Bible Question:

Can you explain in layman terms what Philippians 2:5-8 mean?

Bible Answer:

Philippians 2:5-8 is one of the most important passages in the New Testament because it reveals that Jesus was not a man and He was not God – He is both!

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, 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. Philippians 2:5-8 (NASB)

Jesus Is God

Philippians 2:6 says that Jesus is God.

. . . who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped . . . Philippians 2:6 (NASB)

What do the words mean? The first important word is “form.” An English dictionary will not give us the meaning of this word. The Greek word for “form” is morphe which means that Jesus did not look like God on the outside but was completely God on the inside. It means that Jesus possessed the attributes of God. The sense of the word “existed” means that Jesus was continuously existing as God. He did not cease to be God even when He came to earth.

Jesus Is Man

When Jesus lived on this earth, why did He tell the disciples that He did not know when the end of the world would come in Matthew 24:35-36?

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. No-one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  Matthew 24:35-36 (NASB)

If He is God, how can this be true? The answer is found in the next verse of Philippians 2:7.

. . . but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:7 (NASB)

The Greek word for “emptied” is kenoo which means that Jesus gave up something when He became a man. This means that Jesus decided to limit the use of His divine attributes in order to live as a human being. He limited the use of His knowledge (Matthew 24:35-36) and wisdom (Luke 2:52) , for example. Nor did He look like God on the outside. At the Mount of Transfiguration, His Shekinah glory was displayed for a short moment in time (Matthew 17:1-5; John 17:5).  The verse also says that Jesus was just like a man in that He had the attributes of a man, yet, He was without sin (Hebrews 4:15)! That is the meaning of the words “form” or morphe and “likeness” or homoioma which also means “appearance or image.” He was both God and man.

Jesus Humbled Himself

Philippians 2:8 says that Jesus looked like a man outwardly. He was God and man on the inside but He looked like a man on the outside.

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:8 (NASB)

Why did He do this? So that he could die for you and me! As a result, He can forgive our sins so that we can go to heaven.

Conclusion:

What is humility? It is submission. That is what Jesus did. Jesus submitted to the point of death on that cross. He lived a human life so that He could understand us experientially (Hebrews 2:17-18). He became like us in order to die for us (1 Peter 2:24) so that He could forgive our sins if we believe in Him (John 3:16). More information can be found in the study “Jesus, Our Savior.

Suggested Links:

The Transfiguration
How can Jesus be God since He did not know the time of the end?
Christ Emptied Himself
Jesus’ Youth
Jesus Our Savior