Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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“Let this mind be in you whicht was also in Christ Jesus,
who, existing in God’s form,
did not consider equality with God as a prize to be seized upon,
but made himself of no reputation, assuming the form of a slave, made in the likeness of men.”
Over the years, as I read the King James Bible, I often marveled that Jesus was able to “make himself of no reputation”. And I wondered, since we are to follow Jesus’ example, how we could follow him in this regard. After all, we cannot control what people think, and a reputation is something that is formed in the minds of others. So, I wondered, how did Jesus live so that he had no reputation? And how can I?
As I lay in bed last night, I was thinking about this, and verses from the Bible came to mind which dealt with Jesus and his reputation. There are many of them! Rather than be “of no reputation”, it seemed to me that opinions of Jesus abounded and that they reflected two extremes. On the one hand, the Bible states plainly that some in Israel thought and said, among other cruel things, that Jesus was demon-possessed (Jn. 7:20). Those Israelites felt certain that Jesus was cursed by God. In their minds, no one could teach the things Jesus taught without having been turned over to Satan. Isaiah foretold of this reputation that Jesus would have among some of God’s people:
3. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and he knew sickness. He was like one hiding his face from us. He was despised, and we did not value him.
4. He has taken our sicknesses and borne our sufferings, yet we considered him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
When people feel this way about you, how can you say that you are “of no reputation”? In fact, those of this opinion would make it so that you have a very big, and bad, reputation!
But at the same time, there were some in Israel who felt just the opposite about Jesus. Among those people, Jesus had the very best reputation that a man can possibly have. At one point (Mt. 16:16), Peter said to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” Later, another follower named Martha said, “You are the Christ, the Son of God the one coming to the world” (Jn. 11:27).
So, when people feel that way about you, how can you say that you are “of no reputation”? Those of this opinion would make it so that you have a very big, and good, reputation!
Then I saw that the phrase “having no reputation” may not mean at all that people hold no opinion about you, but that people hold so many conflicting opinions of you that most of the others can’t figure out what to think.
I believe that every person who truly follows Jesus will not only live the holy life he lived but will experience as well both the pain of outrageous slander from some and the comfort of being greatly loved by others, just as Jesus did. And if so, that is as close as one can come to being “of no reputation”, for there will be so many reputations about that person afloat that most people won’t know what to think.
I am thankful that the King James Translation of Philippians 2:7 included the phrase, “of no reputation” because it has given me much to think about over the years, and I have benefitted from the thoughts that the King James translation has provoked in me. However, that phrase doesn’t actually appear to belong in that verse. Instead of “made himself of no reputation”, the better translation might be, “he emptied himself”, or even better, “he divested himself”, for in this verse, Paul is speaking of the Son of God in heaven leaving behind his glory, or “divesting himself” of his glorified form to come to earth and take on the form of a man.
But that is a lesson for another day. Right now, I have been enjoying pondering over the question of how in the world Jesus managed to make himself “of no reputation”.