Humility, Humiliation and the Humanity of Christ


Philippians 2:5-11; Key Verse: 2:5

"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus."

Recap on joy: Joy is critical to life. Without joy, life would be torture. Paul was very serious about joy. He chose to life rather than die so that he could work for their "joy in the faith" (Phil 1:25). To have joy, a Christian needs to live a life of unity, humility and mutuality (Phil 2:2-4). A key to joy is to realize our perpetual sinful default to incurvatus in se (curved inward on oneself). An inward focus/orientation drives joy from our hearts. Yet, we cannot will ourselves to have an outward orientation and genuinely care for others. Rather, Christian joy comes from the gospel when we are encouraged, comforted, in fellowship with, and have tenderness and compassion in union with Christ (Phil 2:1). Christian joy is never an act of the will, but a gift of the Spirit (Gal 5:22; Phil 2:1). Christian joy is always gospel-based, Christ-focused and grace-enabled. Apart from the gospel we have a weird forced kind of Pharisee joy, or a victim's mentality of constantly blaming others.

The singular solution to all of our life's problems. Consider the following questions:

  • What is the solution to our life's problems?
  • What is the solution to the ever present problem of division, disunity, pride, personal ambition, selfishness, unwillingness to serve, desire for prominence and prestige that exists in every church, even in Paul's sweetheart church in Philippi?
  • How can we have genuine humility and a selfless desire to serve others, which is the essence of the life of Christ?
  • How do you go about counting someone better than you, 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?
  • Is it to have a prep rally to motivate people to be more selfless?
  • Is it to have retreats and conferences to promote unity?
  • Is it to repeatedly emphasize how we must always love others?
Paul gives us the only solution to every problem that we Christians have in the church and in life. It is the most profound truth in all of Scripture, and yet it is the most practical teaching that is applicable to all of life. The most profound is often the most applicable, while the simplistic is often reductionistic, skewed and burdensome.

Today's text, Phil 2:5-11 is one of the greatest passages in Philippians, in all of Paul's writings, and in all of Scripture. In many ways, this is the greatest and most moving passage Paul ever wrote about Jesus. It has been called "The Song of Christ," "A Hymn of Christ" and the theology of Christians. The essence of this is 2 Cor 8:9 where Paul wrote that although Jesus was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor. In Phil 2:5-11  that simple idea is stated with a fullness that is without parallel. This deep and rich passage can be outlined in 3 parts:

  1. Exhortation (Phil 2:5): Have the mind of Christ.
  2. Humiliation (Phil 2:6-8): The condescension of Christ shows us the way to live the Christian life.
  3. Exaltation (Phil 2:9-11): The exaltation of Christ shows the promises God holds out for those who go the way of the cross.
I. Exhortation (Phil 2:5)

It is important to clearly state and understand that "Be like Jesus" is NOT the gospel (good news). If it is, it would be horribly bad news. We will all be in hell. When Paul says, "have the same mindset as Christ Jesus," he is not saying, "Do this and be saved. Do this and be blessed." We do not be like Jesus to be saved. But we want to be like Jesus because we are saved by grace alone.

The '84 NIV says, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." The new 2011 NIV says, "In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus." The ESV says, "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus." Paul's exhortation is to adopt, express, show, exhibit, display, live out, have the attitude, mind set, outlook of Christ. But it is not just directed at the individual. Paul's exhortation is corporate, collective and congregational to all the members of the church: "among yourselves" and "In your relationships with one another." We would not fully enjoy the unity, humility and mutuality of the richness of life in Christ unless God enables and empowers us to do so congregationally. We cannot fulfill this command unless we do it all together. The thrust of the Christian life is never inward but outward, never toward self, but toward others. It is never for self benefit, but for the benefit, interests, welfare and well-being of others (Phil 2:4). That is the mindset of Christ. What is it?

It is humility. What is that? Phillips Brooks 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.” Humility is never in comparison with someone else, and then trying to think of how you are less than that person. Humility is never to think less of yourself, nor to belittle yourself. Humility must involve a right estimation of who you are. Yes, pride is to have a false high estimation of oneself. But it is not corrected by having a low estimation of yourself. It can only be truly corrected by seeing ourselves in light of God. How? 3 things:

  1. Continually read and study the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).
  2. Continually know, understand, remind ourselves of the gospel, and preach the gospel to ourselves.
  3. Live out your life in community.
II. Humiliation (Phil 2:6-8). Let us think of the humility and humiliation of Christ in 6 ways:
  1. His divinity. He is "in very nature God" (Phil 1:6a). Jesus humility will not be understood until we know who he is when he humbled himself.
  2. His abnegation. This means renunciation, disavowal, repudiation, renouncement, self-denial. Jesus "did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage" (Phil 1:6b). We all use our strengths to our own advantage. A pretty girl can use her charm and beauty to get what she wants. A smart person can use his smartness to his own advantage. But Jesus refused to use the fact that he is God to his own advantage.
  3. His self-abasement. "He made himself nothing" (Phil 2:7a). People who are nobody try to act like somebody. People who have nothing act like they have something. But Jesus who had everything made himself nothing. He "made himself of no reputation" (KJV).
  4. His voluntary servitude. He took "the very nature of a servant" (Phil 2:7b) or "bond-slave." Most slaves in Israel served not for life but for a period of time. But a bond-slave would volunteer to have his ear nailed to the doorpost of his master's house to pledge that he would be attached to that house permanently. Jesus chose to be a bond-slave in order to save us. A major problem with Christian leadership is when the leader claims to be a servant, but acts like a boss who calls the shots. But Jesus' leadership was voluntary servantship and servitude.
  5. His incarnation. He was "made in human likeness" (Phil 2:7c). The Word became flesh (Jn 1:14). God became a man. Who can understand Jesus' condescension in becoming man?
  6. His ultimate humiliation. To God who is Life, death is the ultimate shame. That is what Jesus embraced: the ultimate humiliation and shame of death. "And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross" (Phil 2:8). No one can endure shame. So when we do something shameful our immediate impulse is to hide our shame. People commit suicide rather than be exposed to shame. But Jesus took upon himself the ultimate shame of death.
III. Exaltation (Phil 2:9-11): The way up is the way down. The way to exaltation is the way of humiliation.

The key to the glory is that it is the way of humiliation, the way down. But in the end it is the only way up. The most profound and paradoxical of truths is that humiliation always precedes exaltation. Or exaltation always follows humiliation. But those who do their best to avoid humiliation will only experience it as their common pattern of life. Notice 5 things about the exaltation of Christ:

  1. Hyper-exaltation. "God exalted him to the highest" (Phil 2:9a).
  2. Final coronation. God "gave him the name that is above every name" (Phil 9:2b).
  3. Global adoration. "...that at the name of Jesus every knee should in heaven and on earth and under the earth" (Phil 2:10).
  4. Universal confession. "...every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord" (Phil 2:11a).
  5. Paternal glorification. "...to the glory of God the Father" (Phil 2:11b).
This Song of Christ is the ultimate practical application for all Christians: They way up is the way down. The way to exaltation is the way of humiliation. The humiliation and exaltation of Christ is the most profound, yet most basic of biblical truths. It is the most paradoxical and confounding of truths, yet most life giving. How can we be ever united, humble, selfless, helpful? How can we ever overcome any sin? What must I do and apply in my everyday life as a Christian? Ask this question to yourself every day: Do I see what my Jesus has done for me? Do I feel it in my bones? Am I still moved and deeply touched by Him?

References: 7 sermons by Ligon Duncan

  1. The Song of Christ (Phil 2:5-6)
  2. The Divinity of Christ (Phil 2:5-6)
  3. The Ungrasped Equality of Christ (Phil 2:5-6)
  4. The Emptying of Christ (Phil 2:7)
  5. The Humanity of Christ (Phil 2:7-8)
  6. The Obedience and Death of Christ (Phil 2:8)
  7. The Exaltation of Christ (Phil 2:9-11)
  8. The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible, 2003.

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