The Incarnation of Christ

“Christ Jesus . . . 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.” (Philippians 2:5-7)

“Great is the mystery of godliness,” Paul exclaimed as he summarized the incarnation (1 Timothy 3:16). No mere words, even those inspired by God Himself, can completely express what transpired when “the Word was made flesh” (John 1:14). There are, however, a few clues in this marvelous Philippians passage.

The choice of the Greek word morphê to express what Jesus possessed prior to His becoming the God-Man is important. This “form” of God is not the Greek word that one would choose to express the visible or outward shape—that word would be schêma. Morphê emphasizes the character, the being, that makes the being what it is.

Interestingly, morphê is also used to tell us that Jesus took on the “form” of a servant: “[He] made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7). Jesus “voided” the morphê that He rightfully possessed as God and “received” (passive) the morphê of a servant or slave (doulos). Then, “in the likeness [homoiôma, similitude] of men” He came to be [ginomai, to come into existence].”

We may never fully understand what transpired in the councils of Triune eternity. But this we can know and believe: Jesus became man for men, and He alone saved us from our sin and justly granted us eternal life. HMM III

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