The Attitude Of

The Man Christ Jesus:

 

Philippians 2:6 Explained

 

 

Philippians 2:5-7 (KJV)

5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

 

 

 

How Can We Be Like Jesus If We Call Him ‘God?

 

There is a tremendous tug-of-war going on in the Christian church regarding the nature of Jesus Christ.  True seeker and disciples trying honestly to be like their Master have ditched the “Jesus is fully God” doctrine.  Let’s face it, you cannot become like Jesus if he is ‘God.’  God is not a man, neither the son of man.

 

 

God is not a man, neither a son of man; yet Jesus repeatedly calls himself the “son of man.”

 

 

Why is it so important to understand Jesus as a man instead of as God?  For the purpose of this study, Philippians 2:6 makes no sense at all if Jesus is viewed as ‘God.’  We are to have “this attitude” in us that was also in Christ Jesus.

 

·        Philippians 2:3-5 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus.   NAS

 

This “attitude” that was in Christ is contrasted with selfish and fleshly attitudes.  The inspired scriptures would not admonish us to have an attitude in our hearts and contrast it with sinful attributes that are, potentially, attributed to Jesus as ‘God.”  In other words, if Jesus was ‘God’ he could not have been tempted to do something from “selfishness or empty conceit” nor could he be tempted to “merely look out for” his own “personal interests.”

 

God cannot be tempted to sin, and therefore Philippians 2:3-5 is not referring to Jesus as ‘God.”

 

 

The important thing to keep in mind here is that we are seeking to have the same attitude in us that was in the man Christ Jesus.  Unfortunately, most all Bible versions have ruined the meaning of Philippians 2:6 because of doctrinal and theological prejudice.

A breakdown of the English-to-Greek analysis of Philippians 2:6 is very revealing; it demonstrates the inaccuracy of the KJV and other translations (see below).  The breakdown includes each individual word in the verse, with the corresponding four digit reference number from Strong’s Dictionary of Greek words, the actual Greek word, the grammatical construction of the Greek word, and finally, the definition of the Greek word, including its’ root word origin.

 

*NOTE: the translators, for better readability in the English, added the words listed with the four-digit code 9999. There is no actual word in the Greek text.

 

The words that appear in bold type are first, the KJV words as they appear in Philippians 2:6; and the second set of bold type is the actual definition and intended meaning of the Greek word (as it applies in this particular text).

Philippians 2:6

·        Who – 3739 hós; a relative pronoun meaning, ‘who, which, what, that.’ The relative pronoun agrees in gender with the antecedent; hence it means, “Who.”

 

·        being – 5225 hupárchoon; a present active participle; a verbal adjective showing action being accomplished by the subject of the verb; from NT:5259 (hupo; ‘beneath’ or ‘under’) and NT:756 (archomai; ‘to commence’ in order of time);  literally, ‘to begin under (quietly)’; it means, “to come into existence” or “to exist.”

 

·        in – 1722 en; a primary preposition governing the dative; it means, “remaining in place.”   Primarily, en denotes being in a fixed position (in place, time or state), and (by implication) instrumentality (medially or constructively), i.e. a relation of rest.  

 

·        the – 9999; the word does not appear in the Greek text.

 

·        form – 3444 morfeé; an anarthrous noun (omitting the definite article); it means, “shape.”  Thayer’s says morfeé is, “the form by which a person or thing strikes the vision; the external appearance.”

 

·        of God – 2316 Theoú; a masculine noun in the anarthrous construction; since there is no definite article included, it means either, “a deity (god)”  or “supreme Divinity (God)”; figuratively, it means, “a magistrate (a principle director or ruler in authority).”

 

·        thought – 2233 heegeésato; in the aorist middle voice, representing non-continuous action by the subject (Jesus) whose actions pertain to himself; it means, “to lead, i.e. command (with official authority).”

 

·        it – 9999; the word does not appear in the Greek text.

 

·        not – 3756 ouch; it is a primary adverb that is used before a verb to render the verb and the proposition negative in respect to the subject; it means, “no or not.”

 

·        robbery – 725 harpagmón; from the root word ‘harpazo’ ( NT:726) meaning, ‘to seize upon with force.’  It is a noun in the anarthrous construction; therefore it means, “a thing seized; plunder; booty.”

 

·        to – 3588 tó; the definite article in the neuter it means, “to.”

 

·        be – 1511 eínai; in the present infinitive active; active is action is accomplished by the subject of the verb; the infinitive means the verb also acts as a noun; the present represents contemporaneous action, as opposed to action in the past or future; the word here means literally, “existing; having an existence; existing in a state.”

 

·        equal – 2470 ísa; it is a predicate adjectival noun in the anarthrous construction; in Greek ; being predicate means it makes an assertion about the subject; this means it is an adjective that also functions as a noun; ísa  means, “seeming similar to in quality or quantity.”  More correctly, James Strong’s use of the words, “quality” and “quantity” must be taken in context of the age in which they were used.  Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines “quality” as: virtue or particular power; acquirement; accomplishment; comparative rank; condition in relation to others; as people of every quality; superior rank; superiority of birth or station.  Thus we conclude that ‘ísa’ in Philippians 2:6 means, “seeming similar in comparative rank, virtue, particular power, acquirement; accomplishment and condition.”

 

·        with God – 2316 Theoó; a masculine noun in the anarthrous construction; since there is no definite article included, it means either, “a deity (god)”  or “supreme Divinity (God)”; figuratively, it means, “a magistrate (a principle director or ruler in authority).”   

 

The sources used to provide the information above are listed below:

 

·        (From Thayer's Greek Lexicon, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 2000 by Biblesoft)

 

·        (Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

 

·        (Interlinear Transliterated Bible. Copyright (c) 1994 by Biblesoft)

·        AMG Complete WordStudy Bible & Reference CD; WordStudy NT Dictionary; Copyright (c) 1997 by AMG Publishers; a division of CLW Communications Inc.

 

Now that an accurate breakdown of word meanings is established, including the grammatical construction, a more appropriate version of Philippians 2:6 can be furnished (below titled ‘The Appropriate Translation’).                                 

 

The Appropriate Translation

 

·        Philippians 2:6 Who, coming into existence, in visible form, {while still} remaining quietly under God in a relationship of rest, {he} did not lead and command with official authority by {using it to} seize plunder for himself, {or in order} to exist in a state that seems similar in comparative rank, virtue, particular power, acquirement; accomplishment and condition to {that of} a god.  TAT

 

Commentary on Philippians 2:6

 

Next is an explanation of what ‘The Appropriate Translation’ means; below is the individual words or word groups, with clarification through commentary.

 

1.    “Who (hós), coming into existence (hupárchoon), in visible form (morfeé)”

 

·        Jesus came into existence in this world as a man; conceived by God in Mary’s womb, he was born at the right time (Galatians 4:4).  He was in “visible form” just like any other human being; he was made like his brethren according to the flesh in all ways.

 

·        Hebrews 2:9-18 But we do see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.  For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.  For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, “I will proclaim Thy name to My brethren, In the midst of the congregation I will sing Thy praise.”  And again, “I will put My trust in Him.”  And again, “Behold, I and the children whom God has given Me.”  Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.  For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham.  Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.  NAS

 

2.    “{while still} remaining quietly under God (Theoú) in a relationship of rest (en),”

 

 

 

 

 

3.    “{he} did not (ouch) lead and command with official authority (heegeésato) by {using it to} seize plunder for himself (harpagmón)”

 

·        Jesus was given “official authority” and he never misused this authority for selfish ambition.  The idea of “seizing plunder” comes from the meaning of the Greek word ‘harpazo’ (“to seize with brute force”).  Jesus did not ‘lord it over’ God’s flock as the Gentile rulers did.  Instead, the Teacher and Master emptied himself, and took on the form of a servant. 

 

·        Matthew 20:25-28 And Jesus called them to Him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men hold them in subjection [tyrannizing over them]. Not so shall it be among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever desires to be first among you must be your slave--just as the Son of Man came not to be waited on but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many [the price paid to set them free].  Amplified Bible

 

·        The church in Philippi was composed of primarily Gentile converts, and they knew all too well of Rome’s tyrannical rulership.  Philippi’s history is one of the bloody struggles for power and supremacy by Roman despots. Among these were Brutus and Cassius, the leaders of the band of conspirators who had assassinated Julius Caesar, and were faced by Octavian, who 15 years later became the Emperor Augustus, and Antony. (from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1996 by Biblesoft)  Philippi was smack-dab in the center of this conflict!

 

·        The apostle Paul uses this historical background of Philippi to present Jesus as a servant-leader; this is in dramatic contrast to the Gentile kings that ruled with absolute power, holding the people in subjection.  It was quite common for generals to seize booty as they plundered the homes, businesses and individuals in the cities defeated by their armies.  Paul’s letter to the Philippians’ church reinforces that God’s only begotten son used his official authority to lay down his life for others, and that his disciples are called to do the same (Read John 15:8-21).  

 

·        Mark 10:41-45 And when the other ten [apostles] heard it, they began to be indignant with James and John.  But Jesus called them to [Him] and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as governing and are supposed to rule the Gentiles (the nations) lord it over them [ruling with absolute power, holding them in subjection], and their great men exercise authority and dominion over them.  But this is not to be so among you; instead, whoever desires to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be most important and first in rank among you must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man came not to have service rendered to Him, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for (instead of) many.  Amplified Bible

 

4.    “{or in order} to exist in a state (eínai) that seems similar in comparative rank, virtue, particular power, acquirement; accomplishment and condition to (ísa) a god (Theoó).”

 

·        Jesus did not seize or take hold of ANYTHING for self-serving reasons, or with a motive to enjoy a state of human existence comparable to “a god.”  Note the spelling of “God” in the Greek text differs; the first spelling is, “Theoú” referring to the one true God, and the second spelling is, “theoó” referring to a lesser deity.  Greek was the predominant language in Philippi, and their pantheon of Roman gods and goddesses was very familiar to its’ inhabitants.  The kings of Rome (Gentiles) were actually given status as a deity and considered to be “emperor-gods.”

 

·        The apostle Paul is teaching the Philippian church, whose new converts were mainly from a cultural background that associated rulers with overbearing Roman kings.  It is highly unlikely that any of them had witnessed the ministry of Jesus, and yet Paul’s letter mentions Christ in a position of authority, and as one who has a kingdom of servants and slaves.  Consider some of the descriptions used in verses that precede Philippians 2:6: “bond-servants of Christ Jesus (1:1)… my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard (1:13)… to live is Christ and to die is gain (1:21)… Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (1:27)… in no way alarmed by your opponents (1:28)…For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” (1:29)

 

·        Certainly the Philippians needed reassurance that Jesus was different than the Roman emperor-gods.  Jesus taught his own disciples on this very topic; again contrasting tyranny with being a servant to the brethren.    

 

 

Conclusion

 

There are numerous reasons within the context of Philippians that disprove the doctrine that Jesus is “God” in Philippians 2:6.

 

  1. Jesus is distinguished as separate from God the Father (1:2, 8).
  2. God is given praise and glory above Jesus (1:11).
  3. The attitude of Jesus is humility; God does not humble Himself (2:3).
  4. Jesus existed in visible human form; no man has ever seen God (2:6).
  5. Jesus was given authority; God already has ALL authority (2:6).
  6. Jesus did not make himself comparable to God (2:6).
  7. Jesus emptied himself; God is infinite (2:7).
  8. Jesus was a bondservant; God is not a slave to anyone (2:7).
  9. Jesus was made in the likeness of men; God is not a man (2:7-8).
  10.  Jesus humbled himself in obedience; God makes commands, He doesn’t obey them (2:8).
  11.  Jesus was obedient to the death; God is immortal (2:8).
  12.  Jesus died on a cross; God does not have a body of flesh and bones (2:8; 3:18).
  13.  God exalted Jesus; Jesus did not exalt himself as God (2:9).
  14.  People confess Jesus as Lord, for the glory OF GOD THE FATHER, not for the glory of Jesus (2:9-11).
  15.  Righteousness comes from GOD through Christ, not the other way around (3:9).
  16.  Jesus suffered, died and was raised from the dead; God cannot die, and God is the One who raised Jesus from the dead (3:10-11).
  17.  The upward call is from GOD in Christ (3:14).
  18.  We are commanded to pray to GOD, not TO Jesus; we pray to God in the name of Jesus (4:6-7).
  19.  GOD the Father supplies all of our needs through Jesus; Jesus is not the one who supplies all of our needs (4:19).  Jesus taught us how to pray, “Our Father in heaven…give us this day our daily bread…” (Matthew 6:9-14).
  20.  Our God and FATHER gets the glory forever and ever. Amen. (4:20)

 

When we interpret Jesus as being God, we miss the object of Paul’s inspired words to the Philippian church.  When we see Jesus as the man from God, and our servant leader, becoming like him is attainable.  Not that we are sinless, but that we have the SAME ATTITUDE in us that was in Jesus.

 

Jesus was always looking out for the interests of others.  He heard the Father’s voice and was obedient to Him, even unto death.  He laid aside whatever privileges were his as the only begotten Son of God, and as the first-born of God’s new creation.  He lived daily to fulfill the greatest of all commandments, loving God with “all his heart, soul, mind and body, and loving his neighbor as himself.” (Mark 12:28-29)

 

Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law; his life was the very embodiment and essence of what it taught.  When the Law said, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:15-18) he was a daily, living illustration of HOW to do what God commanded, “Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”  (Matthew 7:12; NAS)

 

Paul and Timothy probably co-authored the letter to the Philippian church.  What many people overlook in this rich and most practical text is the opening verse that targets the LEADERS in the churches. 

 

 

Leaders are prone to using their authority to rule and dominate God’s flock.  It has been clearly proven that Jesus did not abuse his God-given authority.  Rather, he proved to be an example to his disciples, even washing their feet.

 

 

Jesus’ disciples would become the chief leaders in the church, and he wanted them to be certain that a TRUE leader is one who DOES what the Master did.  This is the acid test for discerning who is a shepherd of the sheep, or one who is disguised as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. 

 

 

Peter’s words ring loud and clear to leaders in the church!  There is only ONE “chief shepherd” and his name is Jesus.  Elders (plural) are assigned to tend and nurture the flock.  Like Jesus, they are not to coerce or use their position dishonorably (for their own advantage).  This is why it is important to follow the scriptural pattern for multiple “elders” rather than the conventional and manmade tradition of having one pastor.  There needs to be a system of checks and balance so that God’s people are guided safely.

 

To summarize, below is the New American Standard Version (NAS) of Philippians 2:3-5 and Philippians 2:7-11 with The Appropriate Translation (TAT) of Philippians 2:6 sandwiched in-between.  This will open up your heart and mind to see this vital admonition of scripture in a more “do-able” light.  The TAT version is italicized to distinguish it from the NAS version… enjoy!

 

Philippians 2:3-5 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, coming into existence, in visible form, {while still} remaining quietly under God in a relationship of rest,  {he} did not lead and command with official authority by {using it to} seize plunder for himself, {or in order} to exist in a state that seems similar in comparative rank, virtue, particular power, acquirement; accomplishment and condition to {that of} a god, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  NAS

 

Selah


 

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