Self-Surrender: Part 2

 •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 6
We may range through the wide domain of inspiration and not find a more exquisite model of self-surrender than that which is presented to us in the opening lines of Philippians 2. It is, we may safely say, impossible for anyone to breathe the holy atmosphere of such a scripture and not be cured of the sore evils of envy and jealousy, strife and vainglory. Let us approach the marvelous picture and, gazing intently upon it, seek to catch its inspiration.
“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 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” (Phil. 2:1-81If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, 2Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:1‑8)).
Here, then, is the divine remedy for envy and jealousy, strife and vainglory, for self-occupation in all its hideous forms. The inspired penman introduces to our hearts the self emptied, humble, obedient Man, Christ Jesus. Here was One who possessed all power in heaven and earth. Divine majesty and glory belonged to Him. He was God over all, blessed forever. By Him all things were made, and by Him they subsist. And yet He appeared in this world as a poor man — a servant — One who had not where to lay His head. The foxes and the fowls, the creatures of His formation, were better provided for than He, their Maker. They had a place to rest in. He had none. He “made Himself of no reputation.” He never thought of Himself at all. He thought of others, cared for them, labored for them, wept with them, ministered to them; but He never did a thing for Himself. We never find Him taking care to supply Himself with anything. His was a life of perfect self surrender. He who was everything, made Himself nothing. He stood in perfect contrast with the first Adam, who, being but a man, thought to make himself like God, and became the serpent’s slave. The Lord Jesus, who was the Most High God, took the very lowest place among men. It is utterly impossible that any man can ever take so low a place as Jesus. The word is, He “made Himself of no reputation.” He went so low that no one could possibly put Him lower. He “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
And be it observed that the cross is here viewed as the consummation of a life of obedience — the completion of a work of self-surrender. It is what we may call, to use a Levitical term, the burnt offering aspect of the death of Christ, rather than the sin offering. True it is, most blessedly true, that the selfsame act which consummated a life of obedience, did also put away sin; but in the passage now before us, sin-bearing is not so much the thought as self-surrender. Jesus gave up all. He veiled His glory, and came down into this poor world; and when He came, He eschewed all human pomp and grandeur, and became a poor man. His parents were poor. They were able to procure only the lowest grade of sacrifice which the law admitted for the poor — not a bullock, not a lamb, but a pair of turtle doves. (Compare Lev. 15:2929And on the eighth day she shall take unto her two turtles, or two young pigeons, and bring them unto the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. (Leviticus 15:29); Luke 2:2424And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. (Luke 2:24).) He Himself worked, and was known as a carpenter. Nor are we to miss the moral force of this fact by saying that every Jew was brought up to some trade. Our Lord Jesus Christ did really take a low place. The very town where He was brought up was a proverb of reproach. He was called “The Nazarene.” And it was asked, with a sneer of contempt, “Is not this the carpenter?” He was a root out of a dry ground. He had no form nor comeliness, no beauty in man’s eye. He was the despised, neglected, self-emptied, meek and lowly Man from first to last. He gave up all, even to life itself. In a word, His self surrender was complete.
And now, mark the result. “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:9-119Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9‑11)).
The blessed Lord Jesus took the very lowest place, but God has given Him the very highest. He made Himself nothing, but God has made Him everything. He said, “I am a worm, and no man” (Psalm 22:66But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. (Psalm 22:6)); but God has set Him as Head over all. He went into the very dust of death, but God has placed Him on the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.
What does all this teach us? It teaches us that the way to get up is to go down. This is a. grand lesson, and one which we very much need to learn. It would effectually deliver us from envy and jealousy, from strife and vainglory, from self-importance and self-occupation. God will assuredly exalt those who, in the spirit and mind of Christ, take the low place; and. on the other hand, He will as assuredly abase those who seek to be somebody.
Oh, to be nothing! This is true liberty, true happiness, true moral elevation. And then what intense power of attraction in one who makes nothing of himself! And, on the other hand, how repulsive is a pushing, forward, elbowing, self-exalting spirit! How utterly unworthy of one bearing the name of Him who made Himself of no reputation! May we not set it down as a fixed truth that ambition cannot possibly live in the presence of One who emptied Himself? No doubt. An ambitious Christian is a flagrant contradiction.
But there are other examples of self-surrender presented to us in this exquisite Philippians 2 — inferior, no doubt, to the divine model at which we have been gazing, for in all this, as in all things else, the Lord Jesus must have the pre-eminence. Still, though inferior and imperfect, they are deeply interesting and invaluable to us. Look at Paul. See how deeply he had drunk into His Master’s spirit of self-surrender. Hearken to the following accents from one who naturally would have allowed none to outstrip him in his career of ambition. “Yea,” he says, “and if I be offered [poured forth as a drink offering] upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.” (Phil. 2:1717Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. (Philippians 2:17)).
This is uncommonly fine. Paul was ready to be nothing — to be spent — to be poured forth as a libation upon the Philippians’ sacrifice. It mattered not to him who presented the sacrifice, or who performed the service, provided the thing was done. Does not this put some of us to shame? How little do we know of this excellent spirit! How prone we are to attach importance to work if we ourselves have anything to do with it! How little able to joy and rejoice with others in their sacrifice and service! Our work, our preaching, our writings, have an interest in our view quite different from those of anyone else. In a word, self, self, detestable self, creeps in, even in that which seems to be the service of Christ. We are drawn to those who think well of us and our work, and retire from those who think otherwise. All this needs to be judged. It is unlike Christ, and unworthy of those who bear His holy name. Paul had so learned Christ as to be able to rejoice in the work and service of others as well as in his own; and even where Christ was preached of contention, he could rejoice.
Then, again, look at Timothy. Hearken to the glowing testimony borne to him by the pen of inspiration. “But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. For I have no man like-minded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s. But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel” (Phil. 2:19-2219But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. 20For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. 21For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's. 22But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel. (Philippians 2:19‑22)).
Here was self-surrender. Timothy genuinely cared for the saints; and that too at a moment when all sought their own things. And yet, dear as Timothy was to Paul’s heart — valuable as such a self-denying servant must have been to him in the work of the gospel — he was willing to part with him for the sake of the Church. Timothy, likewise, was willing to be separated from his invaluable friend and father in the faith, in order to ease his anxious mind in reference to the state of the Philippians. This was indeed giving proof of real devotedness and self-surrender. Timothy did not talk of these things; he practiced them. He did not make a parade of his doings; but Paul, by the Holy Spirit, engraved them on a tablet from which they can never be erased. This was infinitely better. Let another praise thee and not thyself (Pro. 27:22Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips. (Proverbs 27:2)).
Timothy made nothing of himself, but Paul made a great deal of him. This is divine. The sure way to get up is to go down. Such is the law of the heavenly road. A man who makes much of himself saves others the trouble of doing so. There is no possible use in two persons doing the same thing.
Self-importance is a noxious weed nowhere to be found in the entire range of the new creation. It is, alas! often found in the ways of those who profess to belong to that blessed and holy creation; but it is not of heavenly growth. It is of fallen nature — a weed that grows luxuriantly in the soil of this world. The men of this age think it laudable to push and make way for themselves. A bustling, self-important, pretentious style takes with the children of this generation. But our heavenly Master was the direct opposite to all this. He who made the worlds stooped to wash a disciple’s feet (John 13); and if we are like Him we shall do the same. There is nothing more foreign to the thoughts of God, the mind of heaven, the spirit of Jesus, than self-importance and self-occupation. And, on the other hand, there is nothing that savors so of God, of heaven and of Jesus, as self-surrender.
Look once more, reader, at our picture in Philippians 2. Examine with special care that figure which occupies a very prominent place. It is Epaphroditus. Who was he? Was he a great preacher — a very eloquent speaker — a pre-eminently gifted brother? We are not told. But this we are told — and told powerfully and touchingly — he was one who exhibited a lovely spirit of self-surrender. This is better than all the gifts and eloquence, power and learning, that could possibly be concentrated in any single individual. Epaphroditus was one of that illustrious class who seek to make nothing of themselves; and, as a consequence, the inspired apostle spares no pains to exalt him. Hear how he expatiates upon the actings of this singularly attractive personage. “Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labor, and fellow soldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.”
What a cluster of dignities! What a brilliant array of titles! How little did this dear and unpretending servant of Christ imagine that he was to have such a monument erected to his memory! But the Lard will never suffer the fruits of self-sacrifice to wither, nor the name of the self-emptied to sink into oblivion. Hence it is that the name of one who otherwise might never have been heard of shines on the page of inspiration, as a brother, companion, and fellow soldier of the great Apostle of the Gentiles.
But what did this remarkable man do? Did he spend a princely fortune in the cause of Christ? We are not told, but we are told what is far better — he spent himself. This is the grand point for us to seize and ponder. It was not the surrender of his fortune merely, but the surrender of himself.
Let us hearken to the record concerning one of the true David’s mighty men. “He longed after you all, and was full of heaviness.” Why? Was it because he was sick? because of his pains, and aches, and privations? Nothing of the sort. Epaphroditus did not belong to the generation of whiners and complainers. He was thinking of others. “He... was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick.” How lovely! He was occupied about the Philippians and their sorrow about him. The only thing that affected him in his illness was the thought of how it would affect them. Perfectly exquisite! This honored servant of Christ had brought himself to death’s door to serve others; and when there, in place of being occupied about himself and his ailments, he was thinking of the sorrows of others. “He was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.”
Can anything be more morally beautiful than this? It is one of the rarest pictures ever presented to the human eye. There is Epaphroditus, nigh unto death for the sake of others; but he is full of sorrow about the Philippians; and the Philippians are full of sorrow about him; Paul is full of sorrow about both; and God comes and mingles Himself with the scene, and, in mercy to all, raises up the loved one from the bed of death.
And then mark the tender solicitude of the blessed apostle. It is like some tender mother sending her darling son away, and committing him, with fond earnestness, to the care of some friend. “I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation.” Why? Was it because of his gifts, his rank, or his wealth? No, but because of his self-surrender. “Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.” O dear Christian reader, let us think on these things. We have introduced you to a picture and we leave you to gaze upon it. The grouping is divine. There is a moral line running through the entire scene and linking the figures into one striking group. It is like the anointing of the true Aaron, and the oil flowing down to the skirts of His garments (Psalm 133). We have the blessed Lord, perfect in His self-surrender, as in all beside; and then we have Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus, each, in his measure, exhibiting the rare and lovely grace of self-surrender.