The Way 2 Life
  The essence of the divinely revealed incarnation of Jesus and as eternal God.

The essence of the divinely revealed incarnation
of Jesus and as eternal God:

The eternal deity of the Son implied by His

eternal existence is also expressed in the prologue

of John’s gospel, where he writes, “In the

beginning was the Word, and the Word was with

God, and the Word was God. He was in the

beginning with God” (John 1:1,2). Despite

misguided interpretive attempts to supply an

indirect article in order to imply that “the Word

was a god,” the only valid exegesis of the text

recognizes that “the Word was God.” The Word,

the expressive agency of God, became flesh (John

1:14) in the Person of Jesus.

In the Christological explanation that Paul

wrote to the Philippians, he explained that

“although He existed in the form of God, He did

not regard equality with God a thing to be

grasped” (Phil. 2:6). The Son pre-existed as God.

That Paul refers to His “existing in the form

(morphe) of God” does not imply a phantasmal

illusion, an exact replica, or a secondary

configuration, as some have suggested, but

indicates that the Son existed as the very essence

of God’s Being, functioning in the enactment and

expression of that Being by independent

prerogative. As the very Being of God, He acted

as God.

Recognizing His eternal equality with God,

ontologically in His Being and operationally in

His functional action, and recognizing that such

eternal equality was immutable so that He was

incapable of being less than God, the Son did not

regard such equality a thing to be “grasped, held

on to, or possessively maintained.” The Son of

God did not have to demand an “equal rights

amendment” to assert, protect, or preserve His

equality and oneness of Being and function as

God. Rather, He was voluntarily willing to take

the form of a man, knowing that while

functioning as a man He would never be less than


If Jesus came into existence only at His

physical birth in Bethlehem, then He was not a

part of the eternal triune Godhead, and could not

have been the God-man with the necessary

divinity to forgive sin (Mark 2:7; Luke 5:21) as the

“God and Savior” (Titus 2:13) of mankind.

But because He was eternally pre-existent as

the Son of God, the “Lord of glory” (I Cor. 2:8), in

becoming fully human and functioning

derivatively as a man, He could still say, “I and

the Father are one” (John 10:30) —

that, not merely a oneness of purpose or intent,

but a oneness of divine essence, “true God and

eternal life” (I John 5:20).

In accord with the divine purposes expressive

of the divine character of justice and grace, God

the Father, in mutual determination with the Son

and the Spirit, determined to send the Son on the

redemptive mission to restore mankind to God’s

functional intent.

“God so loved the world that He gave His

only begotten Son” (John 3:16). “He did not spare

His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all”

(Rom. 8:32), both in incarnation and atonement.


Jesus Christ was “sent by God” (John 17:3) to do

the will of God (John 6:38), to speak the words of

God (John 3:34), and to do the works of God (John

14:10), in order that “the world might be saved”

(John 3:17) and “the world might live through

Him” (I John 4:9).

Jesus was continually conscious that He was

sent by God the Father. “I proceeded forth and

have come from God, . . . He sent Me” (John 8:42),

Jesus told the Jewish authorities. He explained to

His disciples that He had “come forth from God,

 and was going back to God” (John 13:3); “having

came forth from the Father, and come into the

world; I am leaving the world again, and going to

the Father” (John 16:28). Jesus was forever

conscious of His divine mission to man, as well as

the necessity of man’s “believing Him Whom

God sent” (John 5:38; 6:29). In His intimate prayer

wherein He foresaw the accomplishment of the

divine work (John 17:4) in His own death, Jesus

said, “I came forth from Thee, and they believed

that Thou didst send Me” (John 17:8).


These verses, which indicate that God the

Father sent God the Son on the redemptive and

restorative mission to mankind, would seem to

evidence that there is some kind of authoritative

hierarchy within the Godhead. Such does not

impinge upon the essential equality of Being

between the three persons of the Godhead, but

does reveal a differentiation of functional

operation. Paul can thus state that “God is the

head of Christ” (I Cor. 11:3), and that “the Son

Himself will be subjected to the One Who

subjected all things to Him” (I Cor. 15:28).


Jesus Himself said, “The Father is greater than I”

14:28), but since that statement was uttered

during His functional condescension as God-man

on earth, it may not pertain to the functional

placement of the members of the Godhead.

Suffice it to say that God the Father was in

such a position to send God the Son to become a



All of the preparatory preliminaries had been

accomplished in the Abrahamic promises and the

Mosaic Law of the old covenant.

The focal point of human history — when

God sent His Son to become a man — is indeed

divine intervention into the space/time context of



God’s sending of the Son to become a man

was with the complete consensus of the Son to

enact the divine mission. Being of one mind with

God the Father, the Son was not a hesitant or

reticent participant in the decisive endeavor to act

on man’s behalf. He was not forced by

compulsion to assume the role and

personification of the Messiah. Rather, He

willingly and voluntarily condescended to waive

the privileges of His divine function and subordinate

Himself to God the Father in what is often referred to

as His “humiliation.” Paul explained that in an attitude

 of humility Jesus “emptied Himself, taking the

form of a bond-servant, being made in the likeness

 of men”(Phil. 2:5-7). The word that Paul employs for

Jesus’ self-emptying (kenosis) means “to

counteract the function of” or “to lay aside the

use of” something.


The question must then be asked: “What did

Jesus empty Himself of?”


Did Jesus divest Himself of His deity in order to

become a man?

No, for He could still say, “I and the Father

are one” (John 10:30) in essence, as God.

Did Jesus lay aside His divine glory?

No. The glory of God is in the expression of

His character, and when the Word became

flesh, John reports that “we beheld His glory,

glory as of the only begotten of the Father”

(John 1:14).


Did Jesus cast off some of the incommunicable

attributes of His deity which were incompatible

with humanity, such as the omni-attributes of

omnipotence, omniscience or omnipresence?

Some theologians have proposed such

kenotic theories of deprivation and

depotentiation, but such theories inevitably

leave Jesus as less than God.

Jesus did not divest Himself of His complete

and essential Being as God. His act of self-emptying

kenosis was at the same time an

expression of complete and full plerosis, for “the

fullness of deity was dwelling in Him in bodily

human form” (Col. 1:19; 2:9).

When considering the Christological

formation of the Person of Jesus Christ, it is

important to recognize the ontological factor of

His Being as well as the operational factor of His

function. Jesus could be God and be man at the

same time, but it would not be possible for Jesus

to behave or function as God and man at the same

time. God is autonomous, independent and

 self-generating in His functional action. Man,

 on the  other hand, is dependent, derivative

 and contingent in the receptivity of his function.


The divine Son did not divest Himself of His

Being as God in any way, but did defer the

independent exercise of His divine function in

order to function dependently and derivatively as

a man. His divine prerogative of direct and

independent enactment of divine function was

suspended in order to voluntarily subordinate

Himself in human contingency and receptivity.

This deferment does not dysfunctionalize deity,

but allows deity to function in an indirect

manner, as receptive man allows for the faithful

expression of God’s character of self-giving.

Such subordinated dependent function is

illustrated in Paul’s subsequent phrase indicating

that Jesus “took the form of a bond-servant” (Phil

2:7). Indentured servants were perceived as

functional tools to perform the master’s desires.

Jesus voluntarily assumed the dependency and

humility of servanthood in order to serve the

needs of mankind. Isaiah had prophesied that the

Messiah would be a servant (Isa. 52:13) Who

would suffer (Isa. 53:3-12) on behalf of His


Willingly consenting to become the God-man,

Jesus recognized that His function as a man was

by the indirect receptivity of the works of God.

“I do nothing of Myself, unless by the direct

initiative and instigation of divine function,”

Jesus said repeatedly (John 5:19,30; 12:49; 14:10),

but “the Father abiding in Me does His works”

(John 14:10).

Even the supernatural and miraculous

manifestations evidenced during Jesus’ ministry

on earth were by the indirect functional

receptivity of God’s action. Peter declared in his

first sermon on Pentecost that Jesus was a man

“attested to you by God with miracles and

wonders and signs which God performed

through Him” (Acts 2:22).


The self-emptying of the Son in becoming a

man did not divest or deprive Him of His eternal

deity which cannot be altered. The self-emptying

of the Son must be understood as the deferment

of His direct divine function in order to allow for

indirect divine function in “the man, Christ Jesus”

(I Tim. 2:5), Who was faithfully receptive to such

divine function in His behavior for every moment

in time for thirty-three years.

The One Who “existed in the form of God”

was “made in the likeness of men, and found in

appearance as a man” (Phil. 2:7,8). He “partook of

flesh and blood” (Heb. 2:14), and “dwelt (literally,

“tabernacled” by setting up His physical tent)

among men” (John 1:14).

Paul’s statement that “God sent His Son in

the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3) must be

carefully explained to avoid attributing any

intrinsic or behavioral sinfulness to the Person

and work of the sinless Savior. All “flesh,” in the

sense of humanity, is comprised in a sinful

condition in spiritual solidarity with the choice

that Adam made as the representative man (cf.

Rom. 5:12-19). In such a collective condition all

humanity can be described as “sinful flesh.” The

Son of God partook fully and completely of

humanity with its tri-fold physical, psychological

and spiritual capacities, but the “likeness of sinful

flesh” is explained in that He was “unlike” fallen

humanity because He did not partake of spiritual

depravity and thus did not develop “flesh”

patterns from prior selfish and sinful behavior.

Though Jesus was fully human, humanness by

definition is not necessarily inclusive of

sinfulness, though it has been identified by its

expression of such since the Fall.


How could this be accomplished, since

attributes of divinity and humanity seem to be

incompatible? It is admittedly inexplicable, for

such a union of God and man creates paradoxical

antinomies which are beyond human

comprehension. But Christian theologians have

spent centuries attempting to explain to the best

of their finite understanding how God could be

conjoined with man, deity with humanity, eternal

with temporal, infinite with finite, spirit with

physicality, for such is the essence of the divinely

revealed incarnation of Jesus.
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