If you are a certain age, you will remember ‘morph the plasticine character of a children’s television programme. He is making a comeback on Sky Kids. Staying true to the original format, the new series was shot using clay and traditional stop-frame animation without dialogue at Morph’s original home, the Aardman studios in Bristol.

Morph was given his name as he could change his form or shape and the English word means ‘to change form or character’.

The very similar looking Greek word morphe appears only twice in the original Greek language of the Bible, Mark 16. 12; Phil. 2. 6, 7. Although it seems hard to find an exact translation into English, a fair definition seems to be ‘the essential form which never alters’.

Sometimes, a contrast is helpful, and we have that with another Greek word schema, which also only appears twice in the Bible, 1 Cor. 7. 31; Phil. 2. 8.

If morphe is the essential form which never alters, schema is the outward form which can.

‘For instance, the morphe of any human being is humanity and this never changes; but his schema is continually changing. A baby, a child, a boy, a youth, a man of middle age, or an old man always has the morphe of humanity, but the outward schema changes all the time’.1

Why mention these two Greek words?

As he writes to the Church at Philippi, the Apostle Paul presents the Lord Jesus as the ultimate example of humility in chapter 2. He instructs the Philippians to have the mind of Christ and then sets out what that means. His mind was characterized by unity, v. 2, humility, v. 3, and sensitivity, v.4. As the chapter continues, the idea of humility is developed by Paul. He explains the willingness of the Lord Jesus to come into His creation as the Saviour whom humanity required. It is the supreme demonstration of humility.

The basic idea is that if you are having trouble being humble, think about the Lord Jesus. He came from a higher position and yet went lower than any of us. In His essential being, He is greater and yet truly became a servant. His example is powerful and relevant to us. We are the beneficiaries of His humility.

This is where morphe comes into Paul’s argument

‘Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form [morphe] of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God’, Phil 2. 5, 6 NKJV.

When Paul states that Jesus existed in ‘the form of God’, ‘form’ refers to that which is intrinsic and essential to the being of God, that is, to God’s attributes.2

The Lord Jesus is essentially God. ‘Equality with God’ was not a right He had to seize or acquire, since it was already His. In the flow of argument, Paul is saying that if you think too much of yourself and cannot bring yourself to be humble in your relationships, remember the Lord Jesus. Instead of thinking of Himself more highly than He ought, He is as high as you can go. He is eternally God.

‘but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form [morphe] of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men’, Phil. 2. 7 NKJV.

The parallel of ‘form of God’ and ‘form of a bondservant’ is too striking to be accidental. In the same way that He is essentially God, in His incarnation the Lord Jesus became essentially a bondservant. Herein is humility.

The Son of God did not seize status or give away His deity. He surrendered the inevitable consequences of His deity and came to serve. To His deity, He added humanity, not the humanity of royalty, but of servitude. It was not one at the expense of the other, He was fully God and fully man in perfect, unexplainable harmony. The man who strode across waves would wash His disciples’ feet.

Therefore, if you find it hard to go low in your relationships, remember the Lord Jesus. He was greater than us and became a bondservant. It was not that He masqueraded as a servant for a while; He is as much a servant as He is God. Paul goes on to describe the ultimate service the Lord Jesus rendered:

‘And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross’, Phil. 2. 8 NKJV.

Does doctrine matter?

Through doctrine we learn the extent of Christ’s humility; the greatest becoming the lowest. Paul teaches that as Christians we should have this mind and be willing to go low in our relationships. We should not consider ourselves too high and mighty to serve each other with humility.



W. Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, The Daily Study Bible Series, St. Andrew Press.


J. B. Lightfoot, Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, Macmillan.