Divine Condescension

(with Mark Mittelberg)

Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. Philippians 2:5–7

This is a mind-boggling truth: the Creator—who made the universe and everything in it—humbled himself on our behalf. Though eternally existing “in very nature God,” Jesus was willing to let go of his heavenly position and privileges. He “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”

It’s hard to grasp the magnitude of this divine condescension—God becoming one of us. C. S. Lewis explained: “The Second Person in God, the Son, became human Himself: was born into the world as an actual man—a real man of a particular height, with hair of a particular colour, speaking a particular language. . . . The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a foetus inside a Woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.”

It’s tempting to think that Lewis’s example is a bit extreme. But consider theologian Bruce Ware’s words regarding the incarnation of Christ: “Would this be like you, fully a human being, joining yourself also to the nature of a worm or a slug or a fish? Yes, but . . . no. No matter how lowly the creature was that you joined with, it still would be one creature being joined to another creature. We simply cannot imagine or understand what God the Son has done in obedience to his Father when he, the eternal and infinite God, Creator of all that is, came and took on also the nature of small, finite, creaturely manhood.”

While trying to comprehend what God did in becoming human, we should also ask ourselves why he went to such drastic measures.

He did it so he could fulfill his mission of “becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8) in order to pay the penalty for our sins, with the ultimate goal that “every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (v. 11).

In other words, he did it for us. He did it so that we could know him and live with him forever—as our forgiver, leader, and friend.

God’s divine condescension should provoke us to praise: “Thank you, Lord, for going to such incomprehensible lengths to become one of us, so that ultimately you could die for my sins, forgive me, and make me your child.”

 

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