Our Saviour's marvellous resurrection and ascension into heaven were by now everywhere famous, and it had long been customary for provincial governors to report to the holder of the imperial office any change in the local situation, so that he might be aware of all that was going on. The story of the resurrection from the dead of our Saviour Jesus, already the subject of general discussion all over Palestine, was accordingly communicated by Pilate to the Emperor Tiberius. For Pilate knew all about Christ's supernatural deeds, and especially how after death He had risen from the dead and was now generally believed to be a god. It is said that Tiberius referred the report to the senate, which rejected it. The apparent reason was that they had not gone into the matter before, for the old law still held good that no one could be regarded by the Romans as a god unless by vote and decree of the senate; the real reason was that no human decision or commendation was required for the saving teaching of the divine message. In this way the Roman council rejected the report sent to it about our Saviour, but Tiberius made no change in his attitude and formed no evil designs against the teaching of Christ.
These facts were noted by Tertullian, an expert in Roman law and famous on other grounds--in fact, one of the most brilliant men in Rome. In his Defence of the Christians, written in Latin and translated into Greek, he has this to say:
To go back to the origin of such laws there was an old decree that no one should be consecrated a god by an emperor till he had been approved by the senate. Marcus Aemilus followed this procedure in the case of a false god, Alburnus. This reinforces my argument that among you, godhead is conferred by human approval, if a god does not satisfy man he does not become a god, so according to this it is for man to show favor to God. Tiberius then in whose time the name of Christian came into the world, when a report of this doctrine reached him from Palestine where it originated, communicated to the senate making it clear to them that he favored the doctrine. The senate however, because they had not examined the doctrine for themselves, rejected it. But Tiberius stuck to his own view and threatened to execute any who accused the Christians (Apology 5, Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, Anti-Nicene Fathers Vol. 3, Hendrickon Publishers, Peabody, Massachusettes 1995, pp. 21-22).Well, wasn’t that sweet of Tiberius! To give Jesus the privilege of being declared a god. Friends, Jesus is not waiting to be declared “a god.” He always has been, always will be “GOD.” Not “A god.” But “THE God.” I wanted to share that with ya because it does kinda dovetail into our lesson today. Because, you see, Rome made men into “gods.” But in reality, God made Himself as a man. Philippians 2:5-7—Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.
Last week we saw how Jesus was, in every way, shape, and form—God Almighty. That everything about Him was God. He was in the form—the μορφη (morphe)—of God. That word carries the meaning of everything about a person’s nature, substance, and so on. And that when we see that He did not consider it robbery to be equal with God—many of the newer translations say it better, that He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. That whole phrase something to be grasped is from one little Greek word, άρπαγμός (harpagmos) that is only found this one time in the entire NT. But it comes from a word that is used several times, the word άρπαζω (harpazo). This is a word that refers to the act of taking, by force, something that you do not already have, like when the soldiers came to take Jesus by force. But here, the way it is used, it means “to hold on to something by force.” The best way to say it is He did not consider equality with God as something to be retained by force. The NLT is one of about 5 translations over the years that got it right. Philippians 2:6 (NLT)--Though he was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Jesus did not cling to or retain His rights as God.
To say that Jesus did not pursue equality with God wouldn’t make sense. The first part of this verse says He was already God. So, how could God pursue, chase after, equality with Himself? Consider a husband and wife. They are one flesh, true? Now, if they were having a disagreement, and they both thought they were right, and were seeking to settle their disagreement, and the husband did not exercise his headship over the wife--would it make sense to say that the husband did not pursue having equality with the wife? No. The husband is already equal to the wife, and is actually her head, so the equality he would not cling to would be an equality he already had. Make sense? So when the Father said it was time for the Son to enter the world, the Son said, “I'll do it!”
Now, the question that your garden-variety skeptic will ask is, “Well, what if Jesus had said, ‘No! I'm not gonna do it!’” That’s not even a question! He did not even consider that as an option! He did not consider holding on to His equality with God. To do so would have created a power struggle within the Godhead, a power struggle between the Father and the Son, meaning that the Son would have needed to use force to hold on to His equality with the Father. In fact, what did Jesus say about a house that is divided against itself? He was God. Can God sin? He would have sinned if He had resisted the will of His Father. But that never even entered His mind.
Verse 7. …but made Himself of no reputation… Yours may say He emptied Himself. Either way. Did He stop being God? No. As He walked the earth, did the Father know that Jesus was still His Son? Twice we read about a voice from Heaven declaring “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5). Did Satan know that Jesus was the Son of God? Yes. Luke 8:28, as Jesus is walking through the tombs, the one who called himself Legion, cries out, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me!” Everything spiritual—God the Father, God the Holy Spirit, the angels, the demons—all these knew that Jesus was God. But did man know this? When Peter made his confession in Matthew 16:16—“Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Did Peter say this because he put 2 and 2 together and, for once, came up with 4? No. Matthew 16:17—“Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” He emptied Himself, and became nothing, in the eyes of man. In the eyes of God, and the angels, and the devils, He was still God.
In fact, one of the clearest examples of Christ putting off His “rights” was the night before He was crucified. Peter is still under the impression that Jesus came to set up a kingdom on earth. So here come the Romans to arrest his Rabbi, this man that Peter thought was going to rule and reign on earth right then and there. And he’s gonna take on the whole Roman army with a fish knife. Cuts off one guy’s ear. And what does Jesus say? Matthew 26:52-53—“Put your sword in its place…do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?” Just real quick, one thing. Can you imagine the scene in Heaven? Peter pulls out his little dagger that he was gonna use to bring all of Rome to its knees. And standing there, at the ready, hands on swords, seventy-two thousand angels. And with a word, every soul that pledged allegiance to Rome would have been slaughtered. But Jesus said, “No. That’s not why I came. I set aside my rights to have angels protect me. I came to fulfill the Scriptures which speak of Me, and to do the will of the Father.” In fact, was that not what He prayed that very night? “Not My will, but Thine be done” (Luke 22:42).
He made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant… In verse 6, it says that Christ was being in the form of God… Here it says he took the form of a slave… See the difference? Being in the form of God was what He had always been from eternity past. Taking the form of a slave was what He did at a point in time. John the apostle said mainly the same thing in chapter 1 of his gospel. John 1:1—In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. You see that? In the beginning was the Word. Not the Word was created. Not the Word came into existence. He was. Past tense of “I AM.” John 1:14—And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory as the glory of the Only Begotten full of grace and truth. The Word was…the Word became.
Now, see the word “form?” Same word we looked at last week. He was in the μορφη (morphe) of God. He became the μορφη (morphe) of a slave—we’ll get to that word “slave” in a minute. In every way possible, He had always been God. But, as He walked the earth He was, in every way possible, a slave. Two of the apostles, James and John—what did their mama want Jesus to do for them? “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom” (Matthew 20:21). Mamas always look out for their boys, don’t they? They only want what’s best for them. Jesus tells them, “That ain't my decision to make.” In the next verses (Matthew 20:22-23), He says, “You do not know what you ask…to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.”
Now, John was the apostle that Jesus loved. James was one of the first Christian martyrs, his death being recorded in Acts 12:1-2. And if it were up to Christ, He might very well give thrones to them. But He couldn’t. It was not the will of the Father. And that was the one and only mission and goal of Christ—doing the will of the Father. And Christ came to give us the example of being another’s slave, as He says at the end of this exchange, in Matthew 20:26-28—“Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Now, in those verses, we see two different words used—one for servant and one for slave. What is the difference between a servant and a slave? I'll tell you. The word Paul uses in Philippians 2:7 is δουλος (doulos). And in the KJV, it is always rendered as “servant,” and in that respect it is always wrong. But like so many times in Scripture, there are many words that mean something along the lines of servant or slave or something similar. We’re just gonna look at 2 real quick. One of those words is δουλος (doulos). The other word we find most often used for “servant” is διάκονος (diakonos). We get the word “deacon” from διάκονος (diakonos). Here’s the difference: A δουλος (doulos) is one who is bound to a master, and whose entire life is devoted to serving that master. A διάκονος (diakonos) is simply one who does work for another person.
Example: Let's say, hypothetically, I am a contractor. And believe me when I tell you we would have to be VERY hypothetical to say that I am a contractor, M'k? You hire me to build your house. I am your διάκονος (diakonos) until it is done. And when I finish, I am no longer under obligation to you for anything. Once I'm done, I'm done—I walk away.
But being a δουλος (doulos) means you belong to another person. If you are the contractor and I am one of your framers. And I am bound by contract to work for you for the rest of my life. And even after we finish building somebody’s house, I am still bound by obligation to work for you as long as necessary. I am your δουλος (doulos) forever. Again, it’s a distinction between WHAT the person DOES as opposed to WHO the person IS. The διάκονος (diakonos) does something, the δουλος (doulos) is something.
So what Paul is saying is that Jesus, being God, set aside His rights as God—He did not hold on to those rights, He did not retain those rights, He did not create a power struggle with the Father so He could keep those rights—He set those rights aside, and took onto Himself everything that it means to be a slave—one whose life is totally committed to another, and, quite literally, became that slave. How much do we ever give up? Cable TV? Big deal. Christ gave up His rights as God. In fact, here’s one last definition for δουλος (doulos)—“A slave; one who gives himself up to another's will; those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing his cause among men”—and listen to this one—“devoted to another to the disregard of one's own interests.” Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.
He made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men… Likeness. Resemblance. This is different than “form.” It is different than “image.” This means that “He appeared to be a man.” He looked like a man. He talked like a man. But He was more than a man. He came in the όμοίωμα (homoioma) of man. It comes from the word that means “to be like something.” When Jesus began many of His parables, He says, over and over again, “The kingdom of Heaven is like…” For instance, “The kingdom of Heaven is like a householder owning a vineyard” (Matthew 21:33). Or, “The kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls” (Matthew 13:45-46). Or “The kingdom of Heaven is like a great net that is cast into the sea.” (Matthew 13:47-48). And so on. These were illustrations to show people what the kingdom of God was kinda like. But the Kingdom of God is not literally those things. We are not fish. We are not grapevines. I'm not literally a shiny stone that grows inside of an oyster. The word that Paul uses in Philippians 2:7 to say that Jesus came in the likeness of men means that when Jesus walked the earth, He had all the attributes and all the features of a human being. He did not come in the likeness of God—He came in the likeness of men. He had all the needs, all the limits, all the everything we have—except for the fact that it was impossible for Him to sin.
Turn to Romans 8, if you will. Romans 8, first 4 verses. Romans 8:1-4—There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. In verse 3, it says He came in the likeness of sinful flesh. Same word as in Philippians, όμοίωμα (homoioma). He came in the flesh; he humbled Himself and took on flesh; the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. But He did not sin. 1st Peter 2:22 says that He committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth.
The reason He wrapped Himself in flesh was so that He could sympathize with our limitations. All through the first 4 chapters of Hebrews, we see that Christ came so He could be a merciful and faithful High Priest (Hebrews 2:17). He took upon Himself the limitations of our flesh so He could sympathize with our infirmities. We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15). But most of all, He covered Himself with flesh so that He could die. So that He could taste death. Can God die? No. But flesh does. Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Oh, let’s go for broke. Let’s start Philippians 2:8. And being found in appearance as a man… Guess what? We got as new word to look at. “Appearance.” The Greek: σχεμα (schema). Basically, this refers to the whole man, and what he looks like. Christ came in the όμοίωμα (homoioma)—the likeness—of man. And everybody who saw Him saw Him in the σχεμα (schema)—the appearance—of a man. Not that He simply kinda looked like a man—but He *LOOKED LIKE* a man. If you saw Him, you saw *A MAN*.
Let me put it to you this way. Let’s say it’s around the end of October, and people are getting ready to celebrate the Pagan New Year. Some people call it Halloween. I go to Wal-Mart and buy a Peyton Manning mask. That mask *LOOKS LIKE* Peyton Manning. But will I be able to convince many people that I'm Peyton Manning? No. Why? The way the mask is shaped makes it resemble Peyton Manning. But it’s not made of the same stuff as Peyton Manning. When Jesus—who was in the form of God—came in the likeness of man, He was seen as a man. Because He was made of the same stuff as man. He came with a όμοίωμα (homoioma) like a human—therefore, His σχεμα (schema) was human! When people saw Him, they didn’t think they were seeing God—they thought they were looking at a man! Because He came in the likeness of man, He was seen by all to be a man.
And because He did, He could taste death for us. So that when we sin, we don’t have to bring an animal to an altar, to have them cut up and burned. And when we sin again, we don’t have to bring an animal to an altar, to have them cut up and burned. And when we sin again, we don’t have to bring an animal to an altar, to have them cut up and burned. I think you get the idea. God made a one-time sacrifice of blood—the blood as of a Lamb without spot or blemish. The blood of Christ that cleanses us from all unrighteousness. And we’re gonna look at that a whole lot more next week.
Jesus Christ is Lord.