Read Philippians 2:1-11
So in light of this command in verse 5 to think like Jesus or to adopt the same attitude as Jesus, we must ask the obvious question: What was Jesus’ attitude?
Verses 6-11 comprise an ancient hymn called the “Carmen Christi” or the hymn to Christ as God, which many scholars believed was sung by the early church to remind them of the glories of Christ.
This hymn has two purposes: 1. To instruct us on the person and work of Christ 2. To inspire us to worship Jesus by imitating His same attitude.
Paul gives us three overarching ways that Jesus voluntarily humbled Himself that are used to both instruct and inspire us. We will explore the first two today and the third tomorrow.
First of all, Christ did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.
This is profound. Jesus is God and shares in all the attributes of Deity. Jesus was not created. Jesus has always been and will always be. He is the Great I Am. He is the Creator. He is the Sovereign King. He is not subordinate to God the Father, but shares equality with God.
What does it mean that Jesus has always existed in the “form” of God?
The word for “form” (morphe) is also a key word. It means the essential nature or character of something. That which is unchanging. In other words, the text is saying the Jesus has always existed as God. All that God is Jesus is. Jesus is and has always been totally divine and eternal. Yet this word also carries with it the idea that Jesus is the visible expression of an invisible God. Jesus is the only Person of the Trinity who has a physical body. And not only that, but Jesus is the radiating glory of God. He is the shining light of God. He is the Shekinah glory of God. The bursting forth of all of God’s excellencies and glory are found in Jesus.
Read John 17:5
Read Hebrews 1:3
As One who is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father, Jesus did not consider this equality something to be grasped.
He already had by divine nature the rank and privilege and authority of being equal with God and sharing in all that God is. Yet he did not cling to it or hang on to it greedily. He did not look at it as a way to gain an advantage.
Read 2 Corinthians 8:9
Christ could have clung tightly to this equality and then refused to come to earth and die for us wretched sinners. Instead, He voluntarily submitted Himself to the eternal plan of redemption through obedience to His Father instead of claiming His rights as God. He could have rightfully refused to come and suffer on earth and the cross because of who He was. Instead, He submitted Himself voluntarily to the will of His Father.
The second action that shows Christ’s attitude is that He made himself nothing. He emptied Himself. The progression now moves from the glories of heaven to the pain and sorrow of earth.
What does it specifically mean that Christ emptied Himself or made Himself nothing? Many liberal theologians have abused this term to say that Jesus gave up His divinity while on earth and lived only as an exalted man, but not as God in the flesh. That is heretical and finds no support in Scripture.
The King James Version gives a great translation of this phrase by saying that He made himself of “no reputation”. Jesus did not cease being God, but instead He voluntarily laid aside the privileges that were His. He added humanity to His divinity.
The text tells us two specific ways that Jesus emptied made Himself of no reputation.
First of all, he took upon the form of a slave or servant.
In the society of the Philippian church, they would have been very familiar with the idea of slavery. Slavery meant that a person gave up all rights. In other words, Jesus voluntarily stripped Himself of all rights and authorities as God in order to become a slave and serve.
Read Matthew 20:26-28
The second way was that he became a man. At one point in time, Jesus was born of a virgin and was a real man. He was born, cried, was hungry, felt tired, physically suffered, and experienced everything we do as humans, except for one strongly significant difference—He never once sinned. In thought, word or deed. Christ was perfectly obedient to the Father and was the sinless, spotless Lamb.
Read Hebrews 4:15
At this point we need to stop, take a breath, and just worship Jesus for His willingness to lower Himself to such humility. Remember this hymn is to both instruct and inspire.
I am amazed that you would leave the glories of heaven and come to earth as a man to experience the depravity and brokenness of our world. You had every right to stay in heaven as the exalted Son of God, but You voluntarily left all of that to come and serve us. I am in awe of You! I just want to sit here and worship You! Open my eyes to see more of Your glory.