************ Sermon on Philippians 2:1-18 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 3, 2013
"The Kingdom of God"
My business card clearly identifies me as being a Reformed Christian. But most people have no idea what this means. Some wonder if I became a Christian while serving time in a reform school. When we lived in Canada, some thought I joined the Reform Party. The vast majority of people, however, just look puzzled. Even a five-term elder in a Reformed church asked me what it means to be Reformed.
So, on this Reformation Sunday let me ask, what does it mean to be Reformed? What are the basics of the Reformed faith? What do we consider to be important?
Reformed people and churches are intensely biblical. We are "people of the Book." We trust the Bible to tell us everything we need to know about creation, fall, and redemption.
Reformed Christians are captivated by the Bible's teaching on grace. We confess to a fallen world that the initiative to save sinners and to redeem the groaning creation comes from God's side, not ours.
Reformed Christians are confessional. We have adopted Creeds and Confessions not to stand alongside the Word of God but because we believe they are faithful summaries of God's Word.
Reformed Christians believe in the acronym TULIP: T - Total Depravity, U - Unconditional Election, L - Limited Atonement, I - Irresistible Grace, P - Perseverance of the Saints.
Reformed Christians are historical. They have a history that goes back to John Calvin and the church he served in Geneva, Switzerland.
Reformed Christians are reforming Christians. Everything in life is to be looked at in the light of God's Word and, if necessary, is to be changed and reformed to be in conformity with God's will.
Reformed Christians believe in the five solas: Scripture Alone, Grace Alone, Christ Alone, Faith Alone, the Glory of God Alone.
I have three books I want to hold before the congregation. They remind us that there is such a thing as Reformed Worship, Reformed Prayers, and Reformed Church Government (HOLD UP IN TURN).
What does it mean to be Reformed? Today, I want you to realize that being Reformed means belief in the present Kingdom of God. Notice that word "present." Many churches believe in the Kingdom of God; but, they believe it is totally future. As Reformed Christians we believe in the present Kingdom of God.
What is the Kingdom of God? The Kingdom of God is God's righteous reign in Christ acknowledged by the church and contested by the Devil and all his followers. We believe Christ is King now. We believe Christ reigns now. We believe Christ is Head of the church now.
Our Scripture reading tells us three points about the Kingdom: the Humiliation of the Kingdom, the Exaltation of the Kingdom, and the Life of the Kingdom.
I The Humiliation of the Kingdom
A I ask my Catechism students to pick the word, in verses 6-8, that best sums up what happened to Jesus when He came to earth as a man. I ask you to do the same thing as I read these verses:
(Phil 2:6-8) Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, (7) but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (8) And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!There is no right or wrong answer but which word do you pick? The word I pick is "humbled." Christ "humbled" Himself. The word "humbled" or "humiliation" nicely describes the downward movement of our Lord.
Now, try to imagine you are sitting in front of me with your Greek Bible open. If I ask you the same question (which word would you pick) you would probably pick an entirely different word. The Greek word which best describes what happened to Jesus when He came to earth is "kenosis" – translated as "made himself nothing." A better translation is the word "emptied." Christ "emptied" Himself.
B Christ "emptied" Himself. He "humbled" Himself. How did Christ empty and humble Himself? Christ emptied and humbled Himself by "taking the very nature of a servant" and by "being made in human likeness," by accepting a weak human nature. Imagine that! Christ did not give up any part of His divinity. He did not stop being God. He remained "in very nature God." He remained King and Ruler over all. Yet, He accepted the nature of a human servant. He did not come as an earthly Ruler or King, with the pomp and glory of royalty. He did not occupy a place of honor, authority, and prestige among men. From the manger to the cross He walked the path of humiliation. From the manger to the cross His was a servant nature. From the manger to the cross He came to serve rather than to be served.
Compare the coming of King Jesus to the recent birth and christening of Prince George, the future King of England.
C Christ "emptied" Himself. Of what did Christ empty Himself? He did not empty Himself of His divinity – He always was and is and will be part of the triune Godhead. He did not empty Himself of His power – look at His miracles and His commands to wind and wave and storm. He did not empty Himself of His dominion – He is an eternal King with an eternal Kingdom.
We are told that when Christ "emptied" Himself, He "did not consider equality with God something to be grasped." This is a reference to God's position and glory. Jesus emptied Himself – for a while – of His position and glory as King of the universe.
No pomp and circumstance for Jesus. He did not come to be served, but to serve. He was not born in the palace of a king; instead He was born in a stable. His was not a life of riches and luxury; instead, the Son of Man had no place to lay His head.
D Christ emptied Himself, He was obedient to death, He died on a cross. What is amazing is that Christ did this to Himself. He "emptied" Himself and "He humbled himself," says Scripture. Scripture doesn't say, He was "emptied" and "He was humbled" as if it was something others brought upon Him. No, He emptied and humbled Himself. It was Jesus' decision. For instance, Jesus knew that if He went to Jerusalem He would be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law; He knew He would suffer many things and be killed (Lk 9:22). Yet, He deliberately set out for Jerusalem anyway (Lk 9:51). From beginning to end, Jesus remained in control.
E I call all of this the humiliation of the Kingdom. The King of the Universe emptied Himself. The King of the Universe humbled Himself. The King of the Universe became a man and suffered and died on a cross!
As I was preparing for this message I received the latest issue of TIME magazine. There is a picture of Prince Charles on the cover. The cover story is entitled, "The Forgotten Prince." His supporters hail him as a visionary; his detractors dismiss him as a privileged crank.
It is fair to say that the entire human race has a forgotten prince. His name is not Charles or George or Philip. His name is Jesus. Most of the world lives every day with no awareness of Christ's presence. Most people give no service to this King. Few people strive to please Him in all that they do.
When we look at His modest birth, His humble life, and His painful death, He is not much to look at. It is easy to forget He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is The Forgotten Prince.
II The Exaltation of the Kingdom
A Let me ask the same question about verses 9-11 that I asked about verses 6-8. What word sticks out? What word best sums up what happened to Jesus after His humiliation?
(Phil 2:9-11) Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, (10) that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (11) and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.The word I pick is "exalted." God "exalted" Him.
Notice the progression: the Jesus Who is humiliated is also the Jesus Who is exalted.
B "God exalted him to the highest place" says Scripture. Meaning what? Meaning the first sign of His exaltation is a crown and throne.
In the Ancient World the highest honor a ruler could bestow was to place someone at his right hand. This was the place of honor at the banquet table. This was the place of honor in the judgment hall. Only the emperor's most trusted advisors and friends could occupy this place. The king's right-hand man functioned as a kind of Prime Minister. As the right-hand man he could rule, give commands, and pass judgments all in the name of the king.
The highest place in the universe is the right hand of God. To be seated at the right hand of God is to be given a place of supreme honor and authority. To be seated at the right hand of God is to be made King under God.
Jesus is seated at the right hand of God – this means Jesus has been given power, majesty, and honor. Jesus is seated at the right hand of God – this means Jesus has been given a crown and a throne. Jesus is seated at the right hand of God – this means Jesus is King and Lord. This means Jesus has been given the highest place in the universe.
To the Israelites who lived in Jerusalem at the time of Christ's death, Jesus did not seem like a king. After all, He had just been put to death like a common criminal.
And, to many people today, Jesus also doesn't seem like king. We watch or listen to the news and it is hard to imagine that Jesus is reigning now: I am thinking of such things as war, AIDS, teen pregnancy, abortion, militant homosexuals, famine, persecution of Christians around the world. You know why there are these problems and these sins? Because not everyone in the world acknowledges Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords.
But the unbelief of the world does not take away Jesus' crown and throne. Whether the world acknowledges it or not, He still is King and Lord and at the highest place in the universe!
C "God exalted him," says our text. The second sign of His exaltation is a name. "God ... gave him the name that is above every name."
We find many different names for Jesus in the Bible. So many great and wonderful names. Names like Jesus, Christ, Messiah, Anointed, Immanuel, Son of God, Word, Life, Glory, Water of life, Bread of life, Light, Door, Good Shepherd, Resurrection and Life, Way, Truth, Son of Man. Yet, says Paul, there is one name that is above them all. What is this name? The name above every name is Lord. Jesus Christ is LORD.
What is so special about this name? It means He is King, Ruler, Sovereign. It means His is Kingdom, power, and glory.
III The Life of the Kingdom
A So far we have looked in detail at what is known as the "Hymn of Christ." The remaining verses of our Bible reading describes day-to-day life – our day-to-day life – in the Kingdom. Jesus Christ is Lord. He is King. What difference does that make to us as Reformed Christians?
Did you notice how Paul introduces the "Hymn of Christ"? Verse 5: "You attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." Meaning what? Meaning a life of humiliation and exaltation – just like Jesus.
Paul spells out the life of humility in his opening verses. Inspired by the Spirit he writes,
(Phil 2:3-4) Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (4) Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Paul spells out the life of humility and exaltation in the verses following the hymn:
(Phil 2:14-15) Do everything without complaining or arguing, (15) so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe ...
B Jesus is King. Paul says that before this King "every knee shall bow." He doesn't mean a one-time act. He doesn't mean just a physical act of kneeling. In mind is nothing less than a whole life response.
Jesus is King. Therefore, we are to serve Him in our jobs. We don't work for the big pay check; rather, we work to serve the Lord. We don't work for our own glory, advancement, promotion; rather, we work for the glory of God. We don't enter any kind of occupation; rather, we enter only those in which we can serve the Lord. We aren't satisfied merely with punching the time-clock; rather, we do our best for the Lord.
Jesus is King. Therefore, we are to serve Him in our homes. This says something about the kinds of books and magazines we read. This says something about the kind of programs we watch on TV. This says something about Bible reading and prayer.
Jesus is King. Therefore, we are to serve Him in our marriages. This means we are to be faithful in thought, word, and deed. This means we are to keep our promise to love and cherish our spouse until death do us part. This means we leave father and mother and cling and cleave to one another.
Jesus is King. Therefore, we are to serve Him in the way we bring up, educate, discipline, and love our children and grandchildren.
Jesus is King. Therefore, we are to serve Him with our bank account and wallet. Our money does not belong to us first of all. It belongs to the Lord. Our spending habits are to reflect this.
Jesus is King; He is a demanding King. He demands our all. He wants us to totally serve Him in every area of life. He wants us to hold no area back.
What does it mean to be Reformed? Though I have not used the expression, I've been talking about a "world and life view."
How do we think about and look at God, ourselves, and everything around us? Jesus is King. And we are His servants in all of life.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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