Form of God

The expression in Phil. 2:6 is of great importance in discussion of the subjects of the Trinity and the deity of Christ. The words a form of God cannot be adequately explained except on the basis that the passage teaches the essential deity of Christ and His distinctive trinitarian person. The Greek word morphe has no reference to shape, or any other external mark, “but refers to the distinctive nature and character of the being to whom it pertains, and is thus permanently identified with the nature and character. Thus it is distinguished from schema (‘fashion’), comprising that which appeals to the senses and is changeable. Morphe, form, is identified with the essence of a person or thing: schema, fashion, is an accident which may change without affecting the form” (M. R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament: accident here means a quality not inherent in the essence of a thing). The undoubted force of morphe validates the statement of E. H. Gifford: “Morphe is … the Divine Nature actually and inseparably subsisting in the Person of Christ.” It is an expression of the essential deity of Christ.

It also has an important witness to give in relation to the doctrine of the Trinity. In Phil. 2:6, as Shedd points out, morphe is anarthrous (not having the definite article). Literally, the text reads, “Who being in a form of God.” That is to say, there is more than one form, or personal subsistence, of the divine essence.

Cairns, A. (2002). In Dictionary of Theological Terms. Belfast; Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International.

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