The phrase, “If Jesus is God,” is always followed by questions like, “How can the Father be greater than He is?” “Does Jesus pray to Himself?” “Doesn’t that make Him His own Father?” “How can He call God, ‘My God’?” “Why were there things He didn’t know?”
All of these questions, and all similar questions, are answered by Paul in a few verses of Scripture in Philippians 2:5-11 (NKJV):
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
This incredible Scripture has three parts:
Jesus as God, vs. 6, 7.
1. His being, being in the form of God.
In our post on “The Third Genealogy,” we noted that nowhere does the Bible speak of Jesus “becoming” or being “created” God, or a God. John said that as the Word, “Jesus” being His human name, He was God.
To us, the word form carries the idea of “shape.” However, to the Greek, the word carried the idea of nature or character. In agreement with John, Paul was saying that the Word was Deity, was God.
2. His thinking, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God.
Though there is discussion among scholars as the meaning of the words translated “consider it robbery,” it seems to me that the best meaning is that He didn’t think equality with the Father was something to be selfishly clung to. We’ll return to this thought in a moment.
3. His action, but made Himself of no reputation.
Scripture teaches that there was a group of people who would otherwise have been lost who were chosen by the Father and given to the Son. Jesus called them “His sheep”. However, since these people are by nature the children of wrath, it was necessary that something be done about their sin and their sinfulness.
Jesus agreed to come into this world as the Representative and Redeemer of His people, His “sheep,” Matthew 1:21. He was their “Shepherd”. However, He didn’t come with glory and honor, such as He had in heaven with the Father, and which He rightfully could have claimed. He didn’t “cling” to the honor He had as God. He didn’t come as a “personality” with a huge following, like some in the Church today. He was born into a family of ordinary people who lived in an obscure village in a part of Israel that was looked down upon. He spent 90% of His life unknown and even when He began His ministry, it was to crowds of ordinary people, the rulers and leaders wanting nothing to do with Him. Indeed, it was they who ultimately demanded His death.
The phrase could be translated, “He emptied Himself,” and there is discussion about what this means. Some teach that it means that He divested Himself of His deity, that as Man He ceased to be God. That isn’t what the term means at all. We’ll come back here in a minute.
Jesus as Man, vs. 7, 8.
When Paul wrote that Jesus took on Himself the form of a bondservant and the likeness of men, he wasn’t saying that Jesus just looked like a man. Paul is asserting that Jesus was fully and really human. His birth was like any other. His conception is actually what was miraculous, though we speak of “the virgin birth.” Once conceived, though, He developed like any other baby and was born into this world, where He grew and developed as a baby, a toddler, a child, a teenager (though that is a fairly recent concept) and then as an adult. Indeed, once He reached adolescence, He would pretty much have been considered “adult.”
It’s difficult to think of the Creator and Upholder of the universe as having to learn how to walk.
This is where all the questions come in about the so-called limitations of Jesus. As a human being, He did not have the infinite capabilities that He had as God. It is this He divested Himself of, His divine glory and the independent exercise of His divine power, though there are glimpses of it. He turned water into wine, walked on water, stilled storms, healed the sick, raised the dead. These aren’t ordinarily human activities. Though Man, He didn’t cease to be God.
As for those who say that He never claimed to be God, those who heard His statement in John 8:58, “Before Abraham was, I AM,” clearly and certainly understood that that was exactly what He was claimed, to be Jehovah. See also John 5:18; 10:33.
Even though Jesus was, and is, God, He had a human mind and mere human abilities. It is because of this that there were things He didn’t “know,” even though, as God, He is omniscient. It wasn’t because He wasn’t God, but because He was truly human, as well. As God, He was omnipotent. As a man, He got tired and hungry. As God, He was omnipresent, being here and there. As man, He had to walk from here to there.
In addition, Paul wrote that Jesus was born under the Law, Galatians 4:4, and as such was responsible to live by its demands. This would include acknowledging the Father as His God just like any other human being, but especially the Jews. This was why, when talking to Mary Magdalene about His ascension, He could say that He was going to “My God and your God,” John 20:17. Notice, however, He didn’t say that He was going to “our” God. There was still a distinction.
As a Jewish man under the Law, He would have been subject to the Father. It is because of this that He could say that the Father was greater than He was. It wasn’t because of some “inferiority” on His part, but simply the relationship He bore to the Father at that time. It has nothing to do with His not being “God,” but with His being human. In addition, He had come to do the Father’s will, John 5:26 with many others. He had come to save His people from their sins, an activity begun by the Father in election and brought to pass by the Spirit in regeneration. He had come as “the Servant of Jehovah,” Isaiah 42:1-4. As such, He was obedient….
As the ultimate evidence of His humanity, Jesus died. God cannot die. This is why the Word had to take to Himself humanity, so that, as Jesus, He could die. But He didn’t die easily, in honor and glory, with a morphine drip to ease His agony, like terminal patients have today. He even refused what relief there was available at the time, Matthew 27:34. He died the most cruel death imaginable, a death even the Romans considered despicable, in the words of Paul, even the death of the cross.
But His story doesn’t end there…
Jesus as Lord, vs. 9-11.
As far as the world is concerned, Jesus has little, if any, relevance and significance. He may as well still be dead. Indeed, many believe that He still is. Certainly, there is no government which honors Him and seeks to live by His words. Even “Christendom” has largely relegated Him to a secondary, or less, role. Many churches still have Him on the Cross.
To many unbelievers, Jesus is little more than a cuss word. Or a name to be mocked and ridiculed. Many even doubt that He really existed. Sadly, even many professing Christians don’t give Him the honor He deserves, seeing Him as little more than a buddy, or “a Jewish carpenter.” Views about Him are more likely to be from sentiment than they are from Scripture.
Scripture says that God raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His own right hand. There is considerable discussion about what this means, and about the current place of the Lord Jesus in the scheme of things. Arguments abound about the interpretation of Old Testament Scriptures which foretell a “kingdom” over which Messiah will reign. It’s not the purpose of this post to enter into all this.
It’s enough to say that there is coming a time when every single created being will bow before the Lord Jesus Christ and confess that He is Who He said He is. Every knee will bow, before Him, and every tongue will confess that He is Lord. There are those who believe that this means that every single person will be saved. The Scripture teaches otherwise. The atheist, the skeptic, the false religionist, the demon, all will be forced to bow before Him and acknowledge Him. This idea bothers a lot of people who are concerned about “free will,” but in this there will be no freedom, any more than a criminal has “freedom” to disregard sentencing for his crimes. God will be glorified in this, His Son, this One despised and rejected of men.
Though one day all, even the lost, will have to confess Him to be Lord, right now He is Lord, and He has willing subjects. Are you one of them?
There’s really only one thing left to consider…
What do you think about Christ? (Matthew 22:42,)