The Threefold humility of Christ

If you call Jesus humble, you will shock no one. Nonetheless, we easily forget the depth of Christ’s humility – we forget that he humbled himself more profoundly than any person in history – Ghandi, Mother Teresa, St. Francis of Assisi, everyone! If we want to theologically understand Christ’s humility, then we should read Paul’s letter to the Philippian church. In it, Paul unveils the glorious humility of Christ, but before he does he commands our humility,

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus”

So if we want to have the humility to put the needs of others first, Paul says that we need the mind of Christ. We must meditate on the humility of Christ, because understanding Christ’s humility empowers our own humility. Paul gives us a glimpse into Christ’s humility, a humility in three parts.

1. “[Jesus Christ], though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness.” (v.6) Jesus, though equal with God, did not count equality as something to be grasped. He did not exploit his divine status as a way to avoid humility. Instead, he did something unthinkable: he humbled himself by taking on flesh, by becoming a creature that he created. There is no apt analogy for Christ’s incredible humility in doing so. An artist entering his painting, or a sculptor becoming his sculpture cannot begin to compare with Christ condescending to become human. The creator donned the form of his creature, the form of a servant and remains so eternally! He gave up his rights as king of the universe to be born a Jewish peasant baby! And all this for the sake of humans who rebelled against him! We cannot imagine emptying ourselves so profoundly.

2. “And being found in human form he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,” Jesus not only humbled himself by becoming human, but he humbled himself by submitting to the will of his father. Can you imagine if you’re father commanded you to die for someone else? What if that person was a wicked traitor or an adulterer, a murderer, a rapist? What if he was unrepentant and uncaring about his evil? That is exactly what the father commanded Christ to do in the Garden of Gethsemene. He commanded Jesus to die a death he did not deserve, for undeserving humans. What incredible humility this required! To bow down to God’s will at such great cost! To be humble enough to die for a traitor!

3. “he humbled himself … even [by] death on a cross.” Christ not only obeyed unto death, but he also humbled himself by a humiliating death. Paul writes about this humiliation in Gal. 3:13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’ ” Christ became a curse, he was abandoned by his father, he became our sin. He did not merely die, he died the most awful, horrific, spiritually terrifying death any man ever died and he didn’t even deserve it. He deserved eternal life, blessing and the father’s love! Yet, Christ’s humbly passed his just desert, and put the needs of the undeserving first.

Three times Christ humbled himself – by becoming man, by obeying unto death, and by becoming a curse on our behalf. Three times he humbled himself to save the most undeserving creatures.

When we look into the vastness of Christ’s humility it convicts us to our core. We struggle to humbly serve our fellow, equal creatures (when Christ humbled himself for those whom he created). We struggle humbly obey God’s commands for our own good (when Christ humbly obeyed God for the good of others). We struggle to humbly bear the name of Christ before others (when Christ humbly bore our sin, accursed on the cross).

What shall we do then? First, repent of our ugly pride. Second, turn to Christ and trust him to provide his promise in verse 5: the humble “mind … which is yours in Christ Jesus.” If we ask Christ for humility, he will be faithful to provide. Third, tear down the lie in your heart which says, “If I’m humble, then I’ll lose out on the best stuff in life” by remembering that Christ, through humility was “highly exalted and bestowed the name above every other name.” Just as humility led to Christ’s glory, so our humility will lead to our future glory in him. Hold that prize, glory with Christ into eternity, before your soul when you’re tempted with pride.


About Patrick K. Miller

Currently I am living in Columbia serving at the University of Missouri with Veritas, The Crossing's campus ministry. In December 2010 I graduated from Mizzou with a degree in English Literature. My beautiful wife, Emily, works is an Interior Designer with a local firm. I like espresso, 30 Rock, and books. My favorite old dead guys are John Owen, Augustine and Francis Schaeffer. You should read something by them.
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