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In the verses immediately preceding our text, Paul exhorted the Philippians to /be like-minded/ and to be /of one mind/.
The phrases used in the original Greek literally mean to “think the same thing” (τὸ αὐτὸ φρονῆτε) and to “think one thing” (τὸ ἓν φρονοῦντες).
His point was that the body of Jesus Christ must be united in its thinking as it engages in his service.
But what is this one thought that should unite us as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ?
Paul answers this question in our text, where he uses the same word for a third time.
Here he says, /Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus/.
The thought that we should all have in common — the mind that should control our thinking — is the same mind that occupied our Lord Jesus Christ during his earthly ministry.
Or to put it another way, our Savior is the best and greatest example of the thoughts and doctrines that should govern all of us.
In fact, the expectation that we find in our text is common in the New Testament.
I Corinthians 1:10 says, Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
A few verses later he identifies that mind again as the mind of Christ: For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him?
But we have the mind of Christ (I Cor.
2:16).
Likewise, Peter wrote, Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin (I Pet.
4:1).
In light of this, let’s now examine what Paul says about this mind that was in Christ and should be in us.
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Humility
The word that best describes the mind of Christ in our text is humility.
/He humbled himself/, the apostle says, /and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross/.
Defining humility is a little bit of a challenge.
One definition of it is to have or show an awareness of one’s defects.
Obviously this does not apply to the Lord Jesus, who had no defects.
Another definition is a low condition or rank.
Certainly Jesus was low in condition as a result of his incarnation.
In fact, theologians often speak of his humiliation as one of his states.
Yet, even this does not exhaust all that Paul meant.
On the other hand, Jesus was not low in rank.
Our text says that he /thought it not robbery to be equal with God/.
Even in his incarnation, the person of the Son was and continued to be true and eternal God.
Well, what then is this humility that characterizes the mind of Christ?
In our text it is Jesus’ willingness to submit himself entirely to the will of his Father, regardless of any personal cost.
In other words, humility, as used in the Bible, has nothing to do with what you think about yourself or with what others think of you.
Its only concern is what God thinks of you, and his concern is whether you submit yourself heart and soul to do his will.
Consider Jesus’ submission to his Father.
Although he held the stars of heaven in place and guided the movements of the solar systems, he voluntarily veiled his eternal glory in the garments of human flesh to accomplish the Father’s will concerning our salvation.
Although he was equal to the Father in everything that constitutes deity, and had the right to be loved and adored by his creatures, he chose instead to make himself /of no reputation/ and in obedience to the Father entered the world as if he were just another little baby.
He had no halo identifying him as someone special; in fact, one passage in the Old Testament seems to indicate that he was not particularly attractive (Isa.
53:2).
Imagine what people must have thought when they heard that he was conceived before his mother’s marriage was finalized.
Throughout his entire life, he was scorned, mocked, mistreated, abused, misunderstood, tempted and ridiculed.
The world treated him as a total outcast.
But all of this, you see, was according to the Father’s will.
Isaiah wrote, /He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not/ (Isa.
53:3).
To put it another way, /He came unto his own, and his own received him not/ (John 1:11).
The most amazing thing about all of this is that he suffered all of these injustices in obedience to the Father for us.
One question church has asked repeatedly over the years is, Why did God become man?
Why did the Lord Jesus Christ take the form of a servant and come in the likeness of men?
One thing that’s clear in our text is that Christ did not become man in order to satisfy some inner need to identify with the sufferings and weaknesses of humanity.
He came to accomplish a purpose, viz., to glorify the Father by saving those whom the Father had set apart for everlasting life.
We call this plan or arrangement the Covenant of Redemption.
The Covenant of Redemption may be defined as the agreement between the Father and the Son to provide salvation for the elect.
The Son agreed to assume a perfect and complete human nature, to live under the law of God without sin, and to offer his life of perfect righteousness in substitutionary, sacrificial death for those whom the Father had chosen unto eternal life.
It was his part to earn everything necessary for our salvation.
To sustain him in his work, the Father in turn promised him all that he would need to achieve his goal, including a virgin birth and the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
And as a reward for fulfilling his mission, the Father further promised him a people of his own — a kingdom of believers.
Psalm 2 refers to the Covenant of Redemption: I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
Here we have the Father’s promise of a reward.
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
These are aspects of the obligation Christ assumed in the covenant (vv.
7–9).
So also with Psalm 40: Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required.
The opening of the ears refers to the Old Testament practice of piercing a person’s ear to make him a perpetual slave.
God would rather than one truly serve him than bring sacrifice.
In the book of Hebrews, this is applied to Christ and is paraphrased as a body hast thou prepared me (Heb.
10:8), thus indicating his full and complete submission to the Father.
Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.
Christ undertook this obligation voluntarily (vv.
6–8).
Jesus himself mentions this covenant in John 6, where he said, All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
Here, again, Jesus refers to his mission.
And what did that mission entail.
Jesus continues, And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day (vv.
37–40).
Our text says that Christ’s humility, i.e., his obedience to the Father in the Covenant of Redemption, required him to robe himself in humanity, so that he could suffer death in our place.
Question 40 of our catechism says, “Satisfaction for our sins could be made in no other way than by the death of the Son of God.”
We cannot atone for our sins because we increase our guilt daily.
Others kinds of creatures (e.g., animals and angels) cannot satisfy the perfect justice of God in our behalf for two reasons: first, God will not punish other creatures for the sins we have committed; and secondly, even if there were a perfect man who was willing to bear our sins, no mere creature has the power to sustain the full weight of God’s wrath without cursing him.
Our Mediator, then, must be man because man sinned, and he must also be God to be able to endure the severe judgment of God to which our sin has exposed us (cf.
HC 12–15).
According to the perfect justice of God, nothing else would do.
Now, if anyone had the right to set his own interests above those of others, it was Jesus Christ.
But he did not do so.
We, on the other hand, are not only creatures, but miserable, rotten, sinful creatures.
Our sin has ruined the righteousness with which mankind was first created and has made us loathsome to the Creator apart from Jesus.
How arrogant, then, must we be to demand our own way, as if our ideas and opinions were equal to or superior to God’s!
Like the Philippians, we must /let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves/.
In submission to our heavenly Father, we must /look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others/ (Phil.
2:3–4).
Christ is our example.
It is only by having his mind (that is, his thoughts) that we can truly be likeminded in the things of God.
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Exalted above Every Name
Here also we find that we really seek our own best interest only when we submit ourselves to the perfect will of God.
For many years, liberal theologians have portrayed Christ as if he were completely devoid of all self-concern.
When the storm nearly upset the boat in which Jesus was sleeping, Peter, worried about dying, woke him from his rest.
Jesus, of course, stilled the wind and waves.
But why did he do so?
These theologians say that he did not do this for himself but for the others whose lives were in danger.
He was not concerned at all about his own safety.
But this is ridiculous.
Yes, Jesus quieted the sea for Peter and the others who were with them, but he also did it for himself.
He knew that he had come into the world to fulfill a specific mission, and to accomplish that mission he had to live long enough to get the job done.
Had he perished in the sea storm, he would have been disobedient to the Father and just as deserving of God’s wrath as we are.
And further, what was good for him was also good for everyone whom he came to save.
The good of the one, when it is based on the revealed will of God, is always the good of the many.
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