The Heart of Christmas
Philippians 2:5-11 (7)
On Sunday mornings during Advent we have been looking at the ancient hymn to Christ that was used in the early churches Paul served in Phil. 2:5-11. This hymn is often called “The Carmen Christi.” We’ve been working through this hymn, and in verse 5 we considered “The Call of Christmas.” We learned that Paul summons us to have a different mindset in light of the first coming of Jesus. Then last time we considered “The Plan for Christmas” in verse 6. Paul takes us back into eternity with the preincarnate Christ, in the fellowship of the Trinity, purposing to come and to be our Redeemer.
And now this week as we turn our attention to verse 7, we’re going to look at the very heart of Christmas. The words of verse 7 take us into the core of the Christmas story, into the heart of the Gospel, and the glories contained there. Several expressions Paul uses help to illuminate the wonder of Christ’s grace. “They suggest,” notes Sinclair Ferguson, “that Jesus is portrayed here as ‘Adam in reverse.’”
The first of these phrases found in verse 6 we considered last Sunday: ‘who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped…’ This reminds us of Adam’s failure. He was created as the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26). But he grasped after equality with God (see Gen. 3:5). By contrast, Jesus, whose right equality with God always was, did not refuse to become obedient (v8).
This Lord’s Day we will take up the next two phrases, found in verse 7. The first is The Son ‘emptied himself [made himself nothing] by taking the form of a servant’ (v7). Here we may have an echo of the great prophecy in Isaiah 52:13-53:12, where the Sufferer ‘poured out his life to death’ (Isa. 53:12). He is described by God as ‘my servant’ (Isa. 52:13). He did what Adam refused to do: serve God.
A third phrase that points to Christ as ‘Adam in reverse’ is also found in verse 7: He became “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” In Romans 5:12-21 Paul explains these words by means of an extended comparison between Jesus and Adam. Adam’s disobedience brought sin and death into the world; by contrast, Jesus’ obedience brings righteousness and life into it.
The Son of God came to undo the disobedience of Adam and to experience the judgment of God which Adam brought crashing down on the human race. To do so he had to become obedient to his Father’s will and plan. This he was throughout the whole of his life, from the cradle to the cross. Even when, in the Garden of Gethsemane, every natural human instinct in him shrank back from the climactic act of obedience on Calvary, he bowed before his Father and prayed, ‘Nevertheless, not my will but yours, be done’ (Luke 22:42).
Sinclair Ferguson notes the response of wonder this passage evokes when he writes:
“So a two-fold contrast lies hidden in Paul’s description of Jesus’ self-humbling. The contrast between who he is by nature and the identity he has taken on by grace; the contrast between what the Last Adam became and what the First Adam had been. No wonder such theology produced poetry!”
Or, as we stated last Sunday concerning this passage: All biblical theology leads to doxology!
I hope you can join us this third Sunday of Advent as we look at verse 7 of Philippians chapter 2. The Advent season leading up to the celebration of Christmas is a wonderful time to invite friends and family to join you in worship. I look forward to seeing you this Lord’s Day, and I hope you have some friends and family alongside of you. Grace to you.
For His Glory,