Any understanding must be true to two things,
- The text in focus
- All other scripture must be accommodated and not comprised or ignored.
Any interpretation must maintain these two standards.
While many translations have attempted to decipher this verse in isolation, we must include other texts before we draw any conclusions.
Jesus is holy, without sin, and the full expression of the Father. It is this reality that enables the ‘nature of God’ NIV. We must not assume what ‘nature’ means.
Possibilities might include,
- being the same as God in life force and immortality - being spirit.
- having the same pure and holy intention - (being uncorrupted by sin)
We know Jesus was not immortal (Rom 6:9, 1 Pet 3:18), we also know he was not spirit - as a man on earth, or after ascension. There is no mention of Jesus prior to the gospels, so we must not make stuff up to suit our own purposes. Certainly he was prophesied - but not as God coming in the form of a man. He would be a descendant of Abraham and David, a seed of the woman Gen3.
We know he was holy - being born that way, so Jesus has a divine nature like God. This of itself does not make him God. It will not make us God either when we also share this nature.
you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 2 Pet 1:4
throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception... 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. Eph 4:22-4
Jesus already had this nature that we will also be granted. So having the nature of God in this context does not make Jesus God.
- Jesus did not have a human nature with sin - he had a Godly nature, without sin.
The Greek word for this 'nature' is morphē, often rendered as 'form'.
The same principles apply whatever word we use. But morphē has some other uses that help to clarify the intention.
Luke 24:13-33 is the story about Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Jesus, 'appeared in a different form (morphe)' to these two men so that they did not recognize him.
Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them as they walked along in the country. Mk 16:12
But their eyes were kept from recognizing Him Luke 24:16
Obviously Jesus internal nature was not any different - so his outer form was changed, rendering him some incognito.
So far nothing at all points to Jesus being God, but having the same nature, the same form of living by grace, love, wisdom and other Godly attributes. So 'form' may express an outward appearance, (as Is 44:13, 2 Tim. 3:5 shows) or/and an internal nature that represents something/someone else. Human nature represents the 'world' and holy nature represents God.
If Jesus were God in this instance, why would he 'grasp' at being equal? He already would be 'equal' in every sense. Either he is God or he is not.
There are no verses anywhere telling us Jesus is God. Paul has the capacity to express God's wisdom and truth in all his extensive writings - none of them express this simple 'truth' that Jesus the man is really God all along.
He uses the terms 'form' and 'image' which essentially mean he is not God - but a very good likeness to God. Can God be an image of Himself?
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation Col 1:15.
For explanation of what 'firstborn means - it does not mean Jesus was the first creature made, but it does place Jesus within creation - not pre-existing his birth.
There is only One God, the Father - as Jesus and many others pointed out at various times. That has been a very consistent revelation from Gen to Revelations.
Paul also expressed that Jesus was made like his brothers in every way. Heb 2:17 Either he was - or he wasn't. He is not like us if he is God. If he is God - he is certainly NOT like us.
What did Jesus empty himself of?
If as some suggest he was God in the flesh (which is quite non-sensical) how could God empty Himself of being God? How could He empty Himself of immortality, of a righteousness that prohibits Him being tempted?
Jesus emptied himself of the privileges of being without sin, of being the 'son of God' of being righteous and holy and Godly in every respect. This was a prerequisite of becoming a true slave, a servant without guile or pretence unto death - even on a cross!
The concept of an eternal Jesus ever-living with the Father from before ever makes a mockery of his earthly life and sacrifice - setting it aside as a mere charade and John 3:16 a lie. Jesus was mortal, he could be tempted, could and did die. God did indeed give His only son!
During the days of Jesus’ earthly life, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence. Heb 5:7
If we must pursue a two-natured Jesus to somehow make him God and man - somehow immortal and mortal, somehow able to be tempted and not tempted, somehow able to sin and not sin, somehow able to create everything that is and become heir to everything too, then we invent a mystery that scripture never expresses.
While it might be fun to entertain lots of possibilities regarding bits of scripture, we cannot ignore the plain and solid teaching that clearly defines a solitary God as Father. There is also plenty of evidence for His special son, the human Jesus.
The simple truth revealed is that Jesus, the logos become flesh was born a man ~4BC by Mary and the Spirit, lived to reveal the Father and by suffering and obedience became the perfect offering for all sin. All men, by God's grace, may enter into true life by accepting Jesus' sacrifice on behalf of us.
We don't really need to interpret this verse, we just need to read it along with the rest of God's inspired writings and the truth, God willing, will be apparent.
It's a fundamental truth that those who seek to be first will be last, or who attempt to exalt themselves will flounder...
Do not exalt yourself in the presence of the king, and do not stand in the place of great men Prov 25:6
Jesus took the low place and allowed God to exalt him at the proper time. Jesus, the son of God, holy and pure, knew who he was and had the challenge of living as one of us - not claiming special privileges but submitting to his Father and God until the work was finished. This attitude is what Paul is saying should be in all of us.
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus Phil 2:3-5