But made himself of no reputation, and took on him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
1. When in consequence of original apostasy from God man had forfeited the Divine amity, when having deserted his natural Lord, other lords had got dominion over him, when according to an eternal rule of justice he stood adjudged to destruction, when all the world stood guilty before God and no remedy did appear, God out of infinite goodness designed our redemption.
2. How could this happy design be compassed in consistence with the glory, justice, and truth of God?
3. God was pleased to prosecute it, as thereby no wise to impair but rather to advance His glory. He accordingly would be sued for mercy, nor would he grant it without compensation, and so did find us a Mediator and furnish us with means to satisfy Him.
4. But how? Where was there a Mediator worthy to intercede on our behalf? Where amongst men, one, however innocent, sufficient to do more than satisfy for himself? Where among angels, seeing that they cannot discharge more than their own debts of gratitude and service?
4. Wherefore seeing that a superabundant dignity of person was required God's arm brought salvation.
5. But how could God undertake the business? Could He become a suitor to His offended self? No, man must concur in the transaction: some amends must issue from him as the offending party. So the Eternal Word assumed human flesh and merited God's favour to us by a perfect obedience to the law, and satisfying Divine justice by pouring forth His blood in sacrifice for our sins. In this kind of passion (the death of the cross) consider divers notable adjuncts.
I. ITS BEING IN APPEARANCE CRIMINAL, as in semblance being an execution of justice on Him. "He was numbered among the transgressors." "Made sin for us." He was impeached of the highest crimes, and, although innocent, for them suffered death. But why such a death, since any would have been sufficient; and why such a death odious alike to Jew and Gentile?
1. As our Saviour freely undertook a life of the greatest meanness and hardship, so we might be pleased to undergo such a death.
(1) It has been well said that "no man expresses such a devotion to virtue as he who forfeits the repute of being a good man, that he may not lose the conscience of being such." So our Lord was content not only to expose His life, but His fame, for the interest of goodness.
(2) Had He died otherwise, He might have seemed to purchase our welfare at a somewhat easier rate. He industriously shunned a death such as might have brought Him honour when exposed to it by the malignity of the Pharisees. Accordingly this death did not fall on Him by surprise or chance. He foresaw it from the beginning, and regarded it with satisfaction.
2. This death best suited the character of His undertaking. We deserve open condemnation and exemplary punishment, wherefore He was pleased to undergo not only an equivalent pain for us, but in a sort equal blame before God and man.
3. Seeing that our Lord's death was a satisfaction to Divine justice, it was most fit that it should be in a way wherein God's right is most nearly concerned and plainly discernible. All judgment, as Moses says, is God's, or is administered by authority derived from Him, magistrates being His officers. So our Lord, as His answer to Pilate testifies, received the human judgment as God's. Had He suffered by private malice, His obedience had been less remarkable.
4. Our Saviour in any other way could hardly have displayed so many virtues to such advantage. His constancy, meekness, charity, etc., were seen by vast multitudes, and made matters of the greatest notoriety. Plato says that to approve a man righteous, he must be scourged, tortured, bound, have his eyes burnt out, and, at the close, having suffered all evils, must be impaled. The Greeks, then, in consistence with their own wisdom, could not reasonably scorn the Cross, which Christ freely chose to recommend the most excellent virtues to imitation.
II. ITS BEING MOST PAINFUL, which demonstrated —
1. The vehemence of His love.
2. The heinousness of our sins.
3. The value of the compensation.
4. The exemplification of the hardest duties of obedience and patience.
III. ITS BEING MOST SHAMEFUL — a Roman punishment reserved for slaves, answering to the Jewish punishment of hanging up dead bodies. "Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree."
1. This, ignominious in itself, exposed the sufferer to the scorn of the rude vulgar.
2. We need not doubt that our Saviour, as a man, endowed with human sensibilities, felt these indignities; and not only so, but the infinite dignity of His person and the perfect innocency of His life must have enhanced His sufferings. And so we read, "See if there be any sorrow like my sorrow."
3. And further, there was the shameful burden of sin which He bore.
IV. ITS PECULIAR ADVANTAGEOUSNESS TO THE DESIGNS OF OUR LORD IN SUFFERING.
1. It was very notorious, and lasted a competent time. Had He been privately or suddenly dispatched, no great notice would have been taken of it, nor would it have been so fully proved.
2. The nature of His kingdom was thereby signified. None but a spiritual kingdom could He have designed who submitted to this suffering.
3. It was a most convenient touchstone to prove the genuine disposition and work of men, so as to discriminate those who can discern and love true goodness though so disfigured, and not be scandalized by the Cross.
4. By it God's special providence was discovered, and His glory illustrated in the propagation of the gospel; for how could such a sufferer gain so general an opinion in the world of being the Lord of life and glory without God's miraculous aid?
V. ITS PRACTICAL EFFICACY. No point is more fruitful in wholesome instruction, more forcible to kindle devout affections, more efficacious in affording incentives to a pious life.
1. We are hence obliged with affection and gratitude to adore each person in the blessed Trinity.
(1) The Father giving the Son.
(2) The Son giving Himself.
(3) The Spirit assisting the Son to offer Himself without spot.
2. What surer ground can there be of faith and hope in God "If God spared not His own Son, etc." Who can doubt of God's goodness, despair of God's mercy, after this.
3. It should yield great joy to know that Christ hung there not only as a resolute sufferer, but as a noble conqueror over the devil, the world, the flesh, death, wrath, enmity, and strife, etc.
4. It should give us a humbling sense of our weakness and vileness to know that we needed such succour. Pride is madness in the presence of Him who made Himself of no reputation.
5. But as this contemplation doth breed sober humility, it should also preserve us from base abjectness of mind; for had not God esteemed us, He would not have debased Himself.
6. Can we reflect on this event without detestation of sin, which brought such a death on the Redeemer.
7. What in reason can be more powerful towards working penitential sorrow and religious fear, and stimulating true obedience?
8. It affords strong engagements to charity, to know that out of compassion for us Christ suffered.
9. It should breed a disregard for the world and its vanities, and reconcile us to even the worst condition? For who can suffer as Christ suffered. 10. It will incline us to submit cheerfully to God's will to remember that Christ learned obedience by the things He suffered.
(L. Barrow, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: