It should not be necessary to discuss the fact that the Son of God has always existed (Micah 5:2, John 1:1-2). The pre-existent or pre-incarnate Christ is an accepted and well-established truth in the mind of anyone serious about his or her pursuit of God. Nor should it be necessary to discuss the humanity of Christ or the fact that He was born into this world (Matthew 1:18-25) and grew from a child (Luke 2:40, 52) into a young man (Luke 3:23).
Certainly, the dichotomy of the God-man raises some interesting points. The Son of God relinquished the equality He had with the Father and the Holy Spirit in eternity past when He became a man. The language Paul uses in Philippians 2:5-11 is both descriptive and important. In verse 6 he makes reference to the pre-incarnate Son of God when he says, "Who, being one with God in reality, did not think this equality with God was something that did not rightfully belong to Him." The word "being" above is the present participle huperchon and is used to tell us that before the Son of God became a man, He was what He had always continued to be – God. The words "in reality" above ("form" in the KJV and other translations) is morphe, used to denote the special characteristic or feature of a thing or person, the reality of something. The Son of God was, in reality, God, and always had been!
Then, in verse 7 we find, "But emptied Himself (of this equality) in order to take on the reality of a servant, in the likeness of men." Here, "emptied" is kenoo, "to empty". The familiar phrase "made Himself of no reputation" found in the KJV is a good contextual translation of kenoo, however, at least to my way of thinking, "made Himself unrecognizable" would have been better. By emptying Himself of those attributes and characteristics that made Him God and being born a man, the Son of God was not recognized as God, He was Joseph’s son (Luke 4:22, John 6:42), a mere man whose words filled his own neighbors with rage (Luke 4:28-30) to the point they wanted to kill Him. Even His family, at times, thought He was insane (Mark 3:21) and the religious crowd accused Him of being in league with the Devil (Mark 3:22). They could not recognize Him as the Son of God, because He looked like a man.
The word translated "servant" in verse 7 is doulos, a word that describes a relationship of servitude in which the will of the master defines the very existence of the servant. This is a reality illustrated by the words of Jesus over and over during His public ministry. "I can do nothing of Myself, as I hear, I decide: and My decisions are right; because I seek not My own will, but the will of My Father Who sent Me." (John 5:30) "And He that sent Me is always with Me: and the Father has never left Me alone, because I only do what pleases Him." (John 8:29) Jesus was completely submitted and obedient to the Father, all the way to His death on the cross (Philippians 2:8).
He surrendered the immortality He had always possessed as God, so He could die as a man (Luke 23:46, I Peter 3:18); the glory He had with the Father from before the world existed was restored to Him only after He had suffered that death (John 17:4-5); as was the universal authority that was rightfully His and His alone (Ephesians 1:17-23, Philippians 2:8-11). And He surrendered the Divine attributes and abilities He had always possessed in eternity past. It is clear from the record that the man Jesus only knew what He knew and did the things that He did through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. He knew the thoughts and intents of men (Luke 6:8, John 2:24-25) through the Spirit of wisdom and understanding given Him by the Father (Isaiah 11:1-5, Luke 3:21-22). When He cured the blind and dumb man possessed by a demon (Matthew 12:22), the Pharisees accused Him of doing it through the power of Beelzebub, the prince of demons (Matthew 12:24). But Jesus tells them it was only by the power of the Holy Spirit that He was able to cure the man (Matthew 12:28) and warns them of the consequences of not recognizing the difference (Matthew 12:31-32).
Now let me try to explain my purpose for writing this paper. It is extremely important for all of us to understand the humanity of Jesus Christ. As a man, He gave us an example to follow. I’ve quoted this verse several times in other articles. It’s time to quote it again. This is an expanded translation of Mark 8:34. "Then Jesus called to the people and to His disciples and said to them, Whoever intends to go the way I’m going (the way to the Father), let him deny himself (forget his own plans and dreams), take up his cross (be willing to suffer the things required by the Father’s purpose) and follow Me (learning from My example)." Please understand what I’m showing you here. If you want to go where Jesus went, you have to get there the same way He did! There are no religious formulas or man-made shortcuts that will allow you to get there any other way. The Son of God became a man, not simply to tell us the way, but to show us the way.
I know what the religious crowd says. Come to Jesus, all He wants to do is bless you. Come to Jesus, so He can give you everything you want. Come to Jesus and all your problems will be over. Of course, anyone who takes Mark 8:34 seriously knows that when you really come to Jesus and determine to submit to Him; He wants to change you; He doesn’t care about what your flesh wants, He cares about what your spirit needs; and your troubles are just beginning (because it’s only through suffering that He is able to change you and strengthen you in your spirit).
This is where I insert the necessary gentle sarcasm: the mainstream religious opinion usually goes somewhere along the lines of "we don’t have to suffer, because Jesus did it for us". And if you’re reading this and that happens to be your position as well, may I suggest you get your Bible and a black marker and blot out Mark 8:34, Romans 8:17, II Corinthians 1:7, Philippians 3:10, Colossians 1:24, II Timothy 2:12 and I Peter 2:21 just for starters. There will be some others as we progress through the rest of this paper. And if you didn’t stop to look those references up and read them, be careful, you’re looking for shortcuts.
Actually, I don’t intend for this to be a paper on suffering; but it’s necessary to mention suffering, since it is a part of the deal. However, the main point I want to emphasize is following Jesus’ example. As a man He had to learn how to submit to the will and purpose of the Father. It wasn’t automatic. He wasn’t born with the knowledge and understanding He needed to fulfill the Father’s plan for His life. In His humanity He had to love and reverence the Father; He had to submit to Him; He had to learn from Him; and He had to obey Him. And as we’ll see from the passages that follow, it was a progressive, day-to-day experience gained through His relationship with the Father.
Let’s look at some scriptures. This is a familiar Old Testament verse from Isaiah regarding the virgin birth of the Messiah. However, it is what follows, regarding the Messiah that is of interest. "Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Curds and honey shall He eat when He learns to refuse the evil and choose the good." (Isaiah 7:14-15)
Curds and honey were customarily a small child’s first food after being weaned from the mother’s breast. Many translations have "butter" where you see "curds" above. However, in the absence of refrigeration, the common use of milk (which soured very quickly) was curds, similar to what we know today as cottage cheese. The significance of verse 15 is simply that the Messiah would be born, go through the normal progression of growth from a baby to a small child and in that process of growth would learn right from wrong. In His humanity the Son of God, having relinquished His divine attributes, did not automatically know what was evil and what was good, He had to learn the difference.
There is one thing, though, that should be mentioned at this point. Since the Son of God was just that, the Son of God, He had no human father from whom He could inherit a sin nature (see Point Two in the article titled Grace, Faith and the Plan of God). If you read Matthew 1:18-25 cited towards the beginning of this paper, you would remember that what was conceived in Mary was "of the Holy Ghost". God, specifically, the Holy Ghost, was the father. Regardless of what you choose to call it, sin nature, carnal nature, flesh; Jesus didn’t have it. There was nothing in Him that wanted to rebel against God. And because of this, by the time He was twelve years old; He was mature well beyond his years in wisdom and understanding regarding the things of God (Luke 2:41-49).
To build on this, let me show you Isaiah 50:4. "The Lord God has given Me the tongue of one who has been taught, so I could know how to speak to him who is burdened down. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens my ear to hear (so I can learn to obey) as I am taught." The word for "ear" is ozen, and carries with it the idea of not simply hearing, but obeying. The Son of God was taught day by day so He could learn what the Father wanted Him to know and then be obedient to what He had learned. This brings into sharp focus all those places in the Gospel accounts that record Jesus going off by Himself to be alone with the Father and the statements He makes about only saying or doing what the Father had told Him.
This passage in Isaiah continues through verse 11 and I highly recommend you read it. However, I can’t ignore verse 11. "Behold, all you who attempt to kindle your own fire, that surround yourselves with sparks that quickly die out: who try to walk by the light of the fire you have made and by the sparks you have kindled. This is what you will have from my hand: you will lie down in anguish." This, my friends, is a simple warning against trusting in the traditions, rituals and deceptive doctrines of man-made religion, as opposed to having an on-going relationship of submission and obedience with God. A relationship like Jesus had. The example He gave us to follow.
Let me give you one more from the New Testament just to provide a little balance. This is Hebrews 5:7-10. "In the days of His flesh Jesus offered up specific prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears to Him Who was able to save Him from death. And He was heard, because He was reverent. And although He was a Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered. And being made complete (what the Father wanted Him to be) by these experiences, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him. And is now recognized by God as the High Priest after the order of Melchizedek."
The first thing we need to notice is that Jesus found it necessary to talk to the Father (prayers) and make requests (supplications) and that strong crying and tears were involved. Why? Did Jesus ever feel the sting of rejection? Was He ever frustrated? Did He get angry? Was He sometimes fearful? Did He know what it felt like to be unsure? Yes to all of that and more! Yet through it all He learned obedience by what He suffered. And what was the result? He became what the Father wanted Him to be, the Author of our eternal salvation. He became the example for us to follow; the One Who shows us the way. Jesus said it best. "I am the Door; anyone who enters in through Me will be saved." (John 10:9) "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except by Me." (John 14:6).