Our Lord Jesus Himself effected man’s liberation by the truth of the gospel, the word of the cross, and resurrection. He frees man from the enslavement of sin and of the devil by granting new life by His sacrifice. Through faith in Him and by the power of God, He creates the new man “in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph 4:24). The person becomes a lover of God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23). He becomes like our Lord, the model man. When the Lord exhorted the disciples (and by extension of the Scriptures, us) to “do as I have done to you,” He did not mean the sole act of feet washing, but the whole pattern of His life, a life of humble service. Our Lord Jesus, as the model man, is the example to be followed; He is also the efficient cause which enables this life. Following the pattern is possible only through the new life imparted by the will of the Father, the work of the Son, and application of the Spirit through faith. Only then can we find strength to do as Paul exhorts. “If there is any encouragement in Christ … regard one another as more important than yourselves; Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:1-5 NASB).
Humility is defined as the posture of lowering oneself in relation to others, and acknowledging one’s place in context. For Christians, it is the recognition of self in relation to God. The word “humility” is from the Latin humilitas, related etymologically to humilis, grounded, low, or “from the earth,” derived from humus – earth. Sadly, we as believers often fail to remember our own frailty, whether it be in the context of family, work, the assembly, or even as it manifests itself in our posture in prayer. We lord our authority, boast of our knowledge, backbite, and divide. On the other hand, our God, as our Maker, knows how we are made. “He is mindful that we are but dust,” that is of the earth – humus (Psa 103:14, Gen 2:7, NASB). Narcissism, which is the pursuit of gratification coupled with admiration of one’s own attributes, and hubris, extreme pride and overestimation of one’s self, are the total antithesis of humility. The model Man described in Philippians is diametrically opposed to narcissism and hubris. He “… did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped…but made himself of no reputation.” The Greek words, kenosis and doulos impart the truth “took the form of a slave,” and explain how He became obedient to God. These defining features of Christ, far from being exclusive marks of His earthly actions, are posited by the apostle as key features of the cross of Calvary, and as the supreme inducement of humility for believers. The writer posits that this key feature of Christ’s life and death, namely humility, is the mark of the model Man – Our Lord Himself, and should be the mark of any believer, male or female, who would be like the Master.
The natural question then is, if Christ as the model Man is primarily defined as to His humility, how does that apply to all the relations which are linked with manhood? After all, the man Jesus of Nazareth did not have a wife, children, etc. The temptation in seeking to define manhood is first to lean heavily on the themes of headship, strength, and courage, and second, to relegate manhood to the realm of the home. The New Testament ethic indeed supports the aforementioned, but never to the neglect of this overarching principle of humility as a way of life. It does not follow that lack of certain earthly relations hinders the full expression of manhood. If our ultimate “context” as believers is before God, it follows that any and all earthly relations will be determined by our attitude and position before Him, as creature before his Maker. Far from being a shallow estimation of oneself, as is usually the temptation in regard to humility, C. S. Lewis has said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”
Our Lord exemplifies what it means to be human. He was made flesh and blood, a real man. Every cardinal doctrine of the person of Christ is illuminated by His humility. His incarnation was marked by the lowly womb and the manger of Bethlehem. His life showed His subjection to His parents in obscure Nazareth. In His ministry, He was self-effacing, ministering to the outcasts, the unlearned, and sinners. His doctrine was lived out in service to humanity, coupled with subjection to God. His sufferings were silently endured. Our redemption was accomplished by Him dying our death, so that we might live. His resurrection exemplifies His humility, for it was accomplished by the Spirit and the Father. Even His ascension, session (seated on the right hand), and His second coming, all show aspects of humility
This aspect of true humanity, real manhood, is difficult for us to learn. Three years of the disciples’ intimate fellowship with our Lord culminated with the necessary lesson of foot washing. The apostle Paul learned humility by his afflictions (2Cor 12). Our Lord Jesus Himself learned obedience by what He suffered (Heb 5:8). May the Lord forgive the sin of thinking we should be exempt from the same.
Our Father holds the tools of suffering and discipline for our pruning (John 15:2), in order that we might be cleansed, bearing more fruit to His glory! As a result, forth comes the sanctified, new humanity, model men and women, recreated in His image. This was His intent from the beginning. All that we say and do should be reflective of Christ’s worth. Our manhood, whether collectively in the assembly or individually in the context of life, ought to be modeled after the model Man, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who said of Himself, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (Matt 20:28 NASB)