Trinity Proof Texts: Phil 2:6
Jesus is not a creature
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Paraphrase of Philippians 2:6-8:
“INCARNATION OF JESUS MADE EASY
Although Jesus created the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1, in harmony with the Father’s will (Jn 1:3,10; 1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:16; Heb 1:8-12). Before His incarnation Jesus existed in heaven in the form of God, possessing the very authority, power and appearance of God. Jesus consented to the eternal plan of the Father who placed Jesus divine Spirit into the body of a man in Mary’s womb. God created man in His own image (Gen 1:26-27), where man’s human spirit is ontologically and “mechanically” identical to the divine spirit of God. Making man in God’s image facilitated a perfect interchangeability between the divine Spirit of God and the created human body and conversely, the created human spirit with the divine body of God. Think of the incarnation as putting an after-market new engine into an old car body. If both the engine and car body are made by “Ford”, the engine (spirit) drops right into the car (body) because the “motor mounts” of the spirit of God and the spirit of man are identical to run the human body. Jesus was grasping equality with God in His hand, but he “let equality with God go”, releasing his handgrip on equality with God. Jesus’ Spirit was disconnected from His divine “body” of God and placed inside a temporary physical human body inside Mary’s womb. As a man, he had fully released his grasp of being equal in rank with God. In contrast to Adam, who was a man who reached for equality with God and sinned, Jesus was God, who gave up equality with God to become a man to save Adam and all mankind from their sins. While Jesus walked the earth as a man, he continued to possess all the fullness of deity as uncreated God (Col 2:9) but his divine powers were limited by His human body. Now even angels were greater in power than Jesus. As Jesus grew as a normal human child (Lk 2:52), he recognized he no longer possessed the power and rank of God but was made exactly like his brethren (a man) in all ways” (Heb 2:17) so Jesus humbled Himself before both God and Man and became obedient to God to the point of death on the cross. The death of Christ poses a huge logistics problem for Unitarians because they always deny man consciously survives death (Lk 16:19-31; 20:37-38). In a perfect example of “Domino Theology” Unitarians historically first rejected eternal conscious torment in Hell, then second, conscious life after death, which finally forced them to make Jesus into a creature and strip Him of deity. Indeed, how could a divine Jesus-creator God cease to exist during the three days he was dead. But Jesus certainly saw and likely even talked with the thief on the cross during Jesus’ three days in paradise (Luke 23:43). On the first day of the week, by Jesus’ own divine power, along with the Father and Holy Spirit, Jesus raised himself up from the dead. (Acts 2:32; John 2:19; Rom 1:4). The body of Jesus after the resurrection was identical to His body before the resurrection (Lk 24:36-43; John 20:20, 27; 21:12-14) and he continued in submission to God (Jn 20:17). However, at his ascension after He disappeared in the clouds (Acts 1:9-11), Jesus’ divine spirit was “reverse incarnated” back into the body of God and Jesus’ prayer was answered to be “glorified with the same glory He had with the Father before creation” (Jn 17:5; 1:1; 8:58; 17:24). The downranking and submission of Jesus to the Father at the incarnation (Jn 14:28) is eternal and continues after the second coming. (1 Cor 15:28) At the resurrection, Man’s spirit will be placed in a body of God identical to Jesus. (1 Jn 3:2) However just as Jesus continued to be uncreated-God when his spirit was placed inside a human body, so too we will continue to be created-man in heaven when our created spirit is placed in our glorified bodies (1 Cor 15:50-54). Jesus did not give up deity by wearing a man-body on earth, and man does not become God by wearing a God-body in heaven. Jesus is ever-divine, and humans are ever-creatures who worship the Father and the Son, as seen in Revelation 4 & 5. (Mt 2:2,8; 11; 14:33; 28:9, 17; Luke 24:52; John 9:38; Rom 1:25; Heb 1:6 + Deut 32:43 LXX + Dead Sea Scroll 4Q44 + Justin Martyr, Dialogue 130)” Now we wait for the future second coming of Jesus (Heb 9:28) when the elements of the periodic table that make up heaven and earth will be uncreated (Mark 13:31; 2 Peter 3:10-13; Rev 20:11). All men will stand before God in Judgement to an eternity in heaven with God and his angels or in hell with the devil and his demons. (Rev 20:11-15)”
Introduction to Philippians 2:6-8:
1. TRUTH: When God the son, creator, emptied himself of equality with God the Father, and became a man through the incarnation, and submissive to the Father forever, THAT is an example of humility that is both rational and amazing! Jesus is not a creature.
a. If Jesus is a creature: “Look how humble I am, I never tried to be equal to God! Imitate me.” A man who even considers trying to be equal with God is not a model of humility for others to imitate, he is mentally ill. Exactly what value is there in Paul telling us that Jesus never “grasped at” equality with God if he is a mere creature? Even worse, how it is considered humble to not consider doing something that is impossible for any creature to achieve and therefore delusional? Any creature, angel or man who contemplates equality with God contemplates treason. A servant is not praised when he tells the king he has no interest in usurping his position. When Jesus rejects being equal with God, it is not humility, it is reality and self-acceptance. Jesus was in the “form of God” at the transfiguration, but didn’t consider “grasping at” equality with God, but was content to continue to live as a creature-man, then Moses, & Elijah are equal to Jesus as our example of humility because they were also given great authority and were also in the “form of God”. Moses was even equal to “God” to Pharaoh (Ex 4:16) but called the most humble man on earth (Num 12:3).
b. This makes zero sense!
2. We ask one question: How can it be any example of humility that Christ "gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God" (NWT)? Think about that for a moment, If, as Jehovah's Witnesses say, Jesus was a creature that looked like God, but Jesus knew he was not equal to God, how can it be humility that he refused to claim to be equal with God? Such is not an example of humility at all, but reality and sanity.
a. Phil 2:6-8 is a passage that no amount of twisting by the Jehovah's Witnesses or Christadelphians can pervert to say anything other than Jesus was God in the uncreated sense. Only when we read the text with the understanding that Christ was already equal with God, can the passage show any example of humility when he refused to "grasp at an equality" which he already possessed.
b. Jehovah's Witnesses, Christadelphians, Bible students (JW splinter groups) and other Arians try to make the verse say that Jesus, being a humble creature, never wanted to reach out for equality with God. They say that this was the devil's mistake in trying to be equal with God (without scriptural proof of course). But even if that was true it still doesn't help them in Phil 2:6. Our approach lays the axe at the root of the false doctrine!
c. The "Arian View" of the Phil 2:6 violates the context as much as it is an assault on logic. The Jehovah's Witnesses, for example, claim that Jesus being a creature, showed us an example of humility by not claiming to be equal with God. This is like saying that when an average guy on the street admits he is not equal to the President of the United States, that he should be praised for his humility. How ridiculous! If Jesus was a creature, as the Watchtower claims, then his unwillingness to claim equality with God is not an act of humility, it is reality and a simple recognition of fact. When a slave stands before a king and admits he is not equal to the King, the slave is not praised for being humble. A slave who claims to be equal with the king commits treason. Conversely, slaves who are unwilling to commit such treason, are never praised as humble! In fact, if such a slave actually expected commendation for "being humble", by not claiming equality, he would be seen as delusional at best, mentally ill at worst. A slave who says to a King, "Your Majesty, I just wanted you to know how humble I am because I don't think I am equal to you", is sent away for a psychiatric examination.
3. If I as a created man, refuse to say I am not equal with God, that is not humility but reality, with no praise due, certainly no humility. It is not humble to admit you are not equal to God when you are not God but a creature. Jehovah's Witnesses fail to realize that the only interpretation of Phil 2:6 that illustrates humility, is if Jesus was already equal with God and gave that equality up to become a man. That truly is humility!
a. Jehovah's Witnesses are often heard to say: "According to the BAGD lexicon, the context would have to determine whether the meaning is 'grasped in hand', or 'grasped at'". We agree and its the context of humility that proves these neo-Arians wrong.
Jehovah's Witnesses believe Jesus is a created angel, second only to God in rank. They make Phil 2:6 read that this high ranking angel never wanted to be equal with God but became a man instead. How is this an example of humility? An angel that refuses to grasp for equality with God, is merely keeping his God ordained place. This is why the Jehovah's Witness interpretation violates the prime context of the verse. It is even worse for Christadelphians who believe Jesus had no personal existence at all before his conception. This is irrefutable logic, that no amount of Arian bias can overcome. The text simply makes no sense as the Anti-Trinitarians interpret it. When our line of reasoning that focuses on the context of "the example of humility", is finally comprehended by Jehovah's Witnesses and Christadelphians, they are dumbfounded into silent retreat. This is so devastating to the false doctrine of Jehovah's Witnesses, they simply have no answer. This is because the only way the text makes any sense, is if Jesus was already equal to God before the incarnation.
4. Christadelphians and those who teach “logos theology” believe that Jesus had no existence before the virgin birth.
a. Jesus is a creature.
b. Jesus did not exist as an angel or ANTHING before he was conceived.
c. Just as we had no pre-existence before our conception, the same is true for Jesus… according to “logos-theologians”.
Four views of Phil 2:6-8
Form of God
Equality with Father before incarnation
A creature, not divine
Never possessed or desired equality
Divine creator: Eternally pre-existent uncreated God
Inward unchangeable (deity)
Always possessed equality, and did not give it up on earth.
Emptied himself of himself. "Emptying by adding"
Grasped equality in hand and let it go to become a man. Gave up rank of God
Divested himself of form of God and equality in rank with Father
Grasped equality in hand and let it go.
Divested himself of deity.
II. Summaries of 84 Commentaries on Phil 2:6-8
III. Classification of Commentators on Phil 2:6-8
A. Semi Kenotic
Gene Frost, 1990, The deity of Christ, p6,15,17
· "The form is not identical with the divine essence, but is dependent upon it, a reflection of it; the appearance can be laid aside, but not the essence of one's being"
· he bore the form (in which he appeared to the inhabitants of heaven) of God (the sovereign, opp. to morphe doulou), yet he did not think that this equality with God was to be eagerly clung to or retained ... but emptied himself of it ...
· He emptied Himself of glory. (John 17:5) Instead of appearing among men in the divine morphe and thus compelling them to accept the fact that He is God, He emptied Himself of that divine morphe and took the morphe of a bondservant ...
· And so the Son of God gave up His environment and form of glory to take upon Himself the limitations of place (space) and of knowledge and power.
· this form, not His deity, Jesus was willing to give up on earth in order to take the role of a servant... appearing in the visage and limitations that characterize man... He gave up the prerogatives of His deity, which were merely held in abeyance (except when they did not compromise His role as servant)...Jesus did not use any of His powers or privileges that would contradict or subvert that role. ...He called upon the Holy Spirit in performance of miracles ... He could not have donned the majestic glory that was His, or proved His godhood by invoking His own power without negating His role a servant.... To maintain that outward appearance, He did not vaunt the powers that were His, but looked to the Father and the Holy Spirit, attributing to them the leading role. This self-imposed limitation explains the many references where Jesus gives honor (glory) to the Father, rather than demonstrating His own deity by the exercise of His own power.
Gene Frost Frost/Welch debate 1996
· we all agree that Jesus laid aside certain rights and abilities that He has as God, so in effect He was without them, we do not agree that He was stripped of them so that He did not possess the characteristics that make him God. To the man, we believe that Jesus retained His deity, as the word is legitimately defined."
· "When Jesus came to this earth he did not lose his power, he did not lose his prerogatives, his privileges. He did not cease to be God. He took another role, he didn't use what he had. He came to serve, not to show himself to be God. He came to do the will of the Father, and coming to earth Jesus changed roles. He took on himself the form of a servant. As a servant Jesus did every thing in this role. As a servant, Jesus would not, he did not use his innate power to give himself glory, which he surrendered. He lived in the flesh. He experienced in every way what the human spirit experiences in the body. He imposed upon himself all the limitations necessary or commensurate with this role." (Frost gave Welch this statement one year earlier at the Oneil/Welch debate as a foundation for mutual agreement)
· It doesn't mean He emptied Himself of those characteristics that belong to deity, which would mean He emptied Himself of deity. It doesn't mean that. The King James translators had it right: "He made himself of no reputation."
· "Jesus gave up something in order to take on a new role, that is he gave up the glory, the position, the role that he had with the Father." (Welch quoting Frost)
· "He gave up that equality with the Father to take a subservient role in the redemption of man." (Welch quoting Frost from sometime before the debate)
· "When Christ came he gave up the form of God, not really, he gave it up in appearance." (recording of Frost from sometime before the debate)
· "This form of God, Christ laid aside in his incarnation." (recording of Frost from sometime before the debate)
Maurice Barnett 1990, The deity of Christ, p54-55
· He did give up the glory connected with Godly form and environment. This passage says that he exemplified a mind of humility in giving up the "form" of God to come in the flesh ... there was a change in outward appearance ... It is not the form of angels nor man, but is exclusive to the Godhead. It is this distinctive form that Jesus gave up to come into the world. It is in this distinctive form of the Godhead that Paul says he was equal with God.
· Jesus did not give up all equality with the Father when he came to earth in human form! ... Jesus, though he had always existed in the distinctive shape and appearance of the Godhead to all those in the heavenly realm, gave up that area of equality with God. He emptied himself...
Maurice Barnett, The person of Christ, 1996, p43,47,49
· existing in the form of God, the word God is talking about God as He is in heaven. We are not talking about a God who has no substance to him and is hence just an apparition, an outward vision, a facade, and outer form with nothing behind it. Morphe simply emphasized the outward appearance of this divinity, His majesty and glory. ... When God came into the world as Jesus of Nazareth, He changed His form. God can change His outward appearance and remain God. He has the power to do that. Jesus existed in the glorious majesty
· I conclude that the present participles mean the same thing in both places. That is, being originally rich, there was a time when He became "poor". Likewise, being originally in the form of God, there was a time when He empties and humbled Himself.
James Needham, Sharpe Needham debate, GOT Nov 20, 97
· the "external appearance" and a "mode of being" and "existence" that can be changed
· Jesus emptied himself of that form which was equal with God in form, that is spirit, and that is contrasted with the form he took on as a man, a flesh, blood and bones body.
James Needham, Sharpe Needham debate, GOT Nov 20, 97
· the term form means "external appearance. this form is something which can be changed
· His own peculiarly divine attributes: His characteristics that set him apart as deity. I neither affirm or believe he emptied himself of the possession of these attributes but that He emptied himself of their use.
John Welch, O'neal Welch debate, 1994
· form of God is not God's essential nature or deity
· morphe cannot be essential unchanging nature of God
· Christ empties himself of the form of God for the form of a servant.
· the word "but" is an adversative conjunction which joins the preceding clause with the subsequent clause and sets these clauses at opposition.
· paraphrased: Christ emptied himself of the form of God, divine glory, equality with God, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, impossibility of temptation
· Christ did not empty himself of deity, godhood or essential divine qualities
Tom O'neal, Welch O'neal debate, 1994
· Jesus emptied Himself of glory and instead of appearing among men in the divine morphe or form ... he emptied himself of that divine morphe and took the morphe of a bondservant.
· Jesus did not give up his deity, divinity or Godhood when he came to this earth. He simply took upon himself the form of a servant... the form of a servant was added, the form of God was not subtracted. (walking in truth, jan 1993, p8)
· He stripped himself of the ensignia of majesty, that is what the word "empty" means
Peter McPherson, Email, 98
· It is argued that since "in the form of" "a servant" or "of men" must mean in every way like men, that the phrase "in the form of God" must mean in every way the very same as God.
· "non-essential changeable outward appearance of deity" if you mean by this what God in heaven is like; this "form" He gave up
· What He gave up was, according to John 17:5 was "the (magnificent) glory (that He) had with (the Father) before the world was." Illustration: As a man ages he loses some of his former glory, but he is still the same man. Likewise Jesus gave up some "glory" as it related to His own in-heaven-nature, but He did not lose His essential nature.
· what God in heaven is like; this "form" He gave up
· Jesus gave up the "form of God" (outward appearance) and did not possess it on earth
H.C.G. Moule, Cambridge Greek New Testament, 1906, pages 38-39.
· Of late years much has been said on this great mystery by way of proving or suggesting that "in the days of His Flesh" (Heb. v. 7) our Lord (practically) parted with His Deity, and became the (Incarnate) Son of God only in His glorification after death. In particular it is suggested that He accepted all the limits and defects of humanity as it is in us, moral defects excepted (and this exception is not always adequately made); and so was liable not only to hunger, fatigue, and agitation, but also to mistakes about fact, even in so great a matter as the nature of the 0. T. Scriptures. On such inferences it must be enough here to say first that they can be connected only remotely with this passage, which practically explains the ~Kenosis~ to mean His becoming the truly Human Bondservant of the Father and then that they are little in harmony with the whole tone of the Gospels, which present to us the Lord Jesus on earth as "meek and lowly" indeed, but always mysteriously majestic, dependent indeed on the Father, and upheld by the Spirit, but always addressing man with the manner of absolute knowledge and of sovereign power to meet his needs.
· It is enough for us to know that this ~Kenosis~ was for him unspeakably real; that He was pleased, as to His holy Manhood, to "live by the Spirit," as we are to do; yet that the inalienable basis of His Personality was always, eternally, presently, Divine. The ultimate and reasoned analysis of that unique Phenomenon, God and Man, One Christ, is HIS matter, not ours. It is for us to accept Him in its good and certain results, at once our Brother and our God. Lightfoot says here nearly all that can be said with reverent confidence: "'He divested Himself' not of His Divine nature, for thus was impossible, but of the glories, the prerogatives, of Deity. This He did by taking upon Him the form of a servant."
International Critical Commentary, Philippians, Marvin R. Vincent p 79
· form: morfh'/
· Appearance: oJmoiwvmati
· Plato and Aristotle use morphe in the sense of outward appearance. (Plat. Repub. 2:381C; Phaedr. 271A; Arist Hist. An i.I,7,ii.10,1,2)
· the prominent thought is "thought is not a thing to be grasped"
· the awkwardness of regarding a state of being as an act of robbery needs no comment.
· quoting Meyer who Paraphrased: "Jesus Christ, when he found himself in the heavenly mode of existence of divine glory, did not permit himself the thought of using his equality with God for the purpose of seizing possession and honor for himself on earth" Vincent comments: If this had been Paul's meaning, I can conceive of no mode of expression which he would have been less likely to choose. ... According to Meyer, Christ's self-renunciation consisted in his refusal to grasp at earthly possessions and honors by means of his equality with God. AcGoding to Paul, it consisted in his relinquishment of heavenly glory and majesty.
· Fathers, Augustine, Catholic and most reformed taught that Jesus exchanged the form of God for the form of the servant
· Lutheran and rationalistic expositors explained v6 as the incarnate son. The form of God was retained and displayed by miracles. This view shaped the rendering of the KJV.
· The word ejkevnwsen was evidently selected as a peculiarly strong expression of the entireness of Jesus' self-renunciation, and in order to throw the pre-incarnate glory and the incarnate humiliation into sharp contrast to show that Christ utterly renounced and laid aside the majesty which he possessed in his original state.
· retaining the form of God in incarnate state "utterly destroys the manifest antitheses" of the passage... It makes the writer say, he maintained the form of God, but emptied himself.
New Century Bible commentary, Philippians, Ralph P. Martin p 92
· Being in very nature God looks back to our Lord's pre-temporal existence as the second person of the trinity. The verbal form translated being, [hyparchon] need not necessarily mean this, but it seems clear that this sense is the only satisfactory one in the context.
· The eternal Son of God, however, faced with a parallel temptation, renounced what was his by right, and could actually have become his possession by the seizure of it, viz. equality with God, and chose instead the way of obedient suffering as the pathway to his lordship.
· he had no need to grasp at divine equality because he already possessed it as the eternal Son of God. It is questionable, however, whether the sense of the verb can glide from its real meaning of 'to seize', 'to snatch violently' to that of 'to hold fast'
· his 'kenosis' or self-emptying was his taking the servant's form, and this involved the necessary limitation of his glory which he laid aside in order that he might be born in human likeness.
· (adopting E. Schweizer) the idea of morphe as condition or status in referring to Christ's original position vis-ŕ-vis [compared to] God. He was the first man, holding a unique place within the divine life and one with God
· v6 on the contrary, states what Christ might have done, ie. seized equality with God, only in verse 7 does it say what he chose to do, give himself.
· what Christ refused to seize
· it was a self-emptying because he accepted the condition of a servant, a slave with no rights or privileges.
· contains an unmistakable witness to His personal humanity in its declaration that, in the eyes of those who saw His incarnate life, he was "as a man"
· we must give full weight to the but
· Moule's interpretation runs the 2 verses together, whereas they should be kept separate and their mutual tension should not be lost.
F. B. Meyer, Philippians, p61
Paraphrase: Jesus Christ, when he found himself in the heavenly mode of existence of divine glory, did not permit himself the thought of using his equality with God for the purpose of seizing possession and honor for himself on earth"
· form means a great deal more than the external appearance; it stands for the essence of God's nature.
· Christ, the second person in the trinity
· there was no robbery when He claimed equality with God. Indeed, as RV puts it, it was not a thing to be grasped, because he was so sure of it.
· But probably we are specially here taught that He emptied Himself of the use of His divine attributes... men have been accustomed to think that the miracles of Jesus Christ were wrought by the putting forth of his intrinsic and original powers as God: that when He hushed the storm, and the waves crouched like the whelps to his fee, - that when He raised the dead, and Lazarus sheeted with grave-clothes came forth, - when he touched the sight of the blind, and gave eyeballs to those born without their optics, - that all this was done by the forth putting of his own original, uncreated and divine power, whereas a truer understanding of His nature, specially as disclosed in the gospel of St. John, shows that he did nothing of Himself, but what he saw the Father doing; that the words He spoke were not His own words, but as He heard God speaking He spoke that the works he did were not his own, but the fathers who sent him
· He voluntarily laid aside the exercise of His omnipotence, that he might receive power from God; absolutely and voluntarily forwent the use of attributes that lay all around Him, like tools within the reach of the skilled mechanic, that He might live a truly human life, weeping our tears, and receiving the plenitude of His Father's power.
F. W. Beare, Harpers, Philippians
· being in the form of God is not equivalent to being God... both phrases speak of the condition of his existence, in heaven and on earth
· Christ was already in possession of the divine estate to which Lucifer and Adam aspired.
· It may be added that Greek commentators consistently take the phrases "form of God" and "equality with God" as equivalent.
· counted not as plunder, then, must have the sense that Christ, being in assured possession of divine dignities, did not think of his high estate as a kind of booty which might be his for the seizing.
· Kenosis, and the shaky "Kenotic" doctrine of incarnation.
· Here the sense is equivalent to the "beggard himself", became as poor as a beggar. 2 Cor 8:9 He lays aside the insignia of majesty and glory.
· Not that God stripped him of his dignities and prerogatives- he stripped himself
Alexander Maclaren, Expositions, vol 14, p258
· As the apostle is speaking what Christ was before he took the form of a bondman, the form of God, of which he is said, ver. 7. to have divested himself when he became man, cannot be anything which he possessed during his incarnation, or in his divested state
· Wherefore the opinion of Whitby and others seems better founded, who by the form of God understand that visible glorious light in which the Deity is said to dwell, 1 Tim. vi.16, and by which he manifested himself to the patriarchs of old, Deut. v.22,24, and which was commonly accompanied with a numerous retinue of angels, Psal. lxviii.17, and which in scripture is called the similitude, Numb. xii.8,; the face, Psal. xxxi.16,; the presence, Exod. xxxiii.15,; and the shape (John v.37,) of God. This interpretation is supported by the term morphe, form, here used, which signifies a person's external shape or appearance, and not his nature or essence.
· And with respect to the government of the world, we are led by what the apostle tells Heb. 1.3, to believe he did not part even with that; but in his divested state still upheld all things by the word of his power.
· The form of God, that is, the visible glory, and the attendance of angels above described, the Son of God enjoyed with his Father before the world was, John xvii.5,; and on that as on other accounts he is the brightness of the Father's glory. Heb. 1.3. But he divested himself thereof when he became flesh.
A.T. Robertson, Paul's Joy In Christ, 1979, p123
· The Preincarnate state of Christ was in the form of God
· Paul means to affirm that Christ had not the accidents of the divine glory and environment, but the essential attributes of God's nature, actual deity, not merely divinity such as is dimly seen in all men who were made in God's image.
· "This equality with God refers only to relation, which in the form of God refers only to nature. Jesus could not give up His essential character of Sonship. He was the Son of God in the Preincarnate state.
· Jesus could not consider this state of 'equality with God, His glory at the right hand of the Father, a thing to be held on to at any cost when, by giving up the glory and holding on to the nature of God, He could enter upon His redemptive work for mankind. This is my view of this crux interpretum.
· The notion of robbery is not the idea of Paul in spite of the Vulgate 'rapina' which itself is ambiguous and may mean only a highly prized possession.
· Kennedy argues cleverly for the interpretation that Jesus was not willing to compel men by a display of His Godhood to recognize His deity, but preferred that men acknowledge Him by gradual conviction. This is a possible interpretation, but nothing like so probable as the one just given.
· but he emptied himself of the visible glories and the manifest prerogatives of deity. We may pass by the various Kenosis theories which seek to explain of what Christ emptied Himself and confine ourselves to the details of the humiliation mentioned in these two verses. We can feel certain that He did not empty Himself of His divine nature ('the form of God of verse 6), which He could not do in the nature of the case (no son can change the fact of his sonship), but only of the insignia of His majesty (Lightfoot), the outward manifestation of His deity. Jesus did not appear to men in the likeness of God, but of man.
· We may do well to cherish the impression that this self-emptying on the part of the eternal Son of God, for our salvation, involves realities which we cannot conceive or put into words. There was more in this emptying of Himself than we can think or say
Pulpit Commentary, Philippians, p 97
· Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God." Or, as Dr. Davidson renders the words, " Did not think equality with God a thing to be grasped at." " The term ' God' here and in the following paragraph," says Bengel, " does not denote God the Father; the form of God does not mean the Deity himself nor the Divine nature, but something rising out of it. Again, it does not signify the being equal with God, but something prior, the manifestation of God, that is, the form shining out of the very glory of the invisible Deity." The form of man is not the man himself, no the manifestation of God is not God him" self.
· Now, Christ did not seize at this manifestation, did not consider it a thing to be grasped at. Of the true Christly spirit it may be said that, when great good is to be done, it does not hold on to privileges, honours, dignities, etc
· "He made himself of no reputation." This should be rendered, " he emptied himself," or stripped himself of his original glory, thc glory which he had with the Father before the world was. Not that he was less Divine and great in time than he was before all time. But he did not appear so. He concealed his splendour in the veil of his flesh, so as to fulfil his redemptive mission. (2) He " took upon him the form of a servant." The three words," says Bengel, "'form,' 'likeness,' 'fashion,' are not synonymous, neither are they virtually interchangeable; there is, however, a connection between them ; form means something positive, likeness signifies a relation to other things of the same condition, fashion relates to the sight and perception." The King of the universe a servant ! (3) " He was made in the likeness of men," and " found in fashion as a man." This does not mean that he had merely the appearance of a man and nothing more. He was a man, " made in all parts like unto his brethren."
Expositors Bible commentary, Philippians, Homer A Kent Jr., p 123
(Note: Kent takes the unusual interpretation that has Jesus retaining the form of God while a man, but divesting himself of equality with God)
· "Being in very nature God" (NIV) is, literally, "existing in the "form of God"
· Morphe denotes the outward manifestation that corresponds to the essence, in contrast to the noun schema (2:7), which refers to the outward appearance, which may be temporary.
· did not regard his existing in a manner of equality with God as a prize to be grasped or held on to.
· Inasmuch as he already existed in "the form of God", the mode of his existence as equal with God was hardly something totally future and thus as yet unexperienced but must rather be something he divested himself of.
· The reincarnate Christ already possessed equality with the Father and resolved not to cling to it.
· Although the text does not directly state that Christ emptied himself "of something" such would be the natural understanding when the verb is used. Furthermore, the context has most assuredly prepared the reader for understanding that Christ divested himself of something. What it was following phrases imply.
· The word "taking" does not imply an exchange, but rather an addition.
· Christ did not empty himself of the form of God (ie his deity) but of a manner of existence as equal to God. He did not lay aside the divine attributes, but the "insignia of majesty" (quoting Lightfoot).
· Mark Twain's "the Prince and the Pauper", describing a son of Henry 8 who temporarily changed positions with a poor boy in London, provides and illustration.
· [schema] does not bear the connotation of the exactness as does eikon, or of the intrinsic form as does morphe. It stresses similarity but leaves room for differences. Thus Paul implies that even though Christ became a genuine man, there were certain respects in which he was not absolutely like other men. (He may have had in mind the unique union of the divine and human natures in Jesus, or the absence of a sinful nature.)
Translators Handbook, Philippians, Loh & Nida, p55
(Note: The Translators Handbook takes the unusual interpretation that has Jesus retaining the form of God while a man, but divesting himself of equality with God)
· The Greeks had two separate words for "form" and both are used in the Hymn. One [morphe] denotes an essential form of something with never alters, a form which corresponds to an underlying reality. The other [schema] suggests an outward form which may change from time to time and from circumstance to circumstance.
· form of God implies that Christ had the nature of God. This is the sense adopted by (Gpd) "possessed the nature of God", (mft) "he was divine by nature", (Phps) "who had always been God by nature", (NEB) "divine nature was his".
· Equality with God is probably better taken in the sense of "to exist in a manner equal to God."
· "Equality with God" is closely related in meaning to having the "nature of God", though not necessarily identical.
· The Greek word rendered "by force he should try to become" is a noun which appears only here in the New Testament and which occurs only rarely in Greek literature. Because of its rarity, its meaning has been debated. The form of the noun suggests an active meaning. It is so understood by KJV.... From this [KJV] view Christ did not regard his claim to equality with God as something unlawful,; it was something rightfully his. But this interpretation does not seem to be suitable in the context. The general consensus of scholarly opinion is that the noun should be taken in a passive sense. Three possible meanings have been suggested: 1. price to be seized. 2. prize held tight. 3. a piece of good fortune.
· What was given up is ... equality with God itself, namely Christ's divine status or rank of dignity and glory (Jn 17:5)
William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, p 110
(Note: Hendriksen takes the unusual interpretation that has Jesus retaining the form of God while a man, but divesting himself of equality with God.)
· the divine person of Christ now has two nature, the divine and the human.
· morphe refers to the inner, essential, and abiding nature of a person or thing, while schema or fashion points to his or its external, accidental, and fleeting ... appearance.
· Christ Jesus had always been (and continues to be) God by nature
· he did not count his "existence in a manner equal to God" something to cling to but emptied himself.
· What did Christ Jesus empty himself? Surely not of the existence in the form of God. He never ceased to be a possessor of the divine nature. ... footnote #89 The Kenotists who teach otherwise are clearly wrong. These defenders of the Kenosis-theory ... teach that ... Christ at the incarnation divested himself of his deity. The natural inference is that Christ emptied himself of his "existence in a manner equal to God" He gave up his favorable relation to the divine law. He gave up everything, even himself, his very life He gave up his heavenly glory He gave up his independent exercise of authority The type of reasoning which we have here in verses 6-8 is not at all similar to that which goes on in the mind of a child who is building with blocks, each block being a unity in itself, separate from all the rest. On the contrary, it is telescopic reasoning: the various sections of the telescope, present from the start, are gradually drawn out or extended so that we see them. Hence he emptied himself by taking the form of a servant. "he emptied himself by taking something to himself" (Muller)
· The text cannot mean that "he exchanged the form of God for the form of a servant," as it so often asserted. He took the form of servant while he retained the form of God.
A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., Brown, D., (1997)
(Note: Jamieson, Fausset, Brown, take the unusual interpretation that has Jesus divesting himself of the form of God while retaining equality with God)
· "Who subsisting (or existing, namely, originally: the Greek is not the simple substantive verb, 'to be') in the form of God (the divine essence is not meant: but the external self-manifesting characteristics of God, the form shining forth from His glorious essence). The divine nature had infinite BEAUTY in itself, even without any creature contemplating that beauty: that beauty was 'the form of God'; as 'the form of a servant' (Php 2:7), which is in contrasted opposition to it, takes for granted the existence of His human nature, so 'the form of God' takes for granted His divine nature [Bengel], Compare Jn 5:37; 17:5; Col 1:15, 'Who is the image of the invisible God' at a time before 'every creature,' 2Co 4:4, esteemed (the same Greek verb as in Php 2:3) His being on an equality with God no (act of) robbery" or self-arrogation; claiming to one's self what does not belong to him. Ellicott, Wahl, and others have translated, "A thing to be grasped at," which would require the Greek to be harpagma, whereas harpagmos means the act of seizing. So harpagmos means in the only other passage where it occurs, Plutarch [On the Education of Children, 120]. The same insuperable objection lies against Alford's translation, "He regarded not as self-enrichment (that is, an opportunity for self-exaltation) His equality with God." His argument is that the antithesis (Php 2:7) requires it, "He used His equality with God as an opportunity, not for self-exaltation, but for self-abasement, or emptying Himself." But the antithesis is not between His being on an equality with God, and His emptying Himself; for He never emptied Himself of the fulness of His Godhead, or His "BEING on an equality with God"; but between His being "in the FORM (that is, the outward glorious self-manifestation) of God," and His "taking on Him the form of a servant," whereby He in a great measure emptied Himself of His precedent "form," or outward self-manifesting glory as God. Not "looking on His own things" (Php 2:4), He, though existing in the form of God, He esteemed it no robbery to be on an equality with God, yet made Himself of no reputation. "Being on an equality with God, is not identical with subsisting in the form of God"; the latter expresses the external characteristics, majesty, and beauty of the Deity, which "He emptied Himself of," to assume "the form of a servant"; the former, "His being," or nature, His already existing state of equality with God, both the Father and the Son having the same essence. A glimpse of Him "in the form of God," previous to His incarnation, was given to Moses (Ex 24:10, 11), Aaron
· 7. made himself of no reputation, and ... and—rather as the Greek, "emptied Himself, taking upon him the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men." The two latter clauses (there being no conjunctions, "and ... and," in the Greek) expresses in what Christ's "emptying of Himself" consists, namely, in "taking the form of a servant" (see on Heb 10:5; compare Ex 21:5, 6, and Ps 40:6, proving that it was at the time when He assumed a body, He took "the form of a servant"), and in order to explain how He took "the form of a servant," there is added, by "being made in the likeness of men." His subjection to the law (Lu 2:21; Ga 4:4) and to His parents (Lu 2:51), His low state as a carpenter, and carpenter's reputed son (Mt 13:55; Mk 6:3),
Calvin's Commentaries, Philippians, p 246 (c. 1550 AD)
· This is not a comparison of similarities, but of greater and less. Christ's humility consisted in abasing Himself from the highest pinnacle of glory to the lowest ignominy: our humility consists in not exalting ourselves by a false estimation.
· The form of God means here His majesty. For as a man is known by the appearance of his form, so the majesty which shines forth in God is His figure. Of it you prefer a more apt similitude, the form of a king is the equipage and magnificence which shows him to be a king, his scepter, his crown, his robe, his attendants, his judgement-throne, and other emblems of royalty.
· thought is not robbery: There would have been no wrong done even if He had appeared in his equality with God... indeed that this was lawful and right for him.
· Christ, indeed, could not renounce His divinity, but he kept it concealed for a time, that under the weakness of the flesh it might not be seen. hence He laid aside his glory in the view of men, not by lessening, but by concealing it.
· Christ is one person consisting of two nature, it is with right that Paul says that He who was the son of God in reality equal to God nevertheless refrained from His glory when in the flesh he manifested himself in appearance of a servant.
· How He can be said to be emptied, who, nevertheless, proved himself throughout by miracles and powers to be the son of God? ... I answer the abasement of the flesh was, nevertheless, like a veil, by which His divine majesty was covered. This is why He did not want His transfiguration to be made public until after his resurrection.
J. B. Lightfoot, Philippians, p 110
Paraphrase: Though existing before the worlds in the eternal Godhead, yet He did not cling with avidity to the prerogatives of His divine majesty, did not ambitiously display His equality with God; but divested Himself of the glories of heaven and took upon himself the nature of a servant, assuming the likeness of men.
· The more usual form of the word, which properly signifies simply " a piece of plunder"
· It appears then from these instances that [snatched] frequently signifies nothing fore than "to clutch greedily" "prize highly" "to set store by" the idea of plunder or robbery having passed out of sight.
· He divested Himself, not of His divine nature, for this was impossible, but of the glories, the prerogatives, of deity.
· Though He pre-existed in the form of God, yet He did not look upon equality with God as a prize which must not slip from His grasp, but He emptied Himself, divested Himself, taking upon him the form of a slave.
Cambridge Bible commentary, Philippians, Kenneth Grayston, p27
· "Divine nature was his from the first" is far superior to the conventional translation, "being originally in the form of God". The Greek work morphe, in the philosophical writing, meant the form that corresponds to the underlying reality.
· The real difficulty lies in the Greek word [grasped] which means a prize to be seized or to be held tight, or even a piece of good fortune.
· It is generally supposed that made himself nothing refers to the incarnation, ie. to Jesus appearance on earth as a helpless child, who became a man with many of the normal human limitations
Layman's commentary, Philippians, P95
· the "likeness of God" recalls that Adam was made in God's likeness (Gen 1:26) and "parity with God" recalls the words of the serpent to the woman, "you will be like God" (Gen 3:5)
· The form is the likeness of God (Gen 1:26) It is a synonym for another Greek word meaning "image" or likeness" and both represent the Hebrew word used in Genesis.
· "But emptied himself" is a clear reference to Isa 53:12, He "poured out his soul". Here is includes both the incarnation and the atonement.
· "Being born in the likeness of men", like the following clause, "being found in human form" stresses the reality of the incarnation. Despite his heavenly origin, nothing in his earthly appearance distinguished him from man. We are reminded of Isaiah's servant: "he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. Isa 53:2
Albert Barnes, Philippians, p 169
paraphrase: "Christ, before he became a man, was invested with honour, majesty, and glory, such as was appropriate to God himself; that there was some manifestation or splendour in his existence and mode of being then which showed that was equal with God; that he did not consider that that honour, indicating equality with God, was to be retained at all events, and so as to do violence, as it were, to other interests, and to rob the universe of the glory of redemption, and that he was willing, therefore, to forget that, or lay it by for a time, in order that he might redeem the world. There was a glory and majesty which were appropriate to God, and which indicated equality with God - such as none but God could assume.
· The word rendered form (morphe) occurs only in three places I the NT, and in each place is rendered form: Mk 16:12; Phil 2:6-7. In Mark it is applied to the form which Jesus assumed after his resurrection, and in which he appeared to two of his disciples on his way to Emmaus. ... This form was so unlike his usual appearance, that they did not know him. The word properly means form, shape, bodily shape.
· He himself speaks (Jn 17:5) of "the glory which he had with the Father before the world was" and the language naturally conveys the idea that there was then a manifestation of the divine nature through him, which in some measure ceased when He became incarnate; that there was some visible splendour and majesty which was then laid aside... Nothing forbids us, however to suppose that there is some such visible manifestation; some splendour and magnificence of God in the view of the angelic beings such as becomes the great sovereign of the universe - for he "dwells in light which no man can approach unto" 1 Tim 6:16. That glory, visible manifestation, or splendour, indicating the nature of God, it is here said that the Lord Jesus possessed before his incarnation.
· Prof. Stuart renders it, "did not regard his equality with God as an object of solicitous desire"; that is, that through he was of a divine nature or condition, he did not eagerly seek to retain his equality with God but took on him an humble condition. ... That this is the correct rendering of the passage is apparent from the following considerations: His object is not to show, as our common translation (KJV) would seem to imply, that he aspired to be equal with God, or that he did not regard it as an improper invasion of the prerogatives of God to be equal with him, but that he did not regard it in the circumstances of the case, as an object to be greedily desired, or eagerly sought, to retain his equality with God. Instead of retaining this by an earnest effort, or by a grasp which he was unwilling to relinquish, he chose to forgo the dignity, and to assume the humble condition of a man.
· (2) It accords better with the Greek than the common version (KJV) The word rendered robbery is found nowhere else in the NT, though the ver from which it is derived frequently occurs: Mt 11:12; 18:19; Jn 6:15; 10:12,28,29; Acts 8:29; 23:10; 2 Cor 12:2,4; 1 Thes 4:17; Jude 23: Rev 12:5. The notion of violence, or seizing, or carrying away, enters into the meaning of the word in all these places. The word here used does not properly mean an act of robbery, but the thing robbed - the plunder- hence something to be eagerly seized and appropriated. According to this, the meaning of the word here is, something to be seized and eagerly sought, and the sense is, that his being equal with God was not a thing to be anxiously retained.. The phrase thought it not means did not consider., it was not judged to be a matter of such importance that it could not be dispensed with. The sense is "he did not eagerly seize and tenaciously hold" as one does who seized prey or spoil.
· "but made himself of no reputation" This translation by no means conveys the sense of the original. According to this it would seem that he consented to be without distinction or honour among men; or that he was willing to be despised or discarded.
· The word does not occur elsewhere in the NT.
· The essential idea is that of bringing to emptiness, vanity or nothingness, and hence it is applied to a case where one lays aside his rank and dignity, and become in respect to that as nothing, that is , he assumes a more humble rank and station.
· It cannot mean that he literally divested himself of his divine nature and perfections, for that was impossible. He could not cease to be omnipotent, and omnipresent and most holy and true and good.
· (2) It is conceivable that he might have laid aside, for a time, the symbols or the manifestations of his glory, or that the outward expressions of his majesty in heaven might have been withdrawn.
Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary, Philippians, Moises Silva, p 112
· In view of the great variety of contexts in which morphe may be used, Hwth. makes a significant point in admitting that the word's "precise meaning is elusive" ... To put it differently, morphe is characterized by semantic extension; it covers a broad range of meanings and therefore we are heavily dependent on the immediate context to discover its specific nuance. Here in Phil 2:6 we are greatly helped by two factors. In the first place, we have the correspondence of "morphe theou" with "isa theo". Kasemann, as we have noticed, was absolutely right in emphasizing that being "in the form of God" is equivalent to being "equal with God". To go beyond this equivalence and inquire whether morphe tells us precisely in what respects Jesus is equal with God (in essence? attributes? attitude? appearance?) is asking too much for one word.
· In second place, and most importantly, "morphe theou" [form of God] is set in antithetical parallelism with "form of a servant", an expression further defined by the phrase, "in the likeness of men"
· ("existing"): The NASB is justified in bringing out the concessive force of the participle (contra Meyer, Hwth.), and that in turn sheds light on the second part of v. 6.
· Ltf.'s claim that [form] refers to unchangeable essence can be sustained by some references, but too many passages speak against it. Plato asks if God can manifest Himself in different aspects ... and alter "his shape in many transformations" .... Xenophon reports Socrates as advising not to wait "for the gods to appear to you in bodily presence" .... Philo describes Gaius's attempts to prove himself divine "by remodeling and recasting what was nothing but a single body into manifold forms" ... Lucian relates the Egyptian story of a certain occasion when one god "in his terror entered into a goat, another into a ram, and others into other beasts or birds; so of course the gods still keep the forms they took then ... Elsewhere Lucian describes the ugly physical appearance of the god Heracles ... according to the Celts, who thereby committed an offense against his form .... A still later writer, Libanius (fourth century), states that "any man who really approximates to the divine, does so not by any physical likeness" The references are, respectively, to Plato, Republic 2.19 = 380D (LCL 1:189); Xenophon, Memorabilia 4.3.13 (LCL 305); Philo, The Embassy to Gaius 80 (LCL 10:41); Lucian, On Sacrifices 14 (LCL 3:171) and Heracles 1-2 (LCL 1:63); Libanius, Fifteenth Julian Oration 34 (LCL 1:169).1 owe the last three references to my former student Roy Kotanski; the first two are listed by Bauer
· the notion of Christ's aspiring (or being tempted to aspire) for equality with God is completely foreign to the NT; conversely, the notion that Christ set aside His "advantageous" position for the sake of others is at the very heart of the NT passages. (2 Cor 8:9)
· Second, an extensive and persuasive discussion by Roy W. Hoover has demonstrated the mistake of focusing on the word hargmos itself rather than on the combination of that word (and comparable nouns) with hegeomai (and comparable verbs). Building on e researches of W. W. Jaeger (who however stressed the idea of windfall") Hoover states that in all instances examined, the "idiomatic expression refers to something already present and at one's disposal." His translation of the Phil. 2:6 passage is: Christ "did not yard being equal with God as . . . something to use for his own advantage." Hoover's essay, which reflects thoroughness and a ear-headed method, must be regarded as having settled this particular question.
· Christ's voluntary act positively stated (vv. 7-8). The central thought of the whole Christ-hymn is embodied in the two main verbs, ekenosen and etapeinosen, which illumine each other. It is specious to drive a sharp wedge between these verbs; only a wooden approach to this poetic passage would insist that the verbs refer to two different and separate stages. It may well be, of course, that the first verb speaks of the incarnation generally whereas the second focuses more specifically on Jesus' death, but one would be greatly mistaken to suggest that the self-emptying is not part of the humiliation or— what is more to the point—that Jesus' humiliation unto death is not included in the statement, "He emptied Himself."
· These preliminary comments alone should make us suspicious of the extensive debates seeking to answer the question, "Of what did Christ empty Himself?" Once again, sensitivity to the contextual demands of the passage should discourage us from focusing excessively on the meaning of one word. As Vincent aptly puts it, heauton ekenosen is used as a "graphic expression of the completeness of his self-renunciation. It includes all the details of humiliation which follow, and is defined by these. Further definition belongs to speculative theology."
· Moreover, the well-established figurative meaning of the verb, "to nullify, make of no effect," is elsewhere used by Paul and suits the present passage well. For example, in Rom. 4:14 Paul states that "if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith has been emptied" (kekenotai he pistil), but no one thinks of asking, "Of what is faith made empty?" Clearly, the idea is that faith would come to nought, as the following clause confirms: "and the promise has been nullified" (kai katergetai he epangelia). Similar examples are found in 1 Cor. 1:17; 9:15; 2 Cor. 9 3.40
· In short, we are fully justified in translating our phrase with a comparable English idiom: "He made Himself nothing" (cf. NIV). Whether or not the phrase focuses on the initial act of humiliation ("He became flesh," John 1 :14), it surely points forward to His death. In other words, the phrase is intended to encapsulate for the readers the whole descent of Christ from highest glory to lowest depths.
· Rather, the whole clause recapitulates the thrust of the two previous clauses by making a succinct statement of the incarnation. As the NBE puts it, ... "Thus, presenting Himself as no more than man".
· 2:7 (lit. "emptied Himself"): The view taken here—namely, that this phrase should be understood figuratively—is objected to by Oepke on the basis that a metaphorical meaning "is ruled out by the resultant weak tautology of" ... Even if we allowed that the latter clause is equivalent to the former, Oepke's objection is strange when one considers the "tautology of earnestness" that characterizes 2:1-11 (see Introduction: Language and Style). But if our interpretation is correct, what are we to say then about the large number of attempts to explain the phrase? Martin catalogs seven distinct interpretations, most of which can be plausibly defended. As in my final comments regarding [...], we can and should recognize that the phrase [...] may well have evoked a larger network of associations, and those would be part of the "total" meaning. Particularly intriguing is the possible connection with Isa. 53:12, where the Servant of the Lord (cf. bouAos in Phil. 2:7) is said to have "poured (out) Himself [lit. His soul] unto death." The fact that Phil 2:11 quotes Isa. 45:23 increases the probability that we may have an allusion to Isa. 53:12. But an allusion is not a direct reference. To say that the Christ-hymn is primarily an attribution to Jesus of the Servant of the Lord description seems to me to be an overstatement; much less is it acceptable to argue that "He emptied Himself' actually means "He suffered the death of the Servant of the Lord." In similar fashion, we may want to deny that the passage speaks primarily to ontological issues regarding the nature of the Trinity, but it would appear futile to deny that Phil. 2:5-7 has some strong implications for these issues. These verses cannot serve as the total basis for a formula regarding the two natures of Christ, but the description of Christ in this passage reflects certain ontological commitments that lead rather naturally to the later orthodox formulations.
· In addition to the two main verbs ekendsen and etapeinosen, vv. 7-8 contain four participial clauses that modify either or both of the verbs. How should these four participles be related to the main thought ? All four are aorists (labor, genomenos, heuretheis, genomenos), and aorist participles usually refer to actions that have taken place prior to the action of the verbs they modify. If we were to press this rule, we would need to translate each clause somewhat woodenly: for example, "having taken (or, after He had taken) the form of a servant." This grammatical "rule," however, admits of many exceptions, and most writers recognize that some flexibility is needed here, particularly in view of the poetic quality of the passage.
· The smoothest option, followed by NASB and NIV, is to translate the first three participles as referring to simultaneous action. The NASB then interprets the fourth explicitly as a participle of means: "by becoming obedient." Implicitly, however, the first two clauses also indicate means: "by taking the form of a servant, by being made in the likeness of men." Hwth. takes even the third participial clause in this way ("by being recognized as a man"), but the resulting syntax is awkward, because it requires that the first three participles modify the first verb. In both of the atrophic arrangements that have won most acceptance, the third participial clause is connected with the second main verb, etapeinosen, and that seems the most natural reading of the clause, that is, as providing the background for the statement of v. 8.
Wuest, K. S., Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament
Translation: Who has always been and at present continues to subsist in that mode of being in which He gives outward expression of His essential nature, that of Deity, and who did not after weighing the facts, consider it a treasure to be clutched and retained at all hazards, to be equal with Deity (in the expression of the divine essence); But emptied Himself, having taken the outward expression of a bondslave, which expression came from and was truly representative of His nature, entering into a new state of existence, that of mankind.
· Thus the Greek word for "form" refers to that outward expression which a person gives of his inmost nature.
· We must now consider carefully the word "robbery." The Greek word has two distinct meanings, "a thing unlawfully seized," and "a treasure to be clutched and retained at all hazards." When a Greek word has more than one meaning, the rule of interpretation is to take the one which agrees with the context in which it is found. The passage which we are studying is the illustration of the virtues mentioned in 2:2-4, namely, humility, and self-abnegation for the benefit of others. If our Lord did not consider it a thing to be unlawfully seized to be equal with God in the expression of the divine essence, then He would be asserting His rights to that expression. He would be declaring His rightful ownership of that prerogative. But to assert one's right to a thing does not partake of an attitude of humility and self-abnegation. Therefore, this meaning of the word will not do here. If our Lord did not consider the expression of His divine essence such a treasure that it should be retained at all hazards, that would mean that He was willing to waive His rights to that expression if the necessity arose. This is the essence of humility and of self-abnegation. Thus, our second meaning is the one to be used here.
· We now consider the words, "made himself of no reputation." Instead of asserting His rights to the expression of the essence of Deity, our Lord waived His rights to that expression, being willing to relinquish them if necessary. He did not consider the exercise of that expression such a treasure that it would keep Him from setting that expression aside, and making Himself of no reputation. The words "made himself of no reputation" are the translation of two Greek words which literally translated mean, "emptied Himself." Before we discuss the question as to what our Lord emptied Himself of, we must examine the words, "and took upon him the form of a servant."
· The word "form" is from the same Greek word that we studied in verse six. The word "servant" is the translation of the Greek word which Paul used in 1:1 to describe himself, a bondslave. The word "and" is not in the Greek text, but was supplied by the translators. The word "took" is an aorist participle. A rule of Greek grammar says that the action of an aorist participle precedes the action of the leading verb. The leading verb here is "emptied." That means that the act of taking preceded the act of emptying. That in turn means that the act of taking upon Himself the form of a servant preceded and was the cause of the emptying. The translation so far could read, "emptied Himself, having taken the form of a bondslave."
· What do the words mean, "having taken the form of a bondslave?" The word "form," you remember, referred to the outward expression one gives of his inward being. The words "form of a bondslave" therefore mean that our Lord gave outward expression to His inmost nature, the outward expression being that of a bondslave. The words "having taken" tell us that that expression was not true of Him before, although the desire to serve others was part of His nature as Deity. When expressing Himself as a bondslave come to serve, He necessarily exchanged one form of expression for another. In verse six He was in His pre-incarnate state expressing Himself as Deity. In verse seven He expresses Himself in incarnation as a bondslave. This is the direct opposite of what took place at the Transfiguration. There we have the same word "form" used, but with a prefixed preposition signifying a change. We could translate "And the mode of His outward expression was changed before them, and His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light" (Matt. 17:2). Our Lord's usual mode of expression while on earth previous to His resurrection was that of a servant. He said, "The son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28).
· But in exchanging one form of expression for the other, He emptied Himself. The question arises, "Of what did He empty Himself?" He did not empty Himself of His deity, since Paul says that the expression of His deity was a fact after His incarnation, that expression implying the possession of the essence of Deity. He set aside the outward expression of His deity when expressing Himself as a bondslave. It was the outward expression of the essence of His deity which our Lord emptied Himself of during the time when He was giving outward expression of Himself as a bondslave. But the emptying Himself of the expression of Deity is more implied by the context than stated specifically by the verb "emptied." When our Lord set aside the expression of Deity in order that He might express Himself as a bondslave, He was setting aside His legitimate and natural desires and prerogatives as Deity. The basic, natural desire and prerogative of Deity is that of being glorified. But when Deity sets these aside, it sets its desires aside, and setting its desires aside, it sets Self aside. The pronoun "Himself" is in the accusative case. The action of the verb terminates in the thing expressed by that case. The act of emptying terminated in the self life of the Son of God. Our Lord emptied Himself of self. This agrees perfectly with the context which is an example of humility and self-abnegation for the benefit of others. This setting aside of self by the Son of God was the example that Paul held before the saints at Philippi. If each one would set self aside, then unity would prevail.
Robertson, A. T. Word Pictures in the New Testament.
· [Morphe] means the essential attributes as shown in the form. In his preincarnate state Christ possessed the attributes of God and so appeared to those in heaven who saw him. Here is a clear statement by Paul of the deity of Christ.
· A prize ... That is to say Paul means a prize to be held on to rather than something to be won ("robbery").
· Emptied himself First aorist active indicative of [keno], old verb from [kenos], empty. Of what did Christ empty himself? Not of his divine nature. That was impossible. He continued to be the Son of God. There has arisen a great controversy on this word, a [Kenosis] doctrine. Undoubtedly Christ gave up his environment of glory. He took upon himself limitations of place (space) and of knowledge and of power, though still on earth retaining more of these than any mere man. It is here that men should show restraint and modesty, though it is hard to believe that Jesus limited himself by error of knowledge and certainly not by error of conduct. He was without sin, though tempted as we are. "He stripped himself of the insignia of majesty" (Lightfoot).
Vincent, M. R.; Word studies in the New Testament
· To say, then, that Christ was in the form of God, is to say that He existed as essentially one with God. The expression of deity through human nature (ver. 7) thus has its background in the expression of deity as deity in the eternal ages of God's being. Whatever the mode of this expression, it marked the being of Christ in the eternity before creation. As the form of God was identified with the being of God, so Christ, being in the form of God, was identified with the being, nature, and personality of God.
· This form, not being identical with the divine essence, but dependent upon it, and necessarily implying it, can be parted with or laid aside. Since Christ is one with God, and therefore pure being, absolute existence, He can exist without the form. This form of God Christ laid aside in His incarnation.
· Robbery is explained in three ways. 1. A robbing, the act. 2. The thing robbed, a piece of plunder. 3. A prize, a thing to be grasped. Here in the last sense.
· Paul does not then say, as A. V., that Christ did not think it robbery to be equal with God: for, 1, that fact goes without saying in the previous expression, being in the form of God. 2. On this explanation the statement is very awkward. Christ, being in the form of God, did not think it robbery to be equal with God; but, after which we should naturally expect, on the other hand, claimed and asserted equality: whereas the statement is: Christ was in the form of God and did not think it robbery to be equal with God, but (instead) emptied Himself. Christ held fast His assertion of divine dignity, but relinquished it. The antithesis is thus entirely destroyed.
· Taking the word (A. V., robbery) to mean a highly prized possession, we understand Paul to say that Christ, being, before His incarnation, in the form of God, did not regard His divine equality as a prize which was to be grasped at and retained at all hazards, but, on the contrary, laid aside the form of God, and took upon Himself the nature of man. The emphasis in the passage is upon Christ's humiliation. The fact of His equality with God is stated as a background, in order to throw the circumstances of His incarnation into stronger relief. Hence the peculiar form of Paul's statement. Christ's great object was to identify Himself with humanity; not to appear to men as divine but as human. Had He come into the world emphasizing His equality with God, the world would have been amazed, but not saved, He did not grasp at this. The rather He counted humanity His prize, and so laid aside the conditions of His preëxistent state, and became man.
· Made Himself of no reputation Lit., emptied Himself. The general sense is that He divested Himself of that peculiar mode of existence which was proper and peculiar to Him as one with God. He laid aside the form of God. In so doing, He did not divest Himself of His divine nature. The change was a change of state: the form of a servant for the form of God. His personality continued the same. His self-emptying was not self-extinction, nor was the divine Being changed into a mere man. In His humanity He retained the consciousness of deity, and in His incarnate state carried out the mind which animated Him before His incarnation. He was not unable to assert equality with God. He was able not to assert it.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1989). The Bible exposition commentary.
· These verses in Philippians take us to eternity past. "Form of God" has nothing to do with shape or size. God is Spirit (John 4:24), and as such is not to be thought of in human terms. When the Bible refers to "the eyes of the Lord" or "the hand of the Lord," it is not claiming that God has a human shape. Rather, it is using human terms to describe divine attributes (the characteristics of God) and activities. The word "form" means "the outward expression of the inward nature." This means that in eternity past, Jesus Christ was God. In fact, Paul states that He was "equal with God." Other verses such as John 1:1-4; Colossians 1:15; and Hebrews 1:1-3 also state that Jesus Christ is God.
· Certainly as God, Jesus Christ did not need anything! He had all the glory and praise of heaven. With the Father and the Spirit, He reigned over the universe. But Philippians 2:6 states an amazing fact: He did not consider His equality with God as "something selfishly to be held on to." Jesus did not think of Himself; He thought of others. His outlook (or attitude) was that of unselfish concern for others. This is "the mind of Christ," an attitude that says, "I cannot keep my privileges for myself, I must use them for others; and to do this, I will gladly lay them aside and pay whatever price is necessary."
· A reporter was interviewing a successful job counselor who had placed hundreds of workers in their vocations quite happily. When asked the secret of his success, the man replied: "If you want to find out what a worker is really like, don't give him responsibilities—give him privileges. Most people can handle responsibilities if you pay them enough, but it takes a real leader to handle privileges. A leader will use his privileges to help others and build the organization; a lesser man will use privileges to promote himself." Jesus used His heavenly privileges for the sake of others—for our sake.
· He Serves (Phil. 2:7) Thinking of "others" in an abstract sense only is insufficient; we must get down to the nitty-gritty of true service. A famous philosopher wrote glowing words about educating children but abandoned his own. It was easy for him to love children in the abstract, but when it came down to practice, that was something else. Jesus thought of others and became a servant! Paul traces the steps in the humiliation of Christ: (1) He emptied Himself, laying aside the independent use of His own attributes as God; (2) He permanently became a human, in a sinless physical body; (3) He used that body to be a servant; (4) He took that body to the cross and willingly died.
Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the New Testament
· There is the suggestion in this passage of disunity in the Philippian church (see also 4:1-3). Paul appeals to them on the basis of their Christian experience to have unity of mind and heart and to put others ahead of themselves. What motives are there for unity in the church? Christ is the greatest incentive; if we are in Christ, we ought to be able to live with one another! Other incentives include love, the fellowship of the Spirit, the deep-seated desires we have in Christ, and the joy we can bring to others. Paul saw strife and selfish ambition among the Roman believers (1:14-17), and he warns that it must not be present at Philippi. "Lowliness of mind"—this is the submissive mind that thinks not of itself but of Christ and others. "Humility is not thinking meanly of ourselves; it is just not thinking of ourselves at all." Paul points to the attitude of Christ before His incarnation. Was He selfishly trying to hold on to His privileges as God? No! He willingly laid aside His glory and "put on" the form of a servant. He did not cease to be God, but He did lay aside His glory and the independent use of His attributes as God. His life as the God-Man on earth was completely subjected to the Father. "I do always those things that please Him" (John 8:29). Jesus humbled Himself to become flesh, and then to become sin as He willingly went to the cross.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary.
· 2:6-8. The word translated nature (morph) in verses 6 and 7 is a crucial term in this passage. This word ("form" in the kjv and nasb) stresses the inner essence or reality of that with which it is associated (Mark 16:12). Christ Jesus, Paul said, is of the very essence (morph) of God, and in His incarnation He embraced perfect humanity. His complete and absolute deity is here carefully stressed by the apostle. The Savior's claim to deity infuriated the Jewish leaders (John 5:18) and caused them to accuse Him of blasphemy (John 10:33).
· Though possessing full deity (John 1:14; Col. 2:9), Christ did not consider His equality with God (Phil. 2:6) as something to be grasped or held onto. In other words Christ did not hesitate to set aside His self-willed use of deity when He became a man. As God He had all the rights of deity, and yet during His incarnate state He surrendered His right to manifest Himself visibly as the God of all splendor and glory.
· Christ's humiliation included His making Himself nothing, taking the very nature (morph) of a servant, and being made in human likeness (v7). These statements indicate that Christ became a man, a true human being. The words "made Himself nothing" are, literally, "He emptied Himself." "Emptied," from the Greek keno, points to the divesting of His self-interests, but not of His deity. "The very nature of a servant" certainly points to His lowly and humble position, His willingness to obey the Father, and serve others. He became a man, a true human being. "Likeness" suggests similarity but difference. Though His humanity was genuine, He was different from all other humans in that He was sinless (Heb. 4:15). Thus it is seen that Christ, while retaining the essence of God, was also human. In His incarnation He was fully God and fully man at the same time. He was God manifest in human flesh (John 1:14).
The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, Keener, C. S., (1993).
· 2:5-6. Some scholars suggest that Christ's being in the "form of God" alludes to Adam being formed in God's image (Gen 1:26). Unlike Adam, who being human sought divinity (Gen 3:5), Jesus, being deity, relinquished his rightful position of honor. Even more to the point here is that Jewish texts described divine Wisdom as the perfect, archetypal image of God ("form" may mean "role" more than "image" here; cf. 2:7b, "form of a servant," although this phrase parallels "likeness" in 2:7c).
· 2:7. The "servant" of Isaiah 53 also was "poured out" or "emptied himself," though not in incarnation but in death (Is 53:12; cf. Phil 2:8). (Paul, however, uses a more explicit Greek word for "slave" [so NRSV] here than appears in the LXX of Isaiah.)
The Jerome Biblical Commentary, Brown, R. E., Fitzmyer, J. A., & Murphy, R. E.
· 6. who: Paul proposes to the Philippians the historical Christ who enjoyed according to this hymnic confession of the early Church also a divine pre-existent quality and an exalted celestial reward. of divine status: Lit., "originally being in the form of God; having as a possession the form of God." The "form of God" (morph theou) is not to be understood in an Aristotelian sense, expressing Jesus' internal constitution (Physics 1.7 [190b 20]); nor even in the patristic sense, expressing "God's nature" (physis: Chrysostom, PG 62.219; Theodoret, PG 82.569). For the word morph expresses rather the "outward appearance," and is only so used in the LXX (Jgs 8:18; Jb 4:16; Is 44:3; Dn 3:19; 4:3; 5:6, 9, 5:10; 7:28). In the Gk world morph theou was used for the external (usually human) form of a god in a theophany. For a Jew, however, to think of God in a human form was out of the question (cf. Josephus, AgAp 2.22 § 190). The equivalent of the external form of God in the OT would be his "glory" (Hebr k bôd; Gk doxa); cf. Ex 16:10; 24:15; Lv 9:6, 23; Nm 14:10; etc. If morph is understood in this hymn to refer to Jesus' possession of that quality associated with the external manifestation of Yahweh in the OT, then it can be said that he was of divine status. did not treat like a miser's booty: Lit., "considered it not a thing-to-be-clutched [-at]." The word harpagmos is rare. Derived from harpaz (seize), it has been understood actively as an "act of plundering" (Vg rapina). But this meaning is usually rejected today. What would Jesus be plundering? Passively, it could mean either a "prize, booty" to be snatched at (res rapienda) or a "prize held fast, snatched to oneself" (res rapta et retinenda). Commentators have debated the pros and cons of these two nuances, and even of a third meaning of harpagmos (= windfall, godsend, piece of luck). (See P. Henry, VDBS 5, 22-27; L. Bouyer, RSR 39  281-88; H. Kruse, VD 27  355-60; VD 29  206-14.) We prefer the sense of res rapta et retinenda as the one most in keeping with the context: Jesus did not treat the status of divine glory (i.e., being equal with God) as a privilege or possession to be clutched so tenaciously that it might be exploited in the future; it was not for him a miser's booty. his right to be like God: Lit., "to be equal with God." This expresses in another way what his divine status was. Although Jesus possessed divine equality and its consequent privilege to appear like Yahweh in glory, he did not stand on his dignity. Some would see here an implicit comparison with Adam (J. Héring, O. Cullmann, L. Bouyer, P. Bonnard, et al.) as the heavenly man. But none of the reasons for this interpretation are really convincing.
· 7. emptied himself: Jesus, in becoming man, divested himself of the privilege of divine glory; he did not empty himself of divinity, but of the status of glory to which he had a right and which would be restored at his exaltation (cf. Jn 17:5; Mt 17:1-8). His voluntary giving up of doxa was the humiliation of the incarnation. the status of a slave: The use of morph, "form of a slave," shows that it is not to be understood as expressive of intrinsic constitution. It refers to the condition of a slave. There is a double contrast: (1) with morph theou (2:6); (2) with the title Kyrios, which is ultimately to be bestowed on him. He who made himself a "slave" eventually became the "Lord." He who was equal to God did not cease to be such on becoming man and abasing himself (cf. 2 Cor 8:9; Heb 5:8. In the use of doulos there may be an allusion to the "Servant of Yahweh" (Is 52:13 [Aquila tr.]); cf. also Is 53:12 (MT: "He poured out his life blood to the utmost"); morph also occurs in Is 52:14 (Aquila tr.). become like men: Not only did he become a real man, but was like all other men, without exceptional privileges; cf. Gal 4:4; Rom 8:3. having assumed human form: Lit., "in outward appearance found as a man." His external shape, as he appeared to men in the days of his flesh (Heb 5:7), was that of a man.8. humbled himself: An echo of Is 53:8 (LXX). This is the second stage of Jesus' humiliation. This stage sums up his whole life on earth and his devotion to the Father, which comes to a climax in death on the cross. an obedience that meant death: As was to be expected of a "servant" (doulos: cf. Rom 6:16-18; Col 3:22; Heb 5:8.)
Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible : Complete and Unabridged in One Volume
· Here are the two natures of Christ: his divine nature and his human nature. (1.) Here is his divine nature: Who being in the form of God (v. 6), partaking of the divine nature, as the eternal and only begotten Son of God. This agrees with Jn. 1:1, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God: it is of the same import with being the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15), and the brightness of his glory, and express image of his person, Heb. 1:3. He thought it no robbery to be equal with God; did not think himself guilty of any invasion of what did not belong to him, or assuming another's right. He said, I and my Father are one, Jn. 10:30. It is the highest degree of robbery for any mere man or mere creature to pretend to be equal with God, or profess himself one with the Father. This is for a man to rob God, not in tithes and offerings, but of the rights of his Godhead, Mal. 3:8. Some understand being in the form of God—en morpheµ Theou hyparchoµn, of his appearance in a divine majestic glory to the patriarchs, and the Jews, under the Old Testament, which was often called the glory, and the Shechinah. The word is used in such a sense by the Septuagint and in the New Testament. He appeared to the two disciples, en hetera morpheµ—In another form, Mk. 16:12. Metemorphoµtheµ—he was transfigured before them, Mt. 17:2. And he thought it no robbery to be equal with God; he did not greedily catch at, nor covet and affect to appear in that glory; he laid aside the majesty of his former appearance while he was here on earth, which is supposed to be the sense of the peculiar expression, ouk harpagmon heµgeµsato. Vid. Bishop Bull's Def. cap. 2 sect. 4 et alibi, and Whitby in loc. (2.) His human nature: He was made in the likeness of men, and found in fashion as a man. He was really and truly man, took part of our flesh and blood, appeared in the nature and habit of man. And he voluntarily assumed human nature; it was his own act, and by his own consent. We cannot say that our participation of the human nature is so. Herein he emptied himself, divested himself of the honours and glories of the upper world, and of his former appearance, to clothe himself with the rags of human nature. He was in all things like to us, Heb. 2:17.
The New American Commentary: Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, Melick, R. R. (1991)
(Note: Melick talks like an "emptying by adding" advocate who opposes all notions of kenosis. However, he defines "form of God" as "outward appearance" and says, This passage affirms simply that Christ left his position, rank, and privilege. They were "of no effect." Melick says, "It is best to leave unanswered questions the text does not raise and, therefore, does not answer." But as carefully as Melick tries to avoid all notions of kenosis, when he says, "emptied does not require a knowledge of what was emptied" he finally says, "He existed originally in the form of God; but at a specific point, he became human." We view Melick as a closet "semi kenosis" advocate in denial, trying to sound like and anti kenosis advocate.)
· 2:6 The main verbs are the key to the structure, and Jesus' attitude is presented in the first. Jesus "did not consider equality with God something to be grasped." Precise knowledge of why that was so remarkable comes from the phrases which modify and explain the significance of his attitude.
· Two parallel statements show the exemplary nature of Jesus' thoughts. The first is "being in very nature God," which is compared to the second, "equality with God." The former is normally translated by the English word "form," which is true to the literal meaning of the Greek morph. Commentators have debated hotly the meaning of the word "form."139 Basically, the word means "form, outward appearance, shape";140 but since it occurs only in 2:6 and 2:7 in the New Testament, the context must determine its precise meaning. Clearly, the "form of God" and the "form of a servant" must mean the same thing. Some take that to mean that the visible appearance of God is not a factor because he is invisible, and therefore the text calls for a nuance of the word. This meaning should not be dismissed too quickly, however. The hymn called the readers to consider the preexistent state of Jesus, when he was in the form of God. Physical eyes cannot see spiritual realities, only spiritual eyes can. Given the context, it would not be uncommon to use the term to state that he actually "appeared as God" to those who could see him. Nothing in the context requires that human eyes see the form. Similarly, the "very nature of a servant" does not require that human eyes be able to see that form, although with spiritually enlightened eyes one sees it. The question is whether he had that form. Surely the actions described of him here are appropriate to the servant role, and they appear in his death on the cross. The word "form" means an outward appearance consistent with what is true. The form perfectly expresses the inner reality.141
· The second matter is the meaning of "something to be grasped." Some understand the words to mean "something to hold on to," while others take them to mean "something to rob."147 Often Jesus is contrasted with Adam, who selfishly attempted to rob God of what he had no right to possess. He wanted to be "like God." This contrast may have been in Paul's mind, but any suggestion that requires the sense of aspiration to "equality with God," as though it were not Jesus', cannot fit the passage.148 With this understanding, Christ would have refused to do what Adam did. He refused to grab what was not his. Two factors speak against that understanding. First, the text more naturally reads "not to be clutched." Since he already possessed "equality with God," Jesus had nothing to grasp. He was able to release the appearance of deity. Second, when the word "grasped/clutched" is studied with words like "consider" (hgeomai, 2:3, 6) the "idiomatic expression refers to something already present and at one's disposal."149 The passage may mean, therefore, that Christ did not think of his equality as "something to use for his own advantage."150
· 2:7 The hymn moves from attitude to actions. Two verbs describe successive actions as Jesus gave himself for humanity: "He made himself nothing" and "he humbled himself." Each has a phrase modifying it. The first of Jesus' choices was to empty himself. The NIV translation "made himself nothing" captures the spirit of the passage but overlooks many theological discussions of the past. Historically, interpreters have wondered of what did Jesus empty himself? The question shows that a theological interest predominates in the passage. Most modern interpreters, however, point out that the hymn does not speak to that point. The contrasts between "Lord" (v. 11) and "servant," (v. 7) and "very nature of God" (v. 6) and "human likeness" (v. 7) express the emptying. Thus the emptying is that God became human, Lord became servant, and obedience took him to death. The verb "emptied" (NASB) does not require a knowledge of what was emptied (Rom 4:14; 1 Cor 1:17; 9:15). Often it is translated simply "to render void, of no effect."151 This passage affirms simply that Christ left his position, rank, and privilege. They were "of no effect."
· The theological question is important and should not be totally cast aside. This passage does not tell us enough to make judgments about it. The most that can be said is that Jesus left the appearance of deity to accept another form of existence. Some argue for a low Christology on the basis that he really became human. Nothing in the text suggests that being human required him to be less than God. Most of the theological discussion regarding the kenosis of Christ involves reading in other assumptions, either high or low regarding Christ. It is best to leave unanswered questions the text does not raise and, therefore, does not answer. A good discussion of problems associated with a kenotic theory that limits the divine nature of Christ is found in Müller, 83-85.
· Two ideas modify the verb "made himself nothing." They are: taking the very nature of a servant and being made in human likeness. These statements explain both how this took place and what it means. Paradoxically, being "made nothing" means adding humanity to deity rather than subtracting deity from his person. The language has a vagueness to it; that vagueness allows for theology which cannot be expressed easily, a theology of the relationships between the divine and human in Christ.
· The description "human likeness" really stresses Jesus' humanity. While on the surface it may seem to say that Jesus was not really man, that conclusion finds almost no support. In fact, likeness "does not suggest any degree of unreality in Christ's humanity; the word is almost a synonym for 'form' (morph) and 'image' (eik n); but it leaves room for the thought that the human likeness is not the whole story." It must be seen in light of the next statement, that he was found "in appearance as a man" (v. 8). The change from the plural ("human likeness") to the singular ("appearance as a man") may reinforce that conclusion. Finally, the verb "being made" (v. 7) contrasts with "being" (2:6). He existed originally in the form of God; but at a specific point, he became human.
The New Bible Commentary, Carson, D. A. (1994)
· 6 Powerful words are used here. The participle being comes from a stronger verb in the Greek than the normal verb 'to be'; this is followed by a noun that is well translated by the niv as in very nature. Jesus was truly God before he became a human person. Then, without ceasing to be God, he was willing to lay aside the glory of being equal with God. That was not something to be grasped (see note below on the precise meaning here). There is perhaps an intended contrast with Adam in Gn. 3 as the temptation to which he fell was wrongly to seize what he thought would make him 'like God'.
· 7-8 So he made himself nothing. Literally it says 'he emptied himself', not of his deity but of his glory; 'he made himself of no reputation' (av). Then when it says that he was made in human likeness and found in appearance as a man that does not merely mean similarity without the reality of our human nature. He was indeed truly human, as Paul says in Rom. 8:3 and Gal. 4:4, but the expression 'leaves room for the thought that the human likeness is not the whole story' (F. W. Beare, The Epistle to the Philippians [A. and C. Black, 1959]). He stooped lower still and became obedient to death.
The Wycliffe Bible Commentary : New Testament, Pfeiffer, C. F., & Harrison, E. F. (1962)
· 6. Being in the form of God (AV). Better, Though in his pre-incarnate state he possessed the essential qualities of God, he did not consider his status of divine equality a prize to be selfishly hoarded (taking harpagmos passively). Morphe, form, in verses 6 and 7 denotes a permanent expression of essential attributes, while schma, fashion (v. 8), refers to outward appearance that is subject to change.
· 7. But he emptied himself. Ekensen is not intended in a metaphysical sense (i.e., that he gave up divine attributes), but is a "graphic expression of the completeness of his self-renunciation" (M. R. Vincent, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles to the Philippians and to Philemon, p. 59). Note the allusion to Isa 53:12, "he hath poured out his soul unto death." Christ emptied himself by becoming a servant (the use of morphe, form, here indicates the reality of his servanthood) and appearing upon the scene as mortal man. Unlike the first Adam, who made a frantic attempt to seize equality with God (Gen 3:5), Jesus, the last Adam (I Cor 15:47), humbled himself and obediently accepted the role of the Suffering Servant (cf. the contribution of R. Martin in Exp T, March '59, p. 183 f.). 8. The act of voluntary humiliation did not stop with the Incarnation but continued to the ignominious depths of death by crucifixion. The omission of the article before staurou, cross, emphasizes the shameful nature of the death—even a cross death. (For the Roman view of crucifixion cf. Cicero In Verrem 5. 66). He humbled himself. He put aside all personal rights and interests in order to insure the welfare of others.
Willmington's Bible Handbook, Willmington, H. L.
· 2:5-8 What Christ did for us: Humiliation. Christ is the supreme example of selflessness. When the mighty Son of God became the lowly Son of Man, he did several things: He left heaven's glory for earth's poverty (see John 17:5; 2 Cor. 8:9). He "made himself nothing," or "emptied" himself (2:7). — He did not lay aside his deity. He was, is, and ever shall be the Son of God (see John 1:1; Col. 1:15; 2:9). — He did, for a while, hide his heavenly fame in an earthly frame. Even though he retained every single attribute of deity while on earth, he surrendered the independent exercise of those divine characteristics (compare Mark 9:12 and Rom. 15:3).
· He "took the humble position of a slave" (2:7). He did not come as a mighty human king or philosopher, but as a lowly servant.
Dudley Spears, Oct, 1998 email
No better statement have I found to express my faith in the reality of Jesus the son of God and the son of Man than H.C.G. Moule's, Cambridge Greek New Testament, 1906, pages 38-39.
· The term "morphe" of God is "a term which expresses the sum of those characterizing qualities which make a thing the precise thing that it is." - ISBE
· Illustration: The form of a sword is al that makes a given piece of metal specifically a sword and not a plow share. (An illustration used by Bernard Ramm.)
· Application: The form of God is the sum of the characterizing qualities that make the being "God" specifically God, rather than some other being and not an angel, man, or animal.
· To say Jesus was in the form of God is to declare in the clearest terms possible that he possessed all the fulness of that which makes God the being he is, not an angel, nor man, nor animal.
· Dual Nature: Paul teaches us that the supreme God came to earth in the role or form of a servant, was found in the likeness of men, accepted the nature of a man yet never relinquished his being the supreme God of creation and redemption.
· That he was in the form of God but took the form of a servant affirms the fact that he retained his essential and intrinsic being, deity. To say he exchanged the form of God for the form of a slave is based on nothing from scripture, but wholly rests on human wisdom, a wisdom of this world that reduces Jesus down from full deity to an ordinary man in the meanest manner of life - a slave.
· It equals all that is meant in "he humbled himself." Despite his subsistence as God, his concern for others moved him to choose the life of a slave here on earth. It is all that he did in giving he ultimate example of Humility.
· He "took" to himself the form (some cavil that he divested himself of nothing based on a misconception of the term divest.) Divest in a literal sense cannot be said scripturally of Jesus Christ. What can be said scripturally is that he took, added to his being another dimension.
Tim Hale, 1998, Email
paraphrase: "Jesus eternally subsists equal with God, which was His native and essential being, but His attitude toward this was such that He was willing to humble Himself, taking the role of a slave by accepting the human body that was prepared for Him. His outward mode of manifestation was the likeness of men. In this He humbled Himself even to the point of death on the cross."
· "Form" means the sum total of essential qualities, attributes and characteristics that make a thing what it is, that is, its essence. Vine quotes Gifford, who defines "morphe" as , "properly the nature or essence, not in the abstract, but as actually subsisting in the individual, and retained as long as the individual itself exist... thus in the passage before us "morphe Theou" is the Divine nature actually and inseparably subsisting in the person of Christ."
· Based upon passages which teach that Jesus was equal with God (John 5:18; 10:30; Heb. 1:3 NASB "the exact representation of His nature"), we must conclude that there is no essential difference in the nature of the Father and the Son. I agree with the Jews when they said Jesus had made Himself equal with God.
· The whole point of Paul using the example of Jesus' humility (not clinging to His native grandeur) was to show the Philippians how willing He was to humble Himself, taking the role of a slave and to think more highly of others than He did Himself. That is what Paul commanded the Philippians to do in verse 3.
· The expression "thought it not robbery" had to do with His "attitude" (vs. 5, NASB), not His nature. Had Jesus stopped being "equal" with God, He would have stopped being God!
· Emphasis on "OF" anything. That is, He did not "divest, give up, surrender, or abdicate" a single attribute of God by coming in the flesh. It was an act of "incarnation," not "mutation." God cannot "mutate" (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 6:18; 13:8).
· Jesus retained both the "form of God" and "equality with God" while incarnate
· It is impossible to "take" something without "adding" it, and Paul said He "took" the role of a slave.
Chuck Bartlett, Email 98
· Jn 4:24 [form refers to the essential, unchangeable attributes of God]
· Jn. 1:1 [equality means the state of being God]
· "harpagmos" - a thing seized, or held fast
· Jesus retained both the "form of God" and "equality with God" while incarnate: Jn. 1:1,14, Matt. 1:23
David Dann, Email 98
· Form of God is the nature of Deity
· In the context, grasped at (he wasn't, however, grasping at equality with, or the form of God)
· Jesus did not empty himself of anything
· Jesus retained both the "form of God" and "equality with God" while incarnate
New International Commentary, Philippians, J.J Muller, p77
· The verb used by the apostles denotes that both the previous existence of Christ and His continued existence afterwards was "in the form of God". By form of God, is meant neither the abstract essence or being of God, nor merely an external form or appearance of God, but His divine nature, which is inseparable from His person.
· existence in a manner equal to god
· The expression "equality with God" which is not a very literal or accurate rendering of the original) does not therefore here denote His essential equality with God nor His
· was not a thing to be robbed or grasped, for it was not something which the Logos, Christ, still had to acquire, but which was His already
· Many expositor take it to mean that He emptied Himself of the "form of God" or of the "existence in a manner equal to God", but the verse does not justify such an interpretation. It does not state: 'But He emptied Himself of it,' nor is anything else definitely mentioned whereof He actually emptied Himself.
· Nothing is mentioned of any abandonment of divine attributes, the divine nature or the form of God, but only a divine paradox is stated here: He emptied Himself by taking something to himself, namely the manner of being, the nature or form of a servant or slave. At His incarnation He remained "in the form of God"
· Kenotic theory annuls the doctrine of the trinity. [He takes the Nicene creed's view of God being a single being with three personalities that cannot function from each other- God is like a Siamese triplet]
New International Commentary, Philippians, Gordon D. Fee, p191
Paraphrase: "Being in the form of God as he was, Christ did not consider a matter of seizing upon to his own advantage, this being equal with God we have just noted, but he emptied himself."
· This, then, is what it means for Christ to be "in the form of God"; it means "to be equal with God," not in the sense that the two phrases are identical, but that both point to the same reality. Together therefore, they are among the strongest expressions of Christ's deity in the NT.
· it denotes "form" and "shape" not in terms of the external features by which something is recognized, but of those characteristics and qualities that are essential to it. Hense I means that which truly characterizes a given reality.
· charactorized by what was essential to being God. It is this understanding which (correctly) lies behind the NIV's "in very nature God."
· equality with God is not that which he desired which was not His, but precisely that which was always his.
· Paul intends the infinitive phrase (to be equal with God) to repeat in essence the sense of that preceded (being in the form of God)
· harpagmon after all, corresponds to "not looking out for one's own needs" ... it was NOT "something to be seized upon to his own advantage" which would be the normal exception of lordly power [ie like the Greek gods the Philippians knew of locally like Zeus]
· The debate has raged over the concept of "emptying himself" ie., what kenosis means, and emerged either because of a faulty understanding of harpagmon or because it has been assumed that the verb requires a genitive qualifier- that he must have "emptied himself" of something. But that is precisely not in keeping with Pauline usage. Just as harpagmon requires no object for him to "seize," but rather points to what is the opposite of God's character, so Christ did not empty himself of anything; he simply "emptied himself," poured himself out. This is metaphor, pure and simple.
· In the form of God he emptied himself, in the appearance of a human being he humbled himself
· The further point to make, of course, is that the text does not imply that he exchanged one form of existence for another ... rather, it is precisely he who is in the form of God (always) who "beggared himself" by "taking on" the form of a slave... "He displayed the nature (or form) of God in the nature (or form) of a servant."
· The narrative that began in v6 is continues by this sentence, whose close connection - and narrative quality- is highlighted by the paratactic "and". Apart from the "not/but" contrast in v6, it [v8] is identical in form to the preceding sentence. It begins (1) with a participle emphasizing Christ's present "mode" of being, in this case "as a human being", followed (2) by the main clause ("he humbled himself"), precisely as in v6, followed (3) by a participial modifier, again modal, which spells out how de did so ("by becoming obedient unto death") which in turn (4) is brought into rhetorical climax by specifying the kind of death ("death on the cross").
Beacon Bible commentary, Philippians p 318
· the appearance of the object is the true revelation or expression of the object itself. That is, the form participates in the reality; thus closely resembles its form.
· Did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped
· But contrary to the accusation of His enemies (Jn 5:17-18) this is precisely what He refused to do - insist upon His own rights, or usurp the place of God.
· The verb kenoun means "to pour out", with Christ himself as the object. Thus Christ emptied himself of himself.
New International Greek Testament commentary, Philippians, Peter T. Obrien
paraphrase: The pre-existent son regarded equality with God not as excusing him from the task of (redemptive) suffering and death, but actually as uniquely qualifying him for that vocation. (quoting Wright)
"precisely because he was in the form of God he did not regard this equality with God as something to be used for his own advantage." (quoting Moule)
· To conclude, morphe refers to that 'form which truly and fully expresses the being with underlies it'. The phrase is best interpreted against the background of the glory of God, that shining light in which, according to the OT and intertestamental literature, God was pictured. The expression does not refer simply to external appearance but pictures the preexistent Christ as clothed in garments of divine majesty and splendour. He was in the form of God, sharing God's glory.
· It is not as though Christ simply took on the external appearance of a slave or disguised himself as such. Instead, he became a slave, adopting the nature and characteristics of one.
· The philological conclusions of Hoover appear to be correct, so that the sense of "aJrpagmo;n"(grasped) , which is part of an idiomatic expression, is determined by the entire phrase: Jesus did not regard his equality with God as something to be used for his own advantage. aJrpagmo;n (grasped) is here an active, abstract word, with the idiom clearly assuming that equality with God is already possessed. The expression emphasizes that Jesus refused to use for his own gain the glory that he had from the beginning. Unlike many oriental despots who regarded their position for their own advantage Jesus understood that equality with God did not mean 'getting' but 'giving', to use Moule's phrase.
· He who was God and never ceased to be otherwise, humbled himself in the incarnation. He emptied himself by taking the form of a slave (thus having no rights whatsoever) and being born like other human beings. Not that He exchanged the form of God for the form of a slave, but that he manifested the form of God in the form of a slave (quoting F.F. Bruce)
· four of the five NT occurrences of the verse it bears a metaphorical sense; the balance of probability lies in favour of a figurative connotation at Phil 2:7 as well. Accordingly, it has been suggested that this enigmatic expression is a poetic, hymn-like way of saying that Christ poured out himself, putting himself totally at the disposal of people.
· Philippians with a pagan past, it seems best, on balance, to understand the expression (form of slave) against the background of slavery in contemporary society. Slavery pointed to the extreme deprivation of one's rights, even those who relating to one's own life and person. When Jesus emptied himself by embracing the divine vocation and becoming incarnate he became a slave, without any rights whatever. He did not exchange the nature or form of God for that of a slave; instead, he displayed the nature or form of God in the nature or form of a slave, thereby showing clearly not only what his character was like, but also what it meant to be God.
· Schneider's statement that "even as a man He remained at the core of His being, what he had been before", appears to come close to saying that Christ's likeness to humans was not real but merely apparent. Interpretations that tend in this direction can hardly avoid the danger of some form of docetism, even when the contrary is asserted. Instead the term (schema) should be understood here in the sense of Christ's full identity with the human race.
· As R.P. Martin puts it in v.7d "contains an unmistakable witness to His personal humanity in its declaration that, in the eyes of those who saw His incarnate life, he was "as a man""
· The meaning is thus: He was found to be a man ... we were found to be sinners.
World Biblical commentary, Philippians, Hawthorne
· [Paul] did not wish to say outright that Christ was God. ... Neither did the author mean to say by it that Christ was the form of God ... "Christ was the form of God" but Christ was "in the form of God", as if the form of God were a sphere in which Christ existed.
· these expressions [...] together demand a new and fresh meaning for morphe... and this new meaning must be one that will apply equally well to both phrases, since form of God was obviously penned in antitheses to form of servant.
· Perhaps, then the best approach to the meaning of morphe is (1) to admit that it is a word whose precise meaning is elusive, but (2) at the same time to recognize that from earliest Greek texts morphe was at least used to express the way in which a thing, being what it is in itself, appears to our senses.
· To say, therefore, that Christ existed "in the form of God" is to say that outside his human nature Christ had no other manner of existing apart from existing in the form of God," that is, apart from being in possession of all the characteristics and qualities belonging to God. This somewhat enigmatic expression, then, appears to be a cautious, hidden way for the author to say that Christ as God, possessed of the very nature of God (CNB, NIV, Goodspeed, Knox, Moffatt, Phillips), without employing these exact words. It appears to be a statement made by one who perhaps, although reared as a strict monotheist and thus unable to bring himself to say, "Christ is God," was compelled nevertheless by the sheer force of personal encounter with the resurrected and living Christ to bear witness as best he could to the reality of Christ's divinity. That this is the correct interpretation is corroborated by the expression ("the being equal with God") which follows. The definite article [...] implies that this second expression is closely connected with the first, for the function of the definite article here is to point back to meshing previously mentioned (BDF 399, 1). Therefore [equality] should be understood thus: "the equality with God of which we have just spoken equivalently by saying [form of God] (Cerfaux, Christ, 387, 60; see also Dibelius).
· Much has been written about this rare word [grasped], used only here in the NT, but no consensus has been reached as to what it means.
· Paul, for example, had been caught away without his own will or power, by the Spirit, in a rapture [...] to be a short while with God (2 Cor 12:2-4). But for the Son of God "while he was in the form of God, the being with God was no rapture, no ... it was his nature. No spirit, no angel had brought him into this state of being with God" and nobody else could ever bring him out of it. Only he himself could do this by voluntary choice (Hammerich, reported in ExpTim 78 [1966-67] 193-94; Trudinger, ExpTim 79 [1967-68] 279).
· C. F. D. Moule argues convincingly that [...] refers rather to the act of snatching, to acquisitiveness. "Jesus did not reckon equality with God meant snatching; on the contrary, he emptied himself." Human evaluation may assume "that God-likeness means having your own way, getting what you want, (but) Jesus saw God-likeness essentially as giving and spending oneself out" ("Manhood," 97; "Further Reflexions," 271-74). He did not consider that being equal with God was taking everything to himself, but ... giving everything away for the sake of others. This meaning for [grasped] best fits the context here.
· But what did this act of self-emptying entail? Of what did Christ empty himself? Some are quick to answer: (1) he emptied himself of his glory (Plummer), (2) of his independent exercise of authority (Hendriksen), (3) of the prerogatives of deity (Lightfoot), (4) of the insignia of majesty (Lightfoot, Calvin), (5) of the "relative" attributes of deity—omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence (the kenoticists—e.g. C. Gore, P. T. Forsyth, H. R. Mackintosh), (6) of being equal with God (Oepke, TDNT 3, 661), and so on. But there is no basis for any of these speculative answers in the text of the hymn, simply because it gives no clue whatsoever as to what it was that Christ emptied himself of.
· A more fruitful approach to understanding this difficult phrase is to realize that the verb Kenosis also means "to pour out" (LSJ), and [self] can be taken as its direct object.
· There no idea here that Christ possessed the external appearance of a slave, or at he disguised himself as a slave. Rather it means that he adopted the nature, "the characteristic attributes" of a slave. In other words, he became slave. For some interpreters this means that Christ, as a natural consequence becoming human, accepted bondage to the [...] "the elemental spirits the universe," that he allowed himself to be born into a world dominated - powers of evil described as sin, death and the law (Rom 5-8), and that subjected himself to these powers until by his death he could destroy them both for himself and for all mankind (cf. I Cor 2:6-8; Gal 4:3, 9, Col i, 20; see Beare, Caird, Kasemann, "Critical Analysis," 45-88; Keck). But this is not an obvious meaning for the expression and it does not readily harmonize with the general thrust of Phil 2:3-11.
· that Christ in the incarnation fully identified himself with humanity [...] he "truly became man, not merely in outward appearances but thought and feeling" (Schneider, TDNT 7, 956), he shared man's plight reality and was no mere "'reasonable facsimile' of a man" (Keck). In this respect, the writer of the Philippian hymn is in full accord with other writers of the NT who insist on the genuineness and completeness of Christ's humanity (cf. Luke 2:52; John 1:14; Rom 8:3, Gal 4:4, Col 1:22, Heb 2:17 5; 5:7-8; I John 4:2-3). It is incorrect, therefore, to single out the phrase human form" (lit. "in form as a man"), relate it to Dan 7:13, and interpret as an allusion to Daniel's heavenly Son of Man (Lohmeyer, Kynos Jesus, 42; Michel, "Zur Exegese von Phil. 2.5-11," 90-92), thus lessening its force as the final element in an emphatically unequivocal, repetitive affirmation the realness of Christ's humanness. This phrase, together with its two companion phrases, says in effect, "let there be no doubt—Christ was really and truly man, having to live the same kind of life as any other man had to live" (cf. Grayston, Galatians and Philippians).
· the use of verb kenosis in Phil 2:7 that gave rise to and provided the name for the Kenotic theory of the incarnation. This ancient theory, as recently expounded [says] that "at the incarnation Christ divested himself of the 'relative' attributes of deity, omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence, but retained 'essential attributes' of holiness, love and righteousness" (Collange). Such theory, in spite of its worthy motive of attempting to do justice to the reality of Christ's humanity and his divinity, cannot be supported by the elements in Phil 2, and for the following reasons: (1) the significant statements regarding Christ's kenosis are found in a hymn (2:6-11). (2) ...cautions against building a doctrine on any single statement to be found in it. For like a poem the hymn is composed not to be analyzed word by word, but to be understood in its entirety. The full impact of its meaning, therefore, is found not in the part but the whole, and the whole thrust of hymn is alien to the issues raised by the kenoticists (Thomas, EvQ 42 70] 142-51). (3) Although the verb kenosis ("to empty") is used here ..., its meaning is too imprecise to permit one to say that Christ emptied self of certain divine attributes. In fact, as was pointed out above, the Philippian text does not say that Christ gave up anything. Rather it says he added to himself that which he did not have before—"the form of servant," "the likeness of a man." Thus the implication is that at the incarnation.
· Christ became more than God, if this is conceivable, not less than God. It is impossible to explain such a mystery—that the one who was God diminished could also be a human person to the fullest, a truly genuine man being possessing all the potential for physical, mental, social and spiritual growth that is proper to humanity (Luke 2:52), and be both at the same time—divine and human, God and man. Nevertheless, the Philippian hymn seems clearly to set forth just such a paradox and affirm it, but does try to explain it. Hence, anyone coming to the text, in the hope of interpret the text, must exercise the same kind of balance and reserve, neither tampering with anything relating to the divinity of Christ, nor calling into question any aspect of the reality of his humanity (cf. Dawe, SJT 15  337-49, especially 348; see also G. F. Hawthorne, "Hebrews," in G. C. D. Howley, F. F. Bruce and H. L. Ellison 1eds.] A New Testament Commentary [London: Pickering and Inglis, 1969] 547, and Thc Significance of the Holy Spirit in the Lilc of Christ, M. A. thesis, Wheaton College, 1954).
Anderson, G. W.; The Problematic Translation of "emptied himself" as found in Philippians 2.7; Quarterly Record no. 538, 1997; Trinitarian Bible Society
· Many modern versions have created grave theological problems in Philippians 2.7. Translations such as the New American Standard Bible, the American Standard Version, the Revised Standard Version, the Revised Version, the J. N. Darby Version and the Modern Language Bible claim that Jesus "emptied himself" in this verse. This rendering has produced numerous problems for the Christian church.
· Many translators of the Bible during the Reformation and after recognized the problems with translating the verb kenow as "emptied". Men such as William Tyndale, Cranmer, the translators of the Geneva Bible and the translators of the Authorised (King James) Version rendered this word metaphorically or figuratively rather than literally. They, as we, endeavour to translate "as literally as possible, as free as necessary". Even the translators of the New King James Version New Testament, following the problematic and incorrect reading of some of the modern versions, at one time had "emptied Himself" (this was later changed to "made Himself of no reputation").
· The Problem Stated: Some current modern versions have made an attempt to avoid the problems associated with "emptied himself". The New International Version, the New English Bible, the Revised English Bible, the New Century Version and the New Living Translation have "made himself nothing". Thus they attempt to express the idea of "making void" or "of none effect". However, the problems associated with the idea of making oneself "nothing" are probably more than those of "emptied himself". Translating kenow as "emptied himself" introduces problems which liberal, neo-orthodox and conservative commentators have wrestled with for years. The pages of commentaries and annotated study Bibles are filled with all manner of heresy and speculation to try to answer this question. If the word "emptied" is used, it must be asked, of what did Jesus empty Himself in order to be able to take "upon him the form of a servant" (Philippians 2.7)? Various possibilities have been offered. Some say He was emptied of His glory. Others say it was of one or the other of His Godly attributes or abilities, such as divine privileges, divine majesty, divine power and divine nature, riches, His favorable relationship to the divine law, the independent use of His divine prerogatives, His glory or the environment of glory. Some even believe that He emptied Himself completely of His deity or Godhood. Since these explanations are not to be found in the context of Philippians 2.1-11, the only limit to speculations is the imagination. The translation "made himself of no reputation" eliminates the need for these distracting arguments.
· The Problem Avoided: The simple rendering "made Himself of no reputation" or "He made no account of Himself", when coupled with the following modal participle, easily solves the problem. "He made Himself of no reputation by taking [labwn, "having taken"] the form of a servant. In other words, He did not "empty"; He "took on" the form of a man -- i.e., was fully God and fully man -- God manifest in the flesh.
Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary, Hughes, R. B., Laney, J. C., & Hughes, R. B. (2001)
· The best example Paul could use to exemplify the qualities demanded by his exhortation (2:1-4) was the person of Jesus Christ (2:5-11). Christ emptied himself in order to be filled up with obedience. The emphasis was on the two modes of Christ's existence: the first in divine glory and splendor, the second as humble servant. Paul presented the supreme illustration of humility: Christ's example of sacrificing himself for others. Although in his preincarnate state Jesus possessed the essential qualities of God, he did not regard his status of divine equality a prize to be selfishly hoarded (2:6).
· There are various interpretations regarding what Christ actually did in becoming a man (2:7): (1) he emptied himself of some aspect of his deity (cf. James 1:17; Mal. 3:6); (2) he veiled his glory (cf. John 17:5; Matt. 17:1-2); (3) he laid aside the independent exercise of some of his attributes (Acts 10:38; Matt. 24:36); (4) he received the form of a servant and became a man. The last view is most commended by the context. Christ lost nothing in his incarnation. He simply received the essential nature of a man and became a servant.
C. Full Kenotic
William Barclay, Philippians, p 42
He was by nature in the very form of God, yet He did not regard existence in equality with God as something to be snatched at, but He emptied Himself, and took the very form of a slave, and became like men"
· "Morphe" is the essential form of something, which never alters; "schema" is the outward form which changes.
· A baby, a child, a boy, a youth, a man of middle age, and old man always have the morphe of manhood, but the outward scheme changes all the time. Roses, daffodils, tulips, chrysanthemums, primroses, dahlias, lupins all have the one morphe; they are all flowers, but their outward for, their schema, is different. ... Morphe never alters; the schema continually alters.
· This phrase can mean one of two things, both of which are at the heart of them the same: (a) It can mean that Jesus did not need to snatch at equality with God, because He had it as a right. It was His, and there was no need for Him to try to snatch at it. (b) It can mean that Jesus did not clutch at equality with God, as if to hug it jealously to Himself, and to refuse to let it go. Hi laid it willingly down
· The serenity, the peace, the glory of divinity - Jesus gave them up, voluntarily and willingly, in order to become man. He emptied Himself of His deity to take upon Himself to take upon Himself His humanity. It is useless to ask how; we can only stand in awe at the sight of Him, who is almighty God, in hunger and in weariness and in tears.
· The word Paul uses for form is morphe, which we have seen means the essential form. What Paul means is that when Jesus became a man it was no play-acting; it was reality. He was really and truly man. He was not like the Greek gods, who sometimes so the stories ran, became men, but kept their divine privileges. Jesus really and truly became man in the sense of true human manhood.
D. Arian: Jesus is a creature
Jehovah's Witnesses, C. T. Russell, The At-one-ment between God and man, 1899, p79
· Russell's paraphrase: "when our Lord Jesus was a spirit being, when he had a God-like form and nature, he was not filled with an ambitious spirit, and a desire to usurp divine authority and power and glory and homage- he was not of the spirit of Satan, who strove to exalt himself, saying, 'I will be as the Most High.' On the contrary, although he occupied the highest position, next to the Heavenly Father, he was so humble minded that, in obedience to the Father's will, he divested himself of the glories and majesty of his spirit condition, a human condition."
Jehovah's Witnesses, Watchtower, Should you believe in the Trinity?, Arian
For a full refutation of this most deceptive Watchtower booklet, click here.
(Note Jehovah's Witness deception: The Expositor's Greek Testament: Jehovah's Witnesses project the false impression that since Kennedy takes the active interpretation of harpazo (grasped at), that Jesus is a creature. In fact Kennedy out right states that the passage teaches Jesus is uncreated God. Kennedy's assessment is that the text of Phil 2:6-10 clearly portrays Jesus as deity (uncreated God.) Kennedy's interpretation is summed up in our paraphrase: "Although Jesus while he walked the earth, knew he had existed before all time as uncreated God, He did not violently force [active har·pa'zo] men to accept his equality with God with the use of his inherent divine powers. Instead, he chose the path of humility that lead first to death, then to being proclaimed worthy of worship after the resurrection and exhalation by God to possess a name among men equal to Jehovah of the Old Testament. Martin flat out says that both are possible in the Greek. He says that either way, the text still teaches that Jesus was either equal to God as a possession or able to be equal with God, as an inherent right that the Father could not refuse. But Watchtower readers won't tell you this.)
· "Some claim, however, that even these more accurate renderings imply that (1) Jesus already had equality but did not want to hold on to it or that (2) he did not need to grasp at equality because he already had it. In this regard, Ralph Martin, in The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, says of the original Greek: "It is questionable, however, whether the sense of the verb can glide from its real meaning of 'to seize', 'to snatch violently' to that of 'to hold fast.'" The Expositor's Greek Testament also says: "We cannot find any passage where [har·pa'zo] or any of its derivatives has the sense of 'holding in possession,' 'retaining'. It seems invariably to mean 'seize,' 'snatch violently'. Thus it is not permissible to glide from the true sense 'grasp at' into one which is totally different, 'hold fast.'" From the foregoing it is apparent that the translators of versions such as the Douay and the King James are bending the rules to support Trinitarian ends. Far from saying that Jesus thought it was appropriate to be equal to God, the Greek of Philippians 2:6, when read objectively, shows just the opposite, that Jesus did not think it was appropriate. The context of the surrounding verses (3-5, 7, 8, Dy) makes it clear how verse 6 is to be understood. The Philippians were urged: "In humility, let each esteem others better than themselves." Then Paul uses Christ as the outstanding example of this attitude: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." What "mind"? To 'think it not robbery to be equal with God'? No, that would be just the opposite of the point being made! Rather, Jesus, who 'esteemed God as better than himself,' would never 'grasp for equality with God,' but instead he "humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death." Surely, that cannot be talking about any part of Almighty God. It was talking about Jesus Christ, who perfectly illustrated Paul's point here—namely the importance of humility and obedience to one's Superior and Creator, Jehovah God." Jehovah's Witnesses, Watchtower, Should you believe in the Trinity?, Arian
Moffatt, NT commentary, Philippians, by J. Hugh Michael p83
· "Christ regarded this equality with god (which, though in divine form, did not yet possess) not as a booty, that is to say, not as an object which might violently and against the will of God snatch for himself ... but rather as something attainable only through self-emptying and by the favour of God... This is also the interpretation adopted by Kennedy, and it is the one that is assumed in our translation." (Moffatts)
· This conception of a personal pre-existence teems with difficulties.
· before he came as man, Christ's life was Divine in quality; not merely like God, but participant in His essential attributes.
· equality with the Father that was achieved at his exaltation
· Note: the original 1913 translation by Moffatt rendered the phrase "he did not set store upon equality with God" The rendering in this commentary changed this to read, "he did not snatch at equality with God".
· equality with God is not something already possessed by Christ. This second meaning suits the derivation of the word... The cognate verb appears to invariably to denote snatching something not yet possessed.
· Moffatt was modernist who denied the virgin birth. It should not surprise us that he took this view of Phil 2:6. Jehovah's Witnesses have a long history of using modernists and Bible skeptics to support their spurious interpretations.
Christadelphians, Trinity true or false, Broughton & Southgate, p208
· form, fashion, appearance, external shape
· The idea is of external shape that can make identification possible
· Despite many claims to the contrary, the internal nature or condition of that which is being described does not seem to be implied in the word morphe.
· Adam through pride grasped at the opportunity for equality with God, but Jesus, the second Adam, although a perfect manifestation of the attributes and character of God, did not seek to grasp any short cut to divine equality.
· is contrasting Christ with Adam, and illustrating the humility and obedience of the Saviour as an example for those who claim to follow him.
By Steve Rudd