Humiliation and Exaltation
Paul was concerned. The latest message from Phillipi was disturbing. Word has come to him that cracks are starting to develop in the church division and strife are threatening the fragile unity of the church. But he has a problem. He’s chained to a Roman soldier.
He’s under house arrest. In different times, under different circumstances, he would immediately make plans to go to Phillipi and help them navigate through the choppy waters they were facing. Of course, he’s concerned for them. He has many friends there. He loves them, they love him, he is ministered to them, and they have ministered to his needs many, many times. And because of his affection for them, he is deeply concerned for them.
But his greatest concern is for the advancement of the gospel, he is afraid that if unity and strife continue to grow inside the church, he knows that the gospel advancement will be slowed, maybe even halted.
Well, the good news is that even though he’s in chains, his hands are not tied, so he does what he can. He picks up his pen and puts it to paper and begins to offer counsel to them by way of the written word. And now he’s not searching for his theme, he’s not searching for where to begin, he knows exactly where he needs to begin he knows exactly the issue that needs to be addressed. He knows he must go directly to the heart of the matter.
He understands that the root of strife is pride.
He knows their unity is threatened by their wrong thinking. The problem has been created by getting their priorities out of order and thinking of themselves more than they think of others and not counting others more significant than they’re counting themselves. And he also understands until their thinking has been corrected, until they begin to think properly, they will never act properly.
But it wasn’t so much a lecture that they needed. What they needed was a lesson. They needed a living lesson.
They needed a flesh and blood lesson. They didn’t need a lecture on humility. They needed a living lesson on humility. They needed the example that they could look to. They needed the example that they could meditate on. They needed the example that they could look to frequently. Of course, the example that Paul has in mind would immediately smash their pride, it would melt all resistance away, and so that they would be able to live in humility and thereby have unity with one another.
And of course, we know the example that Paul has in mind is the example of the Lord Jesus Christ. Think about the Lord Jesus Christ. He went from the savior. He went from the Sovereign to a servant. To the Savior. And the example of the Lord Jesus, Paul is going to show them to teach them. Demonstrates to them that God is not going to ask them to do anything that he wasn’t ready to ask his son to do, in fact, indeed that he had asked his son to do and his son had done it.
Of course, there’s no better example than the one Jesus provides for us, Jesus provides all believers, all places at all times with a very vivid and very dramatic demonstration of the humility that promotes and creates unity. And Paul does this by describing a series of downward steps that Jesus took. A series of steps that took Jesus from the glory that he had eternally shared with his Father to the grave. And from there, the Father exalted him to rule and reign as Lord.
Jesus made the journey from a Sovereign to a servant, to Savior to Lord of all.
Your God. You’re all powerful, your power is unlimited, your power knows no boundaries, you are totally self-sufficient and you have never been contained or constrained in any way. Your existence cannot will not ever be threatened. You’ve never needed any kind of help. You will never need any kind of help. You are God. Yet God, through an intentional act of his will placed himself in the womb o f a young teenage girl. With intention, the creator not only of mankind, but of everything that exist. Became a part of his creation.
So how did this happen? Well, Paul describes here in our text what Jesus did in order to become a man, Paul describes a humility that Jesus displayed. In order to become one of us, in order to live among us so that he could die for us. So Jesus, who from all of eternity has existed in the form of God. He was God. To be in the form of God is equal to being God.
John MacArthur says Jesus was equal to God, the Father in every way Jesus Christ is always has been and will forever be divine. Paul emphasizes truth of the Colossians. He said he referring to Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation. Yet Jesus, the firstborn of all creation, in a tremendous display of humility and a tremendous act of humility, did not count or did not consider his divine equality something to be grasped.
Jesus didn’t see the need to hold on to that equality. He didn’t see it as something that he had to cling to. And what very well may be has to be the grandest act of selflessness, Jesus refused to cling to his favored position of power and glory. And then contrast that with the human race. When people find themselves in positions of power. More often than not, they will do whatever it takes to hold on to that position of power.
Whether it be a politician who is long past their prime. But yet continues to run for office, why they’re intoxicated by the power. It could be a CEO of a company. He’s no longer fit to run the company, but. Because he loves the power, he hangs on to the power. It can happen as parents with our children, we’ve had power to a degree over our children’s lives and sometimes we don’t want to give up that power.
It happens through all strata of society, we love power, we crave power, and many times we will even go to illegal lengths in order to hang on to that power. But Jesus didn’t do that. His attitude must also be our attitude. Every believer should display the same level of selflessness, meaning that we are willing to give up whatever is necessary for the sake of others, we are willing to count others that count others simply means to consider others more significant than ourselves.
And this is important because it is one way that we demonstrate that we actually do possess the mind of Christ.
It’s important because it’s one way where we demonstrate that we are actually in Christ, it’s an outcome of our union with Christ.
Therefore, if we just can’t do this or we won’t do this, we need to seriously consider our profession of faith. Because as we saw last week, what we do as believers is simply exercise the mind of Christ that we already possess through our union with Christ. So it should be our attitude. And Jesus proved that he was not willing to cling to his divine prerogatives by emptying himself and taking on the form of a servant. Now, as you might imagine, this particular passage in this verse in particular has caused a certain degree of controversy and confusion down through the years in the history of the church.
But I don’t believe that it needs to do that. The key is really properly understanding. That phrase emptied himself the word empty. It means abased. Here’s what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that Jesus emptied himself of his deity. It does not mean that Jesus exchanged his deity for humanity. Jesus did not swap out his divine nature for a human nature. When Jesus emptied himself, he set aside for a time some of his divine rights, some of his divine prerogatives, and he added something to himself.
He gives up some things for a time, but at the same time, he adds something to himself he takes on. Paul says the form of a servant. So when Paul says that he came and the emptied himself and he says he took on the form of a servant servant servant excuse me again, he’s not losing anything. He’s actually taking something on
Dennis Johnson comments, Christ was and remains equal with God, but he did not regard that equality as a perk to be exploited for his own advantage, a windfall, a fortuitous springboard to be used for self promotion.
See, when Jesus empties himself, he did no way diminishes his deity. When Jesus became a man, he never became fully less than God. Now, there are those who will say that, yes, Jesus emptied himself of his deity. But there’s a huge problem with that, and here’s the huge problem. If he empties himself of his deity, then he could not die on the cross for our sins. Only God could die on the cross for our sins.
So be very careful about wanting to rob Jesus of his deity because you rob him of his potential as your savior, so we need to be careful about that. If he had ceased to be God, he would not have been able to die on the cross, he would not have been able to die for the sins of the world. And you think about who Paul is writing this to, Phillipi Roman colony. Rome was tolerant of all kinds of false gods and false practices, as long as you recognize Caesar’s lord, you could pretty much do anything else that you wanted.
And these false gods, these pagan deities, they weren’t known for being benevolent. They were always making demands of those who worship them, they were always having to be appeased. This is the way the mind of man works when it creates a false god, I’ve got to keep that god happy. They didn’t see these false gods as being willing to give up anything on their behalf yet. What do we have here? What a contrast this must have been to the believers of Phillipi that, hey, here is a God who willingly Emptied himself on my behalf. He was a guard who was willing to give to give up the exercise of what was rightfully his for the sake of others.
And I think that based upon our limited understanding, granted our limited understanding of the Lord’s actions, we should take the time to try as best that we can to gain some kind of a perspective on the depth that Jesus lowered himself to in the incarnation.
For just a moment, let’s just try and fathom. Let’s just try and think about the vast, even the infinite gap that. Exist between God and us. Think about that chasm that exists between Jesus and his creation. And let’s say that we as the human race, we’re a proud people, right? And we think we’re all that at times. And so we may be tempted to think, well, we will go to the four corners of the Earth and we will find our best, our brightest, our noblest, we will go into the halls of power.
We will go into the university academic setting and find the best and the brightest. We will go to royalty, will pull all of them out. And we’ll say, here, look at us. Do you think they even begin to compare to the glory and the majesty of Jesus Christ? Not at all, if there was a scale to be judged, it wouldn’t even register on the scale. We are is nothing in comparison to Jesus Christ. He is glorious, whether or not he is majestic, we are not.
He is magnificent. We are not. He is Lord. And we are not. There’s this tremendous gap that exist. And Paul says, I know you think you’re pretty special. But at the same time, he says that is completely the wrong attitude for you to have as a Christian.
You know, we we say to ourselves, you know what? We deserve respect. No, we deserve more than respect, we deserve to be honored. And then Paul comes along and blows us out of the water, says no.
Not if you’re a Christian. That’s completely the wrong attitude for you as a Christian to have you need to count others, all others, by the way, can I, can I can I highlight this for you? We have to count all others more significant than ourselves, we have put the needs of all others ahead of ourselves. Paul didn’t give us any qualifications here. Say, does this apply to the person whose politics I don’t like? Yes.
Does this apply to the person who hurt me or hurt my children? Yes. Does this apply to my neighbor won’t cut his grass and has a junk car in the driveway? Yes. Yes. It applies to all without qualification.
So I wonder, what was your reaction when you hear words, hear those words from Paul? Did you immediately think of somebody else who needed to hear that say, boy, I wish I wish so-and-so was here? They really need to hear that.
They think they’re all that that little arrogant punk. They really need to hear this.
Or perhaps those words raised your own blood pressure. And perhaps there is a person that came immediately came to your mind and you thought to yourself, never in my wildest dreams would I ever conceive of putting their needs before my own. I wonder did Paul’s words offend you. If they did, why? I can answer the question for you one word, pride, pride, when pride rears its ugly head, that’s when you and I need to call to mind the actions of Jesus.
And we need to think long and hard about what Jesus did for us. And when is the last time you spent any amount of time at all meditating on the magnificence and the majesty of Christ?
When’s the last time you spent time marveling that Jesus is God, that Jesus is God Almighty, that Jesus is a creator in the sustainer of all life? What is the last time you rehearsed the mighty acts of God and made a beeline to Jesus?
Go back through the Old Testament, some of the miracles there. Absolutely astounding, powerful acts of God. That’s Jesus. Children of Israel are facing the waters of the sea, the words of Russ Taff, they can’t run they can’t hide. Though he was just a man, Moses raised his hand and the Lord came through.
But he did he parted of this part of the waters, Jesus parted the waters. We just went through Daniel last summer, I think. Daniel in the Lion’s Den. Jesus was there. Fiery furnace. Jesus was there. So I’m afraid we we we focus on Jesus, the man sometimes and forget that Jesus is God Almighty. Jesus is the one who stilled the storm, healed the lepers, give sight to the blind, raises the dead.
Yes, Jesus. There’s a man, but he’s also God. And that all powerful God not only became a servant, he took on the very essence, the very nature of a servant, but not just a servant, but a bond servant and a bond servant owned absolutely nothing. They didn’t have a house, they didn’t have land, they don’t have a bank account. Most of the time to them own their own clothes. But he came in the form of a bond servant.
He served us as a bond servant. Who was it that washed the feet of the disciples? Scour that account study that accounts you don’t see any hint that Peter. Or John. Or any other disciple was ready to get up and wash his feet. No, it was the one who created the disciples who knelt before them and washed their feet, he came in the form of servant, the son of man the Bible says came not to be served, but to what serve.
D.A. Carson writes “The eternal Son did not think of his status as God, as something that gave him the opportunity to get and get and get instead is very status as God meant. He had nothing to prove, nothing to achieve. And precisely because he is one with God, he made himself nothing and gave and gave and gave.”
I love that he abandoned his rights. He became a nobody. And what did Jesus do being found in human form? He became obedient, meaning he simply did everything that the Father asked him to do. Jesus fulfilled every one of the righteous demands of God’s law. Jesus always did those things that pleased the Father.
Jesus did what Adam failed to do. Jesus did what you and I refused to do. He lived a life of perfect obedience to the Father. But Paul takes it even further. Not only was he obedient, he was obedient to the point of death. And why did the Lord’s obedience take him to the point of death? Because it was the father’s will. Commentator Ralph Martin writes, His obedience is a sure token of his deity and divine authority, for only a divine being can accept death as obedience.
For ordinary men, it is a necessity. He, alone, as the obedient son of his Father, could choose death as his destiny. And he did so because of his love, a love which was directed both to his father’s redeeming purpose and equally to the world to which he came. And he closes with this phrase, I came to do thy will was the motto text of his entire life. That was the. That was the driving force of the Lord Jesus, he came to do the Father’s will.
But Paul goes further still, Jesus became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Do you realize that the Father did not have to force Jesus to die on the cross? Have you ever thought about that he willingly went to the cross out of love for his Father, out of his desire to obey the Father, he willingly went to the cross. The Father did not have to force him to go to the cross. Such was a demonstration of love and humility by the Lord Jesus.
And we hear those words today, death on a cross and their impact just kind of bounces off of us. I’m afraid. We wear crosses around our neck, we build some church buildings in the form of a cross. We’ll put it on the back of our car. We’ve softened the cross of its horror. We’ve softened the cross and robbed the cross of just how unbelievably cruel, it was. And Jesus came into the world knowing. That was how he was going to die.
The shadow of the cross was with Jesus from the day he was born until the day that he died.
Crucifixion in the Roman Empire was reserved for slaves and rebels and those who had been branded enemy of enemies of the state, it was a horrific death. It was a torturous death. It was a cruel death. It was considered so barbaric that if you were a Roman citizen, you couldn’t be crucified.
Again, part of the horror of the cross was the fact that Jesus knew what lay before him, he knew the shame that he would have to bear. He knew the excruciating pain he would have to endure. The most painful of all would be the separation that for all of eternity, he would experience for the very first time. For the first time in eternity Jesus the son of God would be separated from God, his Father.
What is it about death that causes us such pain? Even as believers, what is it about death that causes us so much pain? It’s the loss of that companionship is the loss of that fellowship that we’ve had with that person, particularly of our loved ones.
I’ve said in the first service this this forcefully came to me when I was 19 or 20 years old. We used to have a dinner before, I think it was called great commission night, I don’t really remember, not important, but we used to have a dinner and we’d set up in a gym and people would come. We’d have this dinner before we’d go out and make Sunday school calls or whatever it was. I remember walking in there one night and saw a man by the name of Lloyd Jones.
And his wife had just passed away and they had been married 40 or 50 years, possibly more. And I’ll never I can see it, I can see it as if I’m there today, that man sitting there at an eight foot table all alone.
And it hit me, death is real. Here’s a man for the first time in decades. Was alone. The one we love through death is no longer physically present, the pain overwhelms us as we look at that empty chair at the dinner table. The pain overwhelms us when we see their side of the bed and know that. The covers will never be disturbed again. Pain of death overwhelms us. When we know we’ll never hear the creaking of their favorite chair again.
And Jesus and the Father for all of eternity had enjoyed the company of each other. But for the first time in all of eternity, that eternal, joyful fellowship was broken, which resulted in this forlorn, plaintive cry being ripped from the lips of Jesus. And what did he say?
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Well, that’s the humiliation of Jesus, but thankfully the story doesn’t end there. His humiliation was followed by his exaltation, look at verse nine.
Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name. Let’s read that again. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.
Notice carefully what Paul says, this took place through the direct action of God, God, the Father, Father was responsible for our Lord’s, exaltation.
God, the Father did not just exalt the son, he highly exalted the son, he raised a son to the utmost heights of glory and power and majesty and dominion.
God raised up his son, God lifted up his son and freely and graciously gave him the name is above every name you say, Well, what is the name? Paul doesn’t give us the name. Keep reading verse 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is what Lord. That’s the name. That’s the name that the Father has given to the son. He has highly exalted him. To the position of absolute un-challengeable authority, authority, prestige and power.
And because Jesus Christ is Lord, regardless of their location, regardless of their position, will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Everyone. No exceptions. The rich will confess. The poor will confess, the powerful will confess. The weak will confess, the downtrodden will confess, the proud will confess. The atheist will confess, the agnostic will confess, the religious liberal will confess. That Jesus Christ is Lord, and I find that to be a rather comforting thought.
Knowing that right now, not sometime in the future, but right now, Jesus Christ is ruling and reigning. It’s such a comforting thought to know that Jesus Christ is ruling and reigning over the universe and all that is in it, to know that Jesus Lord helps me, frankly, maintain my my sanity in an insane world.
But Jesus is Lord is a comforting thought for believers, but it’s also a sobering thought for the unbeliever, though they don’t recognize it.
It’s sobering to think that for many. Their confession of Jesus as Lord will come entirely too late. If they don’t bow the knee in this life and confess Jesus as Lord and savior, their confession will come too late. It will be a confession of eternal damnation. It will be the confession of the damned. All those who mock God now. Go ahead, Mr. Hollywood celebrity, go ahead, Mr. Politician, go ahead and mock God now, you’ll regret it someday.
Go ahead and deny God now. Go ahead and blame God now. One day you will bow. And the Christ who could have saved them will instead, judge them. And he will be a judge that on that day will show no mercy. Depart from me. I never knew you.
Jesus is Lord, is a comforting thought because it points us to a time when all things that trouble us will forever cease to trouble us. I like that Jesus is Lord gives us hope.
We can’t live without hope. We need hope. I hope that our circumstances will change, hope that heaven awaits. Physical and mental illness will no longer plague us, strife and unrest will be replaced with peace and harmony. There’ll be no more death, no more pain, no more war, no more hunger, no more loneliness, no more divorce. No more rebellious children. No more strife. No more discord. When you think of Jesus, Lord, think about those words no more.
Because Jesus is Lord someday, no more no more pain, no more sickness, no more poverty, no more hunger. No more injustice, no more. Jesus, Lord. Because Jesus, Lord, we pray, come quickly, Lord Jesus.