Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
These words are the grandest and most profound, and at the same time the most copious and unrestrained which St. Paul ever used on this subject, his final and finished formula of the Incarnation. It is wonderful to observe with what tranquillity, ease, and unconsciousness of effort this amazing subject is introduced. All comes as a matter of course. He does not say "Behold, I show you a mystery." It flows as naturally from His pen as a simple motive for Christian duty, as if it were the commonplace of theological truth as familiar to them as to Himself. So, doubtless, it was.
I. THERE IS ONE PERSON HERE AND ONE ONLY. The name Jesus Christ is given to that Person, who, before the Incarnation, was "in the form of God," and afterwards, "in the form of a servant." He may be called by any name, "Son of God" or "Son of man," but that name always signifies His Person as possessed of two natures. Accordingly, that Person may be the subject of two classes of predicates. The Divine nature never has a human attribute, nor the human a Divine, but the Divine-human Person may be spoken of as having both. So here St. Paul is referring to a thought of the Eternal Son which implied that He was not yet man. The example is that of Christ Jesus in the flesh, but its strength and obligation are based upon the fact that it was the divinity in Christ that began the mediatorial humiliation.
II. THE PRE-EXISTENT NATURE AND FORM OF BEING is here strikingly described. Paul uses an expression which indicates the relation of the Second Person of the Trinity to the First, that of eternal subordination without implying inferiority. As the Father cannot be without the Son, as being cannot be without its image, so the Godhead in the Second Person had its form — the essential attributes and glories of Deity which He might lay aside without losing the divinity of His Eternal generation.
III. THE ACT OF INCARNATION IS ATTRIBUTED TO THAT PRE-EXISTENT PERSON. He resolved to empty Himself of all the glories, prerogatives, and manifestations of the Godhead and animate a human nature. This was His own act. There was a concurrence of the Holy Trinity. The Father by an eternal necessity begetting His Son, begets Him again in indissoluble union with our nature. The Holy Ghost is the Divine instrument of the Father's will in that office. But it was the Son's own act to conjoin with Himself this new man. Now, though our human nature is not an ignoble thing, yet His coming in the likeness of a nature that evil had defiled, was a condescension which might be termed a humiliation. His Divine repute was for a season suspended, and He was reputed among the transgressors.
IV. THE REALITY OF HIS ASSUMPTION OF HUMAN NATURE is set forth by three expressions.
1. "Form of a servant." The entire history of our Saviour's human existence was that of the mediatorial servant of God (Isaiah 42). As such He proclaimed Himself, and was proclaimed (Acts 3:26). The term is parallel with "form" of God, and signifies that in His human nature His manifestation was that of the servitude of redemption. Our human nature was the towel with which He girded Himself (John 13). He took our humanity only that He might serve in it.
2. "Likeness of men" limits itself to the mere assumption of our nature, and indicates that He became man otherwise than others become men;, that His human nature was perfect, but it was representative human nature, "likeness of men." So that the apostle's careful definition leaves room for all that range of difference between Him and us that theology is constrained in reverence to establish.
3. "Found in fashion as a man" completes the picture of the Incarnation by realizing it and giving it location among men. He was all by which a man could be observed, judged, estimated. He was "found" numbered as one of the descendents of Adam.
V. THE DESIGN OF THE WONDERFUL DESCENT (ver. 8). The emptying ends with the Incarnation; but the example of self-renunciation is further exhibited.
1. The death of the cross was imposed on Him as a great duty. Much is here omitted because of the special purpose in view. Paul says nothing about our Lord's birth under the Mosaic, nor His obligations as under the moral law, nor the endless indignities that He accepted. He singles out the one tremendous imposition that He should die for sin. Death was the goal of a great obedience. All other duties tended to this, and found in this their consummation.
2. This great obedience was voluntarily assumed in humility. It was not merely death, but a humiliating and cursed death. But to this He submitted, passive before men because inwardly passive before God.
VI. THIS SPONTANEOUS, PERFECT SELF-SACRIFICE IS AN EXAMPLE, the ruling and regulative principle, indeed, of all Christian devotion and service. That man's salvation required this is taken for granted, but is not dwelt upon. As an example, however, it may be viewed under two aspects.
1. As the perfect exhibition of self-renunciation.
(1) It is obvious that Paul lays great stress on the pre-incarnate condescension. He whose Deity was that of the Son's eternal exhibition of the form of His Father, did not reckon the display of His Divine glory, of the perfections "equal with God," a thing to hold fast; but let them go for man's salvation, and lived among the conditions of human nature. This was His self-sacrifice. We dare not attempt to define here: there is a danger in two directions. We may so dwell upon the unchangeableness of the Divine nature as to reduce all the condescension to his incarnate estate; or we may so exaggerate the Divine self-sacrifice as to attribute an impossible abnegation of His Divine attributes. Enough that the New Testament does not reveal to us a Trinity inaccessible to those sentiments which we regard as the highest attributes of human virtue. The pattern of our loftiest human excellence is in God Himself.
(2) But we now descend to the exhibition of self-sacrifice in the mediatorial Man of sorrows. Concerning this the words teach us to mark its absolute perfection in every respect as an exhibition of self-sacrifice, and its absolute perfection also as a pattern to us. When he has brought the Redeemer down from His transcendent height, he exhibits Him with reverent joy and tenderness as the supreme pattern of sacrificing love. But he only refers to the mind that was in Christ, and that mind was the surrender of all and the endurance of all for the good of man. There is no detail of the Saviour's sufferings.
2. The reality of the example to us. Elsewhere it is said that Christ in His meek endurance and self-sacrificing devotion left us an example. Paul shows that all who are Christ's undergo in their degree His lot and share His destiny. "If any man will serve Me," etc. Those who shall reign with Christ must first suffer with Him. The spirit of union with Christ imparts this first principle of the Saviour's consecration; it must become the ruling principle in us also.
(W. B. Pope, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: