Christians believe that Christ is the Son of God, who became incarnate as a baby boy on Earth. However, why did Jesus have to become a man as God? In this message on Philippians 2:8 from David Platt, we learn that Jesus took the place of man’s punishment for sin by becoming a man. By doing so, God reveals his own glorious mercy through his purposes to his people.
- From exaltation to humiliation so that we might be exalted.
- From life to death so that we might live.
- From rich to poor so that we might become rich.
If you have your Bibles, and I hope you do, I want to invite you to open with me to Philippians 2. We are working on memorizing, before Christmas, Philippians 2:5—11 so if you’ve been working on memorizing it I want to give you an opportunity to share some of that. If you haven’t been working on memorizing, I want you to feel really bad. No, I don’t want you to, well if you want to feel bad you can.
Philippians 2:5, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” And then it gives us a picture of who He is. So if you’ve got it, quote it with me. Verse 6, Christ Jesus, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped” (Phil. 2:6). Verse 7: “But made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Phil. 2:7).
Okay we got a little work to do between now and next week. If you know any more you can continue on: “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! 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 confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:8—11).
Okay so we’ll have an intense week this next week. What we’re going to do is we’re going to hone in on verse 8. We’ve been diving into this passage the last two weeks, we’ve dealt with two verses. What I want us to do today is dive into not as much the “who” of the incarnation, who is Jesus, but I want us to look at the “why”. Why is the incarnation important? Why did the incarnation happen?
What belief, if any, separates Christianity apart from other world religions? Is there anything that is completely and totally unique to Christianity? That was the subject of debates and discussion at a British conference years ago on comparative religions, as they were discussing whether there is anything that really makes Christianity unique. And while they were in their heated discussion all these experts and religious scholars, a guy named C.S. Lewis wanders in, and he says “what’s the fuss all about?” And they say well we’re debating, trying to figure out if there’s anything unique about Christianity, and he responded immediately, “Oh that’s an easy one, one word: grace.”
And that’s the word I want us to think about. It’s the why of the incarnation. It is incomprehensible to think about Christ becoming a man because of the purpose for which He came. And so I want us to dive into that and I pray that we’ll be a people today who even as we talk about some things that most of us have heard before and most of us are familiar with, that we would not yawn in the face of grace, that we would not ever cease to be a people who are amazed by grace.
Philippians 2: 8 Exhibits God’s Incomprehensible Grace…
So I want you to see that in this verse, Philippians 2:8, “being found in appearances of man, He humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.” I want you to see three moves, so to speak, that Christ makes to help give us a picture of incomprehensible grace.
From exaltation to humiliation so that we might be exalted.
First of all, He moves, He goes from exaltation to humiliation – here’s the purpose, here’s the why – from exaltation to humiliation so that we might be exalted. That’s the picture we’re seeing here in Philippians 2:8 from exaltation to humiliation so that we might be exalted.
Now it says in this verse that Christ humbled Himself. Notice that this is an action He took; it didn’t happen to Him, He wasn’t humbled. There are a lot of things in our lives that humble us. Marriage is a humbling thing. There are other things that we go through in life that humble us, I want you to see that Christ was not humbled. No one humbled Christ, He humbled Himself.
I want you to see this; we’re going to do some turning. I want you to hold your place here and go back to John 10, this is really important for us to realize. Look at John 10, we’re going to look at a few different passages in John in just a second, but I want you to see John 10:17 and 18 and I want you to see that what happened to Christ when He was on earth, the humiliation that He experienced was not an accident, it was not an unfortunate turn of events, “oh no, looks like they’re going to falsely accuse Him, and they’re going to try Him, oh no they’re going to crucify Him, look what’s happening to Him.” Instead, He was doing these things.
Look at John 10:17, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again.” Listen to verse 18, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father” (John 10:18). Do you hear what Jesus is saying there? No one can take my life from me, I have the authority to lay it down, and I have the authority to take it up again. So He wasn’t humbled, He was humbling Himself.
Now what does it mean for Christ, God in flesh, to humble Himself? Well we’ve seen part of that over the last couple weeks. He took on a human nature, He took on the nature of a servant, of a slave, but I want you to think about it even deeper than that – even deeper than just becoming human. Because even once He was human, He humbled Himself even further. This is a picture going from the highest exaltation to the lowest humiliation. Think about it on two levels.
First of all, He was subject to His creation. He made Himself subject to His creation. Now we know this, we talked about it a little bit last week, but I want you to think of the implications. Not only of Him becoming human, but the relationships He had with the people around Him, and the humility that is seen in that.
Here is the creator of the world who is not even recognized by His creation. Here’s the One whose glory is known throughout all the universe. His glory is displayed throughout the whole world, and yet He’s standing there and He’s found in appearance as a man – they perceived Him as just a man. This guy is not any different than anybody else. Matthew 13, when He goes back to His hometown, they say, “Well why is this guy saying these thing? He’s normal like us.” And they even took offense that He was making some of the claims that He made.
The creator of the world, who’s glory is known throughout the whole earth, now unknown in front of His people. Think about how that affected His relationships with people around Him? He was subject to His creation—He obeyed His parents. Now we all know as children we’re supposed to obey our parents, but isn’t that kind of weird to obey your parents when you’re the One that created your parents?
“Dad, who are you to tell me what to do?” I made you. You can’t use that line. Or even working as He’s growing up and He’s got employers or bosses over Him. Most of us know what it’s like to have an employer, have a boss, maybe even a boss that we don’t particularly enjoy working under. Do you ever get a little frustrated with your boss? It’s a whole different thing to be able to walk into the boss’s office and say, “You don’t understand, I know every single thing about your life, I created you.” That’s a whole different thing.
And not just parents or a boss or an employer, but think about the religious leaders – the people in that culture that were the most devote and seeking after God. The chosen people of Israel. And the ones who were most devote in seeking after God, when they see Jesus, they find Him in His appearance as a man, and they look at Him and say in John 8, “You’re a devil; you’re just like a demon.”
Not only do they not recognize who He is, but they call Him a devil, a demon. They give Him this mock trial; they bring Him before public scorn in front of everyone and make all these accusations against Him. They beat Him, scourge Him, spit upon Him. And in the middle of it all, He doesn’t say a word. At no point does He say, “Stop that’s enough.” Jesus humbled Himself. He became subject to His creation.
On another level though I think we see His humility, not only subject to His creation, but He was submissive to His Father. And here’s what I want you to see. In the person of Christ is His relationship as God the Son with God the Father, and with God the Holy Spirit for that matter. We’ve been talking about the incarnation and how these mammoth truths, just the deeper you dive in, the more complex yet the more beautiful it gets. I want you to think about how God the Son was submissive to God the Father. You’re here in John; let me show you a few different passages. Go to John 3.
I want you to see Jesus as God the Son over and over and over again and how He had been sent by God the Father, how He was submissive to God the Father to do His will. Let me show you some examples. You might underline them in your Bible and just put out the submission of Christ, the submission of God the Son out to the side. Look at John 3:17, the Bible says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
So God sent Him. Look over in the same chapter, look at verse 34. He says, “For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit” (John 3:34). So who sent Jesus to the world? God the Father. Who’s calling the shots here? God the Father is. You see it even clearer, go over to chapter 5. Look at 5:19, just come in right on the heels of one of those passages we studied a couple of weeks ago that show how Jesus is God. I want you to hear what John 5:19 says, “Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do”—what? “…nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees”—who doing? “…his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19). So the Son is showing us that He is completely dependent on the Father. Go to chapter 6, look at 6:38, it says the same thing here. In fact there’s 30 different times in the book of John, we won’t look at them all, where Jesus talks about how He was sent by God the Father. Look at verse 38 in chapter 6, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). He’s come to accomplish His will. Two more, look at John 7:28. He’s teaching in the temple courts and He speaks out and this is what He says, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, but I know him because I am from him and he sent me” (John 7:28—29).
One more, look at chapter 8:28—29. I want you to get a picture of the humility of Christ in His submission to God the Father. 8:28, “So Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him’” (John 8:28—29). Are you getting the picture here? The incarnation, Jesus, God in the flesh was ultimately according to the will of God the Father to please God the Father. What we’re seeing is God the Father in relationship to God the Son.
This is what we see throughout the New Testament, even in the gospel in the picture of our salvation. God the Father did not die on the cross for our sins. God the Spirit did not die on the cross for our sins, that was a role that was reserved for God the Son. But He died on the cross for our sins because He was sent by God the Father to accomplish His ultimate plan of redemption and then when He ascended into heaven, He sent the Spirit who applied that work in all of our lives, and who even as we study God’s Word, He is active in our lives and He’s opening our eyes, and opening our minds and our hearts to understand His Word.
So we see God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit all working together to bring us salvation, to draw us closer to Christ, to make us in the image of Christ. That’s part of the picture we need to see in the incarnation.
Now this doesn’t mean that this is three different Gods: a father over here, a son over here, a spirit over here. It’s one God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. And the Son in His own incarnation is submissive to the Father.
Now you’ve got that whole picture, what’s the point, Dave, what does that mean? He was subject to His creation and He was submissive to His father. Well the implication is basically this: His incarnate position as the Son of Man makes possible our eternal privilege as sons of God. I want you to see how the incarnation is not just a cold doctrinal truth on a page. Because of His position in the incarnation, because He went from exaltation to humiliation, He enabled us to be exalted with the eternal privileges of being sons of God.
We see that some in Philippians 2, when you go back there and you see verse 9—11, we’re going to study next week – “God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name.” So we know that God exalted Jesus, but what we’re saying here is that He moved from exaltation to humiliation so that we might be exalted. Where do you see that? What do you mean we’re going to be exalted? We know Christ is going to be exalted; this baby in the manger is going to be exalted, but what about us? How are we included in that, and that’s the beauty of the gospel.
Because He went from exaltation to humiliation, you and I can sit here and know that because of His incarnation we have the eternal privileges of being called sons and daughters of the Most High God. 2 Timothy 2:11—12 says that, “If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.” Romans 8 says, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:16—18).
I want you to think about the mammoth realities of this verse. Any suffering in this world cannot compare with the future glory that will be revealed in us. We are heirs with God and co-heirs with Christ, sharing in the sufferings, one day we’re going to share in His glory.
Let me tell you who that means a lot to right now. We’ve talked over the last couple of weeks about tragedies that have happened in this faith family. Last week, Josh Kennedy a young man who’s been struggling with cancer was here one Sunday in a wheel chair and we brought him down to the front and prayed over him before we dismissed. It was the last time as far as I know he had been able to come to church. He had just placed his faith in Christ a couple of days before he came. He came to church that one day and then he’s been bed ridden since then, and he passed away this last week. For Josh, the reality of one who shares in the sufferings of Christ and who now shares in the glory of Christ is huge.
Because of the incarnate position of the Son of God, Josh is now sharing in the glory of Christ. His body is no longer decaying, he is no longer wasting away, 2 Corinthians 4 says because he is at home with the Father his sufferings have turned into glory. He has the privilege of being a son of God. Isn’t this good news? Isn’t this good news? When it seems like everywhere you turn you hear news of someone else getting cancer, or someone else struggling with this or that in their life to know that there is nothing in this life that can take away the glory that is reserved for all who have trusted in the incarnate Son of God. Nothing can take that away. From exaltation to humiliation so that we might be exalted.
Philippians 2: 8 Reminds Us that Jesus went from Life to Death so that We Might Live.
Second move He makes in His incarnation, from life to death so that we might live. Now we really get into the heart of the why of the incarnation. Now we remember in John 1, we studied the introduction of Jesus – “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” Okay that’s the picture, verse 4 “In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (John 1:4). The picture of life, this is who Christ is, He is life. Everything about Him is life, He is eternal life.
But then we get to Philippians 2:8, “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to”—what? “to death.” Life was the light of men, but He became obedient to death. From death to life, why? So that we might live.
And this is where we’ve got to take a few steps into the Christmas story to really think about the implications here. When we think about this baby in a manger, when we think about the magnitude of Christmas, we think about how He came to reveal God to us. God with us; that was the picture. But His coming, His birth, that alone is not able to save any one of us.
In fact, the idea that He lived a sinless life His entire life, never once sinned, that alone has absolutely no redemptive force for us. That has no power to save us from our sins, just because He set the example perfectly.
He came to do a lot of things that don’t bring us salvation. Ultimately, He came to teach truth, He came to tell about His Father’s kingdom, He came to heal the sick, He came to cause the blind to see, He came to feed the hungry, He came to care for the outcasts and the people nobody else cared for. He did all these things, but ultimately, none of those get His purpose. Ultimately His purpose is this: Jesus Christ was born in a manger, so that one day He would die on a cross. He was born to die, that is the reality at the heart of the incarnation. This baby was born to die. We’ve got to realize whenever we see these pictures like we do at this time of year and see this manager, when we see this baby in there; I want us to realize the magnitude of the purpose of His birth.
Now for all of us, death is a necessity, that’s the natural thing that happens. But for Him it was the purpose, that is the reason He came, He came to die, and He died because of who He was. These soft hands in a stable in a cradle there would one day have nails pierced through their sides. This precious baby’s body would one day have a spear thrust into it. Those little feet, pink feet, unable to walk, would one day walk the road up a dusty hill to a cross where He would die. The whole focus of the incarnation is not just on the cradle in Bethlehem, but the cross at Calvary, that’s where everything is going toward.
And it’s there from the very beginning of the Christmas story; let me show it to you. Go back to Matthew 2. I want us to look at, an account of the Christmas story that I’m guessing is familiar to most if not all of us, and I want you to see this truth that Jesus was born to die at the core of even the Christmas story. Look at Matthew 2, it’s talking about the wise men here, when they came to visit Jesus, these men, Magi from the East, and they came there, listen to what verse 9 says, we know the story but let’s read it again, let’s see if there’s something here that we can grab a hold onto that can help us understand how He went from life to death so that we might live.
Look at Matthew 2:9,
“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts” (Matt. 2:9—11).
What are the gifts? – “of gold and of incense and of myrrh” (Matt. 2:11).
Now I’m going to do my best to restrain from preaching on Matthew 2 and getting too deep here, but I want us to think about those three gifts. They come, they bring three gifts: gold, incense or frankincense, and myrrh. Gold, a gift that represents nobility, royalty, a gift for a King, what an amazing picture, these guys bringing gold right into the middle of this stable, you’ve got the donkey nearby you’ve got such humble conditions around and you bring gold before Him, gift for a King.
You’ve got frankincense—incense—and you look at the Old Testament imagery there it gives you a picture of how the priest would burn incense before the holy of holies. This is a picture of the One who would intercede between us and God who would make intercession between us and the Father. Incredible pictures, gold, frankincense, what amazing gifts to give.
You can picture them giving the gold, then the incense, and the last guys steps forward and he gives the what? – the myrrh. Now that’s a weird gift for a baby. You may or may not realize what myrrh was used for, but myrrh was an ointment used in funeral preparations. There was an embalming purpose behind myrrh, myrrh was often burned to mask the smell of bodies who had passed away. So you can imagine the look on the faces of the other two wise men, “I gave gold, he gave frankincense, and you gave embalming fluid.” If you could imagine your wife being pregnant and having a baby shower and someone shows up at your door with a gift, you open the door and the gift that they’re holding there is an infant casket, that’s the picture here. He comes and lays it down in front of this baby, what’s that about? This baby was born to die. The very nature of His birth was a picture of His death.
And not just to die, Philippians 2:8, “Obedience to death even death on a” what? – “death on a Cross.” This is the climax, the picture of the humanity of Christ that He would be obedient to the Father, submissive to His Father’s will and obedient to death even showing the shocking nature of this thing, even the death on a cross.
Now imagine with me, we’ve got to come out of our culture and try as best as we can to get into the shoes, the minds, the hearts of the church at Philippi. Because we talk about the cross all the time, this is a source of beauty for us, we wear it around our necks, this is a good thing, this cross.
You have got to realize that when he says “even death on a cross,” there’s a gasping that takes place. It kind of takes your breath away for a second. He became obedient to death, of all deaths, even death on a cross. And the reality of a death on a cross is three things. First, this is a shameful death, the cross is a shameful death. No Roman citizen would be crucified. You and I know that. It was reserved for the most rebellious of slaves, for the traitors, terrorists against the state. For the worst of criminals. This is a way to blot out not only a man, but to blot out his memory. You didn’t even talk about somebody who was crucified, you didn’t even talk about the cross, you didn’t talk about crucifixion, this wasn’t something you mentioned in casual conversation.
Cicero, leader at that time, he said this, he said, “Far be the very name of the cross, not only from the body but even from the thought, the eyes, and the ears of Roman citizens.” In other words, “Don’t even talk about it.” This is the most shameful and ultimate in degradation. It was done in a public way so it would be a deterrent to everybody else. The creator of the universe, hanging in the sky in front of all of these people who were mocking and laughing as they go by. And not just the shame associated with crucifixion but the shame of having your sin, and my sin, and the sin of everyone in the past and everyone in the future piled onto One. This was the ultimate in shame.
I was trying to think of a way where we could envision just how inappropriate it was for Jesus to die on a cross. It was inappropriate for Paul to say “even death on a cross,” it would be like you going to a Christmas party and in casual conversation bring up the electric chair and talking about it. It would be the equivalent of giving someone a gift, a necklace with an electric chair on it. This is the ultimate in shame. Not just a shameful death but a painful death.
We know this. Whether we’ve seen the movie or we just have read enough, we know that this was the ultimate in torture, the ultimate in pain, as Christ is mocked, and beaten, and scourged, and spit upon, and had the beard plucked from His face. How that precious baby’s face that we look at at Christmas was born to have a crown of thorns thrust into it. A shameful death, a painful death, and a cursed death.
And this, now we’ve got to put ourselves in the shoes of the Jewish listeners who are hearing this in Philippians 2. At the point they hear, “even death on a cross”, they immediately think back to Deuteronomy. I want you to turn with me there, Deuteronomy 21, go back to the Old Testament with me. We’ve got to get in a frame of reference and a frame of mind that these original readers would have heard this in. “Even death on a cross,” not just shameful, not just painful, but a cursed death. Look at Deuteronomy 21:22, fifth book in the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, you’ll come to Deuteronomy, look at Deuteronomy 21:22.
I want you to see what the law in the Old Testament said about this kind of death. Look at 21:22, “If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s” (Deut. 21:22—23)—what? – “under God’s curse. You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance” (Deut. 21:23). Get the body out of the camp as soon as possible, because anyone who’s hung on a tree is under God’s curse.
And so, when you get to the New Testament and you’ve got this message, we see later on in the New Testament how it’s a stumbling block to the Jews. Why is that? Because He died on a Cross of all places, this is the curse of God exemplified. He was born to die a shameful death, a painful death, and a cursed death. Why? Why did He do that? Why is that the reality of the incarnation?
Because of the result. He was born to die so that we are born again to live. He was born to die so that you and I 2000 years later could be born again to live. Here’s the beauty of it, crucifixion designed to blot out the memory of somebody, and not only are we 2000 years later singing about His memory, but we are rejoicing in His mastery over death and over the cross, because through it we have life.
Philippians 2: 8 Reveals that we Don’t Walk as Slaves to Sin
You and I don’t walk around captive to our sin, we don’t walk around slaves to our sin. We are freed and we are free to live. We are free to live now and for all of eternity. Don’t miss it. His shame on the cross becomes our honor. All that is shameful about us, our sin, our wickedness, the things we think, the things we do, the things that nobody else in this room not even those who are closest to us, the things they don’t even know about. The things that would be exposed before God when we stand before Him are transferred to Him and is transferred to us His righteousness, and His beauty, and His holiness, and His redemption. His shame becomes our honor.
Not only shame and our honor, but His pain, painful death, His pain becomes our joy. By His stripes we are what? – healed, Isaiah 53. 1 Peter 2:22—25 says the same thing: “by His wounds we are healed.” His pain becomes our joy. We don’t have to, Hebrews 2, fear death anymore. We don’t have to fear the pain of death. Why? Because He in His humanity has taken our pain upon Himself so that we could have joy. His pain becomes our joy, His shame becomes our honor. And ultimately His curse becomes our blessing. His curse becomes our blessing.
Let me show this to you, I want you to go with me to Galatians 3. Galatians is two books before Philippians. Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians. Galatians 3. If you’re trying to memorize the books of the New Testament you can always remember Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians – Goats eat paper cups. Okay maybe I was the only one who did that, but it works.
So, Galatians 3, I want you to look with me at verse 13, look at this. Now we just read Deuteronomy 21:22 and 23 right? We talked about, some of you are still thinking about goats and paper cups, come back with me, okay? Right here. Okay, we’ve got Deuteronomy 21:22 and 23, we’ve got a picture of those who are cursed, those who hang on a tree are cursed, remove them as quick as you can. Just so happens that in Galatians 3, Paul decides he’s going to quote from Deuteronomy 21. Hear what he says in verse 13, “Christ redeemed us”—bought us back—“from the curse of the law by becoming a” (Gal. 3:13)—what for us? – “…becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree’” (Gal. 3:13). Where’s he quoting from there? Little note at the bottom of your Bible—
Deuteronomy 21:23. “‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’ He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Gal. 3:13—14). The blessing is ours because the curse was His.
We don’t stand before God cursed because of our sin when we trust in the One who took our curse upon Himself. His curse becomes our blessing, His shame our honor, His fame our joy, His curse our blessing. He left life to go to death so that you and I might find life. Incomprehensible grace, we are not worthy of this kind of grace. May we never become known, become tired, sleepy, in the face of grace, yawning in the face of grace. This is a mammoth truth that affects our lives for all of eternity.
From exaltation to humiliation so that we might be exalted; from death to life so that we might live.
Now, what we’re trying to do each time we’re studying this month and looking at the incarnation, we are making sure that this doesn’t just stay on the page here. What are the implications for our lives? And what I want to do is I want us to see another picture of this grace, and I want us to go to another part of what Paul has written in 2 Corinthians to see how He helps us understand the incarnation’s implications for our lives.
From rich to poor so that we might become rich.
So go with me to 2 Corinthians 8, if you were looking there in Galatians, it’s just one book back to your left. 2 Corinthians 8, right after 1 Corinthians. 2 Corinthians 8 and I want you to see what he says there.
Now here’s the context of this passage, just kind of give you a little background. Paul is writing this letter to the believers at Corinth, he is about to come to them and he’s on his way to Jerusalem and he’s taken an offering to the saints in Jerusalem. They were in great need, having a real tough time, and he had gone around to other churches, Gentile churches to gather offerings for the church in Jerusalem.
And so what he does is in the first part of chapter 8, he talks about how he had been to the Macedonian churches, and these were churches that were extremely poor, had very little and he had gotten funds from them. They had taken up an offering, even in their poverty had taken up an offering and had given much. And so he’s writing to the church of Corinth, and the church of Corinth was much more affluent than the churches in Macedonia. And so he’s urging them to give.
Now if you’re a pastor or preacher and you’re trying to get your people to give, what do you do? How do you compel them to give? I want you to see how Paul did. I want you to see what he said and how he uses the incarnation to show this.
Look at 2 Corinthians 8:8, “I am not commanding you.” Now did you catch that from the beginning. “Here’s the command, now do it, give or else.” That’s not what Paul says. So, “I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others” (2 Cor. 8:8). Listen to verse 9, here’s the incarnation, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). And here’s how Paul uses the incarnation to compel them to give to the church in Jerusalem when they were in such need.
He says look at Jesus Christ, the third move that we see is that He moved from rich to poor so that we might become rich. That’s the whole picture we’ve been studying in Philippians 2. The richness of all that He is, His divinity, His deity, His greatness, His majesty. And all that He owns, all the resources in the world belong to Him, all the resources in the universe belong to Him, everything is His. For your sake though, He became poor. He was impoverished, how did He do that? He took on human nature. He became like us, He entered into a world of deprivation and humiliation and poverty.
The creator of the world became homeless so that we might become rich. And that’s what Paul tells them, he says you need to see the Lord Jesus Christ, even the title there gives us the picture of everything we’ve been studying in Philippians 2, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord, His deity, He is God, Jesus, He is man, He is the Savior, Christ He is the King, anointed King. God, Savior, and King, look at Him. This is how Paul gets them to give. He says look at the Lord Jesus Christ, and all that He had, and for your sake, He became poor. Why? So that you might become rich.
What was happening was the church at Corinth was hording their resources. They were living in their affluence and their abundance, and they were holding onto them. And Paul comes to them and says open your eyes and see the Savior that you’re worshipping, see who Christ is. He gave up all of His resources so that you might become rich. How can you claim to follow Him and yet horde your abundance? And grab on with a tight fist to all your resources? It doesn’t make sense.
Basically he’s saying, first of all, see His poverty. See His poverty. He gave up His rights; He took on the very nature of a servant, a slave with no rights. He gave up His rights, and second, He gave who His resources? Who did Christ give His resources too? To us. He gave us His resources.
Here’s the beauty of this. Some of you are in here, spiritually bankrupt. If you were honest, you would say I’m coming here and there’s just an emptiness, there’s a void, I’m just not where I need to be, want to be. Christ seems distant from me, and you feel spiritually bankrupt. And if that’s you, if that’s you and you’re in here and you’re just feeling spiritually bankrupt, I want to remind you that all the resources of Christ belong to you. His grace, and His power, and His righteousness and His holiness, and His redemption, all that He is has been given to you.
Philippians 2: 8 Reminds Us that We are Never Empty Apart from Christ
Do not let the adversary convince you that you are nothing or you have nothing, or that you are empty. By the grace of God you are not empty. You have all the resources of Christ and no matter what this world tells you, no matter what people tell you, no matter if students or your mom or dad may tell you before they leave, no matter what happens in this world, we are never empty apart from Christ. Never empty with Him. Everything that is His belongs to us. He gives us His resources.
Now, that’s Christ, see His poverty, He gave up His rights, and He gives us His resources. So what about those of us then who are followers of Christ? What about those of us who have Christ dwelling in our lives because we’ve trusted Him for salvation? How does this affect us?
Think about it. Not only see His poverty, but now we are His people in the world. See His poverty and then be His people in the world. Show His poverty. How do you do that? We give up our rights. We are followers of Jesus Christ who became poor so that others might become rich. We have no rights, that’s the whole context of Philippians 2, it’s the whole context of 2 Corinthians 8.
Philippians 2, Paul had been telling them, start looking out for others interest’s instead of your own. Stop seeking after selfish ambition and then you can see, it’s not about you, it’s about you giving your life for the sake of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.
Paul is saying, it’s time to look at the people around you and start sacrificing your rights for the rights of others around you. He’s telling them, don’t live for Corinthian prosperity anymore, you don’t live for success in Corinth, you don’t live for fame and notoriety in Corinth, you don’t live to make the most money, you don’t live to have the biggest house, you don’t live to have the Corinthian dream played out in your life, that’s not what you live for. You have sacrificed that, you now live to sacrifice your rights for the rights of those around you. And the message is the same for us today.
How can we ever show Christ if we do not give up our rights as He has given up His? And not only do we give up our rights, but we give others our resources. And this is where the incarnation gets extremely practical. Because Paul’s telling them in 2 Corinthians 8, there are needs in Jerusalem and you have resources. It’s time for you to rise up and surrender your resources to make the gospel known in Jerusalem, to strengthen the church there. There are needs there, you have resources, God’s entrusted to you, it’s time for you to become poor so that they might become rich. We give others our resources.
We are much like the church at Corinth. We live in a very affluent culture. All of us, without exception, are incredibly wealthy compared to the rest of the world. What do you mean? I don’t feel very wealthy. Well if you have running water, plumbing, a shelter over your head, then you have just surpassed the majority of people. We are incredibly wealthy, we have much.
The question before us is, are we going to be people who come in even at Christmas and sing and worship Christ and then walk out of here hording the resources that He has given us and the abundance He’s entrusted to us? God help us to see the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who became poor so that we might become rich. Help us to show His character in the world today by becoming poor so that others might become rich.
Exactly seven years ago I was reading an excerpt from a book called Knowing God by J.I. Packer, an incredible book, I would highly recommend it. In the book he was talking about the incarnation and he said some things that gripped my heart seven years ago in a way that still affects me today. And I’d like to say I came up with this or I could say it as good as he did, but I don’t think I can, so I want to share it with you. And I pray that we’ll take his encouragement admission to heart.
He said this:
We talk glibly of the Christmas spirit, rarely meaning more by this than sentimental jollity on a family basis. But it ought to mean the reproducing in human life of the temper of Him who for our sakes became poor at the first Christmas. In the Christmas spirit itself ought to be the mark of every Christian all year round. It is to our shame and disgrace today that so many Christians, the soundest the most orthodox go through this world in the spirit of the priest and the Levites, seeing human needs all around them. But after a pious wish and perhaps a prayer that God might meet those needs, avert their eyes and pass by on the other side. That is not the Christmas spirit. Nor is it the spirit of those Christians, alas they are many, who’s ambition in life seems limited to building a nice middle class Christian home and making nice middle class Christian friends, and brining up their children in a nice middle class Christian ways, and who leave the sub middle class sections of the community Christian and non Christians to get on by themselves. The Christmas spirit does not shine out in the Christian snob. The Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who like their master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor, spending and being spent to enrich their fellow humans. Giving time, trouble, care and concern to do good to others and not just their own friends in whatever way their sins need.
That hits me fresh even as I read it now. Let’s not fool ourselves today by rejoicing in the incarnation, and hording the resources God entrusted to us when there is so much need. That’s why we’re taking up this global assignment, making an offering this month. That’s why we’re saying we’re going to sacrifice. Even that word just, it doesn’t seem right.
We’ve talked about how the challenge before us is to give as much to the global offering as we give to Christmas presents for other people. But even to say that that’s a sacrifice doesn’t seem right. We’ve seen His sacrifice and then to call matching Christmas presents with an offering to make the gospel of Christ known in all nations, to call that a sacrifice when our brothers and sisters in Sudan today have no meal and small hope of one tomorrow. And when we will go on trips this next year and interact with people who live in city dumps, their home is in the middle of the trash. Where there are people right down the street in Birmingham who will give and get absolutely nothing next week. God help us to be a church that considers the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and pours out our resources and abundance to make His glory known in all nations.
The Bottom Line…
He became poor so that we might become rich. The bottom line is this: God has amazed us with His grace, through the humility, the sacrifice and liberality of His Son. He went from exaltation to humiliation so that, praise God, one day we will be exalted. He went from life to death so that praise God we can celebrate we can live. And He went from being rich to being poor so that you and I could be in abundance spiritually, all of His resources given to us.
We see the humility sacrifice and liberality of His Son, but draw the connection here. God is not finished working and His plan has not changed. God desires to amaze the nations, Birmingham and the nations, with His grace through the humility, sacrifice and liberality of who? – His people, His church. He desires to show the same sacrifice, the same humility and the same liberal giving through His people, the church. The incarnation brought into our lives today.
So here’s what we’re going to do in response to God’s Word. We’re going to have time first of all where we feast on the resources of Christ. If you are Christ follower, if you have placed your faith in Christ then I want to invite you during this time to reflect on His exaltation and humiliation, His life and His death, and His richness and His poverty. And if you’re spiritually bankrupt here today, then I pray that He would nurture you with all the resources that are at His disposal. And even for those of you who are here and you’ve never become a Christ follower, you’ve never placed your faith in Him. You have an opportunity today to trust in who He is, and to let these truths that we’ve seen today become a reality in your life for the first time; just to bow and say, “God I trust in you. I trust in Jesus, I trust you’ll forgive me of my sins and I trust Him to take me from death to life and from shame to honor.”
And then after we have feasted on His resources, we’re going to give our resources. We will go into a time where we give to what God is doing around the world, this global disciple making offering.
God we thank you for the magnitude of the incarnation and Lord Jesus we bow before you today and we praise you for your humiliation, for your death, and for your poverty that make us who we are and has given us a reason to sing and celebrate today. All glory be to your name. We pray that you would make us a people in turn who show that kind of glory to the world around us. Make us a people who see your grace and sacrifice just as you have, with all that you’ve entrusted to us, our rights and our resources in Jesus name we pray, Amen.