5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11)
How did the Lord Jesus Christ demonstrate the attribute and characteristic of humility? The Apostle Paul listed several significant ways in which our Lord demonstrated this fundamental character trait for the believer in Christ. Today, we examine three more characteristics of humility from Philippians 2:7.
The Apostle Paul writes that Jesus, “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” What does it mean when Paul writes that Jesus (1) emptied Himself; (2) took the form of a servant; and (3) was born in the likeness of men?
The phrase “emptied Himself” contains an active verb “(κενόω; kenoo).” This means that whatever Jesus did He accomplished Himself. The word emptied means to divest oneself of a position of high rank. The result of this self-imposed emptying is that the individual in question relinquishes all privileges and prerogatives with such status or tank. Jesus Christ did not cease to be God when He became human, but rather voluntarily suspended the usage of His attributes as God. In other words, when Jesus Christ became a man, a true human being He divested Himself of His magnificent glory but not His deity.
Consider Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer from John 17:1-10. “When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. 6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.”
Dr. John MacArthur writes, “From this Greek word comes the theological word “kenosis”; i.e., the doctrine of Christ’s self-emptying in his incarnation. This was a self-renunciation, not an emptying himself of deity nor an exchange of deity for humanity. Jesus did, however, renounce or set aside his privileges in several areas: 1) heavenly glory—while on earth he gave up the glory of a face-to-face relationship with God (the Father) and the continuous outward display and personal enjoyment of that glory (cf. John 17:5); 2) independent authority—during his incarnation Christ completely submitted himself to the will of his Father;3) divine prerogatives—he set aside the voluntary display of his divine attributes and submitted himself to the Spirit’s direction (cf. Matt. 24:36; John 1:45–49); 4) eternal riches—while on earth Christ was poor and owned very little (cf. 2 Cor. 8:9); and 5) a favorable relationship with God—he felt the Father’s wrath for human sin while on the cross (cf. Matt. 27:46; see note on 2 Cor. 5:21).”
Secondly, the phrase “took the form of a servant” The verb “taking (λαμβάνω; lambano) is also active. Jesus Himself took hold of or acquired the form (μορφή; morphe) nature and character of a servant (δοῦλος; doulos) or slave.
Dr. John Walvoord writes that, “The very nature of a servant” certainly points to His lowly and humble position, His willingness to obey the Father, and serve others. He became a man, a true human being.”
Thirdly, the statement “being born in the likeness of men” means that Jesus personally became a human being. His humanity was just like other individual except that He remained sinless (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15).
Why did Jesus do this? Why was it necessary for Jesus to become a human? Hebrews 2:14-18 says, 14 “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
I am again reminded of Charles Wesley’s wonderful Christmas carol which sheds a lyrical and musical insight into Jesus’ incarnation.
Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel. Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”
May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.
Soli deo Gloria!