Can you explain in layman terms what Philippians 2:5-8 mean?
Philippians 2:5-8 is one of the most important sections in the New Testament because it reveals in one short passage that Jesus is not a man and He is 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. (NASB) Philippians 2:5-8
Jesus Is God
The first verse 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 . . . (NASB) Philippians 2:6
What do the words mean? The first important one is “form.” An English dictionary will not give us the meaning of this word. It comes from a Greek word which means that Jesus did not look like God on the outside but was God on the inside. We would say that Jesus possessed the attributes of God. The Greek sense of the word “existed” means that Jesus continued to exist as God. He did not cease to be God even when He came to earth.
Jesus Is Man
Now I have a question. When Jesus lived on this earth, why did He say that He did not know when the end of the world would come?
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. (NASB) Matthew 24:35-36
If He is God, how can this be true? The answer is given 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. (NASB) Philippians 2:7
The word “emptied” means that Jesus gave up something when He became a man. We believe that Jesus decided to limit Himself in order to live as a human being. He limited the use of His knowledge and power, for example. Nor did He look like God on the outside. The verse also says that Jesus was just like a man on the inside too! That is the meaning of the words “form” and “likeness.” He was both God and a man on the inside.
Jesus Humbled Himself
This verse says that Jesus also looked like a man on the outside. That is the meaning of the word “appearance.” Yes, 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. (NASB) Philippians 2:8
Why did He do this? So that he could die for you and me!
What is humility? It is submission. That is what Jesus did. Jesus submitted to God the Father and died for us. He lived a human life to understand our suffering. He became like us to die for us so that He could forgive our sins if we believe in Him. More information can be found in a study in the Solid Roots section.