John Chrysostom On the Incomprehensible Nature of God Sermon 10: Phil. 2:5-8 What does the humiliation of Christ mean if he did not humble himself?

Sermon 10 is the last sermon on this subject that Chrysostom preached in Antioch before his “promotion” to Constantinople. As such, much of it is review and I will not take the time to go over it here again.

Towards the end of the sermon, however, Chrysostom brings out a crucial implication of Philippians 2:5-8 that I am not sure I have ever presented (50-56).[1] The crux of the passage is that Jesus humbled himself. The Son did not consider equality with the Father something he had to cling to jealously or seize with treachery. While Paul does not say in so many words that the Son was in fact equal with the Father, his whole argument demands it. If the Son were not equal to the Father it would not have been act of humility to take on flesh and submit to the Father’s will: it would have been duty. When my 3 year old son obeys me, he is not humbling himself. He “owes” me obedience. When I am “on the job” I am not humbling myself when I do what my boss tells me to do. I “owe” my boss that service.

But Jesus humbled himself. If Jesus humbled himself under the Father that means he had no obligation to do so. An inferior does not humble himself to his superior. A superior can humble himself to his inferior, or an equal can humble himself to his equal. And in fact, Jesus did both of these. As man’s superior Jesus humbled himself to be man’s servant. As the Father’s equal, Jesus humbled himself to be the Father’s Servant.


[1] All paragraph references refer to those in Paul W. Harkins, St John Chrysostom On the Incomprehensible Nature of God (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1984).

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