Chapter 22: Seven Steps Downward

Philippians 2:5‑8  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 8
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
“Have this mind in you which (was) also in Christ Jesus: Who subsisting in (the) form of God, not as-a-means-of-gain He-counted the being equal-with God: but He made Himself empty, taking (a) slave’s form, being-come in men’s likeness, and, being-found in-fashion as man, made Himself low, becoming obedient until death, even death of (a) cross.”
“Have this mind in you which (was, is) also in Christ Jesus: Who subsisting in the form of God, not as a means of gain He counted the being equal with God:”
1. But He emptied Himself,
2. Taking a slave’s form,
3. Being come in men’s likeness,
4. And, being found in fashion as man,
5. Made Himself low,
6. Becoming obedient until death,
7. Even death of a cross.”
In our last meditation we spoke of our Lord’s seven steps downward: and now we have tried to show these steps.
We have pondered that first step: “He emptied Himself.” Remember it was when He was in the form of God that He emptied Himself. It was love made Him empty Himself: empty Himself of all His outward glory: but let us remember that He never ceased to be God. That Babe in the manger was Emmanuel, “God with us,” just as truly God— upholding all things by the word of His power, as when all things were created by Him and for Him.
But before we ponder those further steps downward, let us stop and remind ourselves why it is that the Spirit of God has given us this amazing sight of the pathway of the eternal Son of God from the highest heights of Glory, down to the lowest depths of shame and suffering that it was possible to go. It is, Beloved, that you and I might gaze on that wondrous sight, and thus the mind which was in Christ Jesus might be fashioned in us. We love to go up: He came down: that is the mind we would long to have, if we are to be like Him while we are down here. May the Lord help us to remember this, as we ponder His remaining six steps downward!
Not only did He empty Himself of all His outward glory in the form of God: but He took a slave’s form. He might have taken the form of an Emperor or of a mighty King, in wealth and luxury: but, no, by His own act, (for I think the Greek implies this), He emptied Himself and deliberately took a slave’s form. And the remarkable thing is that the word form is the very same word as in the previous verse: “Who subsisting in the form of God” (vs. 6). As we have seen, it means, not exterior form, but inner, essential quality. He was not like an actor might be, dressed up in the fashion of a slave: though indeed we see Him in the outward character of a slave in the thirteenth of John, where He laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself, and did the slave’s work, of washing the feet. And Peter fully realized this, I believe, and had it in his mind when he wrote: “Be clothed with humility” (1 Peter 5:55Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. (1 Peter 5:5)): for this might well be translated: “Gird on the slave’s apron”; for the word in its noun form means this. Here we see the inner, essential quality, the very spirit of our Lord, shining out so that we may gaze upon Him in wonder and awe.
But perhaps the Hebrew servant in Ex. 21 tells the story best. He was to serve for six years, but in the seventh year “he shall go out free for nothing.” But the Hebrew servant (and it means a slave) might say: “I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him forever” (Ex. 21:5-65And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: 6Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever. (Exodus 21:5‑6)). That pierced ear was the pledge and the proof that he shall be his slave forever. And those pierced hands and feet and side tell the same story of “Christ Jesus: who.... emptied Himself, and took upon Him the form of a slave.”
But whose slave is He? “I love My Master.... He shall serve Him forever.” In Philippians it is left to be understood to whom He is the slave: and it is true that He said I came not to be ministered unto, but to minister: and that was to the needs of men; and today upon His throne, He still serves us, our Advocate and our Intercessor: and even after He had returned to the Glory, when His servants went out and preached everywhere, almost the last words of the gospel that presents Him as the “perfect Servant” (Isa. 42:1919Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the Lord's servant? (Isaiah 42:19)) are, “The Lord working with them” (Mark 16:2020And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen. (Mark 16:20)). And so we see Him still serving and still working: but let us remember He is not the slave of men, but of God— “I love My Master,” (Ex. 21:55And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: (Exodus 21:5)) as the Hebrew servant put it.
And the next step we are to trace is: “Being come in men’s likeness.” We might, perhaps, have translated this, “Being born in men’s likeness,” for we usually use “born” to translate this same word in Gal. 4:44But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, (Galatians 4:4). But “being come,” is probably nearer to the meaning. The word “likeness” is the third word mentioned in our last meditation: Homoioma. It is the same word as is used in Rom. 8:33For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: (Romans 8:3): “God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.” His outward appearance was just like a man among men. Judas had to give those who came to take Him a sign, for there was nothing in His outward appearance to mark Him out especially from other men, such as the halo we see in the pictures. He came “in men’s likeness.”
The fourth step downwards is: “Being found in fashion as man” (vs. 8). I think the words “being found” have the same meaning as in Luke 17:1818There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. (Luke 17:18): “There are not found that returned to give glory to God save this stranger.” See also Acts 5:3939But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. (Acts 5:39) & 2 Cor. 5:33If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. (2 Corinthians 5:3). The word “fashion” here is scheema, meaning the outward appearance. It is most wonderful that He took a slave’s form, the inner, essential qualities of a slave— but He was found in outward appearance as man. Perhaps we should not say “as a man:” for never was man like this Man: for He was very God. And yet He had man’s appearance: “Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel.” Isaiah had cried, “Oh that Thou wouldest rend the heavens, that Thou wouldest come down,” (Isa. 64:11Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, (Isaiah 64:1)) and that is just what the Lord God Almighty did: He did come down: but He came down “being found in fashion as man” (vs. 8). But all the time He trod our sad world, He was still “Emmanuel”: “God with us.”
The next step is, “He humbled Himself” (vs. 8). Perhaps more exactly, “He made Himself low,” or, “He made Himself very low.” The word is used in old writings, speaking of the river Nile, “it runs low.” As God, He emptied Himself: as Man, He made Himself low. This is a further step downwards than being found in fashion as a man: for, as we have remarked, He might have been found in fashion as a man, and have chosen to be an Emperor or mighty King: He might have chosen honor and wealth: but not so: “He made Himself low,” “He humbled Himself” (vs. 8). He could say, “I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:2929Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Matthew 11:29)). But let us remember that this is “The high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy” (Isa. 57:1515For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. (Isaiah 57:15)). After meditating on His path downwards, we can better understand His words that follow: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit” (Isa. 57:1515For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. (Isaiah 57:15)). How much most of us need to gaze upon Him, till we are in some measure changed into the same image, and have that mind in us which was also in Christ Jesus.
And now we come to what we would have supposed was the last step He could take: “Becoming obedient until death.” He had taken the form of a slave; and the slave’s portion was obedience: and He showed forth His obedience, even until death. Our Authorized Version might be misunderstood to think it was to death He was obedient. But it was obedience to His Father’s will, even unto death. Our Lord had said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down His life for his friends” (John 15:1313Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)). And His death at Golgotha not only manifested forth His matchless love, but also His devoted obedience.
Could there be another step downwards, beyond death? We would not have thought so: but the Father, Who looked down with perfect delight on all that pathway, sees one more step. Not only did He become obedient unto death: but that death, was the death of a cross. That last step tells out the awfulness, the horror, the shame, the anguish of the death to which He became obedient. We see better the force of the words that tell out that last step, when we ponder such Scriptures as 1 Cor. 1:2323But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; (1 Corinthians 1:23): “Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock”; Gal. 5:1111And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased. (Galatians 5:11): “The scandal of the cross”; Heb. 12:22Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2): “Jesus.... endured the cross, despising the shame.” There was probably no death from which one would so much shrink as “the death of the cross” (vs. 8). It was to this, the lowest step that could be taken, that the Lord of Glory went.
Beloved, let us remember, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (vs. 5).
And let us remember, also, our Lord’s own words: “He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:3838And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:38)).
PERFECTION
O Man! God’s Man, Thou peerless Man!
Jesus, my Lord! God’s Son:
Perfection’s perfect in its height,
But found in Thee alone.
Of Abba’s love of—
God’s great claims—
Thou com’st not short at all;
Perfect in everything art
Thou Alone, since Adam’s race.
O matchless, peerless Man! shall we
Begrudge to Thee this praise?
Perfect alone, Thou cam’st in love,
To glory us to raise.
Peerlessly spotless Man! ‘twas Thou
The wrath did’st bear for me,
Peerlessly righteous Man!
I’m made God’s righteousness in Thee.
Peerlessly glorious Man! how soon
Shall I be like to Thee?
The very glory then reflect,
Thy perfect beauty see.
(G. V Wigram)