Philippians 2:8

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:8

The division of this verse is not entirely certain. Some translations place the words “And being found in appearance as a man” as part of the previous verse –

“But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.” Douay Rheims

This is a point to be made aware of, but the substance of the message is not largely affected by the change. There is just a more abrupt nature to the introduction of the next sentence because of it. As for the words, “And being found in appearance as a man,” they are speaking of the fashion of Christ rather than His form. In other words, the previous verse spoke of His morphé (form) of a bondservant. This verse now speaks of His schéma (fashion) of appearance.

The schéma is that which is outward and visible. It “is used of Jesus’ earthly body. Christ incarnated into a genuine physical body, which was not an ‘exact match with typical humanity’ because His body was never touched or tainted by sin (even original sin)” (HELPS Word Studies). This fashion of body was one specifically referred to 700 years earlier by Isaiah –

“For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.” Isaiah 53:2

The humanity of Jesus was not one of marvelous physical looks. He was not an impressive figure in size or in musculature. He was not formed with great height, or exceptionally broad shoulders. He was just a common looking person that, when passed by on the street, would draw nobody’s attention to Him. This simple and unadorned fashion of Christ was what we saw in Him as a Man. And, in this plain appearance “He humbled Himself and became obedient.”

The Deity of Christ, which bore all the fashion and glory of the infinite Creator God, and which held all the power of the universe and beyond, was set aside. He took on a lowly fashion and form, and He submitted to the will of His Father and to the law which He had written, binding Himself to it in a state of human limitation. The idea of His humility here is not the same as that of His emptying Himself noted in the previous verse. Rather it is a definition of that emptying. The word is tapeinoó. It indicates a complete and absolute reliance on another. He so humbled Himself that He was left completely open and exposed to the will of Another, trusting in the God and not Himself. This is reflected in His words of John 6:38 –

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”

The author of Hebrews picks up on this aspect of Christ as well, noting His obedience to the will of the Father. This obedience, reflected in His humility, is then explained in its most magnificent sense by the words, “to the point of death.” Christ was born in order to die. The death would be an atoning death for the sin of the world. This is seen in Revelation 13:8. However, His atoning death is not the focus here. Rather, His obedience is what is highlighted, even to the point of death. Thus, it sets a pattern for those who would follow Him (“Let this mind be in you…” – verse 5).

But there is yet more to Paul’s words. Christ was obedient to the point of death, but as he highlights, “…even the death of the cross.” The Law of Moses said –

“If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.” Deuteronomy 21:22, 23

Christ died on a tree and Paul explains the magnitude of this in Galatians 3:13 –

“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’)…”

Christ’s death on the cross was, to the people of Israel, a point of shame. This is reflected again in the words of Hebrews 12:2 which specifically notes this. Further, in the Greek of this verse, there is no article in front of “cross.” It says “even cross death.” The utterly shameful nature of the death is brought forth in Paul’s choice of words. It shows the enormity of the level of obedience and humility which Christ endured for us. This… this is what Paul asks us to have in our minds. It is what he asks for us to emulate.

Life application: How willing are you to be obedient to the word of God? Christ went to an extreme that we cannot even comprehend. Let us endeavor to follow Him, even to the point of the highest shame before our fellow man.

Lord God, Jesus Christ was brought to the point of highest shame according to the Law of Moses in His being hung on a tree for our sins. The cross-death which He endured was for the sake of His people. How can we refuse obedience to Your word when such an example has been set before us? Are we better than the One who fashioned us? Help us to be obedient, just as we have been shown by His amazing example. Grant us to have this mind of Christ that nothing will hinder our walk with You. Amen.


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