19 August 2009

Verse-by-verse through Philippians (2:5-2:8)

The last two weeks we have been splitting hairs if you will. And for people like me, that’s not easy. We've been looking at these words that kinda sorta mean the same thing but not quite. We have many words in the English language that refer to the act of using our sense of sight. We can stare, or glance, or look, or watch, examine, peer, gaze, etc. I can stare at Richard, glance at the door or look out the window or watch for someone to come down the street. All these are kinda the same—but not quite. And when Paul uses the various words he used to talk about Christ becoming man, and how He looked when He walked the earth, he chooses his words carefully. Or, rather, the Holy Spirit was very careful in leading Paul to use the words he did, and when he used them.

There was a reason for using so many different words that we think of as being exactly the same. Words like form, likeness, appearance. And why he didn’t use some other words like image or shape. Remember, Philippi was a city in Greece, but it was under Roman control. Everything about it was Roman—especially the mythology. In Roman mythology and in Greek mythology, their so-called “gods” would sometimes come down in the shape of some animal. But they would only look like that animal. After the ruse was over, they would take their old shape. But when Christ walked the earth, He was truly a man. He did not simply take the outward appearance of a man. He did not trick people into thinking He was a man. He was a man, just as much as you or me. And even after He died and ascended to the Father—He was still a man! (see 1st Timothy 2:5). Which is one reason Paul didn’t use the word that means “outward appearance”—he wanted the people to know that there was no doubt about the fact that Jesus was fully God, but also fully human.

That was, quite frankly, a humongous step down for He who was God. Which makes for a perfect illustration of the humility that Paul was urging these Philippian believers to have themselves. Philippians 2:3-8Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross.

We saw last week that Jesus never even considered not coming to earth. He did not hold on to His rights as God. But there’s even more to it than that. Even when He was wrapped in flesh, He did not have any of those desires we have, that lead us to sin. He never submitted to the flesh. He always submitted to the will of the Father. Even to the point that He experienced something as a man that He could never experience as God. He had to become human so He could die. And even as He hung there, He was obeying the will of the Father. Because that was why He came—He came to die. Romans 6:23the wages of sin is…what? Death. The reason we die is because we sin. If you don’t want to die, don’t sin. Oops, too late. We’re going to look at some Scriptures that show why Christ died. First, Galatians 3:13-14Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

The phrase "having become"—having become a curse for us—that word is γίνομαι (ginomai). It’s where we get words like Genesis, generate, generation. To “make something come about.” Christ became a curse for us. Philippians 2:7 says that Christ took the form—rather, became the formof a slave. Same word. John 1:14and the Word became [γίνομαι (ginomai)] flesh. Same word. 2nd Corinthians 5:21—[God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become [γίνομαι (ginomai)] the righteousness of God in Him. We became the righteousness of God in Christ. Same word. Now, a better, and actually the literal, way to read this part of Galatians 3:13 is that Christ has paid the price to recover us from the curse of the law, becoming a curse—watch this—becoming a curse over us. AT Robertson says,
“Here the graphic picture is completed. We were under a curse, Christ became a curse over us, and so between us, and the overhanging curse which fell on him instead of on us. Thus he bought us out and we are free from the curse which he took on himself.”
In other words, when He hung on that cross, he got in between us and the wrath of Almighty God. How cool is THAT! See, the word “curse”—what are some ideas people have about that word? “That team is cursed to never win” or “That family is cursed to always have trouble.” It ususally has some connotation of perpetually bad fortune. When we talk about a “curse” in the Bible, when you get right down to it, refers to the act of rejecting. A “curse” is the same thing as a “rejection.” When talk about a “curse,” it literally means “to pray that something bad happens another person.” One way to curse someone would be to tell them, “I hope you burn in Hell.” At the root of it, that’s what a curse is. If anyone does not accept Christ as their Lord and Savior, they are the subject of a curse from God: when that person stands before Him, He rejects that person, and commands that they be sent to Hell. That is “the curse of the Law.”

But for those of us who do accept Christ and His blood as payment for our sins—He didn’t simply remove the curse. He became the curse. He did not suffer in Hell. We’ll get to that later. He became the rejection. He didn’t just offer a payment for our sins—He became the payment. Christ doesn’t just stand at our side while we bear the wrath of God ourselves. He took the wrath of God for us. In other words, the only thing standing between us and the wrath of God is the cross of Christ. Two boards and three nails are all that separate us from eternal damnation. From eternal curse. One more illustration to show. Suppose you see your child getting beat up, kicked, pummeled. The only way to stop those hooligans from beating your child is to throw yourself over that child. And to take the beating for them. You save that child from the curse of being beaten by becoming the one they beat. And you take upon yourself the wrath of those doing the beating. You become a curse over your child. Christ became a curse over us.

We were under the Law, and under sin. Therefore, we were under the curse of—the penalty of—the Law and we were under the curse of—the penalty of—sin. Which is why Paul says in Galatians 4:4 that Christ was born under the Law. How could He be obedient to a Law He didn’t have to keep Himself? Christ obeyed the Law of God perfectly. Why? Because He had to! Because He was bound by the same Law. Now, in order for us to be made righteous with God, we needed to be absolutely sinless. Psalm 5:4You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, nor shall evil dwell with You. Habakkuk 1:13“You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness.” Psalm 130:3“If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” All these Scriptures say that to escape the eternal wrath of Almighty God, we must be perfect. In fact, didn’t Jesus say something like that? Matthew 5:48“Be ye perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” Is anyone “perfect?” So there’s a problem. We have a ledger full of sins. Is there any way to go back and undo them?

So what has to be done? Today we would say our record needs to be expunged.The one we answer to must forget what we did. Act like it never happened. Let’s say I bust into your house. Take an axe, break your windows, bust up your furniture, steal your TV. I stand before the judge, and he takes my case file and throws it in the trash. All gone! That’s an act of mercy. But what’s missing? That’s an act of mercy. To me. Is it an act of justice? No. And in fact, it’s not true mercy because only one side is shown any mercy. The judge has not given any consideration to the homeowner. The windows have to be fixed, the furniture must be replaced, you need a new TV for the one I stole. Payment must be made to settle the debt I owe. So unless justice is handed out to both sides, there is really no justice and really no mercy. But when it comes to justice and mercy, who does both things perfectly? He shows us mercy by wiping away our sins. But He shows justice because those sins do not go unpunished.

See, in a human court, once we settle the ledger, it’s over and done—but what about the eternal judge? Over and above what I did to you, I ultimately sinned against God! And here’s something about the OT Law. Let’s say I sneak into your sheepfold or your cattle pen, and I stole your sheep or your cattle. I had to make restitution to YOU. But then I had to bring an offering to God. In Leviticus 6:6-7, after I restore what I took, And he shall bring his trespass offering to YHVH, a ram without blemish from the flock…as a trespass offering, to the priest. So the priest shall make atonement for him before YHVH, and he shall be forgiven for any one of these things that he may have done in which he trespasses. I had to bring an offering to GOD. And why? Because, were those ultimately YOUR sheep and YOUR cattle? No. Who did they belong to? GOD! They belonged to GOD! Besides, I didn’t just offend you—I sinned against God!

You see, the purpose of the OT Law was not only to make things equal with the person you wronged. It was for you to pay for the sin you committed. Leviticus 6:2-5If a person sins and commits a trespass against YHVH by lying to his neighbor about what was delivered to him for safekeeping, or about a pledge, or about a robbery, or if he has extorted from his neighbor, or if he has found what was lost and lies concerning it, and swears falsely—in any one of these things that a man may do in which he sins: then it shall be, because he has sinned and is guilty, that he shall restore…And he shall bring his trespass offering to YHVH, a ram without blemish from the flock.

In the OT Law, when someone sinned, something had to die. It’s either you, or an animal. But the thing is, if you take that animal to the priest so he can kill it, cut it up, do everything he has to do—that covers exactly one sin!

If you sin again—you bring another animal, the priest kills it, cuts it up, burns it.
You sin again—bring another animal; the priest kills it, cuts it up and burns it.
You sin again—bring another animal; the priest kills it, cuts it up and burns it.
You sin again—bring another animal; the priest kills it, cuts it up and burns it.
I think you get the idea.

And each animal you bring takes care of EXACTLY ONE SIN! Lots of blood, lots of smoke, lots of death. All because of sin. Then on Yom Kippur—the Day of Atonement, one day out of the whole year—the high priest kills a bull and a goat to cover any other sins you may have forgotten about. So, long story short, where there is sin—there has to be death. Because, as we said at the outset, the wages of sin is… And when you bring an animal without spot or blemish to the priest—did that animal do anything wrong? That animal died because of you. But, in God’s eyes, by bringing that animal, your sin was credited to an animal that had never sinned. And that animal was put to death, and its blood was shed to pay for your sin.

Do you see where I'm going with this?

When the Lamb of God was brought before the high priest—was there any spot or blemish upon that Lamb? Had that Lamb done anything wrong? Had that Lamb ever sinned? That Lamb died because of us. But, in God’s eyes, by bringing that Lamb to be killed, our sin was credited to a man that had never sinned. And that man was put to death, and His blood was shed to pay for our sin.

In fact, on Yom Kippur, you had the two goats—the goat for YHVH, and the scapegoat. The goat for YHVH was killed, his blood sprinkled on the mercy seat atop the Ark of the Covenant. The scapegoat was led out into the wilderness—and abandoned. When Christ died, He was both goats. He was the Lamb of YHVH that was killed, and His blood spilled upon the cross. And He was the scapegoat that was led into the wilderness of death, and this was how He became the curse. Not by suffering in Hell, but by suffering death. He became obedient unto death. Which must have felt like abandonment to Him. Which is why, in Mark 15:34, Jesus quotes Psalm 22:1And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” But all that stuff in Leviticus is so boring, and doesn’t have anything to do with us today!

Just one more parallel. Leviticus 16:21Aaron shall lay both hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man. Who took Jesus’ body off the cross? Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. Were they “suitable men?” Christ was led into the wilderness of death. For a bunch of people that would spend most of their lives drawing close with their lips, even though our hearts were far from Him. But was He left there? Psalm 16:10For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious day

Up from the grave He rose again!

And as He stand in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine

Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

There were more prophecies fulfilled by the cross than we could ever count. But did they take His life? No. John 10:17-18“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” He obeyed His Father and He died. Albert Barnes said this—
He obeyed even when obedience terminated in death. The point of this expression is this: One may readily and cheerfully obey another where there is no
particular peril. But the case is different where obedience is attended with
danger.
Especially when you have done nothing wrong, and you are suffering because of something somebody else did—and you suffer willingly. You don’t even think about NOT suffering. All for a bunch of sinful, backstabbing, hateful creatures. That’s us. Romans 5:7-8No one is likely to die for a good person, though someone might be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. He didn’t die a glorious death. He didn’t die with a sword in His hand. Mark 15:27-28With Him they also crucified two thieves, one on His right and the other on His left. So the Scripture was fulfilled which says, And He was numbered with the transgressors. He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. And it pleased the Father to bruise Him. Because by bruising Him, He saved us.

Jesus Christ is Lord.
Amen.

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