Today I wish to look briefly at Philippians 2:5-11 with an eye towards its Christological focus.
The focus of this very important passage is the attitude of Christ Jesus, its manifestation, and its result. It begins “Have this attitude … which was … in Christ Jesus.” The passage also expresses the preexistence of Christ (v 6) as He existed in the “form” of God which must have been Spirit (John 4:24). Christ’s attitude was one of submission to the Divine plan which included His empting Himself. The question becomes of what did He empty Himself of? From our text “emptied Himself” (v 7) from the Greek ‘Kenoo’ meaning, “to make empty” and is a description of the process of God’s incarnation also known as Kenosis.
Some maintain that God, when becoming a man, divested Himself of some of His attributes. That is, God subtracting some qualities of deity to become a man. The Kenosis they espouse then jeopardizes the true incarnation because it puts in doubt the full indwelling of God among men in the person of Jesus. However, God’s immutability negates the very possibility of change meaning that if God removed any of His attributes He would in turn cease to be God.
Therefore and contrariwise, He is fully God and fully man. He is God with “all the rights and privileges” this entails. He was fully man with all of the human limitations of a body of flesh…Yet with out sin or a sin nature. As to ‘Kenoo’ His “empting Himself,” it was of His position with the Father that He empted Himself of, for He left Heaven, to humble Himself by taking on the likeness of sinful flesh and subjugated Himself to God the Father and to sinful man.
As such, He exemplifies to us a model of submission to higher authority and for that God the Father has exalted Him (v 9) Kurios – “supreme in authority” LORD (v 11). This process created, as one esteemed scholar states, Two natures, Two wills, Two minds, and Two modes of presence. As Ryrie notes though, the “empting” process was necessitated that He may add humanity which is the overriding theme of the passage and not of what He emptied Himself of.