This entry is part 4 of 16 in the series: The Fountain of Life (Flavel)
- The excellency of knowing Christ crucified
- Christ’s primeval glory
- Christ’s wonderful person
- Christ’s humiliation in his incarnation
- Christ’s humiliation in his life
- Christ’s prayer for his people
- The Lord’s Supper
- Christ’s illegal trial and condemnation
- The nature of Christ’s death
- ‘Father, forgive them’
- Flavel on Jesus’ cry of dereliction
- “It is finished”
- ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit’
- The resurrection of Christ
- The ascension of Christ
- Christ’s exaltation
Extracts from The Fountain of Life, by John Flavel. Ch. 18, Christ’s Humiliation – In His Incarnation.
“And being found in fashion as man, he humbled himself, and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross.” Phil. 2:8.
Here is the sun almost under total eclipse. He that was beautiful and glorious, Isa. 4:2, yea, glorious as the only begotten of the Father, John 1:14, yea, the glory, James 2:1, yea, the splendor and brightness of the Father’s glory,” Heb. 3, was so veiled, clouded, and debased, that he looked not like himself, God no, nor scarcely as man for, with reference to this humbled state, it is said, am worm, and no man,” Psa. 22:6 am become an abject among men, as the language, Isa. 53:3, signifies. This humiliation of Christ we have here expressed in the nature, degrees, and duration of it.
1. The nature of it, he humbled himself. The word imports both real and voluntary abasement. It is not said, he was humbled, but, he humbled himself; he was willing to stoop to this low and abject state for us.
2. The degrees of his humiliation. It was not only so low as to become man, man under law but he humbled himself to become obedient to death, even the death of the cross.” Here you see the depth of Christ’s humiliation, it was unto death, even the death of the cross, the death of malefactor.
3. The duration, or continuance of his humiliation. It continued from the first moment of his incarnation to the moment of his resurrection from the grave.
Hence we derive this proposition:
The state of Christ, from his conception to his resurrection, was state of deep abasement and humiliation.
1. The incarnation of Christ was a most wonderful humiliation of him, inasmuch as thereby he is brought into the rank and order of creatures, who is over all, “God blessed for ever,” Rom 9:5. This is the astonishing mystery, 1 Tim 3:16. that God should be manifest in the flesh; that the eternal God should truly and properly be called the Man Christ Jesus, 1 Tim 2:5.
For the sun to fall from its sphere, and be degraded into wandering atom for an angel to be turned out of heaven, and be converted into fly or worm, had not been such abasement for they were but creatures before, and so they would abide still, though in an inferior rank. The distance between the highest and lowest species of creatures is but finite distance. The angel and the worm dwell not so far asunder. But for the infinite glorious Creator of all things to become creature, is mystery exceeding all human understanding.
2. It was marvellous humiliation to the Son of God, not only to become creature, but an inferior creature, man, and not an angel.
For angels are the highest and most excellent of all created beings. For their nature, they are pure spirits for their wisdom, intelligences for their dignity, they are called principalities and powers for their habitations, they are styled
the heavenly host and for their employment, it is to behold the face of God in heaven. One description both of our holiness and happiness in the coming world is this, we shall be equal to the angels.” Luke, 20:36.
3. Moreover, Jesus Christ did not only assume the human nature but he also assumed its nature, after sin had blotted its original glory, and withered its beauty and excellency. For he came not in our nature before the fall, whilst as yet its glory was fresh in it but he came, as the apostle speaks, in the likeness of sinful flesh,” Rom. 8:3, that is, in flesh that had the marks, and miserable effects, and consequents of sin upon it.
4. Hereby “he made himself of no reputation.” Phil. 2:7. By reason hereof he lost all esteem and honor from those that saw him, “Is not this the carpenter’s son1″ Matt. 13:55. To see poor man traveling up and down the country, in hunger, thirst, weariness, attended with company of poor men one of his company bearing the bag, and that which was put therein, John, 13:29 who that saw him, would ever have thought this had been the Creator of the world,
the Prince of the kings of the earth He was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
It was black cloud that for so many years darkened and shut up his glory, that it could not shine out to the world only some weak rays of the Godhead shone to some few eyes, through the chinks of his humanity as the clouded sun sometimes breaks forth little, and casts some faint beams, and is hid again. “We saw his glory,” says the beloved apostle, as of the only begotten Son,” John 1:14 but the world knew him not. If prince walk up and down in disguise, he must expect no more honor than mean subject. This was the case of our Lord Jesus Christ.
5. Again, Christ was greatly humbled by his incarnation, inasmuch as thereby he was put at distance from the Father, and that ineffable joy and pleasure he eternally had with him…To cry, and God not hear, as he complains, Ps. 32:3, nay, to be reduced to such distress as to be forced to cry out so bitterly as he did, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me Ps. 22:1 this was thing Christ was utterly unacquainted with till he was found in fashion as man.
6. And lastly, It was great stoop and condescension of Christ if he would become man, to take his nature from such obscure parents, and choose such low and contemptible state in this world as he did. He is born, not of the blood of nobles, but of poor woman in Israel, espoused to carpenter yea, and that, too, under all the disadvantages imaginable; not in his mother’s house but an inn yea, stable.
1. Hence we gather the fulness and completeness of Christ’s satisfaction, as the sweet first-fruits of his incarnation. Did man offend and violate the law of God? Behold, God himself is become man to repair that breach, and satisfy for the wrong done.
2. What pattern of self-denial is here presented to Christians!…Did Christ stoop, and cannot you stoop did Christ stoop so much, and cannot you stoop the least Was he willing to become any thing, worm, reproach, curse; and cannot you bear any abasement Does the least slight and neglect poison your heart with discontent, malice, and revenge?
“What more detestable,” says Bernard, “what more unworthy, or what deserves severer punishment, than for poor man to magnify himself, after he hath seen the great and high God so humbled as to become little child It is intolerable impudence for worm to swell with pride, after it hath seen majesty emptying itself; seen one so infinitely above us, stoop so far ‘beneath us.”
3. Those that perish under the Gospel, must perish without excuse. What would you have Christ do more Lo, he hath laid aside the robes of majesty and glory, put on your own garments of flesh, come down from his throne, and brought salvation home to your own doors.
4. None doth or can love like Christ. His love to man is matchless. Its freeness, strength, eternity, and immutability, give it lustre beyond all examples.
5. Did the Lord Jesus so deeply abase himself for us? What claims has he on us to exalt and honor him, who for our sakes was so abased!
We honour him:
By frequent and delightful speaking of him and for him. When Paul had once mentioned his name, he knows not how to part with it, but repeats it no less than ten times in the compass of ten verses. 1 Cor. 1:1-10.
By exercising faith in him for whatsoever lies in the promises yet unaccomplished…It seemed much more improbable and impossible to reason, that God should become man, and stoop to the condition of creature, than that, being man, he should perform all the good which his incarnation and death procured.
By drawing nigh to God with delight, through the veil of Christ’s flesh. Heb. 10:20. God hath made this flesh of Christ veil between the brightness of his glory and us it serves to rebate the unsupportable glory, and also to give admission to it, as the veil did in the temple. Through this body of flesh, which Christ assumed, are all the outlets of grace from God to us and through it, also, must be all our returns to God again. It is made the great medium of our communion with God.
By applying yourselves to him, under all temptations, wants, and troubles, of what kind soever, as to one that is tenderly sensible of your case, and most willing and ready to relieve you.