Gems from the Original: From Glory to the Cross
Harold J B
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men (2:7).
The phrase “made himself of no reputation” is literally “he emptied himself.” The emptying of Himself is the opposite of grasping after what He had in the presence of the Father—independent exercise of authority and the free expression of His attributes. Thus, it could be said that He “made himself of no reputation.”
Instead, He “took upon him the form of a servant.” The word translated “form” is morphe, the same word translated “form” in verse 6. as to His inner essence, He was God, but upon His choice to come to earth, He took on also the inner essence of a servant. The Word Paul used for “servant” was the common word in the New Testament times for “slave.” What a contrast! Jesus Christ gave up the highest glory imaginable—a position of complete independence—and took the lowest position thinkable. A servant, or a slave, is one who has no will of his own but is entirely subjected to serving the will of another. Jesus Christ came to earth to do the will of His Father and at the end of His earthly life was able to say to the Father, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:4). The love of the Lord Jesus Christ for fallen man is indicated that He would not have had to give up His position of glory and take on the form of a servant. He could have insisted on His rights to retain the glory He had with the Father. This is the exact point Paul was making to the Philippians. Although it was the right of the Lord Jesus Christ to retain this position He had with the Father, He willingly gave it up for others
In being willing to give up His position of glory, the Lord Jesus Christ “was made in the likeness of men.” These words reveal His identification with mankind, for His appearance was similar.
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (2:8).
A key word in this verse is the one translated “fashion” (schema), which emphasizes the outer appearance. As to His inner essence, Christ was the God-Man, but outwardly He appeared “as a man.” So thoroughly was His appearance as a man that many of His contemporaries did not know He was also God.
In this passage, which emphasizes what the Lord Jesus Christ gave up, Paul said, “He humbled himself.” The Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be born into a family of low estate. It was one thing for Him to be willing to give up His glory with the father and to be born into the human race, but it was quite another thing for Him to be willing to be born into a family which had very little of this world’s goods. He could have chosen to be born into the family of the Roman Emperor, thereby assuring Himself of eventually ruling the then-known world.
By being born into any Roman family, thus being a Roman citizen, he would have been protected from the most horrible form of execution—crucifixion. This was reserved for non-Romans and even then for only the grossest of criminals. But Jesus Christ willingly gave up the glory He had with the Father and became a member of a family existing on the level of poverty. What a lesson His example was to the first-century Philippian Christians, and what a lesson it ought to be to 20th-century Christians.
Jesus Christ “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” It is difficult enough to imagine the Lord Jesus Christ giving up His glory with the Father and taking a position that would involve death, but it is especially difficult to imagine that He would agree to experience “the death of the cross.” Even the unsaved in
their Greek culture, probably shuddered at the thought of the ugly death on the
cross, and now Paul was telling the believer that this is precisely what Jesus
Christ chose in contrast to His former position. No wonder the Apostle John said, “Herein is
love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the
propitiation for our sins” (I John 4:10).
Paul had told the Philippians “Stand fast in one spirit” (1:27), and, “Be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (2:2). A believer’s attitude toward another believer is tremendously important as they serve Christ together. It is not always easy for a Christian to have the right attitude toward another Christian. Paul did not indicate that it was easy, but by stating what the Lord Jesus Christ gave up in order to pay the penalty for sin, he thereby indicated that if Christians have the same attitude, they will be able to live together harmoniously.