B.B. WARFIELD: WE ARE CALLED "NOT TO UNSELFING OURSELVES, BUT TO UNSELFISHING OURSELVES"
B.B. Warfield explains the nuances of this distinction most ably in a sermon from The Saviour of the World (1913) titled “Imitating the Incarnation,” pp. 265-270. In the eloquent words below, Warfield also teaches us what it means to follow Christ’s example of humility in the truest sense, and what that looks like and leads to for the Christian on earth and into eternity.
"…it is difficult to set a limit to the self-sacrifice which the example of Christ calls upon us to be ready to undergo for the good of our brethren. It is comparatively easy to recognize that the ideal of the Christian life is self-sacrificing unselfishness, and to allow that it is required of those who seek to enter into it, to subordinate self and to seek first the kingdom of God. But is it so easy to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that this is to be read not generally merely but in detail, and is to be applied not only to some eminent saints but to all who would be Christ's servants? — that it is required of us, and that what is required of us is not some self-denial but all self-sacrifice? Yet is it not to this that the example of Christ would lead us? — not, of course, to self-degradation, not to self-effacement exactly, but to complete self-abnegation, entire and ungrudging self-sacrifice? Is it to be unto death itself? Christ died. Are we to endure wrongs? What wrongs did He not meekly bear? Are we to surrender our clear and recognized rights ? Did Christ stand upon His unquestioned right of retaining His equality with God? Are we to endure unnatural evils, permit ourselves to be driven into inappropriate situations, unresistingly sustain injurious and unjust imputations and attacks? What more unnatural than that the God of the universe should become a servant in the world, ministering not to His Father only, but also to His creatures, — our Lord and Master washing our very feet ? What more abhorrent than that God should die? There is no length to which Christ's self-sacrifice did not lead Him. These words are dull and inexpressive; we cannot enter into thoughts so high. He who was in the form of God took such thought for us, that He made no account of Himself. Into the immeasurable calm of the divine blessedness He permitted this thought to enter, "I will die for men!" And so mighty was His love, so colossal the divine purpose to save, that He thought nothing of His divine majesty, nothing of His unsullied blessedness, nothing of His equality with God, but, absorbed in us,—our needs, our misery, our helplessness — He made no account of Himself. If this is to be our example, what limit can we set to our self-sacrifice? Let us remember that we are no longer our own but Christ's, bought with the price of His precious blood, and are henceforth to live, not for ourselves but for Him, — for Him in His creatures, serving Him in serving them. Let all thought of our dignity, our possessions, our rights, perish out of sight, when Christ's service calls to us. Let the mind be in us that was also in Him, when He took no account of Himself, but, God as He was, took the form of a servant and humbled Himself, — He who was Lord, — to lowly obedience even unto death, and that the death of the cross. In such a mind as this, where is the end of unselfishness?