November 21, 2011

Morph...μορφή / μορφὴν

So we come to the Greek word morph / μορφή / μορφὴν. Translated to English it is usually transliterated as “shape” and this is absolutely insufficient and ten miles short of the mark. Another way that it is used is “form” in the Kenosis of Philippians 2:6-7 (ESV)

“…who, though he was in the form [μορφῇ] of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form [μορφὴν] of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. ~Philippians 2:6-7

“Form” is a closer approximation than “shape” but it still doesn’t drive home the intended point of Paul. The word "form" in the ESV and other versions is sometimes interpreted here as referring to a station in life or a position one holds, a rank. In the case of Philippians, Jesus took the form of a slave or δούλου / doulou.

So when “form / morphe” is used in this way it means that Jesus was Deity previous to Incarnation but also condescended to the rank or position of a servant/slave in His earthly ministry. Although this is sort of a correct "literal" interpretation of this passage, it falls way short of the vibrancy and color that is in this passage in the original language. When I say vibrant I am talking starburst vibrant.

Morphe / μορφή is a Hellenized philosophical term that describes the outward appearance one gives of their inward nature. An outward appearance that proceeds from and begins from that very inward nature, just like a happy person is jovial and a sad person is melancholy. So the words in the ESV that state, “though he was in the form of God” it is specifically telling us that the Lord is in a state of being deity/divine and His outward expression as He was seen as human in His life during His ministry as a human sprang from His inner substance of deity. He was through-and-through deity…yet human also.

When we move forward in this passage we see Jesus was,taking the form of a servant,” He does so during physical human ministry or His incarnation. Along with divinity we see Him giving and outward expression of inner nature as a servant, this expression is also truly representative of His inner nature also.

...and then comes the holy cow moment. It is because in Jesus’ deity He desired to give grace, to give love and to serve man to the ends of holiness and to make more sanctified.

If the word "form" is understood as meaning "rank" or "station," this passage would then imply that Jesus swapped one position for another. Bzzzzzzzzzz!!! Wrong. Unfortunately, this is exactly what many who misintrepret it, think it says...and it doesn't.

Many will say Jesus was in the rank or station of Deity before He became incarnate, but when He came to earth, He took the rank or station of a servant divesting Himself of his Deity. Wrong-Wrong-WRONG! That is not what this passage is saying. If we take this as outward manifestation of inward reality it then makes sense, since even humans can be the merger of character in one being. This allows Jesus’ fully divine/deity and fully human nature to reside in Him as He manifest the “form” of both. When we looked at the holistic overall meaning of morphe / μορφή, we have a being (Jesus) in a “state of being” where He gave outward expression of His very inner nature. It means that the outward mien Jesus gave of Himself was changed and both were expressions coming from His Deity, and while on earth He was a servant, yet He was God before, during and in His incarnation…and obviously after also.

Another thing that should be noted in this powerful passage that makes it even more impactful is the following.

The word "being / ὑπάρχων " (v.6), is also a rather loose translation…too loose for my taste. The word “being” refers only to the time denoted by the context, the context here talks about Jesus’ preincarnate state before He took on the attribute of humanity. But “being / ὑπάρχων” is talking about a pre-existing condition that exists into the “now” or the present. But ὑπάρχων cannot only mean Jesus’ condition or “state of being” from the time previous to coming to earth but ὑπάρχων because it is written as Present (Tense) Active Indicative!!! It is proclaiming that Jesus was in this state at the very time Paul was writing to the Philippians…after His Death and Resurrection!!!

This means that Jesus took upon Himself the outward expression of a servant/slave and did not relinquish His deity. He was a representation of glorified humanity. This stated condition in one word disproves any attempts to claim that Jesus emptied Himself of His Deity. Sadly, if we had stuck to the English word "being" we would’ve missed this point because the Greek ὑπάρχων means “inherently being” or of the very nature of Deity.

In Jesus we see a fully divine and fully human union of love in divine and servant form. When we look at the surrounding text we realize from (v.5) that we are to “have this mind in us” in our relationships with one another in the Body of Christ. We are to have the mind of Christ (a slave) in our relationships to others (the body). Jesus, who was and has always been (even now) in a form “being” which outwardly expresses His very core nature…which is/was and always will be Deity. Even having known this and after “weighing His options” considered it of infinite value to be equal with Deity but emptied Himself anyway of this outward expression and took on the expression of a slave instead which was truly representative of His inward nature when He took on the attribute of human existence, and “being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

People fully understanding this should be right now grabbing their heads, shaking them in amazement thanking Jesus Christ who is of infinite value to all. This should've blew people off the map. BIG TIME. Who could truly get their arms around this? It is a magnitude beyond us to fully understand what Jesus did here.

Therefore…this is why we read that…

“God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Why? Because He deserves nothing less, He owns us all, we were bought with a price that is beyond our ability to truly comprehend with our finite pea-brains. It was awesome and immense price that none truly understand because only Jesus did it. I still have not recovered from this study...nor will I ever. I am humbled beyond an ability to express it in words.

1 comment:

ArtWerx said...

lol, youtube also 'morphed' my video images:

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