The Humility of Christ
Who [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: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
— Philippians 2:6-8
One of the most amazing passages in the Bible to me is Philippians 2:6-8, in which Paul demonstrates the humility of Christ. The apostle Paul described it this way: “Who [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: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
Consider Paul’s words in Philippians 2:6-8. These are probably the strongest verses about humility in the New Testament, and they demonstrate that Jesus’ behavior has always been marked by humility.
When Paul wrote that Jesus existed in the “form” of God, he used the Greek word morphe. This word morphe describes an outward form — meaning that in Jesus’ preexistence, He looked just like God. Jesus wasn’t just a component of God, nor was He a symbol of God. In reality, He was God. As the eternal God Himself, Jesus possessed the very shape and outward appearance of God — a form that included great splendor, glory, power, and a divine presence so strong that no flesh could endure it.
But Paul said that Jesus “…made himself of no reputation…” (Philippians 2:7). This phrase comes from the Greek word kenos, which means to make empty, to evacuate, to vacate, to deprive, to divest, or to relinquish. The only way Jesus could make this limited appearance on earth as a man was to willfully, deliberately, and temporarily let go of all the outward attributes of His deity. For 33 years on this earth, God divested Himself of all His heavenly glory and “took upon him the form of a servant.”
The phrase “took upon him” perfectly describes that marvelous moment when God laid hold of human flesh and took that form upon Himself so He might appear as a man on the earth. The words “took upon him” are from the Greek word lambano, which means to take, to seize, to catch, to latch on to, to clutch, or to grasp. This word reveals that God literally reached out from His eternal existence into the material world He had created and took human flesh upon Himself in “the form of a servant.”
The word “form” in this phrase is exactly the same word that describes Jesus being in the form of God. It is the Greek word morphe. This means that just as Jesus in His preexistent form had all the outward appearance of God, He also existed in the exact form of a man — appearing and living on this earth in the same way as any other man. For a brief time in His eternal existence, Jesus emptied Himself of outward divine attributes and literally became like a man in every way.
Paul then said that Jesus took upon Himself the form of a “servant.” This is the Greek word doulos, which refers to a slave. Paul used this word to picture the vast difference between Jesus’ preexistent state and His earthly life.
Out of His deep love for you and me — His profound yearning to see us redeemed from spiritual death and its eternal consequences and to reconcile us to Himself — Jesus was willing to leave His majestic realm of glory to enter the world of humanity. He came down to our level so He could become an effective High Priest on our behalf. Shedding all His visible attributes of deity that were too much for man’s flesh to endure, Jesus clothed Himself in human flesh and was manifested as a man on the earth.
All of this required the greatest humility ever witnessed since the creation of the world. But Philippians 2:8 reveals that even more humility was required of our Lord to fulfill the plan of God for the redemption of man: “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” That word “fashion” is the Greek word schema. This is very important, for this word was used in ancient times to depict a king who exchanged his royal garments for the clothing of a beggar for a brief period of time.
This is precisely what occurred when Jesus left the majestic realms of Heaven. It is the true story of a King who traded His royal garments and took upon Himself the clothing of a servant. But the story doesn’t stop there. Jesus loved us so much that He “…humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (v. 8).
The word “humbled” is the Greek word tapeinao, and it means to be humble, to be lowly, and to be willing to stoop to any measure that is needed. Think of the humility that would be required for God to shed His magnificent glory and lower Himself to become like a member of His own creation! Consider the greatness of God’s love that drove Him to divest Himself of all His splendor and become like a man.
When this verse says that Jesus humbled Himself “…unto death, even the death of the cross,” the word “unto” is from the Greek word mechri, which means to such an extent. The word mechri is sufficient in itself to dramatize the point that this level of humility was shocking. However, the verse goes on to say that Jesus so humbled Himself that He was willing to suffer “…even the death of the cross.” The word “even” is the Greek word de, which emphatically means even. The Greek carries this idea: “Can you imagine it! Jesus humbled Himself to such a lowly position and became so obedient that He even stooped low enough to die the miserable death of the Cross!”
It is truly an awesome concept for our human minds to grasp. The Almighty God, clothed in radiant glory from eternities past, came to this earth for one purpose: so He could one day humble Himself to the point of dying a horrible death on the Cross, thereby purchasing our eternal salvation. All of this required humility on a level far beyond anything we could ever comprehend or that has ever been requested of any of us. Yet this was the reason Jesus came.
Jesus is now sitting at the Father’s right hand and arrayed in splendor beyond human imagination — but His humility still remains intact, consistent, and unchanged. It is one of the chief characteristics of His nature. He was humble; He is humble; and He will always be humble, just as Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”
As I write this Sparkling Gem today, it makes me want to take a good look at my own life to see if I demonstrate the characteristic of humility that is so evident in the Person of Jesus Christ. Does it affect you the same way to read of Jesus’ willingness to stoop to any measure required to purchase our redemption? That, my friend, is love and humility beyond comprehension.
May the humility of Christ also be produced in our lives!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Dear Heavenly Father, I am left speechless when I consider the humility that Christ demonstrated when He left the realm of eternal glory. To know that He was made in the likeness of a man, and then died the death of a Cross — and that He did it all for me — leaves me in awe of Your goodness and love. If Christ had not been willing to lay aside His glory and to come to earth as a man, I would have remained lost and unsaved. Father, how I thank You for sending Jesus – and for the example that Christ has set for me and for all believers to cultivate the characteristic of humility as evidence of Your love in our lives.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that Almighty God, clothed in radiant glory from eternities past, came to this earth to die a horrible death on the Cross to purchase my eternal salvation. This required humility beyond anything I could ever comprehend, yet this was the reason Jesus came. Jesus now sits at the Father’s right hand, arrayed in splendor beyond human imagination — but His humility remains intact, consistent, and unchanged. He was, He is, and He will always be humble, just as Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.” I confess that I am yielding to the Holy Spirit’s work to produce this same Christ-like humility in my life as well.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- What was the primary thing you learned by reading today’s Sparkling Gem?
- Had you ever considered the great humility it required for God to become a Man and to die the death of a Cross? What does this mean to you now that you’ve pondered it?
- In what area of your life do you lack humility? In what ways can you cooperate with the Holy Spirit to help you develop this Christ-like characteristic in your life? Invite the Holy Spirit to bring His transforming power to reveal and remove any attitude in your heart that grieves Him because pride is at the root of it.