by J. Philip Scranton

"FOR LET THIS DISPOSITION be in you, which is in Christ Jesus also" (Phil.2:5). What an overwhelming statement! Who does Paul think we are, that we might actually display Christ's disposition in our lives? The earthworm may just as well try to imitate the eagle! Paul, give us an example with a little tarnish on it! Give us a pattern with clay feet so we can more easily identify with it! We dearly love the Lord, and wish to be like Him in everything, but how can we emulate One Who was in the form of God and left the glories of heaven?

Paul must have sensed the immensity of this exhortation, for he left us another example-Himself. In the following chapter Paul speaks of himself, comparing and contrasting himself with Christ, and in doing so, he gives us an example which we can more readily follow.

Christ was inherently in the form of God. We can hardly imagine the attendant glories that would devolve upon One Who is the Image of the invisible God, the Effulgence of His glory, the Emblem of His assumption. Such majesty escapes us! But then, we have our glory too-the glory of the flesh-in which so many place all their confidence. Paul was well stocked with it. Indeed, he excelled among the most zealous for religious heritage and piety. And in the eyes of men, Paul's religious stature could certainly be designated as "gain". "But as Christ gave up true divine glories when He emptied Himself, so also, our closer example gave up the corruptible glories of human respectability, emptying himself of those things in which the flesh places confidence.

Having emptied Himself of all rightful glory and authority, Christ was left to take the form of a slave. And in emulating this Paul takes great delight. Repeatedly he calls himself the "slave of Christ Jesus" For Christ, taking the form of a slave is a great condescension. But for Paul and us to take the position of a slave in His service is a great escalation. Probably we are too far removed from slavery to fully grasp the thought of a slave's glorying, but it was a very real thing. To be a slave of someone who was rich and powerful could be a much superior station in life than to be a poor freeman. It is to our exultation that we are slaves of the One Who is the Enjoyer of the allotment of all. And we echo the sentiments of the Psalmist who said, "I would choose to sweep in the House of my Elohim, rather than abide in the tents of wickedness" (Psa.84:10).

But our slavery to Christ is also a transcendent lifting from a shameful bondage which held us fast. The Lord Jesus said, "Verily, Verily, I am saying to you that everyone who is doing sin, is a slave of sin" (John 8:34). And Paul tells us too that when we were obedient to Sin we were the slaves of Sin, but being made free from Sin we became enslaved to Righteousness (Rom.6:16- 18).

The verb empties is amplified by the three participles following: taking the form of a slave, coming to be in the likeness of humanity, and, being found in fashion as a human. Each of these verb forms defines a deeper step in the humiliation of Christ. He was inherently in the form of God. Then He took the form of a slave. There are celestial beings that are servants, and yet are much higher than any human. Yet Christ's descent dropped Him completely out of the celestial realm. He came to be in the likeness of humanity. Yet this was not the likeness of humanity that we read of in the opening verses of the Bible when man walked among the trees of the garden that God had planted. Far from it! Christ was even found in the current fashion of a humanity that had been sinking in sin and depravity for centuries.

Paul's disposition also reflects Christ's in these successive steps. He deems anything that is a gain to him, pertaining to the flesh, to be a forfeit. Then he goes a step further, not only those things in which the flesh rests its confidence, but all is deemed a forfeit because of the superiority of the knowledge of Christ Jesus. This knowledge of Christ includes knowing Him in His exaltation, as well as in His humiliation, because our knowledge of Him is not according to the flesh. Nothing of this life can be considered more than refuse next to the knowledge of Christ. Yet beyond this Paul longs for more. The flesh sees nothing in the cross but shame and weakness. But that is no hindrance to Paul; he wants to be found in Christ. If the world sees that as undesirable, foolish or weak, so be it! Paul wants no identity of his own, only that identity which is based on the work of Christ. O how gladly Paul dons the name and shame of Christ! The scorn of the world is less than a trifle to one who is glorying in Christ.

And what a blessing it is to be found in Christ! In Him we have no righteousness of our own. Far better, we have the righteousness of God through the faith Of Jesus Christ. This is not a righteousness obtained by the effort of the flesh under law-a righteousness that commands nothing more than human respect. Here is a righteousness that crowns us with justification and reconciliation to God, a righteousness that invigorates us with life!

"He humbles Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross"-to know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, conforming to His death" (2:8; 3:10). Christ is the revelation of God, and the cross of Christ is the pinnacle of that revelation. To know Him, we must somehow, to some degree, realize the love that stoops from the heights of the heavens to the lowest parts of a sinful, dirty earth. Only a flawless, pure and loyal love would endure such shame and suffering for such unworthy objects. And without a doubt, when such a love as this takes root in the hearts of the beloved, they will employ the power of His resurrection to fellowship with Him in His sufferings and to become conformed to His death.

While this may appear to be the end of Christ's exemplary disposition, there is yet another step in the comparison. "The Inaugurator and Perfecter of faith, Jesus . . . endures a cross, despising the shame . . . for the joy lying before Him" (Heb.12:2). And the Father exalted Him, giving Him a name above every name (Phil.2:9,10). Paul's spirit of service (3:11-14) radiates his fervor. "If somehow I should be attaining to the resurrection that is out from among the dead . . . Yet I am pursuing, if I may be grasping also that for which I was grasped also by Christ Jesus . . . yet stretching out to those in front-toward the goal am I pursuing for the prize of God's calling above in Christ Jesus" (3:11-14). Our expectation should be a driving motivation.

"Whoever, then, are mature, may be disposed to this, and if in anything you are differently disposed, this also shall God reveal to you" (3:15).

© J. Philip Scranton
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