1. And can it be that I should gain
An int'rest in the Savior's blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! how can it be?
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me!
So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam's helpless race;
'Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me. [Refrain]
And there it is. Speaking about Jesus, the third verse states, “Emptied Himself of all but love…” The Kenosis heresy.
For those who subscribe to this heresy, the go to text they use to support Kenosis is Philippians 2:7. To give this some context, here are verses 5-8,
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil.2:5-8 NASB 1995)
There it is in verse 7. In speaking of Jesus, the Apostle Paul writes, “but emptied Himself,…” The word “emptied” is translated from the Greek word, ekenōsen (Strong’s G2758), which is from the Greek word, kenoó. The word does not have the same meaning as we might think. We generally think of the word “emptied,” as meaning removing the contents of something. That, however, is a simplistic understanding of the word, and it doesn’t express the actual meaning of the word.
Those who subscribe to the Kenotic Theory, or Kenosis, have used this simplistic explanation of ekenōsen as meaning “removing the contents of something,” because it fits their theology. This is a type of eisegetical theology, or forcing ones personal beliefs into the text, thus making it support what one already believes. In this instance, they have Jesus removing from Himself all or some of His Divine Attributes. However, as I said, the word does not simply mean that at all. According to Strong’s Greek Dictionary we read, “From kenos;...to abase,...(to make of none effect, of no reputation).” The word ekenōsen actually means abased.
Now then, what does Abased mean? Well, according to the current Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the question is asked, “What does abased mean in the Bible?” and the answer given is, “1 formal : to lower in rank, office, prestige, or esteem; abase oneself;” and when we go back to the very first Webster’s Dictionary from 1828, the definition of the word abased is, “ABASED, pp. Reduced to a low state, humbled, degraded.”
And this is exactly what the passage states. Again in verse 7, “but [Jesus] emptied [abased] Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” Jesus abased Himself, gave Himself a lower position, that of man. It doesn’t mean He was emptied of His Divine Attributes. It means He actually added a second nature to Himself.
Now, to be fair, ekenōsen can be translated empty, or to empty, but this does not mean the same as empty does in today’s English. This is where context comes into play. Context is one of the primary rules of good biblical interpretation. When reading the Bible we have to remember to understand the text according to its proper context. We look at the passages around it, and then the chapters around it, and then we look at the Bible in its entirety. Where else do we find related passages? We also have to remember to take into consideration the historical context. What would the passage mean to those to whom the letter was intended? In this case, the Philippians.
Now, don’t panic, you are not required to have a doctorate in Bibliology (the doctrine of the Scriptures), nor do you need a degree in the history of Israel and nearby tribes and nations. What is helpful, however, is a good concordance (I recommend the Strong’s because it comes with comprehensive Hebrew and Greek dictionaries for every word in the Bible); A good lexicon, several translations of the Bible so as to compare what each one says, and a few other books. Fortunately, you can find all of this online, for free. The two primary websites I use are Bible Gateway (which I use to compare translations), and BibleHub.com which has (among other useful research tools) a great interlinear Bible. You simply type in the verse you want to read (you have to do one verse at a time), and it will bring it up in both English and Greek (both written in Greek, and also written out phonetically in English), as well as give the corresponding Strong’s reference number, Clicking on that reference number takes you to a wealth of information about that particular word.
Back to what I was talking about. The Kenotic or Kenosis Theory, began in Germany in the mid-19th Century. Then a small group of men in England picked up on it in the late-19th century, and it has taken off from these two beginnings. It features most prominently in Holiness groups, and Pentecostal and Charismatic groups, with the latter being the most vocal about it. They believe that upon His incarnation, Jesus emptied Himself of all or some (it depends on which group you talk to) of His Divine Attributes. The problem with this is that it is taught no where in the Bible. There is not one passage to support the Kenosis Doctrine. Many will point to Philippians 2:7, but I’ve already addressed that above.
More importantly, if Jesus’ Divine Attributes are removed, then He ceases to be God. At best He would be a lesser deity of some sort, but He certainly would not, and could not be part of the Triune God of the Bible. In fact, once you remove Jesus from the Trinity by saying He no longer possess all the Divine Attributes, then the Trinity itself ceases to exist as well, and it has become something else, something less.
Those who subscribe to the Kenosis doctrine will argue against all of this, and insist that although Jesus no longer possessed all the Divine Attributes that define God, He is still God and nothing has changed regarding His deity. But this is simply is not true. If I bake a cake, and I leave out the sugar, the eggs, the oil, and the the baking powder – all essential ingredients, or attributes of a cake; and, I use only flour, flavoring, and water. Is what comes out of the oven really a cake? Or is it something else, something less than? Perhaps not the best analogy, but it gets the point across.
What the Bible actually teaches, and what the Church has historically believed and taught, is the doctrine of the Hypostatic Union. The term cannot be found in the Bible, but like the Trinity, the concepts are all easily found in Scripture. This doctrine says that upon His incarnation (which is conception, not birth), Jesus Christ had two natures. He was the “God-Man.” Fully and truly God, and fully and truly man. Not 50/50, or 60/40, but 100% God, and 100% man. His two natures, His Divine nature and His human nature, are both complete, and they are both distinct (which means they are not mingled together to form one partially Divine and partially human nature). While His Divine Nature is able to communicate to His human nature, His Human nature has no idea what His Divine nature is doing unless it is told, and His human nature cannot open up communication with His Divine nature.
This is similar to our communication with God. We don’t know what God is thinking, unless and until He tells us. Scripture tell us that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and beyond our comprehension (see Isa.55:8-9; Rom.11:33). The same was true of Jesus. The thoughts of His Divine nature were higher that those of His human nature, and they were beyond the comprehension of His human nature. And while we can pray to God, just as Jesus prayed to God, unless God answers us audibly, it is only a one-way communication. It is only when God initiates the communication between Himself and man, that the communication can be both ways. The same is true between Jesus’ Divine nature as God, and His human nature as a man.
Kenosis is a heresy that ultimately denies the Trinity and the Deity of Jesus Christ (whether its adherents are willing to admit this or not. Facts are facts.). His Divine attributes are what define Him as God. If He doesn’t have all of the Divine attributes He had when He was in heaven with the Father and the Holy Spirit, then He is something less that what He was, and He ceases to be God. So whether one believes Jesus emptied Himself of all His Divine attributes or just some of His Divine attributes, the end result is a different Jesus, and not the Jesus of the Bible; and, as we have already discussed, this also destroys the Trinity.
The Kenosis doctrine will inevitably lead to the embracing of other heresies as well. One cannot accept the Kenosis Theory as true Christian doctrine, especially after being taught the truth about it (as with this article) and not be in sin, Embracing heresy is a serious sin, which will very often lead to apostasy, and falling away from the faith (see Heb.6:1-8). The Kenosis Doctrine, or Kenotic Doctrine, is unbiblical and it is heretical. It is clearly nothing to play around with, and it should be avoided at all cost.