The Nature of God

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The Nature of God
Text: Philippians 2:2-8
Occasion: General
Audience: General
Theological Tradition: Wesleyan
Topic: Sacrifice, Service
Author: None Given


Jesus emptied himself not in spite of being God, but because he was God.

How to Get There

  • The Christ-hymn of Philippians 2 presents the ultimate account of what it meant for Christ to be a servant.
  • We know Jesus was in nature God, and let go of that to become a servant.
  • What versions differ on was why he did it. See below for specifics.
  • We know God didn't act out of his nature. It was a loss, but God did it willingly, why?
  • One way of wording this is that "because" Jesus was in the form of God he humbled himself. It was his nature to do that.
  • God's very nature is service to those God loves, self-sacrifice and a lack of ego. That is who God is. Because Jesus was God, he sacrificed himself, because that was his nature to love us like that.
  • And we are called to be like Christ, less concerned about out standing, our power, our ego, serl-fpreservation, and more concerned about self-exhausting service to others.

Things to Watch For

  • This message relies heavily upon some rather complex Greek, so tread carefully. A good Greek textbook would help.
  • "Being in the form of God" is part of an adverbial participle.
    • Adverbial participles in Greek function to describe something of the circumstances under which the action described in the main verb, which it modifies, takes place.
    • The NRSV takes this participle to be concessive, "though" Jesus was in the form of God he humbled himself. So being a servant and being God were at odds with one another.
    • The NIV ignores the issues by just saying "being" in the nature of God. With this translation we don't know anything more about the nature of God than we did before.
  • This message is based on the idea that this is not concessive, but causal. So this verse would read "because he was the very nature of God, he did not hold onto that nature but humbled himself..."
    • The nature of God is to serve self-sacrifically those God loves.
    • This of course changes what it means to be Christlike.
  • Theologically, this is not adverse to many traditions, but as the two most popular versions of the Bible do not translate this participle this way most people get confused over this verse instead of having it be a wonderful illumination of God like it was meant to be.

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