So we come to this section that gets separated from the rest of the text so often. But see, Paul doesn’t just drop everything and launch into a doxology on Christ. He does give Jesus praise as being God, who came in the flesh. But he’s relating it to how we are to act in the church. Today we’re going to look at these first two verses—and to better understand them, we need to pick them apart and examine some of the individual words and then put it all back together in the next couple weeks. The danger we run into when we separate text from text is, look at verse 5. That is what I tend to call a “throwaway phrase.” There are certain little phrases in Scripture that surround the more well-known passages. And we repeat these phrases simply because they're there. 2nd Peter 3:9—The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. So many times, certain people want to focus solely on the "not willing that any should perish" to the extent that they forget the part that says "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise." And what’s the promise that Peter is talking about? It's the Second coming of the Lord Jesus. Ask that question of 100 people, and see how many can tell you that. The same is true here. Verse 5 connects verses 3-4 with verses 6-11. Without verse 5, you have two completely separate ideas that have absolutely nothing to do with each other. The point that Paul is trying to make is that we are to consider others first; sometimes we need to set aside our “rights” for the sake of the other members of the church. We are to imitate Christ, and the easiest way to imitate Christ is to imitate someone who is imitating Christ. 1st Corinthians 11:1—Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.
There is an old illustration that if you had 100 pianos, how would you get them all in the same tune? You get the one in tune, you tune the rest to that first one, and you're gonna have 100 pianos all in tune. So if Christ’s attitude was that He did nothing out of selfishness and He put the needs of other people first, and if Paul imitates that attitude, and we imitate Paul—then we’re gonna be imitating Christ. Fair enough? Cool. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. Now, we can move on to verse 6. …who, being in the form of God… We’re going to be looking at one word in this phrase, so stretch, take a sip of your coffee, do what you need to do. But it will be so worth it! The word translated “form” is the Greek μορφη (morphe). We get words like “metamorphosis,” meta meaning “after”; morph meaning “shape.” "Metamorphosis" = "after-shaping." There are several Greek words that refer to shape, form, or appearance, likeness. And the reason we need to know these is so that we can know who Jesus is.
He was not a creation of God. He was not a manifestation of God. He was GOD. One of those words is σχημα (schema). IT refers to the things that make up the whole. It usually refers to a system, or a person, and is made up of actions, thoughts, beliefs. That is schema. Then there is ειδος (eidos). This refers simply to the outward appearance; what something looks like. But the word μορφη (morphe) refers to—not simply HOW something LOOKS, but WHAT that something IS. If I started lathering Rogaine™ on my head, and started growing hair, my ειδος (eidos) would change. I would no longer be a bald man. BUT, my μορφη (morphe) would not change. I would no longer be a bald man—but I would still be a man. A person’s ειδος (eidos) may change, but their μορφη (morphe) as a human being does not.
Example: when a child is in the womb, their ειδος (eidos) changes constantly over the 9 or so months they are in there, but they are still in the μορφη (morphe) of a human being. Although their ειδος (eidos)—their outward appearance—does not resemble that of a grown human being, does not change the fact that their μορφη (morphe) is that of a human being.
The reason I'm going into this, and the reason Paul makes this distinction, is because when we get into the next few verses, we will find some of the same words used in this passage again, and some words that mean almost the same thing but not quite. And we will see as we go through this passage why Paul was very careful about the words he used. So, taking a step back, let’s look at what this part of this verse says. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus who, being God in His very essence and nature, did not consider…
Another reason Paul used the word μορφη (morphe) was because he had to! Because σχημα (schema) wouldn’t have made sense—God is not a system—and God does not have an ειδος (eidos)! What did Jesus tell the woman in John 4:24? “God is SPIRIT.” He does not have an outward appearance. That said, let’s turn to the next book, the book of Colossians. Look down at Colossians 1:15—[Christ] is the image of the invisible God. There are two words in this verse I want to look at for a minute. And I hope we don’t get too far from the main road, but we do need to see something here. The word invisible is translated from the Greek word άορατος (aoratos). Long story short, the root of that word άορατος (aoratos) is where we get words like "optometrist" and "optical." If you put the letter “a” at the beginning of a word in Greek, it negates it. What that word άορατος (aoratos) means is, literally, “not able to be seen.” “Unseeable.” Would something “unseeable” have an outward appearance? Probably not. God the Father is “unseeable”—why? Because He does not have a body, He does not have an outward appearance; therefore, He does not have an ειδος (eidos). And I'm gonna tell you why that’s important.
But before I do, we’re gonna talk about a verse in the book of John that is used by Mormons to try and support their belief that God the Father has a body of flesh and bones. John 5:37—“And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.” Uh-oh. Problem. The word translated “shape” in this verse is ειδος (eidos). Outward appearance. “But I thought you just said God the Father doesn’t have an outward appearance.” Now, there’s no way around what Jesus said. So either (a) this is a contradiction, or (b) there is an underlying meaning. Who votes for (b)? OK, so, who was in the burning bush that Moses saw? God. Who was in the pillar of smoke that rested on the Ark of the Covenant? God. God was IN those things, but those things were not God. The smoke was not God; the flames in the burning bush were not God. But God was inside of those things, veiling Himself, so that Moses and the High Priests would not be destroyed. Because God said, in Exodus 33:20—“No man shall see My face and live.” (Yet, somehow, Joseph Smith saw God the Father, and lived to invent the tale. But I digress).
But didn't Moses speak to God face to face (Exodus 33:11; Deuteronomy 34:10)? As a matter of fact, in Numbers 12:6-8, God says, "If there is a prophet among you, I, YHVH, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. Not so with My servant Moses; he is faithful in all My house. I speak with him face to face, even plainly, and not in dark sayings; and he sees the form of YHVH." Moses did not see God's face. The phrase "face to face" ("mouth to mouth", Num. 12:8, KJV) means that God did not speak to Moses through dreams, visions, or any other type of indirect means. These verses are saying the God spoke to Moses one-on-one, "as a man speaks to his firend." The inestimable Mr. Calvin said (emphases mine):
"These words indicate, therefore, a familiar conversation, just as much as if it had been said, that God appeared to Moses in some peculiar form of manifestation. If any one objects to this, that it is at variance with the assertion which we shall come to presently, 'Thou canst not see My face,' the answer is a very simple one. Although Jehovah showed Himself to Moses in some peculiar form of manifestation, He never appeared in His own essential glory, but only in such a mode as human weakness could bear. This solution contains a tacit comparison, viz., that there never was any one equal to Moses, or who had attained to the same dignity as he."OK, but what about God saying that Moses would "see His shape" (similitude, KJV)? The Hebrew word תמונה (temunah) does not carry the strict meaning of an "outward appearance." Keil & Delitzsch (emphases mine):
“The form (Eng. similitude) of Jehovah” was not the essential nature of God, His unveiled glory - for this no mortal man can see (Exodus 33:18) - but a form which manifested the invisible God to the eye of man in a clearly discernible mode, and which was essentially different, not only from the visionary sight of God in the form of a man (Ezekiel 1:26; Daniel 7:9 and Daniel 7:13), but also from the appearances of God in the outward world of the senses, in the person and form of the angel of Jehovah, and stood in the same relation to these two forms of revelation, so far as directness and clearness were concerned, as the sight of a person in a dream to that of the actual figure of the person himself. God talked with Moses without figure, in the clear distinctness of a spiritual communication, whereas to the prophets He only revealed Himself through the medium of ecstasy or dream.If Moses had indeed seen God Himself, then the apostle John has misled us, for what does he write in John 1:18—No man has seen God at any time, the Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. No one has ever seen the Father’s shape because He doesn’t have one! He does not HAVE an ειδος (eidos). And because the Father does not have an ειδος (eidos)—an outward appearance—nothing can look like Him. But He does have μορφη (morphe). He has a being. He IS a being. What does the name YHVH mean? “I AM.” Therefore, if someone is going to be in the μορφη (morphe) of God, then that someone cannot look like God the Father because God the Father does not look like anything. Therefore, because that someone cannot look like God, that someone must be God. Follow?
This may make it clearer. Christ is the image of the invisible God. The Greek is είκών (eikwn). Literally means “a likeness.” Can you see the words I'm speaking? But you can hear them, right? So, you might say that the sounds I make with my mouth are a verbal είκών (eikwn) of my words. We cannot see God the Father. But about 2000 years ago, people saw God. The Man who walked the earth was the image of the Father. He was the Word of God. John 1:14—And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Did the Father become visible? No. The είκών (eikwn) of God became visible. John 14:9—“He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” In other words, “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the form of God.”
Consider this. Who is on this quarter? No, George Washington is NOT on this quarter. George Washington’s image—his είκών (eikwn)—is on this quarter. In Mark 12:13-16, the Pharisees are trying to trick Jesus with a question about taxes. They ask Him, “Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?” But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why do you test Me? Bring Me a denarius that I may see it.” So they brought it. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar's.” Was Caesar himself on that denarius? No. His είκών (eikwn) and his inscription were on that denarius. Now, someone may say, “See, the image is not the person!” Hold the phone! Can I talk to George Washington? No. I can talk to his image, but is his image alive, and living? No. But Jesus is! The είκών (eikwn) of God is living!! And as it says in Hebrews 7:25—He always lives to make intercession for them. Oddly enough, the only two who are ever said, in the Scriptures, to make intercession for us are Christ and the Holy Spirit. Not Mary. Not the dead saints. Not the angels. Only Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are ever said to be making intercession to the Father for us. Romans 8:26—The Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
So, we got through a word today. I hope we’re pretty clear on this. We have to be. We have to know God. And Paul is telling us that Jesus Christ was, in fact, God. There is a bunch of other words we could talk about that are along the same lines. But we won’t…today. We don’t have time to look at the rest of this verse today. We really wouldn’t do it justice, so we’ll pick that up next week. Hint: the word “robbery” has nothing to do with theft.