The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
January 15, 2012


1) Philippians 2:6-8  (continued from last week) (Tom Edwards)


Philippians 2:6-8
(continued from last week)

by Tom Edwards

Last week, we considered Bible passages that set forth the humanity, as well as the divinity, of Jesus while on earth.  Concerning His divinity, we closed with verses that show names, such as "Immanuel," that indicate Christ's deity; and also passages that refer to the eternal nature of Jesus.  

Another point that can be made with reference to His deity is the sinless life He lived. For only He, out of all accountable people, ever maintained a perfect life throughout all His days, having never violated even one of His Father's holy commandments.  Peter says of Jesus, He "...COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH" (1 Pet. 2:22).  

In addition, the miracles Jesus performed also bear witness to His deity: "Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name" (Jn. 20:30,31).  

One might ask, "Well, the apostles also did miracles, but it didn't mean that they were Deity.  Why is it different for Jesus?"  First of all, the apostles gave glory to God and pointed out that it was because of Jesus that miracles were performed through them (e.g. Acts 3:6,12-16).  So the miracles of the apostles confirmed their word, which, in turn, pointed to Jesus as truly being the Christ, the Son of God, and the only Savior of the world.  

Jesus' miracles bore witness of Him.  Though John the Baptist was the great forerunner for the Lord in preparing His way, note what Jesus says about His miracles in comparison to John's testimony: "But the witness which I have is greater than that of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish, the very works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me" (John 5:36).  So for those who would not believe His words, Jesus pointed them to His miracles by which they could know assuredly that He was in the Father and the Father was in Him (Jn. 10:37, 38).  

While on earth, Deity dwelt in Jesus.  "For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form" (Col. 2:9).  "And He [Jesus] is the radiance of His [God the Father's] glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb. 1:3).  

Jesus had much more than merely human abilities while on earth: He could see beyond normal eyesight (e.g. John 1:47-50).  God's vision far exceeds that of man's.  "The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men; from His dwelling place He looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth" (Psa. 33:13,14).  A person, therefore, cannot hide from God.  Even if one would try to do so in the dark, the psalmist says of the Lord that "Even the darkness is not dark to Thee, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to Thee" (Psa. 139:12).  

Another divine ability that the Lord demonstrated while on earth was being able to look into the hearts of men, as seen in Matthew 9:4: "And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, 'Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?....'"  That truly is an ability that Deity possesses.  For instance, in speaking of God, the psalmist declares in Psalm 139:1-4, "O Lord, Thou hast searched me and known me.  Thou dost know when I sit down and when I rise up; Thou dost understand my thought from afar.  Thou dost scrutinize my path and my lying down, And art intimately acquainted with all my ways.  Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, Thou dost know it all."  Yes, God "...knows the secrets of the heart" (Psa. 44:21); and it will be Jesus who will be judging those hidden things in the Great Judgment Day, according to Romans 2:16, where Paul states that "...God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus."

It's interesting to see how that some of the Lord's miracles actually served to backup or confirm some of the statements Jesus made about Himself, or that which other inspired men had said about Him. For example, in turning the water into wine (John 2), Jesus shows that He is the "Master of change" (as expressed by Irvin Jensen, who also refers to Christ as having exemplified His Deity in many of the following "Master" relationships, as well).   In being the "Master of change," Jesus also transformed a storm into a calm, and the weak and afflicted people into strong and healthy.  But the greatest change of all is making a child of God out of one who formerly was a child of the devil (cf. Matt. 9:5-7).

Christ is also the "Master of quality."  For he not only turned the water into wine, but also made it into the best wine.  And what a glorious quality it will be when the mortal will put on immortality when the last trumpet sounds and the dead will be raised imperishable (1 Cor. 15:49-57).  

Jesus certainly is Master over all.  When He healed the nobleman's son (John 4:46-54), He did so from a distance of about 18 miles.  For the sick boy had been in Capernaum, while Jesus was in Cana of Galilee.  This miracle, therefore, illustrates that Jesus is the "Master of distance or space."  He is not limited by it.  As we considered earlier in Psalm 139, distance is irrelevant to God.  No matter where one could go in this entire universe, the Lord would always know exactly where the person was -- and not only that, but also what was going on in that person's innermost thoughts.  

In healing the sick man of John 5:1-9, Jesus shows that He is the "Master of time." For that man had been in that condition for 38 years, but time is also irrelevant to God.  Peter writes, in 2 Peter 3:8, that to the Lord, "one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day."  In other words, it would be no more difficult for God to heal this man whether it had been 38 years or 38 seconds with that illness.  

In multiplying the few loaves of bread and the few fish so that He could feed a multitude of more than 5,000 men (Jn. 6:5-14), Jesus shows that He is the "Master of provision," the "Master of quantity," and the "Master of creation."  Jesus has the ability to bring things into existence that were not there before.  Corresponding to that, the Bible shows Jesus to have been instrumental in the great work of Creation itself: For "All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being" (Jn. 1:3).   Paul also makes this known: "For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities -- all things have been created through Him and for Him" (Col. 1:16).  

In John 6:16-21, Jesus shows that He is the "Master over natural laws" by walking on the water and defying the law of gravity, which was a law that He Himself had established. He also could calm a storm by simply saying, "Hush, be still" (Mark 4:39) and bodily ascend into the heavens (Acts 1:9-11). .  

In addition, in John 11, Jesus not only declares Himself as being "the resurrection and the life" (v. 25), but also proves that He is the "Master over death" by raising His friend Lazarus from the dead.  

No mere mortal could be a master over all these things as Jesus was and is.  

Furthermore, Christ received worship as Deity while on earth.  But if He were just a man, how could He allow that?  Though Peter was an apostle, he still would not allow Cornelius to worship him (Acts 10:25,26).  For when Cornelius had tried to, "...Peter raised him up, saying, 'Stand up; I too am just a man.'"  Even an angel of the Lord would not allow the apostle John to worship him:  "But he said to me, 'Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God'" (Rev. 22:8,9).  So while on earth, Jesus was not only a man, but also God.  And the fact that He received worship is just one of the things that indicate that.  

This is quite a contrast: Jesus who was in "the form of God" took on "the form of a bond-servant" (Phil. 2:6,7).  The Greek word for "form" ("morphe") is defined as "1) the form by which a person or thing strikes the vision.  2) external appearance" (Thayer).   So in laying aside this "form of God," Jesus was not laying aside His deity; but, rather, the glorious form (the outward appearance) He had in heaven.  By becoming a man and taking on the form of a bond-servant, there was nothing in His physical appearance that would indicate He was God.  For example, when Jesus had come to His hometown of Nazareth (Matt. 13:54-56), He began teaching in the synagogue.  They said of Him, "Where did this man get this wisdom, and these miraculous powers?  Is not this the carpenter's son?  Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?  And His sisters, are they not all with us?  Where then did this man get all these things?"  Verse 57 then states that "...they took offense at Him.  But Jesus said to them, 'A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown, and in his own household.'"  This was the place where Jesus grew up, and there was nothing in his physical appearance that his neighbors could equate with God.  

This Greek word "morphe" is used in just 3 places of the NT.  Two of those in Philippians 2:6,7: the "form of God" and the "form of a bond-servant."  The only other place is in Mark 16:12, which refers to the Lord's encounter with the two men on the road to Emmaus.  The verse says that "He appeared in a different FORM to...them...."

In becoming a man, Jesus was even taking on a lower form than the angels, as Hebrews 2:9 shows, in order that He "might taste death for everyone."

The KJV states in Philippians 2:6 that Jesus "thought it not robbery to be equal to God."  This is rendered in the Analytical-Literal Translation as, "...did not consider being equal to God something to be held onto."  It is "did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped" in the NASB.  In other words, Jesus was willing to unselfishly give up the glorified existence He shared with God the Father in heaven in order to come to earth, taking on the form of a bond-servant, and ultimately going to the cross to make an atonement for our sins by undergoing a very agonizing death. 

The KJV begins Philippians 2:7 by saying, "But made himself of no reputation."  James Strong shows that the idea of "no reputation" comes from a Greek word ("Kenoo") that means "to make empty, that is, (figuratively) to abase...."  The NASB translates this passage by saying that Jesus "emptied himself...." (which many other translations also use).  And what He emptied Himself of was that glorified state that He shared equally with the Father.  The Weymouth NT also makes this clear by declaring, "...He stripped Himself of His glory...."  So in coming to earth, Jesus not only gave up His glorious heavenly "body," but also the splendor and bliss of heaven, which was definitely a sacrifice in itself.  

Plus, in coming to earth, Jesus also took upon Himself a subjective role in His relationship to His Father in heaven.  So that, too, was different from His glorified state in heaven.  In this sense, we can better understand John 14:28, where Jesus declares that "...the Father is greater than I."

In this subjective role, Jesus always sought to do the Father's will.  For example, Jesus states, "I can do nothing on My own initiative.  As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me" (Jn. 5:30).

Consider also Hebrews 5:7-9: "In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.  Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation[.]"

The very concept of one person of the Godhead being referred to as "the Father" and another as "the Son" illustrates for us the subjective role Jesus took upon Himself.  For we normally think of the son who is to be in subjection to the father, rather than vice versa (e.g. Eph. 6:1).  And it appears from Scripture that this Father-Son relationship has not always existed; but, rather, it was one that began with reference to Christ's mission on earth.  For instance, Hebrew 1:5 says, "For to which of the angels did He ever say, 'YOU ARE MY SON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU'? And again, 'I WILL BE A FATHER TO HIM AND HE SHALL BE A SON TO ME'?"  As we noted earlier, prior to Christ's incarnation, He is referred to as being the "Word" who had been with God and was God (Jn. 1:1).  But even though Jesus took on this subjective role, which made the Father greater, Jesus was still equal with the Father when it came to Deity, for the Lord never gave up any of that.  Therefore, we find Jesus saying in John 10:30, "I and the Father are one."  And because of that, Jesus was able to tell His apostles, "If you had known Me, you would have known my Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him..." (John 14:7-11).  So though Jesus was still Deity, He was made "in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:7) and which was an exact likeness, according to Hebrews 2:14: "Since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same...." "Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things..." (v. 17).

May we never forget the great sacrifice Jesus made for us by leaving the glories of heaven and the heavenly "body" He had there, in order to come to earth and take on human flesh so that He could taste death for every transgressor.  So much He did for us -- and did so willingly and out of a great love for us and for His Father in heaven.  Truly, Jesus did something for us that we would never have been able to do for ourselves.  For He made salvation from sin possible.  May we, therefore, submit our lives to His plan of salvation so that the Lord's sacrifice in coming to earth and His atoning death at Calvary will not be merely a vain or ineffectual thing in our lives; but, rather, that of which we will be full recipients of and can, therefore, be ever so thankful for, continually rejoice in, and be always mindful of His wonderful grace, mercy, and forgiveness, which will always be greater than what we could ever earn or deserve. 

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

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