Jesus in Harmony (Philippians 2:5-11)
Topic: One Lord: No One Like You Passage: Philippians 2:5–2:11
I. Divine Dissonance?
Some things just do not go together. In music, two notes that are played simultaneously, but don’t go together are said to be discordant or dissonant. Anyone who’s ever had a son or daughter, or brother or sister who’s just learning to play an instrument knows all too well what dissonance sounds like.
Just a little over a hundred years after Jesus walked the earth, a Christian leader named Marcion was talking quite a bit about dissonance; about two things that in his mind didn’t go together. But for Marcion, it wasn’t about music, or food, or clothes. It was about the very nature of God. You see Marcion couldn’t reconcile the God of the OT with the God of the NT. For him, the OT God of Israel, was too stern and cruel to be identified with the loving, gracious God of Jesus Christ. And so in the end, Marcion resolved this tension by teaching that there were, in fact, two gods.
Two gods? If that sounds off to you, you’re not alone. The Christians in Marcion’s day rightly rejected his conclusions and labeled them as false teaching.
But what if I were to tell you this morning, that many modern Christians drift towards Marcion in some sense? No, they’re not explicitly teaching that there are two different gods in the Bible, but there does seem to be a sound of dissonance where the Bible itself plays in harmony. What do I mean? Well, let me explain using God's word. Turn over to Philippians 2.
II. The Passage: “The Name that is Above Every Name” (2:5-11)
Last Sunday we heard about Paul's confidence regarding the disciples in Philippi, confidence about the beginning and end of God's “good work” (1:6) in them. We also talked about the Christmas connection in this letter by looking at this passage from chapter 2. Look with me again at 2:5-11. To encourage them toward selflessness and humility, Paul writes...
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Here is, arguably, one of the most powerful passages in the New Testament, or in the whole Bible for that matter.
And if you look at v. 6, the very first line reveals why this passage is so relevant to our study this morning. Jesus, the man who most of humanity has chalked up as simply a wise teacher is, according to Paul, by His very nature, God. “Who though he was in the form of God”.
But which God? If asked to describe their God, many Christians today would paint for you a picture that resembles how most of the world imagines Jesus. Loving, gentle, meek and mild. These believers often emphasize God’s love and the joy of the Spirit. They talk about intimacy with God; about forgiveness and acceptance.
And yet, there are other believers, who if asked to describe their God, would emphasize things like God’s holiness, his wrath, his kingship and of His laws. Many of these Christians shun what they perceive to be the ‘touchy-feely’ spirit of the age. For them, God is as exalted, inscrutable; even a consuming fire standing ready to break forth in judgment against this wicked age.
1. Meek and Mild (vs. 7-8)
So if Jesus was (v. 6) “in the form of God”, which God are we talking about? Is it the loving and lowly God? Of course it is! Look at vs. 7 and 8:
...but [he] emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Could there be any better description of how much God loves us? That Jesus, who was in very nature God, did not cling to that position and privilege, but as verse 4 reminds us, he put our interests ahead of his own and emptied himself ; he descended from the glories of heaven to be born as one of us. As Paul said in II Corinthians 8:9-
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.
These verses are about the shame of a servant; about One who walked among the rejected and despised, among the unclean and impure. How was he a servant? In many ways. For example, Jesus even performed the task assigned only to the lowest of all household slaves: he washed his disciples’ feet. Think about that: the Creator washing the feet of his creatures!
But it doesn’t stop there, look at the building progression of these verses. Not only did he give up the splendors of eternity and His right to be served by humanity, but in what even Gandhi of all people described as a perfect act, Jesus served us by giving up his own life; and doing so in such a horrible way: “…even death on a cross”!
These verses undoubtedly describe a God who loves us with a sacrificial love that simply cannot be fully fathomed; a God who wanted to be among us, to be with us; a God who wants to touch our lives. A friend of even the poorest heart.
2. Every Knee Will Bow (vs. 9-11)
But wait. The song continues. And in verses 9-11, we find a different perspective.
What is described here is not one who has been shamed, but one who has been exalted. Even though the resurrection of Jesus is not mentioned here specifically, it seems to be assumed, since Jesus is no longer portrayed as a suffering servant, but as a reigning King.
And not just any king, but the King of Kings, whose name is above every name. And we see His power demonstrated so clearly here, don’t we, as every human being who has ever lived, every son or daughter of Adam, every man and woman in our rebellious race, will bow down before His throne and confess His lordship.
And let’s be clear about this, some will obviously bow willingly and worship-fully. But for others, it will be done begrudgingly. Some will confess the supremacy of Christ as an outpouring of their faith and devotion. Others will be compelled to make that confession simply because they are mortal creatures and the truth about Jesus will be too evident.
But in another letter, Paul reveals the fate of those who bow begrudgingly: [he writes about] ...when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (II Thessalonians 1:7–8)
On that day, for the first time since the curse in the Garden, the cancer of our rebellion against God will be eradicated as Jesus Christ asserts His full authority as the Sovereign ruler and righteous Judge; in the words of Revelation 19:16... “King of kings and Lord of lords.”
But…but…is this the same Jesus we saw in the first half of the passage?
I mentioned earlier that many today seem to emphasize a God of tenderness, care, and acceptance. A God who would call us friends. But on the other hand there are others who seem to emphasize a God of power, judgment, and holiness. A God who would call us to account.
But what should be obvious to us this morning is that there is no dissonance in this passage. No, this is Jesus in harmony. There are not two 'Jesus-es' being described here. There is only one. There are not two gods being described here. There is only one. One God who is both Savior and Sovereign. One God who is both meek and majestic. A healing God, but also a holy God. A God whose attributes, whatever they are, co-exist in perfect harmony.
Think about the testimony of all the Scriptures: the God who destroyed the firstborn of Egypt, also said “Let the children come to me…” The God who forgave His executioners on Golgotha, also struck down Ananias and Sapphira for their deceit and greed. The God who required ritual purity from His priests, also touched the lepers and let a sinful woman wash his feet with her hair. The God who sits enthroned between the Cherubim, also sat at a wedding in Cana; even making water into wine for the guests. Is this your God?
If there is any dissonance here, it’s coming from within us, not God.
III. Walking in Harmony
But why does this matter? So what if some people like to emphasize certain things about God, and other people emphasize different things. If what they’re saying is true, does it really matter?
Well I think it matters because of this truth: If our view of the God we live for is unbalanced, that life we live for Him will also be unbalanced.
Very simply, when we neglect certain truths about God, we end up drawing the wrong conclusions from those truths we hold onto. How you live your life, especially when no one is looking, how you live from the heart is the best indication of what you really believe about God.
For example, do our caricatures of holiness lead to a God who in our minds cannot be bothered with our everyday hurts and concerns? Do our caricatures of majesty paint the picture of a God who is more concerned with the quality of our offerings than with the quality of our hearts? Do our caricatures lead us to imagine God as a cosmic killjoy or divine schoolmaster?
Or maybe our caricatures of love make our God out to be a being that we can treat just like a best buddy. Maybe our caricatures of mercy lead us to believe that God is affirming of anything and everything we do. Maybe our caricatures of humility are making us less likely to speak the truth in love when necessary.
You see, if you downplay the lowliness and compassion of Jesus and only emphasize his kingship and exalted nature, I guarantee that when it comes to other people, you will be more concerned about their need for correction rather than their need for love; when it comes to those in error, you will be more inclined toward holy separation instead of humble service. Purity and precision of doctrine will always trump sacrifice and servanthood.
On the other hand, if you downplay the lordship of Jesus, the fact that he is holy and exalted, and only emphasize His meekness and mercy, then I guarantee that you will be more inclined to rationalize your sin, rather than reject it. Obedience will somehow become something extra rather than something that is expected. When I minimize the phrase, “Jesus is Lord”, and only emphasize the phrase “God is love”, my satisfaction will always be more important than my submission.
Fellow believer, friend, what could be a better New Year's resolution, an all-year-round resolution, than to hear Jesus in harmony, more and more, in the coming weeks and months? Through a renewed commitment to His word, and a reliance on the power of his Spirit, will you ask God for that very thing this morning? Christmas may be past, but God always loves to give that gift. “Father, help me to love and follow Jesus based on the truth, not on my preferences. Renew my mind and help me root out any error on this topic.”
I think you know as well as I do that all of us walk in dissonance. Because of sin, we are regularly 'out of tune', filling our world and this world up with the noise of me-centeredness. We know the truth about God, and yet we try to combine that with worldly notes. Our lips may acknowledge Jesus as Lord, but how often do we combine that with notes of self-sufficiency and self-rule and self-exaltation.
If you know that to be true in your life this morning, will you confess that in just a moment? Will you thank God for the fact that the harmony of Jesus has overcome the dissonance of sin? Jesus Christ came into the world to save noisy sinners like us! Let's bask in the warm glow of that amazing Christmas gift. And in the new year, let's continue to ask God, as we hunger for and dig into his word, let's ask him for eyes that continue to be enlightened, and thus inform our prayers, our praises, and our path through this world. Amen? Let's both confess and pray.
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