What does it Mean to be in the Form of a Servant?

Lent 6 Tuesday

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.”


Now that we know what is meant by divine form and servant form, it is easy for us to understand what is said here of Christ because Paul himself explains what he means by servant form. First, that Christ emptied himself, that is, he acted as if he put off the divinity and did not want to use the same – not that he did or could put off the divinity or set it aside, but that he put off the form of divine majesty and did not conduct himself as the God he truly was. Just as he also did not put off the divine form so that it would not be felt or seen, for then no divine form would be left. Rather, he did not take it on and did not parade it about against us, but instead served us with it. For he performed miracles, Luke 23:43; John 18:6, even when he suffered on the cross when he gave paradise to the murderer and repelled the crowds in the garden with a single word. This is why Paul does not say that someone else emptied Christ, but that he emptied himself, just as a wise man who does not put off wisdom and wise conduct outwardly, while he does put them off so as to serve fools thereby who justly should serve him. Such a wise man empties himself in wisdom and in the form of wisdom. Secondly, he took on the form of a servant while he remained God and in divine form, that is, he was God, and all the divine works and words he uttered, he did for our benefit and served us thereby as a servant and did not have us serve him as a Lord, as it would only be just. He did not seek honor or possessions in them, but our advantage and salvation. This was a willing service, done freely, to benefit others. But this service is unspeakable, because the servant is such an unspeakable person who is God forever, whom all the angels and creatures serve. Now, those who are not kindly constrained by this example to serve their neighbor are justly condemned and are harder than rock and darker than hell; they are without an excuse. Third, he “came into the likeness of man.” By the birth from Mary he became a natural man, but even there, in that human nature, he could have elevated himself above all men and serve no one. But he left all this and became like a man. But you must understand “man” to mean here that he was no more than a man, without any addition. But no man who is above others by nature is without addition, so that you may understand that St. Paul wants to say: “Christ became like some man who had no wealth, honor, power, or preference above other, while there are many who are born who at birth inherit power, honor, and possessions.” But Christ became, and conducted himself as, someone who was as lowly as the lowliest of men, such as servants and poor people, but healthy, without bodily disease, as a natural man should be. Fourth, “and was found in the form of a man.” That is, he used everything like any other man, such as eating, drinking, sleeping, waking, going, standing, hunger, thirst, freezing, sweating, growing tired, working, clothing, dwelling, praying, and everything just as a man lives in relation to God and the world. All this he might have left undone and conduct himself differently as a God. But since he came into the likeness of man, as has been said, he also endured the common lot of men and accepted it like a man who required it. But at the same time, he also showed his divine form in which he was.


St. Louis ed., 12:473-475.

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