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Fighting for Joy, Growing in Humility, Knowing Christ and the Peace that Passes Understanding: A Study of Philippians (25): The Humanity of Christ

Series: Fighting for Joy, Growing in Humility, Knowing Christ and the Peace that Passes Understanding: A Study of Philippians

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on Jan 13, 2008

Philippians 2:7-8

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The Lord's Day Morning

January 13, 2008

Communion Sunday

Philippians 2:7-8

Fighting for Joy, Growing in Humility,

Knowing Christ and the Peace that Passes Understanding

“The Humanity of Christ”

Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III

If you have your Bibles, I'd invite you to turn with me to Philippians 2, as we continue to work our way through this great letter of the Apostle Paul. Let me remind you that in Philippians 1:27- 28, the first major exhortation of this letter is given, and that exhortation is simply this:

“Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

Well, what in the world does that mean, and where in the world do you find an example of it? And the Apostle Paul answers both of those questions beginning in Philippians 2:5. He points you in Philippians 2:5 to the example of Jesus Christ, and he calls on you to

“Have this mind among yourselves…”

Have this attitude among yourselves, which was Christ's attitude

“…which is yours in Christ.”

And the rest of Philippians 2:5-11 — this hymn to Christ, this song of Christ, this Christ-hymn — is the Apostle Paul drawing directions for our humble serving, loving, joyful gospel living from the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, from the pattern of humility and service manifest in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And the last time we were together we were especially looking at what he had to say about Jesus’ self-emptying in Philippians 2:7. We emphasized that when Jesus emptied himself, when He made himself to be nothing, when He made himself “of no reputation,” it was not a matter of Him divesting himself of His deity. It was not a matter of Him subtracting from himself some essential part of His person; but, in fact, it was a matter of taking on, of adding something. And that “something” the apostle tells you point blank in Philippians 2:7. What does he say?

“He made himself nothing, taking….”

So Jesus’ self-emptying was not a matter of subtraction, it was a matter of addition. It wasn't a matter of Him laying aside His deity, but taking onto himself the fullness of our humanity. But not just the fullness of our humanity, but the form of a servant, and bearing in our humanity the consequences of sins that He himself did not commit. And so in this way Jesus is the great example of humility and servanthood. The thing that He added is the role of a servant, the position of a servant, the status of a servant, the very nature of a servant–a human servant, a fully human servant, and He took on our flesh forever.

This morning we want to explore and apply that truth, especially in verse 7 and the first three words of verse 8, but we’ll read beginning in verses 5. Let's pray before we hear God's word.

Lord, this is Your word, and we ask that You would open our eyes. We don't want to miss a thing that You want us to know about Jesus, so by Your Spirit we pray that we wouldn't miss a thing about Jesus. We pray this in His name. Amen.

This is God's word; hear it.

“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, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself….”

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

When Paul says that the Messiah, Jesus, made himself nothing, he is summing up the whole of Jesus’ descent from the heights of glory to the lowest depths of degradation and deprivation and dereliction in three little words. Summing it up, “He made himself nothing.” But in this passage, especially in verses 7-8, when he says,

“He made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born
in the likeness of men,”

In those latter two phrases he is calling your attention to what he especially wants you to appreciate about Jesus’ self-emptying, so that instead of your mind wandering off in all sorts of directions (fruitful and otherwise) about what it means that Jesus made himself nothing, he especially draws your attention to two things. You see them in the phrases “…taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” And just in case you missed the last phrase, he says it again: “And being found in human form, He humbled himself.”

Do you see what he's drawing your attention to there? He's drawing your attention to two things: the servanthood of Jesus and the humanity of Jesus. And he wants you to see Jesus’ humility both in His taking on humanity and in His servanthood.

Jesus identified himself as fundamentally the servant of the Lord. Think how He likes to say things like this: “It is My food to do the will of Him who sent Me.” He's emphasizing that He's not about doing what He wants to do; He's about doing what the heavenly Father wants Him to do. So just as in some stories we hear some characters say, “Your wish is my command,” emphasizing that their will is subservient to the will of their master, so Jesus says ‘It's like eating a sumptuous feast to Me to be able to do what the heavenly Father sent Me to do. My food is doing His will.’ Or, in Mark 10:45, do you remember how He puts it there?

“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

That is the precise truth that the Apostle Paul is drawing our attention to when he says He emptied himself, He made himself nothing: He made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant.

Paul is reminding us that Jesus’ own self-identification…when He wants to tell you who He is, He says ‘I am the servant of the Lord. I am the one who has come to serve, not to be served.’ The way He summarizes His whole vocation in life from birth to death is servanthood, and Paul wants to draw our attention to that in Philippians 2:7-8.

And then, secondly, he wants us to look closely at the humanity of Jesus and learn about humility from Jesus’ humanity. In fact, he wants to point us to the humility of Jesus’ humanity; that is to say that when Jesus took on the fullness of our humanity, it entailed for Him a willing, voluntary, vicarious humiliation. He was…when He took on our humanity in this fallen world…thereby willingly in our place, on our behalf, bearing all manner of humiliation. And therein, too, we see His humility, the humility that Paul wants us to emulate in the Christian life.

And so today I want to consider with you five ways in which Jesus manifests His humility in His humanity and in His servanthood, as a way of encouraging us to emulate His humility.

Now as I do this I need to emphasize again that Paul is not saying ‘Be like Jesus in order to be saved because if he were, none of us would be saved, because none of us can be enough like Jesus to be saved. No, Paul's message here is to those who already love Jesus. They already trust Jesus. He's telling those who have already experienced the saving grace of God what they’re supposed to look like in life, how they’re supposed to be different from the world. And so he's drawing our attention to Jesus as our example, not saying ‘If you can be enough like Jesus, you’ll be saved’ because nobody can be enough like Jesus to be saved. But he's saying ‘As you have rested and trusted in Jesus Christ, as you have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who He is and what He has done, and so been graciously forgiven of your sins, this is how you live now. You want to be like Jesus. You want to be conformed to His image. You don't want to be conformed to this passing world, but you want to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. You want to conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel, and you want to have this attitude in you which was in Christ Jesus.’

How do you do that? You look at Jesus. Look at His servanthood and His humanity. Five things:

I. Jesus’ human appearance and His public reputation were unremarkable.

First, think of it, my friends; it's staggering: Jesus’ human appearance and His public reputation were unremarkable. Jesus’ human appearance and His public reputation were unremarkable. Do you know how hard that must have been for the heavenly Father? The Father would have wanted the whole world to be attracted to His Son, to esteem His Son as His Son deserved, and yet Isaiah tells us 600 years before Jesus is born that “He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him.” There was nothing about His visage, there was nothing about His outward appearance that caused men to be attracted to Him. He was common, easily overlooked. Sometimes, in days past, kings and leaders of men were chosen because of outstanding physical features. Sometimes they stood a head taller than the fighting men of their day, or sometimes they were beautiful as monarchs. But there was nothing about Jesus’ visage, His outward appearance, that would attract men to Him.

And His reputation was not great in the eyes of men. In fact, Isaiah goes on to say in Isaiah 53:2, 3,

“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces, He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.”

This is why John Calvin, meditating on this passage, says:

“Jesus was common in His outward appearance, and brought to nothing in the estimation of other men.”

How humble! Surely we who spend time making sure that our children are attractive in their public appearance, and those of us who long for our own children to be respected and accepted by their peers, can sense the humility of what Jesus has done in taking on a common, unremarkable humanity to himself, in living a life in which He is overlooked by so many. We see in this His humility, and it teaches us that we should serve without the world's attraction to our outward appearance, or the world's esteem of our persons or abilities or services or mission being our first concern.

One of the ways that we manifest a gospel humility is a willingness to serve without credit or applause. Do you realize…do you realize that, my friends? That our Lord Jesus Christ lived His whole life, and He never ever once got all the credit that He deserved. He never ever once got all the respect that He deserved. He never ever once got all the attention that He deserved. So shouldn't we be ready and willing to serve one another and all men without our first concern being getting the credit, getting the applause, getting the appreciation, getting the respect?

II. Secondly, Jesus’ humanity was completely perfect, but nevertheless He bore the consequences of sin the whole of His life for us.

Jesus’ humanity was completely perfect, but He nevertheless bore the consequences of sin the whole of His life. I've been trying to figure out how to say this for four days. Think of it, my friends: Jesus is the only human being ever to keep the Law perfectly, and yet…and yet…He lived from birth to death bearing the penalty and the consequences of a Law that He had never broken himself–for you, in your place. Do you even begin to imagine just the psychological effect of that, my friends? Have you ever had the privilege to walk with a friend in a season of life when that friend has been treated unfairly? They have been judged unjustly? They have been considered guilty — wrongly? And have you ever seen–especially if it is an important matter, and it stretches out over a duration of time–have you ever seen the oftentimes crippling effect of that on a person? To be dealt with unjustly, over and over and over again, and to be esteemed as unjust in the eyes of their onlookers? Do you realize that that was Jesus’ constant experience when He embraced our humanity? Because though He was perfect himself, though He himself was without sin, He was not born into a world like Adam was born into. He was born into an imperfect world, a world that had been compromised and cursed by sin; and though He was perfect, though He was without blemish according to the Law, He lived under the consequences of a violated Law all of His life. He was a perfect human who lived His whole earthly life with the burden of a violated Law. This is what Paul is saying in Galatians 4:4-5 when he says that He was “born under the Law to redeem those who were under the Law.” This is why Hebrews 5:8 says that “although He was a son, He learned obedience through what He suffered.”

I want you to think of it for a moment, friends. He never ever once got what He deserved in this life. Not once. He never got the respect that He deserved. He never got the love that He deserved. He never got the loyalty or the appreciation or the credit that He deserved. Not once! And you and I never get what we deserve in this life. We don't get the condemnation we deserve. We don't get the judgment and the punishment and the isolation that we deserve because He never got what He deserved in this life, so that you would never get what you deserve in this life or in the life to come.

And one way we will manifest gospel humility if we understand that is that we will be trusting in our response to and our attitude toward the hardest things that we have to deal with in this life. Instead of walking around thinking, ‘Oh, I've got it so hard…” we’ll realize that no matter how hard we have it, we haven't had it as hard as we deserve, because if we're in Jesus Christ, He has had it hard for us in our place. That's the humility of His humanity.

III. Jesus willingly divested himself of His rightful and infinite riches and in His humanity dwells in modesty and poverty for us and for our salvation.

And then, thirdly, Jesus willingly divested himself of His rightful and infinite riches and in His humanity dwells in modesty and poverty for us and for our salvation. That's why Paul said in II Corinthians 8:9,

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that through His poverty you might become rich.”

That's why Jesus himself can say in Matthew 8:20, ‘The foxes have holes and the birds have nests…but Me? The Son of Man? I don't have a place to lay My head that I can call My own.’ And at the very least, my friends, this calls for us to have a radically different view of wealth and possessions in our affluent and consumeristic, self-indulgent and narcissistic culture. Because one way that we will manifest gospel humility is that we will realize that whatever we have, whether it is much or little, comes from God's gracious hand; and no matter how little we have, it's more than we ought to have, and it's the gift of a gracious God; and no matter how much we have, none of it matters at all if we don't have Him. So instead of having some sort of Americanized Christian dream that says we want to have all that the world has and add Jesus into the mix, too, we sing with the old gospel song, “I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold.” We’ll have a radically different view of wealth and possessions and money, and the way we’ll use it will show it.

IV. Jesus’ humanity veiled His glory.

Fourth, Jesus’ humanity veiled His glory. Jesus, in His humanity, veiled His glory. John (in John 1:1-11) tells us that He was with God, and that He was God, and that He was in the beginning with God, and that all things were made through Him, and that in Him was life, and that He was the true life of all mankind, and that He shared in God's glory — glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. But you know what else John tells you? In John 1:10-11, this is what he says: “He…” [that same Jesus that John has just described] “…He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, but the world did not know Him.” That's why the spiritual, Sweet Little Jesus Boy, sings, “O Lord, forgive us…we didn't know who You was.” He made the world, and the world didn't know Him.

But listen, it gets worse: He came to His own, and His own people didn't receive Him. He was so consumed with the interest of God's glory that He willingly forgot His own, and His glory was veiled. And that's our pattern. One way we manifest gospel humility is showing a zeal for His glory, and not our own. If we get no glory, praise God! He didn't get the glory that He deserved.

V. Jesus in His humanity lived as a servant.

Fifth, Jesus in His humanity lived as a servant. Now we see this in more ways than I have time to even recount this morning, but just think of a few. Think of Jesus in Matthew 14:13-21. His cousin, the one person in the world who understood Him, who He was, and what His mission was — John the Baptist — has just been beheaded. And John's disciples come to Jesus and they tell Him that old fox, Herod, has taken the head of John the Baptist. This is Jesus’ cousin! It's the one person in the world who understands Him. His brothers don't understand Him. His mother doesn't understand Him. No one understands Him, only John…and now he's dead. If ever there were a time that a man could have rightly said, ‘You know, I need a little time to myself right now,’ it would have been Him. Do you know where Jesus was when that news came? He was in the midst of a vast multitude. There were five thousand people, and they were carping about being hungry. And you know what He did? He fed them all. If ever there was a time when Jesus could have said, ‘You know, I just need this time to myself right now,’ it was then…and what did He do? He forgot himself, and He fed five thousand hungry people.

Or, do you remember in the upper room? The disciples on the way to the upper room had been arguing about…“Which one of us is the greatest.” And while they’re still arguing about that, they noticed one of their number down on His knees, stripped to His waist in the garment of a slave, beginning to wash each of their feet. It was Jesus. The greatest of them. Washing their feet. And you know, He washes all of their feet, and you know who that means? That means Judas’ feet, too. In the beginning of John 13, Jesus has already said that He knows who is going to betray Him. He's already told the disciples that He knows who is going to betray Him…but He washes Judas’ feet. Calvin says of that passage that Jesus is once more opening the gate of repentance to Judas, but Judas will not heed his offer. It's His humility opening the gate of repentance to His betrayer.

Or do you remember the way He encouraged the disciples that night? You know what He says to them in John 14:1. It's in the upper room, it's after the Lord's table, and He says to them, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” [Are you kidding me?!? If anybody had a right to have a troubled heart, it was Jesus!] In fact, the Gospels tell us that that night in the Garden of Gethsemane His heart was troubled, even as John tells us that when He came into the city of Jerusalem that week that His heart was deeply troubled; and yet He's there in the upper room saying, ‘My dear disciples, I'm so concerned that you not be discouraged, because tomorrow's going to be really hard for you….’ [‘‘Hard for you?’’ What about Him?] That's right! But He's taken on this humble humanity and He's taken on the form of a servant, and He's serving His people. “Let not your hearts be troubled,” He says. His focus is always on His disciples, even when it could have rightly been on himself.

Think of it in the Garden of Gethsemane. ‘Wouldn't you just stay awake with Me and pray?’ He says. They can't even do that. And He's praying for their salvation, and He's praying the praying of the slave: “Not My will, but Thy will be done.” And they can't even stay awake with Him to pray. And He's praying that prayer for their salvation.

Or think of Him while He's in the house of the high priest, being tried by a kangaroo court. His feckless disciple, Peter, is out in the courtyard denying Him three times — which he had emphatically told Him he would not do…‘Lord, I’ll die for you!’ (‘Will you die for Me, Peter?’) And the third time that Peter denies Him, Luke tells us that at that very instance Jesus’ and Peter's eyes met. You know what B.B. Warfield says about that moment? He says:

“There He stood in the judgment hall of Annas, offering himself a victim for the saving of the whole world, and yet He had the time to turn a significant glance upon Peter as he stood denying Him before the courtyard fire, and thus saved His poor repentant follower in the saving of the world.”

You see what Warfield is saying. He's saying the difference between Peter and Judas was Jesus’ pastoral care in that one look. If ever a man had a right to be saying, ‘You know, I've got my own problems to deal with right now. I can't think about my disciples,’ it was Jesus. And there He is, being tried by a kangaroo court, thinking about the everlasting welfare of the eternal soul of His weak and unfaithful disciple, Peter.

Or think of Him on the cross…nailed to the tree…uttering a prayer for His murderers: “Father, forgive them.” Or speaking to that thief. Go home today and look at Matthew 27 and Luke 23, and what you’ll find out is that both the thieves on the cross at the beginning of the day were mocking Jesus, but at the end of the day, one was not. And one of them said to Him, ‘Please, Lord, remember me…remember me when You enter into Your kingdom.’ The Lord Jesus Christ, while bearing the sins of the world, turns to that man who had been mocking Him at the beginning of the day, and He says, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” And then a few moments later He will cry His cry of final anguish and death. He's looking down at His mother and His dearest friend, John, and He says, ‘John, look. It's really important that you take care of My mother for Me. I'm not going to be around to take care of her, so behold your mother. And, Mother, I can't be your son anymore like I've been, so there's John. He's going to be your son.’

My friends, you understand that this serving, this servanthood, is not some blip on the screen. This is who Jesus is! And Paul's saying to you, Christian, “Have this mind in you, which was in Christ Jesus.”

Now, my friends, if you’re not trusting in Jesus Christ, trying to be like Christ is not the way for you to be saved. That is the way to be eternally frustrated. So if you’re not like Christ, but you want to be, here's what you do. You don't try as hard as you can, and hope that you’re accepted by Jesus. No, you come to Jesus–now! Now! Right now, like you are, with nothing in your hand…no claims, no excuses, nothing to offer…and you say, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” And on the authority of God's word, on the authority of the word of the Lord Jesus Christ, I promise He will receive you.

If you’re His and you’re here today, and you’re saying, ‘You know, I'm not living like a servant.’ Ah! Then come to Jesus at His table, and say, “Lord Jesus, I want to be like You. And You've saved me by Your grace, and You've forgiven me of my sins, but I'm still too much like the world. There's so much of the world in my heart. I need Your grace.” And I promise you, He’ll give you grace, and He’ll transform your life.

Let's pray.

Lord God, thank You. Thank You for this serving, humble, divine human Jesus. Give us the grace of faith in Him, and give us the grace to follow Him. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Would you take your hymnals out, and let's prepare to come to Jesus at His table, using

No. 378, Here, O My Lord, I See Thee Face to Face.

[Congregation sings.]

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SACRAMENT OF THE LORD’S SUPPER

Dr. Thomas: As we come to the Lord's table, let us attend to the words of institution of this sacrament spoken by our Lord, and given to the Apostle Paul:

“For this 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 given 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.’ For as often as you eat the bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly.”

The Lord's Supper is a sacrament: that is to say, it is a sign and a seal of the covenant of grace.

What we have before us here is bread and wine, and they are physical — or in the words of Augustine, “visible words.” Just as we've heard the word proclaimed about Jesus, now we see the visible word of Jesus: that Jesus took a human body, a body that was given for us; He took our sin, He took our guilt; nailed it to that cross; took our shame, and bore it in His own body upon the tree. He stood in our place. He took the curses of the covenant as the second Adam, that we might know the blessings of the covenant, that we might have the right and privilege to be sitting here this morning.

He is in heaven now, sitting at God's right hand. And by His Spirit, Jesus’ best friend, the Spirit who indwells us by faith, He enables us to feast with Christ, to fellowship with His body and blood, reminding us in this visible way of all that He has done for us and assuring us of all that He will yet do for us.

“There is no other good enough to pay the price of sin;
He only can unlock the gates of heaven and let us in.”

If you’re not a believer this morning, don't come to the table. But come to Jesus. Come to Jesus Christ, and believe in Him and trust Him for life, for salvation, for eternity.

As we give thanks to God for this gospel ordinance, let's look to Him now in prayer. Let us all pray.

Our Father in heaven, we thank You once again for this gospel ordinance. We thank You for these visible signs and seals of a body that was given for us, of blood that was shed in our room and stead. We thank You this morning from the very bottom of our hearts that in sovereign grace You've called us out of darkness and into light. You've brought us into union and communion with Jesus Christ.

“I tried the broken cisterns, Lord,

But ah, the waters failed.

Even as I stooped to drink,

They mocked me as I wailed.

Now none but Christ can satisfy,

None other name for me:

‘Tis life and joy and everlasting peace,

Lord Jesus, found in Thee.”

As we come this morning, Holy Spirit, would You fill us. Would You enable us once again to remind ourselves, and be thrilled by the very remembrance of it, that we are saved by sovereign grace, and grace alone. And because of what You have made us to be in Jesus Christ — Your sons, Your adopted sons — help us now to be more like Jesus. Because of grace, help us to give ourselves away to You. And we ask it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Now let's recite together The Apostles’ Creed. You’ll find it in the front page, inside cover, of your hymnal.

Christian, what is it that 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.

We will repeat together the Ten Words, the Ten Words of Sinai, as they are found 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.

After supper, Jesus took bread and broke it, and said,

“This is My body which is for you. Take, eat. This do in remembrance of Me.”

[Elements are passed.]

Likewise after supper, Jesus took the cup and said,

“This is My blood, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. Drink ye all of it.”

[Elements are passed.]

Let us pray.

“Praise, my soul, the King of heaven. To Your feet our tribute bring, ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, who like me your praise should sing.” We thank You for the gospel. We thank you for Jesus Christ. We thank You for Calvary. We thank You for an atonement in which He pronounced the words, “It is finished.” We thank You for, O Lord, for the promises of the covenant that are “Yes” and “Amen” in Jesus Christ. Receive our thanks in Jesus name, Amen.

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