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"Form of God" refers to the Exalted Christ

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Published on Jun 28, 2015

morphē theou hyparchōn. A present participle can be chronologically subsequent to the time of the action of the main verb especially when the participle expresses the resulting purpose of the main verb. In this case, the purpose/result of that main verb is stated - to be equal to God - which anaphorically refers back to the form of God. In this case, the main verb is negative. Jesus is now in the form of God as a result of what he did not do. He did not regard a harpagmos; his motivation was not about obtaining high status for himself. As he had just instructed the Philippians to do, Jesus did not take for himself; he gave to others, considering others higher than himself. He did not exalt himself; he humbled himself. He is in the form of God because he humbled himself and did not exalt himself over others - rather, God highly exalted him.

In context, this is precisely what Paul is teaching the Philippians to do. They too are "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4) heirs of God, co-heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17). If they humble themselves, they will be exalted and reign with him and so they should not consider themselves superior to others but do as Jesus did. Philippians 2:1-11 can be summed up in Jesus' own teaching: "He who exalts himself will be humbled; he who humbles himself will be exalted." Jesus did not come to Lord over people but to serve them (Matt 20:28). He learned obedience from what he suffered. Rather than reckoning himself higher than others, he served them, emptying himself, pouring out his soul unto death in love for his fellow human beings. Paul is teaching the Philippians to walk in Christ's footsteps and he not only teaches them by the example of Christ, he offers himself as an example of how to do this in chapter 3 where he explains how he emptied himself/made himself nothing, counting all things as loss to follow Jesus. Philippians 3:20-21 sums up how the Philippians will be bodily conFORMed into the same FORM as the risen Christ when they are risen into glory. There is no superiority of citizenship in Christ as there was in the secular Roman world since their citizenship is in heaven. For now, they are to take the form of a servant, something which was repulsive to a secular Roman citizen.

See Php 1:29 where Paul introduces the topic at hand.
Compare Php 2:1-11 with Php 3:7-21
Compare Php 2:1-11 with Romans 15:1-7.
Compare Php 2:1-11 with Luke 14:27-33.
Also see Romans 12:16.

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