Monday, 2 January 2017
…who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, Philippians 2:6
When considered, the words of this verse are as important to handle properly as any found in Scripture. And yet, unless a complete denial already exists of who Jesus really is, the main view of what is being said is still perfectly obvious, even despite lesser disputes concerning the verse’s wording. The word “who” is speaking of Christ Jesus of verse 5 –
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God…”
Thus, the next words are essential to understanding the true nature of Christ Jesus. He, “being in the form of God” is a phase which is critical to grasp. The word “form” is one found only in Mark 16:12 and here in verses 2:6 & 2:7. It is morphḗ, and it means “form (outward expression) that embodies essential (inner) substance so that the form is in complete harmony with the inner essence” (HELPS Word Studies).
Thus, without any other words before or after to assist us, we can see that Christ Jesus is, in fact, in the “form” of God. It doesn’t say that He is in the form of angels, or man, or any other created thing. His true nature is that of God. Further, the word “being” in the Greek carries the more emphatic position. There is a “stress on the reality of existence. Hence it calls attention to the essential being of Christ, corresponding to the idea embodied in the name Jehovah” (Charles Ellicott).
In other words, Paul is carefully constructing the Greek to demonstrate that I AM THAT I AM of Exodus 3:14, is the same “being” that is revealed in Jesus Christ. He is the incarnation of the Lord Jehovah of the Old Testament; something made obvious in hundreds of other ways in Scripture.
Thus, “being in the form of God” means that His essence is that of Jehovah God; His eternal and essential being is being spoken of. He possessed this before His incarnation, and He then took upon the form of Man, Jesus, upon His incarnation. To understand this, we can go to the other use of morphḗ in Mark 16 –
“After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country.” Mark 16:12
In Mark, He was in one form, and then He appeared in another form. For what Paul is saying, Christ Jesus was in the form of Jehovah God, and then He appeared as a Man. But this is not unheard of, even in Scripture itself. The Old Testament reveals quite a few times where the LORD Jehovah was seen in the morphḗ, or form, of a Man. It is seen when He appeared to Abraham, to Joshua, to Gideon, to the parents of Samson, and elsewhere. Therefore, this is neither a stretch, nor are Paul’s words without abundant textual support.
The “form” that He possessed was all of the glory of God, radiant, resplendent, and refulgent. This is the true essence, or “form,” of Christ Jesus. And yet, He “did not consider it robbery to be equal with God.” The word translated as “robbery” is harpagmos. It is only found here in the Bible, and it indicates either the act of seizing a thing, or the thing seized. In the case of Paul’s words, it is certainly speaking of the thing seized. Vincent’s Word Studies explains the meaning of what Paul is conveying to us –
“…we understand Paul to say that Christ, being, before His incarnation, in the form of God, did not regard His divine equality as a prize which was to be grasped at and retained at all hazards, but, on the contrary, laid aside the form of God, and took upon Himself the nature of man. The emphasis in the passage is upon Christ’s humiliation. The fact of His equality with God is stated as a background, in order to throw the circumstances of His incarnation into stronger relief. Hence the peculiar form of Paul’s statement Christ’s great object was to identify Himself with humanity; not to appear to men as divine but as human. Had He come into the world emphasizing His equality with God, the world would have been amazed, but not saved He did not grasp at this. The rather He counted humanity His prize, and so laid aside the conditions of His preexistent state, and became man.”
This verse does not argue against His Deity; rather, it argues for it in the very strongest sense of all. It is an explanation of the marvel of the Incarnation. Christ Jesus set aside His Deity, precious as it is, in order to reveal God to us in a manner which we could understand and relate to. It is the highest expression of God’s love for mankind that could possibly be conceived of.
Life application: Jesus Christ is fully God. Jesus Christ is fully Man. Think on the magnitude of that today.
Lord God, You possessed all of the riches of the glory of heaven. You are eternal, unchanging, without pain or anguish or any limitation. You are all-present, all-knowing, and all-powerful. And yet, in the Incarnation, these were all set aside in the Person of Christ Jesus. Just as Jehovah walked up to Abraham in the Old Testament, Christ Jesus walked up to the people of Israel in the New. You have revealed Yourself to us in a form that we can relate to, and so we can see the full extent of Your love for the people of the world. How great must be that love that you would do this for us! All praise to the Name above all names. All praise to Christ Jesus. Amen.