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In Philippians 2:8-9 we read:

He [Jesus] humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names

For many years I studied with the Jehovah's Witness, and now years later I still have trouble with the doctrine of the Trinity.

Can you please clarify this passage for me:

  • If Jesus is God, how could he humble himself in obedience to God? (As God he could do no wrong and therefore could not be disobedient by definition?)
  • If Jesus is God, how could God elevate him [Jesus] to the place of highest honour? (Surely Jesus was already at the highest place because He is equal to God?)
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St. Thomas Aquinas addresses your questions in his Summa Theologica I q. 42 ("Of Equality and Likeness among the Divine Persons"). Specifically, regarding your

  • first question, see ibid. a. 6 obj. 2:
    Objection 2: Further, greater is the power of him who commands and teaches than of him who obeys and hears. But the Father commands the Son according to Jn. 14:31: "As the Father gave Me commandment so do I." The Father also teaches the Son: "The Father loveth the Son, and showeth Him all things that Himself doth" (Jn. 5:20). Also, the Son hears: "As I hear, so I judge" (Jn. 5:30). Therefore the Father has greater power than the Son.
    and St. Thomas's reply (ad 2):
    Reply to Objection 2: The Father's "showing" and the Son's "hearing" are to be taken in the sense that the Father communicates knowledge to the Son, as He communicates His essence. The command of the Father can be explained in the same sense, as giving Him from eternity knowledge and will to act, by begetting Him. Or, better still, this may be referred to Christ in His human nature.

and your

  • second question, see ibid. a. 4 obj. 1:
    Objection 1: It would seem that the Son is not equal to the Father in greatness. For He Himself said (Jn. 14:28): "The Father is greater than I"; and the Apostle says (1 Cor. 15:28): "The Son Himself shall be subject to Him that put all things under Him."
    and St. Thomas's reply (ad 1):
    Reply to Objection 1: These words are to be understood of Christ's human nature, wherein He is less than the Father, and subject to Him; but in His divine nature He is equal to the Father. This is expressed by Athanasius, "Equal to the Father in His Godhead; less than the Father in humanity": and by Hilary (De Trin. ix): "By the fact of giving, the Father is greater; but He is not less to Whom the same being is given"; and (De Synod.): "The Son subjects Himself by His inborn piety"—that is, by His recognition of paternal authority; whereas "creatures are subject by their created weakness."

cf. also Fr. Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.'s commentary on this question from his Trinity & God the Creator.

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Jesus came to earth as the second Adam, to stand as a man where Adam fell.

The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven (1 Corinthians 15:47, KJV)

Though He was also fully God, He did not use His Godly nature to withstand Satan's temptations. Instead, He took on the flesh of a sinless man, and defeated Satan where Adam failed.

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death (Hebrews 2:9)

For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded to many. (Roman 5:15)

Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of man" (Philippians 2:6-7, KJV)

Thus, when read in the context of these passages, Jesus, God the Son, humbled Himself in the form of a man, and defeated Satan in obedience to God, without using His divine nature.

In the weakness of human flesh, the possibility of falling into sin was a reality. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus struggled and prayed "not as I will, but as you will" (Matthew 26:39). Being sinless, temptation came to Jesus externally, while for us who are fallen, temptation comes from within - the sinful inclinations of our hearts are brought to surface by Satan and his demons.

Jesus trusted in the Father's power. It was a life of faith - faith in God's love and provisions - that Jesus rested in, and lived a perfect life. This life of righteousness lived as man He now gives to us, all who lives in Him by faith.

With so much at stake for the salvation of men, it is perhaps one of the strongest argument for the Trinity - it is God Himself who came for men's redemption. It was also God's self-denying love that laid down His own life at the cross for the world. And until the cross, no created being understood the character of God in as much clarity as now. The very relationship among members of the Trinity, a love that "seeketh not her own" has its source in the heart of God, is expressed perfectly in the interactions between Jesus and God the Father.

The second part of your question, "Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor" relates to the fact that by taking on the form of a man, Jesus "made Himself of no reputation" (Philippians 2:7) and "lower than angels" (Hebrews 2:9) to gain victory at the cross. As a man, He brought honor and glory to God, thus God elevated Him to the place of highest honor and gave Him the name above all other names, even though it is really no greater a title than His original position.

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  • What does it mean for Jesus to obey if he is God and can do no wrong?
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 4 '16 at 7:54
  • Thanks @curiousdannii . Falling into sin was a real possibility for Jesus, who took on the form of weakened man, and did not rely on His divine nature. I've elaborated the answer further.
    – Beestocks
    Jan 4 '16 at 9:47
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  1. If Jesus is God, how could he humble himself in obedience to God? (As God he could do no wrong and therefore could not be disobedient by definition?)

Answer: Yes Jesus Christ is God the Son. He came to this world in flesh, was obedient to God the Father. When he was in flesh, (it is not he himself obedient) "Jesus Christ in flesh" was obedient to "God the Father". Since Jesus came to this world in flesh, he became an ordinary man like you and me. Just like people were obedient to God on those days, Jesus Christ was also obedient to God the Father.

  1. If Jesus is God, how could God elevate him [Jesus] to the place of highest honour? (Surely Jesus was already at the highest place because He is equal to God?)

Answer: Again Jesus Christ is God the son. If you read, Proverbs 8:30

Then I was constantly[e](as little child) at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence,

and Proverbs 8:24-25 says,

When there were no watery depths, I was given birth, when there were no springs overflowing with water; before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth,

Before "Jesus in flesh" came to this world, there was no name given for him when he was/is with God the Father in heaven. He is/was the son of God. That's it. Luke 1:31,32 say,

You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.

When Jesus was born in flesh in this world, he had been given a name as Jesus as said by an angel. It is just the new name which identifies an ordinary man called Jesus. But, when this ordinary man "Jesus"(son of God) overcame the sin and won satan in the cross, God the Father honored him and exalted his name above all the names. So,

It is God the Father exalted the name "Jesus"(Jesus in flesh) above all names.

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  • @curiousdannii, ThaddeusB, David♦ does this post answers the question..? Jan 5 '16 at 8:40
  • Yes, it is better now. (FYI you can actually only ping people who've replied to the answer, so no one got a ping here.)
    – ThaddeusB
    Jan 5 '16 at 21:18
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First, Jesus is God and is in Spirit form. But when Jesus Christ came to earth in human form, He has flesh. And the flesh is weak which tempts to make sin. Jesus now as human i.e., Son Of Man has to Obey Father God, because humans has to obey God as Disobeying the Law is Sin.

Jesus came to earth to tell Father's words and live like a man without sin. Because Jesus loved us and to save us, he left the great place(Heaven) with Father God and came to earth.

Jesus can sin as he is in flesh, But he didn't. Jesus did what the Father God told him to do.

As Jesus left his glory in heaven and came for us, he must be glorified again in Spirit by Father God. In the scriptures, we can see Jesus is God, He equaled himself with Father God and also glorified him by doing his will.

Because of his great work, his name given above all names. He is great before too, but his work shows his love to the world. That's why we pray to Father God through Jesus Christ. Note that Before Christ, Israelite s were praying directly to Father God.

Oh God, forgive me if i have spoken anything wrong here, in jesus name. Amen

And you can correct me, if i'm wrong.

Thank you.

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