The Father’s Humility in Creation

In the last post we discussed the humility of God the Father before creation. Today we turn to his humility in the act of creation.

The Father’s Humility in Creation

We have established the perfect equality of the three persons. It is also important to touch on distinction within the Trinity, historically called taxis. Bruce Ware gives us some helpful categories for understanding distinctions in the Godhead.

“For Trinitarian doctrine, distinction of personhood is as necessary to maintain as unity or equality of essence is also to maintain….It is clear that two categories seem to encompass the heart of their distinctiveness: relationship and role. Each is distinct in relationship within the Godhead such that each is who he is in part defined by the distinctive relationship each has with the others. The very identity of the first person of the Trinity is seen in and through his relationship as the Father of the Son. Likewise the very identity of the second person of the Trinity is seen precisely through and not apart from his being the Son of the Father. That the Spirit is subject to both Father and Son seems, then, to make it clear that his relationship is as one under the authority of the Father and the Son. Relationship, then, is a central category for understanding what distinguishes the three persons from each other.”

Colin Gunton further discusses the Father’s relational authority over the Son and Spirit.

“The priority of the Father is not ontological but economic. Such talk of the divine economy has indeed implications for what we may say about the being of God eternally, and would seem to suggest a subordination of taxis—of ordering within the divine life—but not one of deity or regard. It is as truly divine to be the obedient self-giving Son as it is to be the Father who sends and the Spirit who renews and perfects. Only by virtue of the particularity and relatedness of all three is God God.”

We are now positioned to discuss God’s humility toward the Son and Spirit in creation. Scripture designates the Father as the one holding supreme authority. He is identified as the architect of creation. Yet, it is precisely in creation where we glimpse this King’s humility.

He empowers the Son to speak the divine fiat that brings all things into existence (Jn 1:3). He tasks the Spirit with the honor of enlivening creation through the spoken word of the Son (Gen 1:2, Ps 33:6). The Father shared the glory of bringing all things into existence. He did not keep this to himself. In the New Testament the Father gladly takes the back seat along with the Spirit as they spotlight the Son as the Creator (Jn 1:3, 1 Cor 8:6, Col 1:16-17, Heb 1:2).

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Augustine on the Humility of God

Of the early fathers, Augustine was the premier theologian of humility. Deborah Ruddy wrote a great article on Saint Augustine’s understanding of The Humble God.

She says this about Augustine and humility: “While many of the early Church Fathers spoke of humility as the Christian virtue, no one was more insistent about its primacy in the Christian life than St. Augustine, whose views bear directly on the needs of the American Church at this time. By relating humility to almost every aspect of his theology, Augustine deeply influenced the understanding of Christian humility in the Western Church.”

The following are some helpful excerpts from this article that capture some of the key components of humility in the theology of Augustine. All of the quotations are directly from Augustine.

What is so singular about Augustine’s teaching on humility is that he so clearly views Christ’s humility as more than a moral example to be imitated; it is the central way that our reconciliation with God occurs. Christ’s humility is both salvific and exemplary. It is the way and the truth. Augustine’s distinctive contribution to the topic of humility, then, is his direct linking of humility to soteriology…

On every side the humility of the good master is being assiduously impressed upon us, seeing that our very salvation in Christ consists in the humility of Christ. There would have been no salvation for us, after all, if Christ had not been prepared to humble himself for our sakes…Christ’s humility is a “saving humility.”

Without losing what God is, God becomes what God is not. In Jesus Christ, a new kind of sublimity is introduced, a new way of seeing is discovered—lowliness is inseparable from grandeur; humility is inextricably tied to exaltation…

The humbling of the Word simultaneously reveals the desperate state of humanity and the immense worth of humanity. God’s extravagant self-emptying love revealed in the Incarnation highlights, by contrast, the possessiveness of human love…

In describing Christ’s redemptive work as more curative than juridical, Augustine draws on medical images of “cleansing,” “purifying,” and “healing.” As the medicus humilis, Christ heals our particular infirmity and makes possible our return to God. If human beings had suffered from a different ailment, a different medicine would have been prescribed to counteract the symptoms; humility is the remedy because pride is the sickness…

At the heart of Augustine’s understanding of Christ’s mediation is the joining of humanity to the divinity in Christ’s person: “He has appeared as Mediator between God and men, in such ways as to join both natures in the unity of one Person, and has both raised the commonplace to the heights of the uncommon and brought down the uncommon to the commonplace…”

Augustine describes the wood of the cross as the culmination of the humble pathway to God. The humility of the cross is that which actually moves one to God. In joining their suffering to his, the humble find a direct route to communion with God: “But what good does it do a man who is so proud that he is ashamed to climb aboard the wood, what good does it do him to gaze from afar on the home country across the sea? And what harm does it do a humble man if he cannot see it from such a distance, but is coming to it nonetheless on the wood the other disdains to be carried by.

“To cling to the wood of the cross is to surrender to the movement of God, to travel willingly the road of humiliation prefigured for us in the violent rejection of Christ.” Drawing from St. Paul, Augustine preaches, “Let your faith board the wood of the cross. You won’t be drowned, but borne up by the wood instead. That, yes, that is the way in which the multitudinous seas of this world were navigated by the one who said, But far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…”

Through his likeness to humanity, Christ joins his humanity to ours, and in this similarity and solidarity “the dissimilarity of our iniquity” is overcome: “The sinner did not match the just, but man did match man. So he applied to us the similarity of his humanity to take away the dissimilarity of our iniquity, and becoming a partaker of our mortality he made us partakers of his divinity.” In this description of an exchange Christology, the humility of Christ carries the promise of our redemption, for through it, the eternal God descends to our mortality in order to invite our ascent to immortality…

The cross, then, is not merely an instrument to salvation; it is the precise way God chose to reveal himself and establish our own return to God…

The foundation of this salvific pattern is humility: “For from death comes resurrection, from resurrection ascension, from ascension the sitting at the Father’s right hand; therefore the whole process began in death, and the glorious splendor had its source in humility…”

I encourage you to click the article link at the top and read the entire thing. I found it helpful and challenging. I believe that a robust view of humility as it relates to the character of God is much needed in our theology. What are your thoughts? Where does humility fit into your view of God?

The God on his Knees

Philippians 2:1-11 is one of the most well known passages in the Pauline letters. I have been intrigued by the vision of God that is given in this passage. Here is the text for you to read and the following is a meditation on the humility of God.

1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This text is phenomenal. Paul is showing us that humility is central to the character of God.  Here we see a God who gets underneath his creatures to serve them. A God who actually considers his creatures more important than himself. A God who genuinely looks out for our interests above his own. Stunning!

This text points us to the reality that Jesus is God’s chosen self-disclosure. If you want to know what God is like you must look to Jesus. This is implicit in the text. It is explicit elsewhere. John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God; the only God who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” Jesus has explained God to the world. He has led him out from behind the curtain for all to see.

Hebrews 1:3 says that Jesus is the “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”  When you look at Jesus you see God.And when we do look at Jesus, what do we see?

We see a humble man serving us with great humility and sacrifice at every turn. The text maps out the humble journey of the Son of God. At each critical juncture, we see humility embodied and explained. I want to highlight three junctures in the journey of Jesus: the crib, the cross, and the crown. All three of this junctures are marked by humility.

The Crib


In verses 3 and 4 the text reads, “in humility count others as more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also the interest of others.” Paul tells us that this was precisely the mindset of Jesus. It was his frame of mind when he agreed with the Father to come into this world and become a man.

As C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less about yourself, but thinking about yourself less.” It is the freedom of self-forgetfulness and the joy of throwing yourself into the service of others. This is what characterizes the life of God.

Verse 6 is quite incredible, “although he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.” Jesus was fully equal with God. But he did not use his divine status as an excuse to remove himself from our need. He did not cling to his exalted position instead he used it for our good. “He emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

One author explains the significance of this statement as follows: “The decision to become human, and to go all the way along the road of obedience, obedience to the divine plan of salvation, yes, all the way was not a decision to stop being divine. It was a decision about what it really meant to be divine.” In other words, the fact that Jesus refused to remain in heaven speaks volumes about God. This is a God who uses all of his divine resources to serve and save us!

In Jesus we behold a God in the crib. A God so humble that he was willing to become a child. He was willing to be clothed and fed by a mother. He was willing to learn to crawl, talk, and dress himself—so that one day he could put himself on a piece of wood and die for us!

The Cross


Paul tells us in verse 8 that Jesus “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

This is the climax of humble service. Everything in the life of Jesus was building to this moment. As Luther once said, “The cross and crib are cut from the same wood.” The cross was just the next stage in his humble service toward us. But the cross changes everything. The definition of humility was forever altered after the Son of God was hung upon a tree for you and me. Who is this God?

Hearers of this message in Paul’s day would have been absolutely stunned that any deity would be connected to humility and more than that a cross. Humility was not a virtue for the roman gods; it was a weakness. Augustine was adamant that you would not find the quality of humility ever attributed to any other so called god. This was a virtue that belonged exclusively to Jesus Christ.

A cross was even crazier—many thought that the early Christians were “mad” for worshipping a God that had been crucified. Crucifixion was the ultimate shameful death—how could you claim that a god could ever be crucified and even more how could you ever worship such a weak and helpless god?

The truth, however, is that the cross is the greatest display of humble love the world has ever known. It expresses to us that we have a God who was literally humbled to death for our sake! A God who was swallowed by death in order to destroy it from the inside—for us!

Luther says, “Now it is not sufficient for anyone, and it does him no good to recognize God in his glory and majesty, unless he recognizes him in the humility and shame of the cross.” Why? Because this is his glory! The God who comes low and took on death to demonstrate the depth of his concern—this is glory.

Without a humble God we could not be saved. Augustine said “there would be no salvation for us if Christ had not been prepared to humble himself for our sakes.” The humility of Jesus is a saving humility. He is not just showing us the way of humility. He is saving us by his humility.

The Crown


Paul tells us that this humiliation takes a turn to exaltation. God highly exalts him and gives him a name above all names. And it is at this name that every knee will bow and tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father.

Even here the glory of humility is evident. It is the humility of God that brings us to our knees in adoration. When we behold the stunning and unexpected glory of humility, we ourselves are humbled. God crushes us with his kindness—it is his kindness that leads us to repentance. I believe this is just another dimension or angle on his humility.

When the Son is exalted what does he do in heaven as he sits at the right hand of God enthroned? The book of Hebrews and the book of Romans both tell us that he does not sit on his throne much—instead we find him on his knees interceding and praying for us! This is how he reigns from heaven—with sacrificial concern and service.

When we look at Jesus we behold a God on his knees. Crawling as a baby. Falling to his knees as he carries the cross. On his knees in prayer as our King. The glory of his humility is blinding. He considers us as more important than himself and proves it by giving his own life for our sake. Such humility beckons us—calls us to worship. It calls us to join God on our knees. If we serve a God who is comfortable on his knees then surely that is where we will meet with him.