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Improbable Joy – Philippians 2:5-11

Feb 11, 2024
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Philippians 2:5-11

This is one of the most definitive passages in all of Scripture as it relates to Jesus’ preexistence and His divine nature. There was never a time when Jesus didn’t exist. He is the Alpha and the Omega. Paul goes on to say that Jesus existed “in the form of God”. In other words, the outward manifestation of His divine glory was veiled, and only His outward appearance of full humanity was seen. Jesus was fully man and fully God.

There have been many alternative positions through the years:
Ebionism denied the divine nature of Christ
Arianism denied the fullness of the deity of Christ
Docetism denied the humanity of Jesus
Apollinarianism denied the full humanity of Jesus
Nestorianism denied the unity of nature in 1 person

In AD 451, leaders in Chalcedon wrote a creed affirming both Jesus’ full humanity and His full deity, united in one person. They denounced all of these heresies, and we are called to do the same in our culture.

Verse 6 says “Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped”. Even though Jesus was entitled to these things, He did not use them to His own advantage.

Verse 7 tells us that He “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men”. This doesn’t mean He gave up His deity or His divine attributes, but instead, He veiled them. He gave up the right to use them in situations in which He would have been entirely justified to use them. (Matthew 26:53) Even though He veiled His deity, He did not void His deity.

In theology, this is known as the hypostatic union, which means two natures in one person, unmixed forever.

“And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” This was the lowest way to die. In fact, Roman citizens couldn’t be executed, and Jews believed a person was cursed if he died by crucifixion (Gal 3:13). Jesus died as a substitutionary sacrifice so that He might atone for sinners. He died the death we deserve, which is the ultimate sacrifice and act of service.

The result of Jesus’ humiliation is found in verse 9 which reads, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” To confess Jesus as Lord in the first century meant that Caesar was not Lord, which would have meant death to those who professed Jesus. Paul’s confession and charge to the Philippians was a really big deal.


  1. We are called to pursue the attitude and actions of Jesus. How do you live your life this way? Do you live to get or to give?
  2. If Jesus is willing to set aside His own rights in obedience to the Father’s higher purposes, then why can’t we do the same?
  3. What would you do if professing Jesus as Lord meant death?