November 20 I Friday
“…who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage…” —Philippians 2:6
Embedded in Paul’s letter to the Philippian church is a beautiful “Christ-hymn” that deals with Jesus’s pre-earthly, earthly and post-earthly existence. Paul prefaces the Christ-hymn by writing, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:5). Then Paul continues by describing Christ Jesus, “who, being in very nature God…”. The ESV translation says, “who, though He was in the form of God…” (Philippians 2:6).
There are two words that we need to understand from Philippians 2:6 that speak to Christ’s pre-earthly existence. The first Greek word is “was,” which means “to exist and to be at one’s disposal, to have possession of.” The second Greek word is “form,” which means “the outward shape of a thing that conforms to the inward reality.” In other words, the outward shape is what it is because of the inward reality. Altogether, Jesus exists and possesses the form of God. Whatever God is inwardly, Jesus is inwardly. And whatever God expresses of Himself outwardly, Jesus is outwardly.
We see from the first line of the hymn that Jesus is inwardly and outwardly equal with God. This is why on the night that Jesus was betrayed, He prayed, “I have brought You glory on earth by finishing the work You gave Me to do. And now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with the glory I had with You before the world began” (John 17:4-5). Why was Jesus praying, “glorify Me in Your presence with the glory I had with You before the world began?” Because, before becoming a human being, Jesus was with God in the form of God, and Jesus, in His pre-earthly state, is equal to God.
The hymn continues, “…did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:6-7). The NASB translation says, “but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7). There are all kinds of theological debates on this verse that either Jesus emptied Himself of His divine nature or He chose to forego the divine prerogatives of His divine nature. Regardless, the text does not say Jesus emptied Himself of anything; instead, it indicates there was a subtraction, while at the same time, an addition. The One who inwardly and outwardly displays the nature of God and the One who enjoys equality with God, made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.
Have we taken the time to marvel at how Jesus Christ, though equal with God, came into this world as a servant?
Prayer: Dear Jesus Christ, thank You for humbling Yourself as a servant in this world when You should have been exalted. I marvel at the sacrifice You made for humanity. Praise You!