21. Like Christ: In His Humility.
"In lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself. Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, yea, the death of the cross."óPhil. 2:3Ė8 (R.V.)
In this wonderful passage we have a summary of all the most precious truths that cluster round the person of the blessed Son of God. There is first, His adorable Divinity: "in the form of God," "equal with God." Then comes the mystery of His incarnation, in that word of deep and inexhaustible meaning: "He emptied Himself." The atonement follows, with the humiliation, and obedience, and suffering, and death, whence it derives its worth: "He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." And all is crowned by his glorious exaltation: "God hath highly exalted Him." Christ as God, Christ becoming man, Christ as man in humiliation working out our redemption, and Christ in glory as Lord of all: such are the treasures of wisdom this passage contains.
Volumes have been written on the discussion of some of the words the passage contains. And yet sufficient attention has not always been given to the connection in which the Holy Spirit gives this wondrous teaching. It is not in the first place as a statement of truth for the refutation of error, or the strengthening of faith. The object is a very different one. Among the Philippians there was still pride and want of love: it is with the distinct view of setting Christís example before them, and teaching them to humble themselves as He did, that this portion of inspiration was given: "In lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus." He who does not study this portion of Godís Word with the wish to become lowly as Christ was, has never used it for the one great purpose for which God gave it. Christ descending from the throne of God, and seeking His way back there as man through the humiliation of the cross, reveals the only way by which we ever can reach that throne. The faith which, with His atonement, accepts His example too, is alone true faith. Each soul that would truly belong to Him must in union with Him have His Spirit, His disposition, and His image.
"Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God emptied self, and as a man humbled himself." We must be like Christ in His self-emptying and self humiliation. The first great act of self-abnegation in which as God He emptied Himself of His Divine glory and power and laid it aside, was followed up by the no less wondrous humbling of Himself as man, to the death of the cross. And in this amazing twofold humiliation, the astonishment of the universe and the delight of the Father, Holy Scripture with the utmost simplicity tells us we must, as a matter of course, be like Christ.
And does Paul, and do the Scriptures, and does God really expect this of us? Why not? or rather, how can they expect anything else? They know indeed the fearful power of pride and the old Adam in our nature. But they know also that Christ has redeemed us not only from the curse but from the power of sin, and that He gives us His resurrection life and power to enable us to live as He did on earth. They say that He is not only our Surety, but our Example also; so that we not only live through Him, but like Him. And further, not only our Example but also our Head, who lives in us, and continues in us the life He once led on earth. With such a Christ, and such a plan of redemption, can it be otherwise? The follower of Christ must have the same mind as was in Christ; he must especially be like Him in His humility.
Christís example teaches us that it is not sin that must humble us. This is what many Christians think. They consider daily falls are necessary to keep us humble. This is not so. There is indeed a humility that is very lovely, and so of great worth, as the beginning of something more, consisting in the acknowledgment of transgression and shortcomings. But there is a humility which is more heavenly still, even like Christ, which consists, even when grace keeps us from sinning, in the self-abasement that can only wonder that God should bless us, and delights to be as nothing before Him to whom we owe all. It is grace we need, and not sin, to make and keep us humble. The heaviest-laden branches always bow the lowest. The greatest flow of water makes the deepest river-bed. The nearer the soul comes to God, the more His majestic Presence makes it feel its littleness. It is this alone that makes it possible for each to count others better than himself. Jesus Christ, the Holy One of God, is our example of humility: it was, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He was come from God and went to God, that He washed the disciplesí feet. It is the Divine presence, the consciousness of the Divine life and the Divine love in us, that will make us humble.
It appears to many Christians an impossibility to say: I will not think of self, I will esteem others better than myself. They ask grace to overcome the worst ebullitions of pride and vain glory, but an entire self-renunciation, such as Christís, is too difficult and too high for them. If they only understood the deep truth and blessedness of the word, "He who humbles himself still be exalted," "He who loses his life shall find it," they would not be satisfied with anything less than entire conformity to their Lord in this. And they would find that there is a way to overcome self and self-exaltation: to see it nailed to Christís cross, and there keep it crucified continually through the Spirit (Gal. 5:24; Rom. 8:13). He only can grow to such humility, who heartily yields himself to live in the fellowship of Christís death.
To attain this, two things are necessary. The first is a fixed purpose and surrender henceforth to be nothing and seek nothing for oneself; but to live only for God and our neighbour. The other is the faith that appropriates the power of Christís death in this also, as our death to sin and our deliverance from its power. This fellowship of Christís death brings an end to the life, where sin is too strong for us; it is the commencement of a life in us where Christ is too strong for sin.
It is only under the teaching and powerful working of the Holy Spirit that one can realize, accept, and keep hold of this truth. But God be thanked, we have the Holy Spirit. Oh that we may trust ourselves fully to His guidance. He will guide us, it is His work; He will glorify Christ in us. He will teach us to understand that we are dead to sin and the old self, that Christís life and humility are ours.
Thus Christís humility is appropriated in faith. This may take place at once. But the appropriation in experience is gradual. Our thoughts and feelings, our very manners and conversation, have been so long under the dominion of the old self, that it takes time to imbue and permeate and transfigure them with the heavenly light of Christís humility. At first the conscience is not perfectly enlightened, the spiritual taste and the power of discernment have not yet been exercised. But with each believing renewal of the consecration in the depth of the soul: "I have surrendered myself to be humble like Jesus," power will go out from Him, to fill the whole being, until in face, and voice, and action the sanctification of the Spirit will be observable, and the Christian will truly be clothed with humility.
The blessedness of a Christ-like humility is unspeakable. It is of great worth in the sight of God: "He giveth grace to the humble." In the spiritual life it is the source of rest and joy. To the humble all God does is right and good. Humility is always ready to praise God for the least of His mercies. Humility does not find it difficult to trust. It submits unconditionally to all that God says. The two whom Jesus praises for their great faith are just those who thought least of themselves. The centurion had said, "I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof;" the Syrophenician woman was content to be numbered with the dogs. In intercourse with men it is the secret of blessing and love. The humble man does not take offence, and is very careful not to give it. He is ever ready to serve his neighbor, because he has learnt from Jesus the Divine beauty of being a servant, He finds favour with God and man.
Oh what a glorious calling for the followers of Christ! To be sent into the world by God to prove that there is nothing more divine than self-humiliation. The humble glorifies God, he leads others to glorify Him, he will at last be glorified with Him. Who would not be humble like Jesus?
O Thou, who didst descend from heaven, and didst humble Thyself to the death of the cross, Thou callest me to take Thy humility as the law of my life.
Lord, teach me to understand the absolute need of this. A proud follower of the humble Jesus this I cannot, I may not be. In the secrecy of my heart, and of my closet, in my house, in presence of friends or enemies, in prosperity or adversity, I would be filled with Thy humility.
O my beloved Lord! I feel the need of a new, a deeper insight into Thy crucifixion, and my part in it. Reveal to me how my old proud self is crucified with Thee. Show me in the light of Thy Spirit how I, Godís regenerate child, am dead to sin and its power, and how in communion with Thee sin is powerless. Lord Jesus, who hast conquered sin, strengthen in me the faith that Thou art my life, and that Thou wilt fill me with Thy humility if I will submit to be filled with Thyself and Thy Holy Spirit.
Lord, my hope is in Thee. In faith in Thee I go into the world to show how the same mind that was in Thee is also in Thy children, and teaches us in lowliness of mind each to esteem others better than himself. May God help us. Amen.