Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Incarnation of God the Son: Crucial Doctrine, Practical Application

Image credit: Phoebe Kautt

Preached at Northwest Christian Church

David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, May 1, 2011

Philippians 2:1-16, “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.”

This message is really mean to be a continuation of our study during the Bible School hour a few moments ago, and what you might call an ‘overflow’ of the messages regarding the April Fool which were our study focus last month. The questions before us, when reading and studying a passage like this are numerous – complex – and I think quite riveting. I’d like to invite you to walk through the passage with me and consider with me the deep truths of the gospel and how those truths, that Biblical doctrine are meant to transform you and me.

Going back to the records, the accounts of Jesus’ birth found in Matthew chapters one and two, and Luke chapters one and two, the first truth of the gospel, the first core doctrine with which the apostle Paul instructs his friends at Philippi and his friends at McKinney is the doctrine of the Incarnation. In startling, almost mind-boggling contrast, the apostle Paul, like apostle John and the apostle Matthew, and like the inspired writer Luke sets forth this truth: Jesus Christ was in the very form of God. He was in every way of the same nature and of the same essence, and possessed the same eternal and infinite attributes as God the Father. He was, is and always will be the Second member of the Triune Godhead, the One Scripture describes as God the Son.

The apostle John, opening up his gospel in much the same way as the Book of Genesis opens up the Bible, the apostle John speaks of Jesus’ eternal nature and of His oneness with the Father from eternity past like this: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…” Don’t miss that last phrase either. That’s the phrase the Jehovah’s Witnesses have reworked in their theology and re-translated in their ‘Bible’ so as to claim that Jesus Christ is somehow, some way a lesser, an inferior ‘god’ with a small ‘g’. Just like the apostle John, whose bold, emphatic and exceedingly clear declaration was: Jesus, the Eternal Word of God, was, is and always will be God, what God was, fully and eternally divine… so, the apostle Paul reminds us in this first statement of gospel doctrine that Jesus Christ was equal with God.

By the way, did you remember that that unique relationship, that unparalleled status and position of equality with God was what Satan urged Adam and Eve to pursue in the garden? Genesis 4:3 – “Go ahead. You won’t die! Go ahead, eat the forbidden fruit, because if you do you will be like God, knowing good and evil…”

Listen, my Loved Ones, I know this is deep, deep stuff, and difficult for us to totally comprehend. But listen, the doctrine of the Incarnation, that core gospel doctrine is ravaged of its stumbling block ability – you know, “it if foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Cor. 1:18) – and also it is robbed of its life-altering, eternal destiny changing power in our lives, if we don’t grasp, or if we, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and many other false groups, remove from it the fact that Jesus Christ, the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us, was first of all the Eternal Word of God, God the Son, fully, infinitely, eternally EQUAL WITH GOD!

Yes, go ahead, take a minute and let what I’ve just explained to you sort of sink in. It’s difficulty stuff, isn’t it? We look at pictures, artists’ rendering of what Jesus may have looked like, maybe have even in our own minds a mental image of our Savior’s face, so tender, so warm, so human! But listen, as nice as those things might be, listen, that’s not who Jesus was before Bethlehem! No! He was, as Luke records in his genealogy of Jesus found in Luke chapter three, the Son of God, last line, startling, mind-boggling last line of the genealogy, Jesus was not, as most everyone supposed, the son of Joseph, the carpenter from Nazareth! No! He was – is – always will be, the Son of God! (Luke 3:38) The Eternal Word of God – with God – in the beginning.

Now, why do I press this point so intensely? Two reasons; number one, because of how it helps us see the depths of what Christ did for us! And, what an awesome things all of that is! But secondly, I press this point about the full deity of Christ, about His being in ‘very nature’ God (that’s what the simply word ‘form’ means, there in verse 6); Jesus’ Christ essential being and nature is God – the same - not less than, not different from God the Father, but the same. I press this point about Jesus Christ’s full deity because of how it serves to instruct us, and yes, I would say, even confront us and rebuke us, right where we NEED rebuke, confrontation and instruction. Let’s open each of these up for just a moment, shall we?

Do you and I really grasp, in all its depth, in all its meaning, in all of its infinite beauty, what Jesus Christ has done for us? I’d like to suggest to you that we don’t! We should make it our aim to grasp these things. In fact, the apostle Paul prayed that the Christians at Ephesus WOULD grasp the depths of all of this in Ephesians chapters one and three. Take a look.

Ephesians 1:15-23, “Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”

Ephesians 3:14-21, “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Do you and I really comprehend the depths of what Jesus Christ has done for us? I don’t think we do!

But listen, don’t lose heart. Don’t give up or give in. That’s why the apostle Paul wrote Philippians chapter two, to help us, to enable us to more fully understand the awesome nature of what Jesus has done for us, when He became flesh and dwelt among us. That’s why God’s Spirit directed Paul to write Philippians chapter two.

And, what has Jesus Christ done for us in this thing we Christian’s call the Incarnation? It’s deep. I know it is. But listen, in light of what we’ve already learned about the infinite and eternal DEITY of Christ, it is also downright startling! Shocking! And undoubtedly, a stumbling block of FOOLISHNESS to many across the centuries. What am I talking about? Four times, in slightly different ways with slightly different aspects of meaning, but all four, bundled up to penetrate our hearts; here’s what I’m talking about.

Philippians 2:5 and following: “Christ Jesus, who was in the form of God… [and] equal with God… what did He do for us?

In 2 Corinthians 8:9 the apostle Paul puts it this way. Don’t you love this verse? A verse, by the way, that is situated right, smack-dab, in the middle of a section in 2 Corinthians about paying your tithes. In 2 Corinthians 8:9, the apostle Paul describes this startling, almost shocking nature of the doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ like this: “for you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich – Donald Trump eat your heart out! Though Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word of God, Second member of the Godhead, though He was rich – with a capital ‘R’ – in His grace, what did He do? “He became poor, born in a stable, placed in a manger, nowhere to lay His head on this earth, no place really to call ‘home’.

The eternally RICH God, the Son, became poor – POOR – that you through His poverty might become rich!” Do you comprehend the DEPTHS of what Jesus Christ did for you? Paul’s hoping, praying, writing so that we will…

And so he says, in Philippians 2:5-8,

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

What did Jesus Christ do for you? He did not grasp for, cling to, that pre-incarnate glory and majesty, but made Himself of no reputation, literally, “He emptied Himself,” took on the form of a slave, a bondservant, and came in the likeness of men; that we, that WE, through His poverty, might become rich!

Now listen, in as simple of terms as I can come up with, that’s the Doctrine of the Incarnation. The Word, the Eternal Word of God, Who was with God in the beginning, God the Son, Jesus Christ, the Infinitely Rich One, the Equal with God One; He became flesh, He became poor. That’s the startling, shocking, stumbling block of the Incarnation. And, that doctrine is at the heart of all that Jesus Christ has done for us. But listen, here’s where the message moves from staggering depths of doctrine, to stunning words of instruction and rebuke. So, get ready, get ready.

Verse 5 – The pivot point for the whole passage, notice what it says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…” Another translation puts it like this: “your attitude, your mindset should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…”

Okay, Paul. Okay. What are you trying to tell us? Drop down to verses 14 through 16 with me, will you? The God and Father who desires to have blameless and un-blemished children in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation – are you a child of God? Blameless and without blemish, is that what you are? The Savior who longs for the ones He came to save to shine like lights in the world. And, ye, even the apostle who prayed, I mean begged God that people at Philippi and people at McKinney would hold fast the Word of life so that he could rejoice in the day of Christ that he had not run or labored in vain.

God – our Father – Jesus Christ, our Savior; Paul, inspired apostle, all three of them exhort us with the words… “let this mind, this mindset, this attitude that prompted Jesus Christ to do what He did, let it be in you!” Why? You know why, don’t you? I know, it hurts, it embarrasses us, it really ought to SHAME us, that we NEED that exhortation; but, we need that Christ-like mindset, because instead of enjoying the consolation Christ provides, instead of being comforted by His love, instead of relishing a fellowship, a Holy Spirit-fellowship, richer and deeper than any other on earth; instead of being marked as our Savior is marked, by affection, tender affection and mercy, you know what we are! We are pursuing self! We are watching out only for our own interests! We are esteeming ourselves better than anyone else! We are on the hunt for an empty glory – “I will be like God!” - that is really no glory at all! Let this mind, this Christ-like mindset, be in you! In you! Can you hear the still small voice, the quiet whisper of the Spirit of Jesus, and of the Word of Jesus to the effect that this is the way God intended for you and me to think and behave all along? Can you hear them say, “in Christ, in God, who is at work in His children, both to will and to do for His good pleasure, to please Him! In Him this is the way it CAN be, it WILL BE in you and me? Or, or – Is the only voice we hear the screaming, blaring voice of our Enemy, “you can be as God – go ahead – eat the fruit!”?

The Doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ, and really, also that of the humiliation of Christ, stretched out as He was, on Calvary’s cross, and that of the Exaltation of Christ, here’s what they teach us, what they say to us:
Jesus Christ emptied Himself and thus, was highly exalted

But we, too often we, exalt ourselves, and thus, God – what does He do? He has to humble us! He has to confront us with the words, “Let this mind, THIS mind be in you…”

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