Today’s Bible reading from the Five Day Bible Reading Plan: Exodus 28-31; Philippians 2
Christ was in the form of God. Now, those of you who may know the Scriptures may have raised your eyebrows. Given this passage, it won’t be the first time. As Jesus traveled through Samaria, he engaged a woman in conversation. During the conversation, he said to her:
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24).
So if God is spirit, how can Christ have been in the form of God. The term ‘form’ comes from the Greek word morphe, which can deal with physical form or shape, but also deals with the essential nature of something. When Christ came, He came as the visible display of God in all his essence. He did not need to work toward being God. He did not need to grasp or use his status as being God for his own selfish interests. Isn’t that amazing? We, being mere humans, concoct whatever status we hold or wish and use it as leverage to get our way. Yet Christ, who didn’t need to concoct or grasp at anything, did not leverage this for his own advantage.
Rather than wishing to be ‘full of himself’—something we see inside and outside of the Christian camp—Christ emptied himself. As one preacher put it, he removed the robes of glory and took on the robes of flesh.
Now, if you needed another reason to raise those eyebrows, you have the question of this: “What does it mean that he emptied himself?” Of what? Now, what some will say is that Jesus emptied himself of some of His deity. Yet nothing here mentions any of His divine attributes, much less any of them being lost. Remember, what’s the theme here? His humility. Matthew Harmon rightly says that what Jesus emptied Himself of was prestige (in being with His Father in full glory) and position (He left heaven to come here).
I wouldn’t be a very good preacher or pastor if I didn’t bring up something that Jesus said that makes it seem as if He gave up some of His deity. In Mark 13:32, Jesus said, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Eyebrow raiser #3: if Jesus did not give up His Godhood, how could there be something that He could not know. Matt Slick rightly says,
“Jesus cooperated with the limitations of humanity and voluntarily did not exercise His attribute of omniscience. He still was divine but was moving and living completely as a man.”Matt Slick, “Kenosis.”
It’s one of those mysteries, but the implications of this understanding is that Christ was not fully God, and we would then be in our sins if he weren’t. Thankfully, Christ never lost His deity. He maintained His full humanity. Praise God that this is how it must be for us to be free.