on that in this section, especially to emulate Jesus’ humility and selfless love manifest in His humanity and servanthood.

Today we’ll examine the humility of Christ manifest in His obedience in death, even the death of the cross as we look at four different ways that Paul shows us how Jesus humbled himself for us.

I. Jesus humbled himself by obeying His whole life long for us.
Paul emphasizes that in the words of Philippians 2:8, “He was obedient to the point of death, indicating that Jesus was obedient over the whole course of His life. Paul’s point here is that Jesus obeyed His whole life long for us, all the way up to the point of death.

Paul is stressing that Jesus’ obedience involves the whole course of His life and ministry, all the way up to the cross.

Do we appreciate that Jesus’ obedience for us was not just on the cross of Calvary, but includes the whole course of His life? And it is not just that Jesus was obedient to the law of God, though He was. He kept the law of God in a way that no human being before or since Him has kept or will keep the law of God, until we are made perfect in glory.

But not only did He do that, He did more. He did something that none of us are able to do in our obedience: none of us are able to undertake a plan whereby we can save a multitude that no man can number. Paul is saying, ‘Christian, you need to celebrate the humility of Christ in embracing this kind of lifelong obedience; obedience to a course of suffering, obedience to a course of humiliation. And He did it because of His love for you and His desire for your salvation.’

II. Jesus humbled himself by embracing the humiliation of the cross.
Paul’s emphasis is not simply that Jesus willingly died for us, but that He embraced the painful, shameful, cursed, humiliating death of the Roman crucifix for us, the most shameful, humiliating death conceivable in both the Gentile and the Jewish world.

Crucifixion was reserved for those criminals who were non-citizens and deemed the vilest of human beings. Moses also tells us that “cursed is he who hangs on a tree.” Jesus not only embraced a death that was shameful in the eyes of the Gentile Romans, but He embraced the death that was shameful in the eyes of Jews. The Jews knew that one who was hung upon a tree was being given a sentence and a punishment that indicated that that person was outside of the believing community, cut off from the promises of God, unloved by any in the family of God’s people, cut off from the inheritance promised to God’s people. In death He embraced the humiliation of the cross that involved pain and shame and curse.

But there’s not only pain, there was shame. Hebrews 12:2 states, “Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith, for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…despising the shame.” He knew that by bearing the cross He was inviting shame, but He did it anyway.

And Christ embraced humiliation. Paul is pointing to the Jesus who served us in humility, in His obedience all His life long, and in the Jesus who humbled himself by embracing even the pain, shame, curse, and humiliation of the cross.

III. He obeyed for our sanctification so that we could be made holy
It’s so important for you to understand that it is not only your justification that is by grace, but your sanctification is by grace.

God is at work, Paul will say in verse 13, both to will and to do his work in you. Jesus humbled himself in His humanity all along the whole course of His life and ministry by embracing obedience to the will of His heavenly Father, an obedience that entailed personal pain and incalculable suffering, shame, curse, and humiliation for your sanctification. Not only did He do this so that you would be justified, but He did this so that you would be made like Him, so that on the last day He would stand in the assembly of His brethren and He would say, ‘These are my brethren, and they are without spot or blemish or wrinkle. They are perfect.’ So that on the last day when the accuser points his finger and says, ‘But that man, that woman, is a sinner!’ Jesus will say, ‘Not any more.’ His work not only forgives us, but it sanctifies us.

IV. Jesus’ humility is manifested by obediently dying, by agreeing to die
Paul is saying that Jesus’ obedience involved His voluntarily giving up His own life. This is like nothing that we’ve ever seen in this world. We have seen brave people who were willing to rescue others at the cost of their own lives, but Paul is not just saying that Jesus voluntarily gave up His life in order that we might live, he is saying that Jesus voluntarily chose to give something that nobody could have taken away from Him.

Paul is elaborating on John 10:17-18, that Jesus, in dying for us, chose to give up something that no one could have taken from Him. He is the only man in the history of the world for which the phrase “chose to die” makes sense. All of us in this fallen world will die one day, unless the Lord Jesus comes back before. But Christ chose to die for us.

Paul puts these things before us in order to move us to have this same attitude of selfless love and serving humility which was in our matchless Savior, and which is ours by grace.

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