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2. Imitating Christ's Humility

1If there is therefore any exhortation in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender mercies and compassions, 2make full my joy, that ye be of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind; 3doing nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself; 4not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others. 5Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; 8and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. 9Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; 10that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, 11and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 12So then, my beloved, even as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure. 14Do all things without murmurings and questionings: 15that ye may become blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye are seen as lights in the world, 16holding forth the word of life; that I may have whereof to glory in the day of Christ, that I did not run in vain neither labor in vain. 17Yea, and if I am offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all: 18and in the same manner do ye also joy, and rejoice with me. 19But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. 20For I have no man likeminded, who will care truly for your state. 21For they all seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ. 22But ye know the proof of him, that, as a child serveth a father, so he served with me in furtherance of the gospel. 23Him therefore I hope to send forthwith, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me: 24but I trust in the Lord that I myself also shall come shortly. 25But I counted it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow-worker and fellow-soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need; 26since he longed after you all, and was sore troubled, because ye had heard that he was sick: 27for indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, that I might not have sorrow upon sorrow. 28I have sent him therefore the more diligently, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. 29Receive him therefore in the Lord with all joy; and hold such in honor: 30because for the work of Christ he came nigh unto death, hazarding his life to supply that which was lacking in your service toward me.

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9 Therefore God hath highly exalted. By adding consolation, he shews that abasement, to which the human mind is averse, is in the highest degree desirable. There is no one, it is true, but will acknowledge that it is a reasonable thing that is required from us, when we are exhorted to imitate Christ. This consideration, however, stirs us up to imitate him the more cheerfully, when we learn that nothing is more advantageous for us than to be conformed to his image. Now, that all are happy who, along with Christ, voluntarily abase themselves, he shews by his example; for from the most abject condition he was exalted to the highest elevation. Every one therefore that humbles himself will in like manner be exalted. Who would now be reluctant to exercise humility, by means of which the glory of the heavenly kingdom is attained?

This passage has given occasion to sophists, or rather they have seized hold of it, to allege that Christ merited first for himself, and afterwards for others. Now, in the first place, even though there were nothing false alleged, it would nevertheless be proper to avoid such profane speculations as obscure the grace of Christ — in imagining that he came for any other reason than with a view to our salvation. Who does not see that this is a suggestion of Satan — that Christ suffered upon the cross, that he might acquire for himself, by the merit of his work, what he did not possess? For it is the design of the Holy Spirit, that we should, in the death of Christ, see, and taste, and ponder, and feel, and recognize nothing but God’s unmixed goodness, and the love of Christ toward us, which was great and inestimable, that, regardless of himself, he devoted himself and his life for our sakes. In every instance in which the Scriptures speak of the death of Christ, they assign to us its advantage and price; — that by means of it we are redeemed — reconciled to God — restored to righteousness — cleansed from our pollutions — life is procured for us, and the gate of life opened. Who, then, would deny that it is at the instigation of Satan that the persons referred to maintain, on the other hand, that the chief part of the advantage is in Christ himself — that a regard to himself had the precedence of that which he had to us — that he merited glory for himself before he merited salvation for us?

Farther, I deny the truth of what they allege, and I maintain that Paul’s words are impiously perverted to the establishment of their falsehood; for that the expression, for this cause, denotes here a consequence rather than a reason, is manifest from this, that it would otherwise follow, that a man could merit Divine honors, and acquire the very throne of God — which is not merely absurd, but even dreadful to make mention of. For of what exaltation of Christ does the Apostle here speak? It is, that everything may be accomplished in him that God, by the prophet Isaiah, exclusively claims to himself. Hence the glory of God, and the majesty, which is so peculiar to him, that it cannot be transferred to any other, will be the reward of man’s work!

Again, if they should urge the mode of expression, without any regard to the absurdity that will follow, the reply will be easy — that he has been given us by the Father in such a manner, that his whole life is as a mirror that is set before us. As, then, a mirror, though it has splendor, has it not for itself, but with the view of its being advantageous and profitable to others, so Christ did not seek or receive anything for himself, but everything for us. For what need, I ask, had he, who was the equal of the Father, of a new exaltation? Let, then, pious readers learn to detest the Sorbonnic sophists with their perverted speculations.

Hath given him a name Name here is employed to mean dignity — a manner of expression which is abundantly common in all languages — “Jacet sine nomine truncus; He lies a headless nameless carcass.” 111111     Virg. Æn. 2:557, 558. The mode of expression, however, is more especially common in Scripture. The meaning therefore is, that supreme power was given to Christ, and that he was placed in the highest rank of honor, so that there is no dignity found either in heaven or in earth that is equal to his. Hence it follows that it is a Divine name. 112112     “Et de cela il s’en ensuit, que c’est vn nom ou dignite propre a Dieu seul;” —”And from this it follows, that it is a name or dignity that belongs to God alone.” This, too, he explains by quoting the words of Isaiah, where the Prophet, when treating of the propagation of the worship of God throughout the whole world, introduces God as speaking thus: —

“I live: every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will swear to me,” etc. (Isaiah 45:23.)

Now, it is certain that adoration is here meant, which belongs peculiarly to God alone. I am aware that some philosophise with subtlety as to the name Jesus, as though it were derived from the ineffable name Jehovah. 113113     “Comme s’il estoit deduit du nom Jehouah, lequel les Juifs par superstition disent qu’il n’est licite de proferer;” — “As if it were derived from the name Jehovah, which the Jews superstitiously say that it is not lawful to utter.” In the reason, however, which they advance, I find no solidity. As for me, I feel no pleasure in empty subtleties; 114114     “En ces subtilitez vaines et frivoles;” —”In these empty and frivolous subtleties.” and it is dangerous to trifle in a matter of such importance. Besides, who does not see that it is a forced, and anything rather than a genuine, exposition, when Paul speaks of Christ’s whole dignity, to restrict his meaning to two syllables, as if any one were to examine attentively the letters of the word Alexander, in order to find in them the greatness of the name that Alexander acquired for himself. Their subtlety, therefore, is not solid, and the contrivance is foreign to Paul’s intention. But worse than ridiculous is the conduct of the Sorbonnic sophists, who infer from the passage before us that we ought to bow the knee whenever the name of Jesus is pronounced, as though it were a magic word which had all virtue included in the sound of it. 115115    ”Duquel toute la vertu consistast au son et en la prononciation;” —”The whole virtue of which consisted in the sound and the pronunciation.” Paul, on the other hand, speaks of the honor that is to be rendered to the Son of God—not to mere syllables.




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