|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
2:5-11 The example of our Lord Jesus Christ is set before us. We must resemble him in his life, if we would have the benefit of his death. Notice the two natures of Christ; his Divine nature, and human nature. Who being in the form of God, partaking the Divine nature, as the eternal and only-begotten Son of God, Joh 1:1, had not thought it a robbery to be equal with God, and to receive Divine worship from men. His human nature; herein he became like us in all things except sin. Thus low, of his own will, he stooped from the glory he had with the Father before the world was. Christ's two states, of humiliation and exaltation, are noticed. Christ not only took upon him the likeness and fashion, or form of a man, but of one in a low state; not appearing in splendour. His whole life was a life of poverty and suffering. But the lowest step was his dying the death of the cross, the death of a malefactor and a slave; exposed to public hatred and scorn. The exaltation was of Christ's human nature, in union with the Divine. At the name of Jesus, not the mere sound of the word, but the authority of Jesus, all should pay solemn homage. It is to the glory of God the Father, to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord; for it is his will, that all men should honour the Son as they honour the Father, Joh 5:23. Here we see such motives to self-denying love as nothing else can supply. Do we thus love and obey the Son of God?
Verse 6. - Who, being in the form of God. The word rendered "being" (ὑπάρχων) means, as R.V. in margin, being originally. It looks back to the time before the Incarnation, when the Word, the Λόγος ἄσαρκος, was with God (comp. John 8:58; John 17:5, 24). What does the word μορφή form, mean here? It occurs twice in this passage - Ver. 6, "form of God;" and Ver. 7, "form of a servant;" it is contrasted with σχῆμα fashion, in Ver. 8. In the Aristotelian philosophy (vide ' De Anima,' 2:1, 2) μορφή. is used almost in the sense of εϊδος, or τὸ τί η΅ν εϊναι as that which makes a thing to be what it is, the sum of its essential attributes: it is the form, as the expression of those essential attributes, the permanent, constant form; not the fleeting, outward σχῆμα, or fashion. St. Paul seems to make a somewhat similar distinction between the two words. Thus in Romans 8:29; Galatians 4:19; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:10, μορφή (or its derivatives) is used of the deep inner change of heart, the change which is described in Holy Scripture as a new creation; while σχῆμα is used of the changeful fashion of the world and agreement with it (1 Corinthians 7:31; Romans 12:2). Then, when St. Paul tells us that Christ Jesus, being first in the form of God, took the form of a servant, the meaning must be that he possessed originally the essential attributes of Deity, and assumed in addition the essential attributes of humanity. He was perfect God; he became perfect (comp. Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3; 2 Corinthians 4:4). For a fuller discussion of the meanings of μορφή and σχῆμα, see Bishop Lightfoot's detached note ('Philippians,' p. 127), and Archbishop Trench, 'Synonyms of the New Testament,' sect. 70. Thought it not robbery to be equal with God; R.V. "counted it not a prize [margin, 'a thing to be grasped'] to be on an equality with God." These two renderings represent two conflicting interpretations of this difficult passage. Do the words mean that Christ asserted his essential Godhead ("thought it not robbery to be equal with God," as A.V.), or that he did not cling to the glory of the Divine majesty ("counted it not a prize," as R.V.)? Both statements are true in fact. The grammatical form of the word ἁρπαγμός, which properly implies an action or process, favors the first view, which seems to be adopted by most of the ancient versions and by most of the Latin Fathers. On the other hand, the form of the word does not exclude the passive interpretation; many words of the same termination have a passive meaning, and ἁρπαγμός itself is used in the sense of ἅρπαγμα by Eusebius, Cyril of Alexandria, and a writer in the 'Catena Possini' on Mark 10:42 (the three passages are quoted by Bishop Lightfoot, in loco). The Greek Fathers (as Chrysostom Ὁ τοῦ Θεοῦ υἱὸς οὐκ ἐφοβήθη καταβῆναι ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀξιώματος, etc.) generally adopt this interpretation. And the context seems to require it. The aorist ἡγήσατο points to an act, the act of abnegation; not to a state, the continued assertion. The conjunction "but" (ἀλλὰ) implies that the two sentences are opposed to one another. He did not grasp, but, on the contrary, he emptied himself. The first interpretation involves the tacit insertion of "nevertheless;" he asserted his equality, but nevertheless, etc. And the whole stress is laid on the Lord's humility and unselfishness. It is true that this second interpretation does not so distinctly assert the divinity of our Lord, already sufficiently asserted in the first clause, "being in the form of God." But it implies it. Not to grasp at equality with God would not be an instance of humility, but merely the absence of mad impiety, in one who was not himself Divine. On the whole, then, we prefer the second interpretation. Though he was born the beginning in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God as a thing to be grasped, a prize to be tenaciously retained. Not so good is the view of Meyer and others: "Jesus Christ, when he found himself in the heavenly mode of existence of Divine glory, did not permit himself the thought of using his equality with God for the purpose of seizing possessions and honor for himself on earth." The R.V. rendering of the last words of the clause," to be on an equality," is nearer to the Greek and better than the A.V., "to be equal with God." Christ was equal with God (John 5:18; John 10:30). He did not cling to the outward manifestation of that equality. The adverbial form ἴσα implies the state or mode of equality rather than the equality itself.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Who being in the form of God,.... The Father; being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person. This form is to be understood, not of any shape or figure of him; for as such is not to be seen, it is not to be supposed of him; or any accidental form, for there are no accidents in God, whatever is in God, is God; he is nothing but nature and essence, he is the , the Jehovah, I am what I am; and so is his Son, which is, and was, and is to come, the fountain of all created beings nor does it intend any outward representation and resemblance of him, such as in kings; who, because of the honour and dignity they are raised unto, the authority and power they have, and because of the glory and majesty they are arrayed with, are called gods: nor does it design the state and condition Christ appeared in here on earth, having a power to work miracles, heal diseases, and dispossess devils, for the manifestation of his glory; and so might be said to be in the form of God, as Moses for doing less miracles is said to be a God unto Pharaoh; since this account does not regard Christ; as he was on earth in human nature, but what he was antecedent to the assumption of it; or otherwise his humility and condescension in becoming man, and so mean, will not appear: but this phrase, "the form of God", is to be understood of the nature and essence of God, and describes Christ as he was from all eternity; just as the form of a servant signifies that he was really a servant, and the fashion of a man in which he was found means that he was truly and really man; so his being in the form of God intends that he was really and truly God; that he partook of the same nature with the Father, and was possessed of the same glory: from whence it appears, that he was in being before his incarnation; that he existed as a distinct person from God his Father, in whose form he was, and that as a divine person, or as truly God, being in the glorious form, nature, and essence of God; and that there is but one form of God, or divine nature and essence, common to the Father and the Son, and also to the Spirit; so that they are not three Gods, but one God: what the form of God is, the Heathens themselves (g) say cannot be comprehended nor seen, and so not to be inquired after; and they use the same word the apostle does here (h): and now Christ being in this glorious form, or having the same divine nature with the Father, with all the infinite and unspeakable glories of it,
thought it no robbery to be equal with God; the Father; for if he was in the same form, nature, and essence, he must be equal to him, as he is; for he has the same perfections, as eternity, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, immutability, and self-existence: hence he has the same glorious names, as God, the mighty God, the true God, the living God, God over all, Jehovah, the Lord of glory, &c. the same works of creation and providence are ascribed to him, and the same worship, homage, and honour given him: to be "in the form of God", and to be "equal with God", signify the same thing, the one is explanative of the other: and this divine form and equality, or true and proper deity, he did not obtain by force and rapine, by robbery and usurpation, as Satan attempted to do, and as Adam by his instigation also affected; and so the mind of a wicked man, as Philo the Jew says (i), being a lover of itself and impious, , "thinks itself to be equal with God", a like phrase with this here used; but Christ enjoyed this equality by nature; he thought, he accounted, he knew he had it this way; and he held it hereby, and of right, and not by any unlawful means; and he reckoned that by declaring and showing forth his proper deity, and perfect equality with the Father, he robbed him of no perfection; the same being in him as in the Father, and the same in the Father as in him; that he did him no injury, nor deprived him of any glory, or assumed that to himself which did not belong to him: as for the sense which some put upon the words, that he did not "affect", or "greedily catch" at deity; as the phrase will not admit of it, so it is not true in fact; he did affect deity, and asserted it strongly, and took every proper opportunity of declaring it, and in express terms affirmed he was the Son of God; and in terms easy to be understood declared his proper deity, and his unity and equality with the Father; required the same faith in himself as in the Father, and signified that he that saw the one, saw the other, Mark 14:61 John 5:17. Others give this as the sense of them, that he did not in an ostentatious way show forth the glory of his divine nature, but rather hid it; it is true, indeed, that Christ did not seek, but carefully shunned vain glory and popular applause; and therefore often after having wrought a miracle, would charge the persons on whom it was wrought, or the company, or his disciples, not to speak of it; this he did at certain times, and for certain reasons; yet at other times we find, that he wrought miracles to manifest forth his glory, and frequently appeals to them as proofs of his deity and Messiahship: and besides, the apostle is speaking not of what he was, or did in his incarnate state, but of what he was and thought himself to be, before he became man; wherefore the above sense is to be preferred as the genuine one,
(g) Socraticus, Xenophon, & Aristo Chius, apud Minuc. Felic. Octav. p. 20. & Hostanes apud Caecil. Cyprian. de Idol. van. p. 46. (h) Laertii proem. ad Vit. Philosoph. p. 7. (i) Leg. Alleg. l. 1. p. 48, 49.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
6. Translate, "Who subsisting (or existing, namely, originally: the Greek is not the simple substantive verb, 'to be') in the form of God (the divine essence is not meant: but the external self-manifesting characteristics of God, the form shining forth from His glorious essence). The divine nature had infinite BEAUTY in itself, even without any creature contemplating that beauty: that beauty was 'the form of God'; as 'the form of a servant' (Php 2:7), which is in contrasted opposition to it, takes for granted the existence of His human nature, so 'the form of God' takes for granted His divine nature [Bengel], Compare Joh 5:37; 17:5; Col 1:15, 'Who is the IMAGE of the invisible God' at a time before 'every creature,' 2Co 4:4, esteemed (the same Greek verb as in Php 2:3) His being on an equality with God no (act of) robbery" or self-arrogation; claiming to one's self what does not belong to him. Ellicott, Wahl, and others have translated, "A thing to be grasped at," which would require the Greek to be harpagma, whereas harpagmos means the act of seizing. So harpagmos means in the only other passage where it occurs, Plutarch [On the Education of Children, 120]. The same insuperable objection lies against Alford's translation, "He regarded not as self-enrichment (that is, an opportunity for self-exaltation) His equality with God." His argument is that the antithesis (Php 2:7) requires it, "He used His equality with God as an opportunity, not for self-exaltation, but for self-abasement, or emptying Himself." But the antithesis is not between His being on an equality with God, and His emptying Himself; for He never emptied Himself of the fulness of His Godhead, or His "BEING on an equality with God"; but between His being "in the FORM (that is, the outward glorious self-manifestation) of God," and His "taking on Him the form of a servant," whereby He in a great measure emptied Himself of His precedent "form," or outward self-manifesting glory as God. Not "looking on His own things" (Php 2:4), He, though existing in the form of God, He esteemed it no robbery to be on an equality with God, yet made Himself of no reputation. "Being on an equality with God, is not identical with subsisting in the form of God"; the latter expresses the external characteristics, majesty, and beauty of the Deity, which "He emptied Himself of," to assume "the form of a servant"; the former, "His being," or NATURE, His already existing STATE OF EQUALITY with God, both the Father and the Son having the same ESSENCE. A glimpse of Him "in the form of God," previous to His incarnation, was given to Moses (Ex 24:10, 11), Aaron, &c.
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