Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8.
When we think of the gospel, our minds go immediately to some common passages. We think of John 3:16 or 1 Corinthians 15:3-5. The essence of the gospel is that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and raised on the third day. Paul also includes that Jesus was seen by various witnesses as proof of the resurrection.
This triadic message: death, burial and resurrection of God’s Son is the substance of the gospel. For evangelical Christians this is common ground. This is what we tell people if they want to know how they are to be saved. There are many other passages of course, which help us understand our salvation is not of works, tradition, ceremony but solely on the person of Jesus. The Five (5) Solas of the Reformation are the essentials: Scripture alone; faith alone; grace alone; Christ alone; glory of God alone.
Is not the gospel simply for unbelievers? How should the gospel shape or influence believers? Outside the obvious response that we should share the gospel with those far from God, in what way should it impact us?
Philippians 2:5-8 gives us a much bigger picture of the gospel. This picture starts in heaven, steps down on to the earth, captures the death of Christ, and culminates on His exaltation of Jesus. There are three characteristics that shaped Jesus as He carried out the mission of the gospel: surrender, servanthood, and sacrifice.
Surrender – “Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.” Jesus gave up all the rights, freedoms, entitlements, and privileges of existing with the Godhead. This is the beginning of the gospel. Christ did not cling to these things but had to surrender these freedoms to carry out the mission of the gospel. Christ is our example – we need to surrender our rights and freedoms to God in order to carry out the mission of the gospel in our world. Failure here will abort any idea of success.
Servanthood – “but (Christ) emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” Christ came to do the will of the Father. He took on a completely different mode of existence by taking to Himself flesh and blood and He became a servant. He did nothing on His own initiative but was living to glorify His Father. Only servants will carry out the mission of the gospel. We will never become effective servants unless we have previously surrendered all our rights, freedoms, and entitlements to the Father. Only servants will live to carry out the mission.
Sacrifice – obviously only Christ’s physical sacrifice is sufficient for our salvation. But it stands to reason that God’s people are called to make sacrifices to fulfill the mission of the gospel. For many, we are not prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to communicate the gospel to others. Jesus told His disciples they must, “deny self, take up their cross daily, and follow Him. Life is not about leaving our legacy but living for His glory.
In His Grace,