Philippians 2:7 …but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.
If you have read the Bible much at all, you have probably begun to realize that just about every verse has enough depth that a whole book could be written about it. When it comes to Philippians 2:5-11, an entire LIBRARY could not begin to mine the riches from this verse. So it seems almost an insult to offer you a short few paragraphs about what is mostly likely the single greatest statement on the essence of Christ that has ever been penned.
However short I may fall in either brevity, cleverness, or scholarship, it remains that God can use the feeblest of effort and the poorest of verse to glorify His Son. Therefore I offer this short exposition meant only to spur you to greater investigation and meditation of this jewel of a passage.
Have This Mind
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus – what mind? The mind of humility. You are about to discover the greatest “mind” of humility that could and did ever exist. We are commanded to have an ever-present and ever-growing similar mindset ourselves.
… who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God – Paul declares that Jesus was God. There are many false teachers who use verbal gymnastics to get around this statement but the text is clear and simple. Jesus is God. He has been God for all eternity (John 1:1). ANY religion or person who denies this, denies Christ, denies Scripture, and denies the Father God even if they claim to worship Him. You cannot reject the Son without rejecting and insulting the Father. “Robbery” in this context means to clutch something or grasp on to it tightly, not wanting to let it go. The meaning here is plain and profound: Jesus is God but He was willing to loosen His grasp of those rights and abilities so that he could let go…
… but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men – Jesus gave up His divine rights for a season so that He could live as a man and be our sinless substitute. The “form of God” speaks of essence, not just a superficial exterior. Jesus was in essence God. In the same “form of a bondservant,” Jesus took on the essence of a slave, a servant. He did not role-play a slave, pretending to be one or dress up like one… He WAS a slave. He became the essence of humanness while never ceasing in any degree to be the esssence of God. All God, all man. Do not ask me to explain it. I cannot even explain how clothes get wrinkled in the dryer… how much less can I understand the unknowable paradoxes of God? This verse describes what is called “the kenosis,” that is, the “emptying” of Jesus defined as Him willingly setting aside His divine prerogatives (as opposed to Him losing them or having them taken away, which was not the case). Christ emptied Himself so that He could live as a real human, with real temptation in all things, yet without ever sinning. This is the essence of the Gospel and what made Jesus the Spotless Lamb who could be put to death in our place.
… 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. – Jesus did not just humble Himself to a typical human existence. He submitted to the poorest, most lowly, and most sacrificial life possible, culminating with the most horrible and painful death that devilish men have ever devised. He did this willingly to glorify Himself fully, showing all creation that there was no measure too great that His love would not be willing to overcome in order to save YOU and ME.
… Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name – It is because of this ultimate and never-to-be-surpassed sacrifice that God the Father has elevated Jesus Christ to the pinnacle of all existence, whether heaven or earth, physical, or spiritual. Christ is first in all things, in all ways, and to deny Him that, or see Him otherwise, is to reject both Him and His Father who elevates Jesus to that position.
… that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – It does not matter if you believe in Jesus or not. It does not matter if you submit to Him. It does not matter what you think is “fair” (ironically, Jesus suffered the greatest unfairness in the history of the universe and people still reject Him because it is “unfair” to have to submit to His will). Every person that has ever existed will bow their knee before Jesus and confess who He is. You will do it willingly or unwillingly; no one escapes. Why? Because saved or not, once you see Christ in all His glory, the only response will be to bow and acknowledge Him. For most, it will be their final act in God’s presence before being banished eternally from Jesus’ presence. If you are reading this, you still have time to bow NOW and confess Christ so that your bow in His presence will be one of joy and not eternal regret and horror.
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Philippians 2:5-11 – Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 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. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
This short summary hardly does justice to this cornerstone passage about Christ. I trust it is enough to stir your interest in further study.