For this series in Philippians, I am going to limit each post to one verse, and hopefully produce a short, succinct read for my friends who follow.
2:7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
Emptied Himself. I confess this phrase regarding the Son has always been a bit difficult for me to understand. Not the motivation to empty Himself, for this severe act of self humiliation can only be explained by a severe love for the one He humbled Himself for.
No – the motive, though extreme, and logically speaking unbelievable, can be on the surface somewhat taken in. The bigger problem I have, and it is only due to my incessant analyzing of matters that really should not be analyzed, is not the “why”, but the “what” of the text. What does it mean to empty Himself?
Looking at the Greek, the term is κενόω (kenoō) and is defined as “to make empty”. When I read that, it just doesn’t help.
Looking at a list of other translations though, and I get a sense that He “emptied” Himself by doing something. This helps, and let me explain why.
During our child raising years, I would often tell my children “no”, but provide no positive or alternative action to follow. Of course this would be a frustration to them, for it was only the removal or restriction of an action that was “demanded”. Creating a vacuum of ideas by saying no only, did not rest well within the family, and eventually the children sought other avenues without allowing the parents to comment.
My point is that vacuums are not meant to remain. In the act of emptying Himself, the vacuum created had to be replaced. Or maybe in a better sense, the emptying was caused by some other action. Some action He decided upon, caused the required “emptying” of the Son. What action might that be? Hummmmm.
The text speaks of “taking the form of a servant” Maybe that is what I have been missing. The “form” of the Son, not necessarily the identity. He took the form of a servant, though He was in the form of God (verse 6). Form is the greek word μορφή (morphē), and has to do with appearance, or shape. He took the appearance of a servant, and lived in that appearance, relecting to His creation the character of the Godhead.
The greek word is used only one other place in the gospels, and that is in Mark 16:12.
Mark 16:12 After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country.
After His resurection, He appeared in another form, and was unrecognizable to two men. (The parallel passage my be found in Luke 24:13 – 35) His identity had not varied, He is the Son, though a crucified Savior, yet His companions did not recognise Him for who He is.
He took on the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. His glory was left behind and He stepped down into His creation appearing as a servant, expressing God’s character in a way that would be understood by the creature. In one aspect of His self humiliation, His intent was to be understood, to identify with His creation, to live with them.
The passage speaks nothing of His not being God, but communicates the extent of His self humiliation, and His effort to communicate with His creation, with those who would understand (somewhat!) and those who would not understand (sadly).
In your day today, take the form of a servant. Humble yourself for the sake of the other. Any step down is a miniscule act in comparison to His act of love, but it is still a valid act of following Him.
Humble yourself, not only in thought and speech, but also in act and deed. We need to take this form of a servant, even though He has granted us the identity of children of God.
As children of God, act like the Son of God. Any other way of life gives the appearance we are not His children.
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