Yesterday, I preached from Philippians 2:5-11 in our mini-series on the incarnation. As Paul writes to the church in the city of Philippi, he drives toward the goal of unity for the church and in this section, he appeals to the theology of the incarnation, the death, and the exaltation of Jesus as a means of unity among the believers. Christmas has many distractions in our day, and it’s helpful to pause and reorient ourselves each year on the central truth of Jesus’ birth.
Jesus Emptied Himself
When we read in this section that Jesus emptied himself, exactly what was Paul emphasizing? Some heretical teachings have emerged from this passage of Scripture over the years resulting in the false idea that Jesus laid aside his deity. That is not what Paul was teaching. The point of the passage is that Jesus laid aside specific privileges of deity. Although he was God, he laid aside some of his privileges in order to be born as a baby boy.
Privileges that Jesus Emptied:
- Worship of Angels
- Became Needy as a Baby
Jesus, as the second person of the Godhead—left the exalted throne of heaven and was born in a dirty manger. Suddenly, the glory of angelic worship was gone. The beauty of God was veiled as he took on human flesh. He was not a beautiful man according to the Scriptures (Is. 53:2). Furthermore, for the very first time, God felt what it was like to need something. He had never needed anything as the self-existent and self-sufficient sovereign God of the universe—now suddenly he needs the tender care and food from his mother. Who is more wealthy than God? Yet, Jesus was born to a young couple who were at the low end of the socioeconomic status and then he lived a life of a common tradesman—without a house to call his own.
The passage teaches that Jesus, being God, never ceased to be God when he became a man. Instead, he took upon his deity the clothes of human flesh. That is the story and the theology of Christmas.
Jesus Took on the Form of a Human Servant
When we consider the fact that the creator of the entire universe left the throne of heaven to become a man and rather than taking upon himself the form of a king—he took upon himself the form of a servant in the likeness of men—that’s a very important truth to consider. Jesus came as the servant of the Father. The Son of God became the Son of man—the suffering servant who would become the lamb of God.
This Christmas, as you go from home to home and from event to event—don’t overlook the theology of the incarnation. God really did become a man in order to die for the sins of his people (Matt. 1:21). May your Christmas be merry and bright as you focus on the truth of Jesus’ birth.