1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2 Above Him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory.”
4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
1 After Jesus said this, He looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted Him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those you have given Him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”
5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The non-believing world has always rejected Jesus. We may give other belief systems and religious ideologies new names, but nothing has really changed. In the words of King Solomon, “There is nothing new under the sun.” The name of Jesus Christ fills the heart of the Christian with love, and it fills the heart of the non-believer with hatred and loathing. There is no grey area. Christians have chosen in this life to bend the knee and proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. And the day is coming when every human being will do the same. The problem is though, that for many, it will be too late. On that day the awful realisation that they were wrong and God was right all along will finally hit them. And for those who don’t believe, that will be a dreadful day. On that day they will bend the knee and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father, but it will be too late. Philippians 2:10-11 is a wonderful passage of Scripture, but it is also a dire warning to those who oppose Christ.
The prophet Isaiah was given a glimpse of the glory of God in chapter 6. Just before we read about his commission as a prophet, he is given a supernatural vision of just some of the awesome power and glory of God. “My eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” This exalted place is where Jesus the eternal God is, but for a brief moment in time about 2000 years ago, He set all that aside in order to enter our world – a world which Isaiah describes like this: “I am ruined. For I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips.” In The Message translation Isaiah says “Every word I’ve ever spoken is tainted - blasphemous even! And the people I live with talk the same way, using words that corrupt and desecrate.” This is the world that God entered in human form. This is the world He came to rescue from itself.
The apostle Paul writes about this same mystery in Philippians 2. He writes about Jesus making Himself nothing, taking on the nature of a servant and humbling Himself even to the point of death. Many Biblical scholars regard this as the greatest passage in the Bible. It is known as the “kenosis” or the “emptying.”
It is impossible for our finite minds to fully grasp the mystery of the incarnation of Christ – the fact that He became one of us. The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is God and yet He became a man. He, who lived in the splendour and glory of eternity that is rightly His, humbled Himself and entered into a world full of sin, greed, and death. He who knew no sin left the majesty of Heaven and became sin so that we might be forgiven. It has been 2000 years since Jesus lived on this earth and He remains the One that all must reckon with and accept or reject. He is the central character of all of human history.
Paul, in this amazing passage of Scripture captures perfectly the mystery of God in human form. Jesus always has been God – even while He lived as a human being. He never stopped being God, yet in some mysterious way He was also fully human at the same time.
Verse 6 says “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.” This speaks of the attributes of His deity, the very essence of His deity. Christ existed in the form of God. Jesus possessed the form of God. He was, and is God. Contrary to the teachings of many false doctrines, Jesus did not somehow achieve deity as He progressed in righteousness. He wasn’t just a man, who because of His perfect, sinless life was somehow rewarded by being made a god. He is not like or similar to God - He is God. Being God was not achieved as He hung on the cross and rose from the dead. Being God enabled Him to accomplish those things in the first place. John’s gospel opens with these words: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us, full of grace and truth.”
“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.” These words have created much confusion, because they are sometimes understood to mean that as a man, Jesus was lower than God, and was no longer His equal, but this is not what they mean. The Message translation again helps to explain their meaning: “He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of Himself that He had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what.” Jesus claimed many times to be equal with God. He never denied His deity, and this is why He was condemned and accused of blasphemy. The word equal has the idea of being “equal to in quality and quantity.” Jesus possesses the same deity that God the Father possesses and He possesses an equal amount as well. It is hard for us to comprehend that Jesus stands as a unique entity of God, but He is God. He took on a robe of human flesh, concealing His deity, but He never ceased to be equal with God. When He entered our world He didn’t leave His deity, His ‘godness’ at the door of Heaven and pick it up again after His ascension. John 10:30 – “I and the Father are one.” In John 14 Jesus is speaking to His disciples when He says, “Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?”
Jesus is God. He possesses all of the deity of God, but we also need to consider His humanity, and this is where it can become confusing! He was fully God and He was fully man. “He made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” Isn’t that amazing? Jesus made Himself nothing and took on the form of a servant. God who lived in the glory of Heaven chose to come to this sinful earth in the form of a man. He wasn’t forced to do that. He wasn’t coaxed into it - He chose that for us.
The phrase “made Himself nothing” is the kenosis, the emptying. It literally means to empty. Jesus willingly laid aside some of His divine prerogatives to come to this earth. He didn’t lose them - He chose to lay them aside. What this means is that in His human form on this earth, He was no longer omnipresent. He was limited to one place at a time. Someone once wrote that as He came as a helpless babe, the Creator was dependent upon the creature for His sustenance. His glory was veiled in a robe of flesh. Jesus literally emptied Himself to come to earth. It is so important for us to see the Christmas and Easter stories together. We cannot make sense of the miracle of Calvary and the empty tomb until we first grasp the miracle that He came at all.
Far be it from me to redesign the Christian calendar, but if it were up to me, I would put Good Friday on the 26th of December. It’s the same story, and they need to be taught and learned together.
But why was it necessary for God to become man at all? Why did Jesus lay aside the glory He possessed in heaven in exchange for a robe of human flesh? It’s simple: we are the reason. He came because sin destroyed us. What we need to remember is that God created us in His image. He created us for eternal fellowship with Himself. That’s the purpose of your existence, and the meaning of your life. You were created by God, and for God. But now we have a problem. God gave us the choice to love and serve Him, but we chose instead to love and serve ourselves. Another word for that is sin. We are all lost in sin and we need to be reconciled to God. There had to be a sacrifice for the sins that had been committed. Trying to appease God by being good or by making sacrifices to Him all fall short of the payment our sin demands.
In and of ourselves we have no hope of redemption. We now stand condemned in our sin, eternally separated from God. Because of sin, we will never achieve the holiness that we need and we will never pay the debt that we owe. There had to be One who was worthy. Jesus was that One. He came to become sin for us. He didn’t become a sinner, but took on the burden of our sins instead. He came to take our place. He came as the substitutionary atonement for sin. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
In one of the Holy Communion liturgies the prayer of thanksgiving contains these words: “The Lord of all life came to live among us. He healed and taught, ate with sinners, and won for you a new people by water and the Spirit. We saw His glory.” He did all those things and more, but the main reason He came was to die. “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross.” God Himself, God in the flesh, humbled Himself and submitted to death for you and I. He was not forced to bear the cross. He was not forced to die for our sin. He was not crucified because of the hatred of the Jews or the sentence of Pilate. He died because He chose to die. He willingly gave His life for us. In John 10:17-18 Jesus says, “I lay down my life, only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” The death of Jesus was no ordinary death. This wasn’t the ordinary execution of a condemned criminal. This was God Himself, who became the perfect sacrificial Lamb. He emptied Himself and gave His life so that we can live. That’s why He came.
Then in Philippians 2, Paul completes the cycle in verses 9 to 11. “Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
These verses don’t speak of one who is destitute and defeated. They speak of one who has conquered and destroyed His enemies, and has risen to His place of sovereignty. The word exalted means to “lift to the highest rank and power, to raise to supreme majesty.” No one compares to Jesus. He was crucified on the cross. He was buried in a borrowed tomb, but three days later He rose victorious over death, hell, and the grave. He ascended back to God the Father, where He is seated at His right hand. Jesus holds the place of highest rank, the place of supreme majesty. He is the One that all of heaven will praise. There is no other name that even comes close to Jesus. His is the name that brings hope to the lost. His is the name that declares and secures salvation for us. His is the name that has opened blind eyes and has touched hearts of stone. His is the name that strikes fear in the hearts of the demons of hell. His is the name that proclaims victory for all who believe in Him.
The first time He came, He came in obscurity, but when He returns, things will be a bit different. Revelation 1:7-8 says of Jesus’ return, “Look, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him, and all peoples on earth will mourn because of Him. So shall it be! Amen. I am the Alpha and the Omega, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” When Jesus returns, there will be no mistaking who He is. Everyone will know that He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. At that moment every knee will bow in humble recognition of His power and authority.
Throughout history people have bowed before Jesus in humble submission. Others have rejected Him and they have scoffed and mocked His holy name. But these things will pass. One day all who have ever lived will bow the knee to the King of glory. From the richest and most powerful to the poorest and weakest, all will bow before Him. satan himself and his demons will also bow before the Lord.
Make no mistake about it, when the day comes for every knee to bow, every tongue will also confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. So many have refused His gift of salvation. He is cursed and despised in the world today. He is considered a myth and by many an outright fake. However, one day everyone who refused to submit to Him as Lord in this life will proclaim Him Lord before God the Father.
Paul’s words in Philippians 2 speak so clearly of the passion and total commitment of Jesus to the plan of salvation. They remind us of the price that was paid so that we can be forgiven and reconciled to God. Jesus alone has the power to save. Acts 4:12 says “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” One day all will confess Him as Lord of all.
The question is whether you have bowed before Him yet. Have you proclaimed Him as Lord of all, or will you only do so when you stand before Him condemned, when it is too late? If you haven’t yet proclaimed Jesus Christ as Lord, you will. That day is coming.
The critical question is when.
All of eternity hinges on that.
Homegroup Study Notes
Read Philippians 2:5-11
These verses, called the “kenosis” or the “emptying” have been called the greatest verses in the entire Bible by some Biblical scholars.
Discuss in your group God’s plan of salvation as described in this passage.
Pay particular attention to verses 10 and 11.
James 2:19 says that even the demons believe in the existence of God, while Psalm 14 says that the fool says in his heart ‘there is no God.’
Someone once said that only human beings are foolish enough to deny the existence of God. Bearing this in mind, how do you understand Paul’s words in Philippians 2:10-11?
Read Matthew 12:30. Jesus makes it very clear that there is no room for neutrality as to who each person thinks He is. It’s been said that Jesus is either “Lord of all or not at all.”
However, many people’s attitude to Jesus is (in their eyes at least) non-committal and neutral. How would you respond if someone were to say to you that “Jesus might be for you, but not for me?”
One of the mysteries of the incarnation of God is that Jesus Christ was fully God and fully human at the same time.
This has created much confusion and debate, and has led to many heretical teachings about Jesus.
What are some of the difficulties you have faced in trying to understand Jesus as fully God and fully human?
Is it really that important? Why, or why not?