Pastor David B. Curtis

HOME | STUDY INDEX

Media #800 MP3 Audio File Video File

The Kenosis of Yahweh

John 1:14a Pt 2

Delivered 03/13/16

We are working our way through the Fourth Gospel, which I believe was written by Lazarus. We began last week to look at verse 14:

The Word became a human being and lived with us, and we saw his Sh'khinah, the Sh'khinah of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 CJB

The eternal Word who was with God and was God, the Word who created all things became a human being. This verse teaches the staggering truth that Yeshua of Nazareth was Yahweh become man.

Lazarus gives us a very brief account here simply telling us that the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. Last week we looked at the Doctrine of the Incarnation and Hypostatic Union. Because this subject is so important, and because Lazarus doesn't go into detail, I want us to look at another text that fills in all the blanks for us.

What is the single greatest passage in the New Testament on God becoming man? Without question it is Philippians 2:5-11. This text is majestic, describing the condescension of the second person of the trinity into human incarnation. This passage is a Christalogical gem. It teaches the Doctrines of the Incarnation, the Kenosis, and the Hypostatic Union. This is rich theological ground. Yet, this passage was apparently as an illustration to teach humility.

Paul never conceived of any practice that was a biblical practice that was not related to the doctrinal teaching of the Word of God. It is a truth of the Word of God that it is "doctrine" that is the foundation of all true Christian living.

All through Paul's Epistles he lays down doctrine and then calls for them to live in a proper manner. In Romans, for eleven chapters he gives them doctrine, and then in chapter 12, he exhorts them to live in a proper manner. First doctrine, then duty. We see this same pattern in Ephesians. For three chapters Paul gives them doctrine, then in chapter 4, he calls them to duty.

This is why the Church today is weak and filled with sin because there is an absence of the teaching of theology, and the Church is filled with spiritual pygmies who don't know who God is. Theology is to motivate us to proper living. Men live and act according to what they believe.

What is really interesting about Philippians 2:5-11, is that Paul is not looking at the Incarnation, Kenosis, and Hypostatic Union for their own sake, but as an illustration of humility. The main point is to show the humility of Yahweh becoming man. Here you see self-sacrifice, self-denial, self-giving, and humble love:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Yeshua, Philippians 2:5 NASB

The word "attitude" here is phroneo, which means: "thinking" or "attitude." The attitude that is being called for is the one of verses 3-4, which is Christ's attitude of humility:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 NASB

Humility is extremely important, because God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble:

You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. 1 Peter 5:5 NASB

We are to learn from Christ and His example of humility. We can only learn from Him as we study Him through His Word, theology, and doctrine.

"For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. John 13:15 NASB

Christ says this in the context of washing the disciples' feet. Christ is our example of humility. In Philippians 2: 6-8, we have the decent of Yahweh the Son to humiliation. We can't copy His deity, incarnation, perfection, miracles or redemptive work, but we are called to copy His humility.

Verse 5 is a transition from exhortation to illustration. This illustration will have "no" impact on our lives if we don't understand it. So we must first understand theology so we can then be motivated to apply it:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Yeshua, Philippians 2:5 NASB

The position of the pronoun "this" is emphatic and shows that the exhortation reaches back to 2:2-4 for its definition. While the pronoun "who" in verse 6 connects the exhortation with the illustration in verses 6-8. Christ is our model:

who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, Philippians 2:6 NASB

This verse answers the question, "What was Christ like before His incarnation?" Two Greek words answer this question: "existed" and "form."

The word "existed" is the Greek word huparcho, this is not the commonest word for "being" in the Greek; that would be the verb "ame," but it is a verb that stresses the essence of a person's nature, it is to express the continued state of a thing, it is unalterable and unchangeable. Paul said, "Yeshua the Christ unalterably and unchangeably exists in the form of God." This speaks of His pre-existence. We saw this in John 1:1.

The word "form" is morphe. It has nothing to do with shape or size. Multin and Millagan say that "morphe" is a form which truly and fully expresses the being which underlies it. It refers to the essence or essential being. Yeshua pre-existed in the essence of God.

Let's compare two Greek words for form. Morphe is the essential character of something. Schema is the outward form it takes. Morphe is the essential form which never alters; schema is the outward form which changes from time to time and from circumstance to circumstance.

The morphe of any human being is humanity, and this never changes; but his schema is continually changing. We all started out at conception as a clump of cells, then we became a baby, a child, a youth, a teenager, an adult ;and someday I will be elderly. Our morphe is humanity, our schema changes. Roses, daffodils, tulips, primroses all have one morphe of flowers, but their schema is different:

Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:8 NASB

The word "appearance" used here is schema.

When Paul uses hupareco (existed) and morphe (form), he is saying something very specific; he is saying that Yeshua has always existed in the unchangeable essence of the being of God. Yeshua is Yahweh and always was. This is the heart and soul of the Christian faith— Yeshua is Yahweh the Son. This is where the incarnation begins, this is the point from which He descends, God becomes man.

who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, Philippians 2:6 NASB

Paul says that Yeshua, "Did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped"—the word "grasped" is from the Greek word harpogmos, which means: "to take by force, to seize." It is used only here in the Scriptures. The noun refers to: "taking an attitude of seizing something."

Our Lord did not consider the expression of His Divine essence such a treasure that it should be retained at all costs. He was willing to wave His rights to the expression of His Deity. Let me give you a Curtis paraphrase of verse 6: "Who always being the exact essence of the eternal God, did not consider equality with God as something that must be demonstrated."

The word "equality" is isos, and it means: "exactly the same, in size, quality, quantity, character, and number." We use it this way in English, for example: Isomer— is a chemical molecule having a slightly different structure from another molecule, but being identical with it in terms of its chemical elements and weight. Its schema may be different, but its morphe is the same. Isomorph—is having the same form. Isometric — is equal in number. Isosceles triangle—is one with two equal sides .

He is saying that Yeshua is exactly equal with God. Is God omniscient? Then so is Yeshua. Is God omnipresent? Then so is Yeshua. Is God omnipotent? Then so is Yeshua. Is God the creator? Then so is Yeshua. Is God the beginning and end? Then so is Yeshua. But He did not consider His equality with God as a prize that had to be hung on to. He is equal with God in every way, but while He walked the earth He didn't look equal to God, He looked just like a man.

Pride says, "I want you to know who I am." Humility says, "My rights to express who I am are not important." We see these in a contrast between the first and last Adam. The first Adam —senselessly sought to grasp at equality with God, and through pride and disobedience lost fellowship with Yahweh and was kicked out of sacred space. The last Adam, Christ, enjoyed true equality with God, but refused to derive any advantage from it. He humbled Himself and became obedient, and God highly exalted Him. Which Adam are you patterning your life after?

This is where it starts—humility begins with an attitude of willingness to lay aside our "rights." We talk a lot about our rights, but you don't hear many people talking about their responsibilities. Do you know what causes disunity and conflict? Two people concerned about their own rights.

Yeshua didn't grasp or clutch or cling to His rights. But as verse 7 says:

but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:7 NASB

"But emptied Himself"—the word "but" here is a contrastive—"not this but this." The word "emptied" is the Greek word kenoo, it means: "to make empty." Figuratively, it means: "to abase, naturalize, to make of none effect, of no reputation."

Doctrine of the Kenosis —is the self emptying of Yahweh the Son. What did He empty Himself of? Let me give you some false Kenotic theories. William Barclay says, "He emptied Himself of His deity to take upon Himself His humanity." What do you see wrong with that? If He emptied Himself of deity, how could He say:

Yeshua said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am." John 8:58 NASB

Men are not eternal, only God is. All men are mortal. If He emptied Himself of deity, He would cease to exist and so would you:

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. Colossians 1:17 NASB

He didn't exchange His deity for humanity. The Doctrine of the Hypostatic Union teaches us that Yeshua had two natures: human and divine in one person. Yeshua was the theanthropic person, the God-man. That's why we studied the Hypostatic Union last week.

Some say He laid aside some or all of His divine attributes. They appeal to:

For you know the grace of our Lord Yeshua the Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9 NASB

But this doesn't teach that He laid aside His attributes. They also appeal to:

"But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. Mark 13:32 NASB

Does this show that He laid aside some or all of the attributes of deity? If He doesn't know something, how can it be said that He is God? God is omniscient. The ignorance is in His human nature, not His divine nature. In His human nature, He learned as He went along, He learned obedience, He grew in wisdom:

And Yeshua kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. Luke 2:52 NASB

Let me give you four reasons why Yeshua could not lay aside some or all of His attributes 1. This would be incarnation by Divine suicide. It's impossible to surrender an attribute without changing the character of the essence to which it belongs. To rob God of any attribute would be to destroy His Deity. During the incarnation Yeshua was God without any change in His deity. The Hypostatic Union is undiminished deity and true humanity in one person forever.

2. This would be an annulment of the Trinity—no more "Son." The Trinity is eternal and cannot become the "Duo."

3. This would be a denial of one of His attributes—Immutability. This is one of my favorite attributes of God:

"For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. Malachi 3:6 NASB
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17 ESV

If the Lord Yeshua laid down some or all of His attributes, then we cannot say that God is immutable, He can change.

But God cannot change, because a change is either from better to worse or worse to better. So we cannot have an eternal God and a God who changes. We must have immutability, because all the promises of God depend upon divine immutability. Our whole saving experience depends upon the fact that He is immutable. He has never changed and He will never change in the future. Therefore, the promises of eternal life are valid forever. If He ever loved me, He loved me forever!

4. It annuls the atoning work of Christ. If He was not God, He loses His saving power. The death of our Lord Yeshua is sufficient for the sins of all men because the person who laid down His life had infinite value before God.

What then did He empty Himself of?:

"Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. John 17:5 NASB

He is asking to have His glory restored because His glory was put aside when He became man. The Greek noun for "glory" here is doxa. At first the verb meant: "to appear" or "to seem," and then in time the noun doxa, that came from it, then meant: "an opinion." In time the noun was used only for having a good opinion about some person, and the verb came to mean: "the praise" or "honor" due to one of whom a good opinion was held.

If a man had a right opinion about God, this meant that he was able to form a correct opinion of God's attributes. The orthodox Jew knew God as all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present, merciful, faithful, holy, just, loving and so on with all His other perfections. When he acknowledged this, he was said to give glory to God. God's glory consisted of His intrinsic worth embedded in His character, and all that could be known of God was merely an expression of it.

Our word "worth" is somewhat equal to the word "glory." The worth refers to intrinsic character. The worth of a man is his character. Have you ever heard someone say, "That person is worthless"? By this they mean he has no character. The worth of God is God's glory. When we praise God, we are acknowledging His worth-ship. We shorten that word, and we get "worship." That is what worship is, folks, it's acknowledging God's worth.

There is another and entirely different meaning of the word "glory," which is: "light or splendor." In Hebrew thought an outward manifestation of God's presence involved a display of light. This brilliant outward manifestation of God's presence was described by the word shekinah, and in the LXX the word "doxa" is often used to translate it.

Put these two meanings of the word "glory" together and you have a clear picture of Christ's oneness with God and of the humbling of Himself that went with the kenosis. When He became a man, He laid aside the brilliant manifestation of His glory, except for one brief moment on the mount of Transfiguration. Secondly, He veiled His glory in the sense that He did not demonstrate His attributes. He did not walk this earth in the power of deity, He walked this earth in the power of the Holy Spirit in total dependance. Yeshua shared to the full the Divine nature, and He was clothed with splendor that had always surrounded God's person. During the incarnation, Yeshua laid aside the outward glory:

The Jews answered Him, "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God." John 10:33 NASB

They viewed Him as just a man. Laying aside His glory involved the surrender of the voluntary use of the divine attributes, He laid aside the prerogatives of His deity.

Christ veiled His pre-incarnate glory by taking on humanity, but He did not destroy or diminish any part of it. When the sun is obscured by a cloud, there is no real change of its glory, nor are its beams extinguished, nor is the sun itself in any measure changed. Its luster is only for a time obscured. The sun was never effected by that cloud, but our vision of it was. Christ was never diminished in glory, but He veiled His glory. From His own will, Yeshua did not use His attributes to benefit Himself. They were not surrendered, but voluntarily restricted in keeping with the Father's plan. Christ gave up any independent exercise of certain divine attributes in living among men with their human limitations, that He might become truly man. Dependance is a necessary characteristic or real humanity. Christ lived in dependance upon the Holy Spirit in all that He did:

"But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Matthew 12:28 NASB
And Yeshua returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district. Luke 4:14 NASB

In Matthew 4 the temptations of Christ were related to His deity and the kenosis. His humanity longed for what His deity could have provided. He did not exercise the prerogatives of His deity. but was dependant upon the Father.

Impeccability—Yeshua was not liable to sin, He was exempt from the possibility of doing wrong. Christ was tempted as to His person:

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15 NASB

He was tempted more than any person on earth. The human nature of Christ is temptable and peccable, but combined in hypostatic union with the divine nature, He is temptable, but impeccable.

Illustration: If a man in a row boat attacks an Aircraft carrier, is it really an attack? Yes. Does he have a chance of defeating the carrier? No! Can you bend a coat hanger? Sure. If I took the same coat hanger and welded it to a steel I beam, could you still bend it. NO!

If Yeshua did indeed divest Himself of the exercise of the divine nature and lived among men in real dependence upon His Father and found His strength and wisdom in a pure humanity empowered by the Holy Spirit, then we can understand that His prayers were real prayers, His decisions were real decisions, His actions and reactions were genuinely human, and He is indeed our example in all things.

Paul uses a play on words in this chapter. In verse 3:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; Philippians 2:3 NASB

"Empty Conceity"—is from the word "kenodoxea," which means: "empty glory." It is from: kenoo (empty) and doxa (glory). Then in verse 7 he uses "kenoo," which means: "empty Himself":

but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:7 NASB

Paul says, "Don't be involved in empty glory, but follow the example of Christ who emptied Himself." We build ourselves up, we insist on our rights—Christ didn't. How many things do we do in life so men will give us glory?

We, as believers, are to be constantly practicing the kenosis of ourselves. We are to empty ourselves to make ourselves of no reputation.

"Taking the form of a bond-servant"—the word "taking" is a circumstantial participle of manner. So the phrase explains how He emptied Himself "by" taking the form of a bond-servant. When He took the form of a bond-servant, it veiled His glory. That is how He emptied Himself.

The word "form" is morphe, which means: "essential nature." We looked at this word in verse 6. This is not a mask or Halloween costume, He didn't pretend He was a servant. In His essential nature, He became a servant. He took the essence of a dulos—a bondslave.

In verse 6 we see that Christ was in the "form of God"—which refers to the possession of the essential attributes of deity. In verse 7 He takes the "form of a bondslave"—the slavery of a person who has submitted himself to a master, in order to do his will in every respect.

In verse 6 we see the inner essence of God—nature of deity. In verse 7 we see the inner essence of humanity—nature humanity. Was Yeshua God or man? Yes! He was 100% God and 100% man. This is the Hypostatic Union—undiminished deity and true humanity in one person forever.

This is God voluntarily becoming a servant for us. A.W. Pink says this, "What marvelous grace we behold in that wondrous decent from heaven's throne to Bethlehem's manger! It had been an act of infinite condescension if the One who was the Object of angelic worship had deigned to come down to this earth and reign over it as King; but that He should appear in weakness, that He should voluntarily choose poverty, that He should become a helpless Babe—such grace is altogether beyond our ken; [The word ken, meaning understanding or perception, is now rarely used] such matchless love passeth knowledge. O that we may never lose our sense of wonderment at the infinite condescension of God's Son."

but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:7 NASB

"Being made in the likeness of men"—the word "being" emphasizes the notion of becoming, of a beginning. Do you see the contrast here from verse 6, "being?" Christ always existed in the form of God (verse 6), but He was made into existence in the likeness of men.

The word "likeness" is homoioma, which suggests similarity but difference. Though His humanity was genuine, He was different from all other humans in that He was sinless. We see this same Greek word in:

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, Romans 8:3 NASB

Yeshua had real human flesh—He felt pain, sorrow, wept, died, but He was sinless:

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB

Christ lived a sinless life.

Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:8 NASB

"Being found in appearance as a man"—the word "appearance" is schema— "outer appearance." People saw Him only as a man. Christ gave up the outward appearance of God (schema), but not the essence (morphe) of God. His glory was veiled, and He looked like a man.

The reality of His humanity is emphasized in this verse. Our Lord possesses true humanity, which is just as important as His deity. To make atonement, He had to be a Theanthropic person.

We see His humanity all through the New Testament. He had a human birth, His conception wasn't human, but His birth was. He came through the birth canal and was wet and wrinkled like any other baby. Martin Luther wrote in his hymn, "The little Lord Yeshua no crying He makes." Is that true? No! He was a normal baby—He cried. I'm sure He kept Mary up at night crying. It's not a sin to cry. He had human growth and development. He grew up just like any other human being.

"He humbled Himself"—we think of the humiliation as God becoming man, but the point of humiliation here is from His status as man. Thirty years of preparation under discipline—The God-man spent thirty years in preparation for three years of ministry.

"By becoming obedient to the point of death"—the word "becoming"is the Greek ginomy. It is an instrumental particle, it indicates the means by which the action of the main verb is accomplished. The main verb is "humbled Himself." How did He do this? By becoming obedient. That is the best way to become humble— by obedience.

It was to the will of God that the obedience was given, and even when that will pointed to suffering and death, He accepted it. "Not my will," He said to His heavenly Father, "But your will be done" (Luke 22:42). Can you say that?

"Even death on a cross"—the word "even" calls attention to the shocking form of death. When we think of "Cross," we think—torture, but there are worse tortures. The point here is that the shame of the cross is worse than the physical agony.

There was no greater way in which people of the first century could express their utter disgust with a human being than by crucifying him. It was the chief, the most extreme form of human degradation that existed. It was in the fullest sense of the word an obscenity. In polite Roman society, the word "cross" was an obscenity, not to be uttered in conversation. Cicero said, "Let the very name of the cross be far removed not only from the body of a Roman citizen, but even from his thoughts, his eyes, his ears." By Jewish law, anyone who was crucified died under the curse of God:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE"— Galatians 3:13 NASB

This utterly vile form of punishment was that which Yeshua endured, and by enduring it, He turned that shameful instrument of torture into the object of His follower's proudest boast.

Why did Christ do it? To be our substitute!:

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NASB

He died for US! Yeshua did all the work, all we need do is trust what He did. Luther said, "Nothing more is required of justification than to hear of Jesus Christ and believe on Him as our Savior." Salvation is free. but it wasn't cheep.

The underlying thought of verses 5-8 is this: Surely, if Christ humbled Himself so very deeply, you Philippians should be constantly willing to humble yourselves in your own small way. Surely, if He became obedient to the extent of death, yes, death by a cross; you should become increasingly obedient to the divine directions and should accordingly strive more and more to achieve in your lives the spirit of your Master, that is, the spirit of oneness, lowliness, and helpfulness, which is pleasing to God.

Thank God that the story doesn't end here. Paul goes on to say:

For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, Philippians 2:9 NASB

Paul says, "Christ was exalted" and the implication is, "So will you be exalted if you humble yourself." This is a practical principle that is applicable to all of us. Principle: He who humbles himself will be exalted. Yeshua taught this:

"Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. Matthew 23:12 NASB
"For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 14:11 NASB

It is one principle with two sides. It is a promise of being brought low to those who exalt themselves, and it is a promise of exaltation to those who humble themselves.

As I said earlier, this passage is a Christalogical gem. It teaches the Doctrines of the Incarnation, the Kenosis, and the Hypostatic Union. This is rich theological ground. Yet, the reason that Paul teaches this here in Philippians was to give us an illustration of humility. We are, with humility, to view others as more important than ourselves. We are to have the mind of Christ:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Yeshua, Philippians 2:5 NASB

He humbled Himself and Yahweh exalted Him. We are to do the same:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; Philippians 2:3 NASB

Remembering that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Continue the Series

Berean Bible Church provides this material free of charge for the edification of the Body of Christ. You can help further this work by your prayer and by contributing online or by mailing to:

Berean Bible Church
1000 Chattanooga Street
Chesapeake, VA 23322