What Did It Mean for Jesus to Become a Man?
April 24, 2015 Speaker: Pastor Steve Fuller
Scripture: Philippians 2:5–2:7
Let’s turn to Philippians 2. And while you are turning there I want you to think about how, before we were saved, sin had blinded us to the glory of Jesus. Just like cataracts can grow over our eyes and blind us, so sin grew over our hearts and blinded us. Jesus Christ is the most awesome, majestic, beautiful reality in the universe – but sin blinded us so we were more interested in football or money or clothes or cars.
But when God saves us he cuts away the cataracts of sin so we see and feel the glory of Christ. And when that happens, for the first time we experience the only joy can satisfy us – the joy of knowing and beholding and worshiping Jesus Christ.
But even though we have been saved, those cataracts of sin keep trying to grow back and blind us. But if we will take time to pray for the Spirit’s work, and to set our eyes on God’s word, God will keep cutting away the cataracts of sin so we see and feel more and more of the glory of Jesus Christ.
All of us need that this morning. So let’s pray for God to come and do a powerful work by his spirit, through his word, in each of our lives.
Father, I pray that right now you would pour out a fresh work of your Spirit. Cut away whatever sin has grown over our eyes this past week, so that we can once again see and feel the glory of Jesus Christ, and that seeing his glory would fill us so much that we are freed to live lives of radical, risk-taking, sacrificial love for those around us. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Philippians 2:5-11 is one of the most powerful displays of the glory of Jesus Christ found in the Bible. One of Paul’s points is to urge us to be humble and loving as Jesus was. Paul also wants to simply to be captured with the glory of Jesus – and that is what my focus will be. Today we will cover verses 5 through 7, and next weekend verses 8 through 11.
Paul starts by explaining what was true of Jesus before he was born. So what was true of Jesus before he was born? The answer is in verses 5-6. Let’s read those again –
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped …
In verse 6 Paul says that before Jesus was born he “was in the form of God.” So what does that word “form” mean? In the English language the word form has to do with what something looks like. So we would say that a pile of sand at the beach is in the form of a mountain.
But the Greek word “form” does not describe what something looks like. It describes what something actually is. Bruce Ware is a professor of theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. And he says that the Greek word “form” means “the inner substance or very nature of something” (Bruce Ware, The Man Christ Jesus, p. 17).
So when Paul says Jesus was in the form of God, what he means is that Jesus’ very substance and nature was that of God. Which means Paul is saying that Jesus was fully God.
And to see this even more clearly, look at what Paul says in the rest of verse 6 --
6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped…
So Jesus had equality with God. Think about what that means. To say that something is equal to something else means they share the same essential attributes. So the number 36 equals the number 36. The number 1 million equals the number 1 million. So for Jesus to have equality with God means that Jesus has the same essential attributes as God.
So it’s clear that in verse six Paul wants to make sure we understand that Jesus was fully God. And so Paul says that Jesus was “in the form of God,” which means he has the exact nature as God, and that Jesus had “equality with God,” which means that Jesus as the same essential attributes as God. So before Jesus was born he was fully God.
Let me show you two other Scriptures to confirm this. Turn to Romans 9:5. In this passage Paul describes the Jewish people. And look at what he says about them in verse 5 –
To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
So Paul uses the word “God” to describe Jesus Christ.
Turn also to 2 Peter 1:1 -- and look at how Peter describes Jesus Christ –
Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.
Here Peter describes Jesus Christ not just as Savior, but also as God.
So before Jesus was born he was fully God, equal with God the Father in every way. That’s why we say that he is GOD the Son. So everything that is true of God the Father is also true of Jesus the Son. Let’s get specific --
God the Father has always been from eternity past. God has no beginning. No one made God. God has always been. And because Jesus is God, that means Jesus has always been from eternity past. Jesus has no beginning. God the Father didn’t make Jesus. Because just like God the Father, Jesus, God the Son, has always been. So let that sink in – Jesus has always been from eternity past with no beginning.
And, God the Father is sovereign over everything. His authority rules everything, from the orbits of planets to the affairs of nations. Nothing happens outside his control. And so, because Jesus is equal with God, that means that he also is sovereign over everything. So before Jesus was born he was sovereign over everything.
And, God the Father has perfect knowledge. God knows everything past, present, and future consciously all the time. And because Jesus is equal with God, that means Jesus also has perfect knowledge. Before Jesus was born he knew everything past, present, and future consciously all the time.
And God the Father has infinite power. From eternity past all there was, was God. But then God spoke a word and out of nothing the universe was created – a universe with over 50 million 100,000 light-years-wide galaxies. That’s infinite power. And because Jesus is equal with God, that means Jesus also has infinite power. So before Jesus was born he had infinite power.
And God the Father experienced perfect joy in the fellowship of the Trinity. Which means that Jesus the experienced perfect joy in the fellowship of the Trinity. All Jesus had ever known was perfect joy and delight and love in fellowship with the Father, and the Spirit.
So in Philippians 2, Paul wants us to understand who Jesus was before he was born. Before Jesus was born --
• he had always been with no beginning,
• he was sovereign over everything,
• he had perfect knowledge,
• he had infinite power,
• he had perfect joy in the fellowship of the Trinity.
That’s verses 5-6. So what did Jesus do? He did something shocking. He became a man. As we will see next week, the only way our sins could be paid for was if God became a man and suffered for our sins. And Jesus loved us so much that he was willing to become a man so he could save us.
So what did it mean for Jesus to become a man? Paul tells us in verses 6-7. Let’s read those verses –
6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
So Jesus did not count his equality with God as a thing to be grasped. That means he did not let the powers and privileges he had as God keep him from becoming a man.
And so, as we read in verse 7, he “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” This means he took on human flesh and a sinless human nature. And human nature and human flesh is so far below God that it meant making himself nothing.
That does not mean he stopped being God. He never stopped being God. But to become a man he had to lay aside the powers and privileges he had as God.
Here’s an illustration I heard from Bruce Ware, who teaches at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Imagine a king who rules over a great kingdom. He has infinite wealth and vast authority. He lives in a palace which gives him every comfort and entertainment imaginable. He eats incredible meals prepared by the best chefs. He wears the most warm and comfortable and kingly clothes. He’s kept healthy by the best doctors. He can buy whatever he wants, go wherever he wants, and do whatever he wants.
But he knows there are homeless beggars in his kingdom. And he cares about them. So he decides to learn what their lives are like by living like they do.
So he puts off his kingly clothes, and puts on the tattered, dirty clothes of a beggar. He moves out of his palace, and goes to live on the streets.
Pretty soon he becomes hungry. He was still king, and could order his chefs to bring food, or buy food with his money. But he had laid aside those privileges. So he picked through the trash behind restaurants to find thrown-out food.
And when he was mistreated by people around him, he could have called for his soldiers. But he had laid aside that privilege, and allowed himself to get beaten up.
And when he got tired and wanted to sleep, he could have gone back to his palace, or paid for any hotel in the city. But he had laid aside that privilege, and so laid down in an alley to sleep.
He never stopped being King. But he laid aside his kingly privileges to become a homeless beggar. And Jesus loved us so much, that’s like what he did to save us.
And so, as the gospel writers tell us, Jesus was born as a baby. Think of it. The eternal, all-powerful, sovereign God being born as a baby!
Then Luke tells us that as a young boy Jesus increased in wisdom (Luke 2:40, 52). Why did he need to increase in wisdom? It is because he had laid aside the use of his perfect wisdom.
And John tells us that after walking all morning Jesus got tired (John 4:6). How could he get tired? It’s because he had laid aside his infinite power.
Matthew tells us he became hungry (Matthew 21:18). How could he become hungry? It’s because he had taken on human flesh with all its frailties.
And as we will look at in more detail next week, the gospel writers tell us that Jesus suffered terrible physical pain, and died (John 19:30). And the reason he could do that, was because he had taken on a human body which could feel physical pain, and which could die.
So that’s what Paul means in verse 7 when he says Jesus “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”
Think of it. The God of the universe loves us so much that to save us he became a man.
Picture Jesus on top of a ladder as fully God. To save us from our sins he needs to become fully man, which is way down at the bottom of the ladder. And so, because he loves us, he takes a step down the ladder, putting on human flesh. He takes another step down, laying aside infinite power. And another, laying aside perfect wisdom. And another, laying aside his sovereignty. And another, laying aside his authority. And another, and another, and another, step by step by step, lower and lower and lower -- until he had made himself nothing and was fully man.
Because he loved us so much, he who was fully God made himself nothing so he could save us.
Imagine deciding to lay aside all the powers and privileges you have as a human being, and living 3 1/2 years as an ant – with ant power, an ant brain, and ant abilities. To us humans, that would feel like making yourself nothing. But for us to lower ourselves to become an ant is nothing compared to what it meant for God to lower himself to become a man.
And Jesus loved you so much that he was willing to do that to save you.
Do you see the glory of this love? The majesty of this love? The beauty of this love?
So what does this mean for us? It means there is nothing more spectacular than Christ’s glory, more beautiful than Christ’s glory, more amazing than Christ’s glory.
Jesus Christ is the infinitely most glorious reality in the universe. So turn from whatever else you have been trusting to satisfy you – clothes or cars or money or entertainment – turn from whatever else you have been trusting to satisfy you and trust Christ, love Christ, live for Christ.
And one concrete way you can do this is by taking time every day to set everything else aside and open up God’s word and pray over his word so the cataracts of sin are cut away, and you once again see and feel and love Jesus Christ, your Savior – and are so filled with him that you head into your day ready to live for his glory.
See the glory of Christ.
Love the glory of Christ.
Live for the glory of Christ.