Today’s post continues my series studing the book of Philippians while looking for leadership lessons. Previous posts in this series can be found below:
- An Introduction to the Book of Philippians
- Paul’s Greeting, Gratitude, and Group Focus (Phil 1:1-11)
- A Leader Rejoices When His Cause Advances (Phil 1:12-18)
- Paul’s Life for Christ (Phil 1:19-26)
- Leaders Lead and Live in an Ethical Way (Phil 1:27-30)
- Leaders Focus on Others (Phil 2:1-4)
Photo Credit: Waiting for the Word
“5Be mindful of this among yourselves, as was exemplified in Christ 6who existed in the form of God, although he did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped, 7but he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, by being in the form of man, and he was found as a man in appearance. 8He humbled himself, and it resulted in obedience to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9Therefore, God has highly exalted him and graciously granted him a name that is greater than every name. 10So that in the name of Jesus every knee of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth will bow 11and every tongue will profess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11
I. CHRIST’S HUMILITY (2:5-8)
“5Be mindful of this among yourselves, as was exemplified in Christ 6who existed in the form of God, although he did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped, 7but he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, by being in the form of man, and he was found as a man in appearance. 8He humbled himself, and it resulted in obedience to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
“This magnificent passage (vv. 6-11) is an early Christian hymn in honour of Christ. It is the most important section of the letter to the Philippians and provides a marvelous description of Christ’s self-humbling in his incarnation and death, together with his subsequent exaltation by God to the place of highest honour” (O’Brien, Philippians, 186-187).
Some people call this a “hymn” but it should be noted that a hymn was different in Paul’s time. This was not a “hymn” as we sing “hymns” in church today, but instead this had more of “creed.” It more likely was some type of “dogmatic, confessional, liturgical, polemical, or doxological material” (O’Brien, Philippians, 188).
In chapter two of Philippians Paul was describing the Christian life that everyone should have. As part of the command “to live as citizens of heaven” (Phil 1:27). He first said that believers were supposed to focus on others (Phil 2:1-4), now he is going to show us an example of what it means to focus on others by describing Christ and his work.
A. Have the Same Attitude as Christ (v. 5)
“5Be mindful of this among yourselves, as was exemplified in Christ”
Having the same attitude as Christ reminds me of a story of a humble man that was walking down the street where he saw a small boy reaching up to ring a doorbell on a home. No matter how far the boy stretched he could not reach the doorbell. So the humble man called out to the boy, “Don’t worry. I will come and help you.” So the humble man jumped up on the porch of the home and rang the doorbell for the small boy. The small boy looked up at the humble man and said, “Hey minister thanks a lot. Now lets run!”
1. τουτο φρονειτε ἐν ὑμιν – Be mindful of this among yourselves 1
a) φρονειτε – Be mindful
Φρονεω often means to have an opinion with regard to something, think, form/hold an opinion, judge (1 Cor 13:11; Phil 1:7; 2:2; 3:16; 4:2; Rom 12:3, etc.); to give careful consideration to something, set one’s mind on, be intent on (Rom 8:5; Phil 3:19; Col 3:2; etc.); but here it has the sense of to develop an attitude based on careful thought, be minded/disposed (“let the same kind of thinking dominate you as dominated Christ Jesus”) (BDAG, 1065-1066).
There are times when Paul tells people what to do, and here it does that in the form of a gnomic present, “Be mindful of this” as a general truth to be observed. The mood is a command imperative as something that must be done.
b) τουτο – this
Refers to what follows in Phil 2:6-8 (Hawthorne, Philippians, 80), while it might also refer back to attitude in Phil 2:3-4. Yet, some believe it refers to both.
c) ἐν ὑμιν – among yourselves
Literally, “among you” or “in your local church community.” This has two applications for Paul’s readers in Philippi
- among the Philippian believers
- among their psyche intellectually (Comfort, Philippians, 188).
2. ὃ καὶ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ — as was exemplified in Christ
a) ὃ — as
This article is referring back to τουτο (“this”). It is also the subject of an understood ἠν (“he/she/it was”) or perhaps “which was exemplified.”
b) και —
This is a connective conjunction of relationship. The attitude that Paul is trying to exhort the Christian believers to have is the same as the attitude that was demonstrated by Jesus.
c) ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ — in Christ
B. As God, Christ Emptied Himself (vv. 6-7)
“6who existed in the form of God, although he did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped, 7but he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, by being in the form of man, and he was found as a man in appearance.”
Here, before we look at Christ’ work it is important to remember that Christ was fully human and fully God. This is called the Hypostatic Union. Another way to say it is that Christ was fully God and then he came down to earth and became fully human. As man he was tempted by sin (Matt 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13), felt pain, but he was still God.
1. As God, Christ Did Not Cling to His Divine Privileges (v. 6).
6who existed in the form of God, although he did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped,”
a) ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων – who existed in the form of God
(1) ὃς – who
This relative pronoun refrs to Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ in v. 5. Also, it is the subject of the main verb of this verse, ἡγήσατο (“consider”), the subject of ἀλλα . . . ἐκενωσεν (“but he emptied”) in v. 7), and the subject of και . . . εταπεινωσεν (“he humbled”) in v. 8.
(2) ἐν μορφῇ — in the form
This is the key phrase. It stands at the head of the paragraph.
Some translators used the word “form” in which Rev. Marvin R. Vincent states that “‘Form’ is an inadequate rendering of μορφη, but our language affords no better word. By ‘form’ is commonly understood ‘shape,’ ‘sensible appearance.’ So of Christ’s human form (Mark 16:12). But the word in this sense cannot be applied to God. Μορφη here means that expression of being which is identified with the essential nature and character of God, and which reveals it. ‘This expression of God cannot be conceived by us, though it may be conceived and apprehended by pure spiritual intelligences” (Marvin Vincent, Philippians and Philemon, The International Critical Commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments [Edinburg: T & T Clark, 1897], 57-58).
Comfort’s provides an illustration on this word that I find helpful. He describes this word as always signifying a form which truly and fully expresses the being which underlies it. In other words, “It is what gives expression to an essence.” For us as human being, we are body, mind, and soul which is our “essence.” That is the “human expression.” The one who lives in the form of God is the “divine expression.” (See Comfort, Philippians, 168-169).
While this word occurs only three times in the New Testament (Mark 16:12; Phil 2:6, 7), many cognates are used by Paul with the same root of μορφ-. Paul used μόρφωσις as “embodiment” or “outward form” in Rom 2:20 and 2 Tim 3:5. He used μορφόω as “shape” or “form” in Gal 4:19. He used μεταμορφόω as “transform” in Rom 12:2; 2 Cor 3:18. Συμμορφιζω as “give the same form” in Phil 3:10. Lastly, he used σύμμορφος as “having the same form” as Phil 3:21 (O’Brien, Philippians, 207).
With that said, what does the this word truly mean? O’Brien’s conclusion is helpful here, “μορφή refers to that ‘form which truly and fully expresses the being which underlies it’. The phrase ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ is best interpreted against the background of the glory of God, that shining light in which, according to the OT and intertestamental literature, God was pictured. The expression does not refer simply to external appearance but pictures the preexistent Christ as clothed in the garments of divine majesty and splendor. He was in the form of God, sharing God’s glory” (O’Brien, Philippians, 210-211).
This is not a simple “to be” idea, but instead it is stronger. It denotes a “being” which was in existence from the beginning. “It is a backward look into an antecedent condition, which has been protracted into the present. . . In itself it does not imply eternal, but only prior existence” (Marvin Richard Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 3 [New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887], 430).
Thus, ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ corresponds with *John 17:5, “Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began” (NLT) and *Hebrews 1:3, “The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God” (NLT).
(3) ὑπάρχων – existed
This is a participle of concession related to ἡγήσατο (“consider”). This is an “undefined continuance of an exiting state of being” referring to the pre-existence of Jesus as God. Yet, O’Brien and Comfort say that this participle should be causal, “Because he was in the form of God” (O’Brien, Philippians, 216; Comfort, Philippians, 169). Meanwhile, the NLT translates it concession, “though.”
b) οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ — although he did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped
(1) οὐχ – not
(2) ἀρπαγμὸν – grasped
This is a rare word in nonbiblical Greek and not found at all in the Greek translation of the Old Testament. It is only used one time in the New Testament. Here! The most likely use here as has been shown in the translation is that idea that something to which one can claim or assert title by gripping or grasping, something claimed (BDAG, 133-134).
As Christ was God he did not consider it as something to grasp and hold on to (even though he had the right to do it). He did not want to take selfish ambition of it. It literally, was “not robbery to be equal with God.”
This is interesting in light of Paul’s earlier statements that people were not supposed to have selfish ambition (Phil 1:15-17; 2:3). Jesus, who was someone that could make that claim that he was greater, did not do it.
(3) ἡγέσατο – consider
(4) το εἶνα – equality
This is the direct object related to ἡγέσατο – consider.
(5) ἴσα θεῷ – with God
Dative of association.
2. As God, Christ gave up his divine privileges (v. 7).
“7but he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, by being in the form of man, and he was found as a man in appearance.”
a) ἀλλʼ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν – But he emptied himself
(1) ἀλλ’— But
This is a contrastive conjunction of the relationship described earlier that Jesus was God and equal to God (v. 6). This contrast gives an example of Christ that the Philippians were also to have in their attitude.
(2) ἐκένωσεν – he emptied
Paul had told the Philippians not to think in personal conceit or to impress others (Phil 2:3). He said that because when we do that we bring glory to ourselves. Instead, we are supposed to have the same attitude as Christ (Phil 2:5). While Christ was the one who could bring glory to himself, he emptied himself.
What did it mean for Christ to “empty himself?” It likely means that Christ poured out himself totally at the disposal of people (O’Brien, Philippians, 217). Or, some take a more metaphorical view that Christ made himself helpless which led to his incarnation and death.
(3) ἑαυτον – himself
This word (the direct object of the verb) is placed early in the verse and before the verb which shows emphasis on Jesus.
b) μορφὴν δούλου λαβών – by taking the form of a servant
(1) λαβὼν – by taking
This participle modifies ἐκενωσεν (“he emptied”) and can be translated as three different adverbial participles. First, as means. This is translated, by means of taking, which answers the question, “How?” Second, as manner. This is translated, by taking. The particle of means also answers the question, “How?” except this looks at the emotion or attitude that accompanies the main verb. Third, as time. This is translated, while taking. The participle of time answers the question of “When?” (For a lengthy discussion and explanation of participles and these three uses see Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 623-630).
(2) μορφὴν – form
This word occurs only twice (Phil 2:6 and 2:7) in the New Testament and means form, outward appearance, shape.
(3) δοὺλου – of a servant
c) ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος – by being in the form of a man
(1) γενόμενος – by being
This is most likely a participle of means related to ἐκενωσεν (“he emptied”). It emphasizes Christ’ incarnation (ie. “being born” and “being made”).
(2) ἐν ὀμοιώματι – in the form
Dative of reference/respect. The word used here, ὁμοίωμα, ατος, τό can describe a state of having common experiences, likeness (Rom 6:5; 5:14; Mark 4:30); a state of being similar in appearance, image, form (Rom 1:23; 9:7); yet BDAG puts this word in an unclassified third category. BDAG equates Phil 2:7 with *Rom 8:3 and describes each as meaning that the “Lord in his earthly ministry possessed a completely human form and that his physical body was capable of sinning as human bodies are, or that he had the form of a human being and was looked upon as such, but without losing his identity as a divine being even in this world” (BDAG, 707). In this way, Paul probably uses this word to describe Jesus in his earthly career as similar to sinful humans yet not totally like them.
(3) ἀνθρώπων – of man
d) καὶ σχήματι εὑρεθεὶς ὡς ἄνθρωπος – and was found as a man in appearance
(1) και – and
This conjunction links ἐκενωσεν (“he emptied”) and ἐταπεινωσεν (“he humbled”).
(2) εὑρεθεὶς – he was found
Participle of means related to ἐταπεινωσεν (“he humbled”).
(3) ὡς ἄνθρωπος – as a man
(4) σχήματι – in appearance
This Greek word, σχηῆμα, ατος, τό, is often the generally recognized state or form in which something appears, outward appearance, form, shape (Phil 2:7); the functional aspect of something, way of life (1 Cor 7:31).
Some people might say that Jesus only “appeared” to be a man, he was not a man! Yet, let me ask how else was he supposed to be a man? How else was he supposed to appear to us as man? There is no other way for Jesus to appear to us as a man than for him to appear to us as man.
e) Two ideas and phrases that refute Jesus was merely a human figure (like a second Adam or angelic figure in Jehovah’s Witnesses) from this verse.
- Christ becoming like human kind is in direct contrast with Him existing in the fullness of God’s glory.
- Christ took on the form of a servant, a human. He did not exist merely as a human; rather, His humanhood was added onto His Godhood.
C. As Man Christ Humbled Himself (v. 8)
“8He humbled himself, and it resulted in obedience to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
1. ἐταπείνωσεν ἑαυτὸν – he humbled himself
a) ἐταπείνωσεν – he humbled
The verb here, ταπεινόω means to cause someone to lose prestige or status, humble, humiliate, abase (Matt 23:12; Luke 14:11; 18:14; 2 Cor 11:7). This term refers to the volunteer surrender of one’s status and rights. See Rom 12:3.
b) ἑαυτον – himself
2. γενόμενος ὑπήκοος μέχρι θανάτου – and it resulted in obedience to the point of death
a) γενόμενος – it resulted in
Means, related to ἐταπείνωσεν (“he humbled”).
b) ὑπήκοος – obedient
Also see Acts 7:39; 2 Cor 2:9.
c) μέχρι – to the point
This preposition indicates the degrees or extent of obedience. Other examples are 2 Tim 2:9; Heb 12:4
d) θανάτου – death
This is how great God’s love for us was—to the point of death!
3. θανάτου δὲ σταυροῦ — even death on a cross
a) δὲ — even
This is a logical conjunction which can be ascensive, “even unto crucifixion.” Emphatic, “indeed, unto crucifixion.” Or explanatory, “that is his crucifixion.”
b) θανάτου – death
This could be the object of the genitive preposition, μεχρι (“to the point of”) or it could simply be a genitive in apposition to the first θανατου in the verse.
c) σταυροῦ — cross
By cross, this was literally a pole that was placed in the ground and used for capital punishment, cross (Matt 27:40; John 19:25, 31; Heb 12:2).
II. CHRIST’S EXALTATION (2:9-11)
“9Therefore, God has highly exalted him and graciously granted him a name that is greater than every name. 10So that in the name of Jesus every knee of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth will bow 11and every tongue will profess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of the Father.”
A. God Elevated Christ (v. 9)
“9Therefore, God has highly exalted him and graciously granted him a name that is greater than every name.”
1. διὸ καὶ ὁ θεὸς αὐτὸν ὑπερύψωσεν – Therefore, God has highly exalted him
a) διὸ — Therefore
This is an inferential conjunction. The following context of God exalting Christ and giving him a name greater than every name is because of Christ’s humility and humbling himself to the point of death (v. 8).
b) ὁ θεὸς – God
c) ὑπερύψωσεν – has exalted
ὑπερυψόω is used only once in the New Testament and means to raise to a high point of honor, raise, exalt (BDAG, 1034). This can be a consumative aorist, “God has exalted him” or it could be constative, “God exalted him.”
Notice the ὑπερ in this compound verb? It has the idea of “above and beyond” all powers. The exalted Lord Jesus Christ is unique! See Phil 1:29 for this use of ὑπερ.
God exalting Christ is the first of two things that God did because of Christ self-emptying humility.
2. καὶ ἐχαρίσατο αὐτῷ τὸ ὄνομα τὸ ὑπὲρ πᾶν ὄνομα – and graciously granted him a name greater than every name
a) ἐχαρίσατο – graciously granted
This verb means to give freely as a favor, give graciously (Rom 8:32; Gal 3:18; Phil 1:29, etc.). It also has other meanings of canceling a sum of money that is owed, cancel (Luke 7:42) or to show that someone is gracious and forgiving, forgive, pardon (Col 2:13; Eph 4:32, etc.) (BDAG, 1078).
b) αὐτῷ — him
c) τὸ ὄνομα – a name
The use of the article here is either the Par Excellence or Monadic use of the article. Both are very similar and significant.
- Par Excellence would emphasize that Christ’s name is “in a class by itself.” Here is the only one deserving of the name. Though there may be other objects by the same name, he is the only one worthy of such a name. Other examples are *John 1:21, “Are you the prophet?” and *Mark 1:10, “He saw the Spirit descending on him like a dove.”
- Monadic use would emphasize that “the name that is above every name.” In this manner Christ would be the unique one. Other example of this are, “Behold the lamb of God” (John 1:29).
d) το ὑπερ – greater than
e) πᾶν – every
f) ὄνομα – name
B. At Jesus’ Name (v. 10)
“10So that in the name of Jesus every knee of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth will bow”
1. ἵνα ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ — So that in the name of Jesus
a) ἵνα – So that
The conjunction, ἵνα plus the subjunctive mood is worthy of a note. This is a purpose-result ἵνα clause related to ὑπερυψσεν (“he exalted”) and ἐχαρισατο (“he gave graciously”).
b) ἐν – in
This preposition describes the conditions under which the action of “bowing” will take place.
c) τῷ ὀνόματι – the name
d) Ἰησοῦ — of Jesus
Genitive of possession.
2. πᾶν γόνυ κάμψῃ ἐπουρανίων καὶ ἐπιγείων καὶ καταχθονίων – every knew of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth will bow
a) πᾶν – every
b) γόνυ – knee
c) ἐπουρανίων – of those in heaven
ἐπουράνιος, ον describes the association with a locale for transcendent things and beings, heavenly, in heaven (Matt 18:35; Heb 3:1; 6:4.
d) ἐπιγείων – on earth
ἐπίγειος, ον describes what is characteristic of the earth as opposed to heavenly, earthly (John 3:12; Phil 2:10). Later in Philippians this word will be used to describe earthly things, with implication of personal gratification, worldly things (Phil 3:19).
e) καταχθονίων – under the earth
This is the only use of this word in the New Testament. It describes the subterranean under the earth.
f) κάμψῃ — will bow
Κάμπω describes how someone assumes a bending posture, bend (itself) (Phil 2:10; Rom 14:11) (BDAG, 507).
C. At Jesus’ Name Every Tongue Will Confess He Is Lord (v. 11)
“11and every tongue will profess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of the Father.”
1. καὶ πᾶσα γλῶσσα ἐξομολογήσηται – and every tongue will profess
a) πᾶσα γλῶσσα – every tongue
b) ἐξομολογήσηται – will profess
While the verb ἐξομολεγέω can indicate acceptance of an offer or proposal, promise, content (Luke 22:6) or to make an admission of something done wrong, confess, admit (Matt 3:6; Mark 1:5; James 5:16; Acts 19:18), here the verb means to declare openly in acknowledgment, profess, acknowledge (Isa 45:23).
As can be seen from Isa 45:23, this verse demonstrates Jesus Christ is Yahweh-God.
c) Isa 45:23
God says, “I have sworn my own name; I have spoken the truth, and I will never go back on my word: Every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will declare allegiance to me” (NLT).
2. ὅτι κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς – Jesus Christ is Lord
Paul includes this to raise Christ above mere human level and honor Him as deity. Jesus Christ is divine—very God (YHWH) Himself. This creed “meant that Jesus Christ is Yahweh—God” (Robert Lightner, “Philippians”, in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 644).
3. εἰς δόξαν θεοῦ πατρός – to the glory of God the father
Conclusion and Application
In these blog posts I normally try to tell a strong story to illustrate the big idea of the passage that we are studying. However, when looking at this passage there is no better story than Christ’s story that illustrates the point of Jesus Christ and his work for us. While Christ was God, he came down to earth (Rom 8:3), was buried and raised (Rom 6:4, 9) for us.