So far in our series of meditations on Philippians 2:5-11 we have seen how our Lord willingly surrendered His position of honor and glory in heaven to come down to earth, and was “obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8; NKJV). If that were all there were to it, it would have been a noble act with a tragic end, and nothing more. The story, however, does not end there, and it has, in fact, a happy ending. For our text goes on to say, “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name . . .” (v. 9).
Here it will be seen that by virtue of His obedience to the Father’s will Christ was promoted to the position of highest honor. He was given “the name which is above every name.” His “name” amounts to His honor and reputation. His name is “above every name” – in other words, even though He came to us in the form of a human being, He is to be honored and venerated by us above every created thing in the universe. He is, in fact, supposed to be the object of our worship: “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth” (v. 10). The bending of the knee is a means of paying homage to someone in a superior position of authority. Furthermore, in this case, it is God’s will that every human being verbally confess “that Jesus Christ is Lord” (v. 11). He is not just our elected representative or our chosen leader; He is our absolute Lord and Master.
Two things are worth noting in this connection. First of all, Christ has already been placed in this position of authority. The verbs are in the past tense (the aorist in the Greek): “God . . .has highly exalted Him and given Him the name.” Jesus currently occupies the position of authority, and the human race is obligated to acknowledge this fact now. Any refusal to do so is nothing less than rebellion.
But in the immediate context of the passage it is especially significant that it says, “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him . . .” (v. 9). The exaltation of Christ was the direct consequence of His humiliation. He was exalted precisely because he was willing to be humiliated. And this suggests several things. First of all the Father was evidently pleased with the sacrifice that His Son had made, and rewarded Him accordingly. Secondly, it suggests that Christ did not die in vain. His death was not a tragic waste of life, but a means to a greater end. He accomplished something through His death, and was rewarded accordingly. His incarnation, death and resurrection achieved a positive result – the salvation of multitudes of lost sinners.
It should be borne in mind that Paul’s whole purpose in bringing up the subject of the incarnation was to reinforce the exhortation that he had made in verses 3 and 4: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” The cause of strife and conflict within the church is primarily psychological in nature: a combination of selfish ambition and overweening pride. How very different was the attitude of Christ, who was prepared to sacrifice Himself for our sakes, the perfect example of humility and love!
As we reflect on the Christmas holiday just passed, should we not be moved by Christ’s example to adopt an attitude of love, self-sacrifice and humility?
“Who is this so weak and helpless,
Child of lowly Hebrew maid,
Rudely in a stable sheltered,
Coldly in a manger laid?
‘Tis the Lord of all creation,
Who this wondrous path hath trod;
He is God from everlasting,
And to everlasting God.”
William Walsham How