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Equality with God

25 May
the_bible
Image by Brent Nelson via Flickr

The next clause in Philippians 2:6 shows Jesus “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.” The Biblical Unitarian (hereafter BU) viewpoint is that this clause speaks against the Trinitarian doctrine.

After saying that Christ was in the form of God, Philippians 2:6 goes on to say that Christ “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped” (NIV).  This phrase is a powerful argument against the Trinity.  If Jesus were God, then it would make no sense at all to say that he did not “grasp” at equality with God because no one grasps at equality with himselfIt only makes sense to compliment someone for not seeking equality when he is not equal. Some Trinitarians say, “Well, he was not grasping for equality with the Father.”  That is not what the verse says.  It says Christ did not grasp at equality with God, which makes the verse nonsense if he were God.[1] (emphasis mine).

Of course, the argument presented here assumes the idea Jesus as God in the flesh is ridiculous. Therefore it is preposterous to say God did not grasp at equality with God. However, is this true according to the Scriptural point of view? We shall see as I go on. Concerning the BU argument that “it only makes sense to compliment someone for not seeking equality when he is not equal,” this is not Scriptural. The fact is, Jesus spoke against this argument,

Luke 17:10 NEB  So with you: when you have carried out all your orders, you should say, “We are servants and deserve no credit: we have only done our duty.”

Where is the reason for a compliment in Philippians 2:6, if Jesus was not the Father’s equal? Scripture says, if we do only what is expected (commanded), it is nothing worthy of a compliment. The BU argument is not Scriptural. Moreover, how would this argument fit the context of Jesus loving others? In other words, if Jesus is to be complimented for not seeking equality with God, how does this fit the context of Paul’s original argument for the Philippians to do likewise toward one another in verses 1-4?

Paul’s argument in Philippians 2:6-7 is that Jesus existed in the form of God, but did not count being in that form a prize to be seized or clutched to oneself, never to be given up. Rather, he abased or neutralized himself by taking the form of a bondservant instead of the form of God.

To illustrate the above, one may think of the people of a great King that rebelled against the rule of their Master and continued on a path of destruction. They were in great danger and could not save themselves. They needed their King, but the King did not need those who rebelled. He could easily replace them, but he did love them. The King’s Son did not have to place himself in danger, but he did and became as vulnerable as any one of his subjects. He was still the Prince. His vulnerability did not change his identity. He became as they were to save them, because he loved them. The King’s Son told the people they were forgiven and all they had to do was return to the King with him, but the enemies of the King spoke against the Son, saying he was not the King’s Son at all and convinced the people to kill him as an impostor. Even the Son’s friends were shaken at his death and thought they should return to their old professions and live out their lives quietly, unable to change their direction on their own. What happened next shook up the entire community. The King brought his Son back to life, thus openly declaring to all those in rebellion that this one was indeed his Son. The sacrifice the Son made moved the rebellious people to change their direction. Because of what the Son did, the people knew their King loved them. The Son’s example proved the love of their Master, and they were able to believe and change their direction and returned to him.

The BU argument does not adequately address the context of Paul’s challenge to the Philippians. They should know that the word God in the New Testament is often used synonymously with the word Father (John 1:18; 3:16-17; 15:15; Romans 1:4). Therefore, their argument that Philippians 2:6 could not mean equality with God, because it would call for Jesus being equal with himself is lame. The Scripture actually means Jesus, the Son of God, did not cling to equality with his Father. All the BUs argument shows is their own unwillingness to understand an argument from the mind of an opponent. Nevertheless, the Bible often puts us in a position whereby we must put ourselves in the place of the characters within the story in order to understand the point of the text. I have debated with otherwise intelligent people who seem unwilling to understand my point of view of the Godhead. Many seem more interested in making my argument look ridiculous from a logical point of view, than debate the argument from a Biblical point of view. In fact, many contradict the word of God, while seeking to prove my argument contradictory. In the case above, the BUs claim Jesus is to be complimented for doing that which all humans are commanded to do. This very thing Jesus himself said was not worthy of a compliment, but showed the servant of God was merely doing only what was expected (Luke 17:10).

It is not my intention to belittle the BUs or to question their sincerity, or even to claim they are not Christian. God alone decides who are his. It is not my place to make such a judgment. Nevertheless, I can judge wrong doctrine. It is clearly wrong, according to Scripture, to claim Jesus is not God in the flesh. I am presently involved in a series of blogs seeking to prove from the Scriptures that Jesus is God. May God help me as I write and bless those who read and study his word, submitting themselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.


[1] (http://biblicalunitarian.com/html) The Website of the BUs: “Verses that Trinitarians use to support the Trinity;” click to see the full list; then scroll to “The New Testament” and then to Philippians 2:6-8.


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2 Comments

Posted by on May 25, 2010 in Godhead, Religion

 

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2 responses to “Equality with God

  1. Eric watson

    December 31, 2015 at 00:21

    Regarding Philippians 2:6
    It seems as though you’ve already made up your mind on what you believe, but I’ll give you what I can see in scripture.
    2:5 has the word ‘was’ (not found in Greek-arbitrary).
    2:6 being in the “form” of God vs. taking the “form” of a bondservant. “Resemblance” of the nature, or mind, of a bondservant and of God. “The image of God.” “Form” has nothing to do with being or appearance because Paul later describes his appearance in 2:8. Just as Adam and Eve tried to grasp equality God in the garden; Christ, resembling the nature of God(second Adam), chose to be like a bondservant. In context in verses 2:9-11, there is a separation between God and our Lord Jesus. In context, Paul is trying to show us the mind of Christ, which we should have. Using your thought pattern in Scripture; Jesus was God, therefore Jesus was a bondservant. This is an incorrect thought pattern, because Jesus was not a bondservant but acted as one. I just want the scripture to convey what it was originally intended to, and not used for your own purpose.

     
    • Eddie

      December 31, 2015 at 14:22

      Hello Eric, and thank you for reading my blog post and for the time you took to leave a comment.

      It seems as though you’ve already made up your mind on what you believe,

      Only a new believer has not made up his mind about what he believes. I trust you have made up your mind, as well. But, I believe you probably mean that my mind is closed to what you may have to say. I don’t think I am, but you may judge for yourself. Of course, this doesn’t mean I can be easily swayed. You will have your work cut out for you, if you wish to change my mind about this Scripture.

      2:6 being in the “form” of God vs. taking the “form” of a bondservant. “Resemblance” of the nature, or mind, of a bondservant and of God. “The image of God.” “Form” has nothing to do with being…

      I agree with you that the word “form” of God in Philippians 2:6 is set over against “form” of a servant in Philippians 2:7. However, if I follow your argument, it becomes illogical. Notice that, if Jesus only resembled God (in his nature or mind) in v-6, he must also have only resembled a servant in v-7. Either he was a “servant” (v-7) or he was not. If he was a “servant” in v-7 then he must have been God in v-6.

      Concerning Philippians 2:8 and Jesus’ appearance, we can probably agree that G3444 (form) does not mean G4976 (fashion, appearance). Although there are similarities, there are also distinctions, and so the one is not mean the other, also.

      I believe the word “form” (G3444 – morphe) has to do with identity. If you don’t agree, then what would you say it means, and please be specific? The word “fashion” or “appearance” (G4976 – schema) has to do with one’s visible shape. I am able to recognize your ‘shape’ (figure) but also your ‘demeanor’ (who you are). Whether or not I existed, this would not change your ‘shape’ or your ‘demeanor’. You could still be identified by anyone else who was able to “see” either or both. A blind man couldn’t ‘see’ your shape, but he would be able to ‘see’ and describe who you are.

      Your analogy of Adam and Christ doesn’t agree. Adam was a ‘bond servant’ and rebelled, wanting to be as God was. The One who became Jesus was not a ‘bond servant’ but **became** a ‘bond servant’ for the sake of saving mankind. Hence, Paul’s argument “Let this mind be in you…” (Philippians 2:5), that is, “Look not every man on his own things but also on the things of others” (Philippians 2:4). Before the One who became Jesus was a ‘bond servant’ he was equal to God. It logically follows that, if he had to **become** a bond servant, he was not a bond servant before he became one. If the One who became Jesus was not a ‘servant’ or ‘slave’ of God before he exchanged ‘forms’, then he must have been equal with God.

      Concerning one’s “thought pattern in Scripture,” if the One who became Jesus was not equal with God before becoming a ‘bond servant’, how, exactly, does Paul’s argument that those who enjoy God’s blessings should look to the needs of his brother (v-4) reflect the mind of Christ (v-5). It seems to me that the One who became Jesus was rich but became poor for our sake (2Corinthians 8:9) and is reflected in Philippians 2:6-7. But, what do you say?

      Lord bless you in your efforts to please him.

       

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