In The Form Of God

by Mike Ratliff

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:1-11 ESV)

In yesterday’s post, The Express Image of God, we saw that the Bible is very clear that our Lord Jesus Christ is God. He is not a created being. He is not an any way lower than God nor are we humans in any way on His level. I believe the passage I placed at the top of this post makes this very clear. In Philippians 2:1-11, the Apostle Paul used our Lord’s incarnation as an example of humility that we should emulate. For this study, however, we we will focus on vv6-8 which clearly show that our Lord is God, but humbled Himself on behalf of those He came to save. Here are those verses again from the ESV.

who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8 ESV)

ὃς ἐν μορφῇ Θεοῦ ὑπάρχων οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα Θεῷ, ἀλλὰ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν μορφὴν δούλου λαβών, ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος, καὶ σχήματι εὑρεθεὶς ὡς ἄνθρωπος ἐταπείνωσεν ἑαυτὸν γενόμενος ὑπήκοος μέχρι θανάτου, θανάτου δὲ σταυροῦ. (Philippians 2:6-8 GNT)

The point of contention here is, of course, in v6 where some scholars insist that this does not refer to the preexistence of Christ as part of the Triune Godhead prior to His incarnation as Jesus Christ. However, to assert this requires us to take a completely unnatural and “out of context” view of this passage. This is why I put the whole passage at the top of the post. In any case, the words translated in the ESV as “form of God” are the words μορφῇ Θεοῦ or morphē theou. The word μορφῇ means the true and exact nature of something, possessing all the characteristics and qualities of something. Paul is telling us that Jesus Christ possesses all the characteristics and qualities of God and is, therefore, equal with God. However, Paul goes right from there to show that our Lord took the μορφὴν δούλου in v7. Here we have the accusative, singular form of μορφῇ. This form means that the direct object receives the action of the verb. Our Lord Jesus is the direct object while δούλου is the genitive, singular form of δοῦλος, which we have looked at many times. It is the word for bondservant or slave. The genitive form speaks of what we refer to in English as the “possessive case.” The genitive has many functions, but one, I think, fits this. It can indicate a familial relationship between a word and its head noun (relationship). Often the head noun is not expressed, so it is up to the translator’s skills to determine the exact nature of the the relationship. Just whose δοῦλος was our Lord Jesus? Was he the bondservant of sinful men? When it was not yet His time to fulfill His mission, no one could kill Him so, no. He was the δοῦλος of those for whom He came to purchase with His life, however, no one ordered Him around like a slave, He humbled Himself to serve them. Does this make sense? In this, He is our example.

Our Lord, even though He is God, took on the form of a slave on our account. However, even in that state, He never ceased being God. He could have claimed that at any time, but did not, and He obediently went to the Cross, sinless and in complete fulfillment of the Law. Both of these things are what bought salvation for all who belong to Him. Go back to the top of this post and read what the result is in this total victory.

Soli Deo Gloria!

12 thoughts on “In The Form Of God

  1. The Lord is God, not because we believe but because He is.
    The ones who do not believe, cannot unless He has revealed Himself to them as God. Same thing with the ones in His day who couldn’t believe because He hid himself from them ‘ lest they believe’.
    The blinded cannot see… we proclaim Jesus as God in the Flesh, Emmanuel.
    “God has visited his people!” said the people of the town of Nain! ( Luke 7: 11-17 ESV )
    Only God reveals himself to those he calls… we get to believe by His grace and we preach Christ to everyone and we allow God to do the revealing.

    2 Corinthians 4:3-5 (English Standard Version)
    3And even(A) if our gospel is veiled,(B) it is veiled only to(C) those who are perishing. 4In their case(D) the god of this world(E) has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing(F) the light of(G) the gospel of the glory of Christ,(H) who is the image of God. 5For what(I) we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with(J) ourselves as your servants[a] for Jesus’ sake.

    Read all of John 12 Here is just a part:

    37But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him:

    38That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?

    39Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again,

    40He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

    41These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.

  2. Thanks Mike! So here’s my question that I think you can address. In the statement, “Who, being in the form of God” or as some translations say, “was in” or “existed in”, that word also relates to the unchanged “essence” of who Jesus is. Normally when we use the word “morph” in our language we mean something that changes from one thing to another. Yet we know that the very inner being, the very essence, of Jesus Christ will always eternally be unchangingly God. (Of course He took on flesh and had no sin nature–”A body you have prepared for Me”.) It seems so many people attack the deity of Jesus Christ, even professing Christians—they want a Jesus that COULD sin, not understanding that His deity was unchanging and that it was superior, if you will, over His humanity. After all, Jesus is eternally God the Son, and existed well before He came to earth and took on flesh.

    Thanks Mike!

  3. Denise, Dr. James White was dealing with this very thing a few days ago on The Dividing Line as he listened to some Liberal Christians in England attack the deity of Christ, etc. The deity of Christ and all that goes with that including his Resurrection, et cetera are all matters of faith for the Christian and this faith is supernatural, a gift from God. Therefore, those who deny these things, insisting in a sinful Jesus, et cetera, are proving their disingenuousness. Sad, really sad…

  4. Mike, amen. Thank you for bringing gracious, light-filled posts into the online world. I once read that bank employees are taught how to recognize real money from counterfeit by handling the real over and over again. Thus they could tell simply by “touch” what was real.

    Your ministry to the church is much like that. Many come with warnings about the false but you consistently, lovingly, graciously and warmly show us the truth. Faithfully holding it up and showing us one facet after another. I can’t help but feel that this is so needful and have found it to be rare as well. This helps us then to go out and be salt and light in a gracious way, which is what the Lord Jesus would want. Please keep up the good work! You are a blessing.

  5. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” SO MANY things which cannot be dicserned by the natural man……. Praiase the Lord Jesus Christ for the gift of faith which makes them real to his elect.

  6. Hi Mike,
    The last few articles have really been a blessing for me in learning about glory and praise, light and darkness and the image and form of God. Although we need warnings about false teachers/teachings, io is really good to learn these truths about who God has said He is. As believers we crave this kind of thing. It can be kind of tiring and discouraging learning about yet another false thing someone has said…but it is never tiring learning who God is. Thank you, and I thank God for giving you the abilities to do this for us.

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