Humbled and Exalted
1So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 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 emptied himself, by 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.
One of the primary tenants of the Christian faith is that Jesus Christ is True God and True Man. No passage in Scripture points to this truth better than Philippians 2. In these words we find a brilliant illustration of the two natures of Christ, both of which are important to us as believers. Jesus humanity and deity were a part of God’s perfect plan. And while we cannot attain His model of godly perfection, we pay close attention to His model of humility to shape our own lives.
These words are poetry, both in form and content. This and the fact that a number of the expressions used do not occur elsewhere in Paul make it likely that he is quoting an early Christian hymn which both the Philippians and he knew and sang at worship. The successive stanzas adore Christ in His preexistence with God and as God, in His humiliation unto death, in His exaltation and final glory when at His coming the whole universe shall do obeisance before Him.
Roehrs, W. H., & Franzmann, M. H. ©1998. Concordia Self-Study Commentary (Vol. 2, p. 195). St. Louis, MO: CPH.
Paul borrows from what was probably a well-worn hymn to make his point. Which leads us in yet another direction. How much attention do you pay to the hymns that your congregation sings on a Sunday morning? While most of those hymns are meant to serve as a part of our praise of the Living God, they are also meant to be instructional and inspirational to our faith. That means we pay attention while the songs are being sung. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched as someone has spoken to their pew-mates, dug through their purse, or poked at their phone during the hymns. They aren’t meant as a break in the worship time, but instead are part and parcel of the worship experience.
I’ll climb down off that soapbox and move on . . . back to the humility and exaltation of Christ. Here again we find that the Christian faith is one of tension. Jesus is both supremely humbled and supremely exalted – in the same Person. His shift from God to Man was beyond our understanding. He didn’t just “descend” to our level. He became “other” than what He was as God. At the same time, He did not give up His deity and the Father exalts Him during His walk on the earth on several occasions (at His baptism, the Transfiguration, and most certainly His resurrection to name a few). Wrapping our heads around these two natures isn’t completely possible. We believe it by faith. God says it’s true, so it’s true.
So next Sunday, I’m going to pay attention during the song / hymns and for today I’m going to celebrate the fact that Jesus was all things to all people; True God and True Man.