The Surprising Posture of Christ

Incarnation is a fancy word that simply means “to become flesh”. In the context of theology, this term is used to explain one of the most important events in all of human history: that God left heaven and took on human flesh. The doctrine of Christ’s incarnation distinguishes Christianity from every other religion. Man-made religion teaches that humanity is responsible for working themselves up to God through rituals and obedience, but Christianity teaches that God came down and rescued those who would never be saved if left to their own effort.  

The doctrine of Christ’s incarnation distinguishes Christianity from every other religion.

A very important and common question in the church is whether or not the Son of God retained his full divinity when he became a man. There are some who incorrectly teach that Jesus lost some of his divine attributes (omnipotence, immutability, etc) during his life on earth. Advocates for this position use passages such as Philippians 2:5-8 to make their case, but to believe the Son of God shed certain essential attributes is not only false, it also misses the dramatic beauty of what this text reveals regarding the posture of Christ.

Phil. 2:5-8 says, “5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (emphasis mine).

Paul is illustrating to the church of Philippi the most profound picture of humility that the world has ever seen: that the Son of God humbled himself by denying his divine rights in order to take the form of a lowly servant. He adopted a nature and position that was foreign to himself. Christ had all of the power in heaven and on earth to release himself from the hands of his enemies, to crush them with ease, and ultimately avoid the cross.

Christ had all of the power in heaven and on earth to release himself from the hands of his enemies, to crush them with ease, and ultimately avoid the cross.

This text isn’t teaching that Christ became a “lesser” god. If that is indeed the way these verses are to be understood, then we are left with a Jesus who is not God, because God is not God without his essential attributes. And if Jesus is not God, then our salvation has not been won. We learn from Paul that Christ, being all that God is (Matt. 5:22; Mark 2:8; Mark 2:5-7; John 1:1; Heb. 13:8), had every right to act on his own behalf. But Christ, not under any obligation or compulsion, committed himself to an unselfish purpose as he considered our need for redemption more important than his own right to live.

We are all inwardly bent and prone to consider our own "rights" and "privileges" as more important than others. Though we do not deserve praise or blessing, we selfishly demand it as if we ourselves are gods. The very little power we have in this world is frequently used for our own fame and fortune, rather than the benefit and wellbeing of those who are disenfranchised and neglected. We ought to look to Jesus as both savior and supreme example of how we should conduct ourselves in this life. We should seek to reflect our King who used his power for humanity's gain.

The very little power that we have in this world is frequently used for our own fame and fortune, rather than the benefit and wellbeing of those who are disenfranchised and neglected.

Christ entered the world fully God and fully man in order to bring reconciliation between estranged sinners and a holy God. To say that Jesus is God is to say that all of the divine dignity, majesty, and power belong to him. To say that Jesus “emptied himself” is to say that he denied his own divine privileges by living as a servant and dying the death he did not deserve. He was betrayed, abandoned, hated, ridiculed, and murdered for our sake. May we all desire to emulate the humility of Christ by the grace of God.

"He who looks upon Jesus Christ sees, no doubt, a body and a man; but as he sees the man clothed with the body, so he sees God himself, in all the fullness of his Deity, clothed with the humanity...Though truly a man, He is nevertheless also our 'great God' (Tit. 2:-3)" - B.B. Warfield