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Wednesday, October 19, 2016
The eternal Christ and the Christian
Philippians 2:1-5 "Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus."
On January 26, 1926, John Baird was regarded as the first man to publicly demonstrate a machine he had designed to transmit a motion picture via the air-waves. This device was the precursor to what we know today as "television". Today nearly 80% of households in the world have televisions. People marvel still at how these familiar devices bring in picture and sound. Even more remarkably, mediums such as "face-time" and "Skype" enable people to keep in touch with friends or relatives via video and sound. Whenever we speak of what happens in the Christian at salvation, we can liken it somewhat to this modern marvel. The Holy Spirit transmits the Person and work of Jesus Christ into our spirit. At saving faith, we "tune-in" and are able to hold conversation with and fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ by the Spirit and the scriptures. Indeed, the eternal Christ became embodied in true humanity so that He could die and rise from the dead. 40 days following His resurrection, Jesus ascended or "went up" beyond the sight of his disciples to be exalted and seated at the right hand of the Father. This exaltation of Jesus Christ resulted in the sending of the Holy Spirit, Whose task is to bring Jesus to sinners, to call them forth from spiritual death and to "broadcast" Jesus Christ in "live-stream" to such souls that embrace Him by faith. Today we want to begin considering how the eternal Christ relates to the moral and spiritual responsibility of living the Christian life.
Considering the urgency to live the Christian life
Paul's words in the opening verses of Philippians 2 urge his readers to be some things and not to be other things. As a church family, the Philippians are to be in Philippians 2:1-2 and 4: of the same mind, love, spirit, intent on one purpose, have humility and regard one another above themselves. In contrast, the Philippians are "not to be" in Philippians 2:3-4: selfish and conceited. These opening commands and prohibitions are tall orders for any Christian or for any church. Thankfully, Paul hitches these series of commands to extraordinary theological statements about the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
Truly the eternality, embodying, exaltation and experience of Jesus Christ comprises the way in which any Christian or church can carry out what is urged in this text. Today we want to begin focusing upon how the eternality and embodiment of the Son in true humanity (i.e the incarnation) has practical, real-world significance for readers.
The eternal Christ is the power source of the Christian life
Philippians 2:6 opens up Paul's grand theological tour de force about the Lord Jesus Christ. We read in Philippians 2:6 "who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped". This statement begins with the Son as He was in eternity prior to His incarnation. The phrase "form of God" pertains to the Son possessing the very properties of Deity (omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, eternality, immateriality, necessity, aseity and so forth).
Whenever we see the Son by Himself described as "God" in the New Testament, we often find the word "God" as a predicate or word equating the Son as possessing all the qualities and properties that involve being God. In other places, whenever we see "God" described as doing something to or with the Son (as in Philippians 2:9, where, "God highly exalted Him"), the name "God" implies the Father, with both the Father and the Son sharing this same Divine nature. Bible scholar John S. Feinberg notes on page 459 of his book: "No one like Him":
"The NT clearly teaches that Jesus Christ is God. In various, NT writers show that He is as fully God as the Father."
When we talk about Jesus Christ as He is presented in Philippians 2:6, we see Him as the eternal Christ, existing in eternity with the Father and prior to His incarnation. The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 begins its article on "The Son" with these words: "Christ is the eternal Son of God." The 6th century writer Boethius gives the following definition of eternity: "eternity, then, is the whole, simultaneous and perfect possession of boundless life." The Son, on Boethius definition of eternity, could be easily described as possessing this quality of simulataneous and perfect, boundless life. Hebrews 1:8 sheds much light on what we've noted thus far: "But of the Son He says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, And the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom."
The Son's desire to be hitched to true humanity, and to your humanity
So, the Person of the Son in Philippians 2:6 has possessed all the properties that one associates with the Biblical concept of "God". But then Paul makes an interesting statement at the end of the verse: "did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped". Other English translations render this phrase accordingly:
NKJV: "did not consider it robbery to be equal with God"
NIV & HCSB: "did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage"
NASB & ESV: "did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped".
As the Son has always been in eternity with the Father, the sense of the verse here indicates that His own equality with the Father as God is being viewed in terms of all the benefits, privileges and unimaginable experience of being unending Deity.
This first insight brought out in Philippians 2:6 hitches the commands given in Philippians 2:1-5 to what the Person of the Son has always been in Philippians 2:6 - namely the eternal Christ. The humility of the Son possessed in eternity is and will be shown to be accessible to the Christian who attempts to exercise the humility commended in Philippians 2:1-5.
The Son's humility, union with the Father and moral perfections are to be reflected in a creaturely way by the very ones who claim Him as their Savior and Lord. The Son did not begin being humble at His incarnation. Instead, humility occupies the multitude of moral attributes that one associates with the Divine nature. The Father demonstrated such when He chose to reveal His glory in His creation - in effect stooping to make Himself known in the heavens. Further reflection shows the Son possessing this same quality as the Father - with God's actions of humility referred to as being likened unto a parent lisping softly to their child. As we will see next time, the Son's incarnation as Jesus of Nazareth would provide the proper human expression of Divine humility, an expression which is the basis for Christian life and living. The eternal Christ came to be the embodied Jesus of Nazareth, thus hitching humanity to His Person so that in His humanity, He could hitch people to Himself who receive Him in saving faith.
More next time....
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