Kenosis

The fundamental flaw in the heresy of Kenosis is the assertion that Jesus gave up His equality with God in order to become a servant to the Father and die for the sins of the world. The power of God in omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence, were set aside as Jesus took the body of a man. This heresy was first seen in Lutheran Theologian, Gottfried Thomasius, who proposed this theory in the 1800’s.

The origin of “kenosis,” is from the original Greek word, “kenoo,” described as “empty.

In Philippians 2, Jesus is described as having a determination to not hold on to His rights as God but to make himself of no reputation and take the form of a servant.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  ~Philippians 2:5-11

We do not see that Jesus ceased to be God or that He was not, at His will, able to avail Himself of all the rights of God that were rightfully His; only that He voluntarily set aside His rights while He was taking ours sin at the place of judgement and dying for them on the cross. Paul concluded this section by telling us that because Jesus set aside His rights and became a servant, completing our salvation, God has highly exalted Him and given Jesus a name that is above all others.

The idea that Jesus was less than God while on earth, is not supported by any text of the Bible. It is interesting that people do not understand that God can never be anything less than God, regardless of whether He exercises all of His rights as God.

The humbling of Jesus was not a diminishing of Himself as God, but a personal withholding of these rights. The duration of time when Jesus set aside His rights as God was while He was representing us at the place of judgment and taking our punishment for our sins.

It is not that Jesus ceased to be God during that time, but that He did not exercise His rights as God.

We see examples of Jesus retention of His rights as God, even while He was in the midst of dying for us.

Authority Of God Before Pilate

When Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate, He was questioned about the charges that the Jews had made against Him. Although Jesus is the Living God and retained the power to destroy Pilate and every person who falsely accused and condemned Him, He remains silent.

There are two possible reasons for why Jesus said nothing.

First: According to the law, the accused cannot be compelled to incriminate himself.

Today in the United States, a person accused of a crime is protected from self incrimination by the 5th amendment to the Constitution. A similar law was in existence at the time that the High Priest questioned Jesus. It was illegal to compel Jesus to incriminate Himself. The Jews violated this law and then convicted Him because He would not answer.

“No one can bring an accusation against himself. Should a man make confession of guilt before a legally constituted tribunal, such confession is not to be said against him unless properly attested by two witnesses.” -Maimonides

“No attempt can be made to lead a man on to self-incrimination. Moreover, a voluntary confession on his part is not admitted in evidence, and therefore, not competent to convict him, unless a legal number of witnesses minutely corroborate his self-accusation.” -Mendelsohn

Second: It is my personal opinion that when Jesus refused to answer the High Priest and Pilate, that He had done so because He was representing you and I at the trial for our sins. Because we are guilty and can offer no defense for our actions, therefore Jesus said nothing as He represented us.

As we examine Jesus silence from a legal standpoint, we may also conjecture that Jesus did not answer the High Priest because He was aware of the law that He was not required to answer so as to incriminate Himself.

And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, saying, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?”  ~Mark 14:60

Isaiah 53:7 predicts that the Messiah will remain silent before His accusers.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth;  ~Isaiah 53:7

The High Priest continues to press Jesus for an answer. Whatever Jesus said from that point on, should have been inadmissible, because the very judge—who was to impartially examine the evidence, had himself, pressured Jesus to answer him.

But He kept silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”  ~Mark 14:61-62

The Sanhedrin eventually condemns Jesus to death on evidence that was illegally obtained, and was therefore inadmissible.

We Might Take A Similar View Of Jesus’ Silence As He Stands Before Pilate:

Then Pilate asked Him again, saying, “Do You answer nothing? See how many things they testify against You!”  But Jesus still answered nothing, so that Pilate marveled.  ~Mark 15:4-5

When Pilate scolds and threatens Jesus for not answering him, Jesus speaks up and informs this Roman ruler that the only reason He is standing before Pilate at all is because his authority to do so was given to him by God.

Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” 11 Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.”  ~John 19:10-11

While in His suffering for our sins, Jesus was fully in control of all the circumstances of His life, death, and resurrection. No man really had the ability to take authority over Jesus because He remained the King of the Universe, even as He was assuming the position of a servant to die for the sins of the world.

The mouths of the most powerful men in Judea were shut by Jesus, as He demonstrates that He has power over all the events of history. This remains for us today, a demonstration of the practical applications for how God is sovereign over all the affairs of the earth.

Controlling His Death

Jesus made it clear that no one could take His life; He was freely giving it—in fulfillment of what had been written of the Messiah. The Old Testament is replete with hundreds of scriptures which require the Messiah’s death—in order to remove the sins of the world. Jesus was carefully and methodically completing each of these requirements, precisely as they were required. In order to accomplish this great feat, He would need to be in control of absolutely ever minute detail.

Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”  ~John 10:17-18

Jesus was in control of every tiny detail of the final night and day of His life. As we study the words which David had written in the Psalms, words that he intended as prophetic descriptions of the coming Messiah; we see thatPsalm 31 contains four predictions that Jesus carefully fulfilled. It would be a mistake to assume that Jesus arrest, trial, scourging, and crucifixion were actions dictated solely by the Jewish leadership and the Roman government. Although these men are personally responsible for their actions, the Lord is also moving these events into alignment so that every prophecy spoken for the Messiah is fulfilled by Jesus actions and words.

Into Your hand I commit my spirit…”  ~Psalms 31:5

Luke Describes These Precise Words As Jesus Died

And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last.  ~Luke 23:46

Jesus was fully in control of when and where He would make His sacrifice for our sins—both in His death by crucifixion and by His resurrection three days later. Jesus boldly declared before He was crucified that no one had the power to take His life from Him.

Control Over Those Who Were In Control

As the soldiers come to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, He asks these men, Whom are you seeking? When Jesus speaks the words, “I am He,  the soldiers fall backwards onto the ground (John 18:6).

In the original text of this verse, the word “He” does not appear. The translators added this word because they felt that it clarified the verse for the reader. In reality, when Jesus answers the guards, He said “I am.” This is the eternal name  for God, found in Exodus 3:14, where He instructed Moses to call Him by this name. Jesus was telling those who came to arrest Him that He is the eternal God. Jesus confirmed this fact when He spoke to the Pharisees in John, chapter 8.

Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”  ~John 8:58

David, in writing Psalms 40:14 about the Messiah, prophesies that: Those Who seek to destroy my life; Let them be driven backward. These are the exact words of John’s testimony which occurred when Jesus said, “I am He.

When the soldiers come to arrest Jesus at the garden of Gethsemane, He made it clear to those who came to take Him by force that they were not orchestrating His arrest; He was allowing these soldiers to arrest Him. As the soldiers approach Jesus, He assumes a place of authority by questioning them: Whom are you seeking? When the soldiers answer “Jesus of Nazareth,” Jesus answers; “I AM.” The translators later added “He,” but this word was not in the original Greek manuscript of this encounter. By answering “I AM,” Jesus was using the eternal name for God—signifying that it was He who was orchestrating these events that would lead to His death and resurrection.

As Jesus speaks the words, “I AM,” the power of the eternal God bursts forth, causing the soldiers to fall backwards.

Jesus was making a very important statement to demonstrate that He was allowing these soldiers to arrest Him. No one at any time had authority over Jesus. It was He who was surrendering His life, and allowing the soldiers to take Him in order to fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament—so that all those who would believe in Him could be saved.

Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?” They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am He.” And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.  ~John 18:3-6

Jesus Controlled Every Situation

Although Jesus was laying down His life for us as a servant, He was still Lord of the universe and in control over absolutely every event that we read in the four Gospels.

  • The foal of a donkey submits to His authority (Matthew 21:7).
  • The wind and the waves submit to His authority (Mark 4:39).
  • The dead submit to His authority (John 11:43).
  • Death submits to His authority (John 11:25).
  • Sickness and disease, submit to His authority (Luke 18:42).
  • The demons submit to His authority (Luke 4:35).
  • The devil submits to His authority (Matthew 4:10).
  • All History submits to His authority (Matthew 26:56).
  • All the kingdoms of this world will submit to His authority (Matthew 19:28).

One day, every knee will bow to Jesus; every tongue will confess that He is the Lord.

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.   ~Philippians 2:9-11

 

In these examples from the Bible, we see that while acting as a servant to die for the sins of the world and setting aside His rights as Philippians 2 describes, Jesus was still God and remained sovereign over the universe and every person and circumstance that took place while He was on earth as our Savior.

The Danger of Kenosis

If Jesus was diminished while on earth and dying for our sins; not God, then He cannot be our Savior. All of the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah require that the Messiah was fully God, fully human.