Philippians 2: 5-11
Revelation 19: 5
Revelation 22: 1-3
I desire, beloved friends, to speak about Jesus. I could speak of no greater; I could speak of no other. God Himself has chosen the theme of the glad tidings, and the subject is Jesus. The glad tidings are proclaimed in order that we may come to an appreciation of Jesus, if we have not already done so, and if we have, that we may come to a greater appreciation of who He is and of all that He has done, of all He has accomplished for us and for God. We sang of Him:
Christ’s Person, His work, and His glory
I think these verses we have read in Philippians chapter 2 give some impression of His Person, His work and His glory. The glad tidings are wonderful. I believe Paul, when he penned these words, was thinking of his own personal experience with the Lord. He does not write the epistle to the Philippians as an apostle exactly, although he was that and had apostolic authority, but I believe he is writing as a believer in the Lord Jesus. He is writing as one who is enjoying his precious, personal link with his Saviour. Interestingly he begins, “Paul and Timotheus, bondmen of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the overseers and ministers; grace to you, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”, chap 1: 1, 2. I believe these features in verse 2 relate to the fulness of God’s glad tidings: “grace to you, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”.
The grace of God is made known through the glad tidings. When Christ came in, it was grace upon grace: “for of his fulness we all have received, and grace upon grace”, John 1: 16. We are told in the beginning of John’s gospel that “the law was given by Moses: grace and truth subsists through Jesus Christ”, John 1: 17. When Christ came in, He gave character to the present dispensation, which is one of grace, one of love, one of mercy.
So here Paul is writing as one who is in the enjoyment of his Christian blessings. He is writing as a Christian. He says in chapter 1: “For for me to live is Christ”, v 21. I believe that that is normal Christianity. It may not always be the experience of Christians; but I believe that that is normal Christianity: “For for me to live is Christ“. I believe that Christ had such a place in Paul’s affections and such a place in Paul’s life, that what shone out in that apostle, that wonderful servant, was Christ.
Here where we read in chapter 2, a delightful section of scripture, presenting in its fulness the truth of the glad tidings, he says, “For let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus; who, subsisting in the form of God” - that is His Person, the greatness of His Person. That One who came here as a babe in Bethlehem’s manger was, in His Person, God. He never ceased to be God. That boy of twelve who was found in the temple amongst the doctors of the law, “hearing them and asking them questions” (Luke 2: 46) in His Person was God; that One who went down to Nazareth and was in subjection to His parents, in His Person was God. Does that not cause your heart to wonder and adore, that that One in His Person was God? I believe that in the greatness and glory of His Person He is an object of worship for our hearts. That One who went to the mount of transfiguration in His Person was God. That One who went to the cross of Calvary and there hung and suffered and died and shed His precious blood, in His Person was God. He suffered as a man; He was here as a bondman; He took a bondman’s form. That thought has laid hold of me today that He was a bondman. He took a bondman’s form. There was absolute devotedness in His life to the will of His God and Father. Everything that He did, everything that He said, every step that He took, was in perfect obedience to the will of His God and Father and in perfect communion with His God and Father; so great, so glorious was the perfect pathway of Jesus.
You think of Jesus day by day fulfilling the will of His God and Father, coming into contact with men, men in their need, and in the grace of His humanity, the grace of His dependent humanity, meeting the needs of everyone with whom He came into contact. How wonderful! You think of the way in Luke’s gospel He went through, village after village, city after city, meeting the needs of mankind. That is why He came, beloved friend. He came to meet your need. He came to meet my need. If you need a Saviour, Jesus is presented in the glad tidings as a Saviour for you, a Saviour for me - I trust everyone of us can sing these words,
Christ is the Saviour of sinners,
Christ is the Saviour for me;
Long I was chained in sin’s darkness,
Now by His grace I am free.
Can we all sing these words and mean them? That may be more of a test because that involves our appreciation of the work of that blessed and glorious One.
Well, He went on to the mount of transfiguration and there the Father’s voice was heard, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I have found my delight; hear him”, Matt 17: 5. I trust in the glad tidings today we may hear Jesus, we may hear words that attract our souls and attract our hearts more to that blessed and glorious One.
“Who, subsisting in the form of God, did not esteem it an object of rapine to be on an equality with God;” - why? Because He was God - “but emptied himself, taking a bondman’s form”. He committed Himself without reserve to the fulfilment of the will of His God and Father. That involved His going right on to the cross of Calvary. His perfect life was great; His perfect life is a matter for admiration for every one of us but the perfection of His pathway could do nothing to secure our blessing. His perfect life could do nothing to secure our salvation. It required the cross, the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. He went right on to the cross. On the way He went into Gethsemane. That was a time when His holy soul recoiled from the immensity of the work that lay before Him. He said, “My Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from me; but not as I will, but as thou wilt“, Matt 26: 39. Glorious perfection, glorious subjection to the will of His God and Father! Does that not attract your heart to Jesus, the fact that One so great, so glorious, was prepared to go that way on your account and on mine? He was taken by the hands of them who hated Him and hated Him “without a cause”, Ps 69; 4. We have said it so often before in the preaching but the glorious perfection of Jesus drew out the imperfection in the lives of men. The love of Jesus drew out the hatred there was in men and He bore it; He bore our sins in His body on the tree. I trust, dear friend, you can say ‘Jesus bore my sins’. I thank God I can say He took away my sins. Mr. Cutting could say in his poem,
My sins are all gone
in the depths of the sea.
They were carried down there
by the Man on the tree.
Can you say that? I trust that before this meeting finishes, you will be able to say that Jesus has borne my sins in His body on the tree. He suffered so ignominiously there at the hands of men. But not only did He suffer at the hands of men, He suffered at the hands of a holy God. Isaiah says, “When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin”, chap 53: 10. The soul of Jesus was made “an offering for sin”. Think of that; and on that account He was forsaken by His God. The hymn-writer says -
Did Thy God e’en then forsake Thee,
Hide His face from Thy deep need!‘
Think of that cry of agony from His soul: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?“, Matt 27: 46! “My God”, He cried, and there was no answer. Why was there no answer? Because at that very moment, Jesus, the perfect, holy, sinless One was made sin. The One who was the perfect offering had been made the sin-offering. He suffered the forsaking of His God on your account and on mine. “When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see a seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the fruit of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied”, Isa 53: 10, 11. Is there something in your life which can satisfy the heart of the blessed Lord Jesus Christ? He has gone by way of death in order that this may be so. May you put your trust and faith today in the completed work of the Saviour and be able to say that Christ bore my sins in His body on the tree!
Then it says, “subsisting in the form of God, did not esteem it an object of rapine to be on an equality with God; but emptied himself, taking a bondman’s form, taking his place in the likeness of men; and having been found in figure as a man, humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, and that the death of the cross”. Jesus went that way of His own volition. He came here and He came to die. He went that way of His own volition. The Lord Jesus Himself says in John’s gospel, ’No one takes my life from me’. Wicked men had to do with the sufferings of Jesus, and His crucifixion, but he laid down His life Himself. “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have authority to lay it down and I have authority to take it again. I have received this commandment of my Father”, John 10: 18. Jesus went into death in obedience to the will of His God and Father, but He went that way of His own volition in order that God may have a righteous basis whereby He could come out in blessing to the whole of mankind. You can rejoice in that, that blessing is available, the forgiveness of sins, salvation is available to all men! The work of the Redeemer has been completed; His blood has been shed. Thanks be to God for the blood of Jesus! It involved an active hatred on the part of man. As the soldier took his spear and pierced His side, it says, “and immediately there came out blood and water”, John 19: 34. The blood and the water flowed from the side of a dead Christ. The blood was necessary in order that men might be cleared judicially and the water flowed from the riven side of Christ in order that men might be purified morally.
So He became “obedient even unto death, and that the death of the cross”. Not only did He hang there on the cross of Calvary, but, having died, His blood was shed; and He went into the grave in order that the man of sin and shame might go out of sight for ever from the presence of a holy God. The burial of Christ is an essential part of the glad tidings, an essential part of the work of Christ, but then it says, “Wherefore also God highly exalted him”. The One that we proclaim as a Saviour today is a living and glorious Saviour. We do not only preach a crucified Saviour, although the crucifixion was necessary in view of moral cleansing. The blood of Christ was necessary in view of the work of redemption being completed. But we present a living and glorious Saviour, One who has been “raised up from among the dead by the glory of the Father”, Rom 6: 4, and now is seated and crowned at the Father’s right hand in glory. What a place He fills! “Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and granted him a name, that which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow”. I trust everyone in this room today will bow to the name of Jesus. What a name it is! Think of the renown of that name, the renown there is in Christ! How great, how glorious He is! Well, that is the One who came here as a bondman, that One who took a bondman’s form.
Then the apostle says, “For let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”. If we have a demonstration in the glad tidings of the going down mind of Christ, it is that every one of us should go down. For us that involves repentance: “repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ”, Acts 20: 21. Where we have read from verse 6 on relates to what Christ has done, but there is a responsibility upon you and me to repent of our sins, have to do with God in relation to our sins, and to be maintained in the spirit of repentance. I wonder if every one of us has repented. Dear friend, you need to have to do with God in relation to your sins. The sinner who refuses Christ, the sinner who refuses the Saviour will one day meet that same One as a judge before the great white throne (Rev 20: 11) and the result of that is too horrendous to speak of, even to contemplate. Just think of sitting in gospel preaching after gospel preaching, hearing the appeal of divine love and the appeal of divine grace, and finding yourself in a Christless eternity. As another has said, there is no blood on the great white throne; no blood, nothing to which God can look in order to effect cleansing, in order to offer forgiveness and salvation. Persons who appear before the great white throne will be condemned, condemned to a Christless eternity. That is too awful to contemplate! Let us be sure today, today, let us be assured right now, just where you are, that you have a personal, living, vital link with the blessed Saviour whom God has provided. “For let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus“. Let the going down mind that marked Jesus be found in you, dear young friend! And if we are left here for a short time yet, I believe the divine intention is that we should be marked by the spirit of the bondman. The bondman is answerable to his master. The bondman does the things which he hears from his master. The bondman does the things he sees his master doing. The Master is Jesus and I believe the divine intention is that day by day we should be in personal contact with the Lord Jesus, get His message for the day, get His orders, you may say, for the day. He is the One who would regulate our lives. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord”, (Rom 10: 9): the confession of Jesus as Lord involves submission to the authority that there is invested in that blessed and glorious One. Peter says in his preaching at the beginning of the Acts, “God has made him, this Jesus whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ”, Acts 2: 36, and I believe that, if God has made Him Lord, it is in order that we might submit to the claims of His Lordship, to the claims of His throne. If He has made Him Christ, He has a wonderful vessel in the assembly which can answer to every desire and longing of His heart. Christ wants you for His assembly.
So where we read in Revelation 19 it says, “And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his bondmen“. If we accept Christ, and as we begin to take on some of the features that were portrayed so perfectly in Christ, we recognise the need to submit ourselves to the claims of His throne, it says, “Praise our God, all ye his bondmen”. As we become bondmen of Christ, as we become bondmen of God, I believe that the answer is praise, praise to the heart of Christ, praise to the heart of God. “For Christ indeed has once suffered for sins the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God”, 1 Pet 3: 18. That is God’s great objective in the glad tidings, not only that we should be forgiven our sins, great and glorious as that is, but that we should be found here as worshippers of God. So it says, “And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his bondmen, and ye that fear him, small and great!” The Lord is looking for an answer from your heart. If you put your trust and faith in His finished work, He will have it eternally and God will have an answer from your heart eternally, but the divine desire is that you should answer to His heart of love now.
And then in chapter 22 it speaks of the day to come: “And he shewed me a river of water of life, bright as crystal, going out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of its street, and of the river, on this side and on that side, the tree of life, producing twelve fruits, in each month yielding its fruit”. Just think of the possibility of feeding upon Christ! The Lord’s word to the overcomer in Ephesus was, “To him that overcomes, I will give to him to eat of the tree of life which is in the paradise of God”, Rev 2: 7. The paradise of man has been closed up and been closed up for ever. Man will never again enter into the paradise of man. The way to the tree of life in the garden of Eden was guarded by “the Cherubim, and the flame of the flashing sword“, Gen 3: 24, but the tree of life now is in the paradise of God and it is available to persons such as you and me. “I will give to him to eat of the tree of life which is in the paradise of God”. So here we have the tree of life “in the midst of its street, and of the river, on this side and on that side, the tree of life, producing twelve fruits, in each month yielding its fruit; and the leaves of the tree for the healing of the nations”. We can feed upon Christ during the short time which is left to us.. It says, “and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him”. That word servant is the same as bondman and “his servants shall serve him” conveys the idea of worship. That is God’s great objective, that we, sinners, as away from God, should be brought into the wonderful nearness of relationship with Himself. As I have said, Christ has gone that way in order that God’s heart may be satisfied with the praises flowing out from the hearts of men. May you be amongst them! The day of eternity will be filled out with persons who are just like Christ, who have the stamp of Christ upon them, persons who are just like Him. There was a reference made this afternoon in the reading to Luke 15 where in relation to the younger son the Father there says, “Bring out the best robe and clothe him in it, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet“. It was a time of rejoicing, because what the Father saw in that repenting sinner typically was Christ. When God looks upon the believer, what He sees is Christ.
Well, may we just come into the glorious blessedness of these precious things by way of repentance, know the blessedness of our sins forgiven, and have a present and eternal relationship with that blessed One where He is in glory! May it be so, for His name’s sake!
20th July 2008