(If you would like to receive Pastor Harris’ weekly sermons via e-mail, Click here)
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
December 20, 1998
The Glory Christ Left
The Sunday prior to Christmas is often called “Christmas Sunday” and in light of that I would like to call our attention this morning to the meaning of Christmas. Today there will be many sermons in churches around the world about Joseph & Mary looking for a place to stay, Jesus in the manger, the shepherds in the fields, the Angels declaring God’s glory, and a few even about the Wise men coming to worship and Herod seeking to destroy. I would like to speak this morning on what Jesus left in order to become a man.
In the book of Philippians, the apostle Paul gives us some great insights into Jesus’ nature before He became a man, why He came, and what He is like now. Please turn to Phil. 2.
The dominant theme of the little book of Philippians is joy. Paul describes a joy that can be experienced in any circumstance. In this short letter, Paul uses the term for joy or a related term 16 times. As Paul begins the book, he talks about the joy he has even though he is in prison. As he continues, he begins to exhort to the Philippians to make his joy complete by conducting themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (1:27). He goes on to explain in Chapter 2 that this can only be done if they are unified in same love, the fellowship of the Spirit and intent on one purpose (2:1,2). In practical terms this will require them to be humble people who look out for the best interest of others and not for themselves (2:3,4). It is at this point that Paul gives them a command that they should follow Jesus’ example of humility. 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 follow Christ’s example of humility, but in doing so, Paul also tells us of the glory Christ had before becoming a man, the reason he left that glory, and the position Jesus has now. We will examine each of these this morning: 1) The Glory of Christ before the incarnation, 2) Why did He left that glory, & 3) Christ’s position now.
(And as a footnote before we even get started in our examination of this passage, let me point out again that men such as Kenneth Copeland or anyone else who uses this passage to say that humans can become gods or godlike is completely unfounded in both the context of the passage and the greek grammar of the verse. Such a doctrine is from the pit, and it is blatant heresy to claim that we should think of ourselves as gods or godlike. The attitude we are commanded to have in verse 5 is the humility demonstrated by Jesus when he became a man).
1) The Glory of Christ before the Incarnation
Paul’s purpose in this passage was to use Jesus as the supreme example of humility that Christians need to follow, not to present a detailed doctrinal statement about the deity of Christ. Yet, in presenting Christ as this example of humility, Paul also gives a wonderful presentation of Christ’s deity by looking at His position before the incarnation.
A. Christ’s Nature Prior to the Incarnation. (v.6).
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.” The KJV translates this as “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” This verse is loaded with rich doctrine concerning the nature of Christ.
First, “Although He existed in the form of God.” Paul is simply saying that Christ had the “form, appearance, look or likeness” of God in that Christ had the divine nature of God. The same thing is said in other Scriptures. Heb. 1:3 says, “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. Col. 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. Philip asks Jesus to “show him the Father,” and Jesus responds 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 in human flesh.
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 as “robbery” and that is the meaning behind the word. 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 the Christ is God Himself in human flesh. 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 Isa. 7:14 and fulfilled in Matt. 2:23. In other carols, Jesus is called “wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” from Isa. 9:6. Scripture makes it 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 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 .
The point of all is to say that the glory that Jesus before becoming a man was the very glory of the eternal, God. That is the glory he left. Jesus Himself claimed to have had that glory. Do you recall His prayer in John 17? In verse 5 He says, And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world began.” In the Transfiguration, recorded in Matt. 17:2-7, we see Jesus “transfigured before them (Peter, James & John); and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light.”
We also get an idea of the glory Jesus had by looking at some of the revelations of God’s glory in the O. T. For example, Isaiah’s vision in Isa. 6 when he saw “the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.” Isaiah goes on to talk of the Seraphim that stood above God. Each of them has six wings, two of which covered their faces, two were used to cover their feet and two were used to fly. They called out to each other “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” Isaiah describes the sound of their calling making the thresholds of the temple shake. I think all of us would have had the same reaction as he did and cry out “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” The sight and sounds of such glorious holiness would make us fall down in repentance and terror as it did Moses, Daniel or Ezekiel in their encounters with God.
The glory that Jesus left was the very glory of God. This baby, lying in a manger in a barn is not just a child. It is God Himself, creator of all things. He has become one of us! Do you understand the meaning of that?!
When I listen to the carols played over the radio or see some Christmas special and some Hollywood celebrity is singing one of them, I often do not know whether to laugh or cry. They sing with great voice the praises of this child, but most of them do not know the one they are singing about. They sing “Joy to the World,” but they do not receive Jesus as their King and they remain in the curse of their sins. They sing “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing” but they themselves remain unreconciled with God. They sing the words “come and worship, worship Christ, the newborn King,” and “Hail, the incarnate deity,” but they themselves do not worship Him and believe Jesus to only have been a good man & teacher of long ago. Yes, our glorious God makes even those who reject Him and hate Him to sing praise to His name.
Do you understand what it means that God has come in human flesh. If you do, your life will change! What does it mean? Let’s see why He came and find out.
2) Why Jesus became a Man.
Christ, who was and is equal with God, “emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men (2:8). Jesus laid aside the glory He had with the Father and became a man. That alone would be a wonder above all wonders, and cause for our rejoicing, but even more so Jesus did not come as an exalted man. He came as a doulos, a common slave. I would venture to say that most of us, if we were in Christ’s place, would come as some great and powerful individual- 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 and become the high priest, i.e., the mediator, between God and man. Heb. 2:17 says, “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,” Heb. 4:15 adds that Jesus is able to sympathize with our weaknesses because he was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Jesus had to become a man in order to be able to bring us to God.
Christ not only becomes a man in order to become the mediator between God and man, but he also willingly died for the benefit of mankind. Paul says in verse 8, “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Christ came for the purpose of dying. In John 12:27 Jesus speaks about his upcoming death and says, “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 was to die was not something obscure, for Christ 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 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?” Second, and more important, Jesus had to die a death that would show that He was accursed by God. Isaiah 53 in particular speaks of the Messiah as the suffering servant- the one who would be “Smitten of God and afflicted . . . pierced through for out transgressions, . . . crushed for our iniquities.” Jesus had to die a death that would demonstrate accomplishment of these things in some way. There was only one type of death he could suffer.
You might recall that there were many attempts to kill Christ. In Luke 4, the people of Capernaum sought to throw Him off a cliff after He had taught in the Synagogue. John records that the Scribes and Pharisees were often plotting to kill Him. In John 8:59, they pick up stones to stone Him and in John 10:31 they do it again. Though they do not stone Him either time, they do continue to plot to kill Him (John 11:8). The proper Jewish method of death for blasphemy, which is the crime the Jews accused Jesus of, was stoning. The Jews sought to do this many times, yet could never accomplish it. Why? Because Jesus had to die a death that demonstrated that He was taking upon Himself the sins of the world and was cursed by God. Jesus had to die upon a tree. Deut. 21:22,23 says, “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), . . . “ Galatians 3:13 says, “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’.” It was no accident that Jesus was crucified. It was the plan of God. This act paid the penalty for our sins as 1 Pet. 1:18 describes. “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 what he had said 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’ death made it possible for our redemption, but we have it applied to our own lives through simple faith in order to receive its benefits. We must believe and trust Jesus Christ and what He has done for our salvation in order to have the penalty of sin removed. John 3:16 states it clearly, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
Jesus left the glory He had with God the Father for the specific purpose of enabling you and me to be reconciled with God. Jesus has made it possible by paying the price for our sins which we could not pay ourselves. Our response is to believe and follow Him. If you are here today and do not have a personal relationship with Christ. If you have not put your trust in Him alone for the forgiveness of your sins and salvation from sin’s penalty, then in reality, Christmas has no significant meaning for you. It may be a nice time of year with fond memories, and you may enjoy the traditions associated with the holiday, and you may even like the carols, but there is no great cause for you to celebrate. In fact, it might even be a hard time of year for you. It is an interesting fact that the suicide rate in western nations is highest during the Christmas season. But consider as well that Jesus is no longer a helpless baby in a manger.
Jesus left the glory He had with God the Father in order to become a man and accomplish our redemption and offer us His salvation. Jesus is no longer the God-man who is meek and mild and we picture lying in a manger. Jesus is a risen savior who has had His former glory fully restored.
2) Christ’s position now.
Verses 9-11 tell us of what occurred after Jesus died for our sins and rose from the grave. “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.”
I call your attention to the exalted nature of the name given to Him. It is above all other names. It is a name that has higher glory than all other names. It is a name that brings honor and glory, for as verse 10 says ” . . . at the name of Jesus every knee would bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth.” All creatures will bow their knee. They will give worship unto Jesus. To “bow the knee” was a sign of a subject giving honor and submitting to the authority of royalty.
Verse 11 states that all creatures will bow. The phrase, “those in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth,” covers everything. All creatures will also confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. These creatures that bow the knee are all those beings capable of such communication. That includes the Angels and saints in heaven, men on the earth, and demons and the unsaved awaiting final judgement. All of these beings bow the knee and confess that Jesus is Lord.
Again, this gives evidence of Jesus’ divine nature and equality with God. The prophet Isaiah states in Isa. 45, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone forth from my mouth in righteousness, and will not turn back, That to me every knee will bow, every tongue shall swear.” Bowing the knee and making confession is reserved for God alone. The first commandment of the Ten commandments was that there were to be no other gods before the true and living God, and one of the specifics of that was bowing down to idols. In the Old Testament, If you kneeled before an idol you were considered an idolater, and God judged the nations for it. The apostle Paul quotes this verse in Rom. 14:11,12 and places its occupants at the judgement seat of Christ. And what is it that these beings confess? That Jesus Christ is Lord. This is a possible reference back to the Old Testament name of Yahweh. Jesus is confessed to be master. God the Father exalts God the Son back to His place of glory to receive worship, and this brings glory to God the Father.
The saying goes that there is nothing certain except death and taxes. That may seem like a true axiom, but it is wrong. There are those that escape paying taxes, and there will be those who will be alive at the Lord’s coming and not die. The only thing that is certain that you will do is bow your knee and confess with your tongue Jesus Christ is Lord. Those that do that willingly in this life will enter into a joyous eternity with Christ. Those that continue to follow their own will, (which is anything other than following Jesus’ will), will enter an eternity of eternal torment shut out from presence of God. They will finally submit to the Lordship of Christ, but only because there is no other option. Like an army that is utterly and completely defeated, they have no choice but to submit to the authority of those who conquered them. The submission then will be from compulsion.
The babe is no longer in a manger. 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.
You will you do so willingly in response to His love demonstrated so clearly in leaving His glory to die for your sins, and He will be your Savior. Or you will wait until you are compelled to do so when you meet Jesus as you enter eternity. You will have no choice then for He will be your judge. If you wait to submit to Him then, the verdict against you is already pronounced in Revelation 20. Those not in the book of life are cast into the lake of fire.
My prayer for you this Christmas, is that you would truly know the savior, and might know the true joy of living a life according to God’s design, and no longer under the condemnation of sin. If you are here without Christ as your Lord and savior, will you willingly submit to Him today while you still can? 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. Rejoice that He has now been restored to that glory and we will see Him in that glory one day. Come, let us worship Him today.
For comments, please e-mail Church office