James Nisbet Commentary - Philippians 2:8 - 2:8

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James Nisbet Commentary - Philippians 2:8 - 2:8

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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:


‘He humbled Himself.’


Let me draw your attention to one or two points in the ‘humiliation’ of Christ.

I. It was all done, in the full sense, all along, that He was God’s child.—With the exception of a moment or two, He never lost the fullest conviction that His Father loved Him. It was part of Christ’s ‘humiliation’ (it was only one interruption—if it were an interruption—and that but for a moment) to doubt that He was God’s own dear Son! And you will never be really ‘humble’ until you feel, and are quite sure, that God loves you. It is no humility to doubt that. That abases God, not you.

II. Christ ‘humbled Himself’ to God before He ‘humbled Himself’ to man: the beginning of ‘humiliation’ was the consent in heaven to the Father’s will. It may be, at this moment, there is some providence which you find it very difficult to accept and to bear ‘humbly.’ Do not try first to ‘humble’ yourself to it, but go and ‘humble’ yourself to the God of the providence.

III. Christ’s ‘humility’ never paraded itself.—It never talked of itself. Once or twice He said to this effect: ‘I am among you as he that serveth.’ But that was all. Never show you are ‘humbling’ yourself. Let others discover it; but do you never exhibit it. It loses all its grace and beauty if it is once seen to be stooping. Not only the act, but the ‘humility’ which hides the act. It must hide itself from going to be proclaimed.

IV. The great ‘humiliation’ of Christ was sin.—He was perfectly and unutterably sinless. He was the immaculate Lamb of God. He could not sin. But He bore sin. He represented sin. He was treated as sin. He was the substitute for sin. ‘He was made sin for us.’ The most ‘humbling’ thing in all the world is sin, when it is felt to be sin. Pray that your sins may all turn into abasements.

V. The ‘humility’ of Jesus was always clothing itself in acts of kindness.—It is not humility without that.


‘And became obedient unto death.’


There are four things which Christ obeyed.

I. He obeyed the law.—He had grand views of law. ‘Thy law is within my heart’ was the language of His whole life. Everything He did was an obedience of law.

II. He obeyed inward principle.—It is a thing greatly to be admired when the outer and visible life is always a reflection of a deep, inner life, which is always working in a man’s mind. This Christ had intimately. There was an irrepressible expansion of duty. ‘How am I straitened till it be accomplished?’ And these two words several times repeated, ‘I must.’

III. He always set His life to the meridian of Scripture.—It was not the word was written because the act was done; but the act was done because the word was written. ‘So saith the Scripture.’ ‘The things concerning me have an end.’ ‘Have you not heard?’ ‘It is written.’ So supreme and ultimate to Christ was every word of the Bible.

IV. He was the most obedient of sons to His heavenly Father.—His Father, in a sense beyond all others. Ours, because His. And He never lost an opportunity of honouring His Father. His works were the works which His Father gave Him to do.


‘The difficulty at once meets us—“Christ was God: how can God be obedient?” Jesus Christ was, and is, and ever shall be, eternally and essentially and infinitely God. But when He came to this earth, to teach it, to elevate it, to save it, He was pleased to forego, and divest Himself for a while, during His sojourn, of the privileges, and the immunities, and the externals of God. The expression of St. Paul is, “He emptied Himself.” As respects these things, those thirty-three years were a parenthesis. He laid them down that He might take them again, and take them again after His humiliation more magnificently than before.’


‘Even the death of the Cross.’


I. The Cross of Christ affords the only justification for an optimist outlook on life.—For the Spirit of God by which Christ was inspired and sustained is the same Spirit which is striving to influence the lives of all men. Whilst then the contemplation of the sufferings of Christ begets within us an increasing horror of sin, it should also beget an unlimited exercise of charity in judging others to whom His sufferings make little appeal. For even in their case the Spirit of God is striving, and not altogether in vain, to reproduce His life. The death of Christ was a crowning proof of the omnipotent power of that Spirit which was given to Him without measure, but which is still an active force in the world and is striving to inspire the lives of all men.

II. The fortitude of Christ is one the most inspiring features of His character. As we gaze with reverent awe upon the scene enacted in Gethsemane we feel that His victory is in a real sense the victory of mankind. When we are brought face to face with a dreaded and threatening future; when the will of God seems so hard to accept that the flesh shrinks in horror from the sacrifice involved; when we are tempted to lose all trust in human friendship, as the sympathy which might with right have been expected fails us at the last; when it seems, in very deed, that this is the ‘hour’ and ‘the power of darkness’; then the knowledge that Christ strove and conquered as a man, under real human limitations, will prevent despair, and will help to explain to us the assurance given to His earliest followers, ‘Be of good cheer; I have overcome.’

III. Christ’s death is not an isolated event to be gazed at from afar.—Even in His death He was very near to us. Although in one sense His death represents a sacrifice which can never be repeated, it is nevertheless true that that unique sacrifice must be reproduced in the sacrifice and offering up to God of every human being for whom it is to be made effective.

IV. His character does not represent for us an unapproachable ideal.—The Spirit which inspired the life of our Saviour is striving to inspire our lives. His fortitude, his confidence in the presence of overmastering evil. His self-surrender and self-sacrifice even unto death, may be reproduced in our own experience.

Rev. Canon C. H. Robinson.


‘If we may believe Christ to have possessed any clear foresight of the actions and conduct of those who should become His nominal followers, it becomes hard to place any limit upon the suffering which this foresight must have caused Him.

‘ “Face, loved of little children long ago!

Head, hated by the priests and rulers then!

Say, was not this Thy passion to foreknow

In Thy last hour the deeds of Christian men?” ’



We are to meditate on the Cross—

‘… the wondrous Cross

On which the Prince of Glory died.’

I. The Cross is an altar.—‘We have an altar,’ says the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Heb_13:10). The perfect sacrifice was offered there.

II. The Cross is a lever.—It uplifts souls that lay in the shadow of death.

III. The Cross is a key.—It reveals the very heart of God.

IV. The Cross is a pulpit.—From it Christ preaches to-day as He did on the first Good Friday.

V. The Cross is a throne.—From it He promises Paradise.

VI. The Cross is a bridge.—It brings heaven and earth together. It is the anti-type of Jacob’s ladder.

VII. The Cross is a gathering-place.—For Christ died on the Cross to ‘gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.’

Rev. F. Harper.


(1) ‘A little child was brought into a London hospital suffering from a most virulent form of diphtheria. It was seen that all hope of saving his life lay in one operation. That was the sucking up, by means of a tube, of the obstruction in the throat. Although he knew that death was a great probability, the physician, Samuel Rabbeth—young, with a brilliant future opening up before him, willingly stooped over the boy, put the tube in his lips, and sucked out the poisoned pus. He paid the penalty. In a day the fell disease appeared in him; in a week he was dead.’

(2) ‘To Christ’s Cross his soldiers are gathered, and from the Cross they go forth to battle against the powers of wrong. There is a beautiful illustration of the latter in Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake. I refer to the passage of the fiery cross. You remember how, when the clan was to be rallied to a certain place in battle for their chieftain’s honour, it was customary that a cross, a rough wooden one, should be first set on fire, and then the blazing cross had the flames extinguished in the blood of a slain kid, and with that blood-stained, charred cross a herald, swift-footed, was sent forth to summon all the clan to battle for their chieftain and for victory.’