Systematic Theology II - Lesson 3

The Humanity of Jesus Christ

Christ was fully human, as well as fully God. The Old Testament prophesied it and His historical life demonstrated it. Philippians 2: 6-8 uses the word kenosis to explain the relationship between Christ's human and divine natures.

Bruce Ware
Systematic Theology II
Lesson 3
Watching Now
The Humanity of Jesus Christ

D. Humanity of Christ

1. Old Testament testimony that the Messiah would be a man

2. Historical life of Christ which demonstrates his humanity

a. Born of a human mother

b. Grew and developed as a normal human

c. Demonstrated human weaknesses, limitations, and frailty

d. He bled and died

3. The permanence of his humanity

a. Coming again in physical body

b. Fulfills promise to David

c. We reign with Christ in Revelation

E. The kenosis: he emptied himself

1. Morphe: in the form (essential nature) of God

2. Ekenosin: Meaning of the kenosis

a. Poured himself out

b. Full deity clothed in full humanity

c. Willingly gives up use of his attributes

3. Importance of the kenosis

  • Both the Old and New Testaments teach that Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully human. The Old Testament contains specific references to His pre-incarnate existence. The New Testament teaches that the incarnation is an historical event that was prophesied in the Old Testament. Christ fulfills the roles of prophet, priest and king. His deity is emphasized by the names of God that are ascribed to Him.

  • The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ had attributes belonging solely to God, and did works that were done by God alone. Christ was worshipped and accepted worship. He Himself claimed to be God.

  • Christ was fully human, as well as fully God. The Old Testament prophesied it and His historical life demonstrated it. Philippians 2: 6-8 uses the word kenosis to explain the relationship between Christ's human and divine natures.

  • The "impeccability" of Christ deals with the question of whether or not Christ could have sinned. The answer to this question has implications for both His life and ministry. (At the 51 minute mark, the reference to "John the Baptist," Dr. Ware meant to say, "John the Apostle.")

  • Delegates at the Council of Chalcedon tried to explain the hypostatic union of Christ's natures. The theological bases for the work of Christ on the cross focus on the sin of humanity and God's holiness and mercy. The atonement is God's self-satisfaction through self-substitution

  • Christ's atoning sacrifice was comprehensive. The different aspects of the atonement may be compared to light refracting through a diamond – you can see different colors, but they are all light. Three aspects of the atonement are sacrifice, substitution and redemption.

  • Three more aspects of the atonement are propitiation, expiation, and reconciliation. Christ's resurrection is a ratification of the efficacy of the atonement.

  • The most significant aspect of the past work of Christ is the atonement. Some people teach that the extent of the atonement is limited, while others teach that it is unlimited. Christ's present work is mediator and Lord. His future work is coming judge and reigning king.

  • Throughout Scripture, the Holy Spirit is referred to as having the attributes and performing the actions of a person. He is also shown to have the attributes of God, and is declared to be God. Both the Old and New Testaments cite examples of the work of the Holy Spirit in empowering people.

  • The work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament is characterized by the empowerment of selective individuals for a temporary period of time, for the purpose accomplishing a specific task. The Old Testament prophets record a vision of the role of the Holy Spirit in the latter days.

  • The Holy Spirit had a central role in the life and ministry of Jesus. Many Old Testament passages prophesied the coming of a Spirit empowered Messiah. The New Testament records specific examples of the involvement of the Spirit in Jesus' life and ministry. Jesus also promises the future coming of the Holy Spirit and describes what he will do.

  • At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came into the world and filled the lives of every believer. The first great work of the Holy Spirit is bringing people to Christ. He also empowers believers for service in the Church where we are remade and conformed to the image of Christ. The purpose of the gifts of the Spirit is for us to serve one another.

  • The Holy Spirit has come to glorify Christ and bring attention to Jesus. He does this by empowering believers in the areas of evangelism and discipleship. There are specific gifts of the Spirit and He gives specific gifts to each believer. There is a question about whether all the gifts are still active today. There is also a distinction between people having a certain gift and God performing mighty acts.

  • The Holy Spirit accomplishes the work of regeneration in a person by bringing them new life. The Spirit also indwells and fills a believer, produces fruit and gives us the freedom to become what God created us to be. The Holy Spirit is also the guarantee of the hope of our eternal future in God's presence.

  • Rob Lister, a Garret Fellow, introduces concepts that are basic to the Biblical doctrine of salvation. Salvation is both physical and spiritual, includes all of creation, it is "already, but not yet," and the goal is the glory of God. Election is a key concept in Scripture. Some people think that there is a conditional aspect to election.

  • Rob Lister continues by reviewing the Arminian position (conditional election), then explains the Calvinist view. The Calvinist position is based on God's sovereign rulership over everything, salvation by grace alone, and God's love and justice. There are major differences between the ideas of conditional and unconditional election.

  • Among those who hold to the view of unconditional election, there are those who believe in single predestination, and those who believe in double predestination. There is also a difference between a "general call," and a "special" or "effectual call."

  • Continuing in the logical order of salvation, Rob Lister examines regeneration, conversion, justification, adoption and sanctification.

  • Christ is Lord of the Church and it is formed by the Spirit. As a community, we testify to what God has done in our lives through the ordinances, the proclamation of the word and the testimony of our lives. We worship God together, and Jews and Gentiles are united in one community, testifying to the preeminence of our identity in Christ.

  • The "mystery" of the Church refers to the truth that was formerly concealed, but now revealed. Another aspect of the "mystery" is the inclusion of Jews and Gentiles in one community of faith. There is some debate about whether or not Israel and the Church are the same. The "Body of Christ" and "Bride of Christ" are two metaphors used in the New Testament that refer to the Church.

  • An additional New Testament metaphor for the Church is a "Building," which is made up of the "Cornerstone," "Foundation" and the "Living Stones." "Christ's Flock" is also a metaphor for the Church and relates to Jesus as the "Good Shepherd." There are also passages in the New Testament that give us insight into local congregations by referring to elders as the leaders.

  • New Testament passages give specific instructions about the functions of elders in local congregations. There are also lists qualifications for elders that emphasize character qualities. The roles and qualifications for deacons are also given.

  • The question of the role of men and women in ministry is a significant issue. The main question is, "According to Scripture, is gender particularly and uniquely relevant in assessing whether or not a person is qualified for a given ministry in a church or home?"

    You can download the Roles Handout by right-clicking on the link and selecting the "Save Link As" option. 

  • Different denominations have chosen different models of hierarchy and leadership based on their understanding of Scripture. The two ordinances of the Church are Baptism and the Lord's Supper. They are ordained by Christ, point to the Cross, and are to be done in remembrance of what He has done for us.

  • There is value in studying eschatology besides curiosity about what will happen in the future. The three most common views of the millennium that can be supported by Scripture are postmillennialism, amillennialism and premillennialism. Also related to eschatology is the Scriptural teaching regarding physical death and the intermediate state.

  • Within the premillennial position, there is a difference of opinion on whether the rapture will be pretrib, midtrib or posttrib. Regardless of your position on the millennium, there is clear teaching in Scripture about the final judgment and our eternal state. There will be a final judgment and everyone will spend eternity either in heaven or hell.

The second of a two semester class on Systematic Theology.

1. The Doctrine of the Person and Work of Christ

    A. Pre-Incarnate Existence

    B. The Incarnation of Christ

    C. The Deity of Christ

    D. The Humanity of Christ

The Scriptures affirm that Jesus was both 100% God and 100% human. In kind of a similar way we talk about the living Word and the written word both having these properties of humanity and deity; the written word is both 100% the word of God and the word of human authors, the word of men. But even more in a more precise way the Christ the person Jesus Christ of Nazareth was in His person was 100% God in His nature and 100% divine in nature. So He had two natures in one person. We will talk about the formulation of that in the early church later on. Once we have talked about the deity of Christ it is incumbent upon us to talk about the humanity of Christ that follows. One more comment; not only is incumbent on us to talk about deity and humanity together because Christ is both God and man but also this area of the humanity of Christ is especially important for us evangelicals to think carefully about because there has been a tendency in the history of the church due to the opposition there has been to the deity of Christ. So conservative Bible believing people have defended the deity of Christ and in the process have not given sufficient careful thought to what it means that Jesus was fully human. There are enormous implications. It has a lot to do with how we live our lives being that we are called to follow in His steps; we are called to live our lives as He lived His life. So many of us growing up in the church don’t take that concept seriously, live as Jesus lived because we have been pressed with importance of the deity of Christ. So when we think of Christ we think ah He was God that is the one conception that comes clearing our thinking; Jesus was fully God and He was. I am not challenging that, all I am saying is that is not the whole truth. We don’t have a vivid vibrant conception of His humanity. So when we hear that we should live like Christ, we kind of dismiss it because we think, well He was God and there goes the punch of Scripture that says

Philippians 2:5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,

1 Peter 2:21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 1 Peter 2:22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth;

But we say, oh He was God. So we tend to dismiss looking at the life of Christ as example of how humanity ought to life. We ought to think of Jesus as the prototype human being; not Adam. Jesus was the prototype human on which Adam was modeled and failed terribly and now Christ lives out perfectly. He is the who not only the one who is our example but we are being conformed to be just Like Him;

1 John 3:2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

Romans 8:29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;

So He is the prototype of the humanity we should live. So we need to do our work on the humanity of Christ and see what this means

1. Old Testament testimonies that the coming Messiah would be a man

Isaiah 7:14

Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.

Here we have the Son of God who would come. Immanuel who, is a Son who will be born.

Isaiah 9:6

Isaiah 9:6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

These passages indicate deity and humanity right together.

Micah 5:2 which speaks of this child who will be born in Bethlehem whose goings forth will be from the days of eternity

Micah 5:2 “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.”

Some others in the Old Testament affirming the humanity of Christ and in particular that He would be a male human being. This is something that you use to not have to say but you do now because there is a growing in feminism including evangelical feminism that argues that the males gender of Jesus is irrelevant to His Messianic mission; it just “aint so” folks. He had to be a man. Could God have designed the whole thing differently? Yes He could. Could He have deigned everything differently so that there was no difference between men and women? No because then you wouldn’t have men and women. If He is going to have men and women there has to be differences, could He design men and women and women so that there would be no differences in authority and submission? Yes, in principle He could but not if He reflects who He is as God. This whole thing rests on the understanding of the Trinity in which Father, Son and Holy Spirit represent in the Trinity both authority and submission. To submit to authority is just as God like as exercising rightful, legitimate, helpful, uplifting authority. That is God like, so is submitting to it because in the Trinity you have authority and submission. You have the Son who submits to the Father, you have the Spirit who submits to the Son in the Trinity What I argue is that apart from the created order; that is the created order merely represents or manifest what is true in God intrinsically in Himself apart from creation. So it becomes important for us to say that when Christ came as Messiah He came as a human but He also came as human male because God designed for there to be male headship so He designed for Christ to be the second Adam not the second Eve. Why? Because Adam was the head in the Garden. Notice that when sin occurred in the Garden, who sinned first? The woman, she took of the fruit and gave to the man and she ate, She took the fruit ate of it and gave to her husband who was with her and he ate of it. So who ate first? She did. Who does God come to? Adam. Who does Paul say brought sin into the entire world (Romans 5)? Adam. Who does Paul in first Corinthians 15 set up as the counterpart to the first Adam? Christ. He comes as a man, male gender human being.

2 Samuel 7:12-13 where David is promised that he will have a son who will sit on his throne and reign as king over Israel forever.

2 Samuel 7:12 “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. 2 Samuel 7:13 “He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

We know that this is fulfilled when Christ comes and takes up His throne. That is even indicated by angel to Mary when he announces to her in Luke 1:32.

Luke 1:32 “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David;

Here He comes in the Davidic line to reign as kingdom the throne of David.

Daniel 7:13 which speaks of one like a Son of Man who is coming who will have dominion over all. We know this refers to Christ. Christ uses Son of Man of Himself exclusively; no one else says of Him that He is the Son of Man, Christ Does and quotes Daniel 7 on two occasions indicating that He understands that passage to apply to Himself.

Daniel 7:13 “I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him.

I Corinthians 15:20-26. It is clear that the Adam Christ parallel is made.

1 Corinthians 15:20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 1 Corinthians 15:21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15:23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, 1 Corinthians 15:24 then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. 1 Corinthians 15:25 For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. 1 Corinthians 15:26 The last enemy that will be abolished is death.

It is clear that the coming Messiah would be a human being, would be in the line of David, would be a man by gender.

2. The Historical Life of Christ demonstrates His humanity

a. He was born of a human mother

Luke 1:26-38

Luke 2:1-20

You might say that He wasn’t born of a human father; does that challenge or jeopardize His humanity? God purposed that his one born would have two natures. We are talking about a unique person and therefore it makes sense that you have a unique conception that would by this unique conception permit two natures to come forth together. It was very important that Mary be a virgin and it was very important that she be human; that she be the mother and yet a virgin so that the Holy Spirit in taking the place of the human father provides the basis by which the divine nature and then thru Mary the human nature come together in the conception of Jesus. A miracle occurs in the conception of Jesus but when He is born He born fully human as well as fully divine.

b. He grew and developed in normal ways that human beings do

He grew and developed in ways that normal human beings do. In Luke 2 we have few little hints about this. There is not much in the Gospels about the young Jesus but a few little hints are interesting.

Luke 2:39-40 when Jesus was presented at the Temple; He went there with His parents.

Luke 2:39 When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth. Luke 2:40 The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.

Here you have this statement in Luke 2:40 that He grew physically, He continued to grow, become strong and increase in wisdom or becoming full of wisdom. That is an interesting statement to say of one who is fully God that He increased in wisdom.

Luke 2:41-52 Then you have the story of Jesus going with His parents down to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover (Bar Mitzvah) and Jesus stayed behind at the Temple with the teachers of the Law and astonished them. Then His parents realized on their way back home that He wasn’t with them and they went back to get Him and it says

Luke 2:49 And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?”

It is clear that by that point, 12 years old, He knew who He was.

Luke 2:52 here you nave another statement that He increased in wisdom during this time.

Luke 2:52 And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Just to notice He grew in stature, he grew in favor of God and man; in other words He grew emotionally, personally, and physically. He grew intellectually as He was growing up as a boy.

How did He gain His understanding of His identity and mission? The primary avenue clearly would have been His study of Scripture. The proof of that is it was off of His kips all of the time. He knew the Old Testament very well. When tempted by Satan all three times are quotations of passages that are relevant to that particular kind of temptation. It is really remarkable to think about that He really did learn the Bible as He grew up. Are we to think of Jesus as baby in the manger looking up at the stars and contemplating the physics of the universe that He created? I don’t think so. I think rather we should think of Jesus as experience life as any other baby would. Scrap “Away in the Manger no crying He made.” What that portrays is this unrealistic not really one us picture of Jesus. No, He was a normal baby. So in His growth process He grew in wisdom; He read Torah, read the Old Testament.

He had the Spirit upon Him too. At this point John the Baptist and Jesus were the only ones we know that were filled with the Spirit who lived at this particular time. We have good reason to hold that the disciples of Jesus did not have the Spirit upon them yet until Pentecost. He was given to them at Pentecost. Proof for this, I think one of the strongest passages is John 7 where at the last day of the great feast Jesus stood up and said

John 7:38 “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ ”

John’s commentary on what Jesus said was

John 7:39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

So they didn’t have the Spirit, Jesus had the Spirit; the Spirit was in Jesus was opening His eyes to see truth that is there. That at appointed times as He studies, reads and is taught and goes to synagogue receives the training of the Rabbis receives the training of His parents at home, studies on His own, at the proper time the Holy Spirit opens His eyes to understand. Imagine the moment must have happened; I don’t know when, 5 years old, 12 years old, I don’t know, The moment must have happened when He was reading Isaiah 53 and for the first time the Holy Spirit opened His eyes to realize, this is about Me, I am the suffering servant who did not come to be served but to serve and give His life a ransom for many. That is Isaiah 53, Psalm 22; pierced, crucified, rejected and the time would have come when He realized what that was. I think for the most part it was matter of the Holy Spirit working through Scripture to unpack what was there and help Him to see what it was. For example He spent all night in prayer before He chose the disciples. There is nothing in the Old Testament that said pick Peter, James John and the boys so He seeks God’s leading in specific ways for other things that He knows He must do. He says at the end I always did what was pleasing to You; in relation to the Father.

c. He demonstrated human weaknesses, limitations, and frailties

John 11:35 He wept at the grave of Lazarus.

John 11:35 Jesus wept.

He felt agony on the cross; tremendous pain.

He got tired; went to sleep in the boat.

Luke 4 He got hungry

Luke 4:2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry.

He fasted forty days He ought to have gotten hungry. If hadn’t experienced that, what force would the temptation have to make bread of these stones but He was human and felt what ever it would have felt like. I don’t know I have never fasted that long forty days; I take it that that means without nutrition probably water, I don’t know that you could survive without water but He had not eaten so there was tremendous pain that He would experience from that.

d. He bled and died

John 19:30-34 is the passage I picked out because it indicates that when they put the spear into Christ there came out water and blood. Modern day medical experts have looked at that and considered that that was a sign that He had died because there is a separation of fluids in your body that takes place when the system isn’t running anymore; it separates. The water and blood coming out would have indicated death had already taken place some time before; probably a few hours earlier before He was taken off the cross.

John 19:30 Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. John 19:31 Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. John 19:32 So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him; John 19:33 but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. John 19:34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.

One of the reasons that He became a human being, a mortal, is so that He could die. God cannot die. I do have trouble with the hymn “And can it be my God should die for me” because it is one thing to say the Lord Jesus Christ, the God man died, absolutely true, it is another thing to single out the deity and say of that deity that thou my God should die for me. You have to do some fancy theological translation to make it work. Some the British versions of that same hymn say that my Lord should die for me; that solves all the problems. So I typically sing Lord instead of God when I sing “And Can It Be” regardless of what anybody else sings; nobody else notices, I even it do it when I am leading the singing.

3. The Permanence of His Humanity

If you have never thought of this, this might just come as a huge sort of shock but I do think that there is good reason to think that Christ in His accepting His incarnate role at the Messiah, the second Adam, the king in the line of David, and becoming a man knew full well that this meant that He became one of us forever.

a. He is coming again

We know from Acts chapter one that angel told the disciples to expect Christ to return just as you have seen Him go.

Acts 1:11 They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”

We do know that He is going to come in a physical body again and He is going to reign of the throne of David in Jerusalem; that is if you hold a premillennial view that there is a millennium that follows the return of Christ; if you are faithful to the Bible you will hold that view (a bit of tongue in check). He will reign as king in Jerusalem. If you hold an amillennial or a postmillennial view then He comes and reigns as king on earth and He has come in His body. They are almost more reason to think that that is the case because the only thing that happens next is the judgment and the eternal state. Whichever way you go, He comes and takes up His throne; He reigns over whether it is the New Heavens and New Earth in the millennial kingdom.

b. He fulfills the promise to David in the Davidic Covenant that he would have a son to reign over his kingdom forever

c. In the Book of Revelation in chapter 21 and 22 we are told that we reign with Christ.

The implication is that He is the head of us, the king of us during this reign that He exerts and that we are joined with Him in that reign. One begins to wonder if this doesn’t require that His physical nature is one that He took on and accepted on our behalf to be one of us and reign as king over us forever. I think that there is very good reason for thinking that that is the case. If it is, what a remarkable thing to think that He would do this? And perhaps with that, accept some of the limitations that we will be talking about in the next section forever; that He would be with us, one of us, relate to us forever and ever.

D. The Kenosis

From Philippians 2:6-8

Philippians 2:5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, Philippians 2:6a who, although He existed in the form of God,

an expression of deity

Philippians 2:6b did not regard equality with God

there is another expression of deity; there are two of them right together

Philippians 2:6b did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, Philippians 2:7 but emptied Himself,

That is this term (Kenosis). Kenosis come from this term.

Philippians 2:7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

1. Key Terms

a. morphē (μορφή)

The first one is the term morphē (μορφή) that is translated in the NASB “form.” The NIV says, “being in very nature God” that is a very good translation. When you think of Plato and the forms that is what comes to mind when you think of his forms, not what we often think of with the English word “form” which is the outward structure, the façade of something. We think of the form that way. But for Plato form was the essence of something, these ideals that existed eternally in their essence; the essence of care, the essence of beauty, the essence of justice; those were forms. That is more the idea of this word (form) here; so existed in the form of God, that is in essential nature of God. not form as in façade, He just looked like God, but He was in essential nature God.

One way you realize that you realize contextually that this must be the case, is that the word is used a second time.

Philippians 2:7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant,

Here again this not form as a façade, which would mean that He came looking like a servant, acting like a servant but He was anything but a servant. It can’t be that. The whole point of the passage is that He came in the form of a servant, the likeness of men, He was obedient unto death even death on the cross. What is the point of this as it regards servant? He was the essential nature of a servant. The context drives you to that conclusion that He had the very essence of servant in His incarnate state.

So, “form” is used in both places; verse 6 “form of God” and verse 7 “form of a bond servant” to indicate essential nature. So here He is with essential nature of God; isos (ἴσος)

b. equality

Philippians 2:6b did not regard equality with God

What can be equal to God except God? Nothing, God has no equals, He had no competitors; nothing that can be held up to Him that is like Him. “I alone am God there is no other” God says. So here is Christ referred to a one who is equal with God obviously indicating deity. He is God.

c. ekenōsen (ἐκένωσεν)

The third term is ekenōsen (ἐκένωσεν) from which we get this doctrine, the kenosis doctrine. ekenōsen (ἐκένωσεν) is used in verse 7; He emptied Himself. The term literally means “He poured Himself out.” The term is a fairly common one it is used in the Greek language to represent pouring water out of a pitcher; it is not a complicated theological term at all. Its normal usage is just to pour something out.

2. Meaning of the Kenosis

What is this pouring out? Let’s put the pieces together. Here we have God, who existed in the form of God, who doesn’t consider His equality something that needs to be clutched or grasped. Some people have drawn from this notion did not regard equality with God a something to be retained but emptied Himself that He emptied Himself by pouring out His deity; He gave up His deity or He gave up attributes of deity. This is called the Kenotic heresy. It is prominent view in the 19th century in particular; many liberals have held it. It holds that when Christ became a man He gave up being God. This is not what this passage is saying.

Notice that it does not say that He emptied Himself, or He poured Himself out by pouring something out of Himself. It doesn’t say He emptied something out of Himself. It says He emptied Himself. The point is it was all of who He was is poured out. Here is the key, I give credit for this insight to Gerald Hawthorne; his commentary on Philippians is really helpful on this point, He taught at Wheaton College for years. He made this observation that there are three participles that follow the ekenōsen (ἐκένωσεν). He poured Himself out taking; here is an interesting kind of subtraction, he (Hawthorne) says, He poured Himself, He subtracts by adding, taking. He poured Himself out by adding, taking; subtraction by addition. How do you subtract by adding to? The idea is Christ, without giving up any attribute of deity He took on humanity. How is that a pouring out, or emptying or subtraction? Let me give you two illustrations. The first one is a good illustration of emptying by adding but it is not a good illustration of Christ per se. The second one is closer to the real thing.

Suppose you were to go to a new car lot, BMW, and you go in and ask the salesman if you can test drive a brand new 2003 BMW off the showroom floor. So you take this car out. Imagine that for the previous week it has been raining like crazy; it really a mess out there but this is a beautiful sunny day. You take this BMW out into the country and drive it on these dirt roads that just as muddy as can be; you spin those tires and just drive it like crazy. An hour later you bring this BMW back to the showroom floor and park it right where you had got it from and it is caked in mud. The salesman comes up to you and says what have you done to my car? You say, “I have taken nothing away from it I have only added to it.” You are subtracting by adding. What do you subtract from the car when all you do it add to it? The beauty, the luster, the glory, what it really is cannot be fully manifest because of what veils it. Is the car just what it was before, under the veil? Yes, identical, nothing has happened; you haven’t taken anything away from the car. If you were to remove the veil it would be just what it was before. In fact it the same thing, it is just that you cannot see everything that is there because of the veil. Nor could you have the caked mud on and the full glory of the car manifest; you could not have both. By adding the caked mud to it, you necessarily veil its beauty, its luster, its glory. So there is a necessary subtraction not of the qualities of the car, its attributes but a necessary subtraction of the manifestation of those qualities because of the veil. There are two verses in John that help here. Some people when I give this illustration think of John 1:14

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

They say your illustration does not show the fact that when He cam He manifests the glory of the Father. You have to juxtapose John 1:14 with John 17:5

John 17:5 “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

In other words, yes He manifests the glory of the Father, full of grace and truth but at the very same time He conceals or there is a veiling of the spender of His deity in taking on humanity.

Here is the second illustration that is more direct in terms of its application. Suppose there were a king of a very mighty, rich, wonderful country and in the capital city of this country the king one day was being taken through the streets of this city with his military guard and his accompanying servants. As he is being taken through the city he notices that there are beggars there and the king goes back to his palace and he thinks to himself I wonder what it would be like to live life as a beggar. So the king decides that he is going to live as a beggar. What does the king have to do? Can the king go as he is, royal attire, servants, all of the trappings of his kingship, can he take that with him and go to the streets and live life as a beggar? No, he has to shed his royal clothes and put on smelly, dingy, old tattered clothing. He has to leave the banquet table where he normally is fed with the best of cuisine and go down to the street and beg for food. When he is hungry, though he is king and he could at any instant because he has the right, could call for his servants to come an bring him dinner but if he is to live life as a beggar, he must do as beggars do when they get hungry; get food from somebody or somewhere or they go hungry. They don’t have the option of calling for servants to come and bring them food from the royal palace; they can’t do that. What happens when this king now having lived there on the streets for a while really looking very much like a beggar and someone comes up to him and insults him, mocks him, maybe physically abuses him? He is king what could he do? He could call for the royal guard to come and mop up this guy who insulted him this way or treated him this way. He could do that, but he couldn’t do that and live life as a beggar. Where this illustration helps is to see that the king does not have to give up any attributes of kingship, he doesn’t have to give up his throne, he doesn’t have to give up being king, he doesn’t eve have to give up rights of his kingship but he gives up the rightful (he has rights for it) use of the privileges and attending abilities that he has as king.

The point of all this is to say that Christ in taking on human form to be one of us poured Himself out; all of who He is (this is how you avoid the kenotic heresy) poured out into that baby in the manger, all of His deity is there but He takes on full humanity. He has full deity clothed in full humanity. When that happens then aspects of deity which could not be expressed and He be fully human; just like the beggar. He must willingly relinquish the right of use, or expression of those attributes in order to live life as one of us. I take one of those that He gave up, not the attribute in His divine nature he still possess it but the use of it in His consciousness (Side note: you should not think of Jesus as being split personalities or split minds; He had two natures but He had one consciousness, He experienced life the way we do with one understanding, one set of desires. One place in the Gospel account you can tell this is true, where you see Jesus had a way of thinking a desire that was different than the Father is the Garden of Gethsemane. Think of what Jesus said, “Father if you be willing let this cup pass from, never the less not what I will but what You will be done.” That is really telling because it indicates that Jesus had His own; it is not what my human nature wants, or not what my divine nature wants be done. No, it is let not My will but Your will be done. He lived life not as some ultimate schizophrenic, split in half, but He lives life in a holistic way, one mind, one will, one set of desires, one internal experience.) In that internal experience certain aspects of His divine attributes are not allowed their expression. For example: He doesn’t know everything, He has to learn bit by bit by bit through life. He acquires this and this causes Him to grow. He doesn’t know everything; He only learns what the Father wants Him to. Maybe the Spirit is the governor in this in terms of what is brought to Him and what is not. Perhaps the Spirit governs just the right amount of what He is to know and other things that He is not to know. By that He experiences life as one of us from the beginning to the end. Be careful how say that; relinquishing the use of or the expression of.

One more comment on the Kenosis. I want you to see how critical it is to understand this Kenosis teaching for seeing Jesus’ whole life and ministry because then you realize that the way He faced temptation, the way that He grew in relationship with the Father, the way He lived His life was as a human. Just like the king if he is going to live life as a beggar without any exceptions to that he can never call for help from the palace. He can’t draw on those privileges that he has as king. Christ, in order to live as one of us from beginning to end lived His life as one of us. Part of the beauty of this is in realizing that Christ called us to follow in His steps, to live life as He lived life we can’t back away from that and say this isn’t fair, after all You are God. The fact is that being God He did not rely upon who He was as god in order to live the life He was called to live. He walked in the Spirit. Have you ever asked the question: Why did Jesus, who is God in human flesh need the Spirit of God upon Him? Isn’t so much made of the fact that He was anointed with the Spirit and He went into Galilee under the power of the Spirit and Spirit led Him. There is so much made of this, so much made this in the Old Testament about prophecy of the One who is come will be the Spirit anointed Messiah. You ask the question what can the Spirit of God add to the divine nature of Christ, what can He add to Christ as God? The answer is nothing. What can God add to God? Nothing. What can the Spirit of God add to the humanity of Christ? Empowerment, enlightenment, strength, encouragement, all the things given Him by which He carried out His mission and calls us, remember, I have good news for you I am leaving He says because when I go the Spirit that has been upon Me will be upon you. All of sudden you realize that you can read the life of Christ and you can read it for seeing how we should live our life. It just changes everything about it.

Blessings on You.