Friday, November 2, 2012

The Humble God-Man Exalted with the Highest Glory

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 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, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
In the previous section, Paul spoke of the humility of the Son of God who came into the world as a man and manifested the servant heart even to the point of a humiliating death on a Roman cross. Now he shows how the greatness of that divine humility has been revealed.

The world has been turned upside down, or rather, right side up. The fallen world system, under the spell of principalities and powers, delights in what it perceives to be power and greatness, yet esteems humility and love to be the exact opposite of such. But God has revealed that greatness is found in humility and power in love, and He has done this by exalting Jesus with the greatest glory. This was not in regard to His divinity, in which He has always been infinitely glorious, but in regard to His humanity, which is what God had always planned for mankind from the beginning, when He said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion” (Genesis 1:26). The exaltation of Jesus in His humanity also speaks to us about our own humanity.

Paul details this exaltation in his letter to the Jesus believers at Ephesus, where he prays that they might be given the Spirit of wisdom and revelation from God to know
what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:19-23)
All things in heaven and earth have now been placed under the dominion of Jesus the God-man. The principalities and powers, which were disarmed at the cross (Colossians 2:15), must yield to the authority of His name and all it signifies. Paul also tells us that, as believers in the Lord Jesus, we too have been raised up together with Him and seated together in the heavenlies in Him (Ephesians 2:6).

This news is for all the world, and all the nations are invited to come and participate in Him, to know Him in His humility and to glory in His greatness. Before He ascended to His throne in heaven at the right hand of the Father, He gathered the disciples together and said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

God has exalted Jesus so that “every knew should bow” and “every tongue should confess” that Jesus is Lord. This echoes the word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah:
Who has declared this from ancient time?
Who has told it from that time?
Have not I, the LORD?
And there is no other God besides Me,
A just God and a Savior;
There is none besides Me.
Look to Me, and be saved,
All you ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
I have sworn by Myself;
The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness,
And shall not return,
That to Me every knee shall bow,
Every tongue shall take an oath.
(Isaiah 45:21-23)
The Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament that was used by the early church, uses the same words about every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that Paul uses in Philippians 2:10-11. What is said of the LORD in the Old Testament, Paul applies to the exalted Lord Jesus in the New.

The language of bowing the knee is not about what is done against one’s will — and it is certainly not to be confused with an enemy having his neck under the foot of his vanquisher. Bowing the knee is honor willingly offered. Likewise, confession is not what must be pulled through one’s teeth. It is freely given, and from the heart. Paul speaks two other times about the confession that Jesus is Lord. In 1 Corinthians 12:3, he tells us that no one can say “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. In Romans 10:9, he says that those who confess “Jesus is Lord,” will be saved.

In the Roman imperial cult of Paul’s day, each Caesar upon his death was considered to have ascended to take his place in the pantheon of Roman gods. This glorification of Caesar to god-like status was called apotheosis, “divinization” or “deification.” Being a Roman citizen, Paul would have known of this belief, as would the Jesus believers at Philippi (remember that Philippi was one of the chief Roman cities in Macedonia). Paul’s words, however, fly very much in the face of it. Where the Romans said, “Caesar is Lord,” Paul boldly declared, not Caesar, but Jesus is Lord. Caesar is not the one who has been exalted to the highest place, but Jesus the Messiah is. Even Caesar himself will bow down in reverence and worship the Lord Jesus. The declaration that Jesus is Lord, which is so central to the message of the gospel, rattled the Roman cages and was one reason why Christians were persecuted as subversives and why evangelism was such a dangerous venture. But it was also a reason for great joy.

Focus Questions
  1. What does the exaltation of Jesus the God-man say about humanity as God intended it?
  2. What do you suppose it means that we are seated with Jesus on His throne in the heavenlies, at the right hand of the Father? Can you see yourself there?
  3. How does the exaltation of Jesus the Son display the glory of the Father?



There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Sized Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

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