The Giving God

Tomorrow I’ll be preaching the 8th (8th!) message in our series on spiritual practices at Bloom called “Spiritual Architecture” … (I wonder if people are going to start getting bored of this stuff … maybe they already are … ha!)

The practice we’ll be covering tomorrow is Servanthood.  The text is Philippians 2:5-11.  Famous text:

5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

There’s really a lot to say, but what I’m finding fascinating is the suggestion one New Testament scholar makes about verse 6.  The NIV leaves out any attempt to try to get at what Paul’s saying when he says that Jesus, “BEING in very nature God” did not seize equality with God as a divine right (or take advantage of it for himself … however you want to understand “something to be grasped”).  Some translators want to make that phrase a sort of concession.  I.e., “DESPITE THE FACT that Jesus was God, he did not consider…”

This scholar, however, suggests something different.  Something that squares up what Jesus did with the kind of God that Jesus reveals.  He says we ought to translate v6 like this:

“Who, BECAUSE HE WAS IN VERY NATURE GOD, DID NOT CONSIDER EQUALITY WITH GOD SOMETHING TO BE GRASPED (FOR HIS OWN ADVANTAGE)…BUT HE MADE HIMSELF NOTHING, TAKING THE FORM OF A SERVANT…”

Now that’s fascinating.  Because it says something about Jesus, and specifically about the God Jesus reveals.  That IT IS PRECISELY THE CHARACTER OF THIS GOD TO LAY HIMSELF OUT AND LOWER HIMSELF FOR THE SAKE OF OTHERS.

In other words, the Cross was not an accident or a concession God made.  The Cross of Jesus is consistent with and reveals the deep character of the God Jesus referred to as “Father.”  THE CROSS FLOWS FROM THE INNER LOGIC OF TRINITARIAN LOVE.  This God “empties” himself.  He is (to use an old theological term) “kenotic” (self-emptying) in his basic orientation.

That is to say, he is love.

Jurgen Moltmann writes:

“But if the kenosis (self-emptying) of the Son to the point of death upon the cross is the ‘revelation of the entire Trinity’, this event too can only be presented as a God-event in Trinitarian terms…Anyone who really talks of the Trinity talks of the cross of Jesus, and does not speculate in heavenly riddles.”

Wanna know what the Trinity is like?

Look to the Cross.

2 thoughts on “The Giving God

  1. This is Michael Gorman’s principle thesis in Inhabiting the Cruciform God. Best Christian leadership book I’ve read in my life.

  2. Matt – I think I ran into this observation in a summary of Gorman’s work. The book is on my “next to buy” list. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s