CHRISTOLOGY: THE DOCTRINE OF MESSIAH

by Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum


This is the eighth Shofar study of Dr. Fruchtenbaum's Christology series.
Previous studies may be accessed by links in our
Library and Sound Doctrine pages.


*

  • Before Abraham was born, I am ~ John 8:58

  • I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me ~ John 14:6

  • He that hath seen me hath seen the Father ~ John 14:9

Few doctrines can be considered more fundamental than the nature, character and works of Messiah; and few teachers are able to convey such truths with the thoroughness, detail, accuracy, clarity, organization and fluidity that so characterizes Dr. Fruchtenbaum. So fasten your seatbelts, and let's continue.

*

Study 8: Ariel Ministries' Messianic Bible Study # 063:

THE DEITY OF THE MESSIAH

By Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum

1985, 2005 Ariel Ministries. All rights reserved. This manuscript is for your
personal use only. No part of this manuscript may be reproduced in any form, except
in brief quotation in a review or professional work, without written permission from the publishers.
Email: Homeoffice @ ariel . org. Just remove the spaces.
Website: www.ariel.org.

This manuscript is republished by special permission of Ariel Ministries.

*

TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION
I. THE DIVINE NAMES OF THE MESSIAH
A. God
B. Son of God
C. Lord
D. Alpha and the Omega
E. The First and the Last
F. The Image
G. The Very Image
II. THE DIVINE ATTRIBUTES OF THE MESSIAH
A. Eternality
B. Immutability
C. Self Existence
D. Life
E. The Fullness of the Godhead
F. Holiness
G. Sovereignty
H. Omnipotence
I. Omniscience
J. Omnipresence
III. THE DIVINE WORKS OF THE MESSIAH
A. In Creation
B. In Preservation
C. In the Forgiveness of Sin
D. In the Sending of the Holy Spirit
E. In Resurrection
F. In Final Judgment
IV. WORSHIP ASCRIBED TO THE MESSIAH
V. THE GIVING OF IMMORTALITY
VI. THE DIVINE ASSOCIATION WITH THE TRINITY
A. His Association with the Father
B. His Association with the Holy Spirit
VII. THE DIVINE CLAIMS OF THE MESSIAH
A. To Have the Closest Possible Relationship with God
1. To Know the Messiah is to Know God
2. To See the Messiah is to See God
3. To Receive the Messiah is to Receive God
4. To Honor the Messiah is to Honor God
5. To Have a Unique Oneness with God
B. To be the Object of Saving Faith
C. To Have Absolute Dominion over His Followers
D. To Have Sovereignty Over the Laws and Institutions of God
VIII. THE MEANING OF KENOSIS

*

All things were made through him; and without him
was not anything made that hath been made.


~ John 1:3 ~


INTRODUCTION

In this manuscript, the deity of the Messiah and the evidences for it is divided into seven specific areas and the last section deals with the meaning of kenosis.

I. THE DIVINE NAMES OF THE MESSIAH

The first evidence is the divine names of the Messiah. Yeshua (Jesus) was given certain names that either implied deity or actually meant deity. There are seven such divine names used of Jesus in the pages of the New Testament.

A. God
The first of these divine names is God. Yeshua is called God in John 1:1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
In verse 14, John makes it very clear that the One he is speaking about in terms of the Word is Jesus. Verse 1 states: "the Word was with God and, therefore, distinct from God." Then John said, "the Word was God." This means that He is the same God. How this is possible comes only with the understanding of the Trinity. He was with God in that Yeshua is not the Father, nor is He the Holy Spirit. But He was God in that He is the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity.

A second example of this divine name is found in John 20:28: Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
Thomas, who was the doubting disciple, saw the resurrected Jesus and addressed Him as My Lord and my God. Yeshua did not try to correct him by saying, "No, Thomas, I am your Lord, but I am not your God."

A third example is found in Hebrews 1:8: but of the Son he said, Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever; And the sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of your kingdom.
In this verse, Jesus is called God. The writer of the Book of Hebrews states that the verse he quoted from the Old Testament, Psalm 45:6, refers specifically to the Son. The Hebrew text uses the name Elohim, meaning "God," and the New Testament clearly applies it to Yeshua.

B. Son of God
A second divine name is Son of God. Whereas in English usage, the term by itself does not imply deity, it did to the ancient Jewish mind. The name Son of God was very much a Messianic title, and as a Messianic title, it emphasized His deity.

Jesus is called the Son of God in many places. One example is in the context of Peter's confession in Matthew 16:16. In that chapter, Yeshua asked His disciples: Whom do men say that I am? Peter responded for the disciples and said: You are the Christ, the Son of God. The Greek is much more emphatic, it reads, "You are the Son of the God, the living one." This is a divine name used of Jesus.

C. Lord
A third name for Yeshua that emphasizes His deity is Lord. In Greek, the term "lord" is used of both men and God. Jesus is referred to as Lord in the New Testament in the sense of God. The reason this is true is because, in those passages where the term "Lord" is used of Yeshua, it is often a translation of Old Testament passages where God's personal name, Jehovah, is used.

Two examples where Jesus is called Lord in the sense of deity, in the sense of the Jehovah of the Old Testament, are Matthew 22:43-45 and Acts 9:17.

D. Alpha and the Omega
The fourth name that emphasizes the Messiah's deity is Alpha and the Omega, which are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. In Revelation 1:8, Yeshua is called the Alpha and the Omega, meaning that He is the beginning and the end of all things. This is not unlike the statement made in John 1:1: In the beginning was the Word,...and the Word was God. In other words, for as long as God has existed, the Word, the Messiah, has existed. If the Messiah has existed forever in eternity past, that means He must be God. That is the point of this fourth name, Alpha and the Omega; He is the beginning and He is the end. As long as God was in existence; the Son was in existence. God existed in eternity past; the Son existed in eternity past. For someone to have eternally existed means that He is God.

E. The First and the Last
This fifth name that emphasizes Jesus' deity is found in Revelation 1:17: the first and the last. This is similar to Alpha and the Omega. Whereas Alpha and the Omega emphasized the beginning and the end, in this name He is the first and the last. He always was in existence and always will be in existence. This, too, clearly implies deity.

F. The Image
The sixth name emphasizing the deity of the Messiah is found in Colossians 1:15: who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
The word image means "prototype," "the image in its revealed reality." It is the visible manifestation of the invisible, specifically, the invisible God. He is the exact image of the invisible God. He is the image in its revealed reality. He is the visible manifestation of the invisible God. It is an image that specifically emphasizes His divinity.

G. The Very Image
The seventh and final divine name of the Messiah is found in Hebrews 1:3: who being the effulgence of his glory, and the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had made purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.
This name is very similar to the sixth name, but there is a crucial difference. Whereas in Colossians 1:15, He was called the image of the invisible God, in this verse, a different Greek word is used, which means "an exact image." This is an image in the sense of an impression made upon clay. It is as if someone took an object and pressed it into clay and then took it off. The clay has an exact imprint of what has been pressed into it. When Yeshua is called the very image, it means He is the exact impression of the divine nature. Since the Father is fully God, the Son is also fully God. Everything that is true of the divinity of the Father is also true of the divinity of the Son.

II. THE DIVINE ATTRIBUTES OF THE MESSIAH

The second evidence of the deity of the Messiah is that He has all the attributes of God. There are ten attributes, which only God has. Yeshua also has these same attributes, which means that He is also God.

A. Eternality
The first attribute is that of eternality. Eternality does not merely mean that He will exist eternally in the future something that is also true of angels and saints eternality also means that He eternally existed in the past.
Concerning the Messiah, Micah 5:2b states: whose goings forth are from old, from everlasting.
In this verse, Micah uses the strongest possible Hebrew term for eternity past to emphasize the eternality of the Messiah.

John 1:1 states: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The point of John 1:1 is that, for as long as God has been in existence, the Messiah has been in existence. Because God has existed forever, even so, the Son has existed forever.

Other passages that teach the eternality of the Son include: John 8:58; Colossians 1:17; and Hebrews 1:11.

B. Immutability
The second attribute that emphasizes the deity of Yeshua is immutability; He never gets old. The fact that He is immutable means that He is changeless. He stays the same in His divine nature without any decrease in His divine power. The immutability of the Messiah is taught in two passages of the Book of Hebrews.
The first passage is Hebrews 1:10-12: And, You, Lord, in the beginning did lay the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the works of your hands: They shall perish; but you continue: And they all shall wax old as does a garment; And as a mantle shall you roll them up, As a garment, and they shall be changed: But you are the same, And your years shall not fail.

The second passage is Hebrews 13:8: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and to day, yea and for ever.
Contextually, this refers to His divine nature. Jesus has the attribute of immutability.

C. Self Existence
A third attribute that emphasizes His deity is self existence; His existence does not depend upon any other subject. Our existence is dependent upon the work of preservation which God does. But the Son is self existent according to John 1:1-3: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that has been made.
These verses emphasize His self existence in that He was not created; He always existed. Through Him everything that was created is now in existence.

A second passage that emphasizes His self existence is John 5:26: For as the Father has life in himself, even so gave he to the Son also to have life in himself.
The fact that the Son has life in himself shows that the Son is self existent.

D. Life
A fourth attribute that emphasizes His deity is the attribute of life. John 1:4 states: In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
This was not a life that was created. It was not a life that was generated through natural means; He has life within Himself. This emphasizes deity. The same point is taught in John 14:6 and Acts 3:15.

E. The Fullness of the Godhead
The fifth divine attribute of the Messiah is found in Colossians 2:9: for in him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
This attribute emphasizes that everything that is obligatory to deity, everything that proves the deity of the Father and the deity of the Spirit, is also true of the Son; therefore, He, too, is deity. Everything that is true of the divine nature of the Father and the Spirit is therefore also true of the divine nature of the Son.

F. Holiness
The sixth attribute that emphasizes the deity of the Messiah is the attribute of holiness. This is found in Hebrews 7:26: For such a high priest became us, holy, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.
This verse clearly teaches that Yeshua has holiness within Himself. The holiness that the saints have is an applied holiness; it is a holiness that comes from Jesus the Messiah. It is a holiness that is reckoned when we are "reckoned righteous." Yeshua does not have a righteousness that was applied to Him or that was reckoned to Him; His holiness is a holiness that is true within Himself. Therefore, He has this attribute of holiness.

G. Sovereignty
The seventh attribute of the Messiah is sovereignty; He is in total control. For example, in Matthew 5:27-28, He has the authority to execute judgment. The fact that Yeshua has the authority to do the work of divine judgment proves that He is sovereign.

This is also taught by Matthew 28:18: And Jesus came to them and spoke unto them, saying, All authority has been given unto me in heaven and on earth.
Jesus stated that His authority is not only on earth, but in Heaven also.

This is also taught by John 17:2: even as you gave him authority over all flesh, that to all whom you have given him, he should give eternal life.
A created being, such as an angel or a man, could never give eternal life to someone else.

The sovereignty of the Son is also taught in Acts 2:36; I Corinthians 12:3; Philippians 2:9-10; Colossians 1:18; I Peter 3:22; and Revelation 19:16.

H. Omnipotence
The eighth attribute of the Messiah is omnipotence; Yeshua is all powerful. To be all powerful means that He must be God. The fact that He is omnipotent is taught in John 10:18: No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment received I from my Father.
The fact that He has the power over His own life, both to take it and to raise it, shows omnipotence of a unique degree. All men have authority to take their own life, but not to raise themselves back to life.

The omnipotence of the Son is also taught in Luke 8:25; I Corinthians 15:25-28; Philippians 3:21; Colossians 1:16-17; II Timothy 1:12; Hebrews 1:3; 7:25; Jude 24; and Revelation 1:8.

I. Omniscience
The ninth attribute of the Messiah is omniscience; He is all knowing. He knows all there is to know; He knows everything in reality and possibility.

The fact that Jesus is omniscient is taught by: Matthew 11:27; John 1:48; 2:25; 10:15; 13:1, 11; 16:30; 18:4; 19:28; I Corinthians 4:5; Colossians 2:3; and Revelation 2:23.

J. Omnipresence
The tenth attribute of the Messiah is His omnipresence; He is everywhere at the same time. To be everywhere at the same time could only be true of God.

The fact that Yeshua is omnipresent is taught in: Matthew 18:20; 28:20; John 3:13; 14:18, 20, and 23.

III. THE DIVINE WORKS OF THE MESSIAH

The third evidence of Jesus' deity is that He does the work of God. In other words, Yeshua is doing works that only God can do. If Jesus is doing the works that only God can do, this again is evidence of His deity. There are six works of God to be considered.

A. In Creation
The first divine work is Creation. Creation is a work that only God can do. Yet it is stated that Yeshua did the work of Creation in John 1:3 and 10:
Verse 3 states: All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that has been made.

Verse 10 states: He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world knew him not.

Paul reaffirmed what John had taught in I Corinthians 8:6: yet to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through him.

Paul repeats this truth in Colossians 1:16: for in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and unto him.

The same truth is taught by the writer of the Book of Hebrews in 1:3 and 10. From these passages, it is clear that the Son does the work of Creation. To do the work of Creation means that He is God.

B. In Preservation
The second work the Son does that is a work of God is preservation. This is taught in two New Testament passages.
The first passage is Colossians 1:17: and he is before all things, and in him all things consist.
This verse teaches that the Messiah is the One who is holding the universe together and preserving it. He is the "atomic glue" that scientists talk about that mysteriously holds the atoms together to keep them from exploding in all directions.

And the second passage is Hebrews 1:3: who being the effulgence of his glory, and the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had made purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.
Not only is the Creation of the universe a work of God, but the preservation of Creation is a work of God. Jesus does the work of preservation, which means that He must be God.

C. In the Forgiveness of Sin
A third work the Messiah does that is a work only God can do is that He forgives sins. Having authority to forgive sins emphasizes His deity. He is seen forgiving sins in Matthew 9:2, 6; Luke 5:24; and 7:47-48.

D. In the Sending of the Holy Spirit
The fourth work the Messiah does that is a work of God is that He sends the Holy Spirit according to John 15:26: But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, he shall bear witness of me.
For someone to be able to send the Holy Spirit, He must either be an equal or greater. The Holy Spirit is God, and for Jesus to be able to send the Holy Spirit means that Yeshua must also be God.

E. In Resurrection
The fifth work that is the work of God is that the Messiah will be responsible for raising people from the dead. He will be responsible for raising both the righteous and the unrighteous from the dead according to John 6:40: For this is the will of my Father, that every one that beholds the Son, and believes on him, should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
Since the resurrection of the dead is a work of God, it means that Yeshua Himself must be God.

F. In Final Judgment
The sixth work that is the work of God is that the Messiah will execute the final judgment. Throughout the Old Testament, it is clearly taught that some day God will render final judgment. The work that was ascribed to God the Father in the Old Testament is ascribed to the Son in the New Testament. Obviously, if the Old Testament says that God is responsible for final judgment, and the New Testament says that Jesus is responsible for final judgment, then Yeshua must be God. Some passages that teach that Jesus will be responsible for final judgment are: Matthew 25:31-46, which deals with the judgment of the Gentiles, and it is the Son who is doing the judging; in John 5:22-27, the Son has been given the right to judge the righteous and the unrighteous; in Acts 17:31, Paul announced that some day God would judge all men through the Son. This is also taught by Acts 10:42; II Corinthians 5:10; and II Timothy 4:1.

IV. WORSHIP ASCRIBED TO THE MESSIAH
The fourth evidence concerning Yeshua's deity is that worship is ascribed to Him. Jesus is worshipped in a way only God can be worshipped. Furthermore, when He was worshipped, He received it and welcomed it, showing that He claimed to be God and accepted worship as God.

Some examples of this in action are Matthew 14:33; John 9:38; and 20:28. In John 20:28, Thomas, the doubting disciple, is finally convinced concerning the Resurrection. He not only believed that Yeshua was a man resurrected from the dead, he believed Jesus was "his Lord and his God." In that context, Yeshua did not correct Thomas by saying that he should not call Him God or worship Him. On the contrary, Jesus accepted Thomas' worship.

Yeshua is worshipped as God in Philippians 2:10 and Hebrews 1:6, which reads: And when he again brings in the firstborn into the world he says, And let all the angels of God worship him.
Not only is Jesus worshipped by other men such as Thomas, He is also worshipped by the angels. To be worshipped by the angels clearly implies deity.

V. THE GIVING OF IMMORTALITY

The fifth evidence of the deity of the Messiah is that He gives immortality or eternal life. The fact that the Son is able to give eternal life clearly shows His deity; He has the divine capacity to give immortality. This is taught by four passages.
The first passage is John 5:28-29: Marvel not at this: for the hour comes, in which all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.

The second passage is John 6:39-40: And this is the will of him that sent me, that of all that which he has given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that every one that beholds the Son, and believes on him, should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

The third passage is John 17:2: even as you gave him authority over all flesh, that to all whom you have given him, he should give eternal life.

And the fourth passage is Philippians 3:21: who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, according to the working whereby he is able even to subject all things unto himself.

VI. THE DIVINE ASSOCIATION WITH THE TRINITY

The sixth evidence for the deity of the Messiah is that He is closely associated with the Trinity in two ways.

A. His Association with the Father
The first way is that He is associated with God the Father in the closest possible way. This is taught by two passages.
The first passage is John 10:30: I and the Father are one.
This verse teaches that the Father and the Son are one in essence, the essence of divinity itself.

And the second passage is John 14:23: Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my word: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
Notice that the Father will indwell the believer and, at the same time, the Son will indwell the believer. He is associated with the Father in the closest possible association. Such an association is only possible by sharing the same divine essence.

B. His Association with the Holy Spirit
The second way that shows His divine association with the Trinity is that Jesus is also closely associated with both the Father and the Holy Spirit. This is taught in Matthew 28:19, where the Great Commission is given. Yeshua also went on to say that after one leads a person to the Lord, one should baptize him in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. In this passage, Jesus is clearly associated with both the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Another example that shows the association with the Father and the Holy Spirit is in II Corinthians 13:14: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.

VII. THE DIVINE CLAIMS OF THE MESSIAH

The seventh evidence of Yeshua's deity is His own claims of divinity. In light of these claims, there are only three options from which to choose.

The first option is that Jesus was a false teacher; He was deceptive. He knew what He was teaching was not true, but He claimed it anyway.

The second option is that Yeshua was self deceived. While He really believed the statements He made, He deceived Himself, and the statements were not true.

The third option is the only real biblical option; the claims He made were really true of Himself. What are some of these claims? He made four very specific claims of divinity.

A. To Have the Closest Possible Relationship with God
The first claim was that He enjoyed the closest possible relationship to God. This in itself can be seen in five ways.

1. To Know the Messiah is to Know God
Jesus said that to know the Messiah was to know God. This statement was made to unbelievers according to John 8:19: They said therefore unto him, Where is your Father? Jesus answered, Ye know neither me, nor my Father: if ye knew me, ye would know my Father also.

He made a very similar statement to believers in John 14:7: If ye had known me, ye would have known my Father also: from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.

2. To See the Messiah is to See God
A second way that He claimed this close relationship was that to see the Messiah was also to see God. This claim was made in John 12:45: And he that beholds me beholds him that sent me.
The Messiah was sent by God. He said that the anyone who saw Him also saw the One who sent Him, and that was God.

The claim was also made in John 14:9: Jesus said unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and do you not know me, Philip? he that has seen me has seen the Father; how say you, Show us the Father?

3. To Receive the Messiah is to Receive God

A third way by which He claimed to enjoy the closest possible relationship with God was His teaching that to receive the Messiah was to receive God. This claim is found in Mark 9:37: Whosoever shall receive one of such little children in my name, receives me: and whosoever receives me, receives not me, but him that sent me.
The One who sent the Messiah was God. To receive the Messiah is to receive God.

4. To Honor the Messiah is to Honor God
The fourth way Jesus claimed to have the closest possible relationship to God is His teaching that to honor the Messiah is to honor God. This claim is made in John 5:23: that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honors not the Son honors not the Father that sent him.
Not to honor the Son meant not to honor the Father, but to honor the Son meant to honor the Father.

5. To Have a Unique Oneness with God
The fifth way by which He claimed to have the closest possible relationship to God is His clear claim to have a unique oneness with the Father. Yeshua made this claim in John 10:30: I and the Father are one.

B. To be the Object of Saving Faith
A second claim of divinity made by the Messiah is that He claimed to be the object of saving faith. He made this claim in Matthew 11:28: Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

He made this claim again in John 3:36: He that believes on the Son has eternal life; but he that obeys not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.

He taught this again in John 14:1: Let not your heart be troubled: believe in God, believe also in me.

Also John 17:3: And this is life eternal, that they should know you the only true God, and him whom you did send, even Jesus Christ.

C. To Have Absolute Dominion over His Followers
His third claim of deity is that He had absolute dominion over His followers. This is brought out in Matthew 10:37-39, where He claimed absolute dominion over those who owned Him as Lord.

D. To Have Sovereignty Over the Laws and Institutions of God
His fourth claim of deity is that He had sovereignty over the laws and institutes of God.

Some examples of this are: first, that He claimed lordship over the Temple in Matthew 12:6; secondly, He claimed lordship over the Sabbath in Matthew 12:8; thirdly, He claimed lordship over the Kingdom of God in Matthew 16:19; fourthly, He claimed to be the Lord of the covenant in Matthew 26:28; and fifth, He claimed absolute sovereignty over the laws and institutions of God.

VIII. THE MEANING OF KENOSIS

In dealing with the deity of the Messiah, Philippians 2:5-11 should be discussed. This passage deals with something theologians call "kenosis." This term is used because the Greek word that is found in one of these verses is a word from which kenosis originates. It is a word that means "to empty oneself," "to empty," or "to evacuate." Some kind of "emptying" took place at the time that the Son became incarnate. Some have taught that what Yeshua emptied Himself of, what He gave up when He became a man, was being God. If it were possible for someone to give up being God, then that person was not God to begin with. Does this passage teach that Jesus gave up His deity while He was on earth, so that He wasn't God? Or is it trying to teach something else? These questions can be answered by a study of the text.

In this passage, verse 5 is a transitional statement between what was being said in verses 1-4 and what is about to be said in verses 6-11. Verse 5 reads: Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.
This is in the present tense, and Paul is saying, "Keep on minding" and "Keep on having the mind of the Messiah." The Messiah is to be imitated in the sense that there should be a habitual, daily direction of the mind to the distinctive virtue of the likeness of the Messiah.

The first part of verse 6 emphasizes His pre-existence when it says: who, existing in the form of God.
The way He has always existed in eternity past is in the form of God. This has been a continuous, eternal existence. Yeshua has had a previous existence in the form of God before He became a man. To exist in the form of God means to be God Himself.

Indeed, in the second part of verse 6, His deity is clearly taught: counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped.
While the first part of verse 6 teaches the pre existence of Jesus, the second part of the verse teaches His equality with God. He was existing in a form that naturally means being an equal with God. To be an equal with God means to be God. The mind of the Messiah was exercised in such a way that He did not consider His exalted God-equal existence a warrant for seizing and grasping the glory for Himself; the glory that comes with the fact of being God. In other words, He did not count equality with God as something to be used selfishly for His own enrichment. He was willing to exist in another form other than the form of God.

What that form was is brought out in verse 7, where the Incarnation of the Messiah is taught: but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men.
There are two things to notice in this verse. First, what this verse does not say concerning the act of self emptying. The Messiah did not empty Himself of the form of God, nor did He exchange the form of God for the likeness of men. The concept is not "to give up," rather, it is "to add to." The statement of the Greek text emptied himself is in itself an incomplete thought. What follows next in the sentence is describing the nature of His Humiliation in that He took upon Himself the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men. The form of a servant was not an exchange of the form of God, not an exchange of being equal with God, but in addition to. The picture is that He added to His divine form; He took upon Himself the addition of humanity.

Secondly, what did He empty Himself of, then, if He did not empty Himself of the form of God or equality with God? The answer is that He emptied Himself of the right to have the independent use of those ten divine attributes that were discussed earlier in this manuscript. As God, He had the perfect right to independently use those attributes, but He would no longer use them except in accordance with the will of God the Father.

That is why the writer says that He not only took upon Himself the likeness of men, but specifically He took upon Himself the form of a servant, the servant role. Of course, a servant means someone who has a lord whom he obeys. That is the picture of what He emptied Himself of; He emptied Himself of the independent right to use His divine attributes. He now became an earthly servant of God the Father. He would use His attributes only in accordance with the will of God the Father. He would not use His omnipotence unless God the Father willed it. He would not use His omniscience unless God the Father willed it. Consequently, there were things Jesus did not know in His humanity. For example, He did not know when He was coming back. The reason He did not know this is because He did not use the attribute of omniscience; it was not God the Father's will for Him to do so. When Yeshua became a man, He did not become less than God. Rather, by becoming a man, He took on humanity in addition to His divinity.

Verse 8 describes His Crucifixion: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross.
The condition of Jesus beheld by man is: in fashion as a man. When humankind saw Yeshua, they did not see Him in a divine essence; they saw Him as a human being. He was recognized by all to be a man. This was part of His Humiliation, part of His obedience to God the Father. He emptied Himself of His omnipotence in that He did not use His omnipotence to keep people from putting Him to death. Because the Son was willing to give up existing only in the form of God not in exchange of existing in the form of God, but in addition to that form He took on the form of a man.

Because He was willing to empty Himself in that way, there is a promise of His Exaltation in verses 9-11: Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
As a result, He was exalted when He ascended into Heaven. In verse 9, He was raised from the dead to unusual dignity and power. In verse 10, there is the recognition of His universal sovereignty. And in verse 11, there will eventually be universal homage to the Messiah as Lord. What does the kenosis mean? First, it does not mean that He divested Himself of the form of deity. Secondly, it does mean that He laid aside the independent exercise of His divine attributes by which the form of God expresses itself. Instead, He took on and assumed human form, flesh, and nature by means of the Incarnation and the Virgin Birth. The self emptying brought about a change of status from the position of God to the position of a servant. In the exchange, He did not divest Himself of or give up His deity. In His human form, He retained all the attributes of His deity, but He never manifested His deity apart from the will of the Father. Thus, even in His earthly sojourn as a man, He was still God.

All scriptures are in the American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

*

RECOMMENDED READING

If you enjoyed this Bible study, Dr. Fruchtenbaum recommends the following messianic Bible studies (mbs):

mbs 047: The Names of God
mbs 050: The Trinity
mbs 051: God the Father
mbs 186: The Seven Days of Creation: Genesis 1:1-2:3

*

Many of Dr. Fruchtenbaum's studies are available for free online reading and
listening at Ariel Ministries' Come and See. All of his materials are
available for purchase at Ariel Ministries in various formats.
Other select materials and resources are
available at Ariel, as well.

Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Th.M, Ph.D,
is founder and director of Ariel Ministries.

*

Return to Home Page