Of No Reputation:
The Mystery of the Incarnation
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 20 October 2001
"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" (Phil.2:5-11, NKJV)
"Let this mind be in you also", so begins this profound passage in Paul's letter to the Phillippians, or as it is written in another translation, "think the same way that Christ thought" (v.5, CEV). With this we, as Christians, are instructed how we are to think. And now we come to the key of the thinking process in the Christian life. Without it, we shall not govern our feelings properly. And if our feelings are not governed properly, our behaviour will likewise be wrong. And if our behaviour is wrong, then we have sinned in both thought and deed. Remembering as we must that Christ lived a life entirely without sin, and remembering that He commanded us to imitate this sinless life through His power, let us take a close look at this passage to the Phillippians and consider what it expected of us in the way we think, feel, and act.
Last week I asked the question, Who is Yah'shua (Jesus)? and we looked at several of His "I am" statements and tried to understand, first of all, what Christianity is. We saw that the most common designation was "the Faith", "the Way", and "the Teaching", but more than this, it is the very person of Christ who is the Faith, the Way and the Teaching. We discovered, moreover, that Yah'shua (Jesus) was much more than these things, but is described as "the Life" and "the Truth" as well, such that He is, in very fact, the only way back to our Heavenly Father, Yahweh-Elohim. We concluded by looking at one of His most radical teachings, namely, that in order to be His disciple, it was necessary to eat His flesh and drink His blood, a saying which so shocked His listeners that the better part of them deserted Him afterwards. I devoted the remainder of the sermon to explaining how vitally important the blood of Christ is to our salvation, and that without it, we are entirely lost and without hope in eternity.
Today I want to continue answering the question, "Who is Yah'shua (Jesus)?" by explaining to you how His blood cleanses us from all sin when we fully trust in Him, follow His teaching, and walking in His commandments, since no other prophet or teacher of religion has ever taught such a thing in the history of mankind.
The answer to this question is simplicity itself. Paul wrote to the Phillippians: "Think the same way that Christ Jesus thought: Christ was truly God" (vv.5-6a, CEV).
Christ was truly God, or as the New King James Version puts it, "Christ was in the form of God". What a profound statement! And if we are in any doubt, we need only read a few verses below, to read the confession of all true believers, "that Jesus Christ is Lord" (v.11, NKJV). Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) is Lord. But what does that term 'Lord' mean? It translates the Greek kurios which means "supreme in authority"; if therefore, Christ is the supreme authority, and since there cannot be a higher authority than supreme, then there can only be one conclusion as to what that confession of every true believer means. But since the term "lord" can also be used of anyone in authority, and can be translated "Sir" or "Master", terms used of heads of household, we must be quite sure what this word means, for there are many who claim "Lord" means no more than "Leader".
By turning to the original Aramaic version of Phillippians we discover the plain truth of what Paul said, for it reads: "And every tongue will confess that Yeshua (Yah'shua/Jesus) the Messiah is Yahweh, to the glory of Eloah [God] His Father" (v.11, HRV) - Yah'shua (Jesus) is Yahweh. And as we all know, Yahweh is God.
This, brethren and sisters, is one of the deepest truths in Scripture. Both the Father and the Son share the same Name, Yahweh, which is the Name of God, just as I share the same surname with my sons and daughters. My eldest son and I both have the same Name 'Warren', even though we are both separate persons, and I am his father. Just as he and I are of the same bloodline, so Yah'shua (Jesus) and His Father, are of the same Eternal Spirit-line, which is God. And this is what Paul meant when he said, that "Christ was truly God".
All my children resemble me in various ways. Different biological characteristics are evident when you look at them. As we discussed in an earlier sermon, Yahweh not only made mankind in His image, but we as humans make sons and daughters in our image. We all resemble one another, the more so the more closely related we are. The apostle Paul tells us not only that Yah'shua (Jesus) is Yahweh in Spirit, but that as a human being born of the virgin Mary, that He came "in the likeness of men" - He looks like us. In a nutshell, God became a human being, so that not only is He a spiritual image of His Father, but He is also a physical image of mankind. In Yah'shua the Messiah, God and man combine to become one. When we look at Yah'shua (Jesus), we are not looking at just another human being, but at the one and only, unique GOD-MAN. This coming together of God and man, of heaven and earth, is known as the divine incarnation.
It is almost too big a picture for us to imagine - how can the infinite God combine with finite, mortal man? That this was going to happen was hinted at in the Old Testament in many places. As you will remember from our several studies of the Old Testament, Yahweh commanded the construction of, first, a Sacred Tent or Tabernacle, and then, after the Israelite people were settled in their own country, a Sacred Temple. This Holy Temple, of which there was only ever one at any one time, was located in Jerusalem, the Holy City, and was firstly built by King Solomon. It was, as we know, a magnificent structure. At its heart lay the Ark of the Covenant, Yahweh's physical throne upon the earth, the point at which heaven and earth met on the physical plane, and from whence great miracles took place. So great was the power surrounding the Ark that no-one was allowed to touch it, and those who did, whether accidentally or deliberately, were instantly killed. We may, I suppose, consider the admittedly limited analogy of warning our children not to put their finger in live electricity sockets.
The Temple of Yahweh, located in Jerusalem, was sacred space, and only certain people were allowed in it at certain times. The only person allowed into the most sacred part of the temple, known as the Holy of Holies, was the High Priest, of which there was only one at any one time, and then at only one time during the year, at Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. And this he did to secure the forgiveness of God's people of their sins for a year at a time.
The Temple of Yahweh was known amongst the Hebrews as God's dwelling place upon the earth. This was where God lived on earth in His Spirit in a unique way. But as the prophets were aware, you cannot contain the Creator of the Universe in one small physical building, for He is infinitely greater than that. And yet, as history demonstrated, Yahweh was in that Temple in a special way. Like a car battery which concentrates electricity but not all electricity, Yahweh was present in the Temple in a special way. And so, we learn, when Solomon consecrated the Temple, Yahweh manifested His glory there in such a dramatic way that no-one could get into the temple. The power was simply too great - the same power that Moses had tried to gaze at, but was forced to turn away from, for no-one can look at God the Father and live.
As part of the glory of Yahweh dwelt in that Temple in Jerusalem, so in the meridian of time did He transfer His dwelling place from a building to a human body - He incarnated as Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). Christ specifically told the Samaritan woman that the time was about to come, and indeed came following His resurrection, that men and women would no longer worship in a temple of stone, but in Spirit and in truth. What He was saying, in fact, was that as God the Father had been present in Solomon's Temple, and as God the Father incarnated as the God-man Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) in order to fulfil the prophetic type which is Yom Kippur by dying for us on the Cross and paying for our sins, so, following this great and marvellous atonement, Christ would come to dwell in us as the Holy Spirit after the resurrection and the Day of Pentecost. God's Temple today is not a building of stone in Jerusalem but a Temple of the Flesh - He now dwells in us through faith and obedience to the commandments.
The Temple in Jerusalem represented our physical bodies. Since we are finite and mortal, we cannot possibly contain all of God, which was why Yahweh was never fully present in the Jerusalem Temple. Were He to fully enter us, we would be utterly burned up by His power.
But Christ was different. This was no ordinary man because, as we learn, He was born in no ordinary way. He was born without a physical father. His Father, who is Spirit, was Yahweh. The Bible does not explain how this happened, only that it was accomplished supernaturally when the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) fell upon the virgin Mary. At that moment in time, God and mankind met and a child was conceived perfect and sinless, the very first, and very last, God-Man.
God became a Man, the Lord Yah'shua (Jesus). No wonder it is impossible to return to Yahweh except through Yah'shua (Jesus), because Yah'shua (Jesus) is, in a unique way, God Himself. That is why He was given the Hebrew Name Yah'shua, which means "Yah saves". It is not the man Yah'shua (Jesus) alone who saves but God the Father YAHWEH in Yah'shua (Jesus). Christ's Name literally means "Yahweh saves" which is why His Hebrew Name, Yah'shua (or the Aramaic equivalent Yeshua) is so important.
It is not possible for us to comprehend fully how the incarnation took place and God chooses not to explain it more fully. You might as well expect an ant to understand a human being. But what he has shared with us is enough for us to be saved, and that is actually quite a lot.
Those of you who are interested in physics and astronomy have no doubt heard that under certain circumstances matter can be so compressed as to form what are known as Black Holes. Cosmologists believe that a black hole is a star like the sun which has been compressed into the size of an object no bigger, perhaps, than a postage stamp. It is so heavy that not even all the human beings that have ever lived would together be able to lift it up. It has such a high mass, in fact, that all light impinging upon it is absorbed and cannot escape, which is why it is called a "black hole", though it is not actually a 'hole' at all.
It is impossible for us to conceive of a black hole because it is beyond our experience. It is something you could never study in a laboratory and yet we know they exist because of the effects they have on light, gravity and other phenomena. Similarly, it is impossible for us as mere human beings to explain how the infinite Creator-God could become a mere man, and yet we are able to observe the powerful and dramatic effects of the Son of God on the lives of men and women everywhere. We know, because we have experienced it, that Christ changes the lives of sinners who trust and obey Him, and makes them free and joyful. By coming in contact with the greatest power in the Universe, we actually start to resemble Him by some extraordinary process which we can't explain either.
Now we have all read stories where men of importance have suddenly found themselves in reduced circumstances. The other night we as a family watched one of the most beautiful films that, in my opinion, has ever been made, called The Railway Children based on the novel by Edith Nesbit. The good and kindly father of a wealthy English family is falsely accused and imprisoned as a spy, and is reduced to being a manual labourer breaking rocks. But in the end he is proven innocent and is reunited with his overjoyed family who have suffered terribly in his absence, having had to come to grips with hunger and cold after a life of comfort and ease.
The story of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) is similar but on a much grander scale, and with a cosmic impact. Paul tells us:
"Christ was truly God. But He did not try to remain equal with God. Instead, He gave up everything and became a slave, when He became like one of us" (vv.6-7, CEV).
This is what our God wants us to understand. That He left the glory of heaven, giving up everything to become a slave, in order to save us. This is more than a wealthy English gentleman being falsely accused and imprisoned. This is the Eternal God voluntarily giving up His position as Creator of the Universe to become a lowly man, and, moreover, doing it of His own free will. He chose to do it. The NKJV puts it this way, saying that Christ "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" (Phil.2:6-8, NKJV).
When you think of God, you think of the Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth, for whom nothing is impossible - the all-powerful, the all-knowing, the all-loving, Father of mankind. But now we are being asked to see and understand that He surrendered everything to become a man, made himself of "no reputation", by making Himself our slave. Can you comprehend that? That is why as Christians we love and adore Him so much because He was willing to do this for us, who are so unworthy and insignificant, to reveal how much He truly loves us.
Paul continues: "Christ was humble. He obeyed God and even died on a cross" (v.8, CEV).
Most people have no idea what God has done for them in Christ. They have no idea who Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) is. They seem Him as just a teacher or a prophet but not as God incarnate. They don't realise, because Satan has blinded them to the only hope they have, that Yah'shua (Jesus) is Yahweh, the Son of Eloah (God). They don't realise that in looking at Yah'shua (Jesus) they are looking at the most incredible physical creation of all, far more incredible than a black hole, for in Christ, we learn, is the fullness of the Godhead (Col.2:9, cp. Rom.1:20) - everything that is there - EVERYTHING - is compressed in that one Body which is the Lord Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). That is why Christ could say to the astonished Philip, when he asked to see the Father, that he was actually looking at the Father in the person of Yah'shua (Jesus). The Creator of the Universe was right there in front of him! (Jn.14:8-9).
For God to become man is surely the most humbling thing than anyone could ever do. No one has ever climbed down so far as God did in Christ. A powerful and rich king may become an impoverished peasant but that is not remotely comparable to how low Yahweh humbled Himself to demonstrate His love for us. Even if Bill Gates, the wealthiest man in the world, were to make himself a poor Bangladeshi farmer who has lost everything in a monsoon, would not remotely compare to what Christ has done for us. There is nothing that we could do to compare with what God has done for us. We might just as well try to walk up to a black hole, pick it up, and put it in our pocket as impossible as that is.
"He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God (Eloah) also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus (Yah'shua) 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 (Yah'shua the Messiah) is Lord (Yahweh), to the glory of God the Father" (vv-8-11, NKJV).
Because of what He did, Yah'shua (Jesus) is now exalted, being made jurisdictionally equal with the Father. Every living soul is required by Yahweh kneel before Him and confess that He is Yahweh. He is God, to the glory of the Father. And nothing less.
But that is not all that is required of us. Yes, we are to acknowledge who Yah'shua (Jesus) truly is, confess that He is our Saviour, repent of our sins, and receive forgiveness and eternal life, and to obey His commandments. This is vital. It is the only Path to Salvation. But there is something we must not miss, and it is how this passage of scripture began: "Think the same way that Jesus Christ (Yah'shua the Messiah) thought" (v.4, CEV). And how do we do that? By doing what He did with what we have! So what did He do? It says: "He made Himself of no reputation" (v.7, KJV). It says: "He humbled Himself and became obedient" (v.8, NKJV). If Almighty God can become obedient as a man, is it so difficult for us, as mere men and women, to become humble and obedient also? Is it?
Of all things, the carnal, fallen man, which seeks ever to exalt himself, does not want to humble himself. He wants to exalt himself! He wants everyone to look at him, and say, "Look how wonderful I am! Come, give me praise!" And that, brethren and sisters, is what Satan did when he was Lucifer. He decided he wanted to exalt himself and become like God, if not God Himself. He really believed he could be, in the vanity of his darkened heart! And he has transferred that same deadly spiritual virus to mankind through the fall of Adam and Eve, who believed they would become gods. It is the same lie believed by Mormons, occultists, Satanists, Hindus, and all false religionists. People want to be worshipped, adored, exalted, admired - they, like the builders of the Tower of Babel, wanted a reputation for themselves. They wanted to be famous.
But what does God tells us we should want and do? He says that we should follow the example of Christ who renounced all claims to fame and "made Himself of no reputation". And this, Paul tells us, is the way we should behave with what we have got. However clever, beautiful or gifted we may be - all of which are gifts from God, incidentally, and not things we have earned for ourselves - Yahweh wants us to consider these to be of no importance as far as our self-worth is concerned, for our worth comes not in our giftedness but in the fact that God loved us so dearly that He sent His Son to become a slave and die a terrible death on a cross so we could be saved (Jn.3:16).
In the verses immediately before the passage we have been studying, Paul writes this plea:
"Christ encourages you, and by His love comforts you. God's Spirit unites you, and you are concerned for others. Now make me completely happy! Love in harmony by showing love for each other. Be united in what you think, as if you were only one person. Don't be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves. Care about them as much as you care about yourselves, and think the same way that Christ Jesus (Yah'shua the Messiah) thought. Christ was truly God. But he did not try to remain equal with God. Instead He gave up everything and became a slave, when he became like one of us. Christ was humble. He obeyed God and even died on a cross. Then God gave Christ the highest place and honoured His Name above all others. So at the Name of Jesus (Yah'shua) everyone will bow down, those in heaven, on earth, and under the earth (hell). And to the glory of God the Father, everyone will openly agree, 'Jesus Christ is Lord (Yah'shua the Messiah is Yahweh)'" (Phil. 2:1-11, CEV). Amen.
This page was created on 19 October 2001
Last updated on 19 October 2001
Copyright © 1987-2007 NCCG - All Rights Reserved