It's time to derive your worldview from the Bible

Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”

Hebrews by Charles Clough
The implications of kenosis. The cardinal virtue of Christianity is humility before God. Christ, in His kenosis, modeled what this humility ought to look like. Christ is eternally subjected to the Father in role, but not essence. This relationship in no way demeans Him. Questions and answers.
Series:Chapter 3 – The Life of the King
Duration:1 hr 21 mins 43 secs

© Charles A. Clough 1999

Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003

Part 5: Confrontation with the King
Chapter 3: The Life of the King

Lesson 123 – Doctrine of Kenosis: Implications of, Our High Priest (Hebrews)

13 May 1999
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD

You often see this fish with icthus, then the evolutionist come along and they put Darwin in the middle of it with feet. Someone made this; we have a bigger fish eating the little one. I thought that was a graphic illustration of strategic envelopment that we’ve been looking at in the way the Christian is to prevail and overcome error; that you swallow the other position up inside your framework. Failure to understand this explains why often times you feel so frustrated in dealing with the cult and others is because really what we’ve done is we’ve permitted the other side to absorb us into their frame of reference and it’s quite the other way around. We want to remember this as we go through a lot of the great truths in Scripture.

We’ve been looking at the birth of the King and the life of the King, and out of the birth of the King we associate His birth with the incarnation, the doctrine of the hypostatic union, that Jesus Christ is God and man, undiminished deity and true humanity. That doctrine is the foundation of all Christology. As we’ll see, it also is a necessity when we start talking about kenosis and other things in the life of Christ. The thing to remember about the doctrine of the hypostatic union is that once again we see that God, who has these divine attributes, He is sovereign, He is love, He is holy, He is omniscient, and we said He’s also omnipotent, omnipresent, immutable, eternal, and we could go on and on mentioning His attributes. Man is the only creature made in His image. Of all the parts of the universe, man, not a Martian, not somebody from outer space, but a man from planet earth is the only point in the universe that’s analogous to God.

So man has analogous attributes; to sovereignty we have choice. We can experience love, but it’s finite love and therefore unstable; holy, we have conscience, the faculty that God has put into the soul to reflect His holiness. We have finite knowledge. These correspond to His attributes. Now we have the hypostatic union and what does this tell us? If we know first the Creator/creature distinction, then we can understand what the hypostatic union is doing. This is why the Bible is written in the sequence in which it is. The Bible does not start out by talking about Jesus Christ. It starts by talking about creation, because it’s at that point where the Creator/creature distinction is made. Failure to understand that prevents, I said prevents us from understanding who Jesus Christ is. You’ve got to have these basic tools, these basic concepts. This is why the Holy Spirit, being a perfect teacher, administered history pedagogically. History is actually a sequence of lessons from God to man; this is a whole other study in dispensations about how God teaches that way.

Nevertheless there’s this sequencing that goes on. The Lord Jesus Christ, because He has true humanity, and He is God, He has all these attributes; the question is how do these attributes interplay? The hypostatic union tells us that however they interplay, all those attributes are undiminished, they’re not changed, they’re not modified, they’re not reduced, they remained as potent in the Son while He was walking around on this planet as they did in eternity, as they will in eternity future—never changed, never compromised, never reduced and never altered in any way! Because He is walking around as a man, now something has changed because God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, has gone through a metamorphosis that the First Person of the Trinity and the Third Person of the Trinity didn’t ever do and never will do. He is put in union with humanity, and this makes the Second Person of the Trinity very, very significant.

It also has all kinds of implications, and on page 43 I listed some of the implications of that doctrine. These aren’t just theory, big philosophical things; they are those. This is why Paul in Colossians 2:8 says be not deceived and don’t be led astray by the philosophy of this world, according to the elements of this world, but following according to Christ, meaning that this is where people ought to start with their philosophy. They ought to understand, before they even start philosophizing, the whole issue of the hypostatic union. They should understand the issue of the creation, they should understand how these interplay, and after that we start talking about philosophy. But everybody wants to start talking about philosophy before they ever cover this, and then try to fit this inside their philosophy, it’s backwards.

On page 44 we had one of the implications, that the Creator/creature distinctions always exists, never changes, never is mixed, it’s never blurred, even in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ humanity and His deity do not intermingle. How they don’t and yet He’s one person, we don’t understand because God is incomprehensible. But we must defend the fact that Jesus did not become half God and half man at this point. He was fully God and fully man, not half and half. If that’s true of Him, then it’s true of us and we will never ever, in heaven or eternity, ever know as God knows in the sense of becoming omniscient; the passage in 1 Corinthians 13 is about something else.

The second implication is that God cannot reveal Himself any more than He does through men. There is magnificent power, beauty and splendor in creation, God is an artist, God has great artistry and you can observe it. You can observe it in the plant material around us, you can observe it in the physics of the universe around us, He’s a mathematician, He’s an artist, all these things, but most fully He is known to man through man. That’s why the Holy Spirit witnesses the salvation gospel through us to people, not through the dogs and cats or anything else. It’s through people that carry the gospel. In the case of Christ, because Christ is made in the image of God, as human in His humanity, when God became man you have the epitome of all revelation.

The third thing that we said is that history has eternal significance. Here you have God combining with man who lived in history, and who lived for some 30-33 years, walked around the planet, and then left this life and has been in His humanity resurrected and is at the Father’s right hand. That means that when the Lord Jesus Christ, in the book of Revelation, appears on the throne as a Lamb that has been slain, He bears the marks of the crucifixion. So always and forever, in eternity if we are able in eternity to constantly glimpse His body, we will be reminded of history, because the scars on His body are the accumulative effect of history.

What does that mean? History is not just a dream in the mind of God. That’s important because the tendency has been in church history to drift over into that area and make history utterly insignificant and it’s doesn’t make any difference whether it ever happened or not as long as God planned it. God had a plan for history, obviously, but the plan for history and history are two different things. At the instant of creation there was the plan and history. The instant before creation there was only the plan. So history has significance. All that plays a role in the doctrine we have to go over tonight.

Finally on page 45 a fourth implication was that the starting point, not the end point, the starting point of serious systematic thinking must begin with the person of Jesus Christ because the person of Jesus Christ combines God and the creation. Now we’re moving over to some material and we’re going to see the implications of the doctrine of kenosis.

Just to review, let’s turn to Philippians 2 again. This is the passage from which the word “kenosis” comes from. In verse 5, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” The picture there is in our sanctification we are to imitate the thinking of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then here’s where the word “emptied himself,” verse 7 is coming up, and the context is, [6] who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but emptied Himself taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men. [8] And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross. [9] Therefore also God highly exalted Him,” etc.

We quote that and read it usually in connection to the Christian life and sanctification, etc. But notice verses 5-7 ground, i.e., put a basis, a foundation underneath the Christian life that is very difficult to understand. That’s the difference between the New Testament and books on ethics, like Confucius or some business success book or something like that. They can all talk about what’s right, what’s wrong and this and that. But you’ll notice when Paul goes to talk about what’s right and wrong, he insists on bringing in the whole universe to build a basis for what he’s saying, which ought to warn us that without that basis we can’t have our ethics, we can’t have the Christian life. It does matter what we believe about these bases. If it didn’t the Bible wouldn’t be constructed this way.

So these doctrines, while they’re very difficult to understand, just know that they’re woven into the warp and the woof of the New Testament. And they appear almost casually; look at Philippians 2. It starts out in verses 1-2 and it looks like it’s just a normal letter, he’s talking about things socially, things ethically, and then for some unknown reason, in verses 5-8 we have one of the most profound doctrines in the whole Christian faith, the doctrine of kenosis, of the God-man Savior, and how the two natures of Christ interact. Why is that thrown into the text? It must be thrown into the text for a reason, and the reason is that Jesus Christ is the model of sanctification. Earlier when we had gone through the frame of reference from the Old Testament, we associated various doctrines and various events, and one of the events was the conquest and settlement.

Remember the sequence in the Old Testament, because God teaches history pedagogically, lesson 1, lesson 2, lesson 3. These events are sequenced with that in mind. So you have the call of Abraham. What is that? That’s election, that’s a separation, God interfered, God intrudes into human affairs. He does it His way, not our way, so He decides which way history is going with the call of Abraham. So immediately, right up front, we have a catastrophic intrusion of the plan of God. Then we have the Exodus, which is analogous to judgment and salvation.

It’s like the flood of Noah, it’s a great judgment upon the separation of the saved and the unsaved. So there’s salvation. Then Mount Sinai after salvation, please notice salvation is not by works, salvation is not by keeping the law, law wasn’t around. See the sequence. We protect ourselves theologically if we always remember the sequence of revelation. It’s easy to remember, which comes first, Sinai or Exodus? The Exodus comes first. So what happens? We’re saved before the law. The law comes afterwards because it’s the law that is revealed to those who are saved. It is what God’s will is for those who are interested in His will.

Then we have the conquest and settlement, the rise and reign of David. Then we talked about Solomon, and notice the doctrine that kept coming up again and again; sanctification, i.e. becoming conformed to God’s holiness. We said the goal of sanctification is to obey God, to love Him with all our heart, mind and soul. The problem is, as you look back at history, in the conquest and settlement you saw failure, sanctification was never finished. In the rise and reign of David sanctification was compromised, murder, adultery, etc. In the golden era of Solomon you had growth in wisdom and then total materialism, total collapse of the culture, you had chastening and repentance, the kingdom divided, the kingdoms in decline, more chastening. In the exile you had the final separation of the people. So all of these were contaminated, but when we come to the person of Jesus Christ, there is no contamination so He becomes the model. That’s why in verse 5 He comes into the discussion, solidly as the example. We want to deal with Him as an example, and we can’t deal with Him as an example until we understand something. You can’t just talk about Jesus; you have to think about Jesus. Sometimes our mouth gets fifty miles ahead of our minds. So let’s look at what’s happening here with Jesus Christ.

In the notes on page 57 I took the attribute of omniscience and I said if you look at those verses, Mark 5:9; 6:38; 9:21; John 6:6, Jesus asks for information; it appeared clearly that He did not have omniscience in those passages. So those passages emphasize His human knowledge. When you see those passages He’s operating out of His humanity. We went through that wonderful passage in Isaiah that Hengstenberg in the 19th century brought out about the Messianic flavor of how Jesus awoke in the morning by the call of the Father every morning, morning by morning You teach Me, etc. That’s a great, great passage, that Isaiah 50:4-11 passage. We concluded by turning to John 1:48, 2:24-25; 16:30; 21:17 and there you have Jesus clearly showing His omniscience; there omniscience is shown.

So what is this person? He walks around sometimes showing omniscience, other times not; most of the time not showing omniscience. We took another attribute, his omnipotence, and remember one of the great temptations; Satan came to Jesus tempting Him to make stones into bread, which would have required the exercise of His omnipotence. So Satan very clearly knew something, and we’ve got to think about this. If Satan attacked Jesus Christ, it was a destructive attack; it was an ill-motivated attack, what would have happened. Think about that. Jesus Christ is God and He is man. Satan wants to stop Jesus Christ and the way he chooses to do it in a temptation is to get Him to use His deity when He shouldn’t—make those stones into bread. So it’s a clear issue that the New Testament is making that Jesus Christ was submitting to His Father in how He was using His deity, because clearly He wasn’t going to use His deity that way. Clearly the Lord Jesus Christ had a mission to face down Satan, utilizing the Holy Spirit, Third Person of the Trinity, indwelling His humanity and meeting Satan that way.

Why do you suppose this is a big issue? It’s because Jesus Christ is our model. If Jesus Christ had met Satan with His own omnipotence, He couldn’t be our model, and our sympathetic high priest. This is why in the Gospels, read them carefully and watch, when you read through the Gospels and you read the life of Christ, questions ought to rise up in your mind and these will help make you a better observer of the text. Ask yourself, in the passage I am reading is Jesus operating with His true humanity or whether I’m seeing a momentary flashing forth of His deity; it just flashes forth and then comes back again, you don’t really see it too long. All four Gospels do this, and it’s kind of fascinating to read Christ’s life in that light, analyzing always, am I looking at His humanity or am I looking at His deity? In some passages you can’t tell because they’re mixed together and somehow He shows both His humanity and His deity. That’s a whole study in itself. But I’m just saying that when you look at the New Testament text you will be challenged as you think more deeply about the person of Jesus Christ, to pinpoint what it must have been like to walk around with this guy. It was clearly a challenging situation.

We’re going to state the doctrine of kenosis. Page 58, second sentence, is what we’re stating to be the doctrine of kenosis, i.e., it refers to the giving up of the independent use of the divine attributes, meaning that the Son volitionally chose to submit completely to the First Person, and in His life the decisions all flowed out of the Father’s will, I can do nothing except what I see My Father doing. Paul was very, very impressed with this. Paul reflected on the person of Christ, because Philippians 2:5-8 are Paul’s own literary original thoughts (Paul’s being aided by the Holy Spirit) about the person of Christ, prompted by the Holy Spirit yes, guided by the Holy Spirit, yes, revealed by the Holy Spirit, yes. But Peter didn’t have this thought, John didn’t have this thought. This is Paul’s thought. This is something unique, true and a highly precise statement of Christ.

So Paul was impressed by the fact that though the Son had all these divine attributes, He deferred the use of them to whenever His Father OK’d it, and if His Father didn’t OK it, He didn’t do it. Notice what we’re not saying here. There’s a false doctrine of kenosis that liberalism has taught in church, i.e., that Jesus Christ gave up His deity. We’re not saying that. Notice it says, “giving up the independent use of the divine attributes”—not the attributes. The attributes didn’t go away while Jesus was walking around, they remained. They could have broken forth at any time. Remember what He said at the cross as He was praying about Gethsemane. What did He say? All I have to do is send the word and there will be legions of angels here, I don’t have to put up with this, I don’t have to stick with this, but if the power of salvation was to be secured He did because to secure the plan of salvation He had to operate according to the protocol of the Father, and that was the terms, that was how our salvation came about to be generated in history.

Every blessing that we have, every part of righteousness that’s credited to our account, all the blessings of grace that flow to us come about because of the obedience of the Son. We must never forget that. The cross is free, yes, free to us, but it cost Him. And it wasn’t just the pain of the cross; it was the decision to obey the Father that led to the cross. All this is wrapped up in this person of Christ. I quote a Catholic Christologist here because in this case Roman Catholicism and Protestantism agree. Protestantism and Catholicism have very similar Christologies. The church didn’t split in the process of Reformation over Christology; it split over soteriology, i.e., how to get saved. So we can be one with Roman Catholics in the area of Christ, in most areas, there’s some philosophic areas where we’d have to differ.

Notice what Karl Adam’s says. This is a Catholic theologian expressing the hypostatic union doctrine. Look at his sentence where it says “Every time His Messianic mission made it necessary, He could draw with the cup of His intellect from the infinite spring of divine wisdom … Usually, it remained potential knowledge, not actual knowledge. It remained in His unconscious, hidden beneath the threshold of his daylight consciousness. Only when His hour was come, could He and might He by way of contemplation realize this potential knowledge.”

What Adam’s is trying to describe here is what’s going inside, and it’s very difficult, it’s speculative, but it’s an attempt to try to think through how Jesus was thinking as He walked through life as the God-man. The key that you want to note is the italicized sentence, “The kenotic state, then, can be viewed as a special, extreme case of the general intra-Trinity subordination.” We want to watch this because we’re coming up on some very controversial stuff in Christian circles that fall out of this. It’s controversial because nobody studies basic doctrine anymore; that goes out the window. Who knows about the hypostatic union? The church for the first 400-500 years knew about it, but we don’t, we’re advanced! We have Jesus Christ as the Son. Before Jesus Christ was incarnated He was still the Son. The question is, before He was incarnated, what was the relationship of the Son to the Father? The Trinity still existed, always has existed, and there’s always this progression in the Trinity. In the most obvious way that’s why the First Person is called Father, and the Second one is called the Son. If those nouns, Father and Son, didn’t denote something, maybe the names of the Trinity would be A and B, or C and D, but God the Holy Spirit, who’s the revealer, has chosen those vocabulary words. The Father is a noun that the Holy Spirit has picked out to teach us something about the relationship of the Father to the Son.

It’s analogous to a father/son in a family in some way. Both the Father and the Son share the same attributes. But the relationship between them is analogous to a father and a son relationship in a normal human family. Or we could invert it, a good exercise for us to think about, refresh our minds, sanctify them, is turn these relationships upside down and say the relationship between a father and a son in a human family is patterned after a prior relationship of the Father and Son in the Trinity. When you invert things like that… we often talk about anthropomorphisms, where God appears a man, and I like to invert that and say man’s a theomorphism. God is the primary one, we’re the secondary ones, we’re the derivative products.

We want to move to the implications of this. What do we learn about practical life from the kenosis? We’ve run it through the grid, we’ve looked at it, we know that is has obvious applications because Paul is using it. He thought about this in the middle of a very practical letter of Christian exhortation.

The last paragraph on page 58, “In Philippians 2 Paul is concerned with the heart of sanctification: the goal of loyalty toward God regardless of what He asks.” Look at Philippians 2:1, “If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, [2] make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. [3] Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit; but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself;” now watch what happens here, notice the lead-in; that tips us off as to the linkage of the doctrine of kenosis with its application. As he eases into verse 5, what were the last few things he’s emphasizing in verse 3-4? “Let each of you regard one another as more important than himself,” the attribute of humility in verse 3. [4] “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Then in that context he says you have a model, and the model is the person of Jesus Christ.

One of the things that Paul does that’s so different from the way the world works, and it’s true of the other apostles also, is that they put these deep things in the middle of what we would call practical passages, and you wonder, are they trying to turn us into theology professors? Why do they do this? The answer, I think, is that that’s how we derive energy and motivation. We don’t derive energy and motivation by saying you’ve got to live the Christian life, live the Christian life, live the Christian life, you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that, operation bootstrap; what we wind up with is getting frustrated. We get tired of that stuff and we burn out after a while. In the Scripture, the way the energy and the motivation comes is by shutting everything off and concen­trating on who God is. Ultimately that’s where the energy comes from. It’s like going outdoors, looking at the sun and you get warmth and healing from the sun. You receive before you can give. We have to comprehend and behold our God; if we would just go out and sunbathe, if we’d bathe our spirits in His presence, understanding Who it is, it energizes us. It gives us that sustaining strength to meet the times of life. And it’s a lot easier to do than trying to do this, do that, got to schedule this, got to do that. We have to have the planning, obviously, but that’s not where the energy comes from. The energy comes from somewhere else and here’s a most eloquent passage.

Look at the tense of the verbs in verses 1-4, what kind of mood are they? They’re all imperatives. What does verse 2 say, “make my joy complete,” that’s not an indicative verb, that’s an imperative mood, that’s a command, that’s an order. In verse 3, “Do nothing,” do, do, do, that’s an imperative mood, it’s not a description, it’s not an indicative mood. All these are imperatives. Verse 4, “Do not merely look for your own personal,” that’s imperative. Then in the middle of that he says another imperative and leads into the theology. The imperative is [5] “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” And the rest of it is all indicatives; they’re all descriptive moods of the verbs. So why do the imperative verbs stop and the indicative moods start? Because it’s the indicative that describes the person of Jesus Christ to which our attention is directed. “Looking to Him,” this is what it means to look to Him, it doesn’t mean meditate and think up thoughts about Jesus on your own, it means to take the Scriptures and understand and receive from the Scripture a Scriptural insight into the person of Christ.

Now the implications of kenosis. The first one, page 58, is connected right here with Philippians 2 with the virtue mentioned in verse 3. What’s the virtue mentioned in verse 3? Humility. “The foundational virtue in the biblical worldview is not courage or self-righteousness as in certain pagan worldviews,” it’s not love, you can go to pagan literature and there were great epical pagans, don’t ever think that paganism is debauchery. Some people have a notion that we use the word pagan and it means debauchery, that’s probably because that’s the only context they’ve seen. Paganism has had great moral teachers. Confucius was a pagan, but he was a great moral teacher.

The issue then is: what is the prime virtue? If you read these ethical teachers of the world system, business success books today, Stoicism is coming back into the business world; Stoicism is coming back into the man on the street. The average bookstore now is going to sell books with regurgitated stoicism. The problem is there’s no drive, there’s no motive, there’s no energy source for all that. The reason people drift to Stoicism is the pendulum problem; we’ve had a lot of licentiousness and hell-raising going on ever since the hippies of the 60s, and people are getting tired of this. We have to have something new, so the pendulum is swinging back over. This has gone on now for a generation, and now the pendulum is starting to swing back and we’re going to go back to legalism. We’ve always done this. The legalism will last for a while and nobody has any energy to fight it any more so then we go out and do a little licentiousness again. The pendulum is always swinging.

In the Scripture, the basic starting virtue is not the fruit of virtue. There are virtues that follow. Notice that when Paul starts out, and we’ve seen this intuitively, it gets back to the Creator/ creature distinction. If we have the Creator/creature distinction in our heads, we will automatic­ally have humility in our hearts because you can’t believe that if you’re a creature and He’s the Creator, how can you not be humbled by it? So the virtue of faith is humility. Jesus made a very startling statement in John 5, it’s scary; he addresses a group of people on the street and says to them, you know, you people can’t believe, you people really have a big problem here, you can’t believe. He says you can’t believe while you’re sitting there seeking honor from one another and you don’t seek the honor that comes from God alone and if that’s your situation you are never going to believe. You can sit there and say I believe, I believe, I believe, until you’re blue in the face and it’s all phony. Genuine faith can only follow with this humility virtue because by defin­ition this is the repentance.

Humility is kind of like the other side of repentance, it’s submission to the Creator, and once that’s straight then we can trust Him. But if we’ve never submitted to Him as our Creator, we’ve never really reflected on His demands on us, His holiness and our sinfulness. And if we have reflected on that, then we come to the problem, now I’m afraid of Him; I’m like Adam and Eve in the Garden. What did they do five minutes after they fell? They’re putting on fig leaves and hiding. So if I’m really thinking of my Creator I’ve got to go through the whole sequence until I get to the gospel, and when I get to the gospel then I can rest because now He’s saved me, now He promises me His atoning blood covers my sin, now I’m at peace, now I’m at rest. But all that flows first from recognizing that I’m a creature.

Christ, in His kenosis, models what the humility ought to look like … what humility ought to look like. That’s Christ’s life in the New Testament. Please notice, was Christ courageous? You bet! Was He every inch a man? Absolutely. But was He humble? Yes He was. So courage and humility are not antonyms, but they’re not identical and there’s a more complicated connection between them. If a person is humble they will be courageous in a righteous way. If a person is not humble they can be courageous in an arrogant way. So arrogance and humility can be the sources of a lot of the so-called virtues. Love can actually be a fruit of arrogance. Arrogance can produce wonderful things, arrogance can produce great artistry; arrogance can produce great music; arrogance can produce all kinds of things, cultural fruit. Arrogance can produce wonderful personal relationship because I’m prideful and I want to show everybody that I can get along with everybody and I’m a successful person, and I do this and that, it’s all the fruit of arrogance.

Don’t be deceived, being humble is not walking around looking humble, it’s in the head and in the heart recognizing who we are, we’re creatures. So the first thing we understand is that Jesus Christ patterns for us what humility is, and that’s what Paul is saying, because notice in verses 3 and 4 he was talking about humility before he got to kenosis. So kenosis models that humility.

On page 59 I’ve listed some verses where this is traced, not just from Paul but in the rest of the New Testament. Jesus followed the Father’s plan, “even when that plan required ‘devaluation’ or the ‘emptying’ of the independent use of His own divine attributes. He faced at this point the biggest temptation t pride ever faced in human history: would He humble Himself to endure the abuse of rebellious creatures and the wages of their sin when He could have remained in the tranquility and purity of heaven?” That’s the “emptying.” I mean, who wants to go walking in a sewer, and walking around in a sewer is probably a very good picture of the way the Lord Jesus Christ as God the Son walked in our sinful fallen world. And probably spiritually it was a big sewer for Him, and He did it for us, in His amazing grace.

The corollary to Him doing that, the corollary and result of Him humbling Himself to His Father is that He’s exalted. God exalts the humble. God exalts them because they submit to Him. Notice these passages of Scripture. “For it became Him,” and by the way, which personality of the Trinity is the “Him,” we ought to be able to figure that one out, “it became Him for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings,” Hebrews 4:10. Who’s the captain of their salvation? The Second Person of the Trinity. Who is the “Him” then? The First Person of the Trinity. See how you want to analyze Scripture text when you read. What does that tell us? “… to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings,” that means that Jesus Christ, when He was a babe in His mother’s arms was not perfect.

We’re not talking about imperfection morally; we’re talking about growth of sanctification and loyalty to God. Adam and Eve had to be …, even if sin had never come into the world, there still would have been a need for sanctification because God the Son as a sinless person required sanctification. So sanctification can’t always deal with the sin issue. For us it does because we started in the sewer; we didn’t fall in, we were born in it. So for us we can’t recognize sanctifica­tion apart from sin. But in Jesus it was, He had no sin, but He had to be sanctified. Sanctification is a positive thing, it’s a growth thing, it’s a strengthening thing that comes about by obedience, obedience, obedience, obedience, obedience, obedience, humility to His commands, etc.

Look at the next one, “Who … endured the cross, despising the shame …. that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself ….” Hebrews 12:3. “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example …” that couldn’t be an example if He cheated and used His divine attributes every time He got in a jam. That wouldn’t be an example. So see how kenosis underlies the logic of these texts. He “suffered for us, leaving us an example … who did no sin …. Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously,” 1 Peter 2:21-23. He met the trials by being humble and exercising faith toward His Father, committing … committing what? He “committed Himself to Him that judges righteously.” It’s a very powerful thing here. When we say humility it comes off like it’s weak, it comes off like it’s impotent, but actually it’s the most powerful thing on earth, because it can’t be defeated. Think about it. If we are in any kind of a situation and God is all these things, sovereign, love, holy, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, immutable and eternal, and we commit our situation to Him, who’s going to take Him on? Any comers, someone want to argue? So in the weakness of the humility is fantastic strength and energy to persevere.

“Christ modeled for us the cardinal virtue of humility before God in all situations. Humility before God is the basis of faith. When Christ was demeaned by evil men, Peter says ‘he committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.’” We may sometimes think we’re God, but He was and is God. “The implication is clear: if Christ had to stoop that low to obey God, there is nothing that God can ask us to do that is too low or too humble. Thus, says Paul, ‘Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 2:5).”

The next quote is something from the Puritans. I don’t believe everything the Puritans believed in, but I’ll tell you what, there’s very few… [blank spot] … we have historical testimony to the fact that in England when the Puritans ruled England they said you’d never want to debate one of these guys. You never wanted to meet them on the battlefield either, so they were very tough people. And they were very meditative, and on the inside they were very humble. Look at this, here’s Richard Baxter, notice the date, 1615-1691, and he’s writing this to young pastors, and he’s trying to get these guys to be sensitive to their flocks, and he does what the Puritans often would do. Instead of giving an imperative or a command and say all right, go ahead, what they did is they wove it like Paul did into the deep things of theology, because it’s the deep things of theology that energize you. The deep things of theology overwhelmed the world. If you get rooted into Christian doctrine, theology, the world just strikes you as amazingly trivial. The world is a lightweight compared to the Trinity, the Triune God.

Look at Baxter and how he reasons. He’s talking to young men in the pastorate. “O, then, let us hear those arguments of Christ whenever we feel ourselves growing dull and lifeless. Can you hear Him saying, ‘Did I did for those people, and will you then refuse to look after them? Were they worthy of my blood, and are they not worth your labor? Did I come down from Heaven to seek and to save that which was lost, and will you refuse to go next door, or to the next street or village to seek them? How small is your labor or condescension compared to mine! I debased myself to do this, but it is your honor to be so employed. Have I done and suffered so much for their salvation, and will you refuse that little that lies upon your hands?” Can you imagine how you’d feel after getting hit with something like this? But you see how powerful these Puritans are. These are the people that everybody thinks are prudes and idiots, etc., but they never read them, they just hear about them.

“A second implication of kenosis” is another fiery topic and this one “concerns subordination in human relationships. Most of modern rebellion against authority in the home and in society, though triggered perhaps by poor leadership situations, comes from a misconception of subordin­ation. The popular myth,” this is the key, this is the lie and the deception that is rampant in our society, even in our own evangelical Christian circles. “The popular myth views subordination as one individual’s being constitutionally inferior to another.” I may have a relationship to a superior, maybe in my company, maybe in the military, maybe in the local church, but you have a superior person, maybe an elder; if you’re a young officer it may be a Colonel in the military. You have an inferior and that may be me, it may be you; so now we have this relationship established. The way we have been programmed in our wonderful democracy is that everybody is equal and if you don’t show equality in every area all the time in every aspect, then you are demeaning people. Sorry!

The whole home situation starts out with parents and children, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters. Right there you have an authority relationship. When that unravels, like it is our society, then it’s going to unravel everywhere else because that’s where humility and authority are learned. And if humility and authority are never learned in the home, then the policeman is going to teach humility and authority or worse than that, you’re going to meet somebody that’s going to knock your block off because you’re so arrogant. And it’ll happen in the flesh or it will happen somewhere else, but somehow it’ll happen. And if it doesn’t happen, it will happen in heaven or hell. It’s going to be, that’s the way God made the universe.

“The popular myth views subordination as one individual’s being constitutionally inferior to another. This myth flies in the face of the Trinity and kenosis. Even in the extreme case of subordination in kenosis, the Son was not constitutionally inferior to the Father.” He was subordinate to the Father, but He was not constitutionally inferior to Him. This person that may be in charge, he may be an elder, he may be a Colonel, he may some superior in your company, he may be an actual idiot, but in the situation that’s the way the structure is and you follow it because of the office. I may not like the person holding the office but you have to respect the office. That doesn’t mean there are no appeals and that kind of thing.

I’m just saying that subordination doesn’t necessarily imply constitutional inferiority. This person may be a magnificent person, and the superior person may not have any of the qualities of the inferior person. It may be a wife married to a husband who’s a jerk, and she may be a wonderful Christian person, and because she’s subordinate and she’s the wife, doesn’t mean she means less, doesn’t mean she’s valued less, doesn’t mean God values her life less, but in the relationship the relationship is different than value. That’s the thing you want to think about with kenosis and Trinity, because if you get this screwed up, it affects the way you think in everyday life and you’ve got to keep going back, well wait a minute, the Father and the Son have an order and the Son is no less God than the Father. That’s where kenosis helps.

“One example of the misunderstanding of subordination is the view of it within the Women’s Liberation movement. This movement assumes that woman’s subordination in marriage to the husband is one of constitution, not of role. Christian feminist writers like Scanzoni and Hardesty try hard to defend their notion that all subordination is repulsive so they seek to refashion the subordination of the Trinity and kenosis.” That’s a good way of doing it; if what you’re teaching conflicts with basic Christian doctrine, change the doctrine. Now look at what they write, this came out twenty years ago but this is the Bible of the whole movement in evangelical circles. This book that I’m quoting from, this is where it all started in evangelical circles.

“Is Christ subordinate to the Father? …Christ as God and man both rules and submits. He voluntarily, out of love, set aside the privileges of the Godhead to assume the work of redemption as a man,” that’s okay, “but He has now ascended into heaven to resume all His divine attributes.” Excuse me! Resume all His divine attributes? When did He lose them? See, it’s hard for them to think that Jesus Christ, while He was walking around here, actually had His divine attributes because it’s hard for them to exist in any kind of a subordinate relationship without feeling demeaned. They can’t imagine that Christ walked around in a subordinate relationship, and He must have emptied Himself of His attributes, He’s got to go back and pick them up again. NO, that’s not the doctrine of kenosis. I just quote that, it’s a great quote out of their book because it shows you how weird ideas are actually controlled, but if you let them, it will be controlled by good, solid, biblical theology. And these weirdoes, when they think consistently, are forced by logic to dismantle the key doctrines, and that’s how you tell something is crazy here, something doesn’t fit. This just doesn’t work out.

“Their theology is heretical. Christ did not ascend to heaven ‘to resume all His divine attributes’ because He had them always while He was on earth as John’s Gospel particularly shows. As the Second Person of the Trinity in heaven now the Son has an ordered relationship with the Father that can be understood only in terms of subordination of earthly sons to earthly fathers.” Why else do we still call them “father” and “son?” “The very citation of 1 Corinthians 15:27-28 refutes their point: the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father, not just when He was under kenosis.”

Turn to 1 Corinthians 15:27, this is the one they quote. You look at this and see if you get the same thing out of it they got out of it. This was their key proof text. This is where they said see, when Jesus went to heaven after all the work was done, then He picked up His attributes and moved on. Let’s read verses 27-28 carefully. “For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, ‘All things are put in subjection,’ it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. [28] And when,” now look at verse 28 carefully, “And when all things are subjected to Him” which Trinity is that, First, Second, Third, “when all things are subjected to Him,” the subject here is Christ. So, “when all things are subjected to Him,” they like that, everything’s subjected to Christ, the Second Person is over everything, wow, I like that role, but what do you do with the next clause, “then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the one who subjected all things to Him,” and who’s that talking about? The Father. So sorry! The proof text doesn’t prove what they’re tiring to prove from the text.

Lastly, “a third implication of the kenosis doctrine has to do with the problem of the difference between” Christ’s knowledge and our knowledge, and that’s so hairy we won’t get into it tonight. We’ve covered tonight the two applications of the doctrine of the Trinity, that it supports the concept that the cardinal virtue, unlike Greek literature where it’s love, or it’s courage, or it’s whatever, in the Bible the cardinal virtue is humility. A good verse to remember, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Proverbs 9:10. That “fear of the Lord” that’s humility, that’s the kind of humility. We’re not talking about weakness; we’re not talking about humility vis a vis person to person, man. We’re talking about humility of us as individual people as creations to our Creator, in that vertical sense, that’s the humility we’re talking about.

The second application we dealt with is the issue of relationships, and the inferiority/superiority linkage, that does not in any demean the value of the people in those relationships. Because if it’s true… if it is true, work the logic backwards, if it is true that subordination in relationships demeans the inferior, then it must also be true that the Trinity is false.

Question asked: Clough replies: You’ve just anticipated the whole next lesson on impeccability; very good insightful question because it does logically follow. Did everybody hear the question? Was Christ constrained in the middle of these temptations and so on in choices by His divine nature? Even though He was in His humanity, because His humanity was in union with His deity, was He thus constrained? And that happened, people thought that through and that’s resolved in the next doctrine, impeccability. That’s an important point because out of that comes an answer of why He can be a sympathetic high priest, to our temptations, and you wonder, wait a minute, how can Christ be … you know, He never sinned like I have, and here I am wallowing around, and how can He be a sympathetic high priest to me. Well, it’s because he’s not sympathetic to the sin but he’s sympathetic to our temptations. Then you say how can Christ be tempted? I mean, come on, He couldn’t have sinned, so how could He be tempted if He couldn’t sin. And that’s the struggle of impeccability, but that’s good, because she picked up that kenosis is leading that way. And that’s obviously an associated doctrine. Sorry, but we’ll answer it next week.

Question asked: Clough replies: And that’s again part of the impeccability issue, is that God took a big risk here, in the sense that if it were possible that Christ could sin, the whole salvation plan would have been brought down. Satan, by the way, obviously believed that He could. He concertedly attacked Christ. Here he is probably the most brilliant creature ever made, Satan. His IQ is far above ours and his analysis of the whole situation was that he could do it. What we find with Satan, however, is genius born of arrogance. He is brilliant, but in one sense he’s brilliantly stupid because he trips himself up because he is arrogant. This is not to demean his intelligence, because he’s brilliant. But because he is so utterly arrogant toward God his own intellect has been blinded, so that while his intellect can reach thousands of miles beyond ours, it perpetually reaches in the wrong direction. So he becomes a brilliant idiot, a brilliant fool.

And versions of that abound in the society. You can have absolutely stunningly brilliant people that are so off the wall, and I don’t mean foolish ones, but I mean really far out in some very basic things, and can become heads of cults, can sweep millions along with them, and of course we’re going to find in the future there’s going to be one person that does that very effectively, and that’s the antichrist. So Satan thinks that it is possible to stop the God-man in His tracks. And he did so by tempting Christ three ways in Matthew 4, the same three ways he worked with Adam and Eve. It was a temptation of the flesh, a temptation to the spirit, and a temptation to the eyes. Look, he says as he took Jesus to the temple, look upon all the kingdoms of the world and look at the glory and the honor that I can give you, just bow to me. Which, by the way, implies something; it implies that he is the ruler of this world. It had to be a genuine offer, did it not? That these are mine, and they’ll be yours Jesus, all you have to do is give me the word.

And then the rock, you know the lust of the flesh, He wanted to eat, He was hungry, oh, turn this stone into bread, you can do it Jesus, just use your divine a attributes against the Father’s will, and you can do that, and that would be so nice to watch you do that. So the collision between Satan and Christ does affirm that in Satan’s mind it was possible for Jesus to sin. If he didn’t think so he’d never have tried it.

Question asked: Clough replies: Remember, we have an abbreviated version in half a dozen verses in Matthew 4, so that was an extensive period, and I think if you think of the temptations there, after forty days of fasting you would be vulnerable too. And probably it came in the guise of do I really have to stay true to My humanity here, this is pretty extreme, why can’t I just kind of jump the track here and take care of My needs here. So yes, that probably was dressed up, the issue of look at the kingdoms of this world. What is the ultimate role of the Messiah? To rule the kingdoms of the world. So there he’s playing on a genuine Messianic goal, it’s just going to get there by shortcuts. So it’s woven into the Messiah’s calling, but we really, I think we have to kind of meditate on this because we get slammed around, but there’s an ingenious streak to temptations, and the problem is that usually we’re foggy.

Temptations usually overwhelm us when we’re not thinking through things, when we’re acting emotionally or we’re just tired, we’re not thinking right, and that’s when we make stupid decisions, get our eyes off the Lord, etc. I think what’s so amazing is that Jesus was a model for us in the way He dealt with those situations, that frankly I’d flake out. Think of what went on in Gethsemane. What are the disciples doing in Gethsemane? Sleeping. It wasn’t because, oh, I’ll take a nap. Those guys were tired, they had had some emotionally wrenching times; this wasn’t an easy life here. It probably deeply profoundly bothered them that they saw this person and they thought hey, He’s going to bring in the millennial kingdom, and now He’s going to get crucified. What happened to all this kingdom business? So they were tired, and they collapsed, they just collapsed. But Jesus didn’t. And the fact that He didn’t, we can’t say because we’re tempted to do that, oh well, He was God. No, in that situation He was not relying on His omnipotence. So the fact that Jesus held in there and was thinking things through is our model. He did it when… our representatives are the disciples, snoring. That’s the way we’d be.

And even a more profound statement of Christ’s fantastic discipline is as weak, as under pressure, as tired, as exhausted as He would be in these things, His mind was always stayed on the Word of God. Think of Psalm 22, as He was dying for our sins He was actually reciting Psalm 22. You hear sermons on Good Friday about “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me?” And in the Gospels you read that, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me?” What people don’t understand is that in Psalmology, i.e. in the structure of the Psalms, they didn’t have Psalm 32, Psalm 110, Psalm 22, they didn’t have titles. That’s the English translations to add those titles. The way He referred to a Psalm in Jesus day was referring to the first verse. The first verse of the Hebrew Psalms in the Hebrew Bible is the title.

So then when you read in the Gospels that He said “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” what He’s really saying is Psalm 22. He said Psalm 22. He recited the whole Psalm; He didn’t just say “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” He was thinking through what was going on in the theology of Psalm 22. He saw Himself at that instant of dying for us as fulfilling exactly every word, every jot, every tittle in Psalm 22. So where was His mind? Was it on the pain of the nails; was it on the pain of our sin? It was still focused on the Word of God. Now I don’t have that discipline, and I’ve met very few people that do. But to be able to stay our minds under the most appalling circumstances on the Word of God, if Jesus did that and He is our model, what does that tell you about therapy? What does that tell you about meeting pressures in life. How did He meet them? It certainly wasn’t … now that we’ve learned the doctrine of kenosis we know that Jesus did not meet His trials and His temptations with His deity.

That means that we’ve got to re-look; this guy is our model, how did he do it. And think of this, in Psalm 22, here He is bearing the sin of the world, He’s been deserted by the Father, it’s absolute blackness for Him, His Father turns His back because He cannot look upon sin. So Jesus looks there and He doesn’t see His Father any more. So in the absence of that horrible time when fellowship, as it were, He was separated while He was dying for our sins, the thing that kept Him going was the only thing He had, which wasn’t even feeling emotional connection with the Father, because that was severed then. Even in that emotional severance He went back to the Word of God that He had learned for years. Remember the verse in Isaiah 50, “He awakens Me morning by morning” to teach, to teach, to teach, to teach, to teach Me. What did He teach Me? The Word of God, the Word of God, the Word of God, the Word of God. His soul was so filled with the Word of God that even when His Father turned His back the Word of God cycled up here, it went through His brain, His thoughts were always in the Word, the Word, the Word, the Word, more precious than anything else.

To me that’s the model. And that tells me something, like when I don’t do that, it tells me, well Clough, you idiot, what do you want, I’ve given you the model, what’s your problem. It’s interesting, I don’t know if you heard Chuck Colson on Breakpoint, but it was interesting, he said what was striking about the incidence out in the Denver area, Colson said the school authorities after this massacre brought in dozens of grief counselors, professional psychologists, to talk to the kids. And the teachers were all saying to the kids, you’ve got to go down there and get your grief handled, and hey, that’s okay, I mean the pagan world does the best it can, they mean well. And the kids weren’t going to the grief counselors. What’s this, no kids going to the grief counselors? They had to snag the kids to get them to go the grief counselors.

Do you know where they were all going? Evangelical churches. The pastors and the youth ministers were saying they were besieged with dozens and dozens of these kids coming to them. And the way Colson put it, he said they didn’t want to deal with their grief, they wanted to deal with the big issue of why did this happen. See, the grief is an emotion, and all that the professional grief counselor can tell you is oh, vent your emotions, if you want to scream, go scream, just go outdoors and do it somewhere, just get it out. That doesn’t do anything, you get it out and then you keep thinking the same thought again. So the kids wanted to get a framework, we would call it the doctrine of suffering, they wanted somebody to explain how could this happen in our backyard, how could my friend get shot in the face because she acknowledged that she believed in God. And I was there and her blood spilled all over me because I was twelve inches away from the bullet when it hit her body, and I’ll never forget that. That’s a scene that you and I probably never would forget, that’ll be with us for the rest of our lives.

So what do you do now? Put it out of your head? You can’t, because it keeps coming back. So you do what that strategic envelopment does, remember the fish eating the little fish, you envelop it with a divine viewpoint of the Word of God, so it’s there, it’s not denied, it’s reinterpreted in the light of the Word of God. That solves the grief. Yes, there’s tears, there’s heartache, everything isn’t going to be all right emotionally for a while, but the heart, the sting is taken out because it’s controlled. What did we say about the doctrine of evil and the Christian position versus paganism? Elementary. It started, it didn’t exist, it started and God’s going to deal with it. What did we say? Evil is bracketed. Does paganism have anything like that? Absolutely not! Evil all the way back, I mean, amoebas were eating amoebas, struggle of nature, and it’s always going to be that way. Wonderful place, everybody’s going to continue to die for millions of years. Death goes on, hey, it’s part of life.

What Colson pointed, he said all the professional grief counselors could tell the kids was, because they were somewhat Freudian, he cited one of the experts as saying a lot of this still comes out of old Sigmund, basically grief is just an emotion and the way to handle it is severe your emotional link with the lost loved one. Huh! Severe your emotional link with the lost loved one? Excuse me! That solves my grief? That’s like taking a drink.

Think through the diagram, remember, if you are a pagan, and you don’t believe in limited evil, how do you cope? I think the only way I could cope, if I really believed that, would be through some form of anesthetic. It could be a pill, it could be some debauchery, it could be alcohol, anything to get my mind off of that. And what do we see in our society, debauchery, pills, alcohol. What is the problem? Because people are hurting. It’s not just that people like to go out and do drugs. They’re doing drugs because they’re trying to anesthetize the pain. Why is the pain there? Because this is a fallen world and it’s sinful, and they’re not getting the gospel or they’re not listening to it. That’s the end. These kids out there were, evidently there were enough Christians in that high school to bear enough witness in a clear form, I mean, I don’t think I’ve seen a tragedy in this country where the media talked about kids being born again, going listening to the Word of God, a fantastic testimony, just overflowed right in the pagan media. And you know why I think that is? It overflowed in the pagan media because the pagan media didn’t have anything else to say. After they said the kids shot, we’ve got five other paragraphs, what are you doing to write about? Everybody’s crying, okay, that’s paragraph two, what do I put in paragraph three, four and five? Well I’ve got to tell what the kids are saying. Well, here’s what they’re saying. They’re saying I have Christ. Well, I’d better put that in there, it fills up the column. So it got out into the press, a wonderful testimony.

Question asked: Clough replies: It’s a totally different thing. Given the premises of paganism, given those premises, the far out artists, the far out philosopher, Nietzsche, what did they say? The only way Nietzsche could get on with his life was realizing that he was on the precipice of a pit of hell and that he had to reconcile himself to walking abound I and once he said that’s my life, there’s nothing else out there, now I will live that way. And he started working philosophically that out. Those people are more sensitive, but the people that you’re talking about, that you work with in drug rehab and other places, they may not be as articulate. What we have to be careful of is as Christians is that we never lose sight of the fact that whether they’re articulate or not, that’s what’s happening.

They can’t tell you that’s what’s happening, but we know from the Word of God the superior method of interpreting, because the Word of God is the authoritative interpreter of every experience, including so-called mental illness. Then when we interpret by the Word what’s going on in this experience, we say aha, that’s what’s happening, and it makes sense once you see it. But when you’re in it, when you’re trapped in it and you just have automatically kind of absorbed the pagan worldview, you just do that. That’s why you see all the efforts in society to go to Stoicism now, the big thing is lots of new books now about Stoicism, it’s the world’s attempt to stop there. The pot is boiling, the lid is moving and we’ve got to put the lid back on here. But it’s going to fail and it’s going to fail; it’s predictable. The Stoics, the original Stoics failed so why are we going back 2,400 years to Stoicism. Paul’s laughing at Stoicism in Acts 17, and we haven’t learned anything in some 1,900 years since the Areopagus address. But here are because we’re desperate. We don’t like the debauchery that we see. Pragmatically we know it’s destructive, so we’ll flock to any kind of a solution to put the lid on.

As Christians we have to watch it because we’re not going to agree with the lid that’s being put on the pot. It’s like one father who’s girl was shot out in Colorado said, and I loved it, he was interviewed in the media and the media was trying to manipulate an answer, you know how these reporters ask you these questions, and you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t the way you answer them, so I forgot what the question was, but he was trying to get the dad to say golly what a fouled up school system and golly what idiot teenagers and that sort of stuff. And the father just quietly, after moving his daughter he looked at the reporter and said, you know, the real problem is God has been left out of the school system for the last twenty years and we’re just paying the price; these are the consequences. Yes, that’s the answer! Absolutely! Of course the reporter didn’t like that, but it was a live interview, so what could he do? Next week we’ll follow up with the doctrine of impeccability.