Summary: The true spirit (attitude) of Christmas is humble self-sacrifice.
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Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
But made himself nothing [kenoo] (v. 7a).
But emptied himself (NASB).
But made himself of no reputation (KJV).
When Jesus became a man:
• He did not give up some of His divine ATTRIBUTES.
This is nowhere mentioned in Scripture.
“Beginning with [Philippians 2:5-7], several theologians in Germany (from about 1860-1880) and in England (from about 1890-1910) advocated a view of the incarnation that had not been advocated before in the history of the church. This new view was called the “kenosis theory,” and the overall position it represented was called “kenotic theory.” The kenosis theory holds that Christ gave up some of his divine attributes while he was on earth as a man. (The word kenosis is taken from the Greek verb kenoo, which generally means “to empty,” and is translated “emptied himself” in Phil. 2:7.) According to the theory Christ “emptied himself” of some of his divine attributes, such as omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence, while he was on earth as a man. This was viewed as a voluntary self-limitation on Christ’s part, which he carried out in order to fulfill his work of redemption.” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 550)
Some conservative theologians believe that Christ laid aside during the incarnation the independent use of His divine attributes.
“This is consistent with other NT passages that reveal Jesus as using his divine powers and displaying his glories upon occasion (e.g., miracles, the Transfiguration), but always under the direction of the Father and the Spirit (Luke 4:14; John 5:19; 8:28; 14:10).” (Homer A. Kent, Philippians, p. 124)
Another view is that Jesus only used His divine powers to help others (turning the stones into bread vs. feeding the 5000).
• He did give up His divine PRIVILEGES.
“And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (John 17:5).
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
Christ left His pre-incarnate position without diminishing His person.
FROM GLORY TO SHAME
1. Before Christ came to earth, He occupied the HIGHEST POSITION.
a. He is EQUAL with God the Father.
Who, being in very nature God (v. 6a).
Who, being in the form [morphe] of God (KJV).
“If ‘form of God’ implies anything less than fully God, then ‘form of a bondservant’ in Philippians 2:7 would have to mean that on earth Christ was something less than a servant. But the full reality of His being a Servant is the point of the passage.” (Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology, p. 261)
b. But He did not insist on His RIGHTS.
Did not consider equality with God something to be grasped (v. 6b).
“Grasped” (harpagmos) – a thing to be seized upon or to be held fast, retained.
Two possible interpretations:
(1) The pre-incarnate Christ did not need to seize equality with the Father because it was already His.
Thought it not robbery to be equal with God (KJV).
(2) The pre-incarnate Christ did not cling to His equality with the Father.
He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to (NLT).
The second interpretation seems to fit the context better.
Since Christ was equal with the Father, “he had rights: to be recognized; to be revered; to be served by angels; to be immune from poverty, pain and humiliation. Had he been motivated by vainglory, he would have insisted on such rights. Instead, he did not regard them as something to be clung to (harpagmos).” (Donald MacLeod, The Person of Christ, p. 214)
2. When Christ came to earth, He was willing to become NOTHING.
a. He became a SLAVE.
Taking the very nature of a servant (v. 7b).
The One who was in the “form of God” took on the “form of a servant.”
“Servant” (doulos) – slave.
“Taking” (lambano) “does not imply an exchange, but rather an addition. The ‘form of God’ could not be relinquished, for God cannot cease to be God; but our Lord could and did take on the very form of a lowly servant when he entered human life by the Incarnation.” (Homer A. Kent, Philippians, p. 124)