Plundering the Divine Form

Lent 6 Monday

Philippians 2:5-8

“Have the same mind Jesus Christ had: He, although he was in divine form, did not consider equality with God plunder, but emptied himself and took on the form of a servant, having come into the likeness of man, and was found in the form of a man. He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.”


Paul here indicates three ways in such conduct and forms. There is the substance without conduct; there is conduct without substance; and finally, there is conduct and substance together. Thus, when God hides himself and does not make himself known, there is the divine substance but no divine conduct, which he does when he is angry and withdraws his grace. But when he shows himself gracious, there is both the substance and the conduct. But the second possibility is impossible for him, that is, he cannot conduct himself like a God without being God or not having the substance. This is how the devil and his crew act who take God’s place, although they are not God, as Ezekiel says in Ezekiel 28:2 about the king of Tyre that his heart appears to be a heart of God, although it was the heart of a man. Accordingly, we also find three ways in servant form or conduct. Thus, when one is a servant but does not appear as a servant, but as a lord or god, about whom Solomon speaks in Proverbs 29:21: “When a servant is pampered, he wants to be a lord.” This is how the children of Adam are: We should be God’s servant, but we want to be God himself, as the devil taught Eve, Genesis 3:5: “You will be like God.” Second, when one is a servant and conducts himself as a servant, as do the good and faithful servants before the world and as do the true Christians before God who are subject to God and serve everyone. Third, when someone is not a servant but conducts himself like a servant, e.g., if a king served his servants before the world. But before God, no one but Christ alone did this, as he says during the Lord’s Supper, John 13:13-14: “You call me Master and Lord, and you are right, for this is who I am.” At the same time, I am among you as a servant. And elsewhere, Matthew 20:28, he says: “I have not come to be served, but to serve.” From all this, St. Paul’s meaning is clear, for this is what he wants to say: Christ was in divine form, that is, he had the substance along with the conduct, because he did not assume such divine conduct as he assumed the servant form, but he was, he was, he was, I say, in it. The important word here is “was:” He had the divine substance with and along with the divine form, as if he wanted to say: “There are many who assume the divine form and act the part, but they are not in it, as the devil, antichrist, and Adam’s children do – this is what is called sacrilege, Romans 2:22, robbing what is God’s.” For although they do not now consider it to be plunder, it nonetheless is a theft of divine honor, and is considered to be such by God and all angels and saints, even by their own conscience. But Christ, since he does not rob it but was in it and had it from nature and with his substance, did not consider it plunder. He also was unable to consider it plunder, because he was certain that he had the substance within and by birth, but considered it his natural, eternal possession. Therefore, St. Paul praises Christ’s natural divinity and his love for us with these words and also stings those who assume God’s form without being God, as we all do, so long as we are the devil’s members – as if he wanted to say: “Everybody wants to be God and rob the divinity they do not have and also consider it plunder; in fact, they must consider it plunder. For their conscience testifies, and must testify, that they are not God.” … But the one man, Christ, who did not assume divine form, but was in divine form – it was proper and right for him from eternity, which is why he neither considered it plunder nor was able to consider it plunder to be equal to God – still, he humbled himself and assumed the form of a servant. He did so in order to pull down to the servant form – with a powerful example, but in a kind and loving way – those who were in servant form and who had a servant nature but who did not want to be in it, but who grasped for divine form, in which they were not and for which they did not have the nature.


St. Louis ed., 12:469-471.

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