Philippians 2 v 1 – 11
Please turn with me in your Bibles to Philippians chapter 2. We’re going to read together from the first verse.
1So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied Himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name that is above every name, 10so that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (ESV)
We are in the second part of a three part Advent series. We began two weeks ago to look at this three part series, which I’ve entitled The Need for, The Nature of and the Nativity of the Messiah. We’re focusing entirely on the Messiah as we always should and we’re considering three things: the Need for the Messiah, the Nature of the Messiah and the Nativity of the Messiah. Now last week we looked at the need for the Messiah and obviously, Lord willing, on Christmas day – on Friday – we will look at the Nativity of the Messiah – His Incarnation. But we’re going to touch upon it today as well, as you saw in the text that I have read in your hearing a few moments ago.
Now we looked last week at the Need for the Messiah and we saw several things that necessitate a Messiah. The first thing that necessitates a Messiah is the glory of God – not even in the first place the sin of humanity or the suffering of humanity – the glory of God, the Creator God, requires a Messiah. It’s the only way in which we can be reconciled to Him. And we looked last week at the glory of God – the Splendour of it, and we saw what His glory was: It’s the radiance of His Holiness. It’s the radiance of His manifold, infinitely worthy and valuable Perfections. And we saw His attributes of greatness, His spirituality, His personality, His life, His infinity in many ways. He is infinite in His omnipresence, in His omniscience and His omnipotence. He can do all things. He is unlimited in that; He’s everywhere all the time. He’s unlimited in space, unlimited by time. And He can do anything – He is unlimited in His power. We call those the attributes of His infinity.
We saw His Constancy. He never changes – you can count on Him. He is The Great I AM. As He’s always been so He always will be. And we saw His attributes of greatness: His moral qualities, His moral Purity, which is seen in His Holiness, His Righteousness and His Justice. We saw His Integrity, His Genuineness, His Trustworthiness, His Veracity (He cannot lie), His faithfulness. We saw His attributes of Love, His Benevolence, His Grace, His Mercy and His Persistence. He is a glorious God, and that glory, in the light of our fallenness, requires a Messiah. So we saw the Splendour of His glory, the Singularity of it. There is no one else who is as glorious as God is.
We also saw the sin against the glory of God, which requires a Messiah. “All have sinned and fall short of His glory.” So the glory of God [and] the grief of humanity necessitates a Messiah too. We saw the Cause of that grief is sin, the Consequences separation and suffering, and the Cure is salvation. It requires a Messiah and the gift of Life requires a Messiah. God is its Giver, the goodness of life and the goal of life: To glorify God and enjoy Him forever – that requires a Messiah. We cannot do that without Him, and it requires not just any Messiah.
Today, we’re going to consider the nature of the Messiah and you’ve already seen something about it in the text that I read. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” What is He like? Is the Christ that you worship God, or was He just a good person, someone with only a human nature? Do you know why we believe that He is God indeed? Do you know how to tell people about that from the Scriptures? Can you prove what we call the Deity of Christ, the Godhood of Christ? Can you prove it from the Scriptures? What about what happened when the Son of God took on human nature – the doctrine of what we call the kenosis – the self-emptying of Christ? That’s what kenosis means – His self-emptying. What happened there?
Well, the word Messiah is a transliteration of the Hebrew word Messiah. The word Christ is a transliteration of the Greek word Christos, which means the Anointed One. Undoubtedly, the Bible teaches the Deity of the Messiah without a shadow of a doubt. I remember some time back, we had some Jehovah’s Witnesses up and down the road and I wrote a little note and I went and put it in the windscreen wiper of their car and then I hid behind a tree to see what happens. They came and they found the note and all it said is: ‘Thomas said to Jesus: (and I wrote it in the Greek with the Greek letters) Ho Kurios mou kai Theos mou!’ was he right?’ And I put it in the windscreen wiper and I hid behind the tree. When they came they found the little note. I folded it big enough, so it looked like a parking fine that couldn’t be ignored. And they opened it and they read it and they looked around – who put this here? And I came out behind the tree. I said ‘I put that there, I hope you don’t mind.’ They said, ‘what’s it about?’ They don’t believe that Jesus is God, so I said: ‘Jesus said to Thomas: Who do you say that I am? And Thomas said to Jesus’ – and we’ve got it recorded in the Greek. He no doubt spoke Aramaic, but we’ve got it recorded in the Greek – he said: ‘Ho Kurios mou kai Theos mou! That means: O Lord of me, oh God of me – literally. He said to Him: My Lord and my God!’ Now I put it in the Greek, because generally when you say that to a Jehovah’s Witness they say: ‘but the Greek says…’ So now I say in the Greek, they can’t tell me what the Greek says. So we got to move on from that. And I say to them: ‘Was Thomas right or was he wrong?’ Most of the time they’ll say to you he was wrong. I said: ‘Is that a serious mistake – to think that somebody who is a mere man is God. Do you think that’s a serious mistake?’ [They answered] ‘Yes’. I said: ‘Why did Jesus not correct him? Why did Jesus not correct him?’ Here’s this man – Jesus says He loves him – He thinks Jesus is God. He calls Him his God, in what they call a serious mistake, and Jesus doesn’t say: No, no, no Thomas! Thomas, I’m not God, I’m just a mere man! In fact Jesus affirms him in his so-called ‘mistake’ in acknowledgement of His own Godhood.
You see, the Christ we worship is God – always has been. The Bible teaches it without a shadow of a doubt, and I want to show you some of that. I want to show you a few things about the Lord Jesus this morning: The Messiah, His Holy Divinity first of all. Then we’re going to look at His Humble Descent, His Humiliating Death and His High Designation. Those four things: His Holy Divinity, His Humble Descent, His Humiliating Death and His High Designation. These are the four things I want to point out to you this morning from our text.
- His Holy Divinity
It’s very clear in Scripture. The Bible teaches it without a shadow of a doubt. You can prove an in many ways and I want to show you some ways, so that if you get into discussions with people you can use this too. First of all, how do we prove it? We prove it because:
a. Firstly, divine names are given to or ascribed to Jesus Christ – names that are normally only ascribed to God are ascribed to Jesus Christ. We know that from John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word” – who was God – “became flesh and dwelt among us.” What must one do to get that wrong? You don’t have to agree with it, but you cannot disagree that that’s what it says! It claims that Jesus is God. He’s the Word who was in the beginning. Thomas called Him ‘my Lord and my God!’ We read Psalm 45:6 and you read it together with Hebrews 1:8, because you must always read your Old Testament with your New Testament.
If you read Psalm 45:6 and you immediately read Hebrews 1:8, this is what you get: “Your throne, o God is for ever and ever…” That’s the psalmist speaking to God, saying: “Your throne, o God is for ever and ever the sceptre of your kingdom is a sceptre of uprightness.” That’s Psalm 45:6. Now Hebrews 1:8: “But of the Son, He says: Your throne, o God is for ever and ever, the sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of your kingdom.” How can you miss it? The Bible calls Jesus God – unmistakably! He’s also called the Son of God. It was Simon Peter when Jesus said to him: Who do you say that I am? He said: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” which is a reference to the second person of the Trinity. He’s also called Lord, in the sense that He’s God. In Matthew 22:43-45 He said to [them]: “How is it then that David, in the Spirit calls Him Lord, saying: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand until I put Your enemies under Your feet’? If then David calls Him Lord, how is He his son?“
And so we can go on. Other Divine names for Christ, is that He is the Alpha and the Omega. In Revelation 1:8 He is called the Alpha and the Omega – the Beginning and the End! There’s only one ‘Beginning and the End’, and that’s God! And Revelation 1:8 says that that is Jesus! He’s called the ‘First and the Last’ too in Revelation 1:17 – just a few verses later. In Colossians 1:15 Jesus is called ‘The Image of the Invisible God.’ How clear is that! And He is the effulgence of His glory and the very image of His substance, Hebrews 1:3 says.
So Christ is the exact impression of the divine nature. He is God. That’s the first way by the names that is attributed to Him.
b. Secondly, you can prove the deity of Christ by focusing on attributes which only God has. There are certain characteristics and attributes that are only true of God, which the Bible says Jesus has. In order to have those attributes, you have to be God. Let’s notice:
(i) The Messiah is eternal
Micah 5:2 says the Messiah is eternal: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for Me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” He is eternal. John 1:1-2: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In the beginning – He’s eternal! Only God is eternal. If Jesus is eternal, that makes Him God!
(ii) He is also unchangeable
The big theological word is immutable – unchangeableness; immutability is something you can only say of God. You and I change, and every time I look at myself in the mirror, I see it’s not for the good. So, God is the only One who doesn’t change, and the Bible says that Jesus doesn’t change. Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday and today and forever.” He’s immutable, and only God is immutable.
(iii) He has self-existence
He lives in Himself. There’s nothing from outside of Him that gives Him life. John 1:1-3 and 5:26: “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son also to have life in Himself.” He is self-existent. You can say that only of God. He has the fullness of the godhead. Colossians 2:9: “For in Him the whole fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily.“
(iv) He is holy
Hebrews 7:26, notice what it says about our Messiah: “For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.”
(v) He is Sovereign
That means He’s the highest power. No one has more power than Jesus – Matthew 5:27 and 28:18: “And Jesus came and said to them…” – listen to what was given to Jesus, and let the world know this – have your United Nations, have your European Union, whether it has a Brexit or not – have it, be men, be strong men, be prime ministers, be presidents, be politicians, be Governors – be what you want, parading your pomp – rule us, tell us what to wear, where to go, where not to go – when to sit down, when to stand up – but you hear me this morning – Jesus Christ says (not to you, but to Him): “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” And as long as this pastor lives, he listens to that Authority rather than that of a man. All authority has been given to my Lord. I rejoice in that fact every day. In fact, if it weren’t so, life is not worth living! It’s not even worth playing my flute. If all authority has not been given to Him – given all the powerful people who push us around and the things that afflict us – aren’t you happy this morning, four days before Christmas to know: They don’t have the final say? Jesus does! Praise His Name – all authority.
(vi) He is omnipotent
John 10:18: “No one takes My life from Me, [but] I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from My Father.” 1 Corinthians 15:25-28: “For He must reign…” – listen up enemies of Christ! – “He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy…” – and I know when we drive past the cemetery or we go to lay that loved one to rest with our hearts ripped out – I know how we feel – I’ve had to do that with my father, my mother, my brother – many of my friends – and I have to do that together with another friend and brother. Now, we feel so weak. He said: “He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. And the last enemy to be destroyed is death. For ‘God has put all things in subjection under His feet.’ But when it says ‘all things are put in subjection’, it is plain that He is [excepted] who put all things in subjection under Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subjected to Him who put all things in subjection under Him, that God may be all in all.” When you feel you’re dwindling away – Philippians 3:21: “He will transform our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.” So He’s omnipotent, Jesus is! And only God is omnipotent. That makes Him God.
(vii) He is omniscient
He knows all things (Matthew 11:27). He’s everywhere (Matthew 28:20).
We see only God has these attributes. And since Christ has these attributes, therefore the Messiah is God.
c. Thirdly, He does things which only God can do:
(i) The work of creation – John 1:3: “By Him all things were created. We read the same in 1 Corinthians 8:6.
(ii) Preserving the creation – in Colossians 1:17 and Hebrews 1:3.
(iii) The power to forgive sins – Matthew 9:2 and Luke chapter 5.
(iv) Sending the Holy Spirit – only God can send the Holy Spirit. In John 15:26 He sends the Spirit.
(v) The work of resurrection from the dead – John 6:39 and on.
(vi) The judgments – the great White Throne, Matthew 25 and other Scriptures.
So He does things which only God can do.
d. Fourthly, He is worshipped
Jesus is worshipped in Scripture – Matthew 14:33, Philippians 2:10.
e. In the 5th place, He gives immortality to people – John 5:28-29.
f. In the 6th and last place, His divine association with other persons of the Trinity: God the Father and God the Holy Spirit is clear in Scripture.
And in addition to all the above, there are also Christ’s claims to be divine – John 3:36; 5:23; 8:19 and so we can go on. So there’s absolutely no doubt about the Holy Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Are you all convinced? The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus is God in His fullness. That’s the nature of the Messiah – His Holy Divinity, and here is the Good News of Christmas:
- His Humble Descent
Now, Jesus being that, remember Jesus being God – His spirituality, His Personality, His Life, His Infinity, His Constancy, His Holiness, His Righteousness, His Justice, His Genuineness, His Veracity, His Faithfulness, His Benevolence, His Grace, His Mercy and His Persistence – what does He do? He empties Himself. His humble descent we see. He did not consider equality with God a thing to be held on to, but He emptied Himself – that word is kenosis, to empty is kenosis. So we call it the kenosis of Christ – something had to happen before He entered as a man. He had to empty Himself of all of those things. How did He do it? Listen to Paul or the Holy Spirit by the mouth of Paul: “by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men and being found in human form.” That’s how – quite a thing in our day of narcissism isn’t it?
Narcissism is so widespread, all its forms – the pathological as well as the general. Look, we’re all narcissists, let’s be clear on that. We all think we’re the cat’s whiskers and the best thing since bubble-gum. We don’t like to be humiliated. We’re all narcissists. The difference between a pathological one and just a general one is at least we know we’re narcissists. We know we’re full of ourselves. The pathological one doesn’t know, he just has to fix everyone else – she just has to fix everyone else – nothing like Jesus who emptied Himself! Oh, no, it’s to get more and more puffed up. And the two kinds of narcissists – the grandiose who’s always parading. O, don’t humiliate them – don’t you dare do anything look like it’s humiliating them, ooh! And then the vulnerable one who gets everybody to worship them by playing sick all the time. You talk to them, you end up with this: Poor me, bad you! Poor me, bad you – you’re not making me feel good.
Listen to me: if you’re like that, you’re nothing like Jesus. It’s sin to be like that. Jesus was nothing like that and I can see my congregation get quiet because when a pastor speaks knife-edge stuff like I do now, he loses popularity and I don’t mind, because you’re my beloved congregation – you’re not my fan club. Amen!? I’m just your brother. I need you more than you need me. I can see you get quiet when I talk about it, because I know some of you suffer with it in your homes and at your places of work. And it’s so different to Jesus. What did He do? All this Godhood, this Deity He laid down, emptied Himself, took the form of a servant, born in the likeness of men and being found in human form…
It all happened because we wanted to be gods and we couldn’t. We couldn’t become gods, but the Creator who spoke all of the universe into its existence, became a little babe in Bethlehem. There He was in the manger with the woven straw around Him and Joseph standing there, wondering: ‘What happened here? I had nothing to do with this!’ And Mary, staring at this little baby: ‘Who are You? Where are You from?’ It took angels to explain it to her. The kenosis, the emptying of Christ. Do you know what He gave up? He tells us to have that mind. Do you have that mind? Do I have it?
His Incarnation – being found in human form, became a little baby – fully God and fully man. Here’s the third theological term you need to know: The hypostatic union – fully God and fully man all at the same time. Don’t ask me to explain it to you. I can’t – I just know that it’s true. So that’s His humble descent and at this Christmas time, we’re going to think about it again. Mary’s baby – God as a man – His humiliating death – He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death.
- His Humiliating Death
The Giver of Life put to death by those who don’t deserve life – even death on a cross! Humiliating, but that’s not where it ends. We’re going to look at His Nativity more on Christmas day. Maybe we’ll play you a little bit of music too, I don’t know. We’ll see how the Lord leads. Sanitizer has eaten up my nails, so I can’t play of the classical guitar – it will have to be some flute if we do. But it comes once a year, Advent. It’s good that we remember it. I’m aware of the dangers of paganism and things infiltrating Christianity. But let me tell you I have more fierce enemies to fight than Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Amen? I remind the children of Christmas time. ‘Jingle bells jingle bells, jingle all…’ What has happened to our society? What has happened to our civilization? We can no longer remember the babe of Bethlehem, His foster father Joseph and His mother Mary. We need to rise up and take it back.
- His High Designation
“God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name that is above every name, so that at the Name of Jesus…” World, here is what’s going to happen: I know you’re not going to like it, but “at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Why? “To the glory of God the Father“, which is the purpose of our existence.
That’s the nature of the Messiah in His Holy Divinity, His Humble Descent, His Humiliating Death and His High Designation. He is God; He is Jesus Christ, our beloved Messiah.