5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11)
How did the Lord Jesus Christ demonstrate the attribute and characteristic of humility? The Apostle Paul listed several significant ways in which our Lord demonstrated this fundamental character trait for the believer in Christ. Today, we examine three more characteristics of humility from Philippians 2:8.
The Apostle Paul writes, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” What do these three statements in Philippians 2:8 mean?
“And being found in human form.” The phrase “and being found” referred to Jesus, in His humanity, experiencing and discovering something. What He experienced was that the sinless Son of God, the second person of the Godhead, the creator of the universe was also human. He had taken upon Himself humanity. What a humbling experience.
However, the Apostle Paul continued to say that Jesus humbled himself even more. He did so by “becoming obedient to the point of death.” Jesus was not only obedient to the Father’s will be becoming incarnate, He would continue to display perfect obedience by dying on behalf of sinners. Obedience (ὑπήκοος; hypekoos) means to submit and conform to a standard. The standard to which Jesus submitted and conformed was the Father’s will.
How far would Jesus conform to the Father’s will? The text says, “to the point of death.” The word death (θάνατος; thanatos) refers to death by execution. What type of execution does the Apostle Paul have in mind? The text continues to say, “even death on a cross.”
It should be noted that death by crucifixion was not only an extremely painful way to die, but also it was degrading and personally humiliating. One commentary states that, “Judaism prized obedience to the point of death in stories about its martyrs. Crucifixion was the most degrading form of execution, reserved for non-Roman criminals who were slaves or free persons of the lowest status.”
In an article entitled Humiliation and Exaltation, Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “Shame and embarrassment are feelings and experiences that occur to us in various degrees. The worst kind of shame, the most dreadful form of embarrassment, is that which results in utter and complete humiliation. Humiliation brings with it not merely the reddened face of embarrassment but also the sense of despair as we lose our dignity and our reputations are cast into ruin. Yet it was precisely into this domain of shame and humiliation that our Savior came voluntarily in the incarnation. The popular hymn, “Ivory Palaces,” depicts this descent from glory—the Son of Man’s voluntary departure from the ivory palace that is His eternal dwelling place. He chose willingly to make Himself of no reputation, to become a man and a servant, obedient even unto death. It is this humiliation that Christ willingly accepted for Himself, which stands at the beginning of the entire progress that He travels on His road to glory and to His final exaltation. The progress, as the New Testament traces it, is one that moves from humiliation in the birth of Jesus to His exaltation in His resurrection, ascension, and return.”
However, we know from all four gospel accounts of Jesus’ death that there were two other men, criminals, who Rome condemned to be executed along with Jesus. What made Jesus’ death on a cross any different from those who were crucified alongside Him?
Galatians 3:13-14 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”
Romans 5:7-10 says, “7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”
I John 4:7-11 says, “7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
Jesus’ death was a substitutionary death on behalf of sinners. Sinners such as you and me.
Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “Being perfectly holy, our Creator cannot tolerate sin. He cannot even look upon it, not in that He cannot see it but that He cannot see it and allow it to go unpunished (Hab. 1:13). For us to be reconciled to God, our sin had to be dealt with. The sins of men and women had to be atoned for, and this had to be done by a man, for only a human being can atone for the sins of other human beings. The Son of God—as a man—atoned for the sins of His people, bearing the punishment—the curse—we deserved in His person.”
Dr. Sproul continues to say that, “If God were to give us what we earn, what we deserve, we would perish from His wrath, but thanks be to God that He gives to us what was earned by His Son. Jesus got what He did not deserve; we got what He did deserve—the righteousness that is by faith.”
Jesus Christ’s humble act of obedience in bearing God’s wrath gives believers the greatest blessing, namely, eternal blessedness. Let us praise and thank Him for His blessedness today.
May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.
Soli deo Gloria!