Form of God, Form of a Servant

Dustin Turner
November 29, 2021

Though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant

Philippians 2:6–7

Everything we need to know about Jesus begins with this––form of God, form of a servant. Church fathers, like Augustine, took this formula as a key to how we understand the person of Jesus. This belief and understanding wasn’t original to Augustine and it probably wasn’t original to Paul. Most scholars agree that Philippians 2:5–11 was a hymn the early Christians sang. Paul took this hymn and incorporated it into his letter to the Philippians. So, understanding Jesus as having both the form of God and form of a servant seems to be an early Christian understanding. 

Who He Is

On the first Sunday of Advent 2021, I unpacked a bit of what it means for Jesus to be in the form of God and the form of a servant. For Paul to write that Jesus was in the form of God means he has the divine essence, and for Jesus to have the divine essence means he is in fact God. From eternity past through present until eternity future Jesus has, is, and will be God. There has never been a moment when Jesus was not. As God, Jesus has all of the attributes of divinity––perfection, omnipotence, omniscience, sovereignty, and more. 

But as our humble servant, he did not exploit his divinity. Rather, he let go of his divine privilege by taking the form of a servant. This was not a matter of subtraction; it was addition. Read how the church father and pastor, Augustine describes it:

“Without losing what He was, He determined to be Himself made what He had made. It was He Himself who made what He would be; for He only added human nature to his divine nature and did not lose His divine nature in becoming man.”

Augustine, Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany, 112

Jesus did not lose his divinity; he added his humanity. 

And it is here that we see the source of humility on display. Jesus, God himself, emptied himself, became nothing, gave up his divine privilege. Not for himself. For us. The ultimate example of humility. 

As I wrapped up my sermon I shared that Jesus is the way to life and the way for life. Because of the incarnation, because Jesus is in the form of God and form of a servant, he is our way to salvation and our example. 

Don’t Let This Moment Pass

Don’t do anything else yet. Before you get ready for your day, move on to your next task, or lay your head down for bed, pause, reflect, and worship. Consider journaling your thoughts about the incarnation. Pray a prayer of thanksgiving. Listen to or sing a Christmas hymn about Jesus. Just make sure you respond. You will not be able to fully wrap your mind around the incarnation, but what you can and do understand should cause you to worship our amazing God. Though Jesus was in the form of God, he took on the form of a servant. Hallelujah. 

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