Friday, October 12, 2012

Theology Sings: Thoughts on the Hymn of Philippians 2:5-11

Sunday we discussed the important Christological passage of Paul in Philippians 2:5-11. Some scholars believe that Paul is quoting from or alluding to a Christian hymn that might predate Paul himself. This might sound like a mute point. After all, whether or not this passage of Scripture is melodic or not plays no real role in the interpretation of the text. Even without knowing that this could be an ancient church hymn or confession, on the surface, is irrelevant. The message remains the same.

But, assuming it is a hymn, is significant for our current context. If this is a hymn, and psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs flood Scripture, then there are a few things we ought to take away from it. Here is the three things I mentioned Sunday:

1. The Deity of Jesus is Not a Myth

Paul defends the full deity of Jesus here.  His central argument regards humility, unity, joy, and obedience (vs. 1-4) and points us to the example of Christ. He emphasizes Christ's humility by first affirming His deity. Christ, being God, put on flesh assuming the role of a slave. This is a clear defense, or even automatic Christian assumption, of the deity of Christ.

If this is a hymn that predates the writing of this letter, then that key doctrine of the deity of Christ is very early. Passages like this (and 1 Corinthians 15:1ff) suggests that Christians have always believed that Jesus was God contradicting those who believe that there were a diversity of Christian beliefs or that Christ's deity was a later doctrine.

This means, then, what we believe about JC is not a myth or a legend, but is what Christians have always believed. It takes decades, if not centuries, for myths and legends to develop. If this is a hymn, then we can have an even firmer faith, that what we believe about Christ has always been believed by the faithful by Christ. Thus those who claim to be Christian and yet deny the full deity of Christ are believing in a myth and a legend that simply is not true.

Jesus Christ is God in flesh.

2.    Theology is to be Sung

Worship songs & hymns that are simplistic, empty, or could be confused w/ a generic love song aren’t good enough. I'm sure you've sang those songs, whether contemporary or traditional, that are so generic you could sing them in the club, at the school dance, or at youth camp. "I love you yes I do" might be directed at God in your heart, but could easily be played at your wedding.

The truths of Scripture, of the gospel, and of Christ are to be extolled by the church. Too often we cheapen the these precious truths of our faith by simple songs that have no meat. Every time we see God in Scripture on His throne, we hear singing. The angels are singing without end in Isaiah 6 and the glorified believers in Revelation join the chorus. The reason is because the presence and truth of God leads to unending joy and celebration. But without a deep theology and a true knowledge of the Holy One, our worship will be bland and an emptying running through the motions.

Worship God in spirit and in truth. That can only happen when we know the Spirit and the Truth. Truth leads to worship.

3.    Worship is a Time of Learning

Paul understands that worship moves the heart & transforms the mind, but too often we mouth the words without ever directing our thanksgiving & awe towards God. Nor do we ever allow the words to inform our thinking & understanding of the gospel.

I have had to start singing with my head down, not in prayer, but in reading. I have gotten so use to mouthing the words I've memorized after decades of singing the same songs that my mind is far away from the precious truths I am singing. Thus I am making myself to study the songs we sing that reveal what we are to believe - the gospel.

Let us not forsake the opportunity we have in worship. Worship is a time of celebration and of learning. A song that reflects the truths of Scripture and the gospel will arm us with a deeper knowledge of the Holy One and our simplistic, bottom shelf, lazy church could really use more insight into who God is.


This is all to say that we need to take worship more seriously. To my seminary friends who study the Puritans but don't sing like them do not truly love the gospel. To my congregation who gather with other believers on a Sunday morning failing to worship their Savior in spirit and truth have failed to be the church.

Theology matters and theology sings. Let us rejoice and praise the Lord.

For more:
Philippians 2:5-11 & Kenotic Theology
Book Recommendation: "Humility" by CJ Mahaney
September 2, 2012 | Philippians 1:1-11 - The Joy of Thanksgiving & Prayer
Grudem on the Deity of Christ 
The Gospel Coalition on the Deity of Christ 
Mahaney on the Person and Work of Christ:  Christ Our Mediator  
Stomach Virus' and the Humanity of Christ:  Moore on the Suffering and Sick Servant
Sayers on the Incarnation of Christ  
If Jesus Were Born in Our Digital Age
December 26, 2010 - Jesus is Human
December 19, 2012 - Jesus is God
Basic Christianity: Daniel 4:29-37 - Humility Before God
Basic Christianity: James 4:1-10 - Humility Before Others

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