5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but madehimself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. —Philippians 2:5-8
This passage is so rich; we only have space to examine one jewel. It’s the phrase, He “made himself nothing” (v.7a). Notice, Jesus “made Himself.” He didn’t get a memo. He wasn’t pushed out of heaven. He was fully engaged in God’s whole plan!
That phrase there, “made himself nothing,” is actually the basis for a lot of false teaching. Some translations rightly put it, “He emptied Himself.” Then the question becomes, emptied Himself of what? Some falsely suggest that Jesus emptied Himself of Deity and that He literally became a first-century Jewish man; that there was no God, just Jesus, the man. But the Bible teaches the Incarnation of Jesus, 100 percent God; 100 percent man, undiminished Deity dwelling in humanity.
You ask, “Well, what did He empty Himself of then?”
Answer, at least five things:
- He emptied Himself of glory. In John 17:5, Jesus prayed, “Glorify me...with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” He gave up the adoration of the saints and angels when He came into this world.
- He emptied Himself of independent authority. In John 5:30, Jesus said, “I can do nothing on My own.” He brought Himself into a different relationship with the Father, where ALL of His activities and actions had to be cleared in that unusual way. Though equal with the Father, now uniquely submissive to Him.
- He released the voluntary exercise of His divine attributes. Compare John 1:43–51 with Matthew 24:36 to see how Jesus sometimes was omniscient and sometimes not.
- He gave up eternal riches. I just want you to try to imagine for a moment the treatment that the Son of God, the King of the universe, gets in heaven. Yet 2 Corinthians 8:9 says, “...though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
He gave up His intimate relationship with the Father. Who can describe the fellowship that exists between the first and second Person of the Trinity? And to hear Jesus on the cross in Matthew 27:46
shouting, “My God, why have You forsaken Me?” He made Himself nothing — for you and me. —James MacDonald