In the Form of God
I am sure by now, most of us are familiar with Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code, and all the controversy surrounding the veiled claims made in his novel. And I say veiled, because in truth Brown truly believes that on some level his claims that Jesus was neither God, nor the one come to earth to save man from his sins, are real. That Dan Brown veiled these claims in the form a book of fiction doesn't mean that he, and a great many others, actually believe those claims to be true. They do, indeed, believe them, and they are not ashamed to trumpet their claims to all the very gullible and Biblically illiterate folks out there in the world today.
They even make the very foolish assertion that Jesus never said He was God, and that the Bible doesn't really say that He did. Our passage this evening, in no uncertain terms, though, gives lie to that false interpretation of Scripture. Jesus tells us Himself that He is God in the flesh and the human authors tell us over and over again of the Deity of Jesus Christ. That is the claim, right? That is absolute foundational truth of the Christian faith Jesus Christ was, is and ever will be very God of very God
While we will concentrate on verses 5-8 in this section, the entire passage of 5-11 form the very core of Paul's thoughts on submission. We will probably divide this section in two messages. Unlike Dan Brown, and the other skeptics, the Apostle Paul is showing us clearly what the Incarnation of Christ is all about. It is all about God, in the Person of the Son, becoming a man, right? It is not about myth, it is about truth It is not about legend being added onto a germ of historical content, but it is all about the glory of the Gospel, the Gospel of Christ crucified, and Him resurrected What we are also going to see is that because of who Christ is, and what He sacrificed, how He humbled Himself in becoming a man, and submitted Himself unto death on the cross, He is our model; we are to have the same mind as He did
Let’s briefly refresh our memories on the four keys for living joyful Christian lives. First, we are to have a single mind. Our focus is to be on Jesus Christ. He is to be at the very center of everything we do. Everything in our lives must proceed from the Lord Jesus Christ and the Gospel. Second, we are to have a submissive mind. The formula is having God first, others second, right? We are to have a spiritual mind, focused on eternity and not the very temporary things of this world. Last, we are to have a secure mind, which will be ours if the preceding three are active in our lives. And we will have joy The Joy of the Lord.
And what we want to see this evening, and the next week as well, is that our joy, the entire edifice of the Christian faith, hinges on whether Jesus is God If Dan Brown is right, our worship is an exercise in futility, isn’t it? If Jesus isn’t really God, but mere man, all those atheists and philosophers are right when they say that we are just weak sisters using religion as a crutch to get us through this vale tears we call life. But listen people, if Jesus really is God, then that puts a whole different spin on things, doesn’t it? So, our study this evening will have three different, but related, points to it. First, we are going to explore what the Bible tells us about the Deity of Jesus; and secondly, we are going to look at the stunning nature of the Son’s humility and submission. Last? We are going to look at how submission is so key for our having The Joy of the Lord
I. The Humility of Christ (Phil. 2:5-8)
(1 Obviously, the cross of Christ is the ultimate picture of the submission of God, isn’t it? Most of the myths of other cultures do not have anything approaching this masterpiece. God, in the Person of the Son climbing up on the cross, dying for our sins, not His, humbling Himself to that horror, and then rising gloriously on the third day overcoming sin and death. There is nothing quite like it anywhere else. And Paul slipped a couple of thoughts in before this great affirmation on Christ’s Deity to set the stage for what may be an early hymn of the church. He began his thoughts on Christ’s humility by informing us of our command for submission. Before we go back and read Phil. 2:5-8, look at verses 3-4. Then 5-8.
(2 We’ll break these words down as we go along, but look at the commands of Paul here. Think about how Christ’s submission relates to our submission. Paul is getting ready to tell us who Jesus is, and we are to look at His sacrifice and think the same way about it that he did, right? How did He view His sacrifice and the humbling of Himself: He counted it joy, didn’t He? Hebrews 12:2 (KJV)
2 Looking unto Jesus the authora and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. What was the joy set before Him? The joy of seeing countless men and women escaping the fury of the Father’s wrath for sin, and for the joy of simply submitting in obedience and love to His Father The same Father He was equal in essence to, wasn’t He? And you know there is another shocking example of submission that Jesus performed back in the Gospel of John, isn’t there? Most of us are familiar with the story of Jesus kneeling down and washing His disciples feet, aren’t we? Let’s turn there and look a it briefly. John 13:1-5.
(3 There are a great many things we won’t touch on from this passage, theological truths that aren’t germane to our discussion on submission, so we will kind of telescope this event, focusing tightly on the very act of Jesus, God in the flesh, humbling Himself to perform what was really a slave’s function. Look at your Bibles, verses 1-5.
(4 It is the time of the Passover Feast. The very last one Jesus would celebrate. He is now at the end stages of His earthly ministry, the horror of the cross looms darkly on His horizon. The devil is beginning to work on Judas Iscariot’s heart, there is no one else but the disciples and perhaps the angels there with Jesus in the Upper Room. It is a dark time. The disciples are beginning to get confused. Things are not going as they envisioned them going. Their memory of the glory of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem has faded; the same crowds, the ones who joyfully shouted Hosanna to the King, will soon turn on Jesus, crying out for His death One of His own, Judas, will soon betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. And yet, what do we have? Jesus, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, knelt down in the darkness of that hour, and continued teaching His beloved disciples, didn’t He? Performing what was a slave’s job, God knelt down and washed the grime off His disciple’s dirty feet What a demonstration of submission The teaching and proclamation of the Gospel, the very foundation of the church of Christ that these disciples, soon to be apostles, were to lay the foundations of, were to be accomplished not with might and warfare, not with arrogance and spite, but with submission, humility, and love And a bold and sacrificial stand for truth Even at the expense of their lives Lives that they did indeed lose for the sake of their Savior and the Gospel Where are we in this great drama? Not just where are you? But where am I? Where are all of us?
(5 And as I said there are many doctrinal truths packed into this episode in Jesus’ life, but what I want us to see is the humility and gentleness of God the Son. Jesus is God, people Our passage in Philippians clearly tells us so, doesn’t it? Another powerful example of the Deity of Jesus is found in the very beginning of the Gospel of John. Let’s go to John 1:1-5, 14. This passage is just one more powerful example of the affirmation of the Deity of Christ in the Bible. The serious student of John's Gospel will find an amazing thing happening: each time he returns to the Gospel, Christ will be a little bigger—something like Lucy’s experience with the lion Aslan (the Christ symbol in C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia) as she again gazed into his large, wise face. “Welcome, child,” Aslan said. “Aslan,” said Lucy, “you're bigger.” “That is because you are older, little one,” he answered. “Not because you are?” “I am not But every year you grow, you will find me bigger ”
(6 Listen , you will never exhaust the infinite wonder of a study of Jesus Christ, will you? Look at your Bibles, John 1:1-5, 14. This passage from John tells us so many things, doesn't it? It tells us that there was never a time when Jesus did not exist. It tells us that the Father and the Son were eternally face to face. The words with God literally means “the Word was continually toward God.” The preposition “with” bears the idea of nearness, along with a sense of movement toward God. That is to say, there has always existed the deepest equality and intimacy in the Holy Trinity. And Jesus is the Creator of the universe. Colossians 1:16-17 (KJV) 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. Not only were the worlds created throught the Word of Christ, but the entire universe consists, or is held together, by Him as well. And this universe is, by anyone's reckoning, a nearly unfathomable creation. There are about 100 billion stars in the average galaxy, and there are at least one hundred million galaxies in known space. Einstein believed that we have scanned with our largest telescopes only one billionth of theoretical space. This means that there are probably something like 10 octillion stars in space. Ten octillion is a 10 with twenty-seven zeros behind it. And Jesus created them all Not only is he the Creator of the macrocosm of the universe, but also of the microcosm in the inner universe of the atom. The text in Colossians explains that he holds the atom and its inner and outer universe together (“in him all things hold together”). Hughes, R. K. (1999). John : That you may believe. Preaching the Word (17). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.
(7 The more you study, the more you learn, the more you grow Who are we? Listen to me Who are we to always demand our place, our rights, our space, when God gave up His When the Word make flesh, God in the flesh, the Creator of all things humbled Himself, kneeling down as slave and washing His disciples feet. Who further humbled Himself by going to cross and suffering that horror. Go back to Philippians and look at verses 5-8 once more.
(8 This entire passage, all the way through verse 11, is thought by some to be an early hymn of the faith. Some disagree, but those who think this is an early Christian hymn believe it may have predated this letter of Paul's to the church of Philippi. Paul just added it for emphasis. Whether it is or not is not as important as the incredible truth of God humbling Himself and becoming a man. Again, that is the constant refrain throughout the Gospels: God humbling Himself for a time in becoming a man, right? Not a proud man, or a ruler, not one coming with a sword, but as a humble servant of His Father.
(9 Properly understood, this passage is clear truth revealing Jesus Christ to be, not only the Messiah come to take away the sins of the world, but to be very God of very God. Let's break it down. Who being being in the form of God might be confusing to some. But the word form doesn't mean He was kind of like God in part of His form, but it is the English for the Greek word morphe which literally means: form, outward appearance, shape. But it has the further meaning of being the outward expression of an inward nature. In other words, Jesus was in the form of God because He was inwardly God Himself.
(10 The next couple of phrases in verse 6 and 7 are fairly difficult ones. The Authorized Version says that Jesus thought it not robbery to be equal with God. Or Jesus didn’t count His equality with the Father a thing to grasped, or held onto. And then in verse 7, the Bible tells us that Jesus made himself of no reputation, or literally emptied himself. So, Jesus fully equal with God the Father, fully God Himself, submitted Himself, didn’t count that equality a thing to held onto, but then emptied Himself of what? His Deity? I don’t think that would be possible, would it? If Jesus is the great I Am, how could He give away something that was intrinsic to His very nature? If He did, or could, He would cease to be God, wouldn’t He?
(11 Did Jesus empty Himself of His glory? Partly yes, right? But His glory was subdued, not eliminated, right? Remember the Mount of Transfiguration where Jesus appeared to Peter, James and John in all His glory. Did He give up His attributes as God? Probably not. If I give up my attributes to think, feel, and choose do I remain a man? An animal that waddles like a porcupine, has the quills of a porcupine, and in general has all the attributes of a porcupine is a porcupine. If you take away all the attributes of a porcupine, whatever you have left is not a porcupine. Likewise, if the Son is stripped of the attributes of deity, it is difficult to see how he can in any meaningful sense still claim to be deity. What does it mean then? What is Paul talking about? It is here that we have the essence of the submission of God, don’t we? What I believe Paul is saying here is that far from emptying Himself of all His attributes, Jesus simply gave up His rights for a time to become a man. He abandoned his rights; He became a nobody. Again, Paul uses that word form, morphe, to say He became a slave Jesus never gave up His Godhood, but simply added to this the very nature of a man, a servant, a slave Carson writes that, Paul does not tell us that Christ exchanged one form for another; he is not saying that Jesus was God, gave that up, and became a slave instead. Rather, without ever abandoning who he was originally, he adopted the mode of existence of a slave. To do this, he (literally) became “in human likeness” (2:7). The idea is not that he merely became like a human being, a reasonable facsimile but not truly human. Rather, it means that he became a being fashioned in this way: a human being. He was always God; he now becomes something he was not, a human being. “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross ” (2:8).
(12 And here we are at the ultimate act of submission, aren’t we? I don’t suppose making a piece of jewelry out of a cross is wrong. But I think that perhaps we have cheapened what the cross means by doing so. We have domesticated what was once shocking, degrading, and savage. The Romans reserved death by crucifixion for the scum of the Empire. And yet we have crosses everywhere, don’t we? Even unbelievers use them. Some for blasphemy, some have even put a crucifix a bottle of urine and called it art, some because they make nice decorations. We put them in our churches, and I think rightly so. We place crosses on the spires of our steeples. And of course as I said, we dangle crosses from our ears as decorations. To perhaps get a clearer idea of what the cross meant in Roman times, though, imagine placing in a prominent position in your church a fresco of the massed graves of Auschwitz, the horror of the Nazi death camp. Wouldn’t everyone be horrified? But in the first century, the cross had something of that same symbolic value. Scholars have gone through every instance of the word “cross” and related expressions that have come down to us from about the time of Jesus and shown how “crucifixion” and “cross” invariably evoke horror. Of the various forms of Roman execution, crucifixion could be used only for slaves, rebels, and anarchists; it could never be used for a Roman citizen, apart from the express sanction of the Emperor. Crucifixion was considered too cruel—so shameful that the word itself was avoided in polite conversation. The Bible’s use of the language of the cross is meant to shock, not build complaisance. It is meant to galvanize into action It is meant for us to clearly see that magnitude of what God, the Son, did Right?
(13 Submission, humility, obedience We take far too lightly this enormous sacrifice of Jesus Christ and then say to ourselves, and I know we do, “He’s God He could do it I can’t I’m not strong enough to live that kind of submitted life ” And you’re right You can’t But you see, God isn’t asking you to go to the cross, is He? God isn’t asking you to take the sins of the world on your shoulders, is He? God isn’t asking you to die on a windswept lonely hill called Golgotha, alone and forsaken, is He? He has already done that He is asking you to come to Him in submission, repentance, and obedience. He is asking you to live your life with Christ Jesus at the very center of it, to be so Gospel soaked that the very last thing on your mind is making sure that you adequately defend your turf from all comers; that you jealously guard what is yours from anyone ever getting their grubby hands on your stuff
(14 Have you knelt to wash someone’s feet lately? Not necessarily literally, but have you sacrificed your pride, your place, your position, your everything to touch someone’s life who desperately needed the warmth of a human touch? Did you still love them even after they rejected you? Or spit in your face? Ridiculed you? Called you a fool?
(15 You know, I’m wrong about a lot of things. And sometimes I say things when I ought to just keep my mouth shut. But I just don’t have good sense sometimes, so I just let’er rip. I got saved back in 1999. I was raised in church, my Dad was a deacon at Highland Park Baptist Church, my grandfather was a Church of God preacher for many years. As soon as I could, I hit the ground running, though, and got out of Dodge–no church for Bubba I wanted no part of it I am not going into my testimony, but the Holy Spirit eventually nailed me, I accepted Christ, and here I am. But with some notably few exceptions, I have found that most of the people I used to run with, while they are still without Christ in their lives, were far better people than most church people I have met These are just my impressions now Listen to me The church in America is in danger of dying Flat out is, OK And it is not dying because of liberalism, Hollywood, homosexuals, Democrats, Republicans, atheists, using the wrong Bible version, or any of the stock answers you can hear from most pulpits all across our country. The church in America is dying because we do not have Christ Jesus and the Gospel at the center of our corporate and individual lives. And you can tell we don’t because there are precious few loving, committed and submitted Christians in America. We are Americans first and not followers of a crucified and risen Savior We are nowhere close to having the same mind as Jesus Christ My opinion And I ain’t no better
(16 What is missing in our lives because of this? The Joy of the Lord? Perhaps so, perhaps so.
II. The Exaltation of Christ (Phil. 2:9-11)
(1 But you know, there is coming a day when Christ will come, not as the humble Suffering Servant, won’t He? There is coming a day when heaven will be split wide open and the universe will see the Son as He really is! In this hymn of the faith, if that is what this is, Paul is telling us that there is coming a time when all of creation will bend the knee and worship the Lamb of God, the risen Christ, as God! Look at your Bibles, verses 9-11.
(2 Part of what we have is the Father’s approval of what His Son has accomplished. We God, the Father, saying that because of the love, humility, and submission of Jesus, the Son of God, the Father will now exalt Him above all eternity. One of the things we must always keep in mind is that when the NT designates the title of Lord to Jesus that is explicitly telling all readers that this man, Jesus, is indeed God in the flesh. The Greek word, kyrios, had come to be known as an identification of Deity. If you called someone Lord you were calling them God.
(3 Names in ancient times were more than convenient labels used to separate folks so that people wouldn’t have to yell, “Hey you!” or throw a rocks in order for them to get their attention. Names were often descriptive of someone’s nature. When Paul says that God gave Jesus “the name that is above every name,” he is saying much more than that the Father simply “renames” him. What is meant here is that God assigns Jesus a name that reflects what he has achieved and that acknowledges who he is. And this NT passage echos OT passages that trumpet the glory of the one, true God. Isaiah 45:22-25 (KJV)
22 Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. 23 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. 24 Surely, shall one sayb, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed. 25 In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory. Isaiah 42:8 (KJV)
8 I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.
(4 Why is this important? It is clear that Paul is phrasing everything in Phil. 2:5-11 to reveal the glorious truth that Jesus Christ is fully God just as the God of Israel is fully God, and there none but this Triune God in existence! Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (KJV)
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. But while the trinity of the Godhead was implied in the Old, it is gloriously and fully revealed in the New!
(5 And here is a further truth that all of humanity must consider! You see, not for one moment can this passage be used to support universalism; that is, the view that every single person in the entire world will finally be saved. In the Isaiah 45 passage, although everyone confesses that in the Lord alone are righteousness and strength and although everyone bows the knee, nevertheless later in that same chapter, “All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame” (Isa. 45:24). So here in Philippians 2: every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, but it does not follow that every tongue will confess Jesus Christ is Lord out of happy submission. The text promises that Jesus has the last word, that he is utterly vindicated, that in the end no opposition against him will stand. There will not be universal salvation; there will be universal confession as to who he is. That means that either we repent and confess him by faith as Lord now, or we will confess him in shame and terror on the last day. But confess him we will.
(6 I believe that there is coming a moment in time, perhaps after the final judgment, perhaps before, when all of creation, repentant saint, and unrepentant sinner, will be gathered in a single place, and everyone will see Jesus revealed in all His resplendent glory! And in that hushed silence when we gaze upon Jesus Christ and His glory everyone will, in that moment, realize that Jesus is worthy of worship! And we will worship! Everyone will bend the knee, some in limitless gratitude, many in eternal terror. Every tongue, from the Dan Brown’s of the world to little grandmother who has faithfully prayed for her family her entire life, will confess Christ Jesus as Lord!
(7 Let’s make sure we confess Him now! Amen! Because we will confess Him one day, won’t we? One way or the other, we will confess Him! And so as we look back upon the last couple of weeks, we must determine that because of who Jesus was, is, and ever will be we must have the same mind as He did! What kind of mind is that? A submissive mind! God! Listen to me! God humbled Himself, taking on the form of a man, became a servant, a slave, and submitted to the horror of the cross, didn’t He? For what? For you! For me! For rebellious and hard-hearted creatures who are so self-centered and sinful that we almost seem to be purposely seeking to be unhappy.
(8 Here is the path to true joy, isn’t it? Because of who Jesus is, we must have a single mind, focusing exclusively on Him! Christ and the Gospel must be at the very center of our lives! We must be Gospel-soaked men and women. We must also have a spiritual mind focused on the eternal and not the temporary. And equally, because of who Jesus is, and further, because of what He did, we must have a submissive mind. Then, and only then, can we have a secure mind free from the anxiety that is crippling so many in our world today.
(9 That path is so simple, isn’t it? And yet most of us fail to find it. Even when we do find it, we will inevitably wander off the road that is so clearly marked. Jesus has not only prepared the way for us, but He has lighted the way for us as well. It is clearly marked! All we need do is follow, right? Follow Him! Because there is no other answer but Him, is there? John 14:6 (KJV)
6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
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