How is it that God became man? How can it be that God, who is an infinite, eternal, and unchangeable spirit, become a man who is finite, temporal, and changeable with a body? Such questions have stretched the minds of the most brilliant philosophers and theologians to walk this earth, and to no avail. When mysteries such as these arise in our minds, we must remember that “the secret things belong unto the LORD,” while also knowing that “the things that have been revealed belong to us” (Deuteronomy 29:29). We have been exploring the mystery of the Triune God in our newsletters, and now we turn to an equally profound mystery: that the Divine Son became a man.
One of the most instructive texts concerning God the Son becoming man is found in Philippians 2:6-8:
[T]hough [Christ] was in the form of God, [He] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
What can we draw from this text? First, we can see that Christ was in the “form of God.” Whatever makes God divine, Christ had it. Before His incarnation, He was as divine as the Father. This is further illustrated in that His equality with God is alluded to in this verse as well.
Secondly, though He had all the characteristics of divinity, though He was equal with God, the Apostle Paul states that Christ did not consider “equality with God a thing to be grasped.” What does that mean? The word there for “a thing to be grasped” should be understood as something which is to be claimed as an absolute right. Christ, in other words, did not count His equality with God a thing to be clung to.
Thirdly, not clinging to all the rights and privileges of His divinity, Christ “emptied Himself.” Of what did He empty Himself? It wasn’t His divinity. It was the benefits of His equality with God. It was His divine rights and privileges of being God. This is further illustrated by how He “emptied Himself”: “by taking the form of a servant.” Christ would no longer be simply the one who would require servitude, but He Himself would submit Himself to servitude. The Great King, would stoop low, to serve His subjects. Christ emptied Himself by taking on the characteristics and properties of a servant, while still remaining the Divine King. Nothing changed about His divinity, but He, fully divine, put on the “likeness of men,” for the purpose of serving His Father and His people.
In John 13, Jesus took off His outer garment, wrapped a servant’s towel about Him, and performed one of the lowliest tasks of all: He washed His disciples dirty feet. His disciples got a sense of His love and servitude at that moment. But Paul tells us that there was a greater servitude exemplified by our Savior. The Son of God took off the external glory and privileges of His divinity, wrapped Himself in human nature, and performed the most lowly task ever performed: He washed His people by His blood shed on the cross.
In this, friends, is love: Christ, not clinging to His rights and privileges as Divine King, took on the nature and experiences of a human servant, for our salvation and the glory of His Father, or, as one of our hymns expresses it:
“When I was sinking down
Beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown
For my soul, for my soul.”