The Lord Jesus in Humiliation and Service: Part 1

Philippians 2  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 6
I felt, beloved friends, that it would be happy to have the Lord Himself before our minds this evening as the object of our thoughts. The Christian is so completely brought to God, that he goes out from God to show the character of God to the world. The subject of this Epistle is Christian Experience. And you get this experience in the power of the Spirit of God so completely, that you never get sin mentioned in the Epistle from beginning to end, nor the flesh, looked at as bad flesh, save to say he didn't trust in it. Paul here does not know which to do—die or live. ‘If I die, I am with the Lord; that's better; but I can't work for His saints. If I live, there is the activity of love for them, and so he does not know which to choose. There is utter absence of self in that, and power. Then, he says, It is more needful for the church that I stay, and so I know that I shall be acquitted; deciding his own case. It is all power, the power of the Spirit of God leading a person out of the reach of sin. If you look at the detail in verses 15, 16 you will find his exhortation to others is an exact picture of what the life of Christ really was— “blameless and harmless,” that is what Christ was— “children of God without rebuke in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation;” such was Jesus, the Son of God— “among whom ye shine as lights in the world; “when He was in the world He was the light of the world— “holding forth the word of life;” He was that word of life. The detail is precisely the same power of the Spirit of God, and the exhortation is just the detail of Christ's life in the world.
In this Epistle there are two great principles of Christian life (the last chapter is, he is superior to all cares and all circumstances). In the third chapter, it is the energy that carries a man on, so that everything else is dross and dung—that is Christ, in glory. He has seen Him up there, and he says, ‘I must get that.' ‘There are hindrances in the way.' ‘I'll throw them aside,' he says. ‘You'll lose everything.' ‘Can't help it; I must get Him.' ‘Oh, but you'll die.' ‘No matter; that's All the more like Him; I must get on to Him, the One up there in the glory, whom I have seen.' “If by any means;” that is, whatever it may cost me, even life itself. “Resurrection from among the dead,” that is the character of Christ's resurrection. The resurrection of the saints has nothing in common with the resurrection of sinners. Christ is the firstfruits, then those that are Christ's at His coming. He is not the firstfruits of sinners to be judged. Not a hint in scripture of saints and sinners being raised together. “That I may attain unto the resurrection from among the dead” (the apostle uses a rare and emphatic word1 to explain his meaning)—what is there to attain to, if the wickedest man in the world goes up at the same time and in the same way? “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection.” What's the good of that, if all rise together? The character of Christ's resurrection was the positive seal of God's approval on Him and His work, and so is ours. As regards justification His resurrection is of all importance, for it is the seal of God on the excellency and perfectness of the work of Christ. He was taken out from among the dead as a perfect seal upon His work and Person, and everything else; and so is our resurrection the seal of our acceptance. Because God delights in us, we are taken out from among the dead, as Christ was. So he continues his running till he gets that. You have Christ in glory, and all is dross and dung except that. He wants Christ instead of Paul, and all he gets by the way is nothing—if he gets even death, it is all the more like Him.
In chapter 2 you don't get Christ in glory as the one he is running after; not Christ gone up, but Christ coming down. One whom I am to be like in this, the graciousness of the walk that He displayed, and that is, always going down—going from the form of Godhead down to death. Where do I find what God is, fully displayed? Righteousness and love perfectly displayed? In death! It is a wonderful riddle that has come out, the Holy One going down—the Prince of Life going into death. We never completely learn, till we see it there—the things that the angels desire to look into. No one knows the Son but the Father. We know the Father, but no one knows the Son; the divinity of Christ is maintained by the inscrutability of the Incarnation: God becoming a man!—that is unfathomable! and the meekest, lowliest man that ever walked this earth. Paul is taking up the truth of lowliness, &c., but the moment he begins he must bring out Christ. The motive of all exhortations is nothing less than the whole scope of Christianity: God come down and bringing salvation, and gone back again as man. Take the commonest exhortations, the spring and motive is nothing short of obedience to the word of God Himself. Eating and drinking even is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. I am merely eating like a beast if it isn't. He exhorts them to walk in lowliness and love (there had been some little squabbling, I suppose, among them). These Philippians had been sending help to the apostle from a long way off, and he won't reproach them, but says, ‘Now I see how you love me; I see how you care for me and my being happy. Now, if you want to make me perfectly happy, walk in love among yourselves.' It is a reproach so delicately brought in that their hearts could not resist it. “And let each esteem other better than themselves.” It sounds unpractical and impossible; but if I think of myself with the mind of God, I see the evil, the sin in myself. If I think of another, and I am full of Christ, I shall see all the value of Christ upon him, I shall see with Christ's heart, and I can esteem him better than myself, for I see evil in myself, and I see Christ in him. “Let this mind be in you,” &c., i.e., the spirit in which Christ was, always going down; first, being in the form of Godhead, and in the glory, He takes the place of a man, and then He humbles Himself, even to death. He is the first grand example of “He that humbleth himself shall be exalted,” and that is what we have to do—go down. Here we get the principle of Christ's whole personal course, and we get not only what He was, but the delight He took in us. He took us up. His interest is in us, and the expression of this delight was not simply His acting graciously towards men, but He Himself becomes one of them. He went down to death! We go down to death by sin, He by grace; we by disobedience, He by obedience. So He gets by obedience and grace what we get by disobedience and sin. From the first step that we go He takes us up till He has us where He is. Speaking in a general way, I cannot look at Christ in His life and walk, till my soul is at peace and settled.
If a soul has not settled peace, you will find it wants the Epistles first, not the Gospels, because the Epistles are the reasonings of the Holy Ghost on the value of Christ's work. John's writings bring God down here in grace to sinners. Paul takes man up there in righteousness to God. Paul takes man up to God in the light; John brings God down to man. You get in the Gospel of John, God brought down to us in our need, get Him talking to the woman at the Well, and His disciples wondering, and she finds that in this tired man at the well she has been speaking to the Lord of glory. ‘I thought,' she said, ‘He was a poor tired Jew, who wanted a drink of water.' ‘Oh,' He says, ‘if you knew how that God had come so low as to be dependent on you for a drink of water, you would have confidence in Him at once.'
(To be continued).