Caution! You are about to enter the theology no-spin zone for basic Bible study. These words, paraphrased, introduce the famous Bill O’Reilly on Fox News. They apply to your Bible reading too!
Tricks of Translation
“Existing in the form of God” (Phil. 2:6). If you are reading the NIV, “being in very nature God” (the marginal note does better), you are being misled. If Jesus is God, that makes two Gods, since we all know that the Father is God. In fact the Father is, as Jesus said, the “only one who is true God” (John 17:3). That is quite clear and easy. So is the Shema (“Hear, O Israel” of Deut. 6:4, Mark 12:29).
In Philippians 2:5 Paul talks about the Messiah Jesus. By Messiah Jesus he means “the man Messiah Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). He is not discussing a pre-human “God” person, a “God the Son,” a title which appears nowhere in Scripture. God in the Bible is strictly one Person, the Father (Mal. 2:10 and hundreds of passages).
Paul is urging his congregations to imitate and share the mind of Messiah Jesus, who though he enjoyed the elevated status of being uniquely the Messiah and Son of God, did not use his elevated and unique status and position to advance himself. Being in the form or image of God, he adopted the form or status of a servant/slave and learned obedience right up to the point of death. Because of this marvelous example of a human, sinless life lived in perfect submission to God (an effective ideal model for us all), God super-elevated His Son to the position at the right hand of God where he is now. That position makes Jesus the unique human lord (adoni, “my lord,” Ps. 110:1) next to God. And all this is to the glory of God who is the Father (Phil. 2:11, as 1300 times in the NT). So understood the words of Paul in Philippians 2:5-11 are a practical and intelligible lesson for us all. The same lesson is repeated in 2 Corinthians 8:9.
An interesting example of the same word “form” (morphe in Greek) occurs in Tobit 1:13 (an apocryphal book): “The Most High granted me favor and status with Shalmaneser, so that I became purchasing agent for all his needs.” The use of morphe in the Septuagint and the Apocrypha reflects meanings such as “a form that can be seen,” or “an appearance or countenance that can be observed.”
In Colossians 1:15-16 Jesus is the “image of the invisible God.” Your translation may tell you that “by him all things were made.” This is quite misleading since the Father was alone at creation (Isa. 44:24). The Greek says that things were made “in Jesus” or “with him in view.” The “in” (en) is said to be causal (because of) by a standard authority on Greek (Moulton, Milligan, Turner). Jesus was not the creator; the Father was. The Son began to exist in the womb of his mother as Luke 1:35 reports along with Matthew 1:18, 20 and 1 John 5:18 (not KJV): “He who was begotten of God [Jesus] preserves him [the Christian].”
“Lord’s anointed” = the Lord God’s Christ, Messiah
In your Bible you have not been allowed to see the connection between the Messiah Jesus (“the man Messiah Jesus” — see 1 Tim. 2:5 for Paul’s brilliant summary) and the other king messiahs of the OT. The title you have been reading in the OT, “the Lord’s anointed,” is not wrong, but it does not tell you that it is the same precisely as “the Lord’s Messiah,” the exact title for Jesus in the NT in Luke 2:26. Jesus is the Lord (God)’s Messiah. Insert the word “Messiah” for “anointed” and you will see that Jesus is the ultimate King. He is not the second member of an imagined Trinity. There is only one God and He is the Father some 1300 times in the NT.