Summary: There is a growing belief in the Church that Jesus completely emptied Himself of His divinity in order to become human so that He could be the perfect sacrifice for all humanity, which is why He attributed all of His works and doctrines to the Father.
"Jesus emptied Himself of His glory, taking the nature of a bondservant, and came in the likeness of men" (Phil 2:7).
There is a growing belief amongst some in the Church that Jesus completely emptied Himself of His divinity in order to become human so that He could be the perfect sacrifice for all humanity, which is why He attributed all of His works and teachings to the Father.
This belief is known as the Kenotic theory. Some proponents will agree that Jesus was God in the flesh, however, they argue that He ministered only as 100% fully human because that is the only way He could adequately redeem fallen humanity when He was sacrificed on the cross. They also believe that Jesus had no power to do miracles until He received the Holy Spirit in all His fullness when He was baptized without measure and took back His divinity in Hell after becoming born-again (John 2:11, 3:34, also Isa 11:1-2, 42:1-7, 61:1-2; Luke 3:21-22; Acts 10:38).
The Eternal God
The Bible states that Jesus is God, the Son, who is not the offspring of God. He has always been God, and always will be God. He created everything in the universe. Because He is love, with great, joyous delight by His grace, He willingly chose to come to earth to die an excruciating death to forgive all sin, defeat death and the enemy once and for all - for us! - and then rise from the dead as the ultimate victor!
The words “He emptied Himself” in Philippian’s 2:7 comes from the Greek word ‘ekenose,’ and its root word ‘kenoo,’ which can mean "to empty" (Phil 4:7.) The Greek word “ekenose” has also been translated as “He made himself of no reputation," ‘made void,” “none effect,” “to be in vain” (see Rom 4:14; 1 Cor 1:17, 9:15; 2 Cor 9:3). All of these references refer to abstract principles, such as faith, preaching, or boasting and none of them refer to a person, or even to an object. The use of the word “ekenose” is totally unique.
The Hypostatic Union
When Jesus chose to become human flesh, He also embodied His deity and divine qualities. This is known as the incarnation. Jesus fully experienced human life and maintains His humanity forever. He remained the eternal God while becoming human without losing any of His divine personality or attributes. His human nature always remains human, and His divine nature forever remains divine.
The merging of the divine nature of the infinite God with human nature is called the Hypostatic Union. It is one of the great mysteries of the cosmos and a divine paradox that the Creator of all things emptied Himself by taking the nature or form of a servant and slave. It refers to God’s ‘humiliation,’ which is the term used that refers to the action of His humanity to voluntarily agree to submit Himself to the sufferings and limitations associated with His life on earth, including His death on the Cross (Phil 2:6-11; Jn.1:1-14; Rom 1:25; 9:5; 1 Tim 3:16; Heb 2:14; 1 John 1:13).
Jesus came to earth and 'operated' as 100% fully God and 100% fully human with a rational human mind and spirit so that He could suffer pain, thirst, hunger, fatigue, pleasure, rest, death, and resurrection (Matt 26:38; John 13:21).
As 100% fully human and 100% fully God, Jesus willingly chose to veil His pre-incarnate glory and to set aside His divine attributes because it necessary for Him to take upon Himself the form of a man. His humiliation was not about giving up things or being without something, but that He took on human nature and ultimately the sins of the world (2 Cor 5:21, 8:9). He is no less God because of His humanity and no less human because of His deity (John 8:58, 19:28). His two natures cannot lose or transfer a single divine attribute.
The Unchangeable Divine Attributes of God
The Kenosis theory denies the deity of Jesus during the incarnation. God cannot change His nature by an act of His will any more than any other being can. One of the divine attributes of God is that He is unchangeable (aka ‘immutability’) which the Bible expressly affirms that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever" (Heb 13:8). If Jesus were to lose any of His divine attributes that would mean He was not God at all.
Jesus voluntarily chose to set aside, and not exercise, His divine attributes as His primary method of ministry but they were clearly displayed in His miracles. Jesus was never without them and made use of them on occasion. There was one time where Jesus lifted the veil of His human body and let His three closest disciples see Him as He really was (Matt 17:2). When the soldiers were sent to arrest Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, they all fell down when He declared He was the "I AM" (John 18:4-6).