“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).
These words closely connect in thought with the previous verse: “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). Christ is our pattern when it comes to being concerned for others. The mind-set of the true Christian is different from the masses of humanity who think only of themselves. Christ teaches us to be concerned for others.
“Who, being in the form of God …” (Philippians 2:6a).
Certain translations seem to leave the wrong impression. The New American Standard Bible reads, “Who, although he existed in the form of God …” The English Standard Version, “Who, though he was in the form of God …” Both make these words past tense. However, these words are not past tense but present tense. The King James Version and the New King James Version reads, “Who, being in the form of God …” The American Standard Version reads, “Who, existing in the form of God.”. Wayne Jackson writes, “‘Existing’ is a present tense participle. It denotes that Jesus is ‘in the form of God,’ i.e., He possesses the very nature of deity—prior to his incarnation, during that phase of his existence, and following it. He always was, is, and forever shall be God, i.e., deity in nature” (christiancourier.com). “The phrase ‘being (existing) in the form (morphe …) of God,’ carries with it two facts of the antecedent Godhood of Christ, previous to His incarnation, and the continuance of His Godhood at and after the event of His birth” (Vine’s).
“… did not consider it robbery to be equal with God” (Philippians 2:6b).
Translators have had difficulty with the term rendered “robbery”. The King James Version and the New King James Version render it “robbery”. The American Standard Version, The New American Standard Version, and the English Standard Version render it “a thing to be grasped”.
How is the word defined? Vine’s writes, “It may have two meanings, (a) in the active sense ‘the act of seizing, robbery,’ … (b) in the passive sense, ‘a thing held as a prize.’”
This leads to two reasonable interpretations. Vine’s records, “(1) with the active sense ‘robbery’ or ‘usurpation’ we get the following meaning: ‘Who because he was subsisting in the essential form of God, did not regard it as any usurpation that he was on an equality of glory and majesty with God …’ (2) The passive sense gives a different meaning to the passage: ‘Who though he was subsisting in the essential form of God, yet did not regard his being on equality of glory and majesty with God as a prize and a treasure to be held fast …” Wayne Jackson expresses these same thoughts saying, “It may mean that Christ at no time ever entertained the notion of seizing equal status from the Father, for that nature was already his. Or, it may suggest that the Lord’s equality with the Father was something that he chose not to selfishly ‘grasp,’ i.e., hold on to at all costs” (christiancourier.com).
The Jehovah Witnesses render this in their New World Translation, “who, although he was exiting in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal with God.” They interpret this verse to mean that Jesus was in the same form (external appearance – according to them) as God, but that he never thought of seizing equality with God. The problems with this view are: (a) Whatever “form” means in Philippians 2:6, it must also mean in Philippians 2:7. If Philippians 2:6 means that Christ had the external appearance of God, but not the essence or nature of God, then wouldn’t Philippians 2:7 teach that Christ had the external appearance of man, but that he never really was in essence man? (b) The tenses indicate that Christ continued to exist in the form of God. However, He certainly did not continue to have the external appearance of God, while on earth. (c) The New World translation has improperly rendered a present infinitive “should be”. (d) John 1:1 reads: In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.” Ray Summers indicates, “When the article is used with a construction (as is the case with the first ‘God’ B.H.), the thing emphasized is ‘identity’. When the article is not used (as is the case with the second ‘God’ B.H.), the thing emphasized is quality of character” (Essentials of New Testament Greek). Jesus was not just in external appearance God. He was such in quality of character, that is, in essence. Note: The word ‘was’ in John 1:1 is ‘an imperfect tense from which asserts the continuous timeless existence’ (Wayne Jackson, Notes from the Margin of My Bible, vol. 2, p. 34.)
“But made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of man. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).
He “made himself of no reputation” (KJV, NKJV). He “emptied himself” (ASV, NASB). The original word is defined to mean “to empty, to make empty, … to make void i.e. deprive of force … to make void i.e. cause a thing to be seen as empty” (Thayer).
What was it that was given up in his incarnation? (1) He certainly emptied himself of heavenly glory (John 17:1-5). He was born in a stable. His first crib was a manger, a feeding trough for animals (Luke 2:7). Physically, there was no special beauty in his appearance (Isaiah 53:2). (2) He emptied himself of his divine power. (a) He had physical needs and limitations (see: Matthew 4:2; Mark 4:38; John 4:6-7; Luke 23:26; John 19:28). He suspended omnipotence. The miracles were done not by his might, but through the Holy Spirit (see: Matthew 12:28; Acts 10:38 cf. Luke 3:21-22). This is the same way the apostles and others were able to work miracles. (b) He had mental limitations (see: Mark 13:32). He suspended omniscience. The flawless message which he presented, came by inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:18-19; Matthew 12:26-28; Acts 10:38; Acts 1:1-2). This is the same source from which the apostles and prophets received their message. (c) He was limited in space and time (Mark 1:36-38; John 11:6, 15, 21, 32). He suspended omnipresence.
“He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). He did this for mankind! Listen to 1 John 3:16: “By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we ought also to lay down our lives for the brethren.” It is in this sense, Paul instructs, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).
Summary of what Christ did for us:
A. Being in the form of God.
1. Emptied himself.
2. Took upon form of a servant.
3. Came in likeness of man.
B. Being found in the appearance of a man.
1. Humbled himself.
2. Became obedient to death.
3. Even death of the cross.
“Therefore God also has highly exalted him …” (Philippians2:9).
In spite of Jesus’ humble life, and even death on the cross, he is now highly exalted. God exalted him because of his humble service.
Now meditate on these words: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10). “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6).