We live in a culture of pride. We take for granted that independence, self-confidence, self-assertion, and self-direction, are all aspects of what it means to be a healthy human being. In contrast, the Bible demonstrates that this kind of self-focus is both dangerous and destructive. It insults God, and fractures our relationships with other people.[1]We reviewed all this in the first and second posts in this series.

But if all this wasn’t bad enough, the core problem with pride is its difference from Jesus. Pride is antithetical to Christianity – it is the opposite to the attitude that Jesus, the humble king, had.

Jesus: The Humble King

The gospel – the very same gospel that Paul is proud of (Rom 1:16) – is that Jesus is Lord. Jesus is ruler over the world, and since you and I are part of the world, this means that Jesus is ruler over us.

That rule is essential to the gospel. Jesus himself said it in his own early gospel preaching: “the kingdom of God is near” (Mark 1:15 ).

That concept of authoritative rule is inherent in the title “Christ”. Christ is not a name – Jesus was not born to Mr and Mrs Christ in 6 or 4 BC. Instead, it’s a title, an office, a job. It’s the same word as “Messiah” in the Old Testament. It literally means “anointed”. In light of passages like 2 Samuel 7:11-16 and Psalm 2:2; 89:20, it refers to the one God appoints to rule over the whole world. To call ourselves “Christian” is to hand over rule of our lives to King Jesus.

But Jesus’ kingdom is completely upside-down to normal, earthly, kingdoms. He’s a humble king. He cares more about us than himself. Unlike Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and every global empire since, he won’t rip us off to make himself rich. He’ll spend his resources, even become poor, to make sure we have what we need (2 Cor 8:9). In fact, he’ll even die, so that we can enjoy eternal life (Mark 10:45, cf. Rom 5:6-8.)

Jesus: The Humble God

And this is the Jesus we worship as God. If you want a good example of self-confidence, check out Jesus in John 13:3. He knew himself to be God, in flesh, ruler over the world. How much more self-esteem can you get?

But what did Jesus do with that confidence, with that self-esteem? What do you expect to happen in the next couple of verses? So he jumped up on the table, beat his chest, and said ‘I am God! Worship me!’…? “So he started to teach them how to be good little Christians, and live in God’s kingdom”…?

No, in John 13:4-5, it tells us that God, the creator and ruler of the universe, knelt down, and washed the dirt off the feet of people he created. The same people who would soon use those feet to run away and abandon him to his enemies, in his hour of greatest need.

Jesus’ Humility Reverses Adam’s Pride

In all this, Jesus reverses Adam’s sin of pride. This is what underlies the justifiably famous Christ-hymn of Philippians 2:5-11. God made humanity in his image and likeness[2]Gen 1:26-28. But while Adam and Eve were already like God, they weren’t satisfied with that; they wanted more. So they disobeyed God, reached up to dethrone him, and fell down into sin. Philippians 2:6 says Jesus is God. Because he’s God, he’s the opposite to proud – he’s humble!

We instinctively put an “although” in front of verse 6 – although Jesus was divine, he was kind enough to come down from heaven for us.

But that’s not the best expression of the sense of this verse. If you’re going to add anything, put a “because” in front of it. Because Jesus is God, he did the opposite to Adam and Eve. He was humble in obeying God the Father (Phi 2:8). He became human, and as a human he was not glorious, mighty, or powerful – he was not a king, military leader, or even a philosopher or “opinion leader”. He became a humble man, a servant. His vertical humility – his obedience to God – propelled him to a horizontal humility – he cared for other people more than himself. He cared for other so much that, as a humble servant, he went down even further, to become the suffering servant of Isaiah 52:13-53:12, and sacrifice himself to justify transgressors.

Here is the epitome of God-likeness: the pre-existent Christ was not a “grasping, selfish” being, but one whose love for others found its consummate expression in “pouring himself out,” in taking on the role of a slave, in humbling himself to the point of death on behalf of those so loved. No wonder Paul cannot abide triumphalism—in any of its forms. It goes against everything that God is and that God is about.[3]Gordon D. Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, NICNT, Olive Tree Bible electronic version, introductory comments on 2:5-11.

This gives us a unique perspective on divine “glory” and “power”. It builds confidence, trust, and love for the God who reveals himself in Christ. It gives us the confidence to be humble. And that will be the focus of our next post.

References   [ + ]

1.We reviewed all this in the first and second posts in this series.
2.Gen 1:26-28
3.Gordon D. Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, NICNT, Olive Tree Bible electronic version, introductory comments on 2:5-11.