“But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man.” (Philippians 2:7, DRB)
There are many theories around concerning the previous scripture, some of whom are even borderline (or downright) heretical. I am not one to take sides when it comes to disputes, but this one I consider foundational for us to get it right, for one simple reason: verse 5 of the same chapter of Philippians tells us this: “For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” (Philippians 2:5, DRB). This has to do with attitude, with our way of life, something that we have to imitate. By the way, I want to point out here how the “Authorized” (king James) version has once again altered matters in transliteration; the word “emptied” (“ekenosen” in the original Greek text) has been rendered as “made Himself of no reputation”. I cannot understand why this arbitrary error, based obviously on personal, human-understanding led inaccuracy.
Yet the KJV error is one example of the many guesses that people made as to the meaning of what “emptying Himself” means. Perhaps the motive for such errors is supporting one’s doctrine, no matter how wrong and far from the truth it may be. Some have assumed (or rather, presumed) this to mean that Christ left behind His Godly nature, or part of it. Some say that He didn’t know that He was God. Yet some others say similar monstrous theories, all of which betray a thorough lack of understanding who Christ is and of reliance on the Holy Spirit to bring them into the whole truth. And lest we are also misled, it is this reliance on the Spirit that we need to have, if we are to see the truth.
For every scripture to make sense, especially when it comes to the epistles, we need to examine the surrounding text. In this case, the issue is about treating one another with love in the church (not a building, mind you, but the family, the body of Christ). Paul was trying to show our brethren from Philippi how we ought to treat one another, and he brings the example of the Lord. He is basically saying, “have in heart one another’s interests, and not your own only, just like Christ did, by leaving behind His own interests, His own will, and He became a servant, He became a man, and He was obedient till death”. This is what Christ emptied Himself of, His personal ambition. And to what end? Here is the evidence of that action: John 6:38; John 5:19; Matthew 26:39; John 4:34. The Lord emptied Himself of His own ambitions so that He would carry out the will, the agenda, the purpose of the Father! That He had a will different to that of the Father, is obvious in Matthew 26:36: “…Yet not as I will, but as You will.” (MKJV). This truth is that clarifies the rest of the scripture: “…and took upon Himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” (MKJV). His mission was to make the Father’s plan complete, by being completely obedient to the Father.
Could it be that we don’t like to see it from this point of view, because we see only a historical Jesus, and not a living Lord? Could it be that we are not willing to empty our own beings from that “self”, that ego that reigns sovereign in us? It has to be that, because if we see it from the obvious point of view that Paul of Tarsus is making, we will see how compelling his reasoning is. We cannot be so presumptuous as to call ourselves “Christians” and yet be unwilling to be Christ-like. Every single action that we see Christ taking, is for us to know how we ought to live. The Lord put His own will aside, became humble like a slave, so that the Father’s will would reign supreme in Him. Likewise, Paul says, we ought to put aside our own will, agenda, ambitions, everything that constitutes “self”, become obedient to Him Who has sent us, to the point that we no longer exercise any bit of our own will. The notion is not that we will be “spineless”, pathetic zombies, without will or purpose, but that we will become obedient, if necessary to death, so that the Lord’s will and purpose will be carried out through us. All that Christ did was motivated by His love for us, so likewise, all that we do must be motivated by our love for one another. It is as simple as this, and only those who think of themselves as “wise” are confounded and in the darkness. I pray that we will all keep the simplicity of mind that we need in order to understand the truth of the Word.
One thought on “Emptying of self”
Do you see any relationship between a drink offering, poured upon the altar, to Christ emptying Himself? Certainly It is beautiful metaphor. And in pouring Himself out, He made Himself ready to receive the fullness of the cup the Father had Him drink on our behalf.