Imagine you were approached by a middle schooler at church after a Bible study on Philippians 2. In the Bible study, the middle school heard Philippians 2:5-8 read and preached on, which says:
(Jesus) did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
After the Bible study is finished, this astute middle schooler approaches you and asks this one question, “When Jesus became a man, did He stop being God?” What would your answer be?
How are we supposed to think about Jesus’ incarnation? How are we supposed to maintain His full Deity and His full Humanity without compromising the two? What does it mean that Jesus emptied himself (Philippians 2:5-8)? Bruce Ware offers one of the most helpful illustrations of what the Bible means when it says that Christ emptied Himself in the incarnation:
Imagine, first, going into a new car dealership for the purpose of test-driving a brand-new car. As you are looking around the showroom floor, a salesman approaches and talks to you about several models on display. Your eye lands on a particularly bright and shiny car, brilliantly reflecting the sunlight streaming in. You ask if you can test-drive this beautiful, shiny car, and the salesman agrees. As you leave for your test-drive, you decide to drive out in the country for a bit, and in doing so you come upon some unpaved dirt roads. It so happens that this area had received torrential rains for the past several days, so these dirt roads are extremely muddy. Nonetheless, you drive this new shiny car on those muddy back roads for several miles, spinning the tires and enjoying how the car handles in these slipper conditions. Returning the car to the dealership, you pull into a lot and drive it right back onto the showroom floor – now caked all over with mud!
“When the salesman sees you and his car, he comes over and exclaims, ‘What have you done to my car?’
“At this you calmly reply, ‘I haven’t taken anything away from your car; I’ve only added to it!’
And of course, the point is correct. The beautiful shine of the car is still there. Its luster and beauty haven’t been removed. But what has happened is that something else has been added to the car that prevents these qualities from being able to shine through. The beauty of the car has not been destroyed or even diminished, but that beauty has been covered over by the mud. One might even say this: the glory of the car is every bit as much present as it was previously, but this glory cannot be seen for what it is because of the covering of mud. Taking on the mud, then, has added something that results in its appearing less, while in fact it is only more. (Taken from The Man Christ Jesus, p. 20-21)
In becoming Man, Jesus did not cease to be God, but in taking on a complete human nature, His glory as God was hidden or concealed in the weakness of His humanity. When Jesus became a Man, He covered Himself with a created, limited, and finite human nature. As the mud covered the glory of the car so Christ’s humanity covers the glory of His Deity. The brilliant shine of His Deity (His God-ness) was hidden under the cover of His ordinary humanity.
Still fully God, He became fully Man so He could bring Man fully back to God. What a Savior.