Some dispute it, but Jesus did exist before birth as a human being.

Summary

Some Christians do not believe that Jesus existed before He was born as a human being. This short article shows that Jesus existed before He was born – even “before Abraham” (John 8:58) – that He existed from eternity, namely from “the beginning” (John 1:1) – and that He existed in the “form of God” and had “equality with God” (Phil 2:6).

But God sent “his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom 8:3). He “emptied Himself” of “equality with God” (Phil 2:7), descended from heaven (John 6:62; 16:28), and “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14, NIV).

Introduction

Dr. Dale Tuggy is an example of a Christian philosopher who does not believe in the preexistence of Christ. He, and other Christians like him, do not believe that Jesus existed before He was born as a human being. This is called Socinianism. Listen, for example, to some of his podcasts:

The purpose is this article is not only to show that Jesus existed before He was born, but that He ‘always’ existed; from the beginning of time.

Jesus existed before His birth.

The Baptist said, “After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me” (John 1:29).

Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).

He shared glory with God “before the world was” (John 17:5).

He existed from eternity. 

He is “from long ago, from the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2).

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God
” (John 1:1).

He is before all things” (Col 1:17).
He is “the Beginning of the creation of God” (Rev 3:14).

The “beginning” is understood as the beginning of time. In other words, there was no time when He was not. The article on “the firstborn of all creation” (Col 1:15) interprets that as saying that the Son was the first being to exist.

He descended from heaven.

The following statements are provided as evidence that Jesus descended from heaven. The opponents of this view maintain that such statements must be read figuratively and not as evidence that He literally came down from heaven. You be the judge:

Jesus said to Nicodemus, “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man” (John 3:13).

“For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven … I am the bread of life … I have come down from heaven” (John 6:33-38).

What then if you see the Son of Man ascending
to where He was before
” (John 6:62)?

I am from above; you are of this world,
I am not of this world
” (John 8:23).

He came from God.

Jews questioning Jesus
Jews questioning Jesus

I proceeded forth and have come from God” (John 8:42)

I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father” (John 16:28).

God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16).

It is sometimes said that Jesus became God’s begotten Son when He was born as a human. But John 3:16 indicates that He was God’s only begotten Son even prior to His birth as a human being.

He was sent by God. 

“... God did: sending his own Son
in the likeness of sinful flesh
and as an offering for sin
” (Rom 8:3).

Other articles provide many further examples to show that God sent Jesus. That God sent Him firstly implies His pre-existence; that He existed prior to becoming a human being. Secondly, this statement implies His subordination to God; not only as a human being but also in His pre-existence.

Incarnation

“The Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us”
(John 1:14, NIV).

For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh” (2 John 1:7).

Philippians 2

Philippians 2 contains a very instructive passage in which Paul describes Christ’s existence through four phases:

(1)   Before His birth;
(2)   As a human being;
(3)   His death; and
(4)   After His resurrection and ascension

(1) Before His birth, Jesus existed in the “form of God” and had “equality with God” (Phil 2:6).

(2) To become a human being, Jesus “emptied Himself” of the “form of God” and of “equality with God” (Phil 2:7). He remained the same Person as before, but He became a mere human baby, without knowledge or wisdom. He was truly and fully human.

The Cross

(3) His death was a test to see whether He would remain “obedient to the point of death” (Phil 2:8). His entire life was a test of obedience.

(4) After His death, “God highly exalted Him” (Phil 2:9) so that He would be worshiped by all (Phil 2:9-10). He is again equal with God. Dr Tuggy relects this argument, but would God require the entire universe to worship a mere human being? 

For a more detailed further discussion of this important passage, see the article on – Philippians 2.

Available Articles – Christology

Summary Articles

Specific Bible Books

Specific Bible Passages

The origin of the Son

Christ is subordinate to God.

Christ is equal to God.

Jesus is called God.

      • Overview – Overview of the verses that refer to Jesus as theos.
      • Theos – The meaning of theos – the word translated “God.”
      • John 1:18 – The original text of this verse is in dispute.
      • John 20:28 – Did Thomas say that Jesus is God?
      • John’s gospel – Discussion of theos in this gospel.
      • Romans 9:5 – The translation depends on punctuation.
      • Hebrews 1:8 – The next verse says that God is His theos.

The translation of John 1:1

Trinity Doctrine

Other Articles Series

Daniel

Revelation

Other Key Articles

For general discussions of theology, I recommend Graham Maxwell, who you will find on the Pineknoll website.

Philippians 2: Jesus had equality with God, but emptied Himself of it.

Summary

PhilippiansPhilippians 2:5-11 is a profound statement of the nature of Christ, describing His life through four chronological stages, namely:

(1) Before He became a human being, “He existed in the form of God” and had “equality with God” (Phil 2:5-6).

(2) But then “Jesus Christ … emptied Himself” and was “made in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:7). He became truly and fully human. Just like us, He had to grow in wisdom, become weary, thirsty, hungry, and die (Luke 2:52; John 4:6; 19:28; Matt 4:2; Mark 15:37).

The Cross of Christ(3) “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). He suffered a cruel death and remained in the grave for three days.

(4) After His resurrection and ascension, “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Phil 2:8-9). Therefore, “at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW” (Phil 2:10).

Jesus is not God.

This article analyzes these verses to determine whether they support the Trinity doctrine, according to which the Son is God and equal to the Father in all respects. For the following reasons, it concludes that these verses indicate that He is not God:

(A) By maintaining a distinction between “God” (Phil 2:6, 9, 11) and “Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5, 10-11), this passage reserves the title “God” for the Father only.

(B) Before He became a human being, He existed in the form of God (Phil 2:6), which means that He is distinct from God.

(C) Jesus also had “equality with God” (Phil 2:6). This confirms the distinction between Jesus Christ and God. He was equal to God just like Joseph was equal with Pharaoh (Gen 44:18), namely through the authority which He received.

(D) Jesus emptied Himself of equality with God (Phil 2:6-7). God cannot empty Himself of equality with Himself. That Jesus was able to empty Himself of equality with God shows that He received His equality with God from God; it was not essentially His.

(E) After His resurrection and ascension, “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Phil 2:9). In other words, He received His “name which is above every name” from God; it is not essentially part of His nature. 

Why do we worship Jesus?

If Jesus is not God, why must we bow the knee to Christ (Phil 2:10)? This article provides three reasons:

Firstly, because God exalted Him (Phil 2:9-10). In other words, it is God’s will (cf. Heb 1:6).

Secondly, the created beings of the universe bow the knee to Jesus because “Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil 2:11); not because He is God (cf. 1 Cor 8:6).

Thirdly, Jesus is not worshiped independently of or equal with God the Father, but “to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11). 

– END OF SUMMARY –


Christ in Philippians 2

Philippians 2:5-11 is a profound statement of the nature of Christ, describing His life through four chronological stages, namely:

    1. Before He became a human being,
    2. His life as a human being,
    3. His death and
    4. His exaltation after He was resurrected and ascended to heaven.

This article analyzes these verses to determine whether they support the Trinity doctrine, according to which the Son is God and equal to the Father in all respects.

The four stages of Christ’s life

1. Pre-existence

Before He became a human being, “He existed in the form of God” and had “equality with God” (Phil 2:5-6).

Firstly, this confirms that Jesus existed before He became a human being. Some Unitarians (as opposed to Trinitarians) deny His pre-existence (e.g., listen to Dustin Smith).

Secondly, this could mean that Jesus is the God of the Old Testament. For example, Isaiah saw:

The Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted,
with the train of His robe filling the temple.
Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings

(Isa 6:1-4).

Since Jesus, before He became a human being, “existed in the form of God,” this could have been a vision of Him.

2 A Human Being

Jesus Christ …
emptied Himself, taking
the form of a bond-servant,
and being made
in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:7).

Since Christ “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself” (Phil 2:6-7), He emptied Himself of “equality with God.” He also “emptied Himself” of “the form of God,” for He took on “the form of a bond-servant … being made in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:6-7).

Adam attempted to seize equality with God (Gen 3:5 – “You will be like God”). Christ did the opposite: “He had to be made like his brothers in all things” (Heb 2:17). He emptied Himself of His powers and knowledge, beginning His human life as a vulnerable human baby (Luke 2:7; Gal 4:4). He performed many miracles, but only because “God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10:38). “Our Lord Jesus Christ … though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor” (2 Cor 8:9). He voluntarily descended to the realm where He was “despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa 53:3).

That Jesus emptied Himself when He became a human being also reveals God to us; how much God loves His creatures; even His enemies:

God so loved the world,
that He gave His only begotten Son
” (John 3:16).

He became a real human being. Just like us, He had to grow in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52). “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered” (Heb 5:8). He became weary (John 4:6), thirsty (John 19:28) and hungry (Matt 4:2). He marveled at the faith of the centurion (Matt 8:10) and was sad when Lazarus died (John 11:35). In Gethsemane, He grieved deeply, to the point of death (Matt 26:38). The next day He died (Mark 15:37). Jesus did not just look like a man; He was truly and fully human.

How it was possible for the Person, through whom God created all things, and who “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Heb 1:3), to be transformed into a human embryo, we cannot begin to understand, and we will not even try. “The secret things belong to the LORD our God” (Deut 29:29).

What we want to learn through the current series of articles is who Jesus really is; not only who He was as a human being. He said, “I can do nothing on My own initiative” (John 5:30). Since He emptied Himself of equality with God and of the form of God, we must always ask whether such statements are also eternally true of Him.

3 Death

He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). He suffered a very cruel death and remained in the grave for three days.

As discussed in the articles on the Seven Seals of Revelation, the important matter is not His death, but His obedience. His entire life was a test, namely to see whether He would remain obedient under the most severe circumstances. Satan was allowed to test Jesus, even “to the point of death” (Phil 2:8). But Jesus remained faithful, “that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb 2:14). (Also see – Why Jesus had to die.)

4 Exaltation at the Father’s right hand

Because “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,” after His resurrection and ascension, “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Phil 2:8-9). Therefore:

“At the name of Jesus
EVERY KNEE WILL BOW …
in heaven and on earth …
and that every tongue will confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father
” (Phil 2:10-11).

Is Jesus is God?

For the following reasons, this description of the four stages of the Son’s life indicate that He is not God:

(A) By maintaining a distinction between “God” (Phil 2:6, 9, 11) and “Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5, 10-11), this passage reserves the title “God” for the Father only.

(B) Before He became a human being, He existed in the form of God (Phil 2:6). If an angel appears in the form of a man, he is still an angel and not a man. Similarly, that Jesus existed in the form of God does not mean that He is God. Rather, it means that He is distinct from God.

(C) The statement that Jesus had “equality with God” (Phil 2:6) also makes a distinction between Jesus Christ and God. In other words, He is not God. Joseph was given His power and authority by Pharaoh to act on his behalf. So, he had equality with Pharaoh (Gen 44:18). Similarly, God gave His power and authority to Jesus Christ. He was equal in authority, but it was an authority which He received; not His own.

(D) Jesus emptied Himself of equality with God. God may perhaps be able to empty Himself of His divine form and glory but God cannot empty Himself of equality with Himself. That Jesus was able to empty Himself of equality with God (Phil 2:6-7) shows that He received His equality with God from God; it was not essentially His.

(E) After His resurrection and ascension, “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Phil 2:9). In other words, He received His “name which is above every name” from God; it is not essentially part of His nature. 

Another article shows that the entire New Testament teaches that Jesus is distinct from God, reserving the title “God” for the Father alone. Since “God” highly exalted Him (Phil 2:9), Jesus is subordinate to God. As discussed in the article – Subordinate to God, this principle is also taught all over the New Testament.

Why do we worship Jesus?

The Bible commands us to worship only God. For example: “You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only” (Luke 4:8), but we must also bow the knee to Christ (Phil 2:10). If Jesus is not God, why do we worship Him?

In Revelation 5, heavenly beings fell down before the Lamb with the prayers of the saints (Rev 15:8) and give honor to both Him who sits on the throne (the Father), and to the Lamb (Rev 5:13). God commanded all angels to worship His Son (Heb 1:6). We must honor Jesus as we honor the Father (John 5:23).

Many Christians believe that Jesus is worshiped because He is co-equal with the Father, but we have already noted that Jesus is both distinct from and subordinate to God. Philippians 2:9-11 explains why Jesus is worshiped:

(1) It is God’s will.

God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Phil 2:9). Then Philippians 2:10 begins with the phrase, “for this reason.” This means that “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow” (Phil 2:10) becauseGod highly exalted Him” (Phil 2:9); not because He is God Himself. Hebrews 1:6 contains a similar statement, saying that God commanded the angels to worship His Son.

God is the great Source of power and authority. Jesus received everything He has from God; also such an exalted position that it is right and proper for created beings to worship Him.

(2) Jesus Christ is Lord

Secondly, the created beings of the universe bow the knee to Jesus and confess that “Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil 2:11). They do not confess Him to be God. The identification of the Father as God and the Son as the Lord is a consistent pattern in the New Testament. For example:

For us there is but one God, the Father …
and one Lord, Jesus Christ
” (1 Cor 8:6).

The article – Jesus in Colossians – shows that Jesus is never called God in that letter; He is always called Lord. That is significant because Colossians is the letter in the New Testament with the highest view of Christ.

Related to this, notice also that the word “worship” does not appear in Philippians 2. All it says is that “every knee will bow” (Phil 2:10). This is the ancient way of showing respect to a king. As explained in the article on worship, that is exactly what the Greek word proskuneo (sometimes translated as “worship”) means.

(3) To the glory of God

Thirdly, Jesus is not worshiped independently of or equal with God the Father, but “to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11). This is also how we should understand the worship of Christ in Revelation 5, where He is worshiped together with “Him who sits on the throne” (Rev 5:13-14). Similarly:

All will honor the Son even as they honor the Father.
He who does not honor the Son
does not honor the Father who sent Him
” (John 5:23).

To “honor” the Son is the same as bowing the knee to the Son. This verse also contains the idea that, to honor the Son, is to honor the Father. Jesus is the visible “image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15). By honoring the Son, the universe honors the Father. The worship of the universe flows through Jesus to the Father, who exists outside space, time, and matter.

Other articles

Nature of Christ – Is Jesus God?

Book of Daniel

Book of Revelation

Other key articles

For general discussions of theology, I recommend Graham Maxwell, who you will find on the Pineknoll website.