5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Jesus Christ is God. He is the same nature as God. John’s Gospel states it most succinctly saying, “The Word [meaning Jesus] was God.” (John 1:1). Jesus, sharing fully in the divine God-head with all the glory and strength at His disposal, “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.” (v.6). The terminology here is important. The word “grasp” seems to imply that Jesus did not feel the need to hold on to His deity. There is a much more nuanced and profound meaning in this simple word. The word could more rightly be translated, “robbery” or “plundered.”[i] The divinity of Jesus was not something He needed to steal or stake claim on. Jesus did not need to earn or take His own divine nature by force. He is God and He need not prove it. Any action or apologetic that Jesus offers in regard to His divinity is purely for the advantage of those who hear Him. He does not need defense because He is God. Supreme truth needs no defense. Rather, supreme truth is revealed to us for the sake of delight.
Jesus, being God, willingly surrendered power. Consider that for a moment. God the Son surrendered power to God the Father, entrusting Himself to a physical body in the care of God the Spirit, for the sake of God’s (the Trinity’s as a whole) own glory. What a tremendous testimony of the love of God for humanity. How did He empty Himself? Paul explains in verses 7-8. The Lord of all glory became a man. Think just for a moment about this deep and profound reality. The Lord, who holds all things together, became a helpless human infant who needed someone to lift Him. He took on our most vulnerable state while simultaneously providing us the very ability to breathe (Col. 1:17).
The extent of Jesus’ emptying Himself is a bit of a mystery. We know from the Gospels that Jesus has full understanding of man and knows His when He is to go to the cross and when it is not His time. We know that He can discern the thoughts of men and often answers questions that are not verbalized. We know He has power over creation and can do what He pleases. Yet, we also know that Jesus admits that He does not know the hour of the Last Day (Mat. 24:36). We also know that Jesus feels hunger, thirst, sadness, and pain. And yet, this is by His own choosing. Clearly the discourse with the devil during Jesus’ initial fasting before entering public view gives some indication that at any moment Jesus could take upon Himself the full weight of divine power (Mt. 4:1-11). Jesus willingly chooses weakness and frailty to display glory and power.
Oh what a fantastic lesson our Lord has laid before us in His own example! He is God, yet He makes Himself low. He is powerful, yet He submits to death at the hands of weaker beings that He created. Consider how powerful the testimony of a Christian who fully grasped the reality of glory in weakness. The power of such grace could change the world.
God became man and took upon Himself our frailty and disgrace. Then Jesus exemplified a perfect life of obedience to the commands of God. Being humbled, He obeyed to the point of death on the cross. In Jesus’ obedience to the point of death, He exchanged our unrighteousness for His righteousness. Having lived a perfectly sinless life, He surrendered perfection for our marred images rescuing us from death and Hell (2 Cor. 5:21). If the Lord of Christians has submitted to death, is there anything that Christians cannot submit to? If Jesus could surrender His right to deity, then surely Christians can surrender their own pitiful rights for the sake of others!
Can you die for the sake of those who hate and despise you? Can you lower yourself to serve others? Can you surrender your claims to exaltation? Of course you can! That is assuming you believe in Jesus. You can say with Paul that you have learned the secret of contentment, because you know the King of all things! He has changed your soul and placed His Spirit within you. Christian, stop complaining about circumstances and die to self! Then will you find the joy of God’s delight!
[i] [i] Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.