A Simple Sermon from Philippians 2:6-11
Introduction: Why are Americans fascinated by superheroes? Part of it is fun and fantasy, but maybe there’s a bit more. Could our fascination with superheroes represent an inner yearning for a good, powerful, and supernatural person to step into our world and help us with our problems? According to the Bible, there is such a person. He’s not a fictional superhero, but He is a supernatural Savior of humanity. He is the one whom all the world is looking for. How does the Bible describe Him? Scripture’s definitive Christological passage is Philippians 2:6-11.
Background: Philippi was in northern Greece (Macedonia). Paul, Silas. and Timothy entered this city in the mid-first century and established a church. Later this church sent Paul support wherever he went. Learning he was imprisoned in Rome, they sent another gift and someone to help him. This letter of Philippians is Paul’s response, a note of gratitude. But he also used the occasion to address some issues within the church. For example, some of the Philippians weren’t getting along with each other. Against that backdrop, Paul wrote one of the Bible’s premier creeds about the person of Christ. We should be humble toward one another, Paul said, because that’s the attitude of Christ—and with that he launched into a timeless poem/hymn/creed—Philippians 2:6-11.
Bible Study: This passage gives us the career span of the Redeemer.
- Verses 5-6a: Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God…. According to this declarative verse, Jesus Christ, the Stranger of Galilee, was, is, and always will be, in His very nature, God. He is God Himself. The word “nature” is the Greek term morphe, from which we get our word morphology, a branch of biology devoted to the essential nature of living beings. According to Philippians 2:6, Jesus is, in His very nature, in His essential being, the almighty, eternal God. This is why I’m bemused when people say, “The notion of the deity of Christ was invented by the Counsel of Nicaea in AD 325.” But here in Philippians, 250 years before the Council of Nicaea, Paul described Jesus as being in very nature –morphe – of God. The teaching of the deity of Jesus Christ cascades like a massive system of waterfalls, flooding the Bible. The entire message of the Bible depends on it.
- Verse 6b: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage. There it is again—the deity of Christ. He possessed equality with God. He was equal with God. In His essence, His nature, His eternal attributes, He was equal with God. But, in His infinite love and humility, He did not take undue advantage of His position. He didn’t want His God-nature to keep Him from doing something redemptive. He didn’t want the glory of His throne to keep Him from the duty of His mission.
- Verse 7: Rather, He made Himself nothing…. No one fully understands this. The word “nothing” is the Greek word kenosis. This passage is known among Bible scholars as “The Kenosis Passage.” The Bible says He emptied Himself. That is, He stripped off the prerogatives and privileges of His glorious throne. He stepped away from His throne to enter human history. There is no evidence Jesus stopped being God, and, indeed, that would appear a rational impossibility. God cannot stop being God. But He emptied Himself of His privileges and prerogatives, and He stepped down from the eternal throne in heaven to enter human history through the womb of a virgin. He did not empty Himself of His deity, but of His glory.
- Verse 7: He made Himself nothing, by taking the very nature of a servant. Notice that word again—nature. Morphe. He possesses the nature of God, but He took upon Himself the nature of a servant. He has always possessed His divine nature, but now He has added to it. He has taken on something new. He has also assumed a new nature. According to Philippians 2, Jesus now has two natures. You and I only have one nature. We only have one substance, one essence of who we are. We are humans. We are not humans and insects. We are not humans and angels. But Jesus, in very nature God, also took upon Himself the nature of a servant. How?
- Verse 7: …being made in human likeness. In other words, He became a human being. He did not simply become a God who appeared in a human body. He actually became a human person with a human body. There are two great incompressible mysteries at the heart of Christianity: (1) The Trinity—One God in Three Persons; and (2) The Duality—One Man with Two Natures. We can explain it to a point. But beyond that point, it boggles our minds, as it should. A God small enough to be understood is not big enough to be worshipped. He is both divine and human, the God-Man.
- Verse 8: And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! The cross was the most repulsive form of execution every invented. From the heavenly throne to the anguishing cross—not one has ever made a journey like that, no one but Jesus. But He did it for you and me! Why? God created us in His image to live with Him forever. Our personal failures separate us from Him. So God Himself, through the Second Person of the Trinity, descended into this world to die for our sins. He offered Himself as a sacrifice to atone for our sins, becoming obedient to death on the cross. He had to be God to be big enough to save us, and human to die on our behalf.
He left His Father’s Throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace,
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And died for Adam’s helpless race,
This mercy all—immense and free,
For lo, my God, it found out me.
- Verse 9: Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. The ascension and exaltation of Christ is one of the most overlooked truths of the New Testament. To the New Testament writers, Ascension Day deserved more ink than Christmas! Almost every book in the New Testament talks about the power of Christ’s returning to the Throne and resuming His place at God’s right hand.
- Such words as these were never written about Zarathustra, who founded a great religious system in the Iranian territories of the Middle East during the days of King David.
- They were never written about Confucius, the Chinese philosopher who lived in Asia during the days of the prophet Daniel.
- Nothing like this has ever been written about the Buddha, who is thought to have lived in India during the biblical days of Ezra and Nehemiah, though the biographical details of the Buddha’s life are notoriously hard to nail down.
- Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam who lived 700 years after Jesus, never made such claims about himself.
- You’ve never heard words like this about Joseph Smith, Jr., or Mary Baker Eddy or the Dalai Lama from Tibet.
Jesus of Nazareth is in a class all by Himself. He is in a field of one. The Bible calls Him the “One and Only.” He is unique. Part of our apologetic, our evidence, our defense for the truthfulness of Christianity resides with the uniqueness of Christ. Of the 108 billion people who have come and gone through the corridors of time and through the vortex of history, and among the 7.4 billion people alive on earth today, Jesus Christ is solitary, singular, alone, unique, and incomparable. And this is why.
And this is also why we must place our faith in Him and acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior. He is worthy of our faith. Have you received Him into your life?
Oh, yes, there’s one last thing. Notice how this passage – Philippians 2:6-11 – is laid out in the Bible, especially if you have a newer translation. Notice the margins. Notice how it’s set apart and indented from the remainder of the text of Philippians. That’s because this portion of Scripture is a poem; it’s a New Testament hymn. The apostle Paul wrote this as a hymn for the early church to sing, for such a Savior as Jesus should be praised and glorified forever. And it’s been the theme of our songs for two thousand years!
All hail the power of Jesus’ Name
Let angels prostrate fall.
Bring forth the royal diadem
And crown Him Lord of all.