Greek has seemed to be a little disjointed until we arrive in the relative deep-end of participles this semester. I am certainly still wading around in the shallow end, but being pushed further into learning how to swim in this new language (but still with those orange arm-floaties!). Last week I read a couple fascinating notes about the participle of means (“by means of”) while reading Wallace’s Greek Grammar (p. 630).
Humble yourselves … by casting your cares upon Him
The first illustration comes from the oft quoted passage in 1 Peter 5:6-7: “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God …” Many times I’ve heard the next clause quoted in isolation: “Cast your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.” Do this! Yes, how needed and true it is, for He does care for us. But “cast your cares upon Him” is not an imperative clause (casting is a participle, not a verb). We miss the point when we think of the phrases separate as “Humble yourselves. [And] cast your case upon Him.
The point of the Apostle seems to be that the specific way we humble ourselves before God is to cast our cares upon Him. We show humility by casting our cares upon Him. Dependence and submission in all of life — even the small stuff — reveals an attitude of humility (and creates it too).
He emptied Himself … by taking on the form of a servant
The next illustration came right underneath, where the famous kenosis passage is in view (Phil. 2:6-8). Specifically, in verse 7, where the participle should be translated “he emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant.” Debate has gone on for at least the last two centuries as to what it means that Christ emptied (ekenosev) Himself. Wallace notes the typical pattern of this specific participle, that it follows the verb, and that the verb is vague, even needing (‘begging’) to be defined. “By taking on” shows the means of Christ’s emptying Himself. He did not subtract His deity, but rather added the form of a slave, willingly, becoming a man, suffering and dying — even death on a cross (v. 8).
But wait, isn’t emptying normally thought of as subtraction, not addition? Wallace notes that as well, and points out the poetic features of the whole passage (most likely it was used as an early hymn). Earlier in verses 1-4 he commanded them to think and do “nothing from selfish ambition and vain conceit.” The word for conceit (kenodoxian or “empty glory”) is used by Paul to remind them of what not to do. Then Jesus comes along and shows them what to do — what it means to empty His glory (the words almost rhyme) — they are to have that same mind towards one another. Brilliant and powerful insights, Dr. Wallace!
The opposing directions in view in both passages are startling. We receive God favor by humbling ourselves, and specifically by casting our cares and burdens upon Him. (He opposes us directly even second if we go the other way, which is revealed in our not taking our cares to Him.) The antidote to seeking empty glory is to stare at the One who emptied His own glory to reveal His infinite worth in the lowliest form of all, a slave unto death. He will change us. Let this mind be in us, continually, Lord Jesus.