A survey of Trinitarian commentaries reveals numerous variations concerning the overall interpretation of this verse and/or concerning certain aspects or details of this verse. Therefore, it is difficult to state a specific Trinitarian representative interpretation. However, Trinitarians generally insist this verse identifies Jesus as "God" and also insist this verse describes the pre-existent Jesus not considering his ontological reality of deity and/or divine glory but rather humbling himself to take human nature upon himself and become human. Along with this interpretation, some Trinitarians commonly insist that Jesus also gave up some of his divine perogatives or some similar idea.
Examination of the Claim
1. Trinitarian Intepretations
Trinitarians generally read this verse as if Paul is talking about a pre-existent Jesus and his decision to become a human being. For Trinitarians, Paul is referring to the pre-existent Son's incarnation. The word morphe is generally taken as if it means "divine nature" and the verse is read as if it said, "Jesus, who being in the divine nature of the one God..."
2. The Greek Grammar and Structure
|seized thing||esteemed||that||to be||equal||of God|
3. The Intended meaning of morphe
This Greek word is commonly translated into English as "form." Trinitarians tend to interpret this Greek word as if it means "divine nature." However, this is not without major difficulties.
First, the evidence for this words demonstrates it refers to appearance, what is beheld with the eyes. But God is invisible indicating his divine nature is invisible. A pre-existent God the Son cannot have a visible divine nature and the Father an invisible divine nature or they would not have the same divine nature and they would not be one in terms of Trinitarian doctrine. While a pre-existent Jesus could hypothetically appear in a visible form, as go otherwise invisible angels, this form could not be the invisible divine nature itself since this nature is shared with the Father in Trinitarian doctrine and the Father is naturally invisible.
Second,Paul contrasts the morphe of God with the morphe of a servant. It seems nonsensical to have Paul contrasting a "what" (a divine nature) versus a "who" (a servant). Trinitarians are then forced to read "form of a servant" as if it says, "form of a human" but this is not what Paul says. Furthermore, a servant is not a servant due to possessing a nature that categorizes him as a servant. A servant is a servant due to his position in life and the servant activities he performs. This speaks to function, not being.
Third, we have evidence concerning the meaning of morphe during New Testament times, Kenneth Wuest, a Trinitarian scholar, and Professor of Greek at Moody Bible Institute, has researched the meaning of the word morphe in Koine Greek. By the time the New Testament had been written, morphe had come to mean "a station in life, a position one holds, one’s rank. And that is an approximation of morphe in this context." (The Practical Use of the Greek New Testament, p. 84).
The Greek word morphe is only used 3 times in the New Testament, twice in this passage and once in Mark 16:12, where it is translated as "form." Although, Mark 16:12 is a contested passage, it does represent the manner in which this word was used by ancient Greek speakers. Here morphe obviously refers to appearance, how Jesus appeared to people.
After that, He appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking along on their way to the country.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, subsisting in the form of God, did not seize upon esteeming existence the same as God, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
The word morphe appears four times in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament):
Then he said to Zebah and Zalmunna, "What kind of men were they whom you killed at Tabor?" And they answered, As you, so they; each one the form of the son of a king." (Judges 8:18).
Then a spirit passed by my face; the hair of my flesh bristled up. It stood still, but I could not discern its appearance; a form was before my eyes. (Job 14:16).
Another shapes wood, he extends a measuring line; he outlines it with red chalk. He works it with planes and outlines it with a compass, and makes it like the form of a man, like the beauty of man, so that it may sit in a house. (Isaiah 44:13).
Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the form of his face has been changed. (Daniel 3:19).
Aquilla also used morphe in his second century translation in the following verses.
His appearance was marred more than any man and his form more than the sons of men.... For he grew up before him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; he has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to him. (Isaiah 52:14; 53:2).
We do also have cognate forms of the word morphe in the New Testament. The word morphoo is the verb form of Morphe and is normally translated as "to form." We also have the words symmorphe and symmorphoo which we usually translate as "conform," or "transform." The latter two words mean "to be formed together with." The words metamorphos and metamorphoo mean to be "transformed." Metamorphoo is translated as "transfigured" in Matthew and Mark.
My children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ is formed (morphoo) in you. (Gal 4:19).
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed (symmorphos) to the image of His Son. (Rom 8:29; see 1 Cor 15:45).
That I may know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed (symmorphos) to his death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Php 3:10).
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ who will transform our body of humiliation into conformity (symmorphos) with the body of his glory, by the working of the power that he has even to subject all things to himself (Php 3:21).
And he was transfigured (metamorphoo) before them; and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became as white as light. (Mt 17:2; cf. Mk 9:2).
And while he was praying, the appearance of his face became different, and his clothing became white and gleaming. (Luke 9:29).
And do not be conformed (syschematizo) to this world, but be transformed (metamorphoo) by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed (metamorphoo) into the same image from glory unto another; for this comes from the Lord who is Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Traditionally, Trinitarians have relied upon the meaning of the Greek word morphe as it is sometimes found in classical Greek. They have taken it to mean a characteristic nature of being or something which is "intrinsic and essential to the thing." (Lightfoot). However, the Bible was not written in classical Greek. It was written in Koine Greek. Today, we have acquired many Koine manuscripts discovered by archaeologists and dating from the first century and we know that some terms had acquired new meanings in later Koine Greek. Thanks to Kenneth Wuest, a Trinitarian, and Professor of Greek at Moody Bible Institute, we have new information on the meaning of the word morphe. By the time the New Testament had been written, morphe had come to mean “a station in life, a position one holds, one’s rank. And that is an approximation of morphe in this context [Philippians 2]” (The Practical Use of the Greek New Testament, p. 84).
Thayers Greek Lexicon says:
The form by which a person or thing strikes the vision; the external
appearance: children are said to reflect psuches te kai morphes
homoioteta (of their parents) (418).
Another comtemporary of Paul, Philo, used the term morphe to refer to the outward appearance of children. (De Legatione, 55). Wannamaker also indicates that the wisdom of ancient Antiquity perceived children to have the outward appearance, morphe of their parents.
We now know that the word morphe was used to refer to a station in life, a rank, a position, a status, in Koine Greek. We can know this for certain because Paul also refers to the morphe of a servant. A particular nature or essence does not make you a servant. It is a position in life. In the same manner, if you are a son of God, it means you share that divine position because you are a sharer in the divine nature as Peter says (2 Peter 1:4; Col 2:9-10), that is, the Holy Spirit (cf. Heb 6:4).
3. Translation Inconsistency: morphe theou vs. morphen doulou
Trinitarians seem to have no difficultly translating morphe doulou as "form of A servant." However, they do not consistently translate the term morphe theou as "form of A god. Again, inconsistencies plague the Trinitarian interpretation.
Many Trinitarians read the passage as if it says, "divine nature of God the Father." Trinitarian scholar Kenneth Wuest disagrees:
It is to this expression of glory that the words, being in the form of God, refer. The word God is anarthrous here, referring not to any single person of the Godhead but to deity as such... essence in the translation comes from the demands of the Greek text here since theos is anarthrous. The presence of the Greek article identifies, its absence qualifies. Its absence emphasizes nature, essence. In this state of preincarnate being, Paul says that our Lord thought it not robbery to be equal with God. Equality with God here does not mean equality with the other person of the Godhead, but equality with deity as such. The word God is again anarthrous. And this equality here is not equality in the possession of the divine essence but in its expression, as the context indicates. However, the expression presupposes the possession of that essence. (When Jesus Emptied Himself, Kenneth Wuest, 1958, emphasis mine)
We must here also not become confused by Wuest's words, He is not saying that morphe means "divine nature." He is saying theos means divine by nature because it lacks the article. This further demonstrates morphe cannot mean "divine nature" or Paul would have been saying, "divine nature of the divine nature" a nonsensical redundancy.
As Wuest points out, the lack of the article could suggest the term means "form of deity." However, the contrast with the quantitative expression "form of a servant" suggests a consistent rendering would not be qualitiative but qualitative. Secondly,
However, this might simply be a moot point since the idea Paul is expressing seems to be that Jesus subsisted in an appearance that reflected divinity/deity. Yet again, this leaves open the question as to HOW that was so.
4. Morphe OF God
It must be recognized that Paul did not say, "... although he was God..." as Trinitarians tend to read this verse. Rather, he said, "... subsisting in the form of God..." If Paul thought Jesus was to be identified as God, why would he say Jesus was subsisting in the form of God rather than just indicating he was God. Paul could have just as easily said, "... although he was God..." But he didn't.
5. The Meaning of harpagmos
One of the interpretation difficulties for this verse involves the Greek noun harpagmos. Scholars have struggeled with the intended meaning of this word. The verb form of this word is harpazo which is often taken to mean "to snatch, or "seize." We can see here why it has been translated as "robbery" in older translations. They have taken an application in which the word was used (robbery) and loaded the word's definition with that situation. However, this is an obvious error. The meaning/definition of a word is one thing but the application of that same word is another. At 2 Corinthians 12:2 and 12:4, the verb form of the same word, harpazo, is used when Paul says he was "snatched up" or "caught up" or "seized up" into heaven. It doesn't appear that Paul reckoned God was robbing him away. Rather Paul was "caught up" or "snatched up" or "seized up." The same concept is found at Revelation 12:5. See also Matthew 11:13; 13:19; John 6:15; 10:12; 10:28-39; Acts 8:39; 23:10;1 Thessalonians 4:17; Jude 1:23.
The noun harpagmos is sometimes translated as "a plunder" in the sense that a plunder is "a capture" or something "snatched up" or most specifically something "seized up." In this way, that which was seized upon, in noun form, is a "seizure." The central idea is something "seized upon" or "snatched." When it is translated as "robbery" that particular English word over-translates "harpazo" by putting a spin upon it the Greek word does not convey by itself. Although it can be used to describe a robbery because it means to snatch or seize, the word itself does not imply robbery and has a much wider field of meaning and is not restricted to doing something negative like stealing. The verb form simply means "to catch up" or "to be caught up," "snatch up," "seize up," "be seized," depending whether it is active or passive. When one actively snatches or seizes something he is actively "catching it up" or passively "being caught up" with respect to himself.
Another word used by Greek speakers was the word harpagma. Scholars believe that while harpagmos and harpagma have the same basic meaning, they have slightly different nuances. In the context of a plunder, it is thought that a harpagmos is a potential plunder while a harpagma is a plundered plunder. If that is the case, it would make sense in this passage. Christ did not regard equality with God to be a potential thing to plunder, something to seize upon.
6. Have this Mind: Jesus the Son vs. the Philippian Sons
Notice what Paul is talking about here. He is saying we should have the same "attitude" or "mind" of Christ. What he is saying is that Christ in his mind or attitude did not selfishly "seize upon" being equal with God but humbled himself as a servant for our sakes in love. He did not consider grasping at equality with God. The As the Hebrews writer says, "although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered. In other words, Jesus was not high-minded and did not focus on his nobility as a son but humbled himself and served others. He did not come to be served but to serve. Paul has been telling the Philippian sons of God to do the very same thing. Although they were, like Jesus, children of God, they were not to have any thoughts of attempting equality with God but to humble themselves and have the same attitude as Christ and serve others as higher than themselves.
Those who are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. Romans 8:14.
For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because he not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something he sees the Father doing for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also likewise does. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing and the Father will show him greater works than these, so that you will marvel. John 5:18ff.
Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own, but the Father abiding in me does His works.
It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world. Philippians 2:12-15.
Paul is instructing how the Philippians should behave themselves as Christians. He had just said that they were given not only to believe in Jesus but to suffer for his sake. And then he goes on to instruct them not to be high-minded but to humble themselves considering others higher than themselves. Then he illustrates by using Jesus' walk as their example.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind esteem one another as higher than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, subsisting in the form of God, did not esteem plundering equality with God for himself but emptied himself
Analysis of the Evidence
1. The Preceding Context
Therefore if there is any comfort in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, fulfill my joy by being of the same mind (phroneo), maintaining the same love, united in soul, of one mind (phroneo). Do nothing from selfishness or pride (kenodoxia), but with humility (tapeinophrosune) esteem/regard (hegeomai) one another higher (huperecho) than yourselves not heeding the things of yourselves but the things of one another. Let this mind (phroneo) be in you which [was] also in Christ Jesus, who, being (huparcho) in the form (morphe) of deity (theos), a thing to be seized upon (harpagmos) esteeming/regarding (hegeomai) being equal (isos) with God but emptied (keneoo) himself, taking the form (morphe) of a servant, being made in the likeness (homoioma) of men (anthropos), and being found in the configuration (schema) of a man (anthropos), he humbled (tapeinoo) himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted (huperupsoo) him and granted (charizomai) on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The main them of the context is Paul instructing the Philippians how to behave as children of God. He is about to explain to them they should behave like Jesus who humbly obeyed and suffered even to death on a cross and he had just told the Philippians that they were given not only to believe in Christ but to suffer for his sake. Paul's vocabulary also needs to be carefully regard in the immediate context of this passage. For example, notice the word "esteem," or "regard," used in verse 6 with respect to Jesus and a few verses prior with respect to the Philippians themselves. Being begotten children of God means being children of God the divine King and that implies nobility. Being children of the Most High God, Paul is instructing the Philippians not to get on their high horses and regard, or esteem themselves, above one another but to have the mind of Jesus God's son who did not get on his high horse because he was God's son but regarded others higher than himself and served them. "The son of man came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many."
Notice the word "esteem," or "regard," used both here and a few verses prior with respect to the Philippians themselves. Being children of God means being children of the divine King and it means nobility. It is hard to see in English translations but this is what these Greek words intimate. Paul is instructing the Philippians not to regard, or esteem themselves, above one another but to have the mind of Christ who did not seize upon being in the form of God. The Greek word translated as "esteem" carries with it a view to nobility. In other words, Jesus' very nobility was being in the form of God. Paul elsewhere says that Jesus who was rich became poor for our sakes. Yes, he was a son of God but he did not seize upon esteeming this reality but instead humbled himself and served others. To Paul, being poor is servanthood, the form of a commoner. Since they interpret this verse to mean Jesus humbled himself in an incarnation, the Trinitarian would have it that this verse means that Christ did not become poor for us but kept the wealth of his noble divine nature when he incarnated while he paraded around in disguise in a humble poor human body and his humility was having to put up with his common human nature while also living in his divine nature.
3. Humility vs. Glory
In the Bible, we have abundant passages which refer to the glorification of Jesus at His resurrection and we need not explore that obvious truth. Here in Philippians Paul refers to the idea of humility several times. He exhorts the Philippians to do nothing with "empty glory" but to "esteem" one another above themselves in "humble-mindedness" considering not themselves but others (2:3-4). Then Paul gives them the example of Christ to follow. Hence, the parallel notion concerning the mind of Christ is that he did not "esteem" equality with God. He closes this letter showing how he knows how he himself has learned how to be humble and be content in all things (4:11-13). But an even more revealing passage is Philippians 3:20-21.
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ who will transform (metaschematizo) our body of humiliation into conformity (symmorphos) with the body of his glory, by the working of the power that he has even to subject all things to himself (Php 3:21).
Here we can see Paul discussing the reverse idea to Philippians 2:5-9. Paul teaches that if we suffer with him we will reign with him and this occurs by being resurrected into glory (8:17-25; cf. 1 Cor 15:40-49). Indeed, in this very passage Paul says, "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed unto his death if somehow I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead" (3:10-11). And then he goes on to say he presses on for that heavenly prize. In this passage, he is again emphasizing they have this certain mindset of humility and understand they are not made perfect but like Christ are perfected through suffering (Heb 2:9-10). And then he ends this discussion by reminding them that they all eagerly await for Jesus to appear who will transform their bodies of humiliation into a body of his glory. This is the same idea Paul expresses at 1 Corinthians 15:49. In effect, Paul is telling us that we will become life-giving spirit and this will be our glory. Jesus emptied himself for our sake. In our resurrection, we will be filled with the glory of God.
The humility of Christ was not a pre-existent son stepping down out of his position in heaven. The humility of the man Jesus was that he did not consider seizing upon esteeming equality with God but knowining he was but a man, he humbly served and gave up everything entirely. That is how much he loved us. Jesus teaches that unless we are willing to pick up our cross and leave everything we cannot be his disciple. How hypocritical he would be if he did not give up everything himself as Trinitarians claim.
3. The morphe theou
What did Paul mean by the expression, morphe theou? When we explore the ancient use of this word, and when we explore the immediate context, we can see that there is no reason to suppose he meant "the divine nature of God." The word morphe most certain relates to appearance. This is not to say that the English word "appearance" is equivalent to the Greek word morphe. The English word "form" may be the best English word we have available to translate this Greek word. But when we regard the expression morphen doulou it becomes obvious that Paul is talking about a visible behavior. To take the form of a servant necessarily means visibly behaving as a servant by doing the humble activities of a servant. A servant is not a servant because he has a particular nature. A King and a servant have the same human nature. The servant category refers to function not intrinsic being and taking the form of a servant is a functional thing. We should then ask ourselves if morphe theou is a reference to function as well.
Another clue is found at 2 Timothy 3:5 where we read that men had a form of godliness (morphosin eusebias) but denying the power thereof. Paul is here referring to activities not intrinsic nature. Even further, we are to understand that this form of godliness was not authentic. These men had the outward appearance of godliness but they were not godly at all. Rather, they practiced evil.
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
4. The Form of God in the Gospel of John.
Peter tells us that it was God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit empowering him to do mighty works (Acts 10:38). And again Peter informs us it was God who did the miracles through the man Jesus (Acts 2:22; cf. 10:38). The man Jesus was doing the works of his God and Father but we are told that it was really God the Father at work in Jesus. Jesus was serving his God by submitting to his Father's will to do these things. In this way, it is quite easy to see that the man Jesus was in the morphe of God in terms of the activities he was doing. The works he did were the divine works of his God and Father.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus taught his disciples that to see him was to see the Father (Jn 14:9; see also 12:44-45). And he immediately explains what he means. Since we are also taught that no one has seen God, there is only one was Jesus' statement could possibly be true. He taught that this is true because the Father abiding in him was the One doing the works. Both John and Jesus taught this in many and various ways in the Gospel of John. Jesus was the prophet prophesied by Moses where we are told God would raise up a prophet and God would also put his words in the prophet's mouth (Acts 3:18-26; Deut 18:15-18). That prophet was Jesus. Jesus uttered the words of his God and Father (Jn 3:34-35). His Father gave him commandment what to say and what to speak.(John 12:49). He did not say anything on his own but as the Father taught him (8:28). He gave his disciples the words the Father gave to him (17:8). He declared his teaching was not his own but the Father's who sent him.(7:16). And he said his words were not his but the Father's who sent him (John 14:14).
Jesus tells us plainly that his disciples saw God the Father because it was the Father at work in Jesus (14:9-10) and so to believe in Jesus was not to believe in Jesus but the Father (12:44). Jesus could do nothing of himself (5:19) and it was the Father who gave Jesus these works to do (5:36) such that it was the Father Himself abiding in Jesus who was the source of these works (14:10). For this reason, Jesus asks the disciples if they could not believe the Father abiding in him was the One responsible for the works to believe in the works themselves (14:11), that is, because these works were the Father's works, God's works. And so to see Jesus at work in what he said and what he did was to see God the Father.
But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in him.... And Jesus cried out and said, "He who believes in me, does not believe in me but in Him who sent me. He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me. I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me will not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. For I did not speak on my own , but the Father Himself who sent me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me." (John 12:44-50).
Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going, how do we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him." Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own but the Father abiding in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves." John 14:5-11.
God was at work in Jesus His servent. And so when we investigate the Scriptures, we can clearly see how it was that Jesus of Nazareth was in "the form of God." God was at work in this man and God was at work in the Philippians.
5. "It is God who is at work in you"
Now observe how Paul sums up the argument for the Philippians to have the mind of Christ.
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. Philippians 2:12-16.
God was also at work in the Philippians. Jesus was a begotten son of God, begotten of the Spirit of God in the womb of Mary. The Phillipians were also begotten of God, born again of the Spirit of God. Jesus was a child of God and so were these Philippians, Jesus being the firstborn of many brothers(Rom 8:29).
The Philippians were "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). Being partakers of the Holy Spirit (Heb 6:4), all the fullness of God was in them (Eph 3:19). In the risen Christ in whom of the fullness (pleroma) of deity dwells bodily (Col 2:9), these Philippians, the body of Christ, were made full (pleroo in him (Col 2:10). Those who are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God (Rom 8:14). God was at work in the Philippians just as God was at work in Jesus. They too subsisted in the morphe of God.
At 1 Corinthians 2:16, Paul makes another reference to having the mind of Christ. And this reference is made in the context of having things revealed to the children of God, taught to them, by the Spirit of God. To be led by the Spirit of God, taught by the Spirit of God, is to have the mind of Christ. Indeed, we are told God put His words in Jesus mouth Jesus teaches us that when we are called before worldly officials it will be the "Spirit of your Father who speaks through you," that is, the Holy Spirit who speaks through believers.
Paul sums up his argument by saying God was at work in the Philippians but they needed to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. He has told the Philippians that they were called not only to believe in Jesus but to suffer for his sake. He then tells them not to get high-minded but to serve others as higher than themselves. But for what reason would they be tempted to become high-minded? They were children of God. They subsisted in the form of God not because they were God but because God was at work in them just as Jesus of Nazareth who walked in Judea was in the form of God not because he was God but because God the Father was at work in Jesus just as he himself tells us.
The word morphe refers to appearance. To see God at work in Jesus, or the Philippians, was to see the morphe of God, the form of God. Just as the form of a servant is a reference to funcation and activity, so also the form of God. The Scriptures show us very clearly that the term morphe of Godrefers to God at work, "the Father abiding in me does the works." And it refers to God at work in the Philippians too.
When all the facts are appreciated, we have here a passage that not only does not support Trinitarianism, it militates heavily against it. The Philippians, like all Christians, were called to walk in Jesus' footsteps. They too were children of God and led by God the Father's Holy Spirit. They too did the works of God which God prepared for them to do. They too were in the morphe of God since God was at work in them.
Although Jesus was in the form of God in all the works he was doing, he never ever considered seizing upon equality with God. He did not do his will, as he himself said, but chose to do his Father's will. Rather than attempting to be equal with his God and Father he served his God and Father humbly even unto death. The Father abiding in Jesus did the works. In this way, Jesus the Galilean was in the "form of God." The text says he did not consider seizing upon equality with God. He rather chose to do something else. Rather than trying to seize an equality with God he chose to take the form of a servant and serve God. And the Philippians, begotten of God, children of God, were to do exactly the same and follow in Jesus footsteps, denying themselves for the sake of others just as Jesus had taught.
The main theme of the passage is to have the mind of Christ who gave up everything for us. Instead of attempting to be seize upon equality with God, Christ humbled himself as a servant, and humbly obeyed his God, even unto death on a cross. For this God has exalted him into divine glory above every name that can be named: "Lord."
"Although he was a Son he learned obedience from what he suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest "according to the order of Melchizedek"
Last Update: July 8, 2012