All of us like heroes, don’t we? Who would enjoy watching a war movie about a general who is a wimp? Would you read a romantic book where the guy who is supposed to end up with the girl doesn’t have enough courage to step out and talk to her? We like to be impressed with heroes, right?
The Bible talks of a hero as well. That’s Christ. With thanksgiving behind us, and the Christmas season just ahead, I thought it would be good to look at Christ as the hero through the incarnation—when God became man.
Phil 2:5 (NIV) Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!
To get a better picture of the hero’s courage and bravery, stories often set the hero against another character or several characters. In the passage above, the antagonist is not a villain in the classic sense, but he is an example of failure. In the face of their failure you see how much more successful our hero is.
The one who failed is Adam. What temptation did Satan use to entice Eve and by extension Adam too? Genesis 3:5 says, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” They wanted that equality with God. That’s why they ate the fruit.
This temptation for equality with God runs throughout all scripture. In Psalm 50 God condemns people saying, “You thought I was just like you.” Not only does Adam fail in this temptation, but you and I fail in this temptation as well. Don’t we make God small and ourselves big? Every time we are tempted towards pride, we are tempted to want God’s glory for ourselves. Every time we sin (whether it be lust of selfishness, or whatever) we try to do God’s job by setting the standard for good and evil.
Enter Christ. Unlike Adam, and you and I, He actually is God. He really deserves glory. He sets the standard for right and wrong. But, scripture says, Although he existed in the form of God, He did not consider equality with God a think to be grasped. This means that Christ, although he had all rights that comes with deity, He did hold on to them. He did not use them for his own purposes—like Adam tried to do.
He the text says, He emptied himself, taking on the form of a servant, being made in the appearance of man. We could talk about this for years. But let me just give you a simple definition and an illustration. He emptied himself by adding true humanity to himself. The Eternal Son is always God. But in the incarnation, he also adds to himself true humanity. He empties himself by adding to himself. This is strange math. How do you empty by addition?
Bruce Ware (a teacher at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) gives this illustration. Suppose you went to look at a brand new car. Let’s say it is a BMW. The sales person lets you take it for a test drive. It just rained the day before. You go on all the dirt roads and you find all the puddles. You come back and the car is covered with mud. The sales person screams, “What have you done to my car? You’ve ruined it! You say, “I haven’t taken anything away from the car. I’ve just added to it.” You’ve taken away the glory of the car, not by actually subtracting anything from it, but by adding something to it—mud.
That’s kind of like the incarnation. He emptied himself by adding to himself true humanity. All his glory is still there. All his attributes are still his. But they are covered by true humanity.
What did he do as true humanity? Verse 8 says, “He humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!” To what extent would Christ be obedient? It was one thing to come down in the form of a baby. That was very humbling. It was another thing to be rejected and humiliated. But He was obedient to death, even the must cruel and agonizing death—death on a cross. Through all that he did not use his equality with God to subvert this process. He obeyed, just as you and I are called to obey.
Here we see the clear contrast with Adam. Adam was tempted with equality with God in just a little thing—to eat the fruit and be like God. And he failed. Christ, who is actually like God, surrenders the outward appearance of divinity, and humbles himself in complete obedience through the most agonizing death. He is our hero.
Adam’s failure brought death into the World. Christ’s victory brought life. Christ did not deserve to die. But he voluntarily took upon himself the death sentence we deserve. And by so doing, he killed death. And not only that, He actually rose from the dead, sharing his new life with all who believe in Him. So we have a comparison between Adam and Christ. Adam started out with life. But he went from life to death, and Adam dragged everyone with him, so that we all die. Christ took upon Himself death. But he went from death into life. And he takes us with Him, so that we can have life.
Paul says, in Rom. 7, What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! That’s why we can call Him our Hero.
And one day everyone will know. Paul concludes this section in Philippians, v. 9-11 “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 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”