The Person of Christ - 14 - The Perfect Servant

Chapter 14 - The Perfect Servant Character

Of Christ Some Thoughts about The Perfect Servant

W.E. Vine

 

The purposes for which Christ Jesus came into the world are variously stated in Scripture. He came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He came to call sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32), and to save them (I Tim. 1:15). His primary object, however, was to do the will of His Father. “I am come down from heaven,” He says, “not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me”(John 6:38). This was His very sustenance, His “meat” (John 4:34). He alone could say absolutely, “I delight to do Thy will, 0 My God: yea, Thy Law is within My heart” (Psa. 40:8).

 

His path of undeviating obedience to the Father marked Him as the One of Whom Jehovah had said through the Prophet Isaiah, “Behold My Servant, Whom I uphold; My chosen, in Whom My soul delighteth” (Isa. 42:1). Who being in the form of God, not a resemblance to God, but that mode of being which reveals the essential nature and character of God counted it not a prize (more accurately as in the margin, “A thing to be grasped”: the true meaning probably is ‘a means of self-aggrandisement’) to be on an equality with God, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made (lit, becoming) in the likeness of men (Phil. 2:6- 7)

 

A BONDSERVANT

 

He took the form of a bondservant. This He never was said to be in relation to men, for the word implies the complete yielding of the will to the one served. He was indeed the servant (diakonos) of men; so He spoke of Himself, for instance, when, correcting the ambitious rivalry of the disciples, He said, “Whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister (diakonos): and whosoever would be first among you, shall be servant of all. For verily, the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many”(Mk. 10:43-45). So again, in the upper room, setting Himself in contrast to their questioning as to which of them was the greatest, He says, “I am in the midst of you as He that serveth” (Luke 22:27). Diakonos implies activity in ministry directed by one’s own judgment, while doulos implies subjection to the will of another, and hence the latter word is said of Christ solely in relation to His service to Him who sent Him. He was the diakonos of men, the doulos of God. Precisely as the phrase, “the form of a servant,” expresses the reality and the character of His position as a Servant, for that He undeniably was, so “the form of God” expresses the reality of His Deity. He was as truly God, both in His preexistence and subsequently after becoming Incarnate, as He was a Servant when on earth.

 

HIS DIVINE ATTRIBUTES

 

Since the phrases, “taking the form of a servant, becoming in the likeness of man” (Phil. 2:7), explain the preceeding statement that “He emptied Himself,” it is important to observe carefully the testimony of the Gospel narratives concerning His attributes and ways as Jehovah’s Servant. That He remained the fullest sense God, is, as we have seen, made clear throughout this passage. It is also directly stated in several places in the New Testament. The Gospels present Him as the One Who, while possessed of the Divine attributes, exercised these in dependence on, and subjection to, the Father. The power He displayed was that which belongs only to God. Nature was completely subject to His control. He walked on the water, He stilled the tempest with a word, He turned water into wine, He supernaturally provided bread. Again, He had absolute power over disease and death; He healed “all manner of disease and all manner of sickness “(Matt. 4:23), and He raised the dead. A single utterance from His lips caused His would-be captors to fall backward to the ground (John 18:6).

 

Again, “He knew all men,” “He knew what was in man” (John 2:24-25). He knew the secret history of people’s lives (John 4:16-19, and their destiny (John 5:24-29, 8:21). He perceived men’s thoughts (Mk. 2:8, Luke 5:22). He displayed knowledge of the future impossible to men. His forecast of future events has so far been fulfilled with absolute precision.

 

Deeply significant too, is the fact that the Lord could see what was going on, though in bodily presence He was not there to behold it. He says to Nathaniel, “Before Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee” (John. 1:48). It was nothing but the evidence of Christ’s divinely supernatural powers that drew from Nathaniel the exclamation, “Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God; Thou art King of Israel.” The Lord admitted the evidence of His Deity by His recognition of the man’s faith. He says, “Because I said unto thee, I saw thee underneath the fig tree, believest thou? Thou shalt see greater things than these.”

 

HIS OBEDIENCE TO THE FATHER

 

Now the passage in Philippians 2, which shows that Deity was still His in and after His Incarnation, likewise states that He became “obedient even unto death.” His whole life was one of undeviating obedience to the Father, and His death was the culminating act thereof. “He learned obedience (it does not say that He learned to obey) by the things which He suffered” (Heb. 5:8). He never did anything independently of the Father. He said, “The Son can do nothing of (lit, from) Himself, but what He seeth the Father doing” (John 5:19). This did not signify intrinsic limitations in His case; His limitations were only such as He voluntarily imposed upon Himself. For, He further says. “for what things soever He doeth, these the Son also doeth in like manner.” All that He did was done in inseparable union with the Father. He said, “I and the Father are One,” and again, “My Father worketh even until now, and I work.” Supernatural power, therefore, inalienably belonged to Him as the Son. Yet He ever acted as One Who in virtue of His Manhood was dependent on, and in subjection to, the will of His Father.

 

HIS SELF-IMPOSED RESTRICTIONS

 

In His ‘becoming in the likeness of men,” His Body itself became the instrument of His fulfillment of the Father’s will. This Psalm 40 foretold, as quoted in the Hebrews. “When He cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body didst Thou prepare for Me: in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo I am come (in the roll of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, 0 God” (Heb. 10:5-7). He could and did restrict the use of His Divine attributes. He allowed His captors to bind Him after the display of His Divine power in prostrating them with His word. He subjected Himself to human violence and indignity. He permitted those who had charge of His Crucifixion to carry out their deed. “He was crucified through weakness” (II Cor. 13:4), not through helplessness, nor through weakness caused by maltreatment, but by the voluntary suspension of His essential power as the Son of God. Human force itself was absolutely unavailing against Him save as it was His will to submit thereto. In proof whereof He said of Himself, what could not possibly be true of any mere man, “I lay down My life, that I may take it again. No one taketh it away from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power (or authority) to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment received I from My Father” (John 10:17-18).

 

The restrictions He imposed on Himself are consistent with His true Manhood. At the same time in these very restrictions He constantly displayed His supernatural power. Nowhere is this more strikingly exhibited than on the Cross. Certain details regarding His Death distinguish it from the crucifixion of a mere man, as, for example, His mighty shout, the dismissal of His spirit, and prior to it the bowing (or rather, reclining) of His head, in contrast to the natural order in which the last breath is followed by the drooping of the head. His death could not have been the death of a mere man. It is useless to argue that God cannot die, and therefore Christ was not God. He who was God could become also Man in order to die, and this He did. His death was the supernatural death of One who was both Man and God.

 

Evidences of the true humanity of our Lord, are at the same time to be regarded in the light of His essential Deity. Not that the attributes of the Divine were communicated to the human nature; the Lord’s acts were those of One Who was in the possession of both natures. He never acted at one time as man and at another as God. The two natures were, and are, perfectly and inseparately combined in Him. The restrictions He imposed upon Himself illustrate then the Apostle’s statement that Christ “emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant.” They reveal the essential reality of His Servant character, and only so can they be rightly considered. They are not matters of mere Christology.

 

While we consider Him in the perfection of His ways, let us remember that He “left us an example that we should follow His steps.” Let us find our delight in doing His will.