by J. I. Packer
Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” JOHN 5:19
Humility in Scripture means, not pretending to be worthless and refusing positions of responsibility, but knowing and keeping the place God has appointed for one. Being humble is a matter of holding on to God’s arrangement, whether it means the high exposure of leadership (Moses was humble as a leader, Num. 12:3) or the obscurity of subservience. When Jesus stated matter-of-factly that he was “humble in heart” (Matt. 11:29), he meant that he was conscientiously following the Father’s plan for his earthly life.
In this he was keeping his place as the second Person of the Godhead. The three Persons of the Holy Trinity are eternal and self-existent, partaking equally of all aspects and attributes of deity, and always acting together in cooperative solidarity. But the unchanging cooperative pattern is that the second and third Persons identify with the purpose of the first, so that the Son becomes the Father’s executive and the Spirit acts as the agent of both. It is the Son’s nature and joy to do his Father’s will (John 4:34).
Regarding redemption, the Father’s will for the Son is sometimes called the covenant of redemption, since it has the form of an agreement between two parties on a program and a promise. The Westminster Confession summarizes the agreement (the Father’s purpose, accepted by the Son) as follows:
It pleased God in his eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only-begotten Son, to be the Mediator between God and man, the Prophet, Priest, and King, the Head and Savior of his Church, the heir of all things, and Judge of the world: unto whom he did from all eternity give a people, to be his seed, and to be by him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified. (For the ideas and phraseology of this statement, see Eph. 3:11; 1 Pet. 1:20; 1 Tim. 2:5; Acts 3:22; Heb. 5:5-6; Luke 1:33; Eph. 5:23; Heb. 1:2; Acts 17:31; Isa. 53:10; John 17:6; 1 Cor. 1:30; Rom. 8:29-30.)
This purpose of the Father for the Son had two stages. The first stage was humiliation. The eternal Son let go of his glory and through incarnation became a poor man and a religious outsider. Finally, by means of a show trial and unscrupulous manipulation of Pilate’s moral weakness, he became a condemned criminal dying a dreadful death as mankind’s sin-bearer (Phil. 2:6-8; 2 Cor. 8:9; Gal. 3:13; 4:4-5).
The second stage was exaltation. Christ rose, ascended, and now by his Father’s appointment reigns as king over the world and the church (Phil. 2:9-11), sending the Holy Spirit (John 15:26; 16:7; Acts 2:33) and thereby applying to us the redemption that by dying he won for us. Drawing those given him to himself (John 12:32), interceding for them (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; John 17), guarding, guiding, and caring for them as a shepherd cares for his sheep (John 10:27-30), he is currently bringing many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10) according to the Father’s plan, and he will continue to do so until all God’s elect have come to repentance and new life (2 Pet. 3:9).
In all of this the Son is obeying the Father in true humility, living out a natural, voluntary, and joyful subordination. Meanwhile, the Father’s aim of having the Son worshiped and glorified equally with himself is steadily being fulfilled (John 5:19-23).