by Mike Ratliff
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He *said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. Matthew 16:13-17 (NASB)
The career our God has graciously given me that provides for me and my family is a Database Administrator, however I have worked in nearly every area of Computer Technology since 1973. However, my passion outside of serving my Lord and Savior is photography. Some have said I should be professional photographer. I think I am a bit too old to start a new career. In any case, there have been some photos I have taken over the years that have struck a chord with some people in ways that has surprised me. I knew the shot was good. I knew it when I took it. I knew it was when I developed it on my computer as well, however, there is an artistic aspect to some of these shots that cause some people to react to them in ways that really surprise me at times. This “abstraction” is open to interpretation. Some react one way, others another way, while some other people don’t even like that shot while others love it. Art is like that. It can mean whatever you want it to mean depending upon the level of abstraction. Is our Lord Jesus Christ like that? I mean, is who He is open to discussion? Are all those ‘abstract’ versions of Jesus in our time valid? Those who insist they are make a grave error. Their error is that they ignore that the Bible, the Word of God, Sacred Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus Christ is God.
1 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:1-11 (NASB)
In vv1-5, we read Paul’s exhortation to the Philippian church and us to be humble through having the mind of Christ. Then Paul gives us Christ’s example of true humility in vv6-11. Let us take a closer look at our Lord’s example and how this makes it clear that our Lord’s deity is not to be questioned. Let us start in v6. The relative pronoun ‘who’ refers back to ‘Christ Jesus’ at the end of v5. Here is the KJV translation of v6.
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: Philippians 2:6 (KJV)
The NASB translated the Greek word that is rendered as ‘being’ in the KJV as ‘although He existed.’ This is a crucial Greek word for us to study here. It is ὑπάρχω (huparchō). This is not the usual Greek word for ‘being.’ Instead, God had Paul use ὑπάρχω, which emphasizes the essence of a person’s nature. This word speaks of the person’s continuous state or condition. In Philippians 2:6 ὑπάρχω is used to show that Jesus Christ continued to be what He was before His incarnation, God or in the form of God. The Greek word Paul used for ‘form’ here is μορφή (morphë). Two Greek words are translated as ‘form’ in English. This one, μορφη, is where we get our English word ‘morph.’ Μορφη was used to express the way in which a thing exists and appears according to what it is in itself. So, when Paul said Christ Jesus was ‘in the form of God,’ we should grasp that he is speaking of the ‘essential nature and character of God.’ Therefore, what Paul is telling us in v6 is that apart from His human nature, Christ possessed all the characteristics and qualities belonging to God because He is God.
The other Greek word that is translated as ‘form’ in English is found in v8. It is σχῆμα (schēma). This word should look familiar to you. It is where we get the English word ‘scheme’ and ‘schematic’ for instance. The NASB translates this as ‘appearance‘ referring to ‘human form.’ σχῆμα always refers to the outward appearance or fashion of what it referring to. That is why the KJV translates it as ‘in fashion’ in v8.
Jesus Christ is God and has always been God. His ὑπάρχω has always been in the μορφή of God because He is God. At His incarnation as a Man His outward ὑπάρχω took on the σχῆμα of a human male. However, He never stopped being God. Now let us compare v6 with John 10:29,30.
29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” John 10:29-30 (NASB)
Jesus Christ is equal to God. Christ did not empty Himself of His deity to become a man. Because Jesus Christ is equal with God, those who would seek to ‘snatch” His true followers out of His hand would also be seeking to snatch them out of the Father’s hand as well. Now back in Philippians 2:6,7 we see that Christ “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” This tells us that Christ merely relinquished His glory, which He had because He is God. Prior to His crucifixion and death, He asked the Father to glorify Him in a position next to God with the glory which He had even before the world was created (John 17:5). Jesus had to come as Man without any emphasis on His deity because the world would only have wondered at Him instead of receiving Him as Lord and Saviour. He was rejected by most people as a Man, but He never lost His position before God that He held prior to His incarnation.
Do you see it my brethren? Our Lord Jesus Christ is God, has always been God, and always will be God. During His time on Earth as the suffering servant, He remained God. Only the focus on His glory was absent. The reason Christ obediently humbled Himself this way was to accomplish God’s will.
Soli Deo Gloria!