God's Humility For You

BY MARTIN LUTHER

"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." -Philippians 2:5-11

Christ assumed the form of a servant, even while remaining God and having the form of God; he was God, and his divine words and works were spoken and wrought for our benefit. As a servant, he served us with these. He did not require us to serve him in compensation for them, as in the capacity of a Lord he had a just right to do. He sought not honor or profit thereby, but our benefit and salvation. It was a willing service and gratuitously performed, for the good of men. It was a service unspeakably great, because of the ineffable greatness of the minister and servant -- God eternal, whom all angels and creatures serve.

"Being born in the likeness of men." Born of Mary, Christ's nature became human. But even in that humanity he might have exalted himself above all men and served none. But he forbore and became as other men. And by "likeness of men" we must understand just ordinary humanity without special privilege whatever. Now, without special privilege there is no disparity among men. Understand, then, Paul says in effect: Christ was made as any other man who has neither riches, honor, power nor advantage above his fellows; for many inherit power, honor and property by birth. So lowly did Christ become, and with such humility did he conduct himself, that no mortal is too lowly to be his equal, even servants and the poor. At the same time, Christ was sound, without bodily infirmities, as man in his natural condition might be expected to be.

"And being found in human form." That is, he followed the customs and habits of men, eating and drinking, sleeping and waking, walking and standing, hungering and thirsting, enduring cold and heat, knowing labour and weariness, needing clothing and shelter, feeling the necessity of prayer, and having the same experience as any other man in his relation to God and the world. - He had power to avoid these conditions; as God he might have demeaned and borne himself quite differently. But in becoming man, as above stated, he fared as a human being, and he accepted the necessities of ordinary mortals while all the time he manifested the divine form which expressed his true self.

"He humbled himself," or debased himself. In addition to manifesting his servant form in becoming man and faring as an ordinary human being, he went farther and made himself lower than any man. He abased himself to serve all men with the supreme service -- the gift of his life in our behalf.

He not only made himself subject to men, but also to sin, death and the devil, and bore it all for us. He accepted the most ignominious death, the death on the cross, dying not as a man but as a worm (Ps 22, 6). He lost even what favor, recognition and honor were due to the assumed servant form in which he had revealed himself, and perished altogether.

All this Christ surely did not do because we were worthy of it. Who could be worthy such service from such a one? Obedience to the Father moved him. Here Paul with one word unlocks heaven and permits us look into the unfathomable abyss of divine majesty and behold the ineffable love of the Fatherly heart toward us -- his gracious will for us. He shows us how from eternity it has been God's pleasure that Christ, the glorious one who has wrought all this, should do it for us. What human heart would not melt at the joy-inspiring thought? Who would not love, praise and thank God and in return for his goodness, not only be ready to serve the world, but gladly to embrace the extremity of humility? Who would not so do when he is aware that God himself has such precious regard for him, and points to the obedience of his Son as the pouring out and evidence of his Fatherly will. Oh, the significance of the words Paul here uses! such words as he uses in no other place! He must certainly have burned with joy and cheer.

To gain such a glimpse of God -- surely this must be coming to the Father through Christ. Here is truly illustrated the truth that no one comes to Christ except the Father draw him; and with what power, what delicious sweetness, the Father allures! How many are the preachers of the faith who imagine they know it all, when they have received not even an odor or taste of these things! How soon are they become masters who have never been disciples! Not having tasted God's love, they cannot impart it; hence they remain unprofitable babblers. 

"Therefore God has highly exalted him." As Christ was cast to the lowest depths and subjected to all devils, in obeying God and serving us, so has God exalted him Lord over all angels and creatures, and over death and hell. Christ now has completely divested himself of the servant form -- laid it aside. Henceforth he exists in the divine form, glorified, proclaimed, confessed, honored and recognized as God. While it is not wholly apparent to us that "all things are put in subjection" to Christ, as Paul says  (I Cor 15, 27), the trouble is merely with our perception of the fact. It is true that Christ is thus exalted in person and seated on high in the fullness of power and might.

(This is an excerpt from a sermon preached by Martin Luther)

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