The clause, "He made Himself of no reputation," more literally reads, "He emptied Himself." Instead of asserting His rights to the expression of the essence of Deity, He waived His rights and relinquished them. Compared to the fullness of God, He must indeed have felt empty once He gave up "the form of God"!
The word form in verse 7 is the same Greek word as in verse 6. The grammatical structure of the sentence demands that the "taking the form of a servant" preceded and caused His "making Himself of no reputation." Remember, form is the outward expression of inner nature. The sentence, though, indicates an exchange of such expression. Therefore, being a servant was not something of His inner nature that had been previously expressed. It was not His usual mode of outward expression. Before, He conveyed glory and sovereignty over all things, but afterward, He manifested servanthood.
An event in the life of Jesus may help explain this exchange of expressions. What happened in His incarnation was the exact opposite of what occurred at the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-5; Mark 9:2-7). Luke writes that His "appearance . . . was altered" (Luke 9:29), and Peter, James, and John "saw His glory" (verse 32). On the Mount of Transfiguration, He was changed from His normal, human outward expression as a servant to the outward expression of Deity.
Of what did He empty Himself? He did not empty Himself of His Deity, but rather the outward expression of His Deity and all it implies. As one author puts it, "He emptied Himself of His existence-in-a-manner-equal-to-God." He set aside His legitimate and natural desires and prerogatives as Deity so that He might express Himself as a servant.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Fully Man and Fully God?