Fighting for Joy, Growing in Humility, Knowing Christ and the Peace that Passes Understanding: A Study of Philippians: Fighting for Joy, Growing in Humility, Knowing Christ and the Peace that Passes Understanding: A Study of Philippians (22): The Divinity of Christ

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on October 21, 2007

Philippians 2:5-6

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The Lord’s Day
Morning

October 21, 2007

Communion
Sunday


Philippians 2:5-6


“The Divinity of Christ”

Dr. J. Ligon
Duncan III

Amen. If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with
me to Philippians, chapter two. The last time we were together in this glorious
letter, we were looking at Philippians 2:5-11, “The Song of Christ,” and what we
outlined it. We said there was so much there that there was no way that we could
do justice to this glorious hymn to the praise of the Lord Jesus Christ, but
what we did want to do was recognize how Paul was using the Christ hymn as an
example to spur us on to live the Christian life.

I could just remind you we said there were three
parts to this hymn, this song of Christ.
If you look at verses 5-11, it
breaks down something like this: There’s an exhortation in verse 5; there is an
example of Christ’s humility and humiliation in verses 6-8; and, there is the
example of Christ’s exaltation in verses 9-11.

What is the exhortation in verse 5? It is that we
would embrace congregationally the attitude, the outlook, of Jesus Christ: “Have
this mind in yourselves that was also in Christ Jesus.”
Have this attitude,
this outlook, this mind which is yours in Christ Jesus. In other words, the
Apostle Paul is saying there is no way that you can obey this exhortation that I
am giving you alone. You have to do it with one another and to one another. This
is a command of the Christian life that cannot be responded to simply by you
individually. It requires the whole congregation together to embrace this
exhortation.

And the exhortation is followed up by an example.
And the example itself comes in two parts, Christ’s humiliation followed by
Christ’s exaltation.
Christ’s humiliation is designed to show us the way of
living the Christian life; Christ’s exaltation is designed to show us the
promises that God holds out for all those who will go the way of the cross.

The whole passage is designed to teach us that the
way to glory is the way of the cross, that the way up in the Christian life —
totally contrary to the secular teaching of success which surrounds us on every
side in our part of the world today, and which has permeated even Christian
teaching — totally contrary to that teaching, the way up is the way down. The
way to exaltation is the way of humiliation. And so Paul holds before our eyes
in verses 6-8 the humiliation of Jesus Christ. He shows us the humility which
was involved in Christ’s setting aside His rights and taking unto himself our
humanity. He shows us Christ’s self-abasement, Christ’s servitude, Christ’s
condescension, Christ’s humiliation issuing forth into an embrace of the
ultimate shame, and he says ‘Do you see what your Savior did? You go that way,
too.’

And then, in verses 9-11, he shows us the
consequence, and the consequence is glory and joy.
The consequence is
exaltation, and he points us to the exaltation of Jesus Christ, which the Father
will accomplish in its fullness on the Last Day. To say it another way around,
the flow of argument in verses 5-11 runs like this: it moves from exhortation to
example.

Paul gives us a congregational exhortation to adopt
and to express the mind of Christ, to have the same attitude, the same outlook
of Christ, to have the same mindset of Christ, and then he points us to Christ
as the example of how we are to do this, and he points us to both Christ’s
person and His work.

The argument goes something like this: You, the whole
congregation, need to have (to manifest) the mind of Christ; that is, you need
to think like Christ and act like Christ, and show and exhibit and display and
live out the mind of Christ. And then the Apostle Paul says ‘Let me give you an
example of what I’m talking about. Let me show you Christ. His mind is displayed
in the way He willingly, voluntarily, took upon himself humiliation; and so we
are to embrace His humility and humiliation, and then we will also share in His
exaltation, glory, and joy.’ That’s the flow of argument in this passage.

It will further help you today as we focus
especially on verses 5-6, to go back and look at the end of verse 3, because you
will remember that in verse 3 the Apostle Paul has called on us to count others
more significant than ourselves.

Now, that ought to prompt a question: “How exactly do
I go about doing that, because that is against every instinct of my fallen
nature — to count others more significant than myself? I happen to view myself
as at the center of the universe most of the time. How do I go about counting
others as more significant than myself?” The Apostle Paul never ever gives a
command without helping you obey that commandment, because God never gives you a
command when He doesn’t help you obey the commandment. And we’re going to find
out today the help that the Apostle Paul has given us in responding to this
staggering call to embrace humility in the mind of Christ.

Before we read God’s word, let’s look to Him in
prayer and ask for His help and blessing.

Heavenly Father, again we come to a passage in
Your word which is not hard to understand, but which is not only hard, but
impossible to obey — at least in the flesh. We can’t even see the necessity of
this command, nor can we see a way to obey it apart from the grace which You
give to us in Jesus Christ. So as we hear Your word read today, we are
especially conscious that we need the help of the Holy Spirit to understand this
word for us; but even more than that, to embrace this word in our lives. This we
ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Hear the word of the living God:

“Have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He
was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.”

Amen. And thus ends this reading of God’s holy, inspired,
and inerrant word. May He write its eternal truth upon our hearts.

How do you go about counting others as more
significant than yourself, when you don’t think they’re more significant than
you?
How do you go about counting someone ahead of you, above you, in
preference to you, as more significant than you, when you think you are every
bit their equal–if not their superior?

I love Winston Churchill’s sharp wit and acerbic
tongue. He was quick on the draw! On one occasion someone brought to his
attention the humility of one of his political opponents in contrast to Sir
Winston’s lack of humility. And Winston Churchill very quickly said, “Yes, he is
a modest little man, with much to be modest about!”

How do you humble yourself before (and count as more
significant) someone who has much to be modest about? Do you do it through false
humility? No. It’s so fascinating that the Apostle Paul here does not ask you to
think less of yourself than you ought. The Apostle 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 to prefer others above ourselves, to
count others as more significant than ourselves. He takes a more radical tack.

The Apostle Paul doesn’t ask us to belittle who we are or
what we are, or what our gifts are, in order to prefer others ahead of
ourselves. He takes an entirely different route. 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.

Phillips Brooks once said,

“The true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself,
but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you
what the real smallness of your greatness is.”

Do you see what Brooks is saying? He’s saying, go
ahead; stretch out. Stand up straight against that wall. Be an inch or two
taller than you are, but measure yourself not against one another where you can
say — and sometimes honestly — ‘I’m smarter than her. I work harder than him.
I’m a more decent person than they are.’ Measure yourself up against a greatness
that will show the smallness of your greatness, and then you will be ready to
live in humility.

Why? Because 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. It is corrected 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 show
preferment, 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. We may be being called today to count a brother or
sister in Christ in this room as more significant than ourselves who has wounded
us in some way. And we’re thinking to ourselves, “But I haven’t done anything
wrong in this relationship. Or at least, I haven’t done as wrongly as he’s
done.” And what are we doing? 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. And isn’t it interesting that the
Apostle Paul says now “Count others as more significant than yourselves” — and
then where does he start? Consider…notice…not them. 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.
Do you realize that? That no
matter how far you have to go to humble yourself before someone who has wronged
you or someone who is beneath you, you will never be stooping as low as your
Savior stooped to serve you. You will never match Him, you will never exceed
Him, you will never even approach how far He humbled himself! No wonder Watts
has us sing that when we behold Him and His wondrous cross, that we do what? “We
pour contempt on all our pride.” And the Apostle Paul says the very first
step in you counting one another as more significant than yourselves is looking
to who Jesus is.

And what does Paul say in verses 5-6? He says that
this 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, as we say in
The Catechism, and therefore God has no form, no visible manifestation
where you can see His face and hands and body. “He has not a body like man.” But
how does God manifest himself in the Old Testament? He manifests himself 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 the Apostle 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, very quickly as I close.

We need to become zealous students of the
Scripture
, to span all of the pages; to span it 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.

The second thing is this: You understand that this
very exhortation shows you why you need the gospel, and why we come to this
Lord’s Table.
Because if the Apostle 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 this Table that we’re going to come to in a few
moments is 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 not “Humble yourself like
Jesus and God will save you.” It’s God has given 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 any earthly
region; it came from heavenly grace.

Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, grant that we would go the way of
Christ, having seen Him in His divinity and glory. We ask this in Jesus’ name.
Amen.

Let’s come to Christ at His Table, using No. 181,
We Come, O Christ, to You
.

++++++++++++++++++

The Sacrament
of the Lord’s Supper

Dr. Thomas:

Hear the words of the institution of the Supper as we
find them in I Corinthians, chapter eleven:

“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord
Jesus, in the night in which He was betrayed, took bread; and when He had given
thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you. Do this in
remembrance of Me.’ In the same way He took the cup also, after supper, saying,
‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this as often as you drink it, in
remembrance of Me.’

He draws us into fellowship with that body and that
blood at the right hand of God. We sing its virtue; we sing its accomplished
merits: “For there was no other good enough to pay the price of sin; He only
could unlock the gates of heaven and let us in.”

It is a seal that every promise that God makes to us
in the gospel can be trusted. And how can I know that it can be trusted? Because
the blood of His Son was shed to seal it.

This is the Lord’s Table. It’s not our table. It is
the Lord’s Table, and we invite all of you who trust in Christ alone through
faith for salvation — and all of you who are members of a church in good
standing — we bid you come and join with us in fellowship around the Table of
the Lord just now.

Let’s look to God in prayer. Let’s pray.

O Lord our God, we bow in Your presence. We humble
ourselves by Your grace, acknowledging that we are poor, needy, wretched sinners
who deserve not mercy, but wrath and judgment. You would be just to banish us
into outer darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth, but You have
been gracious to us. You have favored us. You have called us out of darkness.
You have adopted us into Your family, You’ve indwelt us by Your Spirit, You’ve
forgiven our sins. You’ve given to us the hope of glory.

We thank You for these signs of bread and wine. We
thank You that they point us to the Savior. We thank You, O Lord, that there is
a green hill far away, outside a city wall, where my dear Lord was crucified,
who died to save us all.

Now let’s repeat together the words of The
Apostles’ Creed.

Christian, what is it you believe?

I believe in God the Father
Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ, His only
Son, our Lord,

Who was conceived by the Holy
Ghost,

Born of the virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius
Pilate; was crucified, dead, and buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day He rose again
from the dead.

He ascended into heaven,

And sitteth on the right hand
of God the Father Almighty.

From thence He shall come to
judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost;
the holy catholic church;

The communion of the saints;
the forgiveness of sins;

The resurrection of the body;

And the life everlasting.

Amen.

And, we’ll repeat together the Ten Words of Sinai, the
Ten Commandments, which you’ll find on the back of your bulletin:

You shall have no other gods
before Me.

You shall not make for
yourself an idol. You shall not worship them or serve them.

You shall not take the name
of the Lord your God in vain.

Remember the Sabbath day, to
keep it holy.

Honor your father and your
mother.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit
adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false
witness against your neighbor.

You shall not covet.

Our blessed Lord, on the eve of His betrayal,
took bread and broke it and said, “Take, eat; this do in remembrance of Me.”

[Elements passed to
congregation.]

Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in My
blood, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. Drink ye all of it.”

[Elements passed to
congregation.]

Let us pray.

Lord, we remember those words of the book of
Hebrews, that if the blood of bulls and of goats and the ashes of a heifer
sprinkling the unclean cleanses to the purifying of the flesh, how much more
shall the blood of Christ, who, through the eternal Spirit offered Himself
without spot unto God. Purge our conscience from dead works to serve the living
and true God.

Our Father, we thank You for the atoning
sacrifice of Christ. We thank You for its completeness. We thank You for its
efficacy. We thank You, O Lord, for the assurance that we may glean from it:
that You have saved us now and for eternity. Help us, then, O Lord, in gratitude
to run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the
author and finisher of our faith.

Draw near to those of this
fellowship who are ill and infirmed and cannot be with us this morning. We
commend them lovingly to You, and ask that You would wrap Your loving arms
around them. Hear us, O Lord, as we return our thanks in Jesus’ name. Amen.

A Guide to the Morning Service

The Lord’s Supper

At First Presbyterian Church, we follow the old
Southern Presbyterian practice of celebrating the Lord’s Supper (what some
churches call “the Eucharist” or “Holy Communion”) four times a year. The Ruling
Elders of our church assist in the distribution of the elements of the Supper as
a visible manifestation of their pastoral care of the flock.

The Lord’s Supper Invitation

The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament (that is, a
covenant sign). It serves to confirm God’s promise and strengthen faith, and it
is appointed by God as a means of grace (that is, one of the principal
God-ordained ways or tools or instruments whereby a Christian grows). In the
Lord’s Supper, we feed on Christ, by faith.

Thus, the Lord’s Table is for those who
are trusting in Jesus Christ. So we invite to this table, the Lord’s Table,
all those who trust in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation as He is offered
in the Gospel and who have joined themselves to the body of Christ, His Church.

Among other things, this means that the
children of this congregation who have not yet made a public profession of
faith, and entered into full communing membership of this church, are to refrain
from partaking in the sacrament. By restricting the Table in this way, we are by
no means disparaging the tremendous blessings and benefits of our covenant
children. The children of believers enjoy innumerable privileges unique to their
status within God’s covenant. They are exposed to the means or ways that God has
chosen to convict and convince sinners of their need. They are taught the truths
about God, man, and our Savior, Jesus Christ. They enjoy the blessings of the
local church, where they fellowship with other believers, are nurtured in the
faith, are taught to pray. And they are given a special status by God. Thus we
baptize the children of believers because we recognize that they are within the
covenant. Yet, neither their birth nor their baptism ensures their final status
before God. Their salvation is not secured as a birthright. All children (just
like adults) must embrace Jesus Christ by faith. And because of the nature of
the Lord’s Table (that we commune by faith with Christ), and because of the
language of Paul who requires “discernment of the body” for admittance to the
Table, we ask that our covenant children first express faith, and join as
communing members of our congregation before coming to the Table.

If you are not a believer in Christ
who has identified yourself with His church, don’t come to the table. Rather,
wait, think, pray, repent, and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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This transcribed message has been lightly edited and formatted for the Web site. No attempt has been made, however, to alter the basic extemporaneous delivery style, or to produce a grammatically accurate, publication-ready manuscript conforming to an established style template.

Should there be questions regarding grammar or theological content, the reader should presume any website error to be with the webmaster/transcriber/editor rather than with the original speaker. For full copyright, reproduction and permission information, please visit the First Presbyterian Church Copyright, Reproduction & Permission statement.