Tuesday, December 8, 2015

God Came to Serve

Part 2 of Unwrapping Christmas

Text: Philippians 2:3-8

You can listen to this sermon here.

Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men (Phil. 2:6-7). 

A Christmas Surprise 

Christmas is a great time for surprises. In the Gospel of Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus, there are two surprising details. First, Mary “laid [Jesus] in a manger” (Luke 2:7). A manger is a feeding trough. Second, there was “no place for [Joseph, Mary, and Jesus] in the inn [1]” (Luke 2:7).

It’s interesting that both Luke and Matthew mention a king in their accounts of the birth of Jesus (King Herod, Matt. 2:1; Caesar Augustus, Luke 2:1). Herod and Caesar Augustus were nothing compared to Jesus, the King of kings, but Jesus wasn’t welcomed into the world as we would expect him to be.

The apostle Paul tells us something even more surprising about the birth of Jesus: Jesus, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men (Phil. 2:6-7).

When God came to earth, he came to serve. 

Nobody expected this! Jesus himself declared that he “came not to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45).

Equal with God

Paul writes that Jesus was fully God and fully man. He “was in the form of God” (v. 6). The Greek word that has been translated “form” is morphe, which refers to “the inner nature or substance of something, not its external or outward shape.” [2] This is why the New International Version reads, “being in very nature God.” Paul also states that Jesus possessed “equality with God” (v. 6). “God” refers to God the Father. If Jesus is equal to God, he must be God. God says, “I am God, and there is none like me” (Isa. 46:9). God is exclusively God.

Paul writes that Jesus “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (v. 6). This doesn’t mean that Jesus ceased to be God when he became a man. God can’t cease to be God. “Surely what Paul means is this: Christ being fully God, possessing the very nature of God and being fully equal to God in every respect, did not thereby insist on holding onto all the privileges and benefits of his position of equality with God (the Father) and thereby refuse to accept coming as a man.” [3]

An Act of Unmatched Love and Humility

Then Paul says that Jesus “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant” (v. 7). How did he serve us? Paul writes, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (v. 8).

The greatest act of service was the death of Jesus on the cross.

Think about the word “even”: “even death on a cross.” Not only was Jesus willing to die for us, but he was also willing to die by crucifixion. The love and humility of Jesus is indescribable. C. S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”

Two Responses

What should our response be to what Paul writes in Philippians 2:6-8?

1. Our hearts must be moved by the love and humility of Jesus. 

2. We must answer the call to serve. 

Paul urges the Philippians to have the “mind” (i.e., attitude) of Jesus (v. 5). He writes, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (vv. 3-4). Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). What can you do this December to give of yourself to others?

[1] The “inn” could refer to “an ancient inn that would have consisted of a large room in which everyone found a place to lie down wherever they could or to the guest room in a private residence (possibly that of relatives). Either way, there was no room for a birth in the normal place where Joseph and Mary would have expected to find lodging” (Andreas J. Kostenberger, Alexander Stewart, The First Days of Jesus: The Story of the Incarnation, Kindle locations 2574-2576).
[2] Bruce A. Ware, The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflections on the Humanity of Christ, Kindle locations 184-185.
[3] Ibid., Kindle locations 212-214.

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