Who, although He existed in the form of God,
Did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped
But emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant,
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.
That's the word that keeps coming back as I reflect on this passage. I've studied it all week - Wuest's Word Studies, my Bible notes, all the tools I usually use. But somehow, when I sit here to try to put something into a devotional format, what comes to mind is not the great theological truths of this passage, possibly one of the earliest recorded Christian hymns.
Instead, what I can't get off my mind is the idea of emptying.
Think about it: The Son was eternally co-existent with the Father. They were one, though separate, before the world was. God's eternal nature has always been present in the community of the Trinity.
And yet ... Jesus made a conscious choice - "Have this attitude" literally means "to direct one's mind to a thing, to seek or strive for." It's an intentional direction of thought.
So Jesus, existing eternally in the form of God (meaning the outward expression of an inward nature) voluntarily weighed the facts and chose not to hold on to the expression of Deity as He experienced it before the incarnation. He didn't regard it as something to be grasped - as a "treasure to be clutched and retained at all hazards". He voluntarily waived His right to the treasure of being with the Trinity, the treasure of having all that came with being able to have an unlimited outward expression of His inner Deity. Things like omnipresence that would be immediately limited by the direction He was choosing to follow. Instead of grasping onto these things, He relegated them to the Father for His use.
So He emptied Himself - He waived His rights. He took the form of a servant - again, that was the word for the outward expression of His inner nature. He took the form of a servant because He WAS a servant. Wuest writes beautifully, "Instead of giving the outward expression of His deity to the angels in His preincarnate glory, He gives outward expression of His humility in becoming the servant of mankind." He humbled Himself - made Himself low (the word was also used to describe the Nile lowering) - rather than holding onto the exalted glory He deserved.
And then ... God "highly exalted" Him. That means that He was given the "highest rank and power...supreme majesty". No human could ever be given a higher rank that Jesus Christ after His death and resurrection. And here's the beauty - God "bestowed on Him" a special name, a name above every name. "Bestowed" is a word of grace. It's the same word used in Rom. 8:32 of grace in salvation. God the Father not only restored the Son to His rightly place of glory, He gave Him a special name as an act of grace. Paul says at the name of Jesus every knee will bow ... and Rev. 19:12 tells us, "He has a name written that no one knows except himself." This concurs with verse 9 that there has been a special name given to Jesus.
I love what Beth Moore says about this. She reflects on the number of times Jesus' name is taken in vain, used as a curse word or an exclamation. And then she says that these verses show us that God has given Him a name that no one else knows ... a name that has never touched the corrupt lips of humanity.
Think about all this together in the context of Paul's writing. Hoping to develop in the Philippians a unity - teaching them to be of the same mind - Paul says: Here's the mind to have - the attitude of Christ. Humility. Emptying. Servanthood. He uses a poem or hymn they probably already knew to get them to think about what Jesus did ... voluntarily leaving heaven, not holding on to His rights but emptying Himself, giving up the treasure ... and on the other side, receiving the highest exaltation and a precious, never corrupted name. His basic message to them is summarized well by Wuest: "Set self aside for unity to prevail."
So all this reflection and theological consideration has led me to ask some hard questions of myself:
* Where do I need to intentionally set my direction of thought toward servanthood over self? What is the place of struggle that needs a radical change in the direction of my mind?
* What treasure am I grasping, holding on to instead of relegating to His use?
* What of me needs to be emptied? Jesus voluntarily gave up rights and privileges, so I should start there. But what of the flesh also needs to be emptied?
* What of self do I need to set aside so that unity can prevail?
Emptying is never easy. But it must happen for us to be filled with HIM instead of ourselves ... for HIS glory to shine through us. And we have the perfect place to start ... the incarnation of Christ.