Summary: March 24, 2002 -- SUNDAY OF THE PASSION -- Palm Sunday Passion Sunday Philippians 2: 5-11 Title: “Christ’s obedient death and resurrection did it all.”
March 24, 2002 -- SUNDAY OF THE PASSION -- Palm Sunday
Passion Sunday Philippians 2: 5-11
Title: “Christ’s obedient death and resurrection did it all.”
This passage seems to be an early Christian hymn, inserted at this point by Paul to reinforce his point made in verses one to five, be of the same mindset, the same love as that of Christ, putting the interests of others before one’s own. In “pouring himself out,” of his pre-existent divinity and “humbling himself to death on a cross,” Christ revealed the very character of God. In verse five, Paul sums it up by exhorting his fellow Christians to have the same “attitude,” or mindset or perspective or approach as Jesus, who was the first to show the character or “name,” of God in the life he lived. Then, by quoting the hymn, he portrays two ways of thinking, two attitudes or mindsets, one selfish, the other selfless. Christ, the pre-existent one, “emptied himself,” at a certain point in history and took on human form, indeed that of a “slave,” in order that humans can take on his nature, that of God.
In verse six, though he was in the form of God: The Greek word, morphe, translated as “form,” means that which truly characterizes a given reality. It is the essence or unchanging part of an entity. The verb, hyparchon, is not the common Greek verb for “being.” It describes the essence or the unchangeable, just as does morphe. Taken together the two words do not mean that Christ was “like God but really not.” Quite the contrary, the meaning is that Christ always was “in his very nature, God.”
Equality with God something to be grasped at: The nature, character and condition of divinity is the opposite of what humans might think. “Equality with God,” does not consist in grasping, clinging to, acquiring or possessing. It consists in “giving away,” not hoarding or collecting, “going out,” not turning in or self-absorption. Equality with God is something inherent to Christ in his pre-existence, his very nature.
Verse seven, rather, he emptied himself, equality with God is Christ’s nature and so is “emptying himself.” This phrase looks at the cross, the revelation of God’s true character, his outlandish, lavish love, fully manifested. Christ did not empty himself of anything. Rather, he emptied himself. He poured himself out. He did not thereby lose his divinity, he expressed it. As God he is not acquisitive, grasping, seizing, but self-giving for the sake of others.
Taking on the form of a slave: “Form,” Greek morphe, here means what it does above- the essential quality. He did not become just any sort of human being, but an obedient one, and to the nth degree. This is what divinity looks and acts like when divinity enters into humanity- a slave, a person without advantages, with no rights or privileges, but in service to all.
Found human in appearance: “Appearance,” translates the Greek schema, meaning the outward aspect which changes over time and according to circumstances. “Appearance,” then, would refer to things like the changing from baby to child to boy to youth to adult to old man. It pertains to the externals, what makes an entity recognizable. Christ entered our history and was as human, really more human, as us. Yet, he never ceased being divine. He was God living out a truly human life.
Verse eight, He humbled himself, in verse three, Paul recommended this quality to all Christians, a quality, making oneself “low,” not admired in the ancient world. Now, he shows us why it is so important. “Humility,” is the term for God’s exaltedness when it appears in human form.
Becoming obedient to death: This is unique. Jesus is like humans in most aspects, but unlike them in this one. This is another way of saying “a man like us in all things but sin.” See also Romans 8:3. What human can claim this? When divinity is coupled with humanity it yields obedience. It reveals why the incarnation was necessary. True obedience is always a free choice. Otherwise, it would be merely subservience. “Obedience unto death,” points to the degree to which Jesus’ free choice took him. He readily chose the path that led to his death.
Even death on a cross: This is the heart of Pauline theology: Jesus’ self-sacrifice, the divine scandal, the humiliating and cruel death, the awful and awesome truth of God’s love and the lengths he will go to express it.
In verses nine to eleven, Having quoted the verses referring to Christ’s humiliation, he now concludes with reference to his exaltation. Paul is always conscious of the “already,” and “not yet.” Already Christians have known the Lord, especially in their own suffering and humiliation. Not yet have they seen all things brought into subjection to him. If Christ was the subject of the first half verses six to eight, of this hymnal insertion, then God is the subject of the second. The first half stresses what Christ gave and why, the second half stresses what he received and why, really for the same reason as the first.