From: Jamie Smith
From the Nicene Creed, we are to gather that Christ was in the form of God and had the form of God in Him. It wasn’t just an outward appearance. It was also His essence. What does Scripture have to say?
Php 2:6-8: “Who, being inherently in the form of God, deems it not pillaging to be equal with God, nevertheless empties Himself, taking the form of a slave, coming to be in the likeness of humanity, and, being found in fashion as a human, He humbles Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
Five phrases to consider: “form of God,” “equal with God,” “form of a slave,” “likeness of humanity,” “fashion as a human.”
The early fathers attempted to explain this passage through creating creeds. They substituted “form” (Greek: morphe) with “substance” (Greek: homousion) or “like-estate” and then used other phrases to enhance their idea of “internal essence.” Is that how Scripture uses “form”?
Ro 2:20: “... having the form of knowledge and the truth in the law.”
This verse uses “form” to explain that the Hebrews did not actually possess knowledge and the truth. They only had an outward appearance of knowledge. Form does not mean internal essence.
2 Ti 3:5: “having a form of devoutness, yet denying its power ...”
This is a description of humanity toward the end of this eon. Their devoutness is superficial. It is on the outside and not internal. Form does not mean internal essence.
Mark 16:12: “... He was manifested in a different form to two of them walking ...”
Here, the risen Christ was outwardly manifested in a different form. He appeared to be another, but His essence did not change. He was still Christ inside. Form does not mean internal essence.
Ga 4:19: “... until Christ may be formed in you!”
Here “formed” is a verb. Paul doesn’t say, “until you may be a form of Christ.” The internal essence aspect of this verse is through the word “in.” If “form” meant “internal essence” then “in” would not be required. So here, Christ should be formed inwardly in a believer. Someone just showing the “form of Christ” does not have Christ in them. Form does not mean internal essence.
We have now set the true sense of “form.” It is an outward appearance rather than internal essence. So how are we to view Christ being “in the form of God”?