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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: What Everyone Needs to Know about Jesus

Don Stewart :: What Are Some Common Misconceptions about Jesus Emptying Himself When He Came to the Earth?

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What Are Some Common Misconceptions about Jesus Emptying Himself When He Came to the Earth?

What Everyone Needs to Know about Jesus – Question 20

The Bible says that Jesus Christ emptied Himself of certain things when He came to this earth. This is also known as the “kenosis” or emptying of Christ. Much debate has occurred over exactly what He emptied Himself of. The best answer to this question seems to consist of three things. First, He restricted Himself to live as a human being with all its limitations. In addition, God the Son also laid aside His glory which He has had for all eternity.

Finally, He exercised certain of His divine attributes always in accordance with the will of God the Father, never on His own. This seems to give us an answer as to what God the Son emptied, or laid aside, when He came to this earth.

What Emptying Does Not Mean

This seems to be what the “emptying” of Jesus Christ does mean. However, we should also deal with what the emptying or “kenosis” of Jesus Christ does not mean. Indeed, there are a number of common misconceptions about what Christ emptied Himself of when He became a human being. These misconceptions need to be cleared up. They include the following.

Misconception 1: Jesus Set Aside His Deity

This view holds that Jesus ceased to be God when He came to earth. It says He gave up His essential attributes of deity when He became a human. In other words, Jesus was a mere human when He was on the earth and nothing more. He was no longer God during His time here upon the earth.

Response

Jesus was always conscious of the fact that He was God. Those who say that Jesus ceased being God, when He came to earth, attempt to make Him into a fallible human being with limitations just like the rest of us. If this were the case, then His knowledge of divine mysteries would have been no better than any other human of His day. Consequently, His testimony would carry no real weight. He would not have been competent to speak about any issue with absolute authority.

The Bible does not say that God changed into a human being but rather than God became a human being without ceasing to be God. The Bible says that Jesus does not change:

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. (Hebrews 13:8 KJV)

It is impossible for God’s nature to change. His attributes are eternal, they always remain the same. Thus, this cannot answer the question. We must look elsewhere.

Misconception 2: Jesus Set Aside Some of His Divine Attributes

This view contends that Jesus Christ set aside certain of His divine attributes (such as being all-knowing, all-powerful and everywhere-present) when He came to earth. At the same time, He kept some of His attributes such as holiness, love, and truth, His moral attributes. Therefore, the emptying consisted of divesting Himself of the some the characteristics He always possessed as God but keeping other attributes.

Response

Jesus Christ is the eternal God. He enjoys all the rights and privileges of that position. If Jesus was God, as the Scripture teaches, it is hard to imagine that He could somehow rid Himself of some of these qualities and still be God. The emptying could not have been with regard to His attributes as God, because, by definition, God cannot cease being God.

Misconception 3: Jesus Did Not Know That He Was God

There are some who believe that Jesus did not give up any of His divine attributes while here on earth but rather gave up His divine self-consciousness. In other words, He did not know He was God. All the attributes of deity remained with Him, but He simply was not aware of them. Thus, He emptied Himself of the knowledge of who He truly is.

Response

Scripture says that Jesus was completely aware of who He was and what He could do at all time. Indeed, when arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus stated that He could summon legions of angels who could immediately stop those taking Him. We read,

Then Jesus told him, “Put your sword back in place because all who take up a sword will perish by a sword. Or do you think that I cannot call on My Father, and He will provide Me at once with more than 12 legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:52, 53 HCSB)

Jesus was indeed aware of whom He was at all times. Nothing in His words or deeds gives the slightest indication that He was ignorant of whom He was or why He was here upon the earth.

Misconception 4: Jesus Acted as Though He Did Not Possess Divine Attributes

This position holds that Jesus still retained all of His divine attributes when He was here on earth but that He acted as though He did not possess them. While He was still all-knowing, all-powerful, and holy, His behavior did not reflect that He still possessed them.

Response

This answer would mean that Jesus was somehow deceiving the people. He knew who He was but He pretended to be someone else. This is inconsistent with the pure, holy character of God. It is not possible that God can deceive people about anything. This viewpoint does not fit the facts.

Misconception 5: Jesus Set Aside the Use of His Divine Attributes

This position holds that Jesus gave up the use, not the possession of His divine attributes. While He was fully God during His time here upon the earth He did not use any of these divine attributes. Though He could have used them, He did not.

Response

The New Testament teaches that Jesus did exercise the use of His divine attributes while He was here upon the earth. For example, He was able to predict the future accurately.

Indeed, we have a number of predictions made by Jesus concerning coming events. The Bible, as well as secular history, records the fact that Jesus was accurate on each and every one of His predictions. Only God can do something like this. No human being, not even a perfect one, knows what will happen in the future.

This sums up some of the common misconceptions we find with respect to the doctrine of God the Son, Jesus Christ, emptying Himself, when He came to this earth.

Summary – Question 20
What Are Some Common Misconceptions about Jesus Emptying Himself When He Came to the Earth?

When Jesus came to earth He laid aside or emptied Himself of something. There are many misconceptions at to what He set aside. Some of the more popular ones include the following.

To begin with, it was not His deity that He set aside. God the Son could not empty Himself of His deity. In other words, He could not stop being God. While He was indeed fully human, He was not merely human. Jesus Christ was God and Man simultaneously.

There is also the misconception that God the Son set aside some of His divine attributes when He became a human being. However, this does not seem possible. As God, it is not possible that He set aside only some of His divine attributes while keeping others.

Some argue that while Jesus was God the Son while He was here upon the earth He did not know this. In other words, He emptied Himself of the knowledge that He was God. Again, this is the wrong way of looking at what the Bible has to say about Jesus emptying Himself. Jesus always knew He was God and He knew that possessed these divine attributes; He was not ignorant of who He was or what He could do.

There is also the theory that Jesus, though He had these powers which belong to God alone, He acted as though He did not have them. But this would make Jesus a deceiver.

Furthermore, we find that Jesus allowed the people to know that He did indeed have such powers which belong to God alone.

Finally, there are those who contend that Jesus set aside the use of certain of His divine attributes while here upon the earth. Jesus set aside the use of His relative attributes such as being all-powerful and all-knowing. However, this does not fit the facts. Those powers were always present with Him and He used them on occasion.

Consequently, when we seek to understand the emptying of Christ we should reject each of these theories because they do not fit the biblical facts.

In What Sense Did Jesus Empty Himself? ← Prior Section
Why Did Jesus Call Himself the Son of Man? Next Section →
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