There are several Scriptures which tell us something about the Lord Jesus before He took manhood. Each passage looks at the matter from a different perspective, bearing in mind the context of the passage, and the consequence that is to be forthcoming as a result of what is written.
Every passage of Scripture may be looked at by considering first the Context, then the Content, and afterwards the Consequence, in terms of the truth it conveys, and also in terms of the practical response God is looking for from us. No passage of Scripture is without consequence, for God has said:
“For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven,
and returneth not thither,
but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud,
that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth:
It shall not return unto Me void,
but it shall accomplish that which I please,
and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it”,
It is the believer’s responsibility to have an intelligent grasp of the content of Scripture, considered in the light of its context and setting, so that the consequence God is looking for is achieved.
We now turn to the epistle to the Philippians chapter 2:5,6:
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:” Philippians 2:5,6.
THE CONTEXT: the apostle is urging the Philippians to unity; to like-mindedness; to the love of the same things; to not act in strife and vain-glory; to be lowly in mind; to concern for others, verses 2-4. What better example can he give than that of the Lord Jesus? He had everything that would give Him reputation, yet made Himself of no reputation. He was not proud, needing to be humbled, but nonetheless humbled Himself even to death on a cross, the most shameful and ignominious death of all.
THE CONSEQUENCE: “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”, verse 12. Of course the salvation of our souls is entirely of God, “for by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast”, Ephesians 2:8,9.
The verse in Philippians 2, however, refers to the salvation from wrong thinking that the apostle discerned the Philippians needed. If they imitated Christ in their thinking and acting, they would be saved from their current faulty attitudes, and be enabled to live more Christ-honouring lives.
THIS MIND…WAS ALSO IN CHRIST JESUS
Christ Jesus is a title reserved until He had returned to heaven.
To the apostle, the exaltation of Christ is a foregone conclusion. Just as Isaiah began his song in Isaiah 52:13-53:12 with a reference to the exaltation of the Servant, before he went on to speak of His humbling.
The Christ is the one central to God’s purpose in eternity, and He became Jesus to carry that purpose out.
The challenge comes to the believer- “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time”, 1 Peter 5:6.
THE FORM OF GOD
God, being Spirit, (John 4:24), has no physical shape or form. The word form, therefore, refers to that which is non-material and non-physical. The Greek word is “morphe”, and has been defined as “reality in manifestation”.
In verse 7 we read of Him taking the “form” of a servant. This is the same word “morphe”. Now the outward appearance of a servant may vary, but the form does not, for it relates to what he is by constitution, not appearance.
In verse 8 the word “fashion” is used. This has more to do with outward display, and this may change as circumstances change. So, for instance, Christ’s fashion as a man changed from being that of a baby, to a young child, a young man, and a fully grown man. But His form remained constant.
We may use the illustration of a tree. A tree is a tree; that is its “morphe”. But the fashion of a tree changes with the seasons. In winter, laden with snow, or sparkling with frost; in spring, bursting into life with fresh green buds and leaves; in summer, laden with fruits; in autumn, with leaves turning fiery colours, and then falling in the wind. The fashion has changed constantly, but the form has not. It has always been a tree, but sometimes it is leafless, at other times leafy, and so on.
So in eternity the Son of God manifested Himself as He really was, as God. The only Ones to whom the manifestation was made then, of course, being the other Persons of the Godhead.
It is important to notice the meaning of this word, for it helps us to understand the whole phrase. Some verbs in English need a form of the verb “to be” added to them, in order for them to make sense. For instance, we cannot happy; we have to say we are happy. We cannot ill, we say we are ill. But when the apostle writes “Being in the form of God”, he is not using a verb “to be in the form of”. Rather, he is simply using the word “huparcho”, (which means to exist in a certain way), and then describing what way of existing it was. “Huparcho…always involves a pre-existent state, prior to the fact referred to, and a continuance of the state after the fact”, W.E.Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. The words may be rendered, “In the form of God subsisting”.
So we are being told here more about Christ Jesus than that He simply existed at any particular moment. He eternally existed is the thought, and what He eternally existed as was the form of God.
THOUGHT IT NOT ROBBERY TO BE EQUAL WITH GOD
The apostle has emphasised to the Philippians the need to have a right mind about things, and now the supreme example of Christ is set forth. If our mind is like His, then we shall be in line with the mind of God.
Such was His confidence in His relationship with the Father, that to Him to share God’s attributes equally with Him was in no sense robbery, for they were His as the Son.
For Christ to claim equality with God in no wise robbed God of glory. When He was on earth the Jews implied that He was robbing God of His glory by claiming equality with Him, but they did this because they denied His Deity. He showed plainly by His works, words and ways, that He was equal with God, even when here as a man.
EQUAL WITH GOD
To be equal with God means to have equal attributes to God. We may say three things about the attributes of God, as follows:
They are underived attributes:
He is the only Uncaused Being. “From everlasting to everlasting Thou art God”, Psalm 90:2.
He is the Cause of all things that have come into existence. “For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things, to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen.” Romans 11:36.
He is the basis of all reality, for He is the God of truth, and truth is that which corresponds to things as they really are. “The God of truth”, Isaiah 65:16.
He is self-sufficient. “God that made the world…neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though He needeth any thing, seeing He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things”, Acts 17:24,25.
They are unchanging attributes:
He is perfect, so He never needs to change for the better. “As for God, His way is perfect”, Psalm 18:30.
He is infinitely holy, so He will never change for the worse. “The seraphims…and one cried unto another, and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts'”, Isaiah 6:2,3.
They are unlimited attributes:
God is of infinite quality, being essentially good. “Thou art good, and doest good”, Psalm 119:68. In other words, God is not simply good in theory, but good in practice also.
God is of infinite duration, being eternal. “Unto the king eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 1:17.
God is of infinite presence. “Whither shall I flee from Thy presence?” Psalm 139:7. God is “not far from any one of us”, Acts 17:27.
He is of infinite power, being omnipotent. “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there anything too hard for Me?” Jeremiah 32:27. “For with God nothing shall be impossible”, Luke 1:37.
God is of infinite knowledge, being omniscient. “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world”, Acts 15:18. “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth”, 2 Chronicles 16:9. This knowledge is not limited to the past and the present, for God has foreknowledge of all things; He does not have to wait for them to happen before knowing them.
These, then, are the attributes, or qualities that Christ Jesus had eternally within the Godhead. He did not think it robbery to share them equally with the Father and the Spirit. Despite all this, and indeed because of all this, He was prepared to make Himself of no reputation, take manhood, and humble Himself to the death of the cross. What He is in Himself gives character and value to what He did at Calvary. It therefore gives us great confidence as we gather in His Name, for that Name is of utmost worth.