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What Does Philippians 2:5-7 Mean When It Says Jesus Emptied Himself?

Greg Gilbert

The following is a transcribed Video Q&A, so the text may not read like an edited article would. Scroll to the bottom to view this video in its entirety. 

"In Philippians Chapter 2, there's this wonderful poem that is included in the book. We don't know if Paul wrote it or if it was an early Christian hymn. Paul very well may have written it. But the point of that hymn is to teach the Christians in Philippi about Jesus' own humility. What Paul is really doing with the hymn is teaching them that they themselves should follow Jesus' example and be humble themselves. Do everything without grumbling or complaining. Do everything with a mind that would consider others more significant than themselves. They're to do that because Jesus himself did that.

Well there's one phrase in the hymn that says that Jesus emptied himself. What that means, essentially, if you read on in the chapter, is that Jesus emptied himself, not really by losing anything. That's not what Paul says. You might expect that. You might expect Paul to say something like Jesus emptied himself. He gave up this or he gave up that or he didn't do this which he could have. Paul really doesn't say that.

What he says is that Jesus emptied himself by taking on something. If you remember from Philippians Chapter 2, he says that what Jesus took on was the form of a servant. In other words, he became human. He became like us. He identified with us so that he could, as Paul says later in the hymn, he could die for us and live a life for us as our substitute and therefore save us."

 

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