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The Exaltation and Adoration of the Son of God

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 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” (Philippians 2:5-11).

Following the description of Christ's incarnation and humiliation in vv. 6-8 is the portrayal of his exaltation in vv. 9-11. At the heart of this is the bestowal of "the name which is above every name," to which name every knee will bow and every tongue confess for the glory of God the Father.

But what is this name? Some insist the name is “Jesus.” But most likely it is the name "Lord" (kurios). We should read v. 10 not as telling us that at the name “Jesus” every knee should bow, but rather that at the name which is given to Jesus, the name by which Jesus is known, every knee should bow. And that name is “Lord”! Several things suggest this is correct.

First of all, no name can be more exalted than the name YHWH or Lord. Furthermore, there appears to be a progression in the paragraph to the universal confession that Jesus Christ is LORD (v. 11). In other words, in addition to every other name and title ascribed to Jesus, there is the name of Lord.

But most important of all, verse 10 is a citation of Isaiah 45:23 (vv. 20-25) where the God of Israel is alone worthy of the title Lord. Note carefully the emphasis on monotheism, that there is only one God:

“Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, you survivors of the nations! They have no knowledge who carry about their wooden idols, and keep on praying to a god that cannot save. Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’ “Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; to him shall come and be ashamed all who were incensed against him. In the LORD all the offspring of Israel shall be justified and shall glory” (Isaiah 45:20-25).

Do you see what Paul is saying? In its OT context the “Lord” to whom every knee shall bow and whom every tongue must confess is YHWH, God of Israel. But here in Philippians 2 Paul applies this to Jesus Christ. Jesus is YHWH in human flesh!

Paul's point is that this man called Jesus, this one who subjected himself in humility to the life of a slave and willingly endured not just any death but death on a cross, this one who completely obeyed must now be completely obeyed. This one we know as Jesus is none other than the Lord God himself.

The universal dimensions of this confession that Jesus is Lord ought to be noted. Every knee, literally, “pertaining to those in heaven, pertaining to those on earth, and pertaining to those under the earth,” shall bow to Jesus. In other words, all angels (heaven), all humans (earth), and all demons (under the earth) will bow to the name of Jesus.

However, not everyone will make this confession willingly. Those who deny Jesus in this life will be compelled to fall to their knees and will be compelled to acknowledge that the one they mocked and scorned and rejected is in fact none other than the one and only God whom he claimed to be. Theirs will be a reluctant confession, an acknowledgment of defeat. Ours will be a joyful celebration of love and adoration.

In conclusion, stand back, hold your breath, and behold the unfathomable glory of the gospel, the panorama of God’s grace in Jesus Christ . . .

God the Son, Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Creator, eternal and without beginning, who forever and ever existed in the same glory and divinity as the Father and Spirit, did not look disdainfully upon fallen, sinful, rebellious mankind and insist on retaining the joy of his exalted life, but made himself of no reputation by condescending to our earthly existence and took the form of a man, indeed living the life of a bond-servant, even to the point of dying that death reserved for the outcasts of society, death on a cross.

This is the one whom God the Father raised from the dead and elevated and exalted to the throne of heaven as ruler and sovereign over all, whether angels or demons or humans. This is the one who is rightly called “Lord”, the one in whose presence every knee will bow, the one whose name every tongue will confess.

Yes, look to this one, says Paul, look and see more than transcendent beauty and power and glory; look and see a model for your life of what it means to set aside your rights and forego your privileges and disregard your status in society so that you might lovingly serve others and meet their needs and bring them joy.

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