Bruce Ware on Christ Emptying Himself

Philippians 2:5-8 says:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

What does Scripture mean by saying that Christ “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped”? And what does it mean for Christ to empty Himself?

My friend Bruce Ware is a professor of Christian Theology at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Below is an excerpt from Bruce’s excellent book The Man Christ Jesus where he discusses this passage:

Christ being fully God, possessing the very nature of God and being fully equal to God in every respect, did not thereby insist on holding onto all the privileges and benefits of his position of equality with God (the Father) and thereby refuse to accept coming as a man. He did not clutch or grasp his place of equality with the Father and all that this brought to him in such a way that he would refuse the condescension and humiliation of the servant role he was being called to accept. …Christ’s not “grasping” equality with God cannot rightly be taken to mean that Christ gave up being God or became in any way less than fully God when he took on also a fully human nature. No, rather, he did not grasp or clutch onto the privileged position, rights, and prerogatives that his full equality with God, his Father, afforded him, in order to fulfill his calling to become fully a man who would be, amazingly, servant of all.

…Paul is not saying that Christ emptied something from himself or poured something out of himself, as if in so doing he became less fully God than he was before (which, as we have seen, is impossible). Rather, he emptied himself; he poured out himself. That is, all of who Christ is as eternal God, all that he is as the one who is in the form of God and is equal with God, is poured out. Christ, then, as God remains fully God. He loses nothing of his divine nature, and no divine qualities are removed from him as he pours himself out.

May we follow Christ’s model of humility and “have this same mind among yourselves.”

Photo: Pexels


Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries