The Attitude of Christ
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The Attitude of Christ

Philippians 2:5  (ID: 2046)

Confronting self-centered and argumentative behavior, Paul challenged believers to present the Gospel from a united front by aligning their attitudes with Christ’s. In this study of the person and work of Jesus, Alistair Begg points to the Son of God as the supreme example of self-sacrificing love. Rather than cling to His sovereign rights as God, He humbled Himself to seek, serve, and redeem sinners. To conform to His likeness, we must bow beneath the Bible’s perfect instruction.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Philippians, Volume 1

Shining Lights in a Darkened World Philippians 1:1–2:30 Series ID: 15001

Sermon Transcript: Print

O God our Father, we pray that—with our Bibles open before us—you will be our teacher. We are unable to understand the Bible unless you come to illumine the printed page. We’re certainly unable to take it to heart, because we are by nature disobedient, rebellious, self-focused. And so, the whole event is one in which we are in desperate need of your enabling. And we anticipate that you will come to honor your Word, and in this spirit of expectation, we now seek you, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Philippians 2:5–11, which will be the focus of our study both this morning and this evening, is one of the great passages in the Bible on the person and work of Jesus Christ. The amount of theological consideration that has been given to this passage is extensive, and a number of people have—and continue to get—PhDs on the strength of their consideration of the depth of this information. And when you look at its richness, you realize that these verses that are before us now could easily be a series in and of themselves. But we’re going to resist that temptation; there may be a day when we will come back and study this in greater detail than we do this morning and this evening, but for now we will look at it more telescopically than microscopically.

The context of these verses is, as always, very, very important. Paul’s concern here is not to write a theological treatise, although he provides us with a deep mine of theological truth. His concern is to urge these Philippian believers to the spirit of unity that is so vital for them to convey the good news of Jesus Christ in their community and surrounding environment. Having urged them in the opening verses to a spirit of unity, he has also commended them to the fact that without a humble heart, a united spirit is not possible.

And so, on account of the call to humility, he then goes on to provide for them the great, wonderful illustration of humility that can be found anywhere in the whole world. “Come on,” he says to the Philippian believers, “I want you to be humble, to be unselfish, to be concerned for the well-being of others, and on account of that let me tell you”—verse 5—“your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”

Now, which part of that is difficult to understand? None. We may balk at it, we may seek to resist it, we may try and avoid it, but understand it—it is impossible for us not to. “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” What was it? Well you can find it in three words in the middle of verse 8: “he humbled himself.”

God brings the Word of God, by the Spirit of God, to bear upon the minds of the people of God. And as we submit our minds to the truth of God and rely upon the power of God, so we then engage in doing what we are called to do.

Now, the call here is not a call to muster up by self-effort the attitude of the Lord Jesus Christ, as if by our own resources we could become like Jesus. No, he’s going to go on in verses 12 and 13 to deal with the juxtaposition between divine enabling and human responsibility. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” he is about to say, “for it is God [who is at work within] you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”[1] How does this happen? God brings the Word of God, by the Spirit of God, to bear upon the minds of the people of God. And as we submit our minds to the truth of God and as we rely upon the power of God, so we then engage in doing what we are called to do. 

Humility in the Bible is always in verbal form. 1 Peter 5: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand.”[2] In other words, it’s not something that we try and feel our way into, but, rather, it is something that we do on account of the fact of the “oughtness” of it. And nowhere is the oughtness of it made more clear than in these verses here in Philippians chapter 2. Here we have the supreme example of self-sacrificing love.

Now, for those of you who went to bed too late last night, I want you to know you’re in for a bit of a problem. Because the next ten or twelve or fourteen minutes are not going to be the easiest to grapple with. For those of you who came expecting a blessed little thought that would just sort of stir you up and make you feel good, the next fourteen minutes are gonna totally bamboozle you. For those of you who have decided that thinking is actually—against the run of play—an important part of Christian living, then you will be okay. But I fear that that might be the minority to whom I’m speaking. Nevertheless, I must forge ahead; this is important material.

I want to gather our studies in the morning and the evening under two words: now under the notion of the humiliation of Christ—humiliation is the word—and then when we return this evening the exaltation of Christ—exaltation being the word.

Christ Was and Is Divine

The extent of Christ’s humility is made most apparent when we recognize who it is that is doing the humbling of himself.

Now, let us then notice that this opening phrase in verse 6—“being in very nature God”—is a point at which we’re going to pause for a wee while. Once we get through this, then we will be on the slope which leads down to the conclusion—and I say that for your encouragement, so that you know when we get there we’ll be moving on—and that’s fine. So, “being in very nature God.” Why does he start here? Well, because the extent of the humility of Christ—the extent of the humility of Christ—is made most apparent when we recognize who it is that is doing the humbling of himself . The present participle here, “being,” is very important. Because there are those who teach that Jesus became God; he wasn’t God in his eternal state. No, says the Bible, he was “being in the very nature of God.” He was already God before he came into the world. He always was God; there was never a time when he was not God. You get that in John’s prologue to his gospel: “In the beginning was the Word”— that is a Greek word, logos, which was a word expressive of God—“in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word [itself] was God.”[3] Now, we’re gonna come back to this, but it is of vital importance.

Indeed, what I want to do is to give you just a brief history lesson. When the New Testament Scriptures were penned, and the church began to respond to the information that had been given to it by divine authorship through human instrumentality, all kinds of notions and questions and ideas inevitably began to emerge, not least of all concerning the identity of Jesus of Nazareth. And every time one of these questions grew to epidemic proportions, the fathers of the church would call together a council, and in council they would take the ideas which were being circulated, and they would bring them before the Word of God, as it had now been given to them, and they would test the notions against the unfolding truth of the Bible. And the councils were meeting, essentially, to correct error and to establish truth.

Now, what were they engaged in? Well, a tremendous amount of it had to do with the

material that is covered here in these verses. For example, there were those who denied the reality of the divine nature of the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, they vetoed this phrase, “being in very nature God,” and what they taught was that Jesus was only a man.

Now, clearly, that has run all the way through the centuries. Here we are in the twentieth century, and this is what you will find taught by the Unitarian church. Unitarians believe that Jesus was not God—never God—but that he is only a man.

And people sometimes come, and they’ll say, “Well, what kind of church are you?”

“A nondenominational church.”

And then they’ll say, “Well, is that a Unitarian church?”

And the answer is, “Absolutely not. It is a Trinitarian church.” For the Unitarian perspective, which was being wrestled with in these early centuries, taught that Jesus was a mere man.

Now, in fairness to some who were exercised about this in the early centuries, they were trying to safeguard a doctrine which had been precious to them from the beginning—namely, monotheism—and Jews were and are monotheists, believing that there is only one God. So, these people were coming to the council, saying, “Since there is only one God, it is not possible to say that Jesus is God; because if Jesus is God, then that would be a second God, and there can’t be two Gods. And if, as you say, the Holy Spirit is also God, then we’ll be up to three Gods, and we can’t have three Gods, since, of course, we are monotheists.” So, in attempting to avoid that notion, they went to the extreme of denying the deity of the Lord Jesus altogether—and that is heresy. They couldn’t wrestle their minds to the notion of one God in three persons—coequal and coeternal, copowerful, indissoluble, and yet distinct. And it was with this great mind-stretching issue that these early believers were wrestling.

On the other end of the perspective, there were the group of individuals who denied not the divinity of Christ, but they denied the humanity of Christ. Group Number One came to the council saying, “Jesus wasn’t really divine.” The second group showed up saying, “Jesus wasn’t really human.” This is what they taught: that he was a phantom body. And that the eternal Christ came upon him in his baptism, lived with him through the years of his earthly pilgrimage—between thirty and his death—left him somewhere in the garden of Gethsemane, so that the man who died was simply a mere man. And they denied the actual humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

A third group came to the table—and I’m using this as if they were all coming to one table, but over a period of time they came to the table—denying the integration of the two natures in Christ. What does that mean? Well, the Bible teaches us that he was God and man—meekness and majesty. Right? And these people came and said, “That cannot possibly be.” Their great leader was a man by the name of Arius. Those who followed him were Arians—and Arianism is alive and well today on the high streets and in our neighborhoods with every person who walks up to your door and tells you that they are a Jehovah’s Witness. Everyone who introduces you to the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints is Arian and heretical in their view of the person of Jesus Christ, because what they’re actually doing is they are denying the fact that Christ is both God and man. And what they say is that he is neither God nor man.

So, Group Number One shows up and says he’s not God. Group Number Two shows up and says he’s not man. Group Number Three shows up and says he’s neither God or man: what he is is simply the first created being, the highest of all beings that God ever created—that there was a time when Jesus did not exist and that God the Father determined that he would create a son. “And so, he did,” these people said, “and yet this son that he created was neither truly God nor truly man, but he was just the highest of all created beings.”

“So,” the people said, “well, let’s look at the Bible and see what it says. Let’s see what John says in his gospel.” They go to John chapter 1, and they read this phrase: “without him”—that is, Jesus—“nothing was made that has been made.”[4] “Without him nothing was made that has been made.” Therefore they said, “It is, then, impossible that this Christ is himself a created being since he was the creator of all things.” Phillips paraphrases it very helpfully: “All creation took place through him, and none took place without him.”

Fourth group were the Nestorians, who said that Jesus was not one person with two natures but that he was actually two persons. They couldn’t understand how the divine and the human could coalesce—could be intermingled and yet be distinct—and so they said, “Forget that; we won’t declare that. He’s not one person, with a divine and human nature; he’s actually two people.” And it really was a pretty silly idea, and yet it has been sustained all through the years.

In a coming generation, it is imperative that our young people—our students, and our children—can articulate basic Christian doctrine in relationship to the person of Jesus Christ.

Now, you’re saying to me … And some of you are looking at me like donkeys looking over a fence at this point—and that’s the brightest of you I’m referring to there. Some of you are sitting out there, saying, “Is this really important? I mean, where did you start off on this, Al?” I’m going to tell you something: this is so crucially important. I could dissolve into a ball thinking about how crucially important it is. This is the very apex of the New Age nonsense. Our friends and our neighbors are happy with a phantom Christ. Our friends and our neighbors are happy with a mere man. Our friends and neighbors are happy to be out on a limb whereby they themselves, as with pantheism, are part of the creative order: “God is the creation, we are the creation, we are God,” and so on. And it is a tremendous naïveté on the part of people to suggest for a moment that these issues are of marginal importance. These are central, and these are crucial. In a coming generation, it is imperative that our young people—our students, and our children—can articulate basic Christian doctrine in relationship to the person of Jesus Christ.  “And you must teach it to your children when you walk along the road, and when you lie down and when you get up.”[5]

“Who made Jesus, Daddy?”

“No one made Jesus; Jesus always existed.”

“Who made God?”

 “No one made God; God has always been.”

“Who is the Holy Spirit?”

“He is the third person of the Trinity.”

“What is the Trinity?”

“It is God—one being expressed in three persons, equally copowerful,” and so on.

You say, “Well, that’s an awful lot to deal with when you’re lying on the bed at night with your child before they go to sleep.” Yes, I understand that. They will take from it what they can. They will learn more than you know, and it will help them to flush and irrigate their system from the godless nonsense that is pervasive on so many fronts, that filters into their young minds. And I’m not talking about paganism; I’m talking about the naïveté of evangelicalism, that for the sake of another issue is prepared to unite hands with those who are monotheists and deny the deity of Jesus Christ—or are prepared to unite with those who are confused on the issues of the divinity and humanity of Christ—because we have a great social concern over here—as if this social concern was what Jesus Christ came to deal with.

Now, the Council of Chalcedon, in the fifth century—451—got together and said, “We better make a statement concerning this, because we’re not sure that anybody is going to be able to grapple with this.” And I want to read you this statement—at least part of the statement. I know you’re going to love this, and so you should just sit back and see if you can understand even a sentence of it. All right? You think you’re so smart because you live in the twentieth century. Listen to fifth-century man on the person and nature of Christ: “Our Lord,” says the Council of Chalcedon, is

truly God and truly man, of a reasonable soul and body; consubstantial with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably…

You think they wanted to make that point? I think they did!

…the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature [divine and human] being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ.[6]

Now, again, you see, you say, “You know, you shouldn’t be doing this stuff on Sunday mornings, Al. People come in, and you know, they don’t want this stuff!” I don’t care whether you want it or not. You need it! I don’t even care if you understand it right now or not. You go get this tape, you can play it till your hair turns blue and ask God, say, “Teach me. Apparently, this is important.” You’re right it is. You take those children’s books, and you put them on your knee, and you read them with your grandchildren, you better know about this. ’Cause all the New Age christs are alive and well, and they’re in some of the strangest places. And I hear people in the strangest environments, declaring what is actually unbiblical nonsense.

See, it’s unlikely that there could be a great concern for the Reformation at this point in the twentieth century, isn’t it? Because nobody cares enough about this stuff. People say, “Well, it doesn’t really matter; don’t make a big fuss about this. All you need is love.” What is this—the gospel according to the Beatles?

Interestingly enough, at the Episcopal church yesterday, that was exactly it, that’s what I went to: “All you need is love”—and, underneath, it says, “the Beatles.” Well, we know how much they knew about love, right? And the interim rector, an English lady, stood up and announced, “We will not be opening the Bible.”—I said, “Hey, there’s a surprise!”—“We will not be opening the Bible. Because,” she says, “we need not turn to those same passages that the bigoted use to condemn X, Y, and Z. And secondly, we will not turn to the traditions of the church, because those people, the church fathers, only talked, and we only know what the church fathers said because the church mothers didn’t get a chance to talk!” And everyone was like, “Heh, heh, heh, heh, heh, very funny.” All you need is love? No. You gotta know this Book. This is what people bled and died for—the truth that’s in this Book.

Christ Prioritized Redemption

Now we’re on the slope, okay? We got over that—now it’s the slope. Second phrase: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.” As Phillips paraphrases it: “He … did not cling to his prerogatives as God’s equal.” In other words, “The highest place that heaven affords [was] His by sovereign right.”[7] But Jesus had a greater priority than his own uninterrupted glory. Think about that for a little minute. Jesus had a greater priority than his own uninterrupted glory.

When individuals have no greater priority than their own uninterrupted glory, they exist simply to extol their virtues and to let everybody know how wonderful they are.

What is it that makes me so obnoxious to people? What is it that makes you a downright nuisance in your house? What is it that causes confusion and division amongst the people of God? It is when you have individuals who have no greater priority than their own uninterrupted glory, that they exist simply to extol their virtues and to let everybody know how wonderful they are.  

And Paul is saying to the Philippians, “If you live like that, you’ll never enjoy the relationships with one another. You’ll never know the nature of unity. You will never be a blessing to the unchurched world.” So, he says, “Let me bring before you the greatest example of selflessness. Here is one who by very nature is God; there was never a time when he was not God; he is eternally, truly, totally God, and yet he didn’t cling to his prerogatives as God, because he had a higher priority than his own uninterrupted glory. And in fulfillment of that priority, planned from all of eternity, he deliberately and voluntarily set it aside.”

What was the priority? Redemption! That men and women in suburban Cleveland would be born again of the Spirit of God and would live for all eternity in the presence of the Lord Jesus. That’s the truth! That in the eternal councils of God—if we may reduce it to an understandable level—the Father, the Son, and the Spirit communed with one another and said, “Now, here is the plan of redemption.”

The Father says, “I will purpose their redemption.”

And the Son says, “I, by my death, will procure their redemption.”

And the Spirit says, “And I will come and apply their redemption.”

Now, what’s it going to involve?

“Well,” says the Father to the Son, “you’re going to have to leave.”

“Father, you mean leave all this uninterrupted glory? You mean leave all the blessings and benefits of our communion, where, in Trinity, we have no need of another person; we are completely self-subsistent, self-existent?”

“Yes,” says the Father, “you must leave.”

“And what will I do?”

“You will go to time-space planet; you will go down there, and you will become a human fetus.”

“A fetus? Go through a birth canal?”

“That’s what you will do.”

“And then what?”

“Then you will live, and then you will die.”

Christ Set Aside Privilege

He did not consider equality with God something to be held on to, because he had a greater priority than his own uninterrupted glory: he was seeking sinners. That’s why the next phrase says, “[He] made himself nothing.” Or in Phillips’s paraphrase, “[He] stripped himself of all privilege.”

Jesus made himself nothing not by subtraction but by addition.

Now, you can always understand a phrase if you read the phrase behind it and the phrase in front of it. What does it mean, “[he] made himself nothing”? Well, the rest of the seventh and the eighth verse is really an explication of the phrase. But notice this: he did not give up the qualities and attributes of deity: Jesus made himself nothing not by subtraction but by addition.  Isn’t that what it says? He made himself nothing—not by the subtraction of his divinity but by the addition of his humanity. You see, for the eternal God to come and walk the streets of Judea, to be spat upon by humanity, in the making of himself nothing, it was not that he was giving up divinity, but it was that he was taking to himself humanity. B. B. Warfield, the great theologian, says, “The Lord of the world became a servant in the world; He whose right it was to rule took obedience as His life-characteristic.”[8]

Now, listen, for those of you who are thinking of divorcing your wife or divorcing your husband: On what basis, may I ask you? And why wouldn’t you take them back?

“Well, I’m not taking them back. They’re supposed to have done this and they’re supposed to have done that and they’re supposed to have done the next thing.”

I understand. And what is the standard by which you are assessing your ability to disrupt the totality of your family?

“Myself and my plans and my pleasure and the fact that it’s time for me to have my own opportunities and do my own thing, and live my own life …”

Do you hear yourself talk? He who was “[by] very nature God … made himself nothing”—and taking the form of a servant, he who had every right to rule, said, “I’ll serve you.” That’s the answer in the home. That’s the answer in the class. That’s the answer in the church. That’s the answer!

You say, “Well that’s very simplistic.” I don’t mean it to be remotely simplistic. It is a dreadful prospect to try and work it out, but by God’s enabling, it may. And to the extent that we were prepared to take seriously Philippians 2:5–11, we would see dramatically reduced the number of divorces in the evangelical community, but it is because we are like the world, and we do what the world does, and we refuse to bow beneath the instruction of the Bible.

He became as much an earthly servant—“taking the very nature of … a servant,” look—as much an earthly servant as he had been a heavenly sovereign. Tonight we’ll look at John chapter 13, and we’ll see him washing the disciples’ feet.

Those of us who don’t know our Bibles will be excited to go and find it. It’s a wonderful story. Common custom says when you go to a house, you get your feet washed. They go to the house; no one’s washing the feet. There’s nobody there, essentially and in our terms, to take the coats and hang them up. And so, they are all sitting and looking at one another and presumably sort of waiting for the first one to step up.

Say, “I’m not washing Peter’s feet. Look at the state of them! I’m not going down there. I’m not doing that for him. After all, he never did that for me. When we got the sandwiches down by the Sea of Galilee, he stinkin’ wouldn’t go for them, and if he thinks that I am washing his feet right now, he’s got another thing coming! And as for Philip and his dumb questions, I’m sick of Philip’s questions! If he asks me one more dumb, stupid question, I’m going to tell him where he ought to go, frankly. And I am not washing feet!”

Jesus stands up, he takes a towel, he wraps it ’round his waist, he gets a basin, and he starts on the first guy.

Now, that’s pretty spectacular, when you think about it just in terms of humanity, isn’t it? You know, if you imagine your football team. And you’re all coequal, and somebody is a big enough guy to stoop low enough to do that. You say, “Hey, that’s fantastic.” But when you go back to the first phrase—“being in very nature God”—look at what you have in that picture. You have God washing feet! The creator of H2O takes the H2O and uses it.

Doesn’t tap water fascinate you? It should, you know. The little I know about chemistry—or the little I remember, apart from the periodic table of the elements, that gave me a total pain in the neck—I remember a couple of things: one, the double-circulatory system, and two, that the solid state of most substances is more dense than their liquid state. I remember that. That the solid state of most substances is more dense than their liquid state—but not in water, and that’s why ice cubes float. And that’s why the fish in Lake Erie are still around in the spring. Because if the solid state of water was the same as the solid state of other substances, the freezing would take place from the bottom up rather than from the top down. And the oxygen supply would be impoverished, and life on the planet would eventually be eroded—but it isn’t. Why? “By chance.” Get a life!

And God Almighty says, “Give me a bucket of that water, and I’ll show you what needs to be done here.” It’s same thing you feel—to a much smaller degree—when, as siblings, you’re arguing with one another about who’s going to empty the dishwasher, and eventually your father steps up and just says, “Here, get out of my sight,” and does it himself. Jesus doesn’t say, “Get out of my sight”; he just does it.

Now, let me remind you again—what is Paul doing here? Writing a theological treatise? No. He is correcting an incipient problem in the Philippian church—and that is that they think too much of themselves, they’re arguing with one another, and they need to be presenting the gospel on a united front, because if they don’t, then unbelieving people will not become committed followers of Jesus Christ, because Jesus has said, “By this [will all men] know that you are my disciples, [that] you love one another”[9]—and the way in which we love one another is the way in which we serve one another.

So, he was “made in human likeness.” We’re further down the slope now. “Made in human likeness.” In other words, he became what he had never been before without ceasing to be what he had always been. He chose to be born as a baby, to live as a man, to suffer as an outcast, to die as a criminal; he exchanged the homage of angels for the hatred of men. He remained everything involved in being God and at the same time became everything involved in being man.

Sixthly, he was “found in appearance as a man,” verse 8. I had some people say to me, “Well, there you go. I see it says he was “found in appearance as a man”; he wasn’t really a man. Those folks were right—the group that you mentioned earlier on.”

No, it’s saying the reverse of that, if you think about it—namely, that at first glance Jesus appeared to be a man and nothing more. If you’d seen Jesus in the streets, you would have just said, “There’s a man.” You wouldn’t have said, “There’s more than a man.” First glance, you would have said, “There’s a man.” Because he was a man. You saw him eat his lunch. You saw him wake from his nighttime sleep. You saw him rub the sleep out of his eyes. You see him walking around the road. You say, “There’s a man.” He didn’t have a special glow about him. He didn’t have a sign above his head, you know. He didn’t have some flashing neon sign. He didn’t have a beatific glow that was different from everybody else—you know, he was a kind of neon haze or something, and the disciples were coming around and then he was like, “Whooooaaa,” like this. No. The people would be going, say, “Hey, which one of that group’s Jesus? Which one’s Jesus?”

See, he was found in appearance as a man. But if you’d seen from the lakeside the storm break up—and if we could’ve caught the sound of his voice above the cries of the disciples, when they said, “Lord, sorry to wake you, but I think we’re going down. Don’t you care that we perish?”[10] And he who was found in appearance as a man stood up and said, “Okay, just cut it out, would you?” And the wind died down and they were completely amazed, and they said to one another, “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the waves obey him?”—you see.[11] That’s what Paul is saying. He was found in appearance as a man. When you looked at him you would have said, “He’s just a man.” But if you looked a little closer, you would have realized this is more than a man; there’s more to this Jesus than meets the eye.

Christ Obeyed unto Death

But having gone to that extent, his humiliation was not yet complete, because “he humbled himself and became obedient [unto] death—even death on a cross!” You’ll notice that I’ve changed the preposition in saying it, and purposefully so. If you have an NIV, it says, “He … became obedient to death.” In strictest terms, he did not. Because he was never obedient to death. Death had no mastery over Christ. He said, “I’ve got the power to lay my life down, and I’ve got the power to take my life up again.”[12] So, at best we are to have “unto death,” because his obedience was to the Father, and the Father’s plan for him was that by his death he should bear the punishment that is due us, as the sins of Adam. Because when Adam sinned, in his disobedience he brought the judgment of God crashing down on the human race. And so, in order to rectify that, God sent a second Adam to the fight, and in that wonderful hymn “Praise to the Holiest in the Height,” you have that great verse:

O loving wisdom of our God!
When all was sin and shame,
A second Adam to the fight
And to the rescue came.[13]

Go home and read Romans 5:12–21, and you’ll have it there. Keep you up all night thinking about it, but it is an amazing truth. “As in Adam all die,” says Paul in 1 Corinthians, “so in Christ [shall all] be made alive.”[14] Adam sins, he disobeys, brings the judgment of God down upon humanity—that is why we are alienated, that is why we are lost, that is why we are empty, that is why we are rebellious, that’s why we’re messed up. Now, how are we going to get ourselves back in a rectified position? The answer is, God sent a second Adam in Christ, and “he humbled himself, and became obedient [unto] death.”

Now, let me conclude: is this not an amazing privilege, just to be able to think about these things? Some of you are saying, “Well, quite frankly, no, it is not, and I’m glad you are finishing.” Well, that’s all right. I understand that. I’ve been there as well. But to those of you who have ears to hear, is it not an amazing privilege—an immense thing? Of all the things we could think about, all the journals we could read, of all the National Geographics—and pile them all up—or all the scientific magazines—and get them all and sit there with gallons of coffee and probe them … of all your camera magazines, all your interior design magazines, all the things you love to think about, all of them—think about this: When I was studying this, I said to myself, “I think I’ll do a little dance right now.” Now, I was down in 204; nobody could see me, as far as I know. And so, I went around my desk, and I said, “What an amazing thing”—I said to myself out loud—“that God has given me the privilege of spending my life to study and teach the Bible. What an amazing thing!”

And so, for you, I invite you to go out and do a little dance and say, “Of all the places that I might be and of all the instruction I might be under, God in his amazing providence has given me the privilege of being in this context, which is mind stretching and soul stirring and heart renewing.” Why? Because of who God is and because of how wonderful his Word is.

And lastly, is it not amazing that the eternal God, by whom all things were made, should have come to this time-space capsule at all? And why? Let me tell you why: Because it was the only way whereby you and I could be saved. It was the only way whereby our sins could be forgiven. For he who would die in the place of sinners needed himself to be sinless; otherwise another would have needed to offer up a sacrifice for him. Therefore he needed to be sinless; therefore he needed to be God, but he needed to be man, because only a man could die on behalf of man. Therefore, there was no other who could possibly make a way back to God. That’s why there is “salvation … in no one else, [because] there is no other name under heaven given [among] men by which we must be saved.”[15] That’s why it is so, so imperative that we give our lives to seeing unbelieving men and women become committed followers of Jesus Christ.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the oceans dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.[16]

And which of us can evade, then, in light of this, the staggering challenge of these words? “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”

Father, come now to our hearts and minds. Teach us; change us. We want you to make us as a congregation biblically literate, genuinely humble, sensitively kind, really united. Fill our thoughts, in anticipation of our evening worship, with this same Lord Jesus Christ, whose name is above every name. It’s the name that everyone will either willingly or unwillingly bow before on the day we stand before you.[17] And may the fragrance of his name fill our hearts, fill our day, change our lives. For Jesus sake, we ask it. Amen.

[1] Philippians 2:12–13 (KJV).

[2] 1 Peter 5:6 (NIV 1984).

[3] John 1:1 (NIV 1984).

[4] John 1:3 (NIV 1984).

[5] Deuteronomy 6:7 (paraphrased).

[6] The Definition of Chalcedon.

[7] Thomas Kelly, “The Head That Once Was Crowned with Thorns” (1820).

[8] Benjamin B. Warfield, “Person of Christ,” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, eds. James Orr, John L. Nuelsen, Edgar Y. Mullins, and Morris O. Evans, vol. 4 (Chicago: Howard-Severance, 1915), 2340.

[9] John 13:35 (NIV 1984).

[10] Mark 4:38 (paraphrased).

[11] Mark 4:39–41 (paraphrased).

[12] John 10:18 (paraphrased).

[13] John Henry Newman, “Praise to the Holiest in the Height” (1865).

[14] 1 Corinthians 15:22 (NIV 1984).

[15] Acts 4:12 (NIV 1984).

[16] Frederick M. Lehman, “The Love of God” (1917).

[17] Philippians 2:9–10 (paraphrased).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.