The Triune God
|"Who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made himself nothing taking the very nature of a servant and being made in human likeness, and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross." Philipians 2:6-8 (NIV)
The Great Pauline Scholar D.E.H.Whitely summarized Paul's Christsology thusly:
"Contemporary scholars approach this topic by examining the titles and other terms that St. Paul applies to Him, words that is to say such as 'Lord' 'Christ' 'son of God' 'image of God,' 'glory' and many others. It has not always been sufficiently realized that these terms have one thing in common: in the Old Testament and in subsequent Jewish writings these terms constitute a person a theologumenon through or in whom God is viewed as acting upon the earth." [D.E.H. Whiteley, The Theology of St. Paul Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1966, p.101]
Three major verses demonstrate Paul's belief that Jesus was the embodiment of God.
"...Who as to his Human nature was a descendant to David, and who through the Spirit of Holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God ..."
There is nothing remarkable about having a human nature. The only reason why Paul would point out "according to his human nature" is if there were an implication that he also has a divine nature.
Whiteley translates it himself as saying "for it is in Christ that the complete being of Godhead dwells emboidied."[Whitley, 99] Thus Paul is not saying that Christ merely had the fullness of the Spirit as on the day of Pentecost, but that in him, in his very being is embodied the fullness of God!
"Who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made himself nothing taking the very nature of a servant and being made in human likeness, and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross." Philipians 2:6-8 (NIV).
Anti-Trinitarians complain about this translation because they content that the word for "nature" (Morphe) should be translated as form. A huge argument then must ensue about the meaning of the word. In fact most translations do say "from," "who being in the very form of God..." How it is that one can be in the form of God and not be God I don't know. But I will deal with this issue shortly. First some other things must be observed:
1) Being in nature God.
A Jehoviah's Witness once said to me, in argument, "There's no way you can say that this verse says Jesus is God" but that's exactly what it says. "Who, being in very nature God...." Says exactly that Christ's nature is that of God, divine, and that is exactly what the doctrine of the Trinity says.
2) Subordinationist Language.
Moreover, this verse sets up the notion of subordination. Christ, though he was in nature God, subordinated himself to God. This explains the nature of subordinationist verses which are always used against the Trinitarian Doctrine. Many verses make it seem as Jesus is not as great as God, Jesus worships God, Jesus Obeys God. Skeptics are fond of asking "how could God worship himself?" "how could God pray to himself."
Lu 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
Lu 23:46 And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.
In the Garden of Gethseminie Jesus Prayed "Not my will but thine by done." This is the ultimate subordinationist verse. Jesus and the Father have different wills and Jesus is subordinated to the father's Will. Surely this proves that Jesus is not God?
But, the passage in Philipians says that in taking on flesh, in being incarnated as a man, he gave up equality with God. He took on the forms of a servant and became obedient to God the Father. This he probably did as an example to us; when Jesus became a man he behaved as a man. He served and worshiped God, because he had taken on the form of a servant. He did not hold equality with God a thing to be grasped. He didn't say "Why should I pray to The Father, I am also God," but he humbled himself, he became subordinate.
This is merely Trinitarian language which includes a subordination clause. It is not anti-Trinitarian to speak in this way. The concept of the Trinity includes the submission of the Son to the Father during his earthly mission.
The term "Morphe"
The term can be translated "form" and probably should be. But this doesn't mean that it is only speaking of outward appearance. What the Christadelphians don't get is that it has to do with an indication of nature. Outward form is indicative of inner nature, or of the overall nature. Christ was possessed of the Glory of God, in splendor and radiance, he gave that up to take the form of a servant. The outward radiance was indicative of his divine nature. The word can actually be translated both ways.
Did Jesus Christ Exist in the Form of God on Earth?
by Wayne Jackson
The Greek word for “form” is morphe. This term denotes that which is “indicative of the interior nature” of a thing (Green, 1907, p. 384), or as Kennedy observed, morphe “always signifies a form which truly and fully expresses the being which underlies it” (1956, 3:436). Trench commented that “none could be en morphe theou [in form of God] who was not God” (1890, p. 263).
Other commentaries that agree with this view of Morphe:
John Wesely's explanatory notes. Wesley backs the notion of "nature."
On line at Bible tools.org
Who being in the essential form - The incommunicable nature. Of God - From eternity, as he was afterward in the form of man; real God, as real man. Counted it no act of robbery - That is the precise meaning of the words, - no invasion of another's prerogative, but his own strict and unquestionable right. To be equal with God - the word here translated equal, occurs in the adjective form five or six times in the New Testament, Matthew 20:12; Lu 6:34; Joh 5:18; Ac 11:17; Re 21:16.In all which places it expresses not a bare resemblance, but a real and proper equaling. It here implies both the fulness and the supreme height of the Godhead; to which are opposed, he emptied and he humbled himself.
Henry Concise Commentary
on the Whole BibleChapter 2
"Verses 5-11 The example of our Lord Jesus Christ is set before us. We must resemble him in his life, if we would have the benefit of his death. Notice the two natures of Christ; his Divine nature, and human nature. Who being in the form of God, partaking the Divine nature, as the eternal and only-begotten Son of God, Joh 1:1, had not thought it a robbery to be equal with God, and to receive Divine worship from men. His human nature; herein he became like us in all things except sin. Thus low, of his own will, he stooped from the glory he had with the Father before the world was. Christ's two states, of humiliation and exaltation, are noticed. Christ not only took upon him the likeness and fashion, or form of a man, but of one in a low state; not appearing in splendour.
Robertsons word pictures of the NT
At Bible Tools. org
Being (uparcwn). Rather, "existing," present active participle of uparcw. In the form of God (en morph qeou). Morph means the essential attributes as shown in the form. In his preincarnate state Christ possessed the attributes of God and so appeared to those in heaven who saw him. Here is a clear statement by Paul of the deity of Christ. A prize (arpagmon). Predicate accusative with hghsato. Originally words in -moß signified the act, not the result (-ma). The few examples of arpagmoß (Plutarch, etc.) allow it to be understood as equivalent to arpagma, like baptismoß and baptisma. That is to say Paul means a prize to be held on to rather than something to be won ("robbery"). To be on an equality with God (to einai isa qeoi). Accusative articular infinitive object of hghsato, "the being equal with God" (associative instrumental case qewi after isa). Isa is adverbial use of neuter plural with einai as in Revelation 21:16. Emptied himself (eauton ekenwse). First aorist active indicative of kenow, old verb from kenoß, empty. Of what did Christ empty himself? Not of his divine nature. That was impossible. He continued to be the Son of God. There has arisen a great controversy on this word, a Kenosiß doctrine. Undoubtedly Christ gave up his environment of glory. He took upon himself limitations of place (space) and of knowledge and of power, though still on earth retaining more of these than any mere man. It is here that men should show restraint and modesty, though it is hard to believe that Jesus limited himself by error of knowledge and certainly not by error of conduct. He was without sin, though tempted as we are. "He stripped himself of the insignia of majesty" (Lightfoot).
Lidell and Scott (on line version)
The most authoritative Greek Lexicon, while it does agree with "form" as the major definition, also gives as the third a definition that is compatible with the view expressed above:
Lidell and Scott:
3. kind, sort, Eur. Ion 382, au=Eur. Ion 1068 (lyr.), Plat. Rep. 397c, etc. (Possibly cogn. with Lat. forma for morg&uup;hmā, with f by dissimilation, cf. murmêx .)
The notion of the "kind" or "sort," as in "this is sort of thing" indicates the nature of a thing. A Greek Lexicon which defines Morphe as either form or "nature" equally is The Barclay Newman Greek Dictionary which is published in the back of the Nestley Alond Text of the New Testament (the major Greek text used by most students).
What Did He Give Up?
Chrstiadelphians argue that the Greek does not imply that Jesus gave anything up.As we can see from the above quotation, in Robertson, Jesus did not give up being God, what he gave up was the "glory," the "splendor" the status of God. But we can also see from this quotation that the Greek clearly implies a giving up. Christadelphians have argued that he didn't give up anything and that the Greek does not imply that he did, but Robertson clearly thinks so.
Wayne Jackson (see above)
In Philippians 2:6, Paul spoke of Christ as “existing in the form of God....” The term “existing” is not a past tense form. It translates the Greek term huparchon, a present tense participle. The present tense reveals that the Saviors existence, in the “form of God,” is a sustained mode of being, not one that was interrupted by the incarnation. A.T. Robertson called attention to the difference between the present tense, huparchon (denoting “eternal existence in the morphe [form] of God”), and the Lord’s “becoming” (aorist tense) in the likeness of man (1931, 4:445). There was a time when the second Person of the Godhead did not exist as man; there has never been a time when He was not in “the form of God.” W.E. Vine commented that this grammatical form denotes “an existence or condition both previous to the circumstances mentioned and continuing after it” (1991, p. 279). Another scholar noted that the word expresses “continuance of an antecedent state or condition” (Abbott-Smith, 1923, p. 457). Hendriksen was quite correct when he asked: “[O]f what did Christ empty himself? Surely not of his existence ‘in the form of God’ ” (1962, p. 106). Wuest amplified the present tense form of the participle by suggesting that Jesus “has always been and at present continues to subsist” in the form of God (1961, p. 462). It is unnecessary to multiply additional examples. Contrary to the evidence, however, it has been alleged that whereas Christ existed in the form of God prior to the incarnation, He divested himself of that status while on Earth. Finally, according to the theory under review, Jesus resumed the form-of-God nature when He returned to heaven. There is no biblical support for this concept, which violates the explicit testimony of Scripture.
Triune God in Hebrew Thought