In The Form Of God (Philippians 2:6)
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.”
What does Paul mean by this phrase (in the form of God)?
Human beings are spoken of as having “a form (morphe) of Godliness” (2 Timothy 3:5). Galatians 4:19 speaks of Christ being “formed in you” (in believers).
If Jesus (Yahshua) was God (Yahweh), or God (the Almighty), why would the Apostle Paul use the phrase “in the form of God” (see verse 6)? If Jesus was indeed God, then how can “God” be found “in the form of God”?
(Philippians 2:6) “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.
So how was Christ in the form of God? Jesus truly had the semblance and demeanor of the Father. His character was the expressed image of his Father’s person (Heb. 1:3). More accurately stated, Jesus Christ, personified the word of God. (John 3:34, John 14: 10) the word of God was being spoken through Jesus’ voice, behavior, and actions.
As a child, Jesus “waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of Yahweh was upon him” (Luke 2:40). Even at that time Jesus knew who he was (John 8:40, 10:36), knew who his Father was (Luke 2:49, John 8:28), and knew what he had to do (John 5:19, 12:49-50). By the time of his baptism God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power (Acts 10:37-38, Mat 28:18). Jesus was so filled with wisdom, knowledge, Spirit, and power that Paul says he was “in the form (or likeness) of God” (Php 2:6). Jesus never allowed that power and wisdom to corrupt him. Nor did he consider himself God’s equal, as some would have us believe. Jesus knew his Father was greater than himself (John10:29; 13:16; 14:28).
Not exalting himself in the eyes of man (Mat 16:20, Php 2:7), he further humbled himself by being obedient to the laws and will of His Father (Yahweh), even unto death (John 10:18, Php 2:8). As a reward for his obedience, “God” has highly exalted him (Php 2:9).
To fully understand this passage (Php 2:6) we must review a broader portion of passages.
(Php 2:5) Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
(Php 2:6) Who, being in the form(G3444) of God, thought it not robbery (G725) to be equal with God:
(Php 2:7) But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
(Php 2:8) And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
(Php 2:9) Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
(Php 2:10) That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
(Php 2:11) And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (not God), to the glory of God the Father.
The Greek Text (* The Variant manuscript readings)
Most translations add the word “was” to verse 5 to have it read, “which also was in Christ Jesus.” This makes the verse appear as if the Philippians were to have the same mindset as Christ had at some point in the past. However, this verb is not there in the Greek text. Young’s Literal Translations adds the word “is” rather than “was.” Some translations, such as the NASB, compound the problem by also translating the present participle hyparcho past tense.
The difficulty here is determining Paul’s true intention.
The Greek word harpagmos is a noun form of the verb harpazō, to snatch up, to seize up. The English word “robbery” (G725) is used to refer to plunder (someone who takes something by force or wrongfully – Merriam-Webster). It is something that one snatches up or seizes upon to take for himself (robbery).
In verse 6, Paul is not telling us what Jesus did; he is telling us what Jesus did not do. Paul tells us what Jesus did not consider. Jesus did not regard/esteem plunder. What is the plunder in question? The plunder is to be equal to God. He did not plunder (He did not make himself out to be equal to God). This was something Jesus did not do.
Verse 6 tells us what Jesus did not do in contrast to verse 7 where we are told what Jesus did do instead. We are being told what Jesus did instead of regarding (plunder himself) to be equal to God. Jesus did not regard a harpagmos to be equal to God. He did something else. He emptied himself. The verb here may also be translated as “he made himself nothing.” In other words, Jesus denied himself just as he taught his disciples to do. The Philippians are to do the same.
This self-emptying is further qualified by the words, “taking the form of a servant.” Rather than plunder, as to be equal to God, Jesus did something else. He chose to assume the position of a servant and serve God. Plunder involves taking something for oneself. To be in the form of God means to be noble and rule but to be in the form of a servant means to be humble and serve rather than rule. Serving involves giving, not taking as one takes or plunders for himself.
Recognizing his humanity, Jesus had no thought of exalting himself or regarding (plundering) himself to be equal to God. Rather, he humbled himself becoming obedient even unto death. Jesus humbled himself before his God, serving his God, doing God’s will even in the face of death on the cross.
In (vv.7-8) Paul is telling us why Jesus was highly exalted by God (vv.9-11). Paul also told us why God made Jesus “Lord” (Acts 2:36). It is for that reason all will bow down to this man through whom God the Father will judge (Romans 2:6,16; Acts 17:30-31). When God raised him from the dead, He seated Jesus at His right hand above everything else in heaven and earth.
God Highly Exalted Him
From this lowest point of humiliation, Christ was elevated to the highest pinnacle of authority in the universe, excepting that of God himself. Jesus as Lord is exalted “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1:21 NASB). Jesus’ present position is such that all God’s angels must worship him as being “much superior to them”; he has inherited a name superior to theirs (Hebrews 1:4-6). It is God’s exalted Son, despised and rejected of men, who will appear once more on earth to be glorified in the same place where he was humiliated! In the presence of Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords, every knee must bow — whether angelic, demonic, or human. Every tongue must then confess that Messiah Jesus is lord of all, by the express command of God and to the glory of God, the Father who so exalted his Son!
(1 Corinthians 15:24-28) Then [cometh] the end, when he [Jesus] shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy [that] shall be destroyed [is] death. For he [God] hath put all things under his feet [Jesus]. But when he saith all things are put under [him, it is] manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son [Jesus] also himself be subject unto him [God] that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
So here we see that Jesus will be subject unto God at the end of the 1000-year reign. Can God be subject to God?
God also hath highly exalted Jesus and given him a name (Philippians 2:9) shows that Jesus did not exalt himself – God did it.
The whole process of Christ’s humbling of himself and subsequent exaltation by God was to be “to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11).
Remember, Jesus was a Jew and he ministered to people who were of a Jewish mindset.
The concepts of a pre-existent spirit adopting human form and intermediary co-creators alongside God have their roots in Pagan philosophy, not the Old Testament revelation. Because of this, Paul warned us:
(Colossians 2:8) Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.