Imitating the Incarnation

B.B. Warfield once wrote an article on Philippians 2 titled, “Imitating the Incarnation.” This is precisely the aim of Paul in Philippians 2, that we should have the same mind of Jesus Christ.

Paul explains for us what Christ’s perspective was in the state of his humiliation. “Even though he was in the form of God…” Form is not the best translation. The meaning is that Jesus was in very nature, God. From eternity Jesus had a divine nature.

The surprise follows as Paul explains that Jesus, as true and eternal God, “did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped.” Jesus did not hold onto that equality selfishly for his own advantage. This is an overwhelming truth, that even though Jesus was robed in eternal glory with the Father, he did not consider, in the incarnation, this status as something to be secured for his own benefit to lord it over others.

Paul wants us to ponder this gospel truth. The eternal Son of God, who, in his majesty, splendor, and glory, the one who is and always was truly God, did not grasp this status for his own advantage. Instead, Jesus left that glorious home, in coming to this earth, emptied himself by taking on our human nature.

The language of emptying himself, too, doesn’t quite capture the idea communicated. Jesus didn’t empty himself of anything; instead he poured himself out for the benefit of fallen humanity. Jesus did this by making himself of no reputation, in taking the form of a slave and coming in our likeness. Further, Jesus, in humbling himself, decided, in his choice of a body, to take a form that had no outward glory. He had “no beauty or majesty” to attract us to him. There was nothing in his appearance that we should desire him (Is. 53:2). We are meant to feel the shock of this.

We idolize good looking people, wealthy people who are successful, and accomplished. We live to make a name for ourselves, desiring riches, and a great name, holding onto our status to achieve happiness as functioning hedonists, while desperately trying to preserve our lives. But Jesus, in great contrast, humbled himself by becoming a servant.

Being equal with God, Jesus did not selfishly hold onto this status his own gain; he did not parade the fact this he is truly God for pomp and show, but instead he made himself of no reputation. The one who is the brightness of God’s glory and the express image of his person, made himself nothing and pouring himself out for you, dear Christian.

Paul is not finished with the meditation. At this point, the reader should fall into reverent silence. In the depths of his humiliation, in coming in among us as a true man, “he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

This is the love of God for sinners, exhibited in the most self-sacrifical manner. Jesus subjected himself to a cruel, humiliating, extreme suffering in facing the wrath on a cross to save us from our sins. He did this because the Father loves his sheep and were given to the Son as his work of his redemption. Think of it, he joyfully endured the cross for you, becoming sin, when he knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor. 5:21).”

This kind of humiliation went from the throne room in heaven, to the cradle, to the cross, and then the burial chamber of death, to give eternal life freely for all his sheep.

Exercising the Mind of Christ

This gospel truth drives the application that Paul is aiming toward. Paul writes, “if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Have this mind in you that was in Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:1-4).”

Jesus, in his ministry to God’s children, continually offers you consolation. Not only does he forgive your sins seventy times seven, but when you are broken, crushed, and depressed, he comes to you through the Spirit, and ministers peace to your conscience. He continues to offer you comfort of love, and fellowship in his Spirit, who continually bridges the gap from heaven, where Christ is, to unite you in fellowship with the Father and the Son.

If you have received any of these blessings, says Paul, in his continual ministry to you, knowing all he went through in his humiliation to deliver you from your rebellion, then, you should take his mind, use his mind, as his gift of his grace, to serve others.

How is this accomplished? Believers together should fulfill Christ-like joy by being like-minded. We should set our minds together on those things that really matter and on those things to which we already agree, continuing our fellowship of the gospel, “having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”

At the heart of this imitation of Jesus, we should do nothing from selfish ambition, but in the same lowliness of mind, look at others as better than ourselves. In the body of Christ, we should “look out not only for our own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

In looking like Jesus, we are not called to huddle together with those who affirm us, but instead, go to the weak, the down and outs, the needy, and love sacrificially. This is the most freeing life of the child of God. We can let go of making ourselves great. We are freed from the pursuit of a name, striving to be rich, and showing to all that we are put together people.

This is Christianity as its best, to set your minds to look at life as Jesus did in becoming a servant. We can set aside hypocritical, showy love for personal gain, and pursue a life together in discernment toward the end that together, as the body of Christ, we would have gospel fellowship and enjoy our bond in Christ.

And the best news motives us to use this this new mind that we have in Christ. Jesus no longer remains in a state of humiliation; “God has highly exalted him, giving him the name above every name, and at his name, every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the father.” The time of our tribulation is also short. As we reign already with him now, we also look to share together in the resurrection with him in the glory to come.

Bowing to Jesus today, as we bear his name has everything to do with having his mind in our sacrificial service to one another.