Phil.2:9-11 “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
The Exalted Christ
Last week we began to look at this magnificent series of verses that are found in Philippians chapter 2. We focused then upon how Jesus humbled himself, stooping until it was no longer possible for him to stoop any lower, stooping until he suffered death, that degrading and shameful death of the cross. We saw that this marvellous act of self-humiliation by which Jesus, refusing to use his power and divine status to protect himself or to further his own self interests, turned the value system of the entire Roman Empire on its head; for there, in that worldly empire, men and women looked out for themselves.
We saw too just why it was that Paul dished us up with such a rich passage full of theological treasures explaining Jesus’ attitude and what it was that drove his behaviour. The mind of Christ, that mind which was determined to readily obey the will of his heavenly Father, was just the mindset that Paul wanted to urge upon the Christians at Philippi.
Paul had been urging the Philippians not to allow rivalry, conceit or selfish self-interest to spoil their Christian lives and to press home his instruction he could do no better than to point to the wonderfully inspiring and awe-provoking example of Jesus himself.
And Jesus, who was fully aware of his rank and status of being equal with God, left us an example of stupendous glory.
The sad truth is, however, that men and women left to their own devices simply don’t get it. How we need the help and the illumination of the Holy Spirit to shine into our hearts and minds and to chase out the darkness we are so accustomed to living in! Centuries before the coming of Christ Isaiah spoke about this general misconception that grips the minds of the unenlightened. How wrong we can be!
Is.53:3+4 “despised and rejected by men... we esteemed him not... we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.”
I wonder: have you got it? Have you realised that Jesus was not a helpless victim when he humbled himself even to death on a cross? No, he voluntarily and willing offered himself as an obedient sacrifice that he might secure the salvation of sinners who were on their way to everlasting destruction. He can save you, he is the only One who can save you, but you must put your trust in him and you must call on him to do just that, to save you. If you haven’t done so yet don’t delay any longer – the matter is urgent and the stakes are simply too high to go on prevaricating.
So in vv.5-8 Paul had directed the Philippians to consider Jesus and his example and now in vv.9-11 he changed the focus and turned their attention to have them look at God the Father.
How the Father Appreciates his Son
In vv.5-8 Jesus was the subject but in vv.9-11 it is the Father who is portrayed as the active One. His actions are portrayed as his response to his Son’s conduct and they reveal just how much he appreciates his Son. The two sections are linked together by the word “therefore” at the beginning of v.9. What the Father does in these verses flows as a direct consequence of what the Son had done according to the preceding verses.
We should understand the Father’s response as being to the whole “mind of Christ” that led and directed Jesus throughout his life right up to his terrible and shameful death and not just to the Son’s willingness to die on that cross.
We’ll turn in a moment to consider exactly how the Father responded to Son’s obedience but we must be careful not to simply see this as the granting of a reward and nothing else. The Father’s response signifies just how fully he appreciated and endorsed the behaviour and attitude of his Son. The Father was completely satisfied with everything that Jesus did! And the reason why this “mind of Christ” solicited such approval from the Father was that it was a perfect reflexion of the character of God.
The Bible is careful to underline the Father’s approval of Jesus – the Father and Son are never in opposition to each other or competing with each other but always one in mind and purpose. Do you remember how Jesus’ life was punctuated with references to divine approval?
As a child:
Lk.2:40 “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favour of God was upon him.”
When entering public ministry at the time of his baptism:
Mt.3:17 “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
When glimpses of his glory were revealed at the Transfiguration:
Mt.17:5 “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
And so now here in Philippians 2 the Father’s appreciation is once more stated only this time that approval follows the successful completion of the Son’s earthly ministry.
What the Father did for the Son
According to our text the Father expressed his approval of the Son in two distinct though inseparable acts:
· God highly exalted Jesus
· God bestowed on Jesus the name that is above every name
Let’s look at these ideas more closely.
Firstly, what are we to make of this exaltation? To what does it refer?
Well, it obviously follows upon the Son’s humbling of himself. And we have already seen that that humbling was progressive – it had begun with the incarnation, moved on to slave hood and culminated in a humiliating and cursed death. Similarly we can trace progression in the process of exaltation but the progression takes place in the opposite direction:
o Universal acclaim
Such exaltation was not only an appropriate response it was a necessary response too! Why?
It fulfilled OT prophecy
Eg. Is.52:13 “Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.”
Ps.2:8 “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.”
It fulfilled Jesus’ own words
Lk.22:69 “But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”
Jn.7:33 “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me.”
Jn.16:5, 10 “But now I am going to him who sent me... I go to the Father”
We could add too that :
It matched Jesus’ divine identity; it was his by right of who he was
It was the logical consequence of the Father’s perfect love for his Son
The fact of this exaltation is referred to again and again in the NT:
Heb.1:3-4 “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.”
Heb.9:24 “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”
Heb.10:12-13 “when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.”
Acts 5:31 “God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Saviour”
Acts 7:55 “But (Stephen), full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”
1Pet.3:21-22 “Jesus Christ... has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.”
This exaltation is by no means an empty or meaningless honour. All power and authority are now his whether in heaven or on the earth. He uses this authority as he sends the Spirit, as he gives gifts to his church, and as he bestows the grace that believers regularly need. There on his exalted throne at the right hand of the Father in heaven Jesus continues to minister to the needs of his people as he exercises his priestly role of intercession and representation.
Jesus’ exaltation brings glory to the Son and many benefits to those who place their trust in him.
The second thing that the Father did for his Son was the bestowal of that important name – the above-every-name name. This clearly refers to something important but what did Paul have in view?
If Paul had in mind the divine name, deity itself, we must not jump to the conclusion that Jesus was somehow being promoted to a deity status that he had not previously have. If indeed the divine name was what was in Paul’s mind then the bestowing of this name on Jesus must signify not the granting of some new status but rather the open and public recognition that he was genuinely entitled to bear this name. (Paul had already made it clear that Jesus had equality with God before his self-humbling incarnation – though this status was largely hidden from view during that stage of our Saviour’s life.)
There is however a further possibility. Paul may well have been using “name” as a synonym for reputation. We still speak like today this for we talk about someone “making a name for himself” when we mean “gaining a reputation” or “becoming well-known.” If this were Paul’s meaning then the Father’s bestowing such a name on Jesus would now indicate that Jesus would become famously well-known because of all that he had done!
Of course these two possibilities are not mutually exclusive. For it is clear that when the divine Son received the public recognition that he was worthy of bearing the divine name he would certainly also have gained an enhanced reputation, he would in such conditions no longer be misunderstood and misrepresented as merely being a good teacher, a miracle worker or a religious reformer.
These two actions by which the Father exalted the Son demonstrate in the clearest possible manner just how highly God esteemed Jesus. And with that thought in mind it is time to move on and consider how God expects others to react to this very same Jesus.
What God Expects Others to Do
The God of the Bible is always presented to us as a perfect God, a Holy God, a God who does no wrong and a God who makes no mistakes. And knowing this we can affirm that when he exalted Jesus so highly and when he bestowed that name upon him he wasn’t making mistakes and neither was he playing a great game of make-believe. He did what he did because Jesus truly was worthy of the exalted rank and status attributed to him! This was not a merely human opinion – for humans do get things wrong and make mistakes – this exaltation corresponded to a factual reality.
And God desires and intends all rational beings and all sentient beings to come to the same conclusion. Jesus genuinely is exalted and justifiably so, and now God wants and intends all to recognise the fact. At least part of God’s purpose in exalting Jesus was so that:
vv.10-11“at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord...”
It doesn’t matter what we used to think about Jesus when we looked at him with our imperfect and faithless eyes. We’ve made so many mistakes as we’ve tried to think about the big issues of life and God has overlooked those times of ignorance. But the situation has changed. God now calls all people everywhere to repent. What we think about Jesus now is the important thing!
Paul spoke of bowing the knee to Jesus and what he meant by that was that Christ’s authority must be recognised; his right to reign and to rule must be recognised. And that includes us: we must recognise his right to rule in our lives too.
Let me ask you: Have you done that? Are you doing that? God’s approval of his Son is complete and his assessment of his Son’s worth and value is so great that he requires all to share that same assessment and to act appropriately. If you don’t want to honour Jesus in this way what grounds have you for thinking that God will want to share eternity with you? What makes you think that heaven would be a place you’d enjoy anyway for everyone there will be recognising and serving this wonderfully exalted Lord Jesus?
But Paul didn’t only speak about bowing the knee to Jesus he also spoke of confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord.
There is something open and public about that word “confessing”. It doesn’t really fit with the notion of being a secret disciple or of religion being treated as though it were a purely private matter does it? And this confession that is expected of us is more than simply recognising Jesus as our leader, our teacher, our Saviour – it speaks of Jesus being our God! For the word “Lord” points us most clearly in that direction.
Elsewhere in the NT Paul expressly linked confession of faith in Jesus Christ with salvation:
Rom.10:9 “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
This same idea is also hinted at here in this letter to the Philippians because Paul seems to be writing against the background of Is.45. There Isaiah spoke of a Saviour God who hid himself – a good description of the incarnate Christ . This Saviour God also described himself as the Lord adding that there was none other than him. And this God declared that every knee would bow to him and every tongue would swear allegiance to him. This Saviour God, whose identity remained somewhat unknown to Isaiah, has been revealed to us in these NT days and his name is Jesus. And when Paul applied to Jesus OT Scriptures that directly related to God this meant that he was ascribing the highest possible honour of full deity to Jesus, the only Saviour.
What Paul ascribed to Jesus the Father also expects everyone else to recognise: he expects the angels to do so, he expects those on earth to do so and he expects the same of the demons as well.
And that means that you are included too, there are to be no exceptions! God expects you to recognise the worth, the rank and the status of Jesus. He expects you to bow your knee in recognition of his authority and he expects your tongue too to confess precisely who Jesus is.
Have you put your faith in Jesus as the Saviour and as God himself? Then you can be sure of being saved by him for his is the only name given under heaven by which you may be saved and he delights to save. But if you fail to honour Christ and if you refuse to submit to him there will be no salvation for you.
On the Day of Judgment every knee will bow to Christ and every tongue will acknowledge who he really is but if that is done grudgingly and unwillingly it will not save you for it will be too late. Now is the Day of Salvation and it is now that you must call upon him.
God is Glorified
There is one final thing and then we are done this morning.
God the Father is honoured and glorified when we align ourselves with him by embracing his own assessment of his Son. When men and women, boys and girls honour the Lord Jesus Christ trusting him as their Saviour God the Father is delighted. He does not feel demeaned, threatened or slighted in any way when people truly honour and trust Jesus Christ.
But those who make a grand claim of honouring God while yet rejecting the Son are in fact dishonouring the Father for they are refuting his opinion and effectively saying they know better than God himself does. If you are refusing to recognise Jesus’ equality with God then you need to be aware that you are refusing to embrace the One whom the Father loves and delights in.
Beware of those who peddle a Jesus who is different from the Jesus whom the Father exalted in such a careful and determined manner. And don’t allow yourself to settle for any other Jesus than the One who is now enthroned in glory, seated at the Father’s right hand and who will come again to judge the living and the dead.
The mind of Christ led him to behave in such a way that reflected perfectly the character of God. And that mind was rewarded with such demonstrations of divine approval and appreciation. Wasn’t Paul right to urge this mindset upon the Christians in Philippi too? Wouldn’t they too experience the same sort of divine approbation if they demonstrated the same mind? Shouldn’t we too have this mind of Christ amongst us? Will not the Father be pleased to see Jesus’ followers honouring and exalting his beloved Son as they seek to follow his example?
Well may God be pleased to write these truths on our hearts.
And to God alone be the Glory