This is probably the most important post I will ever write in this blog, as it strikes at the heart of the Unentitled Gospel. The only way to explain the true seed of the “Unentitled” spirit is to start with a certain unique contrast between the mindset of Adam and Eve when they sinned and the one whom the Bible calls the “second Adam” – the person of Jesus.
We are told in Philippians that Jesus did not count equality with God something to be GRASPED. The word “grasp” literally means “to lay hold of/attempt to seize, to act decisively to the advantage of (something) or a person’s power or capacity to attain something.” Now, this is obviously not to say that Jesus did not KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that he WAS, in fact, equal with God… So why, then, would Jesus intentionally refrain from grasping something He already knew he “had”?
Let’s go to the Garden. Adam and Eve sinned by doing the one thing God specifically told them NOT to do… God told them not to partake – not to “grasp” – at a particular fruit which was presented to them by Satan as a way to help them “attain” some kind of equality with God. Instead of obeying God’s one simple command, they took the fruit of the tree and ate it. In fact, many interpretations explain that the word “took” here actually means something akin to seizing and robbery. So even within the very act of disobeying God’s command lay the sin of self-deification – the attempt to seize equality of the God who had commanded them.
Just to be clear, the problem was not Adam and Eve’s desire to be like God – in whose perfect image they were already made. Rather, the issue was that they objectified God-likeness as if it were a thing to be taken for themselves. The act of Adam and Eve attempting to lay hold of and seize equality with God according to their own power and capacity to obtain it is the perfect representation of an inherently selfish godlikeness. More importantly, the fact that Adam and Eve ever attempted to lay claim to (“to assert one’s right or title to”) self-deification presupposes that they felt they had a certain right to be like God – which is the precise definition of spiritual entitlement. At its very heart, spiritual entitlement is the seed of all sin because it represents an assumed “right to grasp” at equality with God, which thus denies God’s authority and makes a god of oneself.
Now we can begin to appreciate the significance that Jesus “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.” How then did he view his god-identity? Surely He did not shy away from it, nor did he ignore it, avoid it, deny it, downplay or reject it at any single point in His life. In fact, it was for the very proclamation that He would be seated at the right hand of God that the council of Jews decided Jesus must be crucified for such a blasphemous statement. The fact of the matter is that Jesus knew his identity SO firmly that it gave him the ability to REFRAIN from any attempt to GRASP at it in a selfish manner.
Jesus knew He was God, and armed with that knowledge he could have commanded angels to come to His aid (“Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” Matt 26:53), but instead He willfully surrendered His life. So we find that Jesus’ response to His own equality with God was certainly not a concerted effort to exert the entitlement of power and authority that went with that identity. Instead his attitude was something like this:
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, 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. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:6f
Why did God feel the need to affirm the identity Jesus technically already had in response to His humble death on the Cross? If Jesus was no more God after He died than He was before He died, what changed? The thing is that Jesus embodied the full character, person and heart of God; therefore his life, death and resurrection were the complete manifestation of God’s likeness. In that way, Jesus’ death represents an intrinsic aspect of the fullness of God. It’s no wonder that Paul once wrote, “I have resolved to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”
What did Jesus do in response to his equality with God? He laid down his right to be God. Jesus was the only person truly entitled to equality with God, and yet He chose to separate Himself from that reality by dying to all Godly power and authority. Our Lord traded His divine entitlement for the will to die. Jesus’ death was a fulfillment of the true character of God, a tangible way to tell the world that the true divine instinct does not rise towards power and preservation but denies the tempting urge to grasp at it. God sent the person of Jesus to be the complete and perfect imprint of His own self-denying identity.
Christ expressed his total equality with God by denying his entitlement and becoming like a servant. And in a direct response to this, God chose to highly exalt him. It was not for his displays of heavenly authority on earth that Christ was exalted, but for his humility unto death on the cross. In the same way, everything that Jesus did from birth to resurrection – including his miracles – were done from an unentitled spirit that did not count his “exalted” identity a thing to be grasped but instead a thing to surrender unto the Father in complete self-denying humility.