Text: Philippians 2:5-11 — Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Introduction: This morning we’re going launch into a new preaching series called “The Lordship of Jesus Christ.” Now, if you’re a Christian, you’ve already come to the place of recognizing Christ as your Savior and Lord, and that, of course, is a very good thing. When we call Him Savior, we’re acknowledging that we have put our personal faith in His blood sacrifice on the cross so that our sins are forgiven and Christ’s righteous is applied to us. When we call Him Lord, we are acknowledging His rightful place to rule over us as a benevolent dictator. That’s pretty much what the word ‘Lord’ means when applied to God. In the Old Testament it’s the word “Adonai” and in the New Testament it is typically “Kurios.” Both refer to Him as our master or owner. The idea is that when we become a part of the kingdom of heaven, we have a new King to whom we are expected to submit. This is not that easy for many Christians. I think because the whole concept of submission threatens our very notion of independence … the ability to decide for ourselves instead of having someone else do that for us. Perhaps this is what a young man who had only recently joined the Navy struggled with as well. Shortly after completing basic training, he asked his officer for a pass so he could attend a wedding. The officer gave him the pass, but informed the young man he would have to be back by 7 p.m. Sunday. “You don’t understand, sir,” said the recruit. “I’m in the wedding.” “No, you don’t understand,” the officer shot back. “You’re in the Navy!” When you’re serving in the military, your agenda is no longer your own. It’s determined by those in authority over you.
Over the next several weeks, we will look together at the implications of Christ’s lordship upon several areas of our lives. Today, however, I thought the place to begin was addressing how Jesus came to be our Lord in the first place. The answer is provided in our passage from Philippians. Here we discover the many faces of Jesus and the path He travelled in becoming the Lord of all. Let’s start by looking at what it says about Christ prior to His incarnation.
Who Christ Was/Is (Philippians 2:6— 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). Paul is stressing here the eternal pre-existence of Jesus prior to His birth in Bethlehem. This is what our Lord was talking about when He said, “Before Abraham was, I AM,” in John 8:58 (and the Jews understood exactly what He was saying. That’s why they picked up stones to stone Him). This claim that Jesus was/is God fits with our definition of the Trinity. There is one God who exists eternally in three persons…Father, Son and Spirit. The phrase he uses, “He was in the form of God”, is the key to this understanding. It is a defense of the deity of Jesus Christ. The word translated as “form” means “the real essence of a thing.” In this context, Paul is arguing that Jesus is the very essence of God. Whatever God is, Jesus is as well. He is 100% God. This means that He shares all the characteristics (attributes) of God … omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence etc. That’s why He could perform miracles whenever it suited Him and know what others were thinking before they said a word (Luke 9:46-48 — An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all — he is the greatest). There is nothing that God is that Jesus is not! What we learn about Him from this verse is that He ‘did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.’ It’s Paul’s way of saying that Jesus refused to use for His own personal gain the glory He possessed as the Son of God. I like how the translation called the Message puts it: Jesus had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of Himself that He had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. He willingly laid aside His rights although He had every right to claim them. (Review: Who Jesus Was/Is) This brings us to point #2.
What Christ Did (Philippians 2:7-8a – but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men). This verse refers to the “incarnation,” the time when the Son of God came into our world as a human being. Note how it all happened … first, He made Himself nothing. The NASV says “He emptied Himself.” Jesus volunteered for duty, became a living, breathing human being and emptied Himself of all the glory that was His by divine right. This is very important because it explains why Jesus came to our world at all! He didn’t have to be persuaded or coaxed by the Father into becoming a human being. He volunteered for the assignment. This is what is meant by “made Himself nothing.” He became a nobody when in fact He was the greatest somebodyever! Listen … given our fallen nature, this is such a humble act that is almost impossible for us to comprehend it. Almost everyone we know enjoys a certain amount of status and expects to be recognized for it. I know I’m guilty of this because, sadly, I can get a little full of myself from time to time as well. A few years ago, I was given a reminder that I’m not as special as I think I am. At my former church, we had just repaved a portion of the parking lot. It was so new that the yellow lines marking where you could park had not yet been drawn. One morning I pulled into the lot and parked my car right in front of the building, jumped out and proceeded to walk into the church. At the same time a lady who obviously didn’t recognize me exited the church and told me that I should not be parking there! It wasn’t marked for it, so clearly the powers that be didn’t want anyone using it for that purpose. It was all I could do to restrain myself. Almost immediately, I felt the urge to say, “Uh, excuse me. But I am the Senior Pastor here. And I can park wherever I want.” The nerve of that woman! I’m sure what bothered me the most wasn’t her exhortation to park somewhere else, but that she didn’t recognize and honor me in the way I thought she should. In my mind, at least, I deserved better from her. I suspect we all get a little of that every now and then. Now think about Jesus for a moment. He emptied Himself of His right to divine glory and took the form of a servant. He entered our world at the lowest possible level – a slave. The question you might be wondering is “To whom was He a slave? Was it to His Father or humanity?” The answer is both. God refers to Jesus as His Holy Servant in Isaiah 42:1. In Matthew 20:28, Jesus announced that that He came to serve people and to give His life a ransom for many. Jesus took on the role of a slave because it was what His Father wanted and what we needed! This verse also tells us one more thing about Him … Jesus was born in the likeness of men. This means that He was human just as we are. He shared in everything that makes us human with the exception of a sin nature, yet our Lord was more than a man. He was God incarnate. Though He didn’t look any different from anyone else, He was different. He was the unique God/Man who, as impossible as it seems, came in the humble role of a servant. (Who Christ Was/Is; What Christ Did). Now let’s consider the choice Christ made.
What Christ Chose (Philippians 2:8b – And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross). The Bible teaches that God is spirit (John 4:24). This means that before His incarnation Jesus did not possess a body (John 1:14 – The Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us). Now and for the rest of eternity He does, though, it is a resurrected body. Think about it … It would have been impossible for Him to hang on the cross unless He became one of us with a human body. And since His death was necessary to atone for our sin, there really was no other way (Hebrews 2:14 – Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil). This brings us to the kind of death that Jesus was willing to submit Himself to. It was crucifixion, a punishment so barbaric that no Roman citizen could receive it as a sentence unless by direct order of the emperor. To Jesus, the real shame of the crucifixion came from what the Old Testament said about it in Deuteronomy 21:22-23 – And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him of a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. These verses are not addressing hanging as a method of execution, but referring to the practice that came after it … of hanging a body on a tree or wooden post of some kind following the condemned man’s death. The gruesome sight was meant to serve as a warning to others who might want to break the same law. To be clear, God was not imposing on the Jews this method of capitol punishment, but regulating it, to ensure that the body would receive a proper burial. To do otherwise would have polluted the land. The body was not accursed because it was hanging on a tree. Rather it was hanging on a tree because it was accursed of God. When Jesus went to the cross, it was not because He was cursed of God, but because we were – Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law – Galatians 3:10. We broke the Law. We deserve the punishment, but Christ paid it in our place. Today the cross has become for us some kind of icon to be worshipped, when, in fact, it represented a death so terrible in the first century that people would not speak about it in polite company. A modern counterpart would be to wear an image of an electric chair or gas chamber around our necks. If anyone did, others would find it incredibly offensive. That’s what the cross meant to Jesus. It represented the wrath of God poured out on sinful man. So why did Jesus endure such a horrendous death and shed His blood for us? Because His blood is the perfect vaccine against a disease called sin that kills 100% of the time. That’s why. Without it, we’re doomed to eternal death and destruction (Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness – Hebrews 9:22).
So, we’ve talked about who Christ was/is, what Christ did, the choice Christ made. Now let’s finish by looking at what Christ achieved by becoming a human being, dying on the cross and being raised from the dead…which is assumed in the next three verses.
What Christ Achieved (Philippians 2:9-11 – 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). After His death, burial and resurrection, Jesus hung around for forty days and then ascended into heaven. Having returned triumphant, God “highly exalted Him.” It’s Paul’s way of saying that God gave Jesus all that He had relinquished when He left heaven to come to earth and even more. When He returned to heaven, He continued to have a body that serves as a constant reminder to all the saints that He is our Savior. He also had a new status not just as Lord of heaven, but as Lord of heaven and earth. When Jesus came the first time, not many recognized Him to be the Son of God. That will not be true the next time. When He returns every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (who sent Jesus to be our Redeemer). All creation (including angels, demons, saints in heaven, saints on earth, the unredeemed dead and the walking dead – even Satan himself) will bow before Him. The significance of bowing the knee is that everyone will submit to Him as Lord. Confessing with the tongue means there is no other who can rightfully lay claim to being the Lord of heaven and earth. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 8:6 – there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
Application: Jesus is Lord because of who He was/is; what He did (incarnation), the choice He made (to die on a cross) and the salvation He achieved in suffering death for us. Now as the resurrected King, His claim to be the Son of God has been vindicated. His work in redeeming us from the penalty of sin is completed. That’s why He sits at the right hand of the Father. Someday, perhaps very soon, He will receive all the glory that is due Him upon His return. So, here are a couple of thoughts as we conclude our first message in the new preaching series, The Lordship of Jesus Christ.
· If you haven’t yet acknowledged Christ’s lordship, that doesn’t change the fact that He is (Lord) and one day you will (acknowledge Him). The question isn’t whether you will, but when. Those who wait until they see Him face to face will receive justice and be condemned to an eternity in Hell. Those who do so now, will receive His mercy and grace and spend eternity with Him. The choice is yours to make.
· If you have acknowledged Christ’s lordship, then you know that you belong exclusively to Him. This means three things according to the great Christian author A. W. Tozer … (1) You face only one direction. Jesus said, “No man is fit for service in the kingdom, who puts his hand to the plow and looks back – Luke 9:62. Christians are one-directional. We look to only to Jesus for salvation and life. (2) You never turn back. This world system under the control of the Evil One has lost its appeal to the children of God. We realize it offers us nothing, but sin and death. Christians are known for staying on the right path, and though we may stumble, we get up, dust ourselves off in the power of the Holy Spirit, and continue on in Christ. (3)You no longer have plans of your own. Being part of the Kingdom of Heaven and under the rule of Jesus Christ means that the only thing we’re concerned about is doing His will. The question for believers is never “Should I do His will?” but “What is His will that I might do it?” We’ll talk about the consequences of our decision to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord throughout the rest of this series.
Conclusion: Tim Keller compares the Lordship of Jesus Christ to what he calls “a life-quake”: When a great big truck goes over a tiny little bridge, sometimes there’s a bridge-quake, and when a big man goes onto thin ice there’s an ice-quake. Whenever Jesus Christ comes down into a person’s life, there’s a life-quake. Everything is reordered. If Jesus was (merely) a guru, if he was a great man, if he was a great teacher, even if he was the genie of the lamp, there would be some limits on his rights over you. If he’s God, you cannot … retain anything in your life … that’s a non-negotiable. Anything … any view, any conviction, any idea, any behavior, any relationship. He may change it, he may not change it, but at the beginning of the relationship you have to say, “In everything he must have the supremacy.” That’s what we mean when we confess that Christ is Lord!