Joy in Jesus’ Emptying Himself for Us

Bob RoaneJesus Christ

Used to answer questions at Belhaven University. Let us appreciate how sacrificially our Savior loves us and what He gives us now and in the future.

Christ Jesus, though He existed in the unchanging essence of God, did not count equality with God something to cling to, but emptied Himself, by taking the nature of a servant, being born a human being. And 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, my translation)

Errors have been committed in interpreting these verses, so let us be careful. The whole Bible teaches that Christ is fully God and fully human in one person. 100% God and 100% human. He is the eternal Son of God, existing with God the Father and God the Spirit in eternity past (see John 1; Col 1; Heb 1), equal with them in power, glory, and eternity. In the fullness of time, the Son of God took upon Himself all the essential qualities and ordinary frailties of human beings, expect that Christ was sinless. Notice the careful language in Philippians 2 above: Jesus emptied Himself, by taking the nature of a servant.

God’s Son did not renounce or diminish His deity in any way, but He did temporarily give up the outward expression of divine equality and His rightful dignity.1 The Lord’s emptying was by addition, not by subtraction. When God’s Son took on human nature, He did not give up or lose any divine attributes. He is 100% God and 100% human and these two natures were not combined or confused, but were added to each other forever (yet remaining distinct) in the one person. Benjamin Hanby’s hymn expresses this well:

Who is He in yonder stall At whose feet the shepherds fall?
‘Tis the Lord, O wondrous story, ‘Tis the Lord, the King of glory.
At Christ’s feet we humbly fall, Crown Him! crown Him, Lord of all!2

Hard to understand, but this is what the Bible teaches. Jesus’ incarnation is the biggest miracle! Christ, though God Himself, was born as a baby in Bethlehem. He became human without ceasing to be divine. Notice the Philippians wording again: Jesus emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant.

Christ never stopped being God. That’s not possible. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John show Jesus exercising divine wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. He never emptied Himself of any of His deity, but sometimes His divine attributes were veiled (not visible). Christ never is or was less than God. We need a divine mediator between God and us and Jesus is that God-man.

Christ emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant so that He could live for us, die for us, rise for us, and send the Holy Spirit to fill us. Then Jesus gives us the full measure of His blessing, makes us mature, reflecting some of His fullness, and filling us with His joy and gladness.3

Jesus was humiliated all during His earthly life and especially on the cross. Christ’s humanity made His atoning death for us possible; Christ’s deity made His atoning death for us infinitely powerful and effective. But Jesus’ did not stay humiliated. After Christ’s death and burial, Philippians 2 says:

Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:9-11)

Jesus retains His human body forever and He will return to judge the world on the last day. Christ will pay back trouble to those who trouble His people and give relief to us who are troubled. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from Heaven in blazing fire with His powerful angels.4 Aren’t you glad He came for us and is coming back for us?

O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him, He is Christ the Lord!

1 See the Amplified Bible (2015) on Verse 7.     2 Hymn by Benjamin Russell Hanby (1833-1867).     3 See Rom 15:29; Eph 4:13; John 15:11; 16:24.     4 See 2 Thess 1:6-7.