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The Epistle to the Philippians (6).
pp. 56 - 60
We are seeking to expound one of the most profound passages in the Bible namely
Phil. 2: 5-11, dealing with the pre-incarnate Christ and His seven voluntary steps
downward from the glory that was His before His Nativity, to the shame and degradation
of the Cross, followed by seven steps upward to the glorious position He relinquished.
Before we seek to deal with this section, we wish to point out that it was probably a
hymn, and if so, it is one of the earliest examples of Christian hymnody we possess.
Ernest Lohmeyer in his work Kyrios Jesus (Heidelberg 1928) pointed this out, noting the
way the sentences are constructed and the rhythmical cadence of the lines. If this is so,
one would expect it would be possible to arrange them into stanzas, and Lohmeyer has
done so with six stanzas with three lines thus:
Being in the form of God
He considered it not a thing to be seized
To be equal with God.
But emptied Himself
By taking the form of a slave
Coming in human likeness
And appearing on earth as a man
He humbled Himself
Becoming obedient unto death (indeed death on a cross)
Wherefore God highly exalted Him
And bestowed on Him the Name
That is above every name
That at the Name of Jesus
Every knee should bow
Of things in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.
And every tongue shall confess
Jesus Christ is LORD
To the glory of God the Father.
Other scholars have modified this, but it is possibly true and would fall in line with
other hymns contained in the N.T. such as the Nativity Canticles in Luke, and the hymns
of praise in the Revelation and elsewhere. In view of Eph. 5: 19 and Col. 3: 16, what
more natural than that the early church should sing the praises of One who was so rich,
yet for our sakes became poor, that through His poverty we should become eternally rich
and endow us with such a high and holy calling? As to whether Paul composed this
section of the epistle as a hymn, or is using another's composition under the Spirit's
guidance, we cannot know for certainty. That the Apostle was capable of poetry of the
highest order, "the hymn to love", as it has been called, of I Cor. 13: clearly testifies.