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Back in 1990 I preached my last two sermon at Christ the Sovereign Covenant Church in Auburn Washington. I had been preaching through Genesis I decided not to simply preach the next passage but went to Philippians 2.5-11. Nevertheless, it seemed quite natural to tie the passage back to the fall of Adam. I later preached the Philippians sermon at a Baptist Tent Revival Meeting in Minco, OK (and those notes are the ones I’ve reproduced below).


Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they (G)knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.

Have you ever had the classic dream where you show up for class or for work and everyone is staring at you? You find it odd and wonder what is making them look at you in such a strange way. Then you glance down and realize that you forgot to get dressed that morning. You’re naked!

That feeling of sudden shame due to the realization of exposure and vulnerability is basic to our passage this morning. It begins with the declaration that Adam and Eve were both naked yet unashamed. It ends with them scrambling to find some innovative way to cover themselves. We have here a clear movement from confidence to shame – from oneness to alienation. Adam and Eve now find they need barriers between one another. They will also need barriers between themselves and God.

Those fig leaves — those barriers — represent what has in fact already happened in the process of listening to Satan and eating the forbidden. Sin involves turning away from God and naturally leads to separation from him. And here we see that separation first affects Adam and Eve themselves. They need clothing in regard to each other because they are alienated from each other.

How have they become alienated from each other? What have they done to each other?

Well look at verse 6: “she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.” What is the import of that tiny prepositional phrase, “with her”? Is the Bible taking the time to explain to us that when Eve went and found her husband and gave him the fruit, that at the time she handed it to him that he was “with her”? I don’t think so. That’s useless and redundant information. By telling us that Adam is with Eve, the Bible is dropping the bombshell that Adam isn’t unaware of Eve’s conversation with Satan. He is right there. He is standing by silently while Eve is being tempted to disobey God’s law and eat the forbidden fruit.

What is going on? Adam witnesses Eve’s conversation with the serpent and says nothing. Bear in mind that Eve was not present when God forbade them to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. All she heard God say was that they could eat from every tree. Adam must have taught her that they were prohibited at the time from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Yet Adam does not speak despite the fact that he, not Eve, is the expert on what God actually said.

But that’s not all. He remains silent and then watches Eve take and eat the forbidden fruit. Only after he sees that she is still alive does he take some from her and eat himself. Instead of loving his wife, Adam is using her as a guinea pig in a grand experiment. He is the original abusive husband.

As the Apostle Paul states in 1 Timothy 2, “For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression.” Adam was self-conscious about what he was doing. He was created first. He heard the prohibition. Eve was created after and had to learn about the prohibition second hand. She was deceived in a way that Adam wasn’t. Adam stood by and offered Eve no support. He waited until she ate and lived before he ate.

No wonder, then, that Adam and Eve can no longer be exposed to one another. Eve sinned and shared her sin with her husband. Adam silently allowed Eve to sin and ate after she took the risk. Though he was the one who had heard God’s command, he was silent in the face of the serpent’s temptation.

So that is the state of alienation in which Adam and Eve ended up.

But how did they get there?

What was the mental process that they used to decide to eat the forbidden fruit?

Quite simply, it is this: God hates us and has a horrible plan for our lives. That is one of the most tragic aspects of the Fall. Adam and Eve decided to believe the serpent’s story. And what was that story? Verse 5: “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

In verse 4 Satan claims that God was lying when he said that Adam and Eve would die if the ate the fruit of the tree. And verse 5 is his explanation for God’s alleged lie. “God is trying to keep you down. The creator of the universe is worried that you might get too great, Eve, so he is lying to you in order to make you less than what you could be. God is worried about you advancing yourself too high, Adam, so he has made something up to cause you to fear for your life. The god who made you has surrounded you with a web of deceit in order to make sure you are never his equal.”

This is an incredible lie that Satan is telling Adam and Eve. God raised them up from the dust, but Satan is saying that he is trying to make them stay in the dust. God made Adam and Eve to be like God, made in his image, but Satan is saying that he is trying to prevent them from being like him. God gave Adam and Eve eyes for seeing but Satan is saying that God is trying to keep them blind because he is restricting them from the fruit that can open their eyes.

I think it might be helpful to look at Satan’s proposal from the standpoint of Adam and Eve’s self image. According to Luke 3 Adam was God’s son. But according to the worldview set forth by the serpent, Adam had an abusive, tyrannical father. According to John 14.18, Jesus promised the disciples that he would not leave them as orphans. But that is precisely what Satan is saying about Adam and Eve: They are orphans. The have no father they can trust.

That fundamental mindset is what moved Adam and Eve from a state of unity and unashamed exposure to one of alienation and shame. They decided that they were on their own without God and without hope in the world. God had made them king and queen of creation, but they decided to believe that they were prisoners within creation.

Do you see the irony? Because Adam and Eve sinned they lost their standing before God. God created them as his son and daughter, but they sinned and thus were disinherited and in a sense disowned. God created them holy, but they sinned and thus became unholy. God created them rightly related to him – in a word, justified before him – but they sinned and became condemned before him.

But they lost all those things precisely because Satan convinced them that they never had those things. As I’ve mentioned, Satan convinced Adam and Eve that they were already orphans. Satan convinced them that holiness of character was a farce since consecration to God’s service was merely slavery and obedience to his commands was simply a way God was exploiting them. Finally, Satan convinced them that they had no right standing with God because God had been deceiving them from the beginning.

It is a mystery to me how Adam and Eve could have believed something so false. I don’t understand how they could deceive themselves so much as to believe that God hated them and had a horrible plan for their lives. But I do know that since our first parents imagined such things of God and his treatment of them, it has now become human nature to be suspicious of God. Paranoia is prevalent throughout the human race – cosmic paranoia that imagines God is out to get us.

And it is not simply more common because of a human propensity to distrust God resulting from the inward corruption that began in the first sin. Obviously, all sort of new desires and inclinations are now part of human nature because of our inborn hostility to God that originated in original sin – that’s why it’s called original sin, after all. But I’m speaking of something else very closely related but distinct.

Think of it. In the midst of paradise, Adam and Eve became suspicious and distrustful of God – suspicious and distrustful of his attitude and actions toward them. In the midst of the Garden of Eden, having been given license to all of creation (minus one tree) Adam and Eve actually thought that God was holding back from them. That he was doing things that were ultimately not in their best interests.

Think of the way things are now. We are all guilty before God. We are under his wrath and curse. We are destined to eternal punishment unless we repent and believe – unless we cease being suspicious of God and trust him. How much more powerful then, is the temptation to believe that God’s rules are simply ways to keep us in poverty and misery. The serpent’s whisper that God does not want our eyes open, that he does not love us, that he means us harm, is now a deafening shout. Satan has a lot more evidence to point to.

That is one of the basic temptations for believers. The Gospel says that Jesus has suffered the curse in our place and been given resurrection life – a life he promises to share with all who trust God. Trust God. Trust Jesus. Don’t let anyone tells you that he means you ill.

Think of the exiles in Babylon separated from God’s presence in the Temple, separated from the Holy City Jerusalem, separated from their inheritance of God’s promised land. By every definition from their upbringing they thought themselves cursed by God. But what did God’s prophet Jeremiah tell them on God’s behalf?

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, 5 ‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens, and eat their produce. 6 ‘Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. 7 ‘And seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’ 11 ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,‘ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. 12 ‘Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 ‘And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

The author of Hebrews has to deal with Christians suffering persecution for their faith who are tempted to return to Judaism. This would not have simply been a decision in their minds for comfort rather than God’s favor. Part of the temptation would have been to interpret the persecution as a sign that God was not on their side anymore, that in leaving Judaism they had departed from the true faith. But the author of Hebrews offers them a different interpretation:

7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

Justification by faith is a Protestant shibboleth. Rightly so! But it is often simply a form of words without much content. Why is faith so important to justification? One simple reason that you need to remember from our text this morning is that condemnation came through unbelief. And that unbelief involved specifically doubting God’s intentions toward us.

That’s probably why Jesus, speaking to a generation in the promised land suffering under pagan oppression and a corrupt priesthood, went out of his way to assure them of God’s attitude toward them even while he was exhorting them to repent or else face judgment.

25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing? 26 “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 “And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life’s span? 28 “And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. 30 “But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith?

11 “Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? 12 “Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? 13 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

29 “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 “Therefore do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows.

In the midst of suffering, persecution, and poverty, that is how Jesus presented God as trustworthy.

We must trust God. That is what faith means. Adam and Eve needed clothing. In baptism, God has clothed us in Jesus Christ – Galatians 3.27. But we don’t see anything visibly different. We have to trust God that he has taken care of our nakedness and sin and that we will be clothed with visible glory at the resurrection.

But that’s not all; we must encourage one another to trust God. Think of how many times we are told to forgive one another.

Accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us into the glory of God
Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.

Why all this? Part of the reasons is that we each need the assurance that God has indeed forgiven our sins despite the adversity around us and our consciences within us. If Adam and Eve can be tempted to doubt God in paradise, how much more can we be tempted to do so now? But the Church is now God’s sanctuary and we should be helping one another believe that God loves us by loving one another. We should be helping one another believe that God forgives us by forgiving one another.

Just a couple of verses later in Genesis chapter 3 we can read Adam’s condemnation of Eve as if she was to blame for his sin. That’s not the way it should be in the church. We’re supposed to support one another, cover over offenses in love, or when necessary forgive one another, and even restore one another. In that way, we are ministering grace to one another. If we do that, we will find it much easier to trust God to forgive us and save us.

But there is always the temptation to deal with the problem of guilt and doubt another way. Another way to believe that one is close to God is to find others who you can regard as farther away from God and compare yourself to them. Churches can become gathering points for people who regard themselves as more important than others, because of some real or imagined criterion of sanctification. Every good thing can be abused in this way. Reformed theology can be used as a tool to exalt oneself as above others. Evangelistic zeal can serve the same purpose. There are a host of lifestyle issues, some perhaps good ideas for some people and most of which are bone-headed, but all of which are a stench in God’s nostrils when used, as they often are, to practice a form of pseudo-spiritual one-upmanship which one another.

When we play spiritual one-upmanship in the Church, we are following in the path of Satan, the accuser of brethren, and we are playing Satan’s role in Genesis chapter 3 by misrepresenting God. Think about it: we have been each commissioned as priests to represent Jesus Christ to one another. We can be so commissioned because, as Isaiah prophesied, Jesus was willing to be oppressed and afflicted yet did not open his mouth. When we open our mouths, or role our eyes, or shake our heads, when a brother or sister in Christ somehow falls short of our most obscure scruples, we are making a statement for Christ. That is an inescapable consequence of being Christ’s representative. And it is a false statement. We are misrepresenting Jesus. We are misrepresenting God.

But God is trustworthy. His attitude is one of love and his intentions are kind toward us. He has shown through Jesus our Lord that even in the most severe abandonment he is bringing about a glorious deliverance. The curse leads to life, death to the resurrection. Don’t be like Adam and Eve. Trust God and love your brothers and sisters in Christ. Pray that he will help you in the midst of the unbelief that you and I both struggle with. Pray that God will empower you to demonstrate the belief he has given to you by acting like God does. God will give you the Spiritual power you need. God is trustworthy.


Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus “every knee will bow,” of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This is a passage about Jesus Christ, and it is a great passage for showing that he is both human and divine. But while Paul’s belief in Christ’s humanity and divinity is certainly evident here, that is not the purpose of this passage. The purpose is not to say that Christ is both true man and true God. Rather, the purpose is to present a true vision of what true man is and what true God is. Paul is not merely saying that Christ is human and divine, but what it should mean to be human and what it should mean to be divine.

What is man? Or rather what should man be? Who is God? Those are the issues that Paul is addressing.

Looking at what many consider a hymn in verses 5 through 11, we see first a death and then an exaltation. Paul is obviously speaking here of Christ’s resurrection. In chapter 3 verses 20 and 21 Paul again speaks of Christ’s exaltation and he is obviously speaking of the resurrection — his and ours:

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

Christ the New AdamNow Paul has spoken about this exaltation of Christ before. First Corinthians 15 is all about the resurrection and Christ’s exaltation over all things. For example:

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all.

Now in this passage, we not only have a direct reference to Adam, but Paul invokes Psalm 8 as a description of the exaltation of Jesus even though Psalm 8 is about the creation of Man:

3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? 5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: 7 all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.

When Paul says of Jesus reigning in heaven that God “has put all things in subjection under his feet,” he is quoting from Psalm 8.6, “you put everything under his feet.” Paul is speaking of the dominion given to Jesus in his resurrection using a passage that speaks of the dominion given to man (literally in the Hebrew: Adam) at his creation.

My point in briefly exegeting part of First Corinthians 15 is simply this: When Paul speaks of Jesus that “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus “every knee should bow,” of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth,” he is placing Jesus in categories that come from Genesis 1 and 2 and other Hebrew Scriptures which refer to Genesis such as Psalm 8. Jesus is given a greater dominion than Adam, but in being given a dominion, Jesus is unmistakably being compared to Adam. That’s the way Paul and his readers would be thinking. We find the author of Hebrews, to mention another example, using Psalm 8 as a prophecy of the dominion given to the resurrected Jesus Christ.

Adam Grasped but Christ Did Not
Now, in one sense, linking this passage to Adam simply reinforces the idea that this passage is about the incarnation.

But it is also an application of the incarnation which not only affirms Christ’s humanity but confronts our own ideas about humanity, and which not only affirms Jesus’ deity but which confronts our own ideas about the nature of deity.

In the first place, if we see in this passage categories from Genesis 1 and 2 and other passages like Psalm 8, then it might be profitable to ask if maybe we don’t have something here that addresses Genesis chapter 3. After all, Adam wanted to be exalted, but ended up being cast down.

And how did Adam think he could be exalted?

Adam thought he could gain equality with God by grasping at the forbidden fruit. The second Adam had a different attitude. He was happy rather to become human for our sakes.

Repentance & Holiness
And remember, this is more than just an example. We not only have in Christ an illustration of how we should think and act, but a principle of life that empowers us to think and act that way. Christianity is not simply a new law but a new life — the life of Jesus Christ imparted to his people through the Holy Spirit. Paul affirms in verse 1 of this chapter and throughout the letter that he is writing to those who are “in Christ” and who share in the communion or “fellowship of the Spirit.”

But this new life does not operate automatically as Paul himself says in verses 12 and 13 – “work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” So Paul gives the Philippians a number of exhortations before and after this passage that are both positive and negative; for example: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.”

It is worth pointing out that Paul’s portrayal of the humiliation and the exaltation of Jesus are related to these two sorts of exhortations, the negative exhortations that tell us to stop sinning and the positive exhortations to do good things. Paul goes on in Philippians to relate Christ’s death and resurrection to his own Christian walk.

I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

You see the Christian life involves both negative and positive actions — it means avoiding sin (negative) and doing what is right (positive). Actually, since we are all enmeshed in the old Adam as well as the new, it means more than that — it means repenting from sin and endeavoringf after holy living. And the death and resurrection of Christ, his humiliation and exaltation empower us to both of these activities. Paul says the same things to the Romans:

6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

I could read the whole chapter, which is devoted to explaining how our life is dependent on the death and resurrection of Christ — his death giving us repentance and his life giving us righteousness.

As long as we remain in this mortal flesh, our life will have to be a life of self-renunciation and repentance as well as one of righteous living. As J. I. Packer puts it in his book on Rediscovering Holiness, we must grow down in order to grow up in Christ Jesus.

The Key to Christian Unity
And notice how here in this passage, the self-renunciation as well as the holy living is shown to be the key to Christian unity. “Do not look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Think of Adam blaming Eve all because he wanted equality with God. We are all sons and daughters of Adam and we all share in that innate desire to put ourselves before God and others. And it is only by putting our selves to death through a life of repentance that we can hope to live out the life of Jesus our Lord. Only then can we hope to display the unity for which Christ says we are supposed to be known.

I stress this corporate dimension of repentance and holiness, not only because the Bible stresses it, but also because repentance and holiness as concepts can be so effectively used by Satan to destroy the unity in the Spirit which Paul so greatly desires. If we think in holiness in purely personal terms as a private possession — a personal achievement even if we know better than to call it that — then such alleged holiness can become a source of pride and factionalism.

Christ has revealed who we are as God’s true humanity in him. To live after the pattern of the new Adam will mean putting others first. It will mean covering over other peoples’ sins against you in love. It will mean being willing to be wronged and suffer rather than start a contention. And it will mean a great deal more.

The Apostle Paul does not say that we must regard those who have good jobs, or those with well-behaved children, or those who know more about eschatology or Church polity as more important than ourselves. He doesn’t even say we should regard Presbyterians or Baptists or Pentecostals or Methodists as more important than ourselves. No, he says, “with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.” The person who you think has the least going for him or her: that person is your test case. Will you have the mind of Christ or the mind of Adam?

And, of course, if you are aware of people who are more mature in Christ than you, then you too face a test: honest humility or resentment? To resort to the language of Romans 14, both the “strong” and the “weak,” must regard others as more important than themselves.

Christ’s Theology Better than Adam’s
I’ve been talking about humanity, but let’s not forget how this passage speaks of God. It affirms that Christ is God, even to the point in verse 10 of quoting Isaiah 45.23 as referring to Jesus.

And that brings us to a point of contention in verse 6, when Paul writes that Jesus “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.” There has been a lot of ink spilled on what exactly is meant by the Greek word translated as “to be grasped” in the NASB. The best argument I know of, that fits best in the passage, is that it means to be taken advantage of. It should read “although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be taken advantage of.” Or as the NRSV puts it: “who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited.” Jesus did not regard his equality with God as something to be used for personal gain.

Earlier, in contrasting Adam and Christ, I may have given the impression that the center of the contrast was that Adam tried to seize divine prerogatives and Jesus didn’t. That is how some scholars would interpret the verse. But that won’t work. Jesus always had equality with God. Equality with God is not something Jesus could take because he already had it. No, the contrast is not between two people wanting equality with God. Rather, the contrast is between man trying to exalt himself to become God and God willingly humbling himself to become man — even a condemned man.

Remember, Satan told Adam and Eve that God was exalting himself at their expense. God lied to you about the tree, he said, because he didn’t want to have any equals. That was Adam’s theology when he decided to eat the fruit — a theology of cosmic paranoia — a theology that said that God hates us and has a horrible plan for our lives because he has lied to us about this tree to keep us down. Jesus reveals how entirely backwards Satan’s lie really was. God’s divine status doesn’t mean he exalts himself. It means he humbles himself for the sake of others.

Jesus did not abandon his deity in his humiliation. On the contrary, he revealed it. That’s the scandal of the cross, that it reveals God — the true God, who serves others and puts their interests before his own.

Adam acted selfishly and in so doing thought of God as self-serving. If you are going to imitate Christ you need to acknowledge the God whom Christ has revealed. Your are to be Christ’s ambassador, you are to be God’s ambassador. That means your life needs to display the true God. People are dying for want of the true God. Paul’s whole message is tied up in the identity of the true God. The cross reveals that the true God does not take advantage of his status but rather serves.

God doesn’t want you to deny the gifts he has given you. If your job gives you clout, then thank God. If your children are a testimony of grace, then praise the name of the Lord. If you’ve learned something true and valuable, then don’t forget it. But never use it for personal advantage. Rather serve others and regard them as more important than yourself. If you do that, you’re imitating God; if you don’t, you’re denying him.

H. L. Mencken, the famous journalist and critic from Baltimore in the first half of the twentieth-century, once wrote an essay about why he never moved to Europe, unlike many of his cultured friends. Basically, he said, you need two things to be happy. For one thing, you need to be able to support yourself without expending two much effort. The U.S. is much better than Europe for that purpose. The second thing you need is continual affirmation that you are superior to most of the people around you. And America provides for that need in ample abundance. That was a major support of Mencken’s happiness – looking down on other people.

Well, Mencken was an atheist. Are we? Or do we believe in the God revealed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord?

Copyright © 2005

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