Category Archives: THE PERSON OF CHRIST: He humbled Himself

The atrributes and attitude of Christ before He came into this world

THE PERSON OF CHRIST: He humbled Himself

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE PHILIPPIANS CHAPTER 2, VERSE 7

 “But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men”.

 The structure of Philippians 2:5-11 is determined by the punctuation.  The passage consists of just two sentences, divided into seven sections as follows:

(i)    Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
(ii)    Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
(iii)    But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
(iv)    And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
(v)    Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name:
(vi)    That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
(vii)    And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

There is a symmetry about these statements: 

The first and seventh correspond: the mind of Christ in eternity, then the mind of all created beings as they enter eternity.
(i)  Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
(vii) And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The second and the sixth: Christ conscious of His equality with God, then all creation conscious of it and recognising it by bowing the knee.
(ii)  Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
(vi) That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

The third and the fifth: Christ making Himself of no reputation, then God the Father ensuring that His name or reputation is acknowledged.
(iii)  But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
(v)  Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name:

The fourth and central statement:  The meeting-point of it all, the central event of time and eternity, the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(iv) And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

We come now to the phrase “but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men”:

BUT
 This reminds of the previous statement, “Thought it not robbery to be equal with God”.  Despite His claim He gave up what that claim resulted in.

 The expression “made Himself of no reputation” is defined by the following two phrases, “took the form of a servant”, and “was made in the likeness of men”.  In other words, He made Himself of no reputation by doing two things, (i) taking the form of a servant, and (ii) being made in the likeness of men. This explanation is demanded by the parts of speech which are used here for “made Himself” and “took”.

 The words “made…of no reputation” are a translation of the verb “kenoo” which means “to empty”.  This has led some unbelievers to invent the Kenosis Theory, saying, blasphemously, that He emptied Himself of His Deity. 

THIS CANNOT BE TRUE BECAUSE:
1.    God changes not as to essence.  “I am the Lord, I change not”, Malachi 3:6. “But Thou art the Same”, Psalm 102:27.   God is immutable, Hebrews 6:17.  If the Son was God before, He is ever God.  If He is not God now, He was never God.

2.    As we have seen, the word “being” does not simply mean “existing”, but subsisting, or always existing.

3.    He took upon Him the form of a servant, so He added the servant’s form to what He was before, thus retaining the form of God.

4.    It is said of Him even now, that “In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, Colossians 2:9.

5.    The words “I and My Father are one” were spoken by Him when He was here in manhood, John 10:30.  The fact that the Jews immediately took up stones to stone Him for blasphemy, verse 31, shows that they understood His words to be a claim to Deity.

SO WHAT DOES “EMPTY” MEAN?
 Since the expression is expanded by the next two phrases, we may say He emptied Himself by taking the form of a servant, which involved being made in the likeness of men.

 Another way of reaching a conclusion about the phrase is to note the corresponding ones in the remainder of the section, which speak of His exaltation.

 To be given a “name which is above every name”, involves being given reputation.

 The fact that this name is given to Him by God the Father indicates it is a deserved reward.

 Every knee shall bow, thus giving to the Lord Jesus His deserved reverence.

A SERVANT EXPECTS NONE OF THESE THINGS, NOR CAN HE DEMAND THEM
 In heaven, there was the reputation of God-hood; the reward of His Father’s love; the reverence of the heavenly host.

 WHEN A SERVANT AND A MAN HE DID NOT DEMAND THESE THINGS AS HIS RIGHTS, EVEN THOUGH AS EQUAL WITH GOD HE COULD HAVE DONE SO.

We see this from the gospel records, and from the things predicted of Him, which came to pass:
No reputation
 He was known as Jesus of Nazareth, yet Nathaniel voiced the common view when he said, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” John 1:46.
 The prophet said  that He would be “despised and rejected of men”, and that it would be true of Him that “they esteemed Him not”, Isaiah 53:3.
 He plied His humble trade for many years as a carpenter, Mark 6:3, and “the carpenter’s son”, Matthew 13:55.
 When He was crucified, He was “reckoned among the transgressors”, Luke 22:37, as if a criminal.  This is part of what is meant by “death of the cross”.  To die on a cross was the ultimate disgrace, the very opposite of reputation. 

No reward:
 When He was presented to the Lord in the temple at the age of forty days, His mother brought the offering of the poor, Luke 2:24; Leviticus 12:8.  As the apostle wrote, “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor”, 2 Corinthians 8:9.

  In Psalm 22, we find it predicted that He would be deprived of the company of His God; of answers to His prayers; of deliverance from His troubles; and of the respect a human being ought to receive.

 The prophet Daniel foretold that He, (despite being Messiah the Prince), would be cut off and have nothing, Daniel 9:26 margin.  And so it came to pass.

 No reverence:
 It is true that the wise men worshipped Him when He was a baby, as did the shepherds, but Herod, pretending to wish to worship Him also, in reality sought to slay Him, Matthew 2:16.

 The men of Nazareth, not having anything to charge Him with as to His life among them for so many years, nonetheless took Him to brow of the hill to cast Him over the top, Luke 4:29.

 The men of Jerusalem took up stones to stone Him on more than one occasion, John 8:59; 10:31.

 When on the cross it came to pass as was written, “All they that see Me laugh Me to scorn”, Psalm 22:7; Matthew 27:39-44.

 In the language of the parable He told, the husbandman said, “They will reverence my son”, but they took him outside the vineyard and killed him, Matthew 21:37-39.

FORM OF A SERVANT:
 Just as “form of God” means really and manifestly God, so form of servant means servant in reality and manifestation.

 The reality manifested itself clearly during His life here.  Mark’s gospel especially concentrates on this; the key verse of his gospel is “For even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many”, Mark 10:45.

THREE THINGS THAT MARK A TRUE SERVANT ARE FOUND TO PERFECTION IN CHRIST:

(i)  Subjection:
“The head of Christ is God”, 1 Corinthians 11:3.

   “My Father is greater than I”, John 14:28.  This is not to say that the Father is greater morally, or essentially, but because He is not in flesh as Christ is.  The Father has not self-limited Himself in that way as Christ has.  This statement would be pointless, and redundant, if the Lord Jesus were a created being.  John writes to prove the Deity of Christ, so it is part of that aim.  The Lord Jesus said in the Upper Room, (after having washed the disciples’ feet, taking the servant’s place), “the servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him”, John 13:16.

(ii)  Service:
 He could say with confidence, “I do always those things that please Him”, John 8:29. 
 His claim was “I am among you as He that serveth”, Luke 22:27.
 He said as He came into the world, “Lo, I come…to do Thy will, O God”, Hebrews 10:7.

Submission: 
 By taking the place of Servant of Jehovah, He willingly gave up His will in favour of His Father’s, as we know from His words in Gethsemane, Luke 22:42, “not My will, but Thine, be done”.
“Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered”, Hebrews 5:8.
“But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do”, John 14:31.
“I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.  This commandment have I received of My Father”, John 10:18.
“For even Christ pleased not Himself”, Romans 15:3.
“For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me”, John 6:38.