The Humbled And Exalted Christ

Philippians 2: 5-11

by
Ian McPherson

INTRODUCTION

Christ taught that he who humbles himself will be exalted  (Luke 14:11).  There is no truer example and illustration of  this principle than Christ Himself, who came down from heaven to live among men, and then be exalted to God’s Right Hand as ruler of the church.  The allotted   text is Phil 2:6-10The title of my lesson is “The Humbled and Exalted Christ”   This lesson will divide the section into four points and deal with the main phrases.

HIS PRE-INCARNATION (vs. 6)

This is seen first of all in the expression who being in the form of God.  The word ‘being’ is  a present active participle which expresses continuous and repeated action. Thus he was always and is still in the form of God. The Greek word for “form” is morphe which is used only of Christ and “Denotes the characteristic form or feature of a person or thing” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary).  Vine quotes Gifford as saying:  “Morphe is  therefore properly the nature or essence, not in the abstract, but as actually subsisting in the individual, and retained as long as the individual exists... thus in the passage before us, morphe Theuo is the Divine nature,  actually and inseparably subsisting in the Person of Christ...”    This is seen in John 1:1-2  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. {2} He was in the beginning with God.”  

Did not consider  it robbery to be equal with God  This carries with it the idea that  before His incarnation, Christ was in every respect, equal with God, in Majesty, Glory and essence.   He did however not hold this position and dignity  in such high esteem that he would not surrender it in order to become man. He did  not lose his Deity in becoming man, but simply surrendered his Glory and position in Heaven. The fullness of Deity still dwelt in Jesus  when he became man (Col 2:9). This thought is expressed in the prayer  recorded on the eve of his death on the  Cross, “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was”  (John 17:5).  “Had” is in imperfect tense which means continuous action in the past. Thus Christ lived in eternal glory with God  before He became man.

HIS HUMILIATION (vss.7-8)

“The Humbled Christ” is most certainly described in the expression “BUT Made Himself of no reputation”.  It is interesting that this expression testifies both to His pre-existence and omnipotence. How could He make Himself of no reputation, if He did not exist before He became man? And how could He become man if He was not the omnipotent  God Himself?

The act of becoming man was voluntary.  We humans have no pre-existence, and therefore have no control over our birth.  Yet Jesus (being pre-existent),  had his own say in the matter.  The thought is expressed in the chorus of “Ivory Palaces” “Out of the Ivory Palaces, into a world of woe, only His great eternal love, Made my Saviour go”.

Actually , the whole three persons of  the Godhead  were  involved in His conception and transformation into manhood.  Notice Luke 1:35  “And the angel answered and said to her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” In this verse we see the Holy Spirit, the Highest (the Father) and the Holy One (The Son) all mentioned.   Christ voluntarily  entered into the womb of Mary, where he lived for nine months before he came forth as a child from her womb. Thus He was involved in His own birth.

Major acts of Deity have always involved all three persons.

Creation “Let US make man in our image” (Gen. 1:26).  “US” included all three persons of the Godhead, The Father, The Preexistent Christ and The Holy Spirit.

They were all also involved in bringing The Word of God  to man  “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14: 25-26).

The Resurrection also involved the three persons:  The Father raised Jesus (Gal 1:1);  The Holy Spirit raised Him (Romans 8:11),  yet Christ also raised Himself . “Jesus answered and said to them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then the Jews said, It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days? But He was speaking of the temple of His body (John 2:19-21).

taking the form of a bondservant  He not only became a man, but also a slave. He did not come to earth as a glorious King  living in a splendid temple or Palace. He was not a wealthy landowner lording it over the peasants. He washed the disciples feet (John 13:1-9),   had no where to lay his head (Matthew  8:20), came from  Nazareth, the lowest of cities (Matthew 2:23) and was born  Bethlehem and insignificant town (Matthew 2:4-6)   Christ,  the “suffering servant”.. “was despised and rejected a man of sorrows” (Isaiah  53:3)

HE HUMBLED HIMSELF This is another phrase that shows his action was voluntary. This is Aorist Indicative Active  which is action that is not continuous. It therefore refers to the transition he made from Godhead to manhood.  Can we imagine the Queen of England voluntarily  leaving her palace and living in a grass hut in a remote part of Africa?  This  would be nowhere near the transition that our Lord would have made, but it illustrates the point.  Again, how could He “humble Himself” if he did not pre-exist?

BECAME OBEDIENT   “Became” indicates that He did not always have this subordinate position.   This is because He was not always man, and God was not always His Father.     Before Christ’s birth,  the person of the Godhead  who was to become His  Father was known as  “The highest”  (Luke 1:35).  They became Father and Son  through begettal and birth in  Mary’s womb.

Christ stated His purpose in coming to earth when He said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34). He also said “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak” (John 12:49-50).  Thus the Son subjected Himself  to the  Father.

Arguments put up by Jehovah’s Witnesses that these verses prove that Christ is not equal to the Father are therefore false. It was a voluntary subjection, that only  lasted for His earthly life. Our text says plainly that He considered himself equal to the Father. Hebrews 1:3 says He is the “.. express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power”. “Express image” means exactly the same. He is therefore God in every respect.

It was not until after His incarnation  that the Godhead was known as “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”  Actually , although the “Trinitarian” phraseology “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”  accurately describes the Godhead as it stands in the  New Testament, it does not describe the Godhead before New Testament times because Christ (the second Person of the Godhead)  did not become “The Son” until the Word put on human flesh (John 1:14). Although the so called “Johannine comma” does not have much evidence for its authenticity,  it does     accurately describes the eternal Godhead. “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one”  (I John 5:7).   Here Christ is called  “The Word” which describes Christ in both His pre-existent, His  earthly,  and  present heavenly state.  The Son was begotten (John 1:4)  but the “Word” is eternal and unbegotten

The plural nature of the Godhead is clearly seen in the Old Testament.  God refers to Himself as “US”  (Gen. 1:26;  3:22).   Hebrew Words “ADONAI” (Lord) and “ELOHIM”  (God) are both plural words. But  it was not until the God became the Father of the Man Christ that the clear distinction was made.

unto death ON THE CROSS shows that obedience was an entirely earthly state. While on earth  He submitted Himself to God completely.  He Obeyed God (John 4:4) His parents, (Luke 2:51) the Law of the land (Luke 2:52)  and the Law of Moses (Galatians 4:4).   Hebrews 5:8-9  says  “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him”.

The manhood of Christ can no more clearly be revealed than by  His death on the Cross. God is immortal in the fact that He has always existed and could never die.  (I Timothy 1:6).  Man’s body became mortal when Adam sinned, and it was only through the death of Christ that man himself could become immortal  (Romans 5:8-12). In the mind of God,  Christ was slain from before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). In His loving mind our Lord longed for the opportunity of redeeming man, However, He also grieved over the suffering he knew He would  be subjected to.  The agony  in  His soul is vividly seen in the prayer He prayed before His arrest in the Garden.  He prayed: “ ..  O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will”  (Matthew 26:39).  He went to the cross for us that we be might be redeemed. Oh what wonderful love He showed in His humility.

HIS EXALTATION

Life for Jesus the man, did not end in the grave. He broke the pains of death, was resurrected from  the grave and received up into glory. Notice the beautiful progression described in I Timothy 3:16  “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory”.

Ephesians 4:8-10 says  “Therefore He says: When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men. (Now this, He ascended; what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things)”. This verse gives a commentary  of His plan and purpose. It tells us that the reason he came from heaven to earth was to “fill all things”. Thus,  in descending from heaven and becoming man, He was able to defeat death, and then return victoriously to heaven, send the Holy Spirit to reveal the gospel,  take up His position of Glory with God, and establish the church. The  Bible describes Christ’s Ascension to Heaven to be placed as ruler of the church as the “Fullness of Him that fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:23). It is therefore only through the church that man can be saved (Acts 2:47).

therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name.  Christ’s name is the greatest and highest of all. Acts 4:12 says  “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved”.  We must call on His name to be saved (Romans 10:13)  We are saved in His name when we are baptised for remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16) 

It was a His resurrection to Glory that He was given a name above all names notice  Ephesians 1: 19-23  “and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, Which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all”.

HIS VENERATION

 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,  and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father  (vss. 10-11).   This verse shows that the time will come when all will worship the son.  This is when He sits on the throne of His glory to judge the world (Matthew 25:31-32).   On that great judgment day the Great Shepherd will “divide the sheep from the goats”.  All will stand before Him to answer for the things they have done in their body  (Romans 14:10). The whole creation (even those whose  destiny is hell) will bend their knee to this Awesome Being and confess that he is God’s Son.

This will be a sad day for the atheist, and agnostic.  It will also be a sad day for  all those who have not obeyed the Gospel.  For Christ is coming “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (II Thessalonians 1:8-9).

Matthew  7:20-23 gives another group who will be sad: “Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:21-23). These tongues have confessed the Son, but unfortunately they have not obeyed the Son on earth. They will bow before the Son, only to be also cast into the eternal fire.

Unfortunately there will also be another class of People who will be sad. Those who are Christians who have fallen away. Matthew 24:48-51 states:  “But if that evil servant says in his heart, My master is delaying his coming, and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.

APPLICATION

Christ taught that “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). His humility on earth led to his exaltation to glory. This will be the same with us. One day if we humble ourselves before God he will lift us up to live in Glory with  Jesus.  Ephesians 2:7: “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus”.


 


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