Heresies all Around us – Kenosis

Heresies all Around us – Kenosis

Part 8 – Kenosis

Did Jesus empty himself of divinity in the incarnation? In other words, did Jesus give up His deity when He became human? This idea is sometimes called kenotic theology.


This word, kenosis, is confusing at best and misleading at worst. The word kenosis comes from the Greek kenoo, which mean ‘to empty.’ This word can be found in It is used in Philippians 2:7. Let’s read it together. I’ll start at verse 5 till verse 8

Philippians 2:5-8

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation [this is also being translated as ‘He emptied Himself’], and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

So why is this word confusing? Not because God’s word is confusing. No, it is because, like many times before, we have no idea how Jesus could be both God and Human at the same time. In the last video I talked a bit about this idea of the Hypostatic Union, the fact that Jesus is being described as having two natures, the divine and human nature in one person.

And it is because this text, among others, that people came to understand that Jesus willingly set aside His divine attributes. Or in other words, He emptied himself of His divinity.

However, to make it more interesting, many Christians use this term in a more positive way. They use the word kenosis to emphasise that they need to be humble like Jesus was. They need to lay down their lives and empty themselves from their own will. But this is not the kind of kenosis I am addressing here.

What am I talking about?

The idea I am addressing here talks about the idea that, based on Philippians 2:7, at the incarnation, Jesus took of His divine nature like a jacket. He took it off and put it aside.

These divine attributes were omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. Jesus did this willingly so that He could fully work as a man in order to carry out the work of redemption. It was the German Gottfried Thomasius (1802-75), a Lutheran theologian, who came up with this idea in the late 1800s.

Philippians 2:5-8

If we just look at our text in Philippians we see it doesn’t say anything about omnipresence, omniscience or omnipotence. It seems clear to me that it is all about Christ’s humility. He was humble enough to leave His royal place in heaven to do His Fathers will in the humble position of human nature.

Jesus is indeed divine. He could not cease to be divine. The act of emptying Himself refers to His status, His elevation. What we witness is His transformation into a servant. This is a form of humiliation. He not only became a servant, but He also obeyed until death. His death wasn’t just any death. His death was an absolute low point, it was a death on a cross. The Old Testament teaches that to die on the cross is a most cursed death a man can suffer.

Deuteronomy 21:22-23

And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

Easy Mistake

It is very easy to take this emptying thingy, and think that it means that Jesus left all his divine attributes in His heavenly cupboard. I know a very famous song in which we sing the following phrase: “That he emptied himself of all but love.”

Yes, it is one of the many beautiful songs of Charles Wesley ‘And can it be.’ While we enjoy these wonderful worship song, we flippantly sing this one line about the Lord emptying Himself except from love. I am not sure whether Wesley was influenced by this crazy idea that Jesus left His divine nature behind. I don’t think so. I like to think that Wesley just meant to say that Jesus humbled Himself in such a way that people didn’t recognise Him as God, but that they could see His love.

Anyway, I just want to warn you for not just singing songs along without paying attention to the lyrics, even when singing songs from the Wesley’s. Who, by the way, are great examples for many and have written wonderful songs.


Some might argue that it is clear from Scripture that Jesus left His divine nature behind.

Mark 13:32

But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.

This text seems to imply that Jesus didn’t have a divine nature. After all, He didn’t know the day and the hour of His return. And true enough, many of us struggle with answering this right? But, I don’t think it is hard to believe that Jesus voluntarily decided not to exercise His attribute of omniscience, His all-knowing nature. One thing is really clear in the New Testament, and that is the fact that Jesus lived a complete human life. He chose work within the limits of humanity.

Hebrews 4:15

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Just Wrong

If you examine the idea of Kenosis, you will quickly find out that we would be in trouble if it was true. If it is true, then Jesus isn’t fully divine. That would mean that His atoning work wasn’t good enough to save us.

Like I said in the last video, Christianity is based on, among others, the doctrine of the Hypostatic Union—Jesus fully man and fully God. Trying to separate these two natures is causing more trouble than that what it supposes to solve.

Hypostatic Union

The doctrine of the Hypostatic union teaches that, despite Christ’s human nature, He did not have a ‘sinful’ nature like we do. Jesus never sinned, but from the Bible we know that He was tempted just like we are. I am not speaking for you, but I know that many of my temptations come from deep within my own fallen nature. For Jesus, it was not so. He was only tempted from external temptations.

As God, He is the sole Saviour of the world. He is all-powerful, in control, and always triumphant. By His suffering, He paved the path for us to partake in His victory.

As a man, He has gone through our struggles, understood our fears, and lived life just like us. He is not a far-off God, but the God-Man who knows our weaknesses and shows us the image of a high priest who cares, understands, and is closely linked to us.

Jesus’ two nature cannot be separated. If we do, we end up with an empty Christianity.

If Jesus isn’t divine all hope is lost. I found a nice rap song by Shai Linne.i

See, only a human can substitute for human lives
But only God can take the wrath of God and survive

And this is so true. Only God could die for us because He is the only One who could take His wrath and survive it. But also, if Jesus had been sinful like us if He wasn’t God in the flesh. A sinful person could not have solved our problem with the Creator.

On the other hand, if Jesus isn’t fully human He wouldn’t have been able to stand in our place as a representative. We have fallen into sin because of Adam, the first man, and we needed to be justified before the Father by another man, who we call the second Adam.

Romans 5:18

Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

It is crucial to know who Jesus is and understand His nature. Even though we may not comprehend everything due to our limited understanding compared to His infinite nature, we can still grasp enough.

In Any Case

In any case, let me know what you think in the comments. Remember! I am mostly active on my Odysee channel. You’ll find a link to that channel in the description of this video or on my website. Don’t forget to subscribe if you want to receive a notification every time I upload a new video!

I very much appreciate your prayers and support! Please take a look in the description of this video to find out how you can help me. Also, I’ll place a link there to both the Dutch and English transcripts of this video.

God bless you, thank you for watching, and, Lord willing, we’ll see each other in the next video!


i SongLyrics, Shai Linne – The Hypostatic Union Lyrics, [internet] <>, accessed 12-03-2024.

Shai Linne, The Hypostatic Union, 25-12-2012, [YouTube], Available from [accessed 12-03-2024].

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