Self-Surrender: Part 2

 •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 6
(Philippians 2)
Part 2.
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 any one to breathe the holy atmosphere of such a scripture, and not be cured of the sore evils of envy and jealousy, strife and vain glory. 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 may be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; 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 vain glory for self-occupation, in short, 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 aught. 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 amongst 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 laid aside 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 only able to procure 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 3:2424Which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Janna, which was the son of Joseph, (Luke 3:24)).
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.”
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;” but God has set Him 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 vain glory, 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.
O! 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 samples 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 this, as in all things else, Jesus must have the pre-eminence. Still, though inferior and imperfect, they are deeply interesting and valuable 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 poured forth (as a drink offering) upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.” (Phil 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 the blush?
How little do we know of this excellent spirit! How prone we are to attach importance to work if we ourselves have aught 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 any one 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 of 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.
(To be Continued)