Monday, March 17, 2008

Reymond On Philippians 2:6

Robert Reymond’s A New Systematic Theology has a large section on defending the Deity of Jesus Christ. In one section, he devotes almost 12 pages interacting with Philippians 2:6-11. Philippians 2:6-11 has always been a fascinating passage for Christians. It may perhaps be a portion of the oldest Christian Hymn known. One verse in particular has caused many exegetes some stumbling. Verse 6 reads:

“…who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,”

This statement by Paul that Jesus did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped causes 2 problems according to Robert Reymond. The first one, Reymond says,

“If one should reply that the reason it is said that the Son did not ‘grasp after’ equality with God is because He already had it…introduces a certain theological barrenness, if not an exegetical inanity, into the text at the very point where, obviously, a highly significant insight is intended, for one does not need to be informed of the obvious—that the Son did not seek after something which was already in His possession.”

The second difficulty Reymond discusses is this:

“…if the flow of the passage commences with God the Son in His preexistent state, what meaning can his later exaltation possible have had for Him?”

This second point is really the heart of the problem. Surely we Trinitarians believe that Jesus remained God during His incarnation. Simply by cloaking his glory doesn’t really solve the question nor the language of the text. Reymond concludes that these obvious “difficulties ought to make us willing to consider another interpretation that avoids both problems.” I agree. I have always felt (and perhaps intuitively so) that the typical answers are somewhat contrived.

Reymond suggests “that it is not God the Son in his preincarnate state as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity who is the subject…” Instead he argues, “The hymn begins with ‘Christ Jesus’ and affirms that, as the God-man, he refused to follow an alternative path to glory to the one which His Father had charted for Him.”

This really gives insight to the passage. He continues:

“The answer is that now we are no longer interacting at the point of Philippians 2:6 with the Incarnation as a future event, but with the Incarnation as from the outset the God-man’s existing state of being.”

“…it should be interpreted against the background of His temptation recorded in Matthew 4. We know that Paul is willing to contrast Adam and Christ in Romans 5:12-19 and 1 Corinthians 15: 45-49, actually referring to Christ in the latter passage as the Last Adam and the Second Man. Here the Philippians hymn draws a further contrast between the respective temptations of Adam and Christ. Unlike Adam, the first man, who did ‘regard equality with God a thing to be seized,’ Christ, the Last Adam and Second Man, when urged to demonstrate His equality with God refused to take matters into His own hands and assert His rights as the Son. He steadfastly resisted the Tempter’s suggestion to ‘seize equality,’ that is, to walk no longer in the path of the Servant of the Lord…”

This, he later argues, makes more consistent sense when we see His exaltation in the text. Christ has truly humbled Himself to the point of death, even the death on a cross. Therefore, every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord.

We truly have a High Priest that knows our trials. He has fulfilled every requirement that the Father commands of the Son. Where Adam failed to do all the Father’s commands, Christ says, I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.”


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