Today I want to look at Philippians 2:1-11 which is called the self-emptying or kenosis of Christ. This one gets a little wild but I promise you I won’t waste your time. Just push through to the end with me.
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any conciliation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on the goal. Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility considers others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not for his own interest, but also the interest of others.
Make your own attitude that of Jesus,
Who existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage.
Instead, He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men.
And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death – even to death on a cross.
For this reason, God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow- of those who are in heaven and on earth and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
What does Christ emptying of Himself mean?
This is called the kenosis or self-emptying of Christ. This was the cause of many heresies. Heresies are great because sometimes to help understand what something is we have to know what it is not.
Docetism – (dokeo seem or appear) this is a late first-century heresy that said Jesus only appeared to be a man.
1 John 4:2 Every Spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.
1 John 1:1 That which is from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim to you.
John 20:27 Then He said to Thomas, “put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Ebionism – 2nd century heresy that says Jesus was adopted by God at His baptism. Also known as adoptionism.
The seven I Am statements of Jesus which are Jesus claiming divinity.
The recording of the Virgin Birth.
John 10:30 – Jesus says He and the Father are One.
John 14:16 – Jesus says the Holy Spirit is another helper. This implies Jesus and the Holy Spirit are of the same essence or homoousios (same substance) as opposed to the same homoiosios (similar substance).
John 10:33 The attempted stoning of Jesus because He claimed to make Himself equal with God.
Isaiah 42:8 – I, the LORD, am one, and I won’t give my name and glory to another, nor my praise to idols.
God does not share glory. To say that Jesus was adopted as God’s Son would be to say that God does share His glory because Jesus says in John 17:5 that He has and had God’s glory. 1 Peter 1:21 says that God glorified Jesus.
Arianism – Jesus was the first created being of God. This is also modern-day Jehovah’s Witnesses. Somewhat like Mormonism that says that Jesus and Lucifer are brothers in the sense that they deny the trinity and the Godhead.
Colossians 1:15-16 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the first board over all creation. For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.
Arians and JWs argue that right here it says that Jesus was the first born but that is a legal term indicating rights of inheritance. The image reference means exact representation something along the lines of looking in a mirror.
John 14:9 – Jesus says “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.
Also, as we already looked at God does not share His glory.
There are other heresies we could look at, but these are still some pretty popular ones. But again, the point at looking at these is to get an idea of what the Kenosis is not. So, what is the Kenosis of Jesus?
First, we have to understand that Jesus is 100% God and 100% man. He is not a divided or mixed man but fully God and fully man. The Kenosis of Jesus then was His laying aside His divine power and rights in order to sympathize, save, redeem, and live forevermore as a High Priest King.
Jesus in taking on humanity made it possible for Him to die as a man taking the weight and wrath of sin upon Himself. As a man who is now raised to live never to die again He is able to live forever as priest and king.
In setting aside, His deity He was able to live like you and me. He did not stop being God He stopped using His powers so that, in part, He might demonstrate dependence on the Father and the Spirit. Jesus showed us what it means to live obedience to the Father. Jesus rarely used His own divine power while on earth. He chose to humble Himself and we can now live in that same way.
What do we do with this?
The next question we should ask is what do we do with this? I have already spoken somewhat on this (here) but Paul says that we are to serve one another and we can do this by looking to the example of Christ. Jesus had the rightful place to rule from where He was (in heaven) but He chose to come and save us. He chose not to use His divinity but instead humbled Himself. He chose to be weak so that we might become strong (in Him). He chose to serve. We can see this when He washed the disciple’s feet. He had the right to demand and instead He took served. He had the right to command and instead took request. He had the right to judge and instead took the judgment.
Jesus could do this for a few reasons. First, He was secure in who He was. Jesus is God. He knew this before He took on the form of man and He understood this during His earthly ministry (I Am statements). He could serve and be humble because He knew who He was. When we understand who we are (children of God indwelt with the Holy Spirit) we can be confident and when we are confident we can be humble.
Second, Jesus was aware of and sought the Fathers glory. Jesus said I and the Father are one I only do what I see Him doing. When we understand that God is good and that He is working all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called by His name we are able to see others because we want to see our Father glorified.
Third, Jesus trusted in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus knew the Spirit was on Him. He was aware of the leading and power of the Spirit and He trusted the Spirit to do His work. When we trust the leading and power of the Holy Spirit we can be humble and serve others because we know that the Holy Spirit is working in or on them.
The purpose of all of this is to serve others in Jesus name. We are called to love and build up others. In our understanding of who we are, who God is, and the power of the Holy Spirit we can build each other up. We must do this even if it costs us. Jesus left us no other option.
Just a thought,