Philippians 2:5–7—If Christ emptied Himself of deity while on earth, then how could He be God?

Problem: Paul seems to say that Jesus “emptied Himself” of His deity or “equality with God” (vv. 6–7), becoming “a man” (v. 8). But elsewhere Jesus claimed to be God on earth (John 8:58; 20:28). But how could Jesus be God while on earth if He left His deity aside to become man?

Solution: Jesus did not cease being God while on earth. Rather, in addition to being God, He also became man. His incarnation was not the subtraction of deity, but the addition of humanity. Several things in this text support this position. First, it does not say Christ gave up or emptied Himself of His deity, but merely of His rights as deity, assuming the “form of a servant” (v. 7) so as to be an example for us (v. 5). Second, the text declares that He was in the “form of God” or “in very nature God” (v. 6, niv). Just as the “form of a servant” (v. 7) is a servant by nature, so the “form of God” (v. 6) is God by nature. Third, this very passage declares that every knee will one day confess Jesus is “Lord,” a citation from Isaiah 45:23 that refers to Yahweh, a name used exclusively of God.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.