“Veiled in Flesh: The Two Natures of Christ”

“Veiled in Flesh: The Two Natures of Christ”


“Veiled in Flesh: The Two Natures of Christ”

Philippians 2:5-8

Pastor Ryan J. McKeen




Turn with me in your copy of God’s Word once again to Philippians chapter 2.

I know several of you may be concerned that the Tampa Bay Lightning have their playoff game at 12:30 today, but don’t worry. I am not in any way a Tampa Bay Lightning fan, so it’s not a concern of mine at all. So don’t worry. We will be focused on the Word of God this morning.

But as we do consider Philippians chapter two, we have been focusing on the Trinity and the doctrines of the Trinity. And last week we covered the basics of those things. And we focused last week on the fact that God is both one God, but three persons. Three persons within the one being of God. And what we are speaking of this morning is really a topic that falls under a different category of theology. That would be Christology. But as we will see, what we believe about the doctrine of God really impacts what we believe about Christology. And we really need to consider how the Trinity affects what we believe about Christ and Christ’s incarnation.

If you remember back at Christmas time, we had a sermon where we focused on the incarnation from Matthew chapter one. And this will really sort of be a follow-up to that. They really go together because this is another passage that we really think of when we think of the incarnation. Matthew chapter one speaks of the event of the incarnation, that Christ came as a baby to be born of the Virgin Mary. And Philippians chapter 2 really speaks of the doctrine of the incarnation, really what happened there, the significance of what happened that Christ, the second person of the Trinity, yet the one being of God, took on human flesh, that He took humanity to Himself.

The eternal, preexistent Word, as we see in John chapter 1, the one who was ever with God, the one who was ever God Himself, became flesh. And He dwelt, or that word there is He tabernacled among us. the infinite, eternal, self-existent, self-sufficient, almighty, any other attribute of God you can think of, he made himself nothing by taking on humanity, the human nature, the finite, temporal, dependent, mortal, weak human nature. And doing all of that, as we will see from our passage this morning, without shedding any of his deity, without shedding anything that it takes to be God. The immutable, unchangeable God became what he was not while never ceasing to be what he always was. That is the mystery of the incarnation. And we will focus there this morning and consider this beautiful and mysterious doctrine.

As we spoke of last week to lead up to this Trinity series, we had a survey that many of you were able to partake in. And one of the questions on that survey was that at the incarnation, this is a true or false question, at the incarnation, the son gave up or set aside his divinity to become human. And again, the options are true, false, or unsure. And to that question, the answers came in as 75% of you said false, while 16% said true and 8% were unsure. And the correct answer is false, that Christ did not give up any of his deity to take on flesh. Even though that may be a mystery to us and that may be hard to understand. Christ could not have given up His deity. And as we’ll see, otherwise, He could not have been God with us. If He’s anything less than fully God, if He’s anything less than that, He’s not God with us.

And there is a particular and strange glory about this miracle of God. Among all the miracles we see in Scripture, all the miracles God has done, the incarnation is different. It’s special. There’s a glory seen in this miracle that reveals to us More of God than we see anywhere else. The combination of the majesty of this infinite, immeasurable God, combining with the finite frailty of humanity, united into one person, makes the glory of this miracle breathtaking. And as God’s people, it is our duty to know the God we worship, to know the Savior who saved us. We need to devote our minds to the study of this wonder. And as we talked about last week, God is incomprehensible in the sense that we cannot know and understand everything about God, and yet he has revealed himself to us. with the implication that we know what we can know about God. God has given us his word so that we may know him. Therefore, we must do what we can to know him.

As I have studied this doctrine, one Dear brother, Dr. Mike Riccardi has really sharpened my thinking on this and he’s really helped me to word some of these things in a little better way. And as he has spoken and taught on this doctrine before, one of the things that he says about the doctrine of the incarnation is this. He says, “we must peer into this mystery with the hope of inflaming our hearts with the worship that God rightly deserves.” And that is my goal this morning. That is my goal with this, is to inflame our hearts with the worship that God deserves. That should be the aim of all of our reading of scripture, all of our study of who God is, is that we may worship him better. That we may worship him for who he is. We may worship him in spirit and in truth.

And this morning we will focus again on, as I said, Philippians chapter two, specifically verses five through eight, and we’ll also look at some other passages to be sure that our understanding of this passage is correct. But let’s begin with Philippians two, and I’ll read this again, and we’re again gonna focus on verses five through eight. Starting in verse five, this is the word of the Lord. Have this way of thinking in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although existing in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but he emptied himself by taking the form of a slave, being made in the likeness of men, Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even a death on a cross. Here in this text we have what has come to be known as the kenosis. That is a theological word. But this is often referred to as the kenosis passage. And the reason why is because the word therefore emptied himself. is the word kenosis, or more specifically, it’s ekenosen, but it comes from the word kenosis, so that’s what we call it. But it is the doctrine of Christ emptying himself. And we need to carefully understand what that means.

Because as Wayne pointed out as we sang that song earlier, that song originally says, he emptied himself of all but love. Is that true? We corrected that wording to say he humbled himself to show his love, and that is obvious in the text, but the reality is we have the phrase he emptied himself. Our Bibles say that, but what does that mean? And that’s what we will consider this morning. And we wanna make three observations about this text as we go through it.

And first and foremost, we’re going to see the glory of Christ. That’s where Paul starts. Paul starts with the glory of Christ. And he says, have this way of thinking in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus. So there’s our subject. That’s who we’re talking about, Christ Jesus. Verse six, who, although existing in the form of God, So while most translations here have the verb there as existing, or sorry, most translations have existed, who although he existed in the form of God, as though it’s a past tense, and while we are speaking of something before his incarnation, the verb exists there as a present tense participle actually. So it’s an ongoing action.

So the word should be existing. Although he is existing in the form of God. And that’s important and I only point that out because it makes a difference as to how we understand the existence of Christ. Did he exist one way and now he’s no longer in that same existence? Or is he continually existing as that word implies? Paul uses that form of that word intentionally, and every single word, every jot and tittle of God’s word is important how it’s written, because it teaches us. And Paul wrote it that way for a reason, because he is eternally existing as God. Before he took on human flesh, the eternal Son, the Word, was eternally existing in the form of God. He never began to exist as God.

That’s the mystery of eternity. There is no beginning to God. He just always is. And when he says, I am, as we’ll get to in another sermon in this series, when his name is I am, that means something. Not I became or I was, I am. He always is. And Christ, the Son, the Word, always, eternally, is existing in the form of God. Now, another word we need to understand in this passage is the word form. The word form does not mean that Jesus only seemed like he was God. Like it was a form of it, but not the real thing. That’s not what that word form there means, and I’ll show you another passage here in a minute.

But there are those who would make a distinction between the form of Christ’s humanity and the form of his deity. In the next verse, we see this word again. You see in verse six, he’s existing in the form of God, and he did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave. Christ took the form of a slave. He did not just appear to be human. He did not just look like he was human, but he never really was. No, he really became a human.

As John Shelburne spoke on this morning in Sunday school, there is this heresy called docetism. And that’s the idea that Jesus didn’t really come in human flesh. It only looked like he was human flesh. That he had the form or the appearance of a human, but he wasn’t really human. And that’s how they would take a verse like this. But again, I said that’s a heresy. Because that’s exactly what the Apostle John is arguing against in 1 John. And 1 John, he is, as he begins right in the beginning of the letter, I was there. I saw him. I heard him. I touched him. He was real.

And then you get to 1 John chapter 4, which in our 1 John series we haven’t got to yet, but we will. 1 John 4 verses 2 and 3 says this, by this you know the spirit of God. Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. And every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming. And now it is already in the world. John is saying those that are teaching you that Jesus did not really come in the flesh, they’re not from God. In fact, they’re the Antichrist. Colossians has a similar argument that Paul is arguing against these same false teachers. We’re saying that he wasn’t really human. He was really human.

And as we see here back in Philippians 2, in the same way that he took on the form of a slave, verse 7, verse 6, he’s existing in the form of God. It’s the same word there. That’s that word, the Greek word morphe, for form. And interestingly, this is the only place in the whole New Testament that this word is used in this way. It’s used in other ways and in other forms, but here, alone as the word, form, is the only place that it’s used, and Paul uses it twice. However, to understand what this word is getting at, it’s used in a different form as metamorphe, in Matthew 17, at the transfiguration, and this will help us understand exactly what’s going on in Philippians.

Matthew chapter 17, turn there for a minute. Keep your finger in Philippians because we’ll come right back. But Matthew chapter 17 is the account of the transfiguration. In Matthew 17, you have Peter, James, and John. They go up with Christ to the mountain. Peter, verse one, Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And verse two, and he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became as white as light. That word transfigured is the word metamorphic. That word means that he was changed in his form. Now did Jesus become something totally different than what he was in being? Or was his appearance changed? Well Matthew’s pretty clear, it’s his appearance. Because he was transfigured before them, his face shone like the sun, his garments became white as light. He looked different. His appearance was changed. That’s what that word with the prefix meta, it was changed in form.

So in Philippians 2, we are seeing the form of Christ. His immutable, unchangeable, divine being, his essence was not changed at the transfiguration, rather the outward expression of it, the appearance of it was changed. It had been veiled by humanity. His human form had veiled the glory of his appearance as God. But on the Mount of Transfiguration, he pulled back the veil and let them see. He changed his appearance by pulling back the veil of his humanity and letting his deity, his essence, his being as God, shine out. So, in Philippians 2, we see where he takes on the veil. And in Matthew 17, we see him pull back the veil for a moment. That’s how the Mount of Transfiguration helps us understand what’s going on in Philippians 2. The form is not what God is himself, it is the appearance.

So when it says that he was existing in the form of God, but then he took on the form of a slave, it doesn’t mean he changed what he was, he changed what he appeared as. Christ was existing in the form of God from eternity, and at the moment of the incarnation, he took on the form of a man. And let’s keep moving in Philippians 2, verse 6. He was existing in the form of God, but he did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped. So Jesus, the word, Christ Jesus, is existing in equality with God. He is equal to God.

So you have, like in John 1, the word was with God and the word was God. And yet you have passages like Isaiah 46.9 where God is speaking and He says, for I am God and there is no other. I am God and there’s no one like me. There is one God and there is no one like Him, and yet you have the Father and the Son existing together in equality with each other. Well, that makes the conclusion inescapable, because number one, if no one can be equal to God but himself, and number two, Christ is equal to God, number three is that Christ himself must be fully God. And here the form of God, as we said, refers to his outward appearance, But equality with God refers to his position. He did not regard equality with God something to be grasped or held onto. His position beside God the Father from all eternity receiving the worship in heaven, that is what he did not regard worthy to be grasped in comparison with taking on human flesh to redeem himself a people. Equality with God refers to the position Christ had from all eternity.

Hebrews 1:3 says that Christ is the radiance of his glory and the exact representation of his nature. And 2 Corinthians chapter 4, starting at verse 3, says, And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the God of this age, Satan, has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. And it goes on in verse 6, he says, Light shall shine out of darkness. This is the one who is shown in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Jesus is God and he is the exact representation of God to us. He is the exalted Lord seated in the throne of heaven. He is the one in Isaiah 6 whose train fills, the train of his road fills the temple and the angels declare the whole earth is full of his glory. And the word became flesh and revealed his glory to us. That is the glory of Christ. Paul starts with Christ’s eternal glory. That’s number one.

The second observation we need to make here is the humility of Christ. The humility of Christ, and as we keep going in verse six, he did not regard this equality with God a thing to be grasped, but he emptied himself by taking the form of a slave. So even though Christ existed eternally as God, equal with the Father, ruling creation, receiving the worship of the saints and angels, He did not regard that equality as something to be held onto. He did not regard the dignity of His position something to cling to. He did not take selfish advantage of his position as God. Instead, he humbly accepted the mission of God in his incarnation. He took on the very nature of humanity. And he veiled the splendor and majesty that was his behind the form of a slave. That he had every right to continue as God alone.

He was not obligated to become a man. He had every right to continue to radiate the very essence and glory of God. To receive nothing but worship. And yet, he took on the form that would make him despise and rejected. He sacrificed that to become a man and to accomplish salvation for sinners. And now we come to this phrase that this passage revolves around, and that is, he emptied himself, in verse 7. And we ask the question, of what did Christ empty himself? When we think, when you empty something, something comes out. So when you empty yourself, when Christ empties Himself, what did He empty Himself of? And to quote Dr. Derek Thomas, he says, to begin to answer that question is to step into heresy. If you try to answer what it is that Christ emptied Himself of, that’s when you go into heresy, because that’s a misunderstanding of how this word is being used.

We spoke of heresies regarding the Trinity, and I already mentioned docetism was one we spoke of last Sunday night. But there are also heresies regarding the incarnation, and we won’t go into all of them like we did last week. I’ll mention a couple here.

One is Apollinarianism, that says Christ was not fully human, he was only partly human, and that’s wrong. You have Nestorianism, and again, these are named after people, that’s why they sound funny. But Nestorianism says Christ’s two natures were not united, but they were totally separate. He was like some dual being, and then he wasn’t united as one. Then you have another one called monophysitism, which is a hard one to remember. But that one says that Christ’s two natures were mixed together to create a third sort of being, like a Superman. And that’s wrong. All of those are confusions of the true doctrine of the incarnation. And we won’t go into all of that.

But there is one that I do want to bring up as it relates to the kenosis. And that is the heresy of kenoticism. And this revolves around this term, he emptied himself. Because those who would hold to this doctrine of kenoticism they try to answer the question of what did Christ empty himself of? They would say he emptied himself of his deity to become a human, or they sometimes word it, he emptied himself of his relative divine attributes, or his divine consciousness that he knew he was God, or his divine prerogatives, or whatever it may be. They try to answer the question What did Christ remove from himself to become human? But is that how we are to understand the term he emptied himself?

So I want to approach this term in two different ways. First, I want to look at this passage and understand it according to this passage. Then I want to compare that to the rest of Scripture and some other passages that speak of it and see if we have this right, to see if God’s Word consistently reveals it in this way. And I’m speaking of how we are to understand emptied himself.

Some translations will even have that he poured himself out. And though the word kenosis literally means to empty, That’s why it’s translated that way in your version. That’s the correct translation of that word, but it’s used figuratively. It’s a word that’s used throughout the New Testament, and every time it’s used, it’s used figuratively. It’s a figure of speech. It’s like when we say my back is killing me. My back is not literally taking my life, It just hurts a lot. And so I use the figure of speech that my back is killing me. Well, as Paul is using, he emptied himself. He’s using it figuratively. And I’ll show you another spot that he uses it. But according to the usage of this term, it does not mean literally to pour out, as if Jesus literally poured out what he had, existing eternally as God. Paul could have used another word that he’s used other places that literally means to empty out, to pour out. But he uses this word figuratively.

Turn to Romans 4. Paul uses the word kenosis in Romans 4. In verse 14, he says, for if those who are of the law are heirs, then faith has been made empty. and the promise has been abolished.” Or some versions say, it’s been made void. But that there is the word kenosis, that the faith has been made empty. Now, what does that mean? Paul’s making the argument that, well, if the law was how we achieved righteousness, then what good is faith, right? We don’t need faith. Faith is made void. It’s nullified. It’s not worth anything. It doesn’t accomplish anything. That’s what Paul’s saying. So when he says faith is made empty, he’s using it figuratively. We’re not asking, well, what is faith emptied of? No, it’s just made of no account. It’s not worth what faith is actually worth. And that’s the way Paul uses it here in Philippians.

We don’t ask what he emptied himself of, but he’s simply saying that he emptied himself. That he made himself of no effect, he nullified himself. The Son, Christ Jesus, is the object there, not any of the things of which he emptied himself. He did not empty the form of God, any divine attributes or his prerogatives, he himself is emptied. Actually the King James Version translates this the best. In the King James Version it says he made himself of no reputation. That’s what it means. The NIV also actually does a pretty good job, it says he made himself nothing. And so the next phrase explains the manner in which he emptied himself.

So if he made himself of no account, he made himself of no reputation, he made himself nothing, how did he do that? By taking the form of a slave. By being made in the likeness of men. He did not consider His equality with God, his position with God, his reputation with God, something to be held onto. But he made himself nothing by taking the form of a slave. He assumed a human nature. He took a human nature to himself. The second person of the Trinity who eternally exists in the form of God. made himself of no reputation by taking the form of a slave. And verse eight says, being found in the appearance as a man.

This is why we read in Isaiah 53 that he had no stately form or majesty that we should look upon him. No appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And like one from whom men hid their face, he was despised and we did not esteem him. The only way that this happens is if he takes on the form of a slave. Because what happens when God is revealed to man? Man falls down as though they’re dead because they can’t handle the glory of God, and the glory of God is not treated as though the servant in Isaiah 53 is treated. He had to veil His flesh, or He had to veil His deity with flesh. He had to take on the form of a slave so that He would be despised and rejected.

As 2 Corinthians 8 says, the rich became poor. The one who is worshiped eternally becomes despised. The blessed one became the man of sorrows. The master, the Lord, became a slave. And to understand how men of the past spoke of these things, John Calvin says this very well, he says, Christ indeed could not divest himself of Godhead or deity, but he kept it concealed for a time that it might not be seen under the weakness of the flesh. Hence, he laid aside his glory in the view of men, not by lessening it, but by concealing it. He did not lessen his deity, he concealed it by taking the form of a slave. Another theologian, Herman Boving, says, he laid aside the divine majesty and glory in which he existed before the incarnation. And what he means by laid aside is, or rather he concealed it behind the form of a servant in which he went about on the earth.

So Christ fully possessed his divine nature in his attributes, in his prerogatives, everything that it is to be God, but for our sake, For the sake of redeeming humanity, he had to take on humanity. He did not always fully express the glory of God as he walked the earth. He veiled it with his humanity. For example, when he’s tempted in the wilderness by Satan, what is he tempted to do? Turn these rocks into bread. Who can do that? God can do that. So his temptation is, let a little bit of it show. Come on, just do it. You know you can do it. Let’s make these rocks into bread. I know you’re hungry. I know you can do it. And Jesus says, no. Man shall live by the word of God. Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Satan, you are not the one that’s gonna tell me when I’m gonna reveal my glory. The will of God is. Because there are times where he does reveal that.

One of his other temptations, throw yourself down from this temple and make the angels save you. Only God can do that. Again, tempted to reveal his deity by Satan, and Jesus says no. That is not your prerogative to tell me when to reveal my glory. He is here to obey the will of his Father, to obey the will of God. Whenever any exercise of his deity, of his divine power, or any revealing of his glory would have functioned only to benefit himself, he didn’t do it. He only revealed his glory and exercised his divine attributes when it would accomplish the will of God.

That’s why you see him almost orchestrating his own crucifixion. He reveals a little bit here and does a miracle. Gets the Pharisees wound up. And then he slips out. And then he does this over here, and don’t tell anybody yet. He’s doing this intentionally. Because the glory of God is revealed by the will of God. And God has a plan. Part of the plan is that he would take on the form of a slave, the form of a human, and accomplish everything that Jesus accomplished. He refused to use those attributes or prerogatives to serve himself as a man. He was truly veiled in flesh, but he humbled himself to serve those He came to save. So that’s how we should understand, according to this passage, what it means to empty Himself.

So let’s look at some other passages and see, does the rest of the Bible reveal that Christ did not empty any of His deity? Do we see Christ possessing divinity, only what God can do, only what God can have, as He walked the earth? Well, yes, we do.

Well, first of all, in Matthew 28, as he’s ascending to heaven, he tells the disciples, behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. That’s omnipresence. Jesus is fully God, and he therefore can be with us always, because only God is everywhere present.

Second, we see the omniscience of God revealed in Jesus. In Matthew chapter 9, Verses 3 and 4, Jesus interacting with the Pharisees once again, and it says, “‘Behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, this man blasphemes.’” They said that to themselves. “‘And Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, why are you thinking evil in your heart?’ The Pharisees grumbling about Jesus. when he claimed to have the authority to forgive sins, and they don’t voice their concerns to Jesus, they’re grumbling in their own hearts, and Jesus reads their mind.

And in the parallel passage in Mark chapter two, it says that the scribes were reasoning in their hearts. And then Luke five says Jesus was aware of their reasonings. Jesus knows what’s going on in their heart.

And then again in John chapter one, Jesus calls Nathanael, and Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him and said to him, behold, truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit. And Nathanael said to him, from where do you know me? Nathanael saying, have we met before? Do I know you? You’re not familiar to me. Have we met before? And Jesus says, before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you. And in case we have any doubt what Jesus is saying there, Nathanael’s response is, Rabbi, you are the son of God, you are the king of Israel. It wasn’t as though Jesus had heard about Nathanael. He knew him. He saw him. He’s omniscient because Jesus saying that convinced Nathanael immediately of who he was.

And now some might say, well, no, that’s just, and some do say, Jesus just knew like a prophet, like the Holy Spirit revealed it to him. He was just a man and he had like a Holy Spirit revelation of that. But no prophet could ever claim what Jesus claims himself. In John 6:64, Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe and who it was who would betray him. Jesus knows who the elect are. He knew who would betray him. And he knew who it was that was going to believe. That’s why he says, you’re not of my sheep. You don’t believe because you’re not of my sheep. He knew that.

He knew what was in man, John chapter 2. And the disciples respond to him. In John 16:30, now that we know that you know all things. Not that you’ve been given all things or that it’s been revealed to you that all these things. No, you know all things. And Peter in John 21 says the exact same thing after his resurrection. Lord, now I know that you know all things.” This is not knowledge like a prophet. This is knowledge that only God can have. So Jesus did not empty himself of his divinity, of anything that it takes to be God.

And now some have objected, well, what about Mark 13:32? Mark 13:32 says, Jesus speaking says, but of the day or the hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. Well, doesn’t that prove that Jesus is not omniscient? No, it doesn’t. Not if we understand this mystery that we’re considering today in the hypostatic union. The union of the two natures in the one person of Christ. This is the great mystery.

Christ’s human nature was truly human. He was truly a man, which means he was limited in his humanity like we are. His human mind does not know all things. It can’t. It’s human. But Christ had two natures. And unlike any other man who ever lived, he could operate on two levels of consciousness, the divine and the human. He could know on two separate levels. He could know the day or the hour according to his deity, according to his God nature, and he could not know according to his humanity at the same time. That is the mystery of the incarnation.

There are times in which Jesus chooses to veil his deity with his flesh. To understand how others have taken this passage, again, John Calvin says, there would be no impropriety to say that Christ knew all things and was ignorant of something in respect of his perception as a man. And Gregory of Nazianzus, as I quoted last week, he says this. Commenting on this passage. He says we are to understand the ignorance in the most reverent sense Attributing it to his manhood not his deity He didn’t know according to his humanity, but he did know according to his deity That’s how we understand a passage like that but at the same time He never exploited the privilege that he had access to. He only accessed that knowledge when it was according to the will of God, according to the mission he was sent for.

He emptied himself by taking human flesh to himself. He veiled his deity with humanity. Verse eight says, being found in human appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even a death on a cross. From all eternity, the son was equal to the father in glory, majesty, and authority. Yet in his incarnation, he began to relate to the father in terms of submission. He submitted to the will of the Father. John 5:30 says, I can do nothing of myself. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is righteous. I do not seek my own will, but the will of Him who sent me. I do not seek my own human will, but the divine will of Him who sent me.

The master had become a slave. The Lord, who issues commands, began to follow His own commands. And He was not only obedient, but obedient to the point of death. The author of life submitted to death. The one without sin submitted to sin’s curse. The one who has life within himself, who gives life to whoever he wishes, gave his own human life in submission to the Father and in love for those that the Father gave him. This is humility. This is putting others before yourself. This is the Son of God. This is the Lord of glory. He humbled himself to the point of death, even the death on the cross. That is meant to be a magnifier. Not only did he die, he died on the cross.

In a crucifixion, metal spikes were driven through the victim’s hands and feet. And the victim was left to hang on the cross by those nails, naked and exposed, usually for days. The weight of the victim’s own body would press against his lungs, and that compression of his lungs and chest muscles made it difficult, even impossible, to breathe. They would gasp for air by pulling themselves up, and when they did, they would rip their own flesh by the nails that were through their hands and feet.

Not to mention the flesh on their back that was against the wooden beams was already torn up from flogging. And as they pulled themselves up, they would grind their open wounds on their back against that splintered wood. And eventually, When they had no longer any strength to pull themselves up for air anymore, they would die of suffocation. Of all they went through in crucifixion, the flogging, the driving of the nails, the hanging on the cross, it was suffocation that would kill them. This was the most cruel, Excruciatingly painful and degrading and humiliating death that any man could ever die.

And 2,000 years ago, the Son of God died that death. God on a cross. The eternal Son cursed by God the Father. He never deserved to know the Father’s wrath. He only ever deserved to feel the Father’s love and joy. Yet, on that cross, he was cut off from the joy of the Father. Can you imagine the panic that must have set in? When for the first time in all of eternity, he feels the wrath of God. He feels the wrath of his own father. What it must have been like to cry out, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

This was the purpose of the kenosis. And that’s number three, the obedience of Christ. This is why he did it. He took the form of a slave, being made in the likeness of men, being found in the appearance as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even the death on the cross.

Again, as Dr. Mike Riccardi explains this, mystery of the incarnation. He says this, “man had sinned against God, and so man was required to make atonement for sin, but he was absolutely powerless to do so. Only God can atone for sin, and yet only man’s sacrifice would be accepted on behalf of man. So, in the marvelous wisdom of God, God became a man to reconcile man to God.”

So what is the kenosis? It is not Christ emptying himself of being God or of anything it takes to be God. Again, otherwise he could not be God with us. In Matthew 1:23, if he emptied himself of anything of his deity, Colossians 2:9 would be wrong, which says, for in him all the fullness, all the fullness of deity dwells bodily. No, the kenosis was Christ making himself nothing by taking on the form of a slave, by taking on our form. by taking on our sin, by taking on our death, and by rising again to give us victory over sin and death.

If you do not know Him, you need to know Him today. You need to trust in Him as your only Savior, as the only payment for your sin. You must look outside of yourself to this glorious Savior. You need to come to Christ and cry out to Him for forgiveness. You need to trust Him to intercede with God on your behalf.

And we need to do what Philippians 2 tells us, to have this attitude in ourselves. This attitude that Christ showed in doing all of this for others, not for himself. He did it for us. He put the needs we had above his own desires. So to have this attitude in yourself that was also in Christ Jesus, what does this look like? Well, whatever conflict you might be facing right now, you might have the right to have your own way. You might be right. Well, remember the one who set aside his rights for you. We need to regard one another as more important than ourselves. We need to give up our wants and desires for the needs of others. just like our Savior did for us, even if we are despised and rejected.

And lastly, this teaches us how to worship God rightly. I told you that’s our aim in this whole series. This teaches us how we can truly worship Christ. The doctrine of the two natures of Christ ought to drive us to worship like we’ve never worshiped before.

To close with, Stephen Charnock wrote this about the incarnation. He says, “what a wonder that the two natures infinitely distant should be more intimately united than anything in the world. That the same person should have both a glory and a grief. An infinite joy in the deity and an expressible sorrow in the humanity. That a God upon a throne should be an infant in a cradle. that the thundering creator be a weeping babe and a suffering man. The incarnation astonishes men upon the earth and the angels in heaven.” May it never cease to astonish us. May it forever be our cause of worship, of God the Son incarnate through the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father. Let’s stand and close in a word of prayer.

Our Father in heaven, we are truly amazed. We are astonished by this mystery. How could this happen? How could the eternal Son of God become a man, become a slave, die, die a death on the cross for me? Lord, we want to know you rightly. We want to worship you correctly. I pray that we would more greatly understand who you are so that we can give you the worship that you deserve. We thank you for your word and for what it conforms us into in the image of Christ. We pray all of this in Christ’s name, amen.

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