This statement from Paul is written with the vision of hindsight. The whole life of Jesus was as a servant, but it’s important to remember he grew to be a servant unto death.
His willingness to put aside his own will to serve God’s purposes required a constant deepening of this commitment to obey, no matter the cost, which eventually cost him his life in totally unjust and horrific circumstances.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death: death on a cross. Phil 2:8
Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from what he suffered. Heb 5:8
but emptied himself (he made himself nothing), taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. Phil 2:7
- This ‘emptied himself’ can only refer to the life of increasing obedience against increasing temptation.
- ‘being made in human likeness‘ refers to Paul again reiterating the origin of Jesus, just as the Gospels also explain.
But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law Gal 4:4
He had to be made like his brothers in every way…. Heb 2:17
What particular nature made Jesus a servant?
His humble and willing obedience to honour and serve his Father and God with his life, but willing also to even die in that service.
The nature Jesus had is one of holiness and total dependence on his God for every need. Through the Holy Spirit given him, he was able to allow God’s nature of love and grace to work through him to become the saviour sent into the world.
His own human nature of self-serving would not suffice! He had to put aside his own will for the will of his God.
For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent me. John 6:38
So it is God’s nature working in him to be obedient, to serve, to suffer unto death. This is how he ‘made himself nothing’. It was not about Jesus being Savior on his own, with his own nature, but by allowing God working in him to accomplish that which was necessary. This same nature and presence of God is within believers, but only via the deposit of His spirit.
What is the structure and material substance of Jesus the servant?
The NT tells us unequivocally that he was a man sent by God - instructed and inspired by God, empowered and equipped by God. This man, being holy and without sin, was the closest man to God since Adam. Indeed, Jesus is the last Adam (1Cor 15:45). This intimate closeness, unhindered by sin and deception, allowed Jesus to accept his role and submit with total trust in God's plan for him.
His substance is like any other man - yet without sin. Sin alters a man irreparably! Sin separates us from God - being banished from the 'Tree of Life' signifies this terrible separation. So Jesus' nature and substance is, while the same as ours, untainted by sin and the associated trappings which allows a true servant heart to flourish and persist when all others would fail. This deeper trust and love relationship with God will be re-enabled in all who choose to accept the offer of salvation and reconciliation in Christ.