Is Jesus really like God?

Jesus is loving, God (and by this we normally mean, the ‘first’ Person of the Trinity, and so the one who is really God(!!)) we just are no sure about. It can also be underlined by such passages as the hymn of Philippians 2 – the ‘humbled himself’ lines.

Here are a few translations. First my favourite translation the New Revised Standard Version:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited (NRSV).
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage (NIV).
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what (The Message).
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped (ESV).
You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had,
who though he existed in the form of God
did not regard equality with God
as something to be grasped (The NET Translation).

In all the above the NIV does the best! I have emboldened a word that really snuck in with some of the translations – the word ‘though’. That word subtly gives the impression that he acts somewhat different to the divine nature. A bit like ‘Although I am a law-abiding citizen, I chose to break the law…’ An ‘in spite of’ phraseology. So let’s dig just a little:

ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ – literally BEING IN THE FORM OF GOD, not though but if one were to add a word of emphasis it would be the word BECAUSE he was in the form of God. His act of self-humbling is because he was God not in spite of being God. This early hymn is so deeply significant; God was ‘re-defined’ forever through the incarnation of Jesus. The high and lofty one is the humble one, always has been and always will be.

Another similar passage is in 2 Cor. 8:9

For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.

Here again the word ‘though’ creeps in. John Barclay has argued that if we add a word here to bring out the meaning it really should be the word ‘because’. There is no ‘though’, we simply have ‘being rich’ (πλούσιος ὤν), hence Barclay’s argument – and as these clever people can be, rather a large argument on the grammar construction – is for the sense of BECAUSE.

Jesus does not act ‘in spite of’, there is no ‘though’. His action is the action of God. Never is there a divided Trinity. Jesus is the way he is, because God is that way. God is the kenotic God.