The Humility of God – Philippians 2:5-11

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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
December 22, 2013

The Humility of God
Philippians 2:5-11


Christmas is only a few days away, and for a large portion of our society that means that they are now getting very stressed in their rush of trying to get all their shopping done and everything ready so they can celebrate this holiday. There are a lot of quips about the secular view of Christmas. Here are few thoughtful ones:

  • “Christmas is a time when everyone wants their past forgotten and their present remembered.” •”Nothing destroys the Christmas spirit faster than looking for a place to park at the mall.”•”What many a store clerk gets at Christmas is an ulcer.” •”Always mail your Christmas gift early – it will give the receiver time to reciprocate.”•”Christmas is a time for exchanging a lot of things you can’t afford for a lot of things you don’t want.” •”A father’s biggest difficulty at Christmas time is convincing the children that he is Santa Claus and his wife that he is not.”•”Anyone who thinks Christmas doesn’t last all year doesn’t have a charge account.”

Personally, I find it sad that American marketing has turned Christmas from a holiday into a day of stressful obligation. Remember that the word “holiday” is a simply compound word from “holy” and “day” reflecting that it is a day that was set aside for holy activities. It was meant to be a religious day of celebrating God’s grace extended to man. The giving of gifts began as a response of joy in reflection of God’s gift of the Lord Jesus Christ to mankind. For most of our society, Christmas is a day off from work to be with family and friends with a focus on finding out how much stuff you are given with only small minority of people actually believing that it is more blessed to give than to receive. I find it even more sad that this secularized view of Christmas is dominant among Christians as well.

This morning I want to remind you about the true meaning of Christmas and more specifically what it reveals about the God that has created us. Only in this can we find the real reason to celebrate and with that a strong challenge to the ways in which we celebrate in both action and attitude.

In churches around the world today there will be many sermons about Joseph & Mary looking for a place to stay, Jesus being born and laid in the manger, the shepherds in the fields, the Angels declaring God’s glory, and a few about the Magi coming from the east to worship Him and Herod’s attempt to destroy Him. Earlier in the service we read about the birth of Jesus from Luke 2:1-20, but my focus this morning will be on the humility of God, for in that we find the example of how God wants us to respond both to Him and others.

Scriptural Context

– Philippians

When I mentioned this topic of the humility of God to someone, they thought it sounded a bit like heresy, but I assure you, it is gospel truth and not heresy. Please turn to Philippians 2 where we will gain crucial insights from the apostle Paul into Jesus’ nature, the reasons He became a man, and what the future holds.

The dominant theme of this short book is joy. The apostle Paul uses the word for joy or a related term sixteen times. He describes a joy that can be experienced in any circumstance. He even begins his letter talking about the joy he has though he is in prison. Paul then continues on to exhort the Philippians to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (1:27) and to make his joy complete (2:2). He then explains further that this can only be done if they are of the same mind, maintain the same love, are united in spirit and intent on one purpose (2:1-2). In practical terms, this will require them to be humble people who do nothing from selfishness but instead regard others as more important than themselves demonstrated by looking out for the best interest of others instead of their own. (2:3-4). That is actually a good description of the love Jesus commanded Christians to have for one another (John 13:34). It is at this point that Paul gives them a command that they should follow Jesus’ example of humility stating in verse 5, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was in Christ Jesus.”

In the next few verses Paul explains the great humility it took for Jesus Christ to become that little baby in the manger which even this wicked world acknowledges and sings about at Christmas. Paul’s purpose was to exhort the Philippians to be humble by following Christ’s example of humility, but to do so, Paul must first explain the glory Christ had before becoming a man. He then goes on to explain the reason He became a man, what His position is now and what will occur in the future. You cannot understand the humility of Jesus without contrasting it to the glory that actually belongs to Him.

(As a quick footnote before we examine the rest of this passage, let me make it absolutely clear that Paul’s point in verse 5 is to point to the humility of the Lord Jesus Christ in becoming a man. False teachers such as Kenneth Copeland and others that use this passage to say that humans can become gods or god-like is completely unfounded in both the context of the passage and the Greek grammar of this verse. It is blatant heresy to claim that humans should have an attitude in which they think of themselves as gods or god-like. That is only a variation of the lie Satan told Eve in the garden of Eden to deceive her. You must be diligent students of the Scriptures to protect yourself from such heresy.)

The Deity of Jesus Christ

– Philippians 2:6 & Selected Scriptures

In order to present the example of humility demonstrated by Jesus, Paul begins by looking at His nature and position before the incarnation. Paul says of Christ Jesus in verse 6, “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.” This verse is loaded with rich doctrine concerning the nature of Christ.

The first phrase is translated a little more clearly in the KJV and NKJV as “Who, being in the form of God,” since this is a present participle. From eternity past to the present to eternity future, Christ Jesus has always been existing in the form of God. Paul is making a clear statement about the divine nature of Jesus existing in the “form, appearance, look or likeness” of God. The same declaration is made in other Scriptures. Hebrews 1:3 states, “And He (Jesus – the Son of God) is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. Colossians 1:15-16 states “And He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. For by Him all things were created, [both] in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things have been created by Him and for Him. John 1:18 records that “No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained [Him.]” Jesus Himself claimed the same thing in John 14:8-9. Philip asked Jesus to “show him the Father,” and Jesus responded by saying “He who has seen me has seen the Father;” and that “[He is] in the Father and the Father [is] in [Him].” Jesus is the revelation of God the Father because He is God the Son. The second person of the triune Godhead reveals the first person of the Trinity.

The second phrase that Christ “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped” is also descriptive of Jesus’ divinity. The word “grasped” is translated in the KJV and NKJV as “robbery” for the meaning of the word is to grasp or snatch as in robbery. There are two reasons why Christ did not regard equality with God as something to be snatched at, something to grasp. First, He already had equality with God, so striving for that was not necessary. Second, the Father would exalt Christ and restore Him to His full glory in the future (cf. v.9), so Jesus did not need to strive for that either. When something already belongs to you, you do not need to “snatch at it.”

The plain fact is that Jesus is God. Many of the Christmas carols sing about Jesus’ deity. In many of them Jesus is called “Immanuel,” which means “God with us” as prophesied in Isaiah 7:14 and fulfilled in Matthew 2:23. Other carols reference Isaiah 9:6 in calling Jesus “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” The Scriptures are clear that Jesus is God. We are finite humans and do not understand the full nature and relationship of the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – but we can know and be firm on what God has said of Himself. Each person of the triune Godhead is God singularly and collectively at the same time. God the Father is God. God the Son is God. God the Holy Spirit is God. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are together one singular God.

Paul makes this point first because you cannot comprehend the humility of Jesus if you do not first understand who He is for humility is demonstrated in the contrast between position and practice. For example, it is not humble for a busboy to clear dishes for his position and practice are the same. That is his job. But it would be humble for the owner of a successful restaurant to do the dishes. That is a duty below his position. It is not humble for a janitor to clean floors. That is what he is hired to do. But it would be humble for the CEO of a multimillion dollar corporation to clean the floors. That is a job far beneath his position. In a kingdom, it requires no humility for the peasants to work side by side, eat together and socialize with one another. It would require humility for their king to work, eat and socialize side by side with them. He would have to lower himself from his noble position to do so. To understand the humility of Jesus, you must first understand His position as God.

Consider just a few of the attributes of God. We have been examining these in our men’s Bible study on Wednesday nights. God is self-existent. He declares Himself to be “I am who I am” in Exodus

3:14. He is the uncaused cause of everything. He exists beyond our capability to fully comprehend because He is unlike anything else. We can only know Him by what He reveals to us. God is also self-sufficient. He does not need anything for all that exists came from Him and so anything given to Him came from Him first. There is nothing necessary to Him for there is not anything that can add to or subtract from Him.

God is infinite in relationship to time, space, knowledge and power. We usually refer to these as being eternal, omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. The concept of infinity is not fully comprehensible to us because we are finite creatures of time and space. God is not like us. God is a being that has no beginning and will have no end. He exists outside of time. God is a spiritual being who is not bounded by dimensions of space – length, width or depth. There is nothing that God does not already know about everything. He even knows your thoughts, feelings and desires better than you do. God exists outside our understanding of physics for His power is inexhaustible. He created the universe and all that is in it and lost none of His power in doing so.

All of these infinite attributes reflect that God is the supreme sovereign and in fact are necessary attributes for Him to be sovereign. Nothing restricts God in any way in time, space, knowledge or wisdom. He carries out His will as He desires. The only restriction on God is His own character and attributes. He is true to Himself.

God is holy which reflects the fact that He has infinite virtue and purity and is separated from all that He has created because He is something other than everything else. This holiness is part of all His moral attributes such as faithfulness, goodness, justice, mercy, grace and love. Even those characteristics we normally think of as negative are positive virtues in God because they are perfectly holy in Him. This would include things such as jealousy, hatred, anger and wrath.

Because Jesus is God, He not only has all the attributes of deity, but also the offices and prerogatives of deity. He is the creator and preserver of all things (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17). He has all authority (Matthew 28:18) so that He can judge (John 5:22) and is able to forgive sins (Luke 5:20-24) and grant eternal life (John 11:25), or condemn (Matthew 25:31-32) to eternal punishment (Revelation 20:11-15). Because Jesus is God, He also has the right to receive the honor and worship that only belongs to God (Exodus 34:14; Matthew 28:9; Hebrews 1:6; John 5:23).

It is only in contrast to Jesus’ position as God that we can begin to understand His humility in becoming a man as described in the next couple of verses.

The Humanity & Humility of Jesus Christ

– Philippians 2:7-8

Jesus Christ, the second person of the triune God, “emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men (2:7), or in a more literal translation, “but Himself He emptied, the form of a slave He put on, in the likeness of men He became.” While there is much debate about the degree and what specifically Jesus emptied Himself ( eJauto;n ejkevnwsen) of in order to be made in the likeness of men, at minimum it means that Jesus, the creator and an infinite being, placed limits on Himself to become like His creature, a man made of physical flesh and bone for the years that He walked the earth. His omnipresence was limited to a human body. His omniscience was restricted to a baby lying in a manger that grew into a child that kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:52). Jesus was still powerful for He could command legions of angels to do His bidding if He so desired (Matthew 26:53), but His omnipotence was reduced to physical muscles. His glory was veiled in flesh, though it was briefly glimpsed to a small degree by Peter, James and John when Jesus was transfigured before them and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light and He then talked with Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:1-3).

This emptying of Himself would be a wonder above all wonders in and of itself, but it is even more so because the text is clear that the form – the character and nature (morfhv / morphe) – of a man he took upon Himself was that of a slave, a douvloV / doulos. This makes what is already mind boggling even more so. I would venture to say that most of us, if we were in Christ’s place, would come as some great and powerful individual such as a king, a general, a diplomat, the high priest, or a prophet along the lines of Moses or Elijah. But Jesus was born into a poor family and even earned his living as a carpenter until He was 30. He came as a common man in order to identify with man. This is utter humility for humility comes from a word meaning “ground” and hence “lowly.” To be humble is to lower oneself to an inferior position. It is to take a position beneath what is actually deserved. The reality is that we cannot fully comprehend the humility of Jesus, the creator and eternal God, in becoming a man, and even more so in become a man with the nature of a slave. There is nothing in human experience that can begin to compare even if it was a great king voluntarily becoming a galley slave.

In the next verse, Philippians 2:8, we find that Jesus’ humility is even greater than what we already cannot comprehend for it continues on to explain the reason Jesus became a man, “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Jesus humbled Himself ( ejtapeivnwsen eJauto;n). He caused His heart to bow down even to the point of being obedient to die on the cross.

Christ came for the purpose of dying. In John 12:27 Jesus spoke about his upcoming death and said, “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I came to this hour. The fact that the Christ came to die was not something obscure, for Jesus said to the two men on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24 that all of the Old Testament showed it was necessary for Him to suffer and enter His glory. But someone might say, “so what, all men die, I would expect the Christ to die like all men.” Jesus did not come to die an ordinary death. He had to die a certain type of death.

Psalm 22 is a prophecy describing the details of the Messiah’s death written 1,000 years before Jesus died. Jesus had to die in a manner consistent with the prophetic nature of this Psalm including having his clothes divided by casting lots, having his hands and feet pierced, and crying out “My God, my God, why has Thou forsaken me?” In addition, according to Isaiah 53, Jesus had to die a death that would show that He was the suffering servant who was “Smitten of God and afflicted . . . pierced through for out transgressions . . . crushed for our iniquities.”

There were many attempts to murder Jesus, but they could not be successful because He could only die when He laid His life down at His own initiative (John 10:18) and He had to die in a particular manner. The people of Nazareth sought to throw Him off a cliff, but Jesus passed through their midst (Luke 4:28-30). The Scribes and Pharisees were often plotting to kill Him and in both John 8:59 and 10:31 they accused Jesus of blasphemy and picked up stones to stone Him which was the proper manner of execution for that sin (Leviticus 24:16), but Jesus could not be killed that way because He did not blaspheme. His claims of deity are true.

Our text states that Jesus was obedient even unto death on a cross. Galatians 3:13 explains the importance of the manner in which Jesus had to die, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us–for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’” This is from Deuteronomy 21:22-23 which states, “And if a man has committed a sin worthy of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God)” Jesus had to die upon a tree as the one who bore the curse of sin for us.

It was no accident that Jesus was crucified. It was the plan of God the Father and Jesus was obedient to it. In doing so, Jesus paid the penalty for our sins as described in 1 Peter 1:18, “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.” Jesus’ death on the cross also fulfilled the declaration He made in John 3:14-15, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life.” Jesus paid the price for our redemption from sin, but you have to place your faith in Him in order to have that applied to your own life. Without such faith, you remain condemned in your sins as explained in John 3:18.

Christmas is not about Santa Claus, elves and reindeer. It is not about giving and receiving gifts. It is not even about the romanticized scene of a baby in a manger surrounded by his mom and dad, the animals, shepherds and wise men. It is about the incredible humility of God in becoming a man in order to bring about the salvation of mankind through His own death on the cross. Jesus did not stay a baby in a manger and neither did He stay in the grave after He died. He was resurrected back to life with a glorified body in which forty days later He ascended back to the Father to sit as His right hand. Giving consideration to Jesus’ current and future position brings up another reason that Jesus became a man, solidifies our hope for the future and heightens our understanding of His humility.

The Exalted Position of Jesus

– Philippians 2:9-11

Paul continues in Philippians 2:9 writing, “Therefore also God highly exalted Him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Jesus’ prayer in John 17:5 is fulfilled, “And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world began.” Jesus returns to His rightful position of glory, but there are some differences because He has also taken on the nature of being a glorified, resurrected man with responsibilities toward the people that place their faith in Him.

Hebrews 10:12 states that Jesus, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God. Hebrews 7:25 reveals from that position Jesus makes intercession for His disciples with the Father. Hebrews 2:17 explains this in greater detail stating, “Therefore, he had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God,” with Hebrew 4:15 adding that Jesus is able to sympathize with our weaknesses because He was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. In becoming a man, Jesus also became the perfect High Priest who mediates between us and God.

Jesus returned to His rightful glory with the Father, but He left a very important promise to us who believe in Him in John 14:1-3, 1 “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”

One day Jesus will return and take those who belong to Him back with Him to heaven where we will bow before Him in worship as do the angels, and worship belongs to God alone. Philippians 2:9-10 makes it clear that all beings, both physical and spiritual, will also eventually bow the knee before Jesus and confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father. That will be the fulfillment of Isaiah 45:23, 22 “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other. 23 “I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.” Those that do that willingly in this life will join all other believers and the angels in joyously worshiping Jesus Christ throughout eternity. Those that continue to follow their own will, which is anything other than following Jesus, along with the demons will one day bow the knee and confess Jesus is Lord, but it will because they have no other choice. Like an army that is utterly and completely defeated, they will be forced to submit to the authority of the one who conquered them. They will then enter an eternity of eternal torment shut out from presence of God.


Jesus humbled Himself beyond our comprehension and became the babe in the manger and then went further in being obedient to die on the cross. The sinless Christ suffered the curse of sin on our behalf that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). But He rose in triumph from the dead and ascended to heaven where He is now the exalted Christ who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. You will eventually submit to His authority. It is simply a question of when, but the consequences of when are extreme.

My prayer for you this Christmas is that you would truly know the savior, this humble God-man whose birth we celebrate, so that you will no longer be under the condemnation of sin, but would know instead the true joy of living a life according to God’s design for His glory. If you are here without Christ as your Lord and Savior, will you humble yourself to willingly submit to Him today while you still can voluntarily? If you know Christ, then rejoice over the remembrance of Him leaving His glory, coming to be a man and redeem us from our sins. Follow His example of humility in your own life is service to God and others. Rejoice that He has now been restored to that glory and we will see Him in that glory one day. Come, let us worship our humble, but glorified King today.


Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up. 2) Count how many times the words “humble” or “humility” is said. Talk with your parents about how you can be humble like Jesus



Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What do you think American society believes is the meaning Christmas? What do you think is the meaning of Christmas? What is the theme of the book of Philippians? How is unity achieved and maintained in a church? What is humility and why is it so important in human relationships? How would you respond to someone that said that Philippians 2:6 was an encouragement for you to think of yourself as a god or god-like? How do we know that Jesus is God? What is the essential nature of God? What is His nature in relationship to time, space, knowledge and power? What does it mean to be sovereign? What does it mean to be holy? How does holiness separate God from His creation? What effect does holiness have on God’s moral attributes – including those considered negative in men such as jealousy, hatred, anger and wrath? What offices of deity does Jesus hold? What prerogatives of deity does Jesus have? At minimum, what would Jesus need to “empty Himself” of in becoming a man? What does this say about Jesus’ humility? How is that increased by coming in the form of a slave? How is that increased by becoming obedient to death on a cross? What are some of the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled by His death? Why couldn’t Jesus be murdered? Why did Jesus have to die on a cross? What does this say about the meaning of Christmas? What happened to Jesus after He died? What is Jesus’ current position in relationship to man? In relationship to the Father? What is Jesus’ promise for the future for His disciples? What will happen to those who are not His disciples? Why? What will happen to you in eternity? Why? In light of Jesus’ humility, how will you celebrate Christmas this year? How will you try to follow Jesus’ example in your own life?


 Study Notes

The Humility of God – December 22, 2013

Philippians 2:5-11


American ________________ has turned Christmas from a holiday into a day of stressful obligation

I want to remind you of the true meaning of Christmas and what it _________about the God that created us

Scriptural Context

– Philippians

The theme of Philippians is _____________ in all circumstances

It requires ______________ for believers to walk in unity with one another

Phil. 2:5 – Paul points to Jesus as the ______________ of the humility for believers to follow

You cannot understand the humility of Jesus without contrasting it to the __________that belongs to Him

(The idea that humans can become gods or god-like is a blatant _____________)

The Deity of Jesus Christ

– Philippians 2:6

    Who being in the form / appearance / look / likeness of _______________

Hebrews 1:3 ; Colossians 1:15-16; John 1:18; John 14:8-9.

    “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped / snatched at” as in ______________ (KJV)

Jesus is ______________ – Isaiah 7:14 / Matthew 2:23; Isaiah 9:6

Humility is demonstrated in the ______________ between position and practice

God is self-existent and self-sufficient. He is the uncaused cause of everything and needs _____________

_______in relationship to time, space, knowledge & power (eternal, omnipresent, omniscient & omnipotent)

God is the supreme sovereign – He is only restricted by His __________ character and attributes

God is __________ – of infinite virtue and purity – He is other than all He has created

His holiness is part of all His ______attributes including characteristics which are normally negative in men

Jesus also has all the offices & prerogatives of _____- Creator, preserver, all authority to forgive or condemn

Jesus has the right to receive honor and ____________ that belongs only to God

The Humanity & Humility of Jesus Christ

– Philippians 2:7-8

Jesus “emptied Himself” – at minimum, He placed limits on the expression of His _______________

Jesus took on the form – character and ______________ – of a slave (douvloV äïýëïV / doulos)

To be humble is to lower oneself to an _______________ position

Jesus humbled Himself (caused His heart to bow down) even to obedience to __________ on the cross

Jesus came for the purpose of ______________ – John 12:27; Luke 24:25-26

Jesus had to die in certain way to fulfill the ancient _______________ – Psalm 22; Isaiah 53;

Jesus________________ be murdered – He had to die in a particular manner at His own initiative

Jesus had to die on the _______________ – Galatians 3:13; Deut. 21:22-23

Jesus died according to the plan of ______________ – 1 Peter 1:18; John 3:14-15

Christmas is about the incredible ______________of God in becoming a man to redeem by His own death

The Exalted Position of Jesus

– Philippians 2:9-11

Jesus’ _____________ in John 17:5 is fulfilled

Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Father to intercede for His disciples as their sympathetic high ______

John 14:1-3 – Jesus is in heaven preparing a place for His follower and will _____________ for them

All beings, physical and spiritual, will _______the knee and confess that Jesus is Lord fulfilling Isaiah 45:23

Believers and angels worship Jesus willingly and _________________

Unbelievers and demons will be __________to submit and then spend eternity in torment shut out from God


Jesus ____________Himself to become sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him

Will you __________________ yourself to believe and submit to Him voluntarily?

Come, let us worship our humble, but _______________ King today.

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