Philippians 2:5–11comment (0)
December 24, 2009
By Kenneth B.E. Roxburgh
Related Scripture: Philippians 2:5–11
Bible Studies for Life
Chair and Armstrong Professor of Religion, Department of Religion, Samford University
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
John V. Taylor, former bishop of Winchester, England, once made the comment that “God is Christlike and in Him, there is no un-Christlikeness at all.” In a wonderful way, Paul’s reflections in this passage on who Jesus is enable us to understand something of the being of God in His majesty, meekness and mercy toward us.
Glory to the Newborn King (5–6)
Paul reminds us that the One who was born as a baby in Bethlehem was “in the form of God,” but He did not regard His equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. He chose the path of self-denial and self-sacrifice, seeking to do all He could for the sake of others, thus coming to this world. Jesus understood Godlikeness essentially as giving and spending yourself for the sake of others. During His life, our Lord knew who He was, and there must have been times when He was tempted to disclose that — when He was spat upon, laughed at, misunderstood. But He did not consider His equality with God something to be exploited for His own ends.
Veil in Flesh (7–8)
Karl Barth, a great theologian in Germany, once made the comment “God is always God even in His humiliation … He humbled Himself, but He did not do it by ceasing to be who He is.” Paul is clear in this passage that our Lord became human. The words “form,” “likeness” and “appearance” are used by Paul to reiterate the fact that the pre-existent Christ in the Incarnation fully identified Himself with humanity, that He became a full human being.
For Paul, the mystery of the Incarnation came to its fulfillment when He “became obedient to death, even death on a cross.” Paul understood that Jesus was the only human being who voluntarily chose to die. Being sinless, He did not need to die. Rather He took death into His experience by “laying down his life.” The cross astounds us. It leaves us breathless as we consider the love of God toward sinners, and it makes us long for the day when we shall stand in the presence of Jesus and see Him, no longer crowned with thorns but with glory and honor, and express our thanksgiving:
Amazing love, how can it be
That Thou my God shoulds’t die for me
Christ by Highest Heaven Adored (9)
Paul moves from the cross, as the greatest demonstration of the love of God, to the ascension to speak of the greatest demonstration of the power and authority of God. Christ crucified, risen and ascended is the dramatic assertion that the kingdom of God has defeated the kingdom of Satan, that the kingdoms of the world have now become, in principle, the Kingdom of our God and He will reign forever and forever. Sin and Satan are still realities, but their power has been broken at Calvary, and the kingdom of God has come and will come in all its fullness when Christ returns in power and in glory. The battle over the forces of evil has been won, and we are called to celebrate it in our lives by following Jesus in the pathway of holiness and by declaring that victory in the good news of the gospel.
Hail the Heaven-born Prince of Peace (10–11)
Faith looks beyond the human predicament to God’s power. Faith sees beyond the problems to the possibilities of God’s presence. Faith overcomes human weaknesses to see the limitless omnipotence of God. God’s triumph will include the exaltation of Jesus Christ above all things, worshiped by the whole of creation.
W.E. Sangster tells of an occasion when he went to the Royal Albert Hall to a performance of Handel’s “Messiah” with his father-in-law. As they stood for the Hallelujah chorus, he noticed that his father-in-law’s eyes were filled with tears. When they sat down, he asked him if everything was all right to which came the reply, “That’s my Savior they’re singing about.” On that day of final glory, when we ourselves will be part of the company of God’s people who will surround our Savior’s throne in heaven, we shall see Him, love Him, serve Him and worship Him:
Worthy O Lamb of God are Thou
That every knee to thee shall bow