By Eusebio Tanicala
Some Bible students, including several from Churches of Christ, interpret the phrase “form of God” to mean one and the same thing as “essence of God.” This is a wrong interpretation. I appeal that you rethink your position on this matter.
These same students further believe that the phrase “but emptied himself” to mean that Christ emptied himself of his “essence of God” or laid aside his Deity. This interpretation is wrong. I appeal that this position should be re-evaluated.
The above ideas are promoted by said Bible students and yet they believe at the same time that Christ possessed the essence of deity or was true God while He was on earth from his birth in Bethlehem until his death at the cross. In effect they are saying that Christ emptied himself of his deity but at the same time argue that Christ is full of deity. Such statement is simply contradictory. And some don’t see nor feel their obvious contradiction.
The right interpretation is to believe in the following items:
- “Form of God” is not the same as the “essence of God” as much as a billowing smoke is not the same as the “flame of fire.” But the billowing smoke is a proof or effect of a big flame of fire. Only a person who has the essence of God can be in the form of God.
- God cannot stop being God because God cannot cease to exist. He is eternal.
- “Form of God” therefore refers to attributes of deity that are detachable or characteristics that could be suspended or switched off, diminished or intensified. God used to walk with Adam and Eve at the Garden of Eden which suggest that God could associate with humans in a pleasant, mellow presence as if walking in the park. God appeared to Abraham as an ordinary human in Genesis 18-19. God appeared to Moses in a burning bush and later as a thundering flame of fire in the giving of the Ten Commandments. And as a consuming fire in the case of Nadab and Abihu and in the contest on Mt. Carmel. As a rock in the wilderness according to 1 Cor. 10:4.
- Don’t stick to the phrase “but emptied himself” of the American Standard Version but compare the rendition of the King James Version or New King James Version which reads “but he made himself of no reputation.” It is reputation, esteem, respect, and glorious appearance in the eyes of mankind. This idea agrees with John 17:5 and Philippians 2:9-11 – speaking of glorious presence and elevated honor before as well as after tabernacling with humankind on earth for 33 years.