Will you open your Bibles this morning for our look at God's precious Word to Philippians chapter 2. And we want to look again at verse 5-8, this very, very significant portion of Scripture which describes for us the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Last time we looked at it for the sake of its ethical, moral purpose, to be a model for us in this matter of humbling ourselves for the sake of the unity of the church. This morning I want to go back to the very same verses and not to concentrate on the ethical and moral and exemplary purpose but to look at the theology of these very same truths. For while they do give us a standard to follow, they also tell us the truth about the incarnation. The greatest miracle that God ever performed was when He became man that He might die for us. And we would do injustice to this great text if we were not to treat it in some way in the measure of its theological truth.
Listen to verses 5-8 as I read. "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."
This week I reread portions of a book that I had read a couple of times years ago. The title of the book is Miracles; its author C.S. Lewis. He has a chapter in the book entitled "The Grand Miracle." It's a chapter on the incarnation. And in that chapter in his inimitable way he draws some rich analogies for us by which we can view the incarnation. Let me read you a somewhat extended portion of what he says because it is so rich.
"In the Christian story God descends to re-ascend. He comes down, down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity, down further still, down to the very roots and seabed of the nature He had created. But He goes down to come up again and bring the ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great, complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift. He must also disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders. Or one may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the death-like region of ooze and slime and old decay. Then up again, back to color and light, his lungs almost bursting till suddenly he breaks surface again, holding in his hand the dripping, precious thing that he went down to recover. He and it are both colored now that they have come up into the light. Down below where it lay colorless in the dark, he lost his color, too. In this descent and reascent, everyone will recognize a familiar pattern, a thing written all over the world. It is the pattern of all vegetable life. It must belittle itself into something hard, small and deathlike. It must fall into the ground, thence the new life re-ascends. It is the pattern of all animal generation, too. There is descent from the full and perfect organisms into the spermatozoon and ovum and in the dark womb, a life at first inferior in kind to that of the species which is being reproduced, then the slow ascent to the perfect embryo, to the living, conscious baby and finally to the adult. So it is in our moral and emotional life. The first innocent and spontaneous desires have to submit to the deathlike process of control or total denial. But from that there is a reascent to fully formed character in which the strength of the original material all operates but in a new way. Death and rebirth; go down to go up; it is a key principle. Through this bottleneck, this belittlement, the highroad nearly always lies," end quote.
With those words Lewis, then, approaches the incarnation, the central miracle of Christianity, the most grand and wonderful of all the things that God ever did. And that is the theme of these great verses before us.
Now as we said last time, we looked at these verses and saw their ethical import as Jesus became for us the perfect model of humiliation. He is the perfect fulfillment of verses 3-4, one who does nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, one who will humility of mind regards others as more important than himself, one who looks not on his own things alone but on the things of others also. And in that He is our example. But there is more here than just that. And we will this morning descend down the same track that we descended down last Lord's day, only this time not so much focusing on the model of humiliation as the actual humiliation itself.
Let's begin in verse 6. It says in verse 6, "He existed in the form of God." That's where the incarnation begins. That's the point from which He descends and condescends. Now what does he mean by the word "form"? By the way, he uses it again in verse 7, as we shall see in a moment, but this is crucial. Morphē is the word. We use that as part of a word in English - endomorph, ectomorph, and various other things. Morphē signifies a form, according to Moulten and Milligan lexicon, signifies a form which truly and fully expresses the being which underlies it. In other words, it is a word that refers to essence or essential being or nature. Here applied to God, the form of God. It means His deepest being, what He is in Himself, His essential being. The statement then is saying that Jesus Christ existed in the essential being of God. And He has always and continuously and unalterably existed in that essence.
You can perhaps understand the word morphē if you compare it to another Greek word, schema. Both of them could be translated in English "form." That's really the best English word, but it, it loses something unless it's split into those two Greek words. Let me show you the distinction. "Form" or morphe is the essential character of something, what it is in itself. Schema is the outward form that it takes. The morphe never changes; the schema changes. Perhaps a simple illustration would be this. I am a man; I possess manhood. I have possessed manhood since I was conceived, and I will possess manhood until I die - that is my morphe. But that essential character of manhood is manifested in many different schema, if I can transliterate a bit. In other words, there was a time I was an embryo; there was a time I was a baby. There was a time I was child. Then I was a boy; then I was a youth. Then I was a young man; then I was an adult. And some day I will be an old man. And right now I am in the prime of life. I could feel your impulses on that one.
But, you see, my morphe is manhood. My schema changes. And when Paul selects the word morphe he is saying something very specific. He is saying that Jesus has always existed in the unchangeable essence of the being of God. To make it simple, he is saying Jesus is God. He possesses the very being and the very nature of God, and He has always possessed that. And that interpretation of that first phrase is certainly strengthened by the second phrase in which He speaks of Jesus having “equality with God.” And thereby he describes, of course, what he meant by being “in the form of God.” He meant being equal with God. Why is it that we have so much discussion on this issue? Because it is the heart and soul of the Christian faith. And inevitably when people attack the Christian faith, when forms of religion other than the truth attack us, they attack at the point of the deity of Christ.
Yesterday I had some visitors at my house. They were Jehovah's Witnesses. They didn't stay long. They were there to tell me a certain message. You know what the message was? "You need to know this, sir. Jesus is not God." That's the message of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Oh, they won't come out and say it unless you ask them, but that's the message. That is a denial of the essence of the Christian faith. In John's gospel it seems to be his particular concern and burden and passion under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to leave the reader with absolutely no doubt at all in his mind that Jesus is God, and so he even begins with that statement, "In the beginning was the Word," referring to Christ, "and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." And then to demonstrate that, he says, “All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.” He is Creator.
In verse 14 he says of Christ that He “became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, and the glory that He had was that of the only begotten from the Father.” He is God. And John has Him saying, of course, in the wonderful record of John 8 and verse 58 that “before Abraham was, I am.” And therefore taking on Him the very name of God who said, "I am that I am hath sent you." And in Colossians the apostle Paul, in that wonderful first chapter in verse 15, speaking of Christ, says, "He is the image [or the exact replica] of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. By Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created by Him and for Him, and He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."
Twice then, John and Paul, we find that the great evidence of the deity of Christ is His ability to create. And He gave evidence of that. Plenty of evidence. If you ever wonder whether Jesus is God, look at how He can create. Not only in the past, not only at the point of creation, but look at His creative miracles in His life. He created fish; He created bread. He created an ear when Peter chopped one off. He created new legs and new eyes and new ears and a new mouth. He created new internal organs to replace the diseased ones - acts of creation. He is the Creator. He is God.
In Hebrews chapter 1, verse 3, do you remember this? "He is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His nature." That's where it all starts. It all starts with the recognition that Jesus Christ existed in the very essence of the eternal God. That's where it starts. Christianity then is a tremendously simple and yet infinitely profound truth that God became man, and we now follow the path of His incarnation. Look back at verse 6. "Although He existed in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped." He did not consider it something to clutch. That word "equality" is interesting. The Greek word is the word isos. It's a very interesting word. It means “exactly equal in size, quantity, quality, character, number,” whatever. But it means exactly equal.
We use it that way even in English. Are you familiar with terms like isomer? Some of you in science are. An isomer is a chemical molecule having very slightly different structure from another molecule but being absolutely identical with it in terms of its chemical elements and weight. It's equal. We could say its schema may be different but its morphē is the same. Isomorph means “having the same form.” Isometric means “equal measures.” And an isosceles triangle, you will remember from your days in school, is a triangle that has two equal sides. The word means “equal.” He was equal with God - exactly equal with God. He is in the form of God; He is God. That's what Paul is saying. In fact, literally the Greek text reads in verse 6, "He did not regard the being equal with God" - a tremendous statement. He is equal with God.
And here's the first step down - He didn't grasp that. He didn't clutch it. He didn't seize it. He didn't hold it. He didn't possess it as something not to be yielded up, even though He was equal with God. There is no question about this in the Scripture. There was no question that Jesus claimed this, and there was absolutely no question that the people who listened to Him knew He claimed it. In John 5:18 it says the Jews “were seeking all the more to kill Him.” Why? “Because He was not only breaking the Sabbath...but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” And when any of those people come along who want to deny that Jesus is equal to God, it's most interesting to say to them, "It's strange to me that you don't even know what His worst enemies knew, because His worst enemies - the apostate, Christ-rejecting Jews who were bound up in self-righteousness - didn't miss what He said. They knew exactly what He was claiming. He was claiming to be equal with God." No one can miss that who reads the New Testament.
In John 10:33 “the Jews answered Him again, ‘For a good work we do not stone you, but for blasphemy.’” Why? “Because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” They knew what He was claiming - patently obvious. And He said to them, "You ought to look at the things I do and know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father." And He says to His disciples, "Have I been so long with you and you don't yet know who I am? If you've seen Me, you've seen the Father." And Thomas in chapter 20, verse 28 says, "My Lord and my” - What? – “my God.”
But here's the first step down. Though He had all the rights and privileges and honors of being God, He didn't clutch them. That word originally meant “robbery,” or “a thing gained by robbery,” or “a thing seized.” But it came to mean “anything clutched, embraced, held tightly, prized, clung to.” He existed as God but He refused to cling to that favored position. He refused to cling to all the rights and honors that went with it. He was willing to give them up - that's the idea.
That's the incredible message of Christianity. It's not the same as other religions. In India you watch the people trying to appease a god so he won't be angry with them. In Christianity you see God looking down on wretched sinners who hate Him and are His enemies, and willingly yielding up His privileges to come down for their sake. That's the attitude of humility that begins the incarnation. It begins with the unselfishness of the second person of the Trinity.
And then what follows? Please notice verse 7, "but emptied Himself." A profound statement introduced by a Greek term that means "not this but this." He didn't think this something to be clutched but rather, on the other hand, “emptied Himself.” It's a contrastive kind of connection. The being equal with God didn't lead Him to fill Himself up. It led Him to empty Himself. The verb "empty," kenoō, is the verb from which we get that classic theological term the kenosis, which is what theologians have called the self-emptying or the incarnation - the doctrine of the kenosis, the self-emptying of Christ. It's a very graphic expression. He “emptied Himself” - self-renunciation, refusal to use what was rightfully His, refusal to cling to His advantages and privileges as God. Can you imagine? God who owns everything, who can do everything, who has a right to everything, who is fully satisfied within Himself – “but He emptied Himself.”
Now what does that mean? This, of course, has been discussed much. What does it mean “He emptied”? What did He empty? First of all, will you note this? Don't ever forget it. He did not empty Himself of His deity. He did not empty Himself of His deity, or He would have ceased to exist. And if He ceased to exist, so would God the Father, and so would God the Holy Spirit, because their life is one life. He did not empty Himself of His deity or of any portion of His deity because He couldn't be less than who He was. He is eternally in the morphē of God. He did not cease to be God. In fact it's very clear in Luke 9:32 that when He went on the Mount of Transfiguration and pulled back His flesh they saw the glory that was there. He didn't exchange deity for humanity. He didn't stop being God and start to become man. If He had done that He would have died on a cross and stayed there in the grave, because only God had the power to die, and in dying conquered death. Only God could create and do the miracles that He did. Only God could say the words that He said. He did not stop being God nor was there any part of His essential divine nature at all that was given up - none of it. He couldn't cut out some piece of who He was. There are those who would advocate such a blasphemous view.
You say, "What did He give up?" First of all, He gave up His heavenly glory. He gave up His heavenly glory. He dove into the water and went all the way down to the black, cold water, to the slime and the ooze of this world. And that's why He cries out in John 17 and says, "Father, restore Me to the glory I had with You before the world began." Glory when He was face to face with God. He gave up His glory for the muck of this earth. He gave up the worship of angels, the adoring presence of angels for the spittle of men. He gave up all of the shining brilliance of the glories of heaven for the dark prison where He was kept before His death. Yes, He emptied out His glory in that sense.
Another way to look at it is that He covered up His glory. He veiled it. They saw a glimpse of it on the Mount of Transfiguration. There were glimpses of it in all His miracles. There were glimpses of it in His attitude. There were glimpses of it in His words. There were certainly glimpses of it even on the cross. There was a blazing manifestation of it in the resurrection, the ascension. But He, but He emptied Himself of some of the outward manifestation and the personal enjoyment of heavenly glory.
Secondly, He emptied Himself of independent authority. Now I don't understand how the Trinity operates. I know it operates in perfect harmony. And I know that in perfect harmony there would be no discord and no disagreement, and that would be the way it is in the Trinity. But nonetheless in some way mysterious to my mind which I will never understand, He completely submitted Himself to the will of the Father. I will never understand that, and I don't want you to even think about it too long or you'll be under the bed saying the Greek alphabet, because it does not compute. But the point is He laid aside a voluntary exercise of His own will, and He learned to be a servant, and He submitted Himself. And He was “obedient,” it says in verse 8. He was “obedient.” I don't understand that, but He was “obedient.” In the garden He says, "Not My will but Thine be done." “He learned obedience by the things He suffered,” Hebrews 5 says. He said, “I am, I am come to do the Father's will,” John 5:30. So He set aside His independent authority.
Thirdly, He set aside the prerogatives of His deity. Or He set aside the voluntary use of His attributes. You say, "Did He stop being omniscient?" No. "Did He stop being omnipresent?" No. "Did He stop being unchangeable God?" No. He didn't stop being anything. He just didn't use those attributes. Some have said He gave up the prerogatives of His deity. I know He was omniscient. He knew everything because “He knew what was in the heart of a man,” John 2. I know He was omnipresent because He saw Nathanael when He wasn't even where Nathanael was in His human form. He didn't give up any of His deity, but He gave up the free exercise of those attributes and limited Himself to the point where in Matthew 24:36 He says, "No man knows when the Son of Man will come" - not men, and not even the Son of Man. He restricted His omniscience. So He gave up the prerogatives of His deity.
Fourthly, and I love to think about this, He gave up His personal riches. He gave up His personal riches. “Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor,” 2 Corinthians 8:9, “that you through His poverty might be made rich.” He became terribly poor in this world, terribly poor. He had nothing, nothing.
And then lastly, as I mentioned last time, He gave up a favorable relationship to God. “He who knew no sin was made sin for us.” “He who knew no sin was made sin for us.” And as a result He says, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" He gave up a favorable relationship to God.
Now listen to me. Though He gave up the full expression of his heavenly glory and the full enjoyment of it, though He gave up independent authority and exercise of His own will and learned obedience, though He gave up the prerogatives to express all of the majesty of all of His attributes which He could have done, by the way, and though He gave up personal riches for the poverty of this world, and though He gave up a favorable relationship with God when He was made sin - listen to me - He never ceased to be God, never. He remained fully God. He remained fully God.
At any moment in time He could have blasted His enemies off the face of the earth with the breath of His mouth. But He didn't. He “emptied Himself.” There's a sense in which He “emptied Himself,” not by giving something up alone, but He “emptied Himself” by also taking something on. That's right. Look at verse 7. He took “the form of a bond-servant.” He gave up something. We mentioned what they were. And He took on something – “the form of a servant.” In a sense His self-giving - His self-emptying, His kenosis - was not only by giving up something but by taking on something – “the form of a servant.”
Notice the word "form" again. There it is again, morphē, “the essence.” This is not a cloak; this is not an outward schema. He literally took on the essence of a servant. By the way, the only other New Testament use of that word, morphe, is in Mark 16:12 where Jesus takes on resurrection morphe, the nature of a resurrected body. But here He really became a doulos, “a bond-slave.” And He came to serve God's will and God's purpose and submit to God and therefore submit to the needs of men as well. It goes all the way back to Isaiah 52:13-14, which identifies the coming Messiah as the servant, really the servant - became poor, became a slave.
Imagine, He owned everything. But when He came into this world He was borrowing everything from men - unthinkable. He had to borrow a place to be born and not much of a place at that. He had to borrow a place to lay His head. He didn't even have a home. Many nights He slept on the Mount of Olives. He had to borrow a boat to cross the little Sea of Galilee. He had to borrow a boat to preach from. He had to borrow an animal to ride into the city when He was being triumphantly welcomed as King of kings and Lord of lords. He had to borrow a room for the Passover because He didn't even have a house in Jerusalem. He had to borrow a tomb to be buried in. The only person who had the right to everything wound up with nothing, became a servant.
He came into the world as King of kings, Lord of lords - rightful heir to David's throne as well as God in human flesh - but He had no advantages. He had no privileges in this world. He came as a servant. Nobody gave Him anything. Nobody entrusted Him with any treasure. Nobody gave Him a home. Nobody gave Him animals to ride. Nobody gave Him land to call His own. Nobody gave Him anything. He served everyone. He had no advantages. He had no privileges. This is God, you remember this? This is God. This is the God of the universe we're talking about, who made all things, “by Him were all things made, and without Him was not anything made that was made,” and of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, and yet He has nothing.
Then He came down another step. It says in verse 7, "and being made in the likeness of men." He's just like men. He was given the essential attributes of humanity. He was homoiōmati. He was homogenous to men, kind of the idea. He became man - truly human, really human. Didn't stop being God. And He didn't take on some body. He isn't God in a body. He is God-man, and man is more than a body. All of the essence of humanity - body, soul, mind, truly human. That's why in Luke 2:52 it says, "He grew in wisdom and stature." He was growing as a human.
Colossians 1, verse 22 it says, "Yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body." He had a body like your body, a fleshly body. He's not a phantom - a real body. In Galatians 4:4 it says He was “made of a woman, made under the Law.” In Hebrews chapter 2, verse 14, "since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same." The same flesh and blood that we have. And I don't want you to be confused by this that when He came into the world He came in, and the flesh that He took on was normal human flesh that felt all the effects of the Fall. It was not a kind of pre-Fall humanity like Adam's, but a post-Fall humanity in the sense that it could know sorrow and tears and crying and suffering and pain and thirst and hunger and death. And death can only touch humanity that is touched by the Fall already.
So He felt the effects of the Fall without ever knowing or experiencing or touching the sin in the Fall. And Hebrews says He partook the same as the children who take flesh and blood. He made, He was “made like His brethren in all things,” Hebrews 2:17, “in all things.” Why? “That He might become a merciful and faithful high priest.” How is He going to know what we feel unless He's felt what we feel. And if He feels it in an unfallen humanity, He won't feel it, because it isn't there. He was human in the sense that He experienced all the test and temptation of men. And that's why He's such a faithful and understanding high priest. Yet He never sinned. Hebrews 4:15, “yet without sin” - never sinned, couldn't sin, because God can't sin.
He came down, all the way down. Took on Him the form of a servant, a slave, and was made in the likeness of men. Verse 8 takes us a step further, "And being found in appearance as a man." I just look at this statement, and I keep mulling it over in my mind. At first you think, "Well, isn't that a repeat of the end of verse 7, “made in the likeness of men”? But it isn't. It says that He “was discovered to appear as a man.” And now it looks at His humiliation from the viewpoint of the people who saw Him. Yes, He is God-man, but as people viewed Him they saw Him “in the appearance of a man.” And the word here is schemati, from schema. The outward form to them was a man. They looked at the outward form. And they saw a man. And that's right. They would see Him as a man. But there was so much more that they didn't see, and I think that's implied here. That's part of His humiliation. He came all the way down to be the God-man, but they never saw the God part. They looked at Him and His appearance was a man. And “the schema of a man” was all they saw.
Beloved, it would have been one thing for God to become man - that is humbling enough. But for God to become man and man to think He is only man is indeed a humbling thing. That's humiliating. And He did all the works and He said all the words, performed all the miracles, and they said, "This man has a demon." And the Jews said, "We know this man. We know His mother and father. We know where He's from and where does He come off saying, ‘I came down from heaven’? Where does He get that?" They just saw Him as a man. And that was so humiliating. Their minds were darkened by sin. They recognized His humanity. They missed His deity. They didn't know who He was. They didn't know who He was. How humbling.
Here He is God in human flesh, King of kings - the regal, royal, majestic King of the universe - and they don't even know it. And they treat Him not only like man but the worst of men. They treat Him like a criminal.
Well, do you say, "Did He fight back?" No. He went down even lower. Verse 8, "He humbled Himself." He humbled Himself under that treatment. He was already humiliated. It would have been enough for Him to just be willing not to clutch His rights, but then to empty Himself of the exercise of those things, and then to come all the way down to be a bond-servant who was a king, and then to be made exactly like human beings - to suffer everything they suffer, and feel everything they feel, except sin - and then to be seen only as a man would have been enough. But by then you would have screamed and said, "I want My rights; that's enough! Do you know who I am?!" And you would have blown over a tall building or something, or created something - fought back.
No, He humbled Himself. He just went down another level. Look at Him at His trial. The humiliation is absolutely unbelievable. And the thing that amazes you in this humiliation is that He answers never a word. And finally He admits who He is when He's asked, and He says, "You said it." Utter humiliation. They are mocking Him. They are punching Him. They are pulling out His beard. They are treating Him like scum, and He is God. And He doesn't say a word. And they pass Him from mock trial, phase to phase, and He doesn't say anything, and He accepts it. And He doesn't demand His rights. Oh my, what a picture of humility that is. He humbled Himself.
He went even lower. How low did He go? Verse 8 says, "by becoming obedient to the point of death." Now somewhere short of that you would think He would have said, "Stop; that's enough." Somewhere in the middle of that trial you would have assumed that He would have blasted them with fire from His mouth and consumed the whole rotten bunch. But He doesn't. Somewhere when He's being mocked and dragged half naked through the city of Jerusalem with a cross on His back you would have thought that He would have stopped and said, "Halt! That is enough. You are not worth this effort! I demand for you to know who I am." But He doesn't. Somewhere on the cross you would have thought He would have screamed out who He was, but He never says it - never. He was “obedient to the point of death” - all the way down to the muck and the slime and the ooze of the deep, dark places in order that He might bring us up to the color again.
And, says Paul, not just death but the last statement, "even death on a cross." The word "even" calls attention to the shocking feature of Christ's ultimate humiliation. This is the bottom. This is the end of the line. Not just death but “even death on a cross” – crucifixion: excruciating, embarrassing, degrading, painful, humiliating, cruel. Devised originally by the Persians and perfected by the Romans, it was only fit for a slave and the worst riff-raff among the criminals. The Jews hated it because they remembered Deuteronomy 21:22 which said, "Cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree." Paul quotes that in Galatians 3. They hated it. They despised it. This is the ultimate in human degradation, hanging in the sky stark-naked, as it were, before the watching world with nails driven through your hands and feet - the mocking object. There He is. This is God. This is the God who created the universe.
Somewhere along the path down you'd think He'd say to Himself, "You know, these people aren't worth redeeming. This is too degrading. This is too humiliating."
This is what He did. That's the grace of God. That's the love of God for sinners. And He did it to die for you and die for me. This is an amazing plan, is it not? This is a plan that no man would have devised. Is it any wonder when the apostle Paul looks at salvation not, not from the historical perspective here but from the doctrinal perspective and for eleven chapters in Romans he shows how God became man and died and rose again to provide salvation. And at the end of it all, in Romans 11:33, he says, "Oh...how unsearchable are Your judgments and Your ways past finding out!" He's literally in awe. “God, what a plan. Who would have ever dreamed of this?” Who would have imagined that God would do that?
Now if we had planned it, we would have sent Him to a palace. And we would have Him born into wealth and a prominent family. And we would have had Him educated in the finest universities with all the most elite teachers and the finest tutors exposed to the very best of human wisdom and information. If we had orchestrated God coming into this world we would have made sure everybody loved Him and revered Him and honored Him and respected Him. And we would have made sure He was in all the prominent places, meeting all the prominent people. And we would have been sure that there was a public relations campaign to end all, to promote great affection for Him. We certainly would never have let Him be born in a stable. And we would never have let Him be born to a family in poverty. We would never have let Him spend His time in a carpenter shop in an obscure town in Galilee. We would never, ever have allowed Him to live without any earthly goods, nor would we have allowed Him to go through His life and ministry with a rag-tag band of followers like He did. We would have made sure that we had people qualified to be His disciples. And the qualifications would have been very stiff.
We would have done it differently. We would never have allowed Him to be humiliated. We would have imprisoned or executed anybody who spit on Him, or pulled His beard, or mocked Him to the face, or drove nails through His hands. We would have done it very differently, and we wouldn't be saved. Is it any wonder that the psalmist says in Psalm 36:6, "Thy judgments are like a great deep"? This is too much for us. We can't understand this. How unsearchable are His ways - untrackable. You can't find the end of them. You can't get to either the source or the goal. You don't understand it. Such profound truth. Such deep, divine purpose. And this God has done for us, for us. Let's bow in prayer.
Lord, we say with the apostle Paul, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen."
O God, we cannot understand such a miracle as the incarnation - too deep for us, too deep. Surely Your judgments, Your decisions are a great deep. But, Lord, even though we cannot understand, You have said, "Except a man becomes as a little child he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven." And what our minds cannot grasp our hearts can, and we can grasp that You loved us so much. You loved us so much that You came into this world and died on a cross to pay the death for our sin that we should pay. And that if we put our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and give Him our lives, as we believe and as we follow, we receive eternal life. O Lord God, I pray for every person here that each may search his or her own heart. The humiliation is enough, all the way to death. But there is yet another step, and that is the further humiliation of having done all that and being rejected by the people You did it for. Forgive us, Lord. Forgive us for the time of our unbelief when we further humiliated Christ by rejecting His humiliation.
And I pray, O God, for any in our fellowship this morning who have not confessed Jesus as Lord, who have not come to Him for forgiveness and life.
While your heads are bowed, we can't close this message without asking you in your own heart to look to God and just perhaps the Spirit is moving in your life and maybe this is the time for you to pray a prayer that says, "O God, I see what You've done in Christ for me, and I ask Christ to forgive my sin, come into my life, and be my Lord." Can you pray that prayer? Christ has died for you, but if you reject it, it does no good for you.
You say, "How do I make this my own?" By faith, believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, and that faith involves turning from your sin and turning to follow Him. Can you pray that prayer? “Lord Jesus, I turn from my sin to follow You who have died for me.”