Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
A Humble Savior
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. Philippians 2:8NKJV
Question 48 of the Larger Catechism, asks, “How did Christ humble himself in his life?” It gives the answer, “Christ humbled himself in his life, by subjecting himself to the law, which he perfectly fulfilled, and by conflicting with the indignities of the world, temptations of Satan, and infirmities in his flesh, whether common to the nature of man, or particularly accompanying that his low condition.” Last week we looked at Christ’s lowly birth and poor family. This week we consider some of the ways He humbled Himself in order to carry out His mission.
Nobody likes conflict. Given our druthers, we would rather get along with those around us. Such also is the will of God, for the Bible teaches us: “If it is possible, as much as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12:18). Here we learn that conflict with others should be avoided unless or until the avoidance of it becomes a sin. How far are you willing to humble yourself and bear the burdens of others in order to avoid unnecessary conflict? Conversely, how much are you willing to suffer or risk in order to face a conflict that should not be avoided?
This morning’s question speaks of Christ’s voluntary humility under two categories. First, Christ humbled Himself “by subjecting himself to the law.” The moral law, as the revelation of the perfect righteousness of God’s own character, is always perfectly kept by all three Persons of the Holy Trinity. In that sense, the Son did not humble Himself to keep what is His glory to keep: His own perfect law! However, subjecting Himself to keep that law – in the form that it was given to God’s covenant people, with all of its ceremonies, rituals, and civil functions – was a great act of humbling for the man who was also God. Christ our Lord, our king, and divine lawgiver willingly became a servant, and human law-keeper, and He did this not for Himself but for us. This act was a greater act of humility than any man has ever endured, let alone willingly chosen to undergo.
Second, and even more significantly, Christ humbled Himself by entering into conflict for us. As mentioned above nobody likes conflict. Thus, we can be thankful that our gracious Creator actually forbids us from entering into conflict save only when to not do so would be sin. Such was not the case for Jesus, however. Jesus willingly entered into conflict for us, when He did not need to for Himself. Moreover, His conflict was with those who were entirely in the wrong while He was entirely in the right. And He did not come to the conflict in all of His glory and might hopeful to win and be vindicated over His enemies. On the contrary, He came “in the likeness of sinful flesh,” (Rom. 8:3), for the purpose of giving Himself over to be seemingly vanquished by those enemies (as it appeared to the unbelieving world since the conflict ended with their causing His death).
Thus, the Lord Jesus Christ, our dear Lord and Savior, humbled Himself in His life to the point of being wrongfully slandered, persecuted, tortured, and killed. He humbled Himself in His life to the point of death. He humbled Himself by doing exclusively what was perfectly right, to the extent that the wicked had to kill Him for it. As Christians, we are called to imitate Christ’s humility. To this end, each of us is given certain crosses to bear, insults to endure, conflicts to face. Our common call is to bear up under such hardships, returning good for evil, blessing for cursing, love for hatred. I do not know what trials you are undergoing in your life, but I do know that they have been entrusted to you by your loving heavenly Father for the exalted purpose of bringing Him glory and you everlasting blessing. In this life we will eventually appear to lose the conflict, as our deaths will bring it to an end. But as we feebly follow Christ in obedience unto death we will share in His victory, for as the Scripture promises: “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified,” (1 Pet. 4:14).