Philippians 2:6-9 ASV

6 who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men 8 and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross 9 Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name

If Jesus is God/equal to God, under what conditions would using the words "robbery/seizure" be needed pertaining to the question of equality?

  • 1
    You are making the assumption that "robbery/seizure" is the correct or only translation. "used to his own advantage", or"cling to" is another translation.
    – Dottard
    Oct 24 at 6:41
  • @Dottard. I'm interested to see your answer using whatever translation you want. Oct 24 at 7:10
  • A related question.
    – Lucian
    Oct 24 at 10:06
  • See the excellent answers here. hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/46727/…
    – Dottard
    Oct 24 at 11:13
  • In this particular English translation, how is that better than simple nonsense? Do you not see that to provide any useful meaning, the passage needs to be addressed in its original language or, just possibly on a good day with the wind behind it, at only one remove? Oct 24 at 21:18

The key point is the phrase, "considered it not". In other words, it would not have been considered robbery for the Son to have grasped on to, to have retained, equality with God. The Son was not trying to steal something that only belonged to God. Quite the opposite. The Son let go of what was rightfully his (equality with God), and humbled himself to death on a cross, in order that God be glorified. For this, he was praised. He was not seeking his own glory as the Son, but seeking to glorify the Father. For this he was praised.

However, the question you ask, "Was Jesus praised for not seizing equality with himself?" shows misunderstanding of the concept of how the Son relates to the Father. It would be an absurd impossibility for the Son to have tried seizing something for himself that he already had!

The verses in question only make sense when, for a short time, the Son lets go of being in the form of God in order to add human nature to his divine nature. To let go entailed being born on earth to a human mother, from whom he obtained human nature. By agreeing for that to happen, Christ became the man, Jesus, limiting himself to human form. He could not retain his place in the invisible heavens but had to become visible in the flesh, as a baby who grew to manhood, remained sinless and suffered death on the cross, that he might be vindicated by the Father with resurrection. All of this brought glory to God, as the righteousness of God was demonstrated by what happened at Golgotha and the empty tomb.

A helpful version of the text is in Young's Literal Translation, which reads:

"For, let this mind be in you that [is] also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought [it] not robbery to be equal to God, but did empty himself, the form of a servant having taken, in the likeness of men having been made, and in fashion having been found as a man, he humbled himself, having become obedient unto death - death even of a cross, wherefore, also, God did highly exalt him, and gave to him a name that [is] above every name, that in the name of Jesus every knee may bow - of heavenlies, and earthlies, and what are under the earth - and every tongue may confess that Jesus Christ [is] Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (vss. 5-11).

You will note that I have quoted the entire sentence, and not just a part of it. When asking what one particular verse in the Bible means, the starting point has to be the whole sentence, and not just a bit of it. Now it becomes clear that what the Son did, in letting go of equality with the Father (for a season), brought glory to God the Father, and (unavoidably) glory to himself due to their shared, divine, nature. This is shown in the last book of the Bible where Christ being the light in the heavenly Jerusalem is equated with the glory of God:

"And I saw no temple thereon: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof... And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb... And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it... for the Lord God giveth them light" (Rev. 21:22-22:5).

Conclusion: Jesus could not have been praised for trying to seize equality with himself - he could only have been praised for letting go of that which was his by right, in order to bring glory to the Father, the end result being the glory of Father and Son, in the Spirit, in the new heavens, the new Jerusalem above.

  • ."the Son let go of what was rightfully his (equality with God)", Does this answer agree with the context? Had Paul urged the Phillippian believers to consider it "not robbery" but their right, "to be equal with God" ? Your answer robs YHVH of His position as the supreme God of our faith by elevating Jesus as God and none of this is considered robbery. It also contradicts Jesus plain statements in John 17:3 His Father is the only true God, and John 14:28 "The Father is greater than I". Your answer "Jesus, limiting himself to human form." has no basis in the bible. Oct 25 at 1:12
  • 1
    @Alex Balilo He was in form, God, in nature, God. He took on himself the form of a servant. Then he 'emptied himself'. Then he was found in fashion - humanity. But he was still himself. And we assert, as at Nicea, that he possessed all the attributes of deity and all the attributes of humanity. Yet one person - himself. Emptied of exaltation? Emptied of reputation? Of what was he emptied? He was not emptied of deity. But all who claim the Son was created will rage against this. Context urges Christians to imitate Christ's humility, to let go of everything that obscures Christ's glory.
    – Anne
    Oct 25 at 10:14
  • I think the Apostles and Jesus did a good job revealing who the only true God is in simple and unequivocal statements. I don't think that God had to rmake special revelation to some "Church Fathers" to equivocate the truth about Him is logical, reasonable and truthful. The use of force to advance it and to silence dissent reveals what lkind the people behind it are. How is God 1 and is not 1 but 3, how is God 3 and is not 3 but 1? I believe the plain and clear statements of God and Jesus, not the equivocation of some. Oct 25 at 20:10
  • 1
    @AlexBalilo Anne is correct in pointing to the import of "considered/reckoned it not". While in the form of God Jesus did not consider his equality with God as a violative appropriation. In other words, He did not empty himself because what He had (equality with God) was wrong in some sense but rather emptied himself through humility, obedience, and the greatest condescension existence has ever known. Oct 26 at 19:51

The text's central idea is that there is a fundamental difference between God's own perception of Himself, and of what it truly means to be divine, and (fallen) humanity's (mis)understanding of the same concept. Christ (correctly) embodied the former, rather than the latter, contrary to the (deeply deluded) expectations of his contemporaries, be they Jews or gentiles. Though godlike, Jesus does not grasp or reach for the same goals (lapsed) creation would otherwise (falsely) associate with the term.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus

Christ's humility (Matthew 11:29, 23:12; Luke 14:11, 18:14).

he was in the form of God

As Adam and Eve in paradise, before the fall, since man (John 19:5) was initially made in God's image (Genesis 1:26-27, 5:1; Wisdom 2:23); see also Last Adam and Adam Kadmon.

Typologically, the untilled ground from which Adam was taken (Genesis 2:4-7) parallels the untouched womb from which Christ was born (Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:26-36); notice also the Spirit's life-giving role and presence in both passages, as well as both being called sons of God (Luke 3:38).

did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped

Unlike the primordial couple, whose hearts were poisoned by the venom of the snake, before grasping or reaching for the fruit of the tree of knowledge, in their perverted desire to become godlike (Genesis 3:1-6), in a manner befitting fallen angels (Isaiah 14:12-14).

emptied himself

Of man's ancestral pride and selfishness (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23).

by taking the form of a servant

As opposed to that of a master (Matthew 20:25-27, 23:11; Mark 10:42-44; Luke 22:25-27) or earthly king (Matthew 21:5, John 12:15), contrary to preconceived Jewish expectations of how the Messiah was supposed to be(have).

being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form

Fallen humanity, when contrasted to its initial paradisiacal state, alluded to earlier (Psalm 82:6-7, Hebrews 4:15).

he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross

The crucifixion, seen as a harrowing self-sacrifice, in light of Christ's complete obedience (Matthew 6:10, 26:42; Luke 11:2, 22:42).


The point of the passage is made with,

Wherefore... v9

God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name.

  • If God is exalting Jesus
  • giving him the name above all others

We don't need to be Greek experts to grasp the significance of ALL the things God did to and for Jesus to realise that Jesus cannot be God. That, or the whole exalted thing is a colossal charade. We simply cannot have a Jesus who is God, but can also be tempted and die. He is either God or he is not.

This Jesus, who 'learned obedience from the things he suffered' Heb 5:8, cannot be the Great Almighty God who made all things. Who is Jesus obedient to? His Father. If Jesus is also God as many seem to think, then (as the bible says quite often) they are not remotely equal. This requires a reading-in of all kinds of humanly devised ideas not vaguely represented by the inspired text.

Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master. John 15:20

I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. John 14:28

We can dance around these plain statements or we can simply accept they are the truth and nothing but the truth. Whether Jesus says them in his fleshly, mortal, 'mastered by death' (Rom 6:9) state or his ascended, exalted, immortal state is irrelevant. He still has the same God he always had. God is still making Jesus Lord, Christ, heir, judge, immortal, giver of life. Jesus, as the man he said he was,

now you seek to kill me, a m-a-n who has spoken to you the truth that I heard from G-o-d. John 8:40

is dependant on God for a-l-l things - including being raised from the dead!

Sound theology and basic logic does not adopt a premise that a verse here or there, when read in isolation or from a poor translation, can make Jesus as God and coequal with the Father. The scripture is abundantly silent - this alleged vital truth is never stated anywhere - save a (seemingly) ambiguous passage or three like Phil 2 which proves nothing of value as isolated texts, but is merely clutching at straws to save a sinking ship.

What meaning would Philippians 2:9 have if Jesus is equal with God?

It would have the same meaning as making Jesus God anywhere in the scriptures. No sense at all.

I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God. John 20:17

We don't need to be scholars to interpret this UNambiguous verse. It too, is the truth and nothing but the truth. Should we have any reason to doubt this or add special logic and profound reasoning to have it make perfect sense? No, and neither do we when we examine Phil 2 - when we take it in context and in concert with the NT and the Apostles' consistent teaching on who Jesus was and is - at no point is he made to be God. This idea came 100's of years later. There are a parade of verses that say Jesus isn't God. Strangely, that seems very hard to accept.

How would robbery/seizure" be needed pertaining to the question of equality?

Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider to be equal with God something to be grasped, 7but emptied himself Phil 2:6

It's readily seen that Jesus always was less than God. Having a God is a good start to seeing this aspect of Jesus relationship with his Father. So in what way could Jesus seek equality? Jesus is from heaven (not literally of course) but he is not of this world. Neither were the disciples, of this world because they were his. John 17:16

God is not of this world either - that's why Jesus could say my Father has sent me, to represent Him in all things. By being of heaven Jesus has a status far removed from the sinfulness of this world, it's people and it's ruler. Jesus had every right to Lord it over the scum and sinners all around him - children of the devil he said of them! But no, Jesus had another course in mind - to choose the will of his Father and be the servant of God and man - humbling himself. This holy, sinless son of God, unto death on a cross. He chose to be equal with us rather than seek his birthright status of equality with God.

We know the parable of the son of the landowner sent to the vineyard to get the overdue rent Matt 21. The son was the equal authority of the father - he represented him in all things - not as a hired hand but as the son. But he was NOT equal with the father in all things now was he? And so neither is Jesus equal in all things with his Father (and God) as to BE God. This the scriptures does not express anywhere - but is demanded by another doctrine the Apostles did not teach.

Before we jump to faulty conclusions about ONE verse, let's be sure we are not refusing the revelation of all others. To make Jesus as God from poorly interpreting this passage, is to reject all those that oppose such an idea.

There is no need to invent a Jesus with two-natures in order to be both God and man. Why can he not simply be the man spoken of by the entire NT including by Jesus' own words?

For brevity, the matter of having the 'form of God and the servant' is explained here.

  • Misappropriation is closer than robbery or seizure. Jesus did not consider that the equality he had with God was ill gotten but... Oct 26 at 19:57

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