“But emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7).
As part of His humble descent from Heaven to earth, Jesus set aside the exercise of His divine privileges.
The next step in Jesus’ pattern of humility as He came to earth and lived among mankind was His emptying of Himself. But Scripture is clear that while on earth our Lord claimed to be God: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). At no time did He stop being God.
The Greek word for “emptied” gives us the theological term kenosis, the doctrine of Christ’s self-emptying. The kenosis basically reminds us of what we saw in yesterday’s lesson: Jesus’ humble refusal to cling to His advantages and privileges in Heaven. The Son of God, who has a right to everything and is fully satisfied within Himself, voluntarily emptied Himself.
We have already noted that Jesus did not empty Himself of His deity, but He did lay aside certain prerogatives. For one thing, He gave up His heavenly glory. That’s why, in anticipation of His return to the Father, Christ prayed, “Glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I ever had with Thee before the world was” (John 17:5).
Jesus also relinquished His independent authority and completely submitted Himself to the Father’s will: “Not as I will, but as Thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39).
During His time on earth, Christ also voluntarily limited the use and display of His divine attributes. One good illustration of this concerned His omniscience, His knowledge of all things. In teaching about the end-times and His second coming, Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matt. 24:36).
Jesus’ self-emptying demonstrates a wonderful aspect of the gospel. Unlike man-centered, works-oriented religions, the biblical gospel has God’s Son willingly yielding His privileges to sacrifice Himself for sinners like us.
Suggestions for Prayer
Pray that you would become more appreciative of the sacrificial humility Jesus Christ exercised on your behalf.
For Further Study
• Scripture does not record a lot about Jesus’ boyhood. But the account we do have verifies His emptying. Read Luke 2:39-52. What does verse 47 imply about Jesus’ nature?
• How do verses 51-52 exemplify His emptying?
From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.