Friday

14 September 2018

Philippians 2:6-11

[Jesus] who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited. (v.6)

Psalm: Psalm 22 

Background

If you have been following these notes all week you will know that for most of the week we have been following the story of Jonah and have just reached the point where both the king and the city of Nineveh repent in the hope that God will change God’s mind. It may seem a little strange, therefore, that here we pause and look at this passage from Philippians about Jesus example of humility. There is, however, one theme which links the two – and that is the very nature of God.

The passage from Philippians is well known and you may well have read it many times before; however, most English translations cover up a key point about verse 6. The translation I have given starts “though he was in the form of God” and most other translations will say something similar; Jesus acted humbly and took the form of a servant despite the fact that he was God – the implication is that humble service is opposed to the nature of God.

The Greek, however, does not say that. There is no “although” or “despite the fact”. It simply says that Jesus “being in the form of God”. I sometimes think that to understand the real power of this verse, we should translate it “Jesus, precisely because he was in the form of God”, emptied himself and was obedient even to death.

When we read that God gave Jesus the “name above every name” we need to remember that in the ancient world your name was believed to show something of your inner nature – that is why several biblical characters receive a new name at key points in their lives. The one who humbled himself has now become the Lord of the Universe.

 

To Ponder

  • Why do you think translators often insert the idea that Jesus acted “though” he was God into this passage? What does that say about our assumptions about God?
  • What ideas lie at the heart of your personal image of who God is?

Bible notes author

The Revd Judith Rossall

Judith Rossall is a Methodist tutor at Queen's Foundation in Birmingham. Before moving to Queen's, she was a circuit minister and taught at STETS in Salisbury.