Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1999
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 5: Confrontation with the King
Chapter 3: The Life of the King
Lesson 122 – Doctrinal Consequences of Christ’s Appearance: Kenosis
06 May 1999
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
Turn in the notes to page 55; I want to make one comment before we move on into the doctrinal area. The chart, Figure 3, is the same kind of chart as the one in the chapter before when we dealt with the hypostatic union. The purpose of those charts, and the repetition of that figure, is to reinforce the concept that the worldview or your presuppositions, your presuppositional commitment affects the way you interpret, not just Scripture, but all of life. So when we see people diverging in their interpretation of Christ so dramatically as we’ve seen the critics, it’s not because the data aren’t clear. The impression is always given that somehow God’s revelation is inefficient, it’s unclear, it makes unnecessary claims on your credulity, a whole cafeteria of reasons are given.
We have to be careful that we don’t buy into that worldview. The reason there’s a difference is because of the reason of the human heart that comes to the data. That’s the reason, and it’s precisely because of that that John says “the light came into the world and men loved darkness rather than light.” There’s the biblical answer, “men loved darkness rather than light,” and don’t “come to the light lest their deeds be reproved.” It’s not due to some intellectual problem, it’s due to the fact that men love darkness. We have to keep that in mind and that’s why the diagram is there. It’s the pagan worldview that has as its purpose, ultimately, to try to create the synthetic world that is safe for the sinner; a synthetic world that’s a dream world, in which God doesn’t really exist. The God of Scripture doesn’t really exist inside this mythical synthetic world.
We’re going to go on to the first of three doctrines: kenosis, impeccability and infallibility. All three of these ideas come spinning out of the life of the King, just as the doctrine of the hypostatic union, the fact that Jesus Christ is God and man comes out of the fact that He entered into the world through the virgin birth. The major passage in Scripture for this doctrine is Philippians 2. I think it would be good if we started with the text in Philippians 2:5-8, go through the text and then come back to some of these verses in the notes.
A familiar passage, Philippians 2:5-8, is very challenging. It’s one of those passages that you can read quickly, hastily and on the surface, and get a reasonable idea of the big picture. But the moment you begin to scratch a little deeper, you realize that there’s quite a thick basis there, there’s quite a detailed foundation and one that really challenges you to think through carefully. Follow in your translation: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,  who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even the death on a cross.  Therefore, also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth,  and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Right in the middle of a practical epistle to a local church Paul drops this passage. It’s so typical of the apostle, because he does not appeal to us in superficial terms. The New Testament always gives a deeply spiritual reason for why we are the way we are and how we are to respond to life. This has always bothered the critics of the Christian faith, because Christianity refuses to ground its ethic in itself. It always spins the ethic out of a world view that’s very challenging.
In this passage, one of the key verbs is found in verse 7, where it says “He emptied Himself.” The word “empty” is the word from which we get kenosis. So the strange word, “kenosis” is just a noun from the Greek that comes out of the verb to empty. That’s where the word comes from. This is the central passage for this doctrine, although it’s found throughout the Scripture.
In the context, Philippians 2:1, it’s clear that practically speaking he’s talking about meeting the trials and pressures of life. [“If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion”] It’s addressed to every Christian, not theologians. So the presumption is in this passage is that every Christian should know the doctrine of kenosis. This is not something reserved for the deep halls of theology; this was utilized originally, in context, to an epistle, to Christians who were involved in the struggle with the world.
For example, verse 2, “make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.  Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.” So verses 2 and 3 go through what you would call the usual New Testament ethical principles. Verse 4, “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Then verses 5, 6, 7, and 8 suddenly drop into this flow and give the basis for that. All the rest of it would be drivel, were it not grounded upon what is found in verses 5-8. The problem is to have an attitude which was also in Christ Jesus. This goes back to the fact that Jesus Christ is God and man. So our doctrines are all synthesized, they’re all phased together. We want to remember that Jesus Christ is the Creator, and He’s also creature. He’s God and man. God is sovereign, man has choice; God has love, man has love; God has omniscience, man has knowledge; God is holy, man has conscience. So we have a correspondence of attributes between the two. The creature is analogous to the Creator, but not identical to the Creator. So we always maintain this Creator/creature distinction. We are made in God’s image, so there are analogies in our soul structure to Him. God has made us to have fellowship with Him.
In the previous chapter, with the virgin birth, the significance of that event was that for the first time the Second Person of the Trinity, who was sovereign, love, omniscience and holy, that person took upon Himself a creature form. So now we have the two together, the God-man. That’s what makes Jesus Christ absolutely unique. No other religion has anything approaching this. Only in the biblical Christianity do we have such a thing as one person who is both Creator and creature at the same time, a demanding, challenging and incomprehensible truth, but falling out of this are a number of implications. In the last chapter we just dealt with the facts that He is God and man. Now we move into some other territory. Now we’ve moving into some of the implications, some of the details of what it means to be the God-man.
In verse 5, “Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus,” is talking about a mental attitude that is in the God-man. The God-man is omniscient; the God-man has human limited knowledge. So the question then is: how can we have an attitude that is in the God-man? Is the attitude something God has that is in omniscience, a loving, or is it His creature attitude? Obviously the answer is we can’t possess divine attributes, therefore, “have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus” must refer to His creature hood, the fact of His humanity. We are to mimic what His humanity carried. Thus Jesus Christ, right from start in the kenosis you can begin to see where we’re driving with this. Jesus Christ becomes the model of the Christian life. He is the Christian life. Jesus Christ successfully lived the Christian life.
Of course, people are going to object; yea, but He was God, He had it easier. That’s going to be addressed in impeccability. When we get to the doctrine of impeccability we’ll answer that one. It turns out that Jesus Christ actually had it harder, therefore Jesus Christ is the model, He proved that the Christian life works. So any time we listen to some Christian who’s depressed, has failed, etc. blaming God for everything, the Christian life doesn’t work, I tried it, you know, a “been there done that” kind of thing, no they haven’t actually, because Jesus Christ proved that it works, because it worked in His life and if it worked in His life, then it has to be able to work in our lives, so when it fails, it’s our problem, not His problem. That’s one of the implications that we’re driving toward in the doctrine of kenosis.
Kenosis disproves that the Christian life was something different for Jesus than it was for us. That’s not true. Otherwise Paul in verse 5 would never have said “have this attitude in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Verse 5 connects all that previous exhortation to the hypostatic union. Then it says, to explain, Paul is going to explain what this attitude is. It’s a certain mental attitude that Christ had with which He met all the details of life. “… who although He existed in the form of God,” so verses 6, 7, and 8 because verse 9 clearly starts a new thought, “therefore,” so if you look at the way the verses are set up, verses 6, 7, and 8 must be an exposition of the content of the attitude. Hence therefore, the doctrine of kenosis is a revelation of this attitude.
“… who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Verse 8 verbs reveal the content of the results of the mental attitude, i.e., obedience, submission to the Father’s will and obedience, which then tells us that we are face to face with a doctrine that we’ve studied before which was the doctrine of sanctification. We did that several times in the Old Testament. We said the whole goal of sanctification isn’t to have some religious experience; the goal of sanctification is to have loyalty to God, is to develop a personal relationship with God, so that we can be close to Him and experience an intimacy with the Father. We only can do that as we are obedient.
That’s the goal of sanctification, and it’s clear from verse 8 that Jesus Christ attained that goal, because it says “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself,” how, “by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” In other words all the way to the cross; so the cross became the ultimate act of obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ. But it says “He became obedient.” In verse 8 notice this, this is important about sanctification. It says “He became obedient.” You can’t become obedient if you always were obedient. So the fact that Christ became obedient must mean that obedience has to be cultivated.
So let’s look at this issue of obedience and where it comes from. Let’s go back to Adam and Eve. Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument that Adam and Eve did not sin, did not fall. They are in the Garden, and they are presented with a perfect environment. They are not sinners. God did not create Adam and Eve sinners. Evil came in after the fall. Evil originated after God finished everything by way of creation. So here we have two people and theologians tend to call this state innocence, and they call it innocence because they’re trying not to say that they had developed righteousness. The reason is because they hadn’t yet obeyed. So there they are in the Garden and they are faced with God’s commands and imperatives, and they exercise themselves in righteousness by obeying. So you would have positive volition, positive volition, positive volition, these would be a series of choices that they make, and through those choices they become obedient. That means they have historical righteousness. So that would have happened had they not fell.
Along comes Jesus Christ in history, from His birth He also, like Adam and Eve, is innocent. He, like Adam and Eve, has to obey, obey, obey, obey, obey, and He becomes obedient. He becomes obedient by making a series of positive choices toward the will of God. Paul clearly in verse 8 is arguing for the progressive sanctification of Jesus Christ. This is interesting because normally we think of sanctification as overcoming evil. That’s because in our experience we live in an evil world, and in this evil world we are living in an abnormal existence. What we tend to do, and we shouldn’t really do this, what we tend to do is think of our existence with evil in it, with death in it, with sorrow in it, with grief in it, as normal, and then we go on to say that sanctification is our struggle against evil. This isn’t really so, because we would have to have been sanctified even if the fall hadn’t occurred. Sanctification is an issue that precedes the issue of sin and evil and grief and suffering. We have to struggle over against the hindrance to this.
An example that always made a lot of sense to me is an agricultural one. If you have an empty field and you want to produce a crop, if there were no weeds, and if there were no bugs, then it would be a simple case of planting and growing, watering, fertilizing, etc. But because we have evil in nature, that process of growing and bringing something to crop, to harvest, is overcoming all the other things that come against it to tear it down, the thorns and the thistles and the things of the cursing of the ground that God did. So the herbicides, the pesticides, all the anti-insect and anti-fungicide and all the rest of the stuff that you have to deal with, those are all like sin. Those are the hindrances to the crop. But even if those weren’t there, you’d still have to grow the crop.
So be careful in thinking this through, when you get into this, otherwise you see, if you think that sanctification is overcoming evil, what are you going to do about Jesus? How’s He going to be sanctified? The very word “sanctified” is used in the epistle of Hebrews. Hebrews 2:10 is a reference to this process in Jesus humanity. “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.” Now here’s an interesting question from the Trinity. Look at verse 10 and which of the three persons of the Trinity is spoken of there? “It was fitting for Him,” it could be the Father, the Son of the Holy Spirit, “for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory,” that very phrase from all things, through all things is referred to the Father in Romans. So that’s the First Person of the Trinity that’s mentioned in v. 10, “It was fitting for Him,” the Father, “for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory,” now notice what the Father does, “to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.” Who’s “the author of their salvation?” It’s the Lord Jesus Christ, and this passage clearly teaches that He is sanctified. He had to be sanctified to qualify as Savior. So there’s a process in Christ’s humanity and that’s what’s exhibited in the life of the King. We have the track record of that process in the four Gospels. The four Gospels are the history of Jesus Christ’s sanctification.
Coming back to Philippians, let’s notice a few other things. We notice that in verses 9, 10, and 11 the result of Him being sanctified is the reward; the eternal state is populated by those who are believers and it’s populated in such a way as to reward believers for how we have lived in this life. That applies first of all and primarily to Jesus Christ. Notice that verse 9 begins with a “Therefore.” As a result of the sanctification of Jesus Christ, the Father has “highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,” and if you have a study Bible you notice that the phrase “every knee shall bow” is footnoted, or has a marginal note and it should lead you back to a quotation out of the Old Testament, particularly Isaiah 45. If you went back to that passage, “ever knee should bow,” it is a reference to Jehovah God. It’s one of those passages where we said one of the evidences of the deity of Christ is Old Testament references that refer to Yahweh are also referring to Him. Here’s one of them. Isaiah 45 is Jehovah and it’s now applied to Jesus.
Some people will confuse this and say this and say in verse 10 it’s saying that He became deity, so to speak, he was man until …. That’s not what’s being taught here. That’s something that a hasty reader could conclude, but that’s not what’s being taught. “… that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth.” Notice in verse 10 that Jesus Christ reigns in all three realms today. He reigns in heaven, meaning that the angelic host, both good and evil, have to submit to this Man that sits at the Father’s right hand. Think of all the science pictures you’ve thought of, seen, or read about, isn’t it interesting, the biblical claim is that the universe is not run by a Martian; it’s not run by somebody from Galaxy 88 that’s a million years more evolved than we are. It’s not run by angels, who, by the way, are the real extraterrestrials in Scripture. It’s not run by any of those. It is run by a member from planet earth who sits at the Father’s right hand.
So the entire cosmos, this is a cosmic claim, that those who are in heaven, and those who are on earth, and those who are under the earth; Jesus reigns over heaven and hell. This is the tremendously offensive thing about the gospel in that all men, it’s talking about here, “every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,” they don’t now but they will be made to. Either men willingly and voluntarily submit through the leading of the Holy Spirit or they resist the Holy Spirit and then God breaks their knees and they will confess that Jesus is Lord. But heaven and hell, both, will confess that Jesus is Lord. There’s no escape from Jesus Christ now. There might have been had He flubbed it, but once He attains His righteousness through historic obedience, once the Father installed Him at the throne, there’s no turning back. Now He is the King of Kings.
Going backwards we’ve seen the destiny and the result of His sanctification, let’s go back to verse 5, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” Don’t skip from verse 5 to verse 9. There have been Christians that do that and there’s a name for this, it’s called Triumphalism, the idea that now we reign, the idea that now we have the political authority. Right now that all men should obey us because we are the representatives of Christ; that’s Triumphalism. You’ll see that in the career of our Lord He wasn’t triumphant until His sanctification was finished. “Triumph” follows sanctification, [it is] not simultaneous with it.
Therefore instead of going from verse 5 to verse 10, we have to go from verse 5 to verse 6. Verses 6, 7, and 8 are the crux of kenosis. Now we get into the details of what this doctrine is talking about. The problem here is in verses 6, 7, and 8 things are stated about the Person of Christ that are very, very difficult to comprehend, ultimately incomprehensible, like the hypostatic union. But we try to do as best as we can under the teaching of the Holy Spirit through Scripture. Let’s take it apart. Verse 6, “Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.” The Jehovah’s Witnesses try to say that He was only in the form of God and He could have become God; that’s not verse 6. Verse 6 is saying Jesus Christ existed with full deity, undiminished deity. But the point is, He “did not regard equality with God,” that is, His undiminished deity, something to be held onto when the mission called for denial or some modification of that undiminished deity.
The question is, what is the modification that happened during those years, those thirty years in which Jesus Christ walked this planet. What happened in Him personally that He could have, had He rejected the Father’s plan for His life, insisted that He would manifest His undiminished deity at every point in His life. Apparently this verse is saying He did not, that had we been with Jesus and walked with Him and talked with Him we would have not seen undiminished deity, except perhaps occasionally. What we would have seen was a fantastically righteous and holy human being who was perfectly obedient to the Father in every area, and then from time to time we would see that undiminished deity like a lamp suddenly turned on and come out, and then it would go off again. John’s Gospel sees this a lot. So learn to watch those moments as you read the gospels, for the flashing forth of the undiminished deity and most other times the undiminished deity is not seen. Why? Because Jesus Christ, for the sake of the call of God on His life forsook manifesting this undiminished deity in some way.
That’s described in verse 7; He “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men.” There was an emptying that happened, when Jesus Christ became incarnate. “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself” so He submitted to the obedience of the Father, and the kicker is that Jesus Christ submitted in obedience exactly the same way you and I do. That is why He can be our judge, trial by peer, He went through it. There are all kinds of neat things, comforting things that come out of this, but we’re not going to get to the implications of the doctrine tonight because we want to understand the doctrine first. Then we’ll worry about the implications of it. We want to focus on this.
This is what we should be singing about in our hymns, instead of worrying about what some song writer in 1852 thought about when he became a Christian. That’s nice, but that’s autobiographical information. What we need to do is focus on these things and if we would focus on these central truths, everything else would take care of itself. But we always try to do things backwards, and we try to use the contorted indirect approach, like we have to respond to the hymn writer’s response to the gospel. Why do I have to respond to the hymn writer’s response to the gospel, why can’t I just directly respond to the gospel? I could if the hymn sang about the gospel, but when it’s giving me autobiographical details about how I feel, maybe I feel that way on Sunday morning and maybe I don’t. So it introduces an indirectness, and it actually separates the believer from an intimacy with God, and the evangelical hymn books are full of this junk.
He “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men.” From here let’s move to the notes. The Church, for many centuries, thought this one through, and it wasn’t an easy thing. On page 56 let’s look at the doctrine and we’ll get into the biblical data. I just want to run through page 56 quickly because page 57 has a lot of the biblical material in it.
Notice the italics, “It follows, therefore, that even a sinless human (like Christ) would have to experience sanctification to accomplish His mission as a man. Since He is the King of the Kingdom of God, Jesus Christ must be perfectly sanctified to carry out this leadership role. In undergoing sanctification Christ fulfills the ideal pointed out by Old Testament King David who was the first type of the Messiah.” Now watch the parallel, this is where your Old Testament history fantastically helps you understand the New Testament if you have the Old Testament history and have been taught it. But again, we never hear sermons on the Old Testament, we’re always going through the New Testament.
Second paragraph: “David’s experiences provide some analogy with Christ’s human experiences.” Analogy—not identity—analogy. “In particular, the long struggle of David to accede to his throne (from 1 Samuel 16 to 2 Samuel 4),” what happened in 1 Samuel 16 to David, that’s the passage where you ought to memorize the verse, God looks on the heart, man looks on the outward appearance. Remember the context of that verse, what was going on there? Prophetic anointing. Who picks the King in the Old Testament? The prophets picked the King. Who was the prophet that picked the King? Samuel. How did Samuel pick the King? He went to Jesse’s house, asked to see his sons, and David was out doing chores, He was the youngest one, and Samuel said one of your kids is missing; I want to talk to him. Jesse went out, the teenager, young teenager came to him, and Samuel anointed David. He was just a young teenager then. Did he immediately become King of Israel at the anointing? No, all the way from 1 Samuel to 2 Samuel 4 a series of stories are told about David.
What are those stories about? How would you characterize the content of the stories between 1 Samuel 16 and 2 Samuel 4? Remember the stories, one was the Goliath story, Saul trying to kill him, think about those things. Let’s write some of these out for observational purposes. 1 Samuel 16 to 2 Samuel 4 we have David doing things, we have the Goliath incident, we have Saul’s attempt at assassination. We have David excelling in the martial arts and excelling in music. He played the harp for Saul and he danced before the Lord. So David was a martial artist and he was also a musician. Isn’t that a strange combination? And he conquered and he destroyed the enemies of Israel. After that, after all those stories, then he received the crown and the coronation and became King. But you see, he didn’t accede to the throne upon his anointing; there was a separation, a time interval between the anointing and the crown, the crown being 2 Samuel 4.
What analogy does this look like if we apply this to Jesus Christ? Who was the prophet that anointed Jesus? It was John. What do we have between the anointing of John? Did Jesus Christ become King of kings at the anointing in the Jordan? Absolutely not. He was rejected by His own people, He was crucified. And He has risen from the dead and He’s at the Father’s right hand, and He’s King there but He isn’t yet King of Israel, in an acknowledged state. He isn’t the Messianic King yet. So Christ still isn’t King in the Messianic sense, of His physical chosen people. So the process with Jesus is still going on. But as far as His human attainment, His human personal sanctification, at the end of all four Gospels that is fixed.
“Just as David’s prophetic anointing by the prophet Samuel was not enough to effect throne succession in Israel, so Jesus’ anointing by the prophet John was not enough to place Him immediately as reigning king. David had to endure the acid tests of experience before the nation would recognize His throne claim.” Remember when David became king it was an acknowledgement on the part of the public. The prophets knew that he was king material, else wise if Samuel wasn’t sure he’d never have anointed him. So God’s will was known for David, that he was going to be king, the prophets acknowledged God’s will, but the public didn’t. The public had to be won to David by his historic life. Who’s won to Jesus by His historic life? The population of the kingdom. That’s believers, we are impressed with the person of Jesus Christ, we trust in Him and that qualifies us as citizens for the Kingdom and we acknowledge, and that’s why He’s going to be King over us. There’s the analogy between David and the King.
Now the biblical data of sanctification; on page 57, in the first two paragraphs I’m trying to take a divine attribute and work with the divine attributes. I think it’s clear if we do that. Let’s take the first one, which is omniscience. “One part of the biblical data concerns Christ’s divine attribute of omniscience.” Turn to Matthew 24:36. What does verse 36 do if Jesus is omniscient? Do you see the problem? Jehovah’s Witnesses love these verses. I always pick on Jehovah’s Witnesses because they’re the most explicit, but all cults do the same thing. “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” What do we know about human knowledge? Remember the diagram, the limitations of man’s knowledge. If Jesus was true humanity, what does being part of true humanity mean? That He has human knowledge. And if Jesus has human knowledge, what is true of that human knowledge? It’s limited. Jesus had, in His humanity, limited knowledge. Are the angels creatures? Yes. Do they have limited knowledge? Yes, greater than ours but still limited.
So what does verse 36 say then? “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” To read material from the Christian book store you’d think that all the book writers knew because they’re always setting dates. It’s funny how they know more than the angels in heaven; it’s funny how they know more than the humanity of Jesus. But people that make money on books, always arguing about going to set the date. That’s been going on since 1844 when William Miller went up and got a group of people in New York and they were the first Adventists. Christ’s advent was going to come. Obviously He didn’t come in 1844 so they adjusted their message and went on. We still have people doing this thing. Even in our own circles we have people always to set dates. Maybe verse 36 isn’t in their Bibles or something, but it’s been in mine ever since I can remember. And it says that no creature knows the day or the hour, with all due respects to the Christian book writers. Jesus Christ didn’t know. So that means Jesus Christ had limited knowledge, and that means that when He said that He was not exercising His omniscience; it was not manifested here, as the disciples were listening to Him it was like He was an ordinary person, like you and me. No sign whatsoever of any omniscience.
Mark 5:9 is another typical example. Jesus faces a demon, and this man who has been suffering, a real far-out person, this doesn’t mean all people on the funny farm are demon indwelt, please note, you can be crazy with some forms of chemical imbalance in the brain, it has nothing to do with demons it just has your body chemistry screwed up. All of us at times have our body chemistry that’s screwed up and we’re grumpy, or we forget, we do all kinds of things. It’s not a sign of demonic [activity], it’s just a sign of our weakness of our body, the weakness of the flesh. But in this case it was demonic. There are such things as demons and demons can indwell human beings.
Mark 5:7, “and crying out with a loud voice, he said, ‘What do I have to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!’” Now here’s a conversation that’s interesting. Wouldn’t this be cute to watch? Jesus is talking to a demon talking through a person; He carries on a conversation.  “For He had been saying to him, ‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!’” and the spirit didn’t want to come out for various reasons, having to do with demonic powers, because when they come out of a body apparently they go into Torment, so they get relief by going inside people. While they’re inside the people they aren’t tormented. So he’s saying to Jesus don’t let me get out of this guy, it’s better for me to be here. But is it better for the guy to be there; it’s better for the demon to be there. And Jesus kept saying, by the way, get out of him, get out of him I’m telling you.  “And he was asking him, ‘What is your name?’” Now why, if Jesus Christ was omniscient does He have to ask the demon for the demon’s name?
This is one of several verses that I cite in the notes on page 57, but my point in citing these verses is Jesus genuinely asked for information from people. If He was exercising His omniscience He would not have had to ask for information, He would have known the information. So it clearly shows that at these points in His life He is not calling upon His omniscience. He is walking around meeting the trials of life in the same capacity with the same functions that we have to. Gee, I wonder why that is …. [blank spot] … like we walk the planet, no difference, true humanity.
Let’s go into the Old Testament and let’s look at a Messianic passage that is really a fantastic insight into the person of Christ. I’ve never heard a sermon on this passage. I got this from a guy back in the 19th century one of the great Old Testament commentators; he wrote a book called Christology in the Old Testament, a wonderful book if you can ever get hold of it, because he goes through all the Old Testament and shows you the Messianic passages.
Turn to Isaiah 50. This is one of those neat little nuggets that you come across and you just say wow, look at this one. We want to look at the whole context here. Back in the days when I knew Hebrew, I’ve kind of lost my facility with it, I regret that I never really studied thoroughly the book of Isaiah, because this book is a tremendous book, it’s got so many neat things in it.
Isaiah 50:4-11 is one of these passages that look forward to the Messiah.  “The Lord God has given Me the tongue of disciples, that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word.” Look what he says in verse 4, “He awakens me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.  The Lord God has opened My ear; and I was not disobedient, nor did I turn back.  I gave My back to those who strike Me and My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting.  For the Lord God helps Me, therefore I am not disgraced, therefore I have set my face like fling, and I now that I shall not be ashamed.”  “He who vindicates Me is near; who will contend with Me? Let us stand up to each other’ who has a case against Me: Let him draw near to Me.  Behold, the Lord God helps Me; who is he who condemns Me? Behold, they will all wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them.  Who is among you that fears the LORD, that obeys the voice of his Servant, that walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.  Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who encircle yourselves with firebrands, walk in the light of your fire and among the brands you have set ablaze. This you will have from My hand; and you will lie down in torment.”
We won’t go into all the historical details of that, but notice, it’s quite clear from verses 6-7 who this is talking about; you don’t have to be a PhD to figure that one out. What we want to look at is that little phrase in verse 4. That tells us an amazing thing about the life of Jesus, that in the morning He didn’t have an alarm clock and a clock radio, not that there’s anything wrong with that, I’d be lost without mine. But who awakened the humanity of Jesus? God the Father. Every morning God the Father woke God the Son and began to teach Him. It was in those early morning hours that Jesus Christ communed with His Father and learned the great and deep things of the Word of God.
Listen to Hengstenberg’s comment. “Hengstenberg, the great student of Old Testament Christology, commented on this text that ‘the figure is taken from a teacher, who, in the morning, before he commences his instruction, summons his pupils to him.” See, it’s a picture that Jesus Himself…, what does He say, “He has given me the tongue of disciples … He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple,” as a student. In the morning Jesus was awakened by His Father and learned as a student. Isn’t that a neat truth? It gives you a little bit more insight into this enigmatic figure of the Gospels, just what it must have been like to be near Him. “He wakens me morning by morning,” every single morning the Son was awakened by the Father. In verse 5 the revelation begins, “The Lord God has opened My ear,” you see, opening the ear would not be true if Jesus Christ were relying on His omniscience, would it? Does omniscience ever have to learn anything? Absolutely not! So this passage is talking about learning, and it’s talking about the Messiah, so it must be talking about what? His undiminished deity, or His true humanity? It must be talking about His true humanity. It must be talking about limited human knowledge. It can’t be talking about omniscience, because omniscience doesn’t learn anything.
Back to the notes, page 57, before we move on, I have a string of verses at the end of that first paragraph and one of them I want to take you to, John 1:48 just so you don’t get the idea tonight that Jesus never showed His omniscience. Here was something that really flipped out the disciples when it happened. It’s talking about how the disciples first were attracted to Jesus and the social relationship that were used. John 1:45, Philip found Nathanael, and said to him, ‘We have found Him, of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’  And Nathanael said to him, ‘Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’  Jesus Saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!’  Nathanael said to him, ‘How do You know me?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
Is that omniscience? Look carefully at verse 48, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Now what does Nathanael do? The next verse  “Nathanael answered Him, ‘Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” This is typical of the Apostle John. He likes to show us that it’s when Jesus flashes forth, with that ever so quick manifestation of His deity, that people believed and trusted in Him and that, in fact, trusting in the New Testament is trusting not just in the humanity of Jesus, but it’s trusting in His deity, recognizing He’s God-man through which we have eternal life.
So there’s a manifestation, Nathanael knew when Jesus said that to him that Big Brother had been watching him, because nobody else knew that he was sitting under a fig tree. There’s this ambiguity in the New Testament. On the one hand Jesus says sometimes I don’t know anything; other times He asks people for information, and then you get to a passage like this and He tells people their entire autobiography. There’s this dual structure that goes back and forth, back and forth, back and forth in the New Testament. That’s omniscience.
The second paragraph: omnipotence. Let’s look at Matthew 12:28 for a moment. There are other verses and I encourage you to look at those verses that I’ve listed, I could have listed a lot more but these are, I think, the best. He’s casting out demons again, and what we want to observe in verse 28 is by what power He cast them out. Was He casting them out by His omnipotence or because He was a man with limited power He had to rely and trust upon God to do it. He says, “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God,” the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Whom then, did Jesus trust on a day by day basis? He trusted God, who worked in and through His Holy Spirit in His life. What do we do? We should trust God to work with His Holy Spirit in our life. Is Jesus a model? Yes He is. By not using His omnipotence, the fact is that He is obviously omnipotent, nobody disputes that He’s God. We, however, have energy, we have limited power. It’s that limited power that is being shown here, not omniscience. So we have a wonderful case where the full kenosis of omnipotence is happening.
Look at Matthew 8:26-27 for the other side of the story. The story of the storm, verse 24, “And behold, there arose a great storm in the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves; but He Himself was asleep.  And they came to Him, and awoke Him, saying, ‘Save us Lord; we are perishing!’” By the way, who are these guys that are out in the boat? We’ve got to get the background here. Are these guys that had never been on a boat? No, these guys had a fishing business; they were on boats every day. If they’re reacting the way they are in verse 25, what does that tell you about the magnitude of this particular storm? It must have been a ripper. These guys faced storms every day of their life in their business, and they’re out here tonight and it’s a whopper. And this guy, Jesus, is lying there and He’s snoozing. The boat’s probably rocking back and forth and they’re almost falling off and this guy’s asleep, what’s with this guy?
He gets up and in verse 26, “And He said to them, ‘Why are you timid, you men of little faith?’ Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and it became perfectly calm.” Instantly! What did the men say? , “And the men marveled, saying, ‘What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’ ” Now what is He doing? He’s exercising His omnipotence. When He says knock it off, the winds knock it off. We have the same thing we had with His omniscience, sometimes He shows limited power like we do, other times when He chooses to reveal Himself He shows omnipotence. You could go from attribute to attribute, the same thing over and over. On one hand, true humanity, on the other hand, undiminished deity. What’s going on?
At the bottom of page 57, let’s draw this to a conclusion. “Theologians have been concerned in stating the doctrine of kenosis not to dilute the divine nature of Christ on one hand, yet to give due weight to the restricted use of this divine nature during Christ’s trials on the other hand.” Notice, restricted use of the divine nature during what? During Christ’s trials, because those points of obedience, obedience, obedience, obedience, obedience have got to be cases where He in His true humanity responded to the situation in such a way that He can identify with you and me. He didn’t cheat by using His omnipotence and His omniscience in those points of trial. You figure this guy out here. He had to know when to turn on and turn off, to please His Father. Talk about knowing God’s will!
“If His divine nature is diluted, then the hypostatic union is denied. If His divine nature is not restricted, then Christ cannot be a model for believers in sanctification since He would have an advantage not shared by any other man. The question is how to describe what was going on in the incarnation that avoids these two errors. Some have defined kenosis as the giving up of some or all of the divine attributes. Others, particularly Reformed Conservative ones, have defined kenosis as the non-use of divine attributes. The best definition, however, is that kenosis refers to the giving up of the independent use of the divine attributes.” We’re going to stop right there.
“The best definition, however, is that kenosis refers to the giving up of the independent use of the divine attributes.” Therefore, conclusion: How did Jesus Christ in operational, from day to day operations, how did He… what attitude was in Him that allowed Him to turn it on and turn it off? Whatever pleased His Father. In that He submitted, as Second Person of the Trinity He was equal to the First Person, He had all the attributes, but as God-man, walking this earth as our Savior, He voluntarily restricted those attribute’s use under the Father’s plan, whatever the Father wanted. It’s okay to reveal at this time? Yes! Okay, I will. He awakens Me morning by morning and I learn morning by morning the path for that day. God the Father taught His Son every single morning, and all through that day the Son either manifested His divine attributes or didn’t. He never cheated, He never stepped out of the Father’s will, He always met every trial the same way we do.
Question asked: Clough replies: The idea of the universality of the claim of Christ, that it’s a voluntary recognition. The problem is that hearts are so hardened at that point that nothing can be done. C. S. Lewis, I think, was the guy who said something to the effect that unbelief gradually hardens, prepares one for hell, the person would not be happy in Heaven because in Heaven there’s eternal submission to the Father, and a hardened heart of unbelief defies that. It wants total self … I am God, and what must happen, it’s interesting to think about what happens when all of a sudden it becomes very obvious who Jesus Christ is, that He’s the King of kings and Lord of lords, yet the person who acknowledges this has a hardened heart. I think it must be excruciatingly painful, not in the sense of being forced to acknowledge it, but the acknowledgment coupled with the hardened heart must be very, very excruciatingly painful.
Have any of you heard of this doctrine before, under this name, kenosis? Anybody studied this before? This is the title, if you study systematic theology it would be in there, but it’s not something that is a theoretical thing. When we get through here you’ll see that much like the hypostatic union it’s a lofty sounding word, but it’s a very precise label for a very important area of truth. The whole idea of Christ being our sympathetic high priest who can identify with our suffering is built upon the validity of kenosis. If kenosis is false, then all that is built upon it just disintegrates, so this is why this is a very foundational doctrine. You can see why we had to go through the hypostatic union first. You have to get the hypostatic union, the God and man, so that we know the two categories, undiminished deity and true humanity. After we learn that lesson, then we discuss, well is this the deity or is this the humanity. That’s what we’re working through as we work through this biblical material, trying to sort it out. It’s got to be one or the other. There are some passages and I haven’t got them in the notes where it seems like both show up. But those are kind of rare compared to the passages like we’ve seen.
If you can think through what we went through tonight is that the more you get into the biography of Christ and the four Gospels, the more complex Jesus appears. But that doesn’t make our faith complicated because all of the complexities simply work together to focus us on a simple trust in His character. In the end it’s a simple faith in Him, it’s just that by going through these details and thinking about them, besides exercising our brains, exercises our hearts in appreciation of who this One is who is our Savior. And I think it elevates Him out of … sometimes we get a little too familiar with sometimes in our Christian religious language, and don’t penetratingly reflect on Who He is. It’s neat when you have been exposed to these truths, it’s neat to quietly meditate upon a Scripture, and with these tools that we’ve used, use these as ways of questioning the Scripture. When you read a passage of Scripture in the Gospel and it talks about Jesus and it has Him in a social situation of some sort, ask the Father to guide you into sorting this out. Does this show the humanity of my Savior, does this show His deity? It gives you content to work with, so you’re not just going into a blank mind meditation like the Orientals do.
The point of Christian meditation is the opposite of pagan meditation. Pagan meditation you just blank out all thinking, there must be a lot of meditating going on like that today. But in Christian meditation it’s actually exactly the opposite. How can we meditate upon the Triune God without straining our brains? It automatically engages our mind at the most deep level. This is what bugs me, one of the young people that comes here was saying that a professor said that there wasn’t much serious philosophic thinking done until the age of the enlightenment. Well I would rather say that in those four centuries when the church was discussing the humanity of Christ and trying to fit it with the deity and the hypostatic union doctrine, I think there was some philosophic reasoning going on there, of quite high order. We must appreciate the depth of our faith.
Question asked: Clough replies: The question is about how this kenosis doctrine works out when you’re just human, not when you’re God and man, when you’re just man. We’ll get into some of the specific implications, there’s quite a few implications to this, when we get into the next section of the notes, but I think if we use Christ as a model, that a lot more than obedience was involved in that... remember where it says and He humbled Himself and became obedient. The obedience is the fruit but there’s a lot more of the root and the root is in this humility thing. One of the implications we’re going to get into is … think of ancient Greek thought, what were the admirable virtues that they looked to. We see how stoicism is now coming up again in the “how to” books that you get in the business [can’t understand word], it’s really a resurgence of Greek stoicism.
What were some of the Greek virtues that they thought really made you a dynamic person? You could list courage, determination, persistence, all those kind of virtues. What the doctrine of kenosis is warning us about is that the virtue lists that we classically review need to be turned on their heads. The virtue of all virtue in the Christian position is humility before God. That’s one of the roots of the obedience. There can’t be obedience if it’s reluctant obedience, if it’s put on obedience, if it’s oh I’ll do it because you told me to do it. That’s not really what God’s after. But we can’t get to willing obedience until we have this humility before God. And I think that in Jesus case that willingness before God gets clearer so that He can model it for us because He had to… I mean the spectacle of a person who is God voluntarily acting not like God but like man, out of obedience and humility to His Father, is mind boggling.
So the emphasis, even though He’s God and man, and we’re only man, that makes it all the more clear to us what humility really is, and next week we’ll get into some of the profound implications of this act, and why it’s not well understood, what humility is. Humility isn’t acting weakly. You could never say Jesus was a weak person. But yet He was a humble person. He submitted wholly to the Father, even when that meant standing up to a mob and looking them right in the eye. Humility before God doesn’t mean weakness before men. We tend to think that because when we go to stand against this world, we try to bootstrap our courage up and we’re going to do it in our energy, and we’re going to fight those guys. That’s macho. But Jesus actually had a different version. And you couldn’t accuse Jesus of not being a man. Who could have sat by and watched Him handle the mob, ready to knock Him off the cliff, and He looks them right in the eye and He walks right through them. Talk about gall and macho, He showed macho. But it was a macho that was borne out of a prior humility before God, whatever you want Father.
Question asked: Clough replies: The trick, if there’s a trick to this, that we want to remember is that we’re not going through the hypostatic union and kenosis because we’re trying to show great theology. This stuff is available in any theology text. There’s nothing that I’m going through here that’s me. My point in going through this is that … ask yourself the question that whatever it is, whatever quality, virtue, values that you’re trying to produce in your life, why are you trying to produce it. What is the mechanism, the technique that you’re using? If it’s just like a pair of pants or a blouse or something that looks good on me, that’s really not the motive behind those virtues. The motive behind the virtues is looking at Him. It flows out of looking at Him and in order to look at Him, getting back to meditation, it’s got to be contentual, we’ve got to have content, we have to have specifics. Yes, He’s incomprehensible, but that doesn’t excuse from not appreciating this truth, that truth, this truth, that truth.
You could that passage in Isaiah 50 and meditate on that for days, on just what it was like to have been there, maybe sleeping on the ground in your sleeping bag next to Jesus. You wouldn’t hear God talking to Him necessarily, but in the wee hours of the morning He would be up and He would be with a scroll, or He was praying, because He was in that reception mode, listening to His Father teaching. In His case, remember He had to finish His ministry in less than two years. We have years and years in our career, twenty, thirty years. The Lord Jesus Christ did all this in two years. Isn’t this stunning? Talk about highly efficient use of time, every day, every day, every person, every meeting, everything was exquisitely timed so that nothing was wasted, and every thing was in place, just the right people were touched in just the right way, so that history would forever be changed, by just a few months of work. It’s pretty neat. And it goes back to what it says in that passage in Isaiah 50:5, He has given Me an ear to hear, and that’s what this humility is doing. That’s the humility. It doesn’t mean going around… you know. It means rather listening to God Almighty. In all the stuff and the confusion, chaos of our time we have to fight to get five seconds of quality time to sit there and listen. Our lives are really full of activity and chaos, demands and all kinds of stuff. All we’re urging is, isn’t that a neat model that you’ve got that simple model, He awakens me morning by morning.
Next week we’ll talk more about the implications of kenosis and read in the notes that next section because we’re going to deal with the cardinal virtue of the Christian, biblical the cardinal virtue is humility before God. We want to see the implications of submission in authority structures and then we’re going to go on to one of the interesting passages in Hebrews, the passage I’ve quoted three or four times tonight, “we have a merciful and faithful high priest, who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” That passage is al based on kenosis. See, the high priest has been here, the high priest knows what it means to have to trust the Lord to do something because in your power humanity can’t. That will all come out.