By John C. Carpenter
The apostle Paul wrote the church in Philippi, If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies. Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 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: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Php 2:1-11). Verse 7 in The New American Standard translation reads as follows: Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 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 bond-servant, being made in the likeness of men. What did Paul mean when he said that Christ made himself of no reputation, or emptied Himself?
First of all, we are told that Christ, Who, being in the form [Greek: morphe, to have the same shape or nature] of God, thought it not robbery [Greek: harpagmos, to plunder or rob] to be equal [Greek: isos, be similar to, to conduct onself as, agree with, be equal to] with God (Php 2:6). Christ had the nature, form, characteristics, and qualities of God the Father, but thought it was not inappropriate or robbery to behave as God the Father, if He so desired, since in reality, Christ was and is God.
Additionally, Christ made himself of no reputation [Greek words: kenoo, which means to make empty, to abase, neutralize, falsify, make of none effect, or to be vain, and heautou, which means myself, yourself, himself, own self, or thyself].and took upon him the form of a servant [Greek: doulos, a slave, bondman, to be bound to, a servant], and was made [Greek finomai, to cause to be] in the likeness [Greek: homoioma, form, resemblance, shape, or similarity] of men (Php 2:7). Christ not only made the personal decision to neutralize and deny those characteristics which connected Him to God the Father, that is, His Godliness, but to take on, as well, the characteristics of a human servant or slave.
Last, we are instructed that Christ, being found in fashion [Greek: schema, mode, circumstance, external condition] as a man, he humbled [Greek: tepeinoo, to depress, humiliate, abase, bring low, case down] himself, and became obedient [Greek: hupekoos, to heed, listen attentively, become submissive, obey] unto death, even [specifically] the death [Greek: thanatos, death literally or figuratively, be dead, die] of the cross [Greek: stauros, a stake or post, exposure to death, a pole or cross as an instrument of punishment and death] (Php 2:8).
Christ not only took on the physical, emotional, and spiritual form of other men, but purposefully humbled, humiliated and depressed Himself for the specific purpose of obediently submitting to the will of His heavenly Father, this is, the suffering and death on a cross.
We should note that Jesus Christ did two things in the above verses. First of all, he made himself of no reputation, meaning He made the decision and purposed within His own heart to become and behave as a man, and not as God, which He was certainly entitled to do. Christ even thought that it was not inappropriate to be equal to God the Father, realizing that He was certainly within His right to fulfill His divinity. However, by humbly desiring to seek and follow the complete will of His heavenly Father, Christ willfully and eagerly gave up His Godhood in order to to live and function as a man, a human being. Christ gave up his own personality and life to please God the Father. He was not driven by His own thoughts, feelings, and will, but only by those of His Father in heaven. This humility and submission was so complete, that Christ was not only willing to suffer and die for the sake of His Father's will, but was willing to suffer and die the horrible death of crucifixion. Within the New American Standard translation, these two concepts of temporarily denying His divinity and humbling himself to the point of suffering and death via crucifixion are described as emptying Himself. What did it mean for Christ to make Himself of no reputation, or to empty Himself? It means that Christ gave up Himself, and became completely submissive and obedient to the will of His Father in heaven. In essence, He became a servant and a slave.
Emptying ourselves to complete obedience to the Father is essential to the believer in Christ. Christ emptied Himself in service to God the Father, and so did the apostle Paul. In his own words, Paul described His own emptying: But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ (Php 3:7-8).
Paul did whatever was necessary to fulfill the will of Christ and the sake of the gospel: For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you (1 Cor 9:19-23). Paul added in his second letter that they [and we] which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again (2 Cor 5:15).
Paul also taught that even our thoughts should be in strict obedience to Christ and His will. Look what the apostle wrote the believers in Corinth:For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity [become a prisoner] every thought [mind, perception, purpose, understanding] to the obedience [compliance, listen attentively, submission] of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience [inattention, neglecting to hear, mishear], when your obedience is fulfilled [complete, full] (2 Cor 10:3-6).
Referring to his own emptying and humility, Paul also wrote the Galatians, I am crucified [to subdue passion or selfishness] with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me (Gal 2:20). The apostle John described his emptying in these terms: He must increase, but I must decrease. He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all (John 3:30-31). Emptying within the believer is actually evidence that we are brothers and sisters of Christ. Christ, Himself said, whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother (Mat 12:50).
Emptying also results in one important goal of Christian faith: the bearing of fruit. Christ teaches us, Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing (John 15:4-5). Abiding in the will of Christ is the only path to the production of fruit.
Christ purposefully denied His divine reputation, becoming a human being, and humbly submitting to the will and purposes of His Father in heaven. This total submission of Christ to the will of the Father is evidenced in several scripture verses. For example, Christ attempted to educate some unbelieving Jews My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me (John 7:16). Christ later told them, When ye [Jews] have lifted up [through crucifixion] the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things (John 8:28). When Christ told some Jews that He indeed was the Son of God, they wanted to stone Him for such a claim, to which the Lord responded, If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him (John 10:37-38). In making more clear His complete submission to His Father in heaven, Jesus explained to some Pharisees who refused to believe on Christ, I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak (John 12:46-49). When the apostle Philip asked Jesus to let the disciples see God the Father, Jesus angrily responded, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake (John 14:9-11). Referring to His own disciples, Jesus prayed to His Father in heaven, Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. For I [according to Your will and plan] have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine (John 17:7-9). Jesus Christ emptied and humbled Himself to the full, and is best described in just eight words: Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done (Luke 22:42). Christ was so dedicated to the will of His Father that He went so far as to say to His own disciples, My meat [nourishment, strength, source of life] is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work (John 4:34). Obedience was that important to the Lord, and His obedience and submission brought life.
Humility and submission should result in service. Scriptures tell us quite a bit about the believer's necessity of serving God, and man. During His temptation, Christ told the devil, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve (Luke 4:8). For those with faith in Christ, How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Heb 9:14). Referring to His second coming, Christ told His disciples, Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them (Luke 12:37). Believers in Christ are to serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter (Rom 7:6), and by love serve one another (Gal 5:13). Scriptures also instruct us that believers, Wherefore [since, because] we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear (Heb 12:28).
His disciples asked Christ who was the greatest, and He responded,. If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all (Mark 9:35). The Lord also connected service with following Him when He said, If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour (John 12:26). Elsewhere, Christ teaches us that whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many (Mat 20:27-28). The believer in Christ is obligated to submission and service: ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's (1 Cor 6:20).
Without a doubt, the scriptures reveal that Christ lived in complete submission and obedience to the will of His heavenly Father. He was a servant and minister to God and man, and so are we called to be. However, this submission, this service, had a cost for Christ, and it has a cost for the believer in Christ, as well.
Humble submission to Christ has a cost, and an extreme cost at that. Christ warned the multitudes around Him about the high price of following God the Father, Christ, and the Holy Spirit when he explained to them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:26-33). Coming to Christ requires placing Christ ahead of everything and everyone else, including our own lives.
Emptying of ourselves involves nothing less that a total subjugation, a death or destruction, a crucifixion, of our own desires, bodily needs, thoughts, behaviors, and will. Christ warned those around Him, and us, about the necessity of death to self. Scriptures tell us, when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny [deny utterly, disown] himself, and take up his cross [self denial], and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose [destroy, separate from] his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it (Mark 8:34-35); for they that are Christ's have crucified [extinguished, denied] the flesh with the affections and lusts (Gal 5:24).
Referring to the humble emptying of all believers, Paul also wrote the Colossian believers, If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead [separation, cessation, departure], and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify [complete subdue] therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience (Col 3:1-6). We are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Rom 6:4).
Paul instructed the believers in Rome, Therefore, brethren, we are debtors [to owe], not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify [kill, subdue] the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God (Rom 8:12-14). Regarding their need to empty and humble themselves, the apostle Paul instructed the Ephesian church, If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off [cast off, lay aside, separate from] concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness (Eph 4:21-24).
To His disciples and the multitudes around Him, Christ also explained the difficulty of total submission to the will of God. He said to them, Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait [narrow, requiring humility] is the gate [mode of entrance], and narrow [full of trouble and tribulation, affliction, suffering] is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it (Mat 7:13-14). The scriptures make it clear that being a disciple of Christ not only requires humble submission, but that submission is difficult and full of tribulation, affliction, and suffering.
The Lord also warned His own disciples of the requirement of submission and obedience to Christ when he told them, If any man will come after me, let him [he or she must] deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it (Mat 16:24-25). Clearly, as evidenced by Christ and the early apostles and disciples of the church, the true believer in Christ must be willing to fully give up his or her own life to the service of Christ. He or she is dead with Christ.
Emptying of the believer in humble and complete obedience to God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit is not easy, but it is a key part of our faithful walk with Christ. However, along with those difficulties, we must also acknowledge and remember that there is a reward for our efforts.
Paul explained to the believers in Philippi that when Christ humbly gave up His own life in total submission to God the Father, there was a consequence, an outcome. God the Father provided a reward: Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name (Php 2:9). The word exalted means to elevate above others, to raise to the highest position, or to lift up. As a result of His submission to God the Father, Christ was highly exalted. When the believer in Christ totally submits to Christ, there is a reward for him or her, as well.
The apostle Peter asked the Lord what reward he and the other disciples could expect to receive for forsaking all and humbly submitting to Christ. The Lord responded, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life (Mar 10:29-30). The reward of emptying ourselves for the believer in Christ is twofold: temporal and eternal. In this life here on earth, the believer in Christ shall receive from God the Father many times those things he or she has given in submission and service in the name of Christ. And when this life is over, the believer in Christ shall also receive an everlasting reward, that is, eternal life in the presence of God the Father. The believer shall have an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you (1 Peter 1:4). This inheritance is so magnificent that God describes it with these words: Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him (1 Cor 2:9).
In His time here on earth, Jesus Christ modeled for all to see a complete and perfect emptying and humility of self. He completely submitted to the will of His heavenly Father in all things, day and night. This emptying is something every believer in Christ should daily pursue. The apostle Paul exhorted the Philippian believers, Let this mind [set our affection on this emptying and humility] be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. Our prayer should be that this mind shall be in us also. AMEN.

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