Thursday, July 4, 2013

Philippians 2:1-11, Exalted Suffering

I had the opportunity to preach recently*, and given the scope of Philippians 2:1-11, I felt compelled to mention that I could not touch on every aspect of interest in this passage. That's still true in the context of this blog, but there were a couple of themes too fascinating to pass up. This post will focus on one of those themes--the connection between Phil 2:1-11 and the Suffering Servant passage in Isaiah 53

Philippians 2 shows us the mind of Christ (v7-8), "who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

Here is our salvation! The passage doesn't speak directly to our justification, but the full scope of gospel accomplishment, from beginning to end, is with Christ. He assumed humanity and absorbed our death.  The Christ Hymn of Philippians 2 reflects the glory of the atonement even if it's not explicit.

By taking the form of a servant, Christ has borne the likeness of Isaiah's Suffering Servant (Isa 53:11). Compare Philippians 2:7-8 with the first six verses of Isaiah 53:

Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

Even though the Christ Hymn doesn't explain the formula of salvation by grace through faith, the truth is there in two forms.

1. Philippians 2:6-11 was an early church hymn. It was a confession of church--that Jesus Christ truly was the Son of God who died on the cross. Sola Fide is implicit in the song because those singing it have put their trust in Christ. [1 Cor 12:3, Rom 10:9]

2. The connection to the Suffering Servant imports all of that context into the Christ Hymn. Each of us deserves God's punishment, for it's our sin that alienated us from God. But Isaiah 53 teaches us that the Man of Sorrows shouldered the weight of God's crushing justice for us. We can have peace with God because his wrath was diverted away from us, the straying sheep, and poured out on his Son instead.

As precious as personal salvation is, the real point of the Christ Hymn is to exalt Christ. It's all about Jesus Christ, and his exhibition of the most godly nature--genuine humility--is why he was exalted to the highest place. Paul explains that it was Jesus' willingness to descend to servanthood and death that highlights his coronation:
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:9-11).
God the father took what was low and made it high, brought the dead to life, and entirely turned the world on its head. There is now no higher name than Jesus of Nazareth, the great I AM.

It is here that the connection with Isaiah 53 is cemented. For in that chapter, just as in Philippians 2, the Suffering Servant does not see affliction only. The shame of God's curse is not a dead end. Just as Jesus is raised up in his hymn, God speaks of blessing to his Servant in Isaiah.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Despite a bleak outlook, God's Servant sees his offspring and prolongs his days. Pouring out his soul to death cannot be the end, for this man "divides his spoil with the strong" and "the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand."

For all Christ has done, its end is to the praise of God's glorious grace (Phil 2:11, Eph 1:6). Christ is glorious, and God the Father is glorious! O may our souls be stirred to sing doxology--here are some suggestions: Behold Our GodJesus Messiah, Majesty (Here I Am), How Great Is Our God

*These resources are linked here if you desire fuller context; the intention is not self-promotion. [mp3manuscript]

No comments:

Post a Comment