The Mind of Christ
by Rev. Maurice Roberts
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him" (Philippians 2:5-9).
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (text).
1. What Christ was.
2. How He humbled Himself
3. How God rewarded Him
It is clear that the Apostle Paul had a happy relationship with this church of the Philippians. Paul did not always have a happy relationship with the churches to which he wrote his epistles. He was most uneasy with the Galatian church. He had to rebuke them, and to correct them for having departed from the purity of the gospel and for drifting into some form of sacramentarianism. The Apostle Paul also had great difficulties with the congregation at Corinth. There were many things wrong with the church at Corinth, both in their worship, and in their doctrine, and in their practice. So in these and some other churches the Apostle Paul had an uneasy relationship, and this is reflected in the way in which he has to speak to them, and the way in which he has to address them when he writes to them.
However, when he writes to the church at Philippi, here, he has nothing but joy. You feel, as you read this epistle, he is relaxed. He has nothing to rebuke, scarcely anything to correct: the word 'joy' runs everywhere through this letter. He says that they are his joy and crown. And if you wanted to take out one theme which, if you like, reflects his attitude to this church, you could only take out the theme of joy. Continually, he tells them to rejoice: those famous words, for instance, that begin the third chapter, "Rejoice in the Lord (verse 1) always: and again I say," unto you "rejoice" (Philippians 4:4).
Now, joy is a beautiful thing. Joy is the spirit of heaven. It is the state of mind of all those who will be with God in glory. Heaven is a place of joy; and when we live the Christian life, as we should do, we will experience this spiritual joy. It does not come because of merely earthly and human things. It comes because of our being 'in Christ'. When we are truly in a state, as we ought to be as Christians, of joy and happiness we are glad to see one another. We are glad to talk to one another. When we are in our true position as Christians we are always glad to meet. We are not embarrassed before one another. We are at peace with one another; there is unity, and harmony, and love. And these are very precious things, things you cannot buy with money, things that only the grace of God can bring about in our hearts and lives and in our congregations. And that's what the Apostle Paul noticed and experienced in this church of the Philippians. They were his joy, and they gave him joy, and he tells them so as he writes to them of joy in Christ.
However, the great question is, How can we promote this spiritual joy? What can we do to encourage this 'spirit of heaven' to be promoted amongst one another and in our fellowships? In this second chapter at the beginning, here in this text, the Apostle is telling them how joy amongst Christians can be encouraged and increased. How is it done? Well, listen to the way he puts it at the beginning of this chapter. "Fulfil ye my joy (verse 2), that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind." Aren't those wonderful things, my dear friends, wonderful things. Listen to them again, "Fulfil ye my joy...like-mindedness...the same love...being of one accord, of one mind." Where in the world do you find such a spirit? You don't find it in governments, you don't find it on the sports field, but you do find it amongst those who are walking in fellowship with God and with Christ. In other words, it begins with humility. The best churches and the best Christians are those which are characterized by the spirit of Christ, which is the spirit of humility. This is how he puts it at verse 3, "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others" (Philippians 2:3-4). Here is the formula for unity, and love, and peace, and joy: to share the same spirit, and the same mind, not to look on your own problems, only. We can, all of us, so easily come to church and we can be conscious of our own difficulties: we all have problems; we all have trials; we all have temptations. But, he says, don't simply think of your own problems. Remember the brethren; they also have trials. Look not only on your own things. Try to forget yourself, and to remember that others also have similar difficulties in life. "Let this mind be in you," he says, "which was also in Christ Jesus." Now that, then, is the theme today: to strive to cultivate the mind which was in the Lord Jesus Christ. That's the way he puts it at verse 5, which is my text: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus".
So, having exhorted these Philippian Christians to be humble, and peaceable, and united, and self-effacing, he then sets before them an example. This is very commonly done in Scripture. The way to teach Christians is not simply by giving them exhortation, but by also setting before their minds the example of Christ Himself, and that's what Paul, here, does. He says, We are to be humble, we are to be self-effacing. But then, says he, let this mind be in you which was in Christ. So, having told us what we should do, he sets before us the example of our Lord Himself. Here is the pattern, he says. Here is the inspiration. And then we have this very famous and familiar, well-known section of Scripture, a sublime portion of the Word of God which I want to look at with you today.
It is very clear, my friends, is it not, that there is no example of humility anywhere in history which compares in the remotest degree with the humility of our Lord Jesus Christ. His humility is unique. His humility is without parallel. In the history of mankind, of all ages and nations, there is no example of the humble mind and the humble spirit, which remotely compares with those of Christ.
Well, there are three things we have to look at here from Paul. First of all, we are told what Christ was; and then, second, we are told how He humbled Himself; and, thirdly, we are told how, as a consequence, God exalted Him: What Christ was, how He humbled Himself, and how God rewarded Him, in that order.
1. WHAT CHRIST WAS
First of all, then, we are told about the glory and honour which Jesus Christ had in and of Himself, at verse 6: "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God."
Let me explain this word 'form', "being in the form of God". This is a word which we would do very well to know the meaning of. It is the Greek word 'morphe'. We do have English words connected with 'morphe'; we don't use them very often but there is a word, 'morphology'. Morphe means this: it means 'what a thing is of itself'; it is the characteristic of anything. Let me use an illustration. We're all human beings. That's what we have in common. Some of us are young; some of us are older. Some of us are black-haired, some fair-haired; some grey-haired. Some of us are more clever than others; some of us are more well-to-do than others. Some of us have more difficult jobs than others. But, now, the thing which we all have in common is that we're all human beings. That is our morphe. Now, everything else about us is changing. Those with dark hair, before long, will have grey hair. Those who are tiny and little will, God willing, soon be grown up. The superficial things about us are changing: our age, our education, our health - these are the passing, ephemeral, changing things of life. But the unchanging fact is our humanity. Now then, that is our morphe; that is our form. God has given to us all the form of a man, or, men and women.
Now, the form of Christ, we are told in my text, is that He is God. That is what is essential to Christ: He is God: inherently, eternally, unchangeably; that is what He is. He was conscious of this, says Paul at verse 6; He knew it. Notice how Paul goes on at verse 6: He thought it not robbery to be equal with God. In other words, He knew that it was no exaggeration for Him to claim to be God. It would be a monstrous exaggeration for you or me to claim to be God. It is a monstrous injustice for the popes of Rome to claim to have the authority which they assert. But it is no robbery for Christ to claim to be God. If you or I were to claim to be the Prince of Wales, it would be robbery; we would be robbing another man of his honour. We have no right to claim to be the Prince of Wales. That belongs to one man. But for the Lord Jesus Christ to claim to be God was no robbery. When He said He was God He spoke what is true. Now, this is a very rich statement, a very rich statement. Clearly, my friends, it is truth that Jesus is God. There cannot be any dubiety about it; there's no ambiguity here: Jesus is Jehovah. He is not only the Son of God, but He is God the Son.
Now, this must mean that everything that belongs to God belongs to Christ; it is part of His morphe, His form; and we cannot escape forming the doctrine of the holy Trinity. There is no other way to state the doctrine of God. There have been many people who have talked about not liking the doctrine of the Trinity. It's very easy to make fun of the doctrine of the Trinity: people say, How can the one God be three? and the three be One? And impious, and agnostic, and atheistic minds object to this doctrine of the Trinity; but, I say to you, How else could we state the doctrine of God? If Jesus is God, and yet the Father is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, either we must say we have three gods, or three Persons in one God. The Bible makes it very clear that there is only one God; it doesn't talk about three gods, so, there's nothing left for us to do but to adopt the doctrine of the Trinity: one God, in three Persons; and Jesus has the form, the essence, of God. Everything that belongs to God belongs to Him: all the divine substance, all the divine essence, all the divine attributes, all the divine powers, and prerogatives, and sovereignty, and majesty - it is His! as much as it is that of God the Father and the Spirit.
Now, because this is true, my dear friends, it is very obvious that: if we are not Christians, then we are great sinners. If we reject Christ, we are rejecting God, because He is God; and you cannot reject Christ and His gospel without rejecting God. And so, in a true sense of the word, a non-Christian is 'a godless person'; and that is a sad condition for anyone to be in. A non-Christian does not know God. He does not have God; because not to have Christ, is not to have God, if Christ is God.
This is the poor condition, therefore, of our poor friends the Jehovah's Witnesses. They are very zealous: they go from door-to-door, knocking, and telling, and giving things; but I hope everybody here understands that the Jehovah's Witnesses do not say that Jesus is God. They say almost everything else, but they will not say that. They will say He is the Son of God, but they mean that in the sense that he is derived from God, that He is less than God, that He is created by God. Now, that will not do. He is not less than God. If He is, then He is not in the form of God; and if He is not in the form of God, then Paul the Apostle is writing nonsense! But when Paul tells us that Christ is in the form of God he is stating a massive Trinitarian statement, a massive majestic statement concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. That is His eternal and inherent right: both to be God, and to call Himself God - and He did so.
Now, all of this is true of Christ always. It was true of Christ before the creation of the world; it was true of Christ at the creation of the world. This was true of Christ all through the Old Testament period of history. It was true at His birth and incarnation; it was true in His life and death on the Cross; it was true in the grave. When our Lord was in the grave, He was God! And when He rose from the grave He rose and was God. He is God still. He will be God when the Judgement Day comes, and in eternity past. He cannot change in His Godhood. Godhood is something which does not mutate; it doesn't vary. It's not like the seasons of the year; spring turning to summer, turning to autumn, and so forth. His Godhood is unchangeable. Before time was, He was God; when time is finished, God He will still be.
Now, Christian friends, let me tell you what you believe. This is a blessed and a glorious truth, and all our hope, and all our salvation, depends upon this. What a salvation we have, if He is God! What a Saviour we have, if He is God! How satisfying to God the Father His death is! How adequate His blood is! if it is the blood of One who is God. How little reason for fear we have. If He is what He is, then why should we be anxious? We are clothed upon with the righteousness of God! and we are being interceded for daily, and continually, by One who is God. His atonement, His intercession, His everything is that of a divine, and eternal, and an infinitely wonderful Person. That is the way Paul states the matter with regard to Christ.
2. HOW HE HUMBLED HIMSELF
But now, secondly, He tells us that this Son of God humbled Himself. You will find that at verse 7: "[He] made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled himself" (verse 8). There are, in fact, two steps, two distinct stages in this humbling of Christ. One was the humbling to become a man; and the second, was the humbling of Himself to die on the Cross.
First of all, Christ abased Himself to become man. Let us be clear that His self-humiliation was by addition, not by subtraction. He did not humble Himself in the sense that He lost anything that He had before. He didn't stop being God. He didn't cease to be God. He was God still, at His birth and incarnation; but He humbled Himself, rather, in this sense, that He added to His divinity what He did not have before: to Godhood, He added manhood.
It would be possible to translate these words at verse 7, "that He made Himself of no reputation", in this sense, in this way. It would be possible to translate these words, 'He emptied Himself'; but that is not a good translation here, because it suggests ideas which are dangerous. He did not empty Himself of His Godhood, or His divinity. The way in which He humbled Himself is in that He made Himself nothing. That would be the best way to put it. When He came into this world He made Himself nothing. Now, there are four ways in which Paul refers here, in this context of these verses, four ways in which Paul states Christ's self-humbling.
(a) HE MADE HIMSELF OF NO REPUTATION
The first way is this very text that I have given you: that He "made Himself of no reputation". The way to put this to your mind is in the sort of illustration that I will give you. A great king, clothed with scarlet and ermine, wearing a crown, would, for a time perhaps, lay aside all his royal robes and his diadems, and take upon himself the clothes of a humble peasant and appear amongst other peasants in order that he might bless them and do them a kindness. That is what our Lord Jesus Christ has done. He has not ceased to be what He was; but He has appeared in this world like a peasant. He made Himself seem to be nothing. It wasn't that He was nothing, but He appeared to be nothing.
(b) HE TOOK ON HIM THE FORM OF A SERVANT
And then, notice the second way in which Paul puts this very thing. He says, verse 7: "[He] took upon Him the form of a servant". Even when He came into the world, Christ did not come looking like some great person. He didn't look anything. He looked just like any other man. If you were to see Jesus Christ in the days of His flesh coming into the door, you would say, That's just a Jew: His face, His nose, everything was Jewish; He looked just like any other Jew. Now, that is a danger: that people failed to recognize Him. The Bible says that men "stumbled at that stumbling stone" (Romans 9:32); and, of course, they do it still. When they read about Jesus, this is the way people talk about Him today: they refer to Him as Jesus. Jesus. My friends, this Jesus, that people talk about, is the Lord from heaven! This Jesus that they are so busy talking about, He is the King of Glory! come into this world. He appears to be just a servant, in order to fulfil the promises of God, and the prophecies of the Old Testament. He is the servant of Jehovah, the servant of the Father. He came to do the Father's will.
(c) HE WAS MADE IN THE LIKENESS OF MEN
And the third way in which Paul puts this is like this: "[He] was made in the likeness of men". You find those words at the end of verse 7. It is the third way in which he speaks of the humiliation: "He was made in the likeness of men". Notice how precise Paul is: "made in the likeness of men". Now, the likeness of men means: He took upon Him human nature such as we now have it; not the human nature as Adam had it at the beginning. If Adam and Eve were suddenly to walk into the room as they were when they were first created their faces would so be glorious and beautiful in our eyes; we would hide our faces with shame. We are so different from the way mankind was at the beginning. They were so God-like, so radiant, so resplendent with the beauty of God, in their very faces and character; and we, by comparison, are like some faded, water-colour version of Adam and Eve.
But, the Lord Jesus Christ, when He took our nature, He did not take it in its original glory; He took it as it now is in its faded condition - lines on our faces; no sin, mind you, there was no sin in Christ, but He took our frailty, our weakness, and He took all that our human nature now has. "He was made in the likeness of men"; and then there's a fourth expression here at verse 8.
(d) HE BEING FOUND IN FASHION AS A MAN, BECAME OBEDIENT UNTO DEATH
He looked as though He were nothing else but only a man. You would never have thought that Christ was more than a man. There was nothing in the way of supernatural beauty. Now, you may not know much about the fables of the ancient Greeks and Romans, but their fables had a lot to do with gods; they believed in lots of gods, like Jupiter, and Saturn, and all these gods. Let me just say a word about their stories, their fables, and their ancient stories of the gods. The sort of thing that they would talk about was this: that one of their gods would appear in the likeness of a man, from time to time, and he would talk to men in this world, perhaps to encourage them; and as they looked at him, they thought he was just an ordinary man; and then as they looked again he was actually growing in stature all the time; and as they gazed on him, suddenly his face would become brilliant, and they would realize that this was one of their gods come down.
You may remember in (Acts 14:8-18) that Paul and Barnabas were speaking to a Greek heathen community; and they spoke so well that they thought that Paul was one of the gods, and they thought that Barnabas was Jupiter. They imagined that they were the gods come down. These things were the things they read about in their storybooks as children; and they believed them, I suppose.
But, my friends, here is the wonder about Christ: nobody looking in His face would ever have thought that He was a god! because He looked ordinary; and He did so out of humbleness. Though He had the right to look god-like and glorious, yet in His self-humbling He was found in the fashion of a mere man.
Let me comment. We live today in a society where people are talking about 'human rights'. Human rights: a man has a right to do this, and a woman has a right to do that; and a child, even, has a right to this, and a right to that. We have rights today - human rights! And people are pressing their rights. But, you see, there's a Person who came from heaven who had the greatest rights of anyone, but he waived His rights: His right to be recognized as God. He waived that right. He was content to be supposed to be a mere man. He was content to appear to be a mere nobody, and a mere nothing. This was an astounding miracle: "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory" (John 1:14) - not the glory which could be seen with the eye, but the glory which every Christian sees by faith - the glory that shines in the character of Christ. Though His outward body appeared to be that of a mere man, yet - His character, His holiness, His love, His goodness, His consistency, His sinlessness, His benevolence, His patience - they are all that of God. "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9); and, "though He was rich, yet for [our] sakes He became poor that [we] through His poverty might be rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9).
And then, says Paul, He humbled Himself a still further degree, verse 8: "being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross".
It has been well said, that the person who was crucified 'died a thousand deaths'. It's one thing to die with a good, clean bullet, and a hole through your head, in which you die in a split-second; that's one thing, but to be nailed to a wooden cross and left there for days, and days, as people could be, was to die, not a death, but a thousand deaths. A person who was crucified died by inches - moment after moment, hour after hour, dying, slowly, a thousand deaths.
It was that death our Lord died - painful, and shameful, accursed, and damned. Our Lord died the death of the damned, and of a curse. And the Apostles Creed has this interesting phrase: 'He descended into Hell'. We must be careful how we understand that. He did not descend into Hell after He died. He descended into Hell before He died - on the Cross, our Lord suffered hell pains. He suffered the pains of the damned before He died; and all of this is set before us for one reason: the Apostle is not talking about the humiliation of Christ in abstract, he is giving it to us as a practical illustration of humility. There never was any humility like His humiliation.
My friend, let you and me pray. Let us pray often, and regularly, that God would put this mind in us, which was in Christ, as the Apostle commands us: let this same mind be in you, as was in Him (Philippians 2:5); as He humbled Himself, so humble yourself; as He was in His mentality, so be you in yours, and I in mine. We are to have this 'mind of Christ'.
3. HOW GOD REWARDED HIM
But, now, as I close, thirdly, you will notice that Christ received the reward for His humility, verse 9: "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth: and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:9-11).
The way of humility is the way of blessing; and it is also the way of reward. If you want God to bless you, and to reward you, here and hereafter, this is the way to do it. You may say, But why is God so ready to reward humility? and I answer: Because humility is so very hard. We're all such proud creatures. We would love to be something important. That's why there are such things as 'popes' in this world. A pope is simply a minister who can't bear not to be given a lot of praise. There's a pope right here; and there's probably a hundred popes right there. We would all love to be the only thing that mattered in the world. We would all love everybody to come bowing down to us. That's why people become pop stars, and film stars; it's because they love to have people sucking up to them, and idolizing them, and adoring them. That spirit is in human nature; "you shall be as gods," said the devil (Genesis 3:5); and that's what happened to us: we are like gods. So, then, what God loves is when we can kill in ourselves this spirit of pride; when, like our blessed Saviour, we are ready to be nothing, and ready to be nobody.
"And God hath highly exalted Him," super-exalted Him; that is the meaning of the Greek word. He has exalted Him with a transcendental glory, a glory which is without parallel. This Jesus, who was born at Bethlehem, died on the cross, is now raised to the highest pinnacle of exaltation. None anywhere, of all created beings, can faintly compare with Him in magnificence and honour. "Every knee shall bow" to Him; and "things in heaven" (that must be angels, surely), "things in earth" (must mean all the nations of men), "things under the earth" (surely that must mean the devils). In the Day of Judgement, my dear friends, the Jesus whom you trust in and worship, is going to be publicly adored by every rational being ever created - from the devil, to the highest archangel, every possible created being will have to come before Christ and do obeisance to Him, and confess that He is the Lord, that He is Jehovah, that He is the God-man. Now, you don't have any difficulty with doing that right now, do you? In your heart you are doing it, in your heart you rejoice, in your heart you are glad and thankful indeed that this is the case.
And, as I close, I say to you, Be, therefore, encouraged. We live in a time when Christianity seems to be at the low end; but don't be confused: it is just a little 'blip' in the wisdom and purposes of God. Christianity will outlive every religion, and Christ, in the end, will be the Lord of all. Let us believe it; and let us be humble.