The Humiliation of Christ

J. N. Darby.

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(Notes and Comments Vol. 2.)

The humiliation of Christ opens out to my mind in a very full and blessed character. The essential being of Godhead cannot change, as is evident - the Absolute, as men speak - and whatever His humiliation, all the fulness of the Godhead (theotetos) dwelt in Him bodily. His emptying Himself (ekenose) applied to the morphe (form). He was in the status, condition of Godhead, of which, not to speak of outward glory, will and acting from His own will (though one with the Father, see John 5) was proper and essential. But the full purpose of His will in free devotedness, and always so, was to give up His own will, and this according to eternal counsels; Psalm 40.

It was not a lowly being, to whom it is evil to have a will of its own, who had none - that would have been nothing; nothingness was the place of nothingness. But He who in His essence could will, gives up His place, or condition as such, and says "Lo, I come to do thy will." It was a divine act, always so, but a divine act of kenosis (making empty). He was thus relative to the Father, not only as Son but as Servant - an immense truth! He gave up, not Godhead - that could not be - but the status and position of it, and came not to do His own will, but the will of Him that sent Him.

Man answered to this place according to the counsels and glory of God, as the angels, the obedient administrators of power, witnesses of a sustained creation, but he who had been made in God's image, and now fallen, was in the condition to be the sphere of the display of all God's moral glory, mercy, grace, righteousness, above all, love, for God is Love; in a word - redemption. Christ was a Man. And now, in the same perfectness, He takes no will, not even of man, not even to eat when He was hungry - He lives by every word out of the mouth of God. He humbles Himself and is obedient even unto death, and that of the Cross - no resistance - no escape, though legions of angels would be ready at His call. He perseveres in submitting to all - a tested obedience, even to death. Not merely obedience in peace, as Adam innocent might, or an Angel (though doubtless they must feel the ruin) but tested by unvarying giving up of self and where evil was.

The Absolute in nature becomes Relative as a Servant in place - and "no man knoweth the Son, but the Father" - but this is revealed; and in this character exalted as Lord above all now. We adore Him as God; we see Him gone down under death as man, yet kenon (emptying) Himself, humbling Himself, laying down His own life what belonged to, what was divine all through. Now the centre of all the sphere of display of the divine glory and of all in which it is displayed; but this is an outward consequence, Philippians 2. But the place of Man and Servant never given up - wondrous truth! Only He rules over all the sphere of His humiliation - heaven and earth are subjected to Him as Man while such subjection is called for - He reigns till all things are put under His feet.

167 But in His own personal place, in which He is in connection with us, or rather we with Him, He never gives up the serving place - He takes it now; John 13. In Luke 12, He takes it in glory, but in the heavenly blessedness connected with us - those His Father has given Him. And finally, when the reigning and subjecting process is complete, and He gives up the kingdom whose power was needed for that, He takes the simple subject place as Man in the eternal blessedness of God - still "God over all, blessed for ever more," One with the Father - but His place as the subject Man perfect, and we with Him. Wondrous thought! The Firstborn among many brethren, metochoi (companions), not, note, koinonoi (common equal sharers) we could not be that, compare Hebrews 2:14, consequent on verse 11.

God - and no mediatorial kingdom and power - being all in all - His kenosis (emptying) is no more undone than His Godhead. He always was and is Son with the Father - was and is always God; and now is and ever will be Man kenosas heauton (who emptied Himself), it was, and so ever is, His own divine act; only He has a temporary kingdom according to eternal counsels in this character, a kingdom which He gives up. The apostle John enters largely into this; his Gospel is the expression of it, but it comes out elsewhere in connection with the names of God, Light and Love, both of them essential names of God, yet with some difference, for Light has something of quality in it belonging to a person - Love is more absolutely personal. God is purity and manifests all things. But we are light in the Lord; as partakers of the divine nature, we partake of this quality. In 2 Peter 1:4, we are theias kotnonoi phuseos (partakers of divine nature), not tes (of the), and it is by promise our own state. But we are not love, for Love is sovereign goodness - that we cannot be; we love as partaking of the divine nature too, but we cannot be sovereign goodness.

168 But in Christ's kenosis (emptying) of Himself, and the course of His humiliation unto death, we find this love exercised - it is divine love expressed - we have seen the Father in Him - love brought to need - love active; "Hereby know we love, because He laid down his life for us." So that the revelation of God, that in which His Being acts, according to what He is, was in this way kenosis and self humbling of Christ; only we add "He gave his only-begotten Son," when we speak of it historically in its external action. And Christ, thus the expression of Love, i.e., of God, in the world, God manifest in the flesh, was also necessarily Light in the world - purity, and showing what all was, but showing sovereign goodness to it when thus manifested.

Formally, grace and truth came by Jesus Christ - He was the love of God in the world, and light in it. The darkness comprehended it not. But it was in Man, and it became thus impartitive, the Word of life, "He that hath the Son hath life," they that received Him being born of God; and being cleansed, the Holy Ghost could dwell in them in order to power of realisation. Thus the Apostle prays that they "may be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man, that Christ might dwell in their hearts by faith," not merely be life and righteousness, but dwell there in the power of the realisation of faith - He who is the expression and revelation of love - that we may be rooted and grounded in it. We dwell in love and in God, or rather here He in us, and thus are at the centre of the display of glory; the more external thing, and so far finite that it is in that which is created, but the display of God's glory in it, though not without love as its source and sustaining, for it is in redemption. Christ thus takes in all - first descended then ascended that He might fill all things - but then the Saints, and this is their wondrous place, are associated with Him personally here, and we "comprehend with all saints"; for they are indeed His metochoi, loved as He is loved, however personally infinitely above them.

Christ has taken this place in the same divine, perfect love, self being gone, that He might put us in the same place with Himself - whom the Father had given Him - and even now, His peace, His joy, the Father's words, the Father's love, and the glory given to them - gone to His Father and our Father, His God and our God - to be with Him where He is; for in emptying Himself and becoming a Man, it was to associate us, the joint heirs in the same place, though ever Firstborn. Hence the Apostle adds "and to know the love of Christ" - not abstract here, "rooted and grounded in love," through His dwelling in our hearts, who is the divine fulness of this love - Himself; but now He has entered into the counsels of actual glory, length, depth, etc. - it is the love of Christ, the actual manifested, exercised love, yet still divine, "it passes knowledge," that we may be thus filled into all the fulness of God Himself, which indeed dwelt in Him bodily; compare 1 John 5:20.

169 Colossians does not enter on this ground, only touching it in "Christ in you, the hope of Glory." It is blessed to see how the highest being of God is exercised in grace towards any poor sinner. It is there it is, though afterwards perfected in us, see 1 John 4:12-13. This has partly led us in this enquiry into the counter part, that "as he is, so are we," because it is thus we enter into and understand it; "we are in him that is true, i.e., in his Son - he is the true God and eternal life."

But the gospel of John gives us large communications on this humiliation of Christ. His Godhead shines in every page of all the gospels, but John, as every one knows, in a peculiar way gives us the Person of Christ - the Word made flesh. Now I have remarked elsewhere the fact of the way in which He is everywhere One with the Father, yet receives all. But it is the direct expression of the truth we are studying - He is God, He is one with the Father, He is I Am. Everywhere He speaks to His Father on a divine footing of unity; "I have glorified thee, now glorify me." But He has taken the form of a Servant, never "now I will glorify Myself." "My Father is greater than I"; "The glory thou hast given me" - yet it was a glory He had - "with the Father before the world was," "Thou hast given him power over all flesh" - "I receive whoever comes, for I came not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me." He finishes the work the Father gave Him to do - it is the Father that sent Him; so chapter 8:26. But it is in this chapter the Lord says: "Before Abraham was, I am," which the Jews well understood.

In a word His path was "that the world may know I love the Father, and as the Father hath given me commandment, so I do." His divine nature and Godhead shine throughout, but He receives everything - is sent - and has taken the relative place of recipiency and subjection. John 5 has a peculiar character in this respect, and presented at first some difficulty to my mind. "As the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, so the Son quickeneth whom he will"; "My Father worketh hitherto and I work," as the Apostle notes, from the Jewish consciousness, making Himself equal with God. But in verse 19 he at once takes the place He is come into. "The Son can do nothing of himself (aph heautou) but what he seeth the Father do." "Whatsoever he doeth, these doeth the Son likewise," and quickening comes as part of this - "The Father loves the Son and shews him all." But He, though He acts with the same divine power as the Father, yet is shown all - does nothing aph heautou; and in verse 26 He hath given to the Son to have life in Himself, i.e., the Son in the form of a Servant down here, and given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is Son of Man. So that we know that it is in this humbled state that this applies.

170 Thus it becomes the clearest exposition of this unspeakable truth, the result of that, when in the form of God ekenose heauton - His own act - divine all through, at every moment. How true it remains "No man knows the Son but the Father"; but we adore Him. He is not ashamed to call us brethren, for now we are ez enos (of one).

But the point my mind rests on is, the kenosis of Himself; the rest is consequence, however blessed; Psalm 45 : 6, 7; Hebrews 1:8-9. Christ ekenose heauton, and took upon Him the form of a Servant. Our best delight will be to be hidden behind Him and see Him have all the glory. It is interesting to see that whatever depth the Person of the Lord may give to this, the blessing itself, which has its very character from its adaptation to our state, is enjoyed by the simplest faith, and the more simple the more it is enjoyed. Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith is enjoyed by him in whom He dwells, not by him who can explain it, though it be true it must be enjoyed in order to be able to explain it.

But this humbling of Christ by Himself is divine love, and in exercise - we know God by it. It is Himself in activity, yet in giving Himself up in this unspeakable way. In the Father He remains in essential Godhead, in the Son one with Him in the exercise of it, coming down to serve, the object in which we know God and see the Father. God is objectively before us in the Spirit's power, operative power in us to be able to apprehend, and have the love shed abroad in our hearts so that we dwell in God and God in us.