[In a couple of our last “March Memory” reviews, we looked at what the Bible says about the deity of the Lord Jesus, that He was truly God manifest in the flesh.
“If Jesus is God, 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?”
And on and on go the questions.
All such questions were answered by Paul in Philippians 2:5-11:
Let this mind be in you which was 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 is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
This incredible Scripture has three parts.
Jesus as God, vs. 6, 7.
1. His 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” as God, or a God. John said that as the Word, “Jesus” being His human name, He was, or, existed as, God.
To us, the word form carries the idea of “shape.” However, to the Greek mind, 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 about 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 held on to. We’ll return to this thought in a moment.
3. His action, 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, Who gave them to the Son. Jesus called them “His sheep.” However, since these people are by nature the children of wrath, Ephesians 2:3, something had to be done about their sin and their sinfulness.
Jesus agreed to come into this world as the Redeemer and Representative 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 could rightfully have claimed. He didn’t “hold on 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 an ordinary family in an obscure village in a part of Israel that was looked down on. He spent 90% of His life unknown and even when He began His ministry, it was to ordinary people, the rulers and leaders wanting nothing to do with Him. Indeed, it was they who ultimately demanded His death.
He didn’t just “think about” doing something. He went ahead and did it.
The phrase could be translated, “He emptied Himself,” and there is discussion about what this means. Some teach that He emptied 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 the form of a bondservant and the likeness of men, he wasn’t saying that Jesus just “looked” like a man. He was emphasizing that Jesus was really and truly human. As human as you or me, without the sin which plagues us. Though we speak of “the virgin birth,” it was His conception which was miraculous. Once conceived in the womb of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, though, He developed like any other baby. Like any other baby, He was born into this world, where He grew and developed as a baby, a toddler, a child, a teenager (though that is a recent concept), and then as an adult. Indeed, in His culture, once He reached adolescence, He would pretty much have been considered an adult.
It’s difficult to visualize the Creator 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 didn’t 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 still glimpses of them. 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 did not 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 understood that’s what He was saying, that He was Jehovah. That’s why they tried to kill Him – and why they couldn’t. See also John 5:18; 10:33.
Even though Jesus was, and is, God, He had a human mind and mere human abilities. This is why, though as God He is omniscient, there were things He didn’t “know.” It wasn’t because He wasn’t God, but because He was also Man. As God, He is omnipotent. As a Man, He got tired and hungry. As God, He is omnipresent, being here and there. As a man, He had to walk from here to there.
In addition, Paul wrote that Jesus was born under the Law, Galatians 4:4. As such, He was responsible to live by its demands. This would include acknowledging the Father as His God just like any other Jewish person. This is 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, “our God.” There was still a distinction.
As a Jewish man under the Law, He would have been subject to the Father. It was because of this that He could say that the Father was greater than He. It has nothing to do with some “inferiority” on His part, but has everything to do with the relationship He had with the Father at that time. It had nothing to do with His not being God, but everything to do with His being human. In addition, He had come to do the Father’s will, John 5:26 and many other verses. He had come as the Servant of Jehovah, Isaiah 42:1-4. As such, He was obedient….
As the ultimate evidence of His humanity, He died. God cannot die. This is why the Word had to take on Himself true humanity, so that, as “Jesus,” He could die. But He didn’t die easily, in glory and honor, with a morphine drip, as terminal patients do today. He even refused what relief was available back then, Matthew 27:34. He died the most cruel death imaginable, a death even the Romans considered despicable, though they weren’t slow to use it.
In the words of Paul, He died 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 or significance. He might as well still be dead. Many believe that He still is. Certainly, there is no government which honors Him or tries to live by His word. Even “Christendom” has relegated Him to a secondary, or less, role. In fact, many churches still have Him on the Cross. Others have taken His place as Head of the Church or as who guides how it functions.
To many unbelievers, Jesus is little more than a cuss word. Or a name to be mocked and ridiculed. Many doubt that He really existed. Sadly, even many professing Christians don’t give Him the honor He deserves, seeing Him only as 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 a lot of discussion about what this means, and the place of the Lord Jesus in the current scheme of things. Arguments abound over the interpretation of Old Testament Scriptures which tell of a “kingdom” over which Messiah will reign. It’s not the purpose of this post to get into all that.
It’s enough to say that there is coming a time when every single created being will bow before the Lord Jesus 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 everyone will eventually be saved. Scripture teaches otherwise. The atheist, the skeptic, the false religionist, the demon, all will be forced to bow before Him and acknowledge Him. This bothers some people who are concerned about “free will,” but there is no “free will” in this, any more than in a criminal forced to acknowledge his sentence and enter prison. And there will be no appeals from this court.
God WILL be glorified in this, His Son, this One despised and rejected of men.
Though one day, even the lost will have to admit that He is Lord, 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.
(originally published, May 8, 2013.) edited and additional material.