Title: The Exaltation of Christ
Series: Philippians (12/20)
Reference: Philippians 2:9-11
If you are joining us for the very first time here this morning, we are making our way through the book of Philippians on Sunday mornings. We are just going verse by verse, chapter by chapter, and seeing what the Lord has for us there. We are still in chapter 2, the title of today’s message is The Exaltation of Christ. I will begin reading with verse 9, and I am going to ask if you are physically able, let’s all stand in honor and reverence for the reading of God’s Holy Word. The Word of God says in Philippians chapter 2, beginning with verse 9:
For this reason also God highly exalted him, that is Jesus, and bestowed on him the name which is above every name so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
Father, would you add your blessing upon the proclamation of your Word and it is in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen. You can be seated.
I told you last week that this passage is commonly referred to by students of the Bible as the humiliation and the exaltation of Christ. Last week we looked at the humiliation of Christ. That was the whole ladder illustration. I will never do that again. If you were not here, it is not going to happen anytime soon. But the point of that movement in the first part of Philippians chapter 2 is to simply say that Christ, who existed in equality with God. He existed high, exalted, lifted up above all other people, above all other things, and yet he didn’t consider that as something he had to selfishly hold onto, but what did he do? Verse 7 says he emptied himself, he humbled himself, he took on the form of a bond servant and became obedient, even unto the point of death on the cross.
That is the humiliation of Christ. Paul says in verse 5, have this attitude in yourself which is also in Christ Jesus. So it is not just a lesson about what Christ did, it is not just a picture of the gospel, but it is a practical lesson for us because the Bible says that’s the attitude that we should have in the body of Christ. We shouldn’t put ourselves up high on the pedestal where we are always right and it is always my way, but we should have that same kind of attitude that Jesus had who existed in the form of God, and yet he doesn’t consider that something he has got to hold onto, but he comes down to serve us, and he puts our interests above his own personal comfort.
The Bible said this is the way we should serve one another. We should put one another’s interest above our own personal comfort, and we serve and follow the example of Christ in that way. That’s what we mean by the humiliation of Christ. The only person who deserves to be up there, right, the only person who rightly above all others, he chose to come down here. He chose that. Nobody humbled Christ. Pilate did not humble Jesus. Herod did not humble Jesus. The Romans did not humble Jesus. The High Priests did not humble Jesus. The Jews did not humble Jesus. Jesus chose humility. He chose humility.
There is this principle in Scripture that goes something like this, humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and he will, have you heard this before? Do you know what it says? Do you know this verse? Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and he will exalt you, right! He will lift you up. That’s James 4:10. And this is a principle all over the Word of God, which kind of seems to suggest to us that this is very dear, very important to the heart of God.
Humble yourself in the sight of God and he will lift you up. James 4:10 says that. Jesus says that, Matthew 23:12, Jesus said whoever exalts himself shall be humbled and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. You think back to the illustration of the ladder, if you are always putting yourself up, on top, Jesus says I am going to work against your life. In the book of James, chapter 4, it actually says God opposes the proud. It is the image of someone who has dug their heels in, and they are opposing you. God says that if you are constantly putting yourself up, God says I am going to work to put you down. But likewise, if you chose the road less traveled, if you humble yourself, God says I am going to work to lift you up, I am going to work to exalt you.
That’s the same principle Jesus said in Matthew 23:12, and he applies that principle in Luke chapter 18:14, as he talks about the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector who both go to the Temple to pray. One goes to the Temple in pride, one goes to the Temple in humility, and Jesus says in Luke chapter 18:14b, everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted. Peter picks up on this. I Peter chapter 5:6. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God that he may exalt you at the proper time.
This is a principle that we find in the Word of God everywhere, and let me just say, this is completely opposite of what the world screams at us. This is completely opposite of how our flesh rises up. We are naturally selfish people. Oh my goodness, we are so selfish. We are like grown up kids, who want to have things the way we want. We think we are right. We think things need to be done my way, and my way is the best way, and it is hard for us to even consider that someone else may have a better way.
What God does…it’s like he just reverses everything that comes natural to us. God says, for example, that it’s by giving we receive. It is by serving that we are served. It is by losing one’s life that we find life. It is by dying to self that we learn to live for God. And it is by humility; it is by humility that we are exalted. This is how God has wired the Kingdom of God, and this is how the Bible calls us to live out in a community of faith. Not by trying to outdo one another, not by trying to exert authority over one another, and talk about well, I gave this much to the church, or I have been here for sixty years and we have always done it this way. That’s not the way the Bible calls us to serve one another in the context of a community of faith, but it is by humbling yourselves and by considering the other person as more important.
We see all this illustrated, beloved, in the life of Christ. Not with just the humiliation of Christ, but also with the exaltation. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and he will lift you up. We see that in the life of Christ. In fact we might say the exaltation of Christ is God’s response to the humiliation of Christ. And just as the humiliation of Christ was low, we might expect the exaltation of Christ to be high. So we find out in verse 9, for this reason… That is to say, because of what Christ did, because of how Christ humbled himself, because of He who existed up there, who rightfully belonged up there, because he chose humility, he chose to come down here and serve us. For this reason God has done what? God has highly exalted him and bestowed upon him the name which is above every name so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, those who are up in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, and this will be to the glory of God the Father.
So the humiliation and the exaltation of Christ. And by the way, they both make up the gospel, right. They are both parts of the gospel. The gospel we proclaim is not just the message of a Savior who died for us. The gospel we proclaim is not just the message of a Redeemer who died so that we could be brought into a right relationship with the Father. That is part of the message of the gospel to be sure, but the gospel is also the message of a King who reigns. The gospel is also the message of a Lord who towers over every thing, and every person in every place. Jesus is not just a Suffering Servant who died to give us life, but he is a Reigning King who will one day return, and every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that this Jesus– This same Jesus who humbled himself, this same Jesus who was nailed to the cross, this Jesus is Lord over all. This is the gospel we proclaim: Christ humbled and Christ exalted.
If you are taking notes this morning let me just share with you two thoughts about the exaltation of Christ, and then I want to give you a warning, okay? Two observations and then a quick warning.
Number one: Notice here the exalted position of Christ.
Verse 9 says for this reason also God highly exalted him. God highly exalted him. There is so much force behind that phrase, about what God the Father does to God the Son. It would be impossible for me to over emphasize this. There is so much force behind what the Greek is saying here. You could almost translate it as God super-exalted Christ. It is as if to say that God has given Jesus, God has lifted Jesus up to this place where no one will be higher than Jesus, no one will be greater than Jesus, nothing will be of a higher position, God has lifted him up in this place of supreme authority, and God has ensured that every knee will bow.
You want to talk about how exalted is Jesus? The Bible says that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess. I mean, that is pretty exalted, right? That is pretty high. We might say the humiliation of Christ was well compensated by God the Father. What God the Son did was compensated by God the Father and just like so many other principles that are wired into the Kingdom of God, we can look at this movement of scripture, we can look at this act of Christ and see just how God flips this whole thing upside down.
For example, verse 6 says that Jesus did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped. Verse 9 says God highly exalted him. Verse 7 says Jesus emptied himself. Verse 9 said that God has given Jesus a name that is above every name. Verse 7 says Jesus takes on the form of a servant. Verse 10 says this same Jesus, everybody is going to bow at the name of this same Jesus. Verse 8 says Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient, even to the point of death on the cross. Verse 9 says one day every tongue will confess this same Jesus is Lord. Now that’s exaltation! That is the lifting up, the exalted position of Christ.
The word Lord here, the name Lord, this is the personal name of God in the Old Testament. This is Jahweh, it is God. It carries overtones of sovereignty, rulership, Kingdom, majesty, authority. God has so exalted Jesus to a place as Lord over all, and one day, the Bible says, every tongue, every knee will bow, every tongue will make that confession. Now that is a sweeping way to describe things, boy, is it not! Who will bow? Every knee. Who will confess? Every tongue. That is everybody, beloved. That is the President of the United States. Think about that. The next President of the United States, one day their knee will bow and their tongue will confess, this Jesus, this guy is Lord. No doubt about it, he is authority, he is King, he is Lord over all, he is greater than anyone else, he is higher than anyone.
The Bible would teach us that everyone will make that same confession. The greatest actor you can think of, the greatest musician you can think of, the Bible says every knee will bow, every tongue will confess, that’s everyone, and you know what … that’s you. That’s you! You will bow and you will confess this Jesus, he is Lord. That’s the person sitting next to you. That’s your kids, your grandkids, your family, your friend, every knee means every knee, and every tongue means every tongue confessing Jesus is Lord. The Bible teaches us that one day all people will be brought to the undeniable realization that Jesus is in fact Lord. He is God. He is supreme. He is ruler. He is authority. No more baby in a manger, no more mild shepherd, no more great teacher, no more mighty profit, no more miracle worker, no more religious leader– The Scriptures teach us one day every single person will look upon Jesus, and they will realize in that moment this guy is Lord.
And you know what, he has always been Lord. He has always been Lord. And he always will be Lord. I like to tell people this, this is election year so I always like to say Jesus is Lord over the Democrats, and Jesus is Lord over the Republicans, and Jesus is Lord over the Independents too. He is just Lord. He is Lord over the upper class, he is Lord over the lower class, he is Lord over the middle class, he is Lord over the upper middle class, he is Lord over the lower middle class, he is Lord even over those who have no class. Jesus is Lord. He is Lord over the has-beens, he is Lord over the want-to-be’s, he is Lord over those who are squeaky clean, he is Lord over those who are down and dirty, he is Lord over everything you can see, and he is Lord over everything you cannot see. We worship, we serve, and we trust, not just in the exalted Lord Jesus but in the super-exalted Lord Jesus who is worthy of an exclusive name, a sovereign Lordship, and a universal worship where the book of Revelation would teach us that one day, there will be people from every tribe and tongue and nation bowing down and saying Jesus is Lord.
And this is what God has done, for this reason also God highly exalted him and bestowed upon him, this is what God the Father does for God the Son. What an amazing act of sacrifice on the part of the Son to leave everything in glory and to come down and be a part of this mess! What an amazing act of humility, and in response God lifts him up higher than anyone has been lifted up before. God gives this honor to Jesus. Jesus did not exalt himself, and we do not exalt Jesus. I know we use that phrase in worship, and I understand what we are saying when we say let’s exalt the Lord, let’s lift up … let me tell you something, the Lord is already exalted. He is already lifted up. When we come to worship we acknowledge that, we are affirming in our spirits the person and the position that Jesus already is in. We don’t do this for Jesus, right. He is not Lord because we make him Lord, he is just Lord. He is just Lord. Whether we make him Lord or not, whether we live like he is Lord or not, he is just Lord– Now we can certainly live under his Lordship, but we are not going to make him Lord. He is Lord. The exalted position of Christ.
Number two on your notes, the confession of everyone else.
Verse 10 says so that, don’t miss that. You guys have probably listened to me enough to know that when we read the words “so that” what are you thinking? I will kiss you if you get this right! Maybe, maybe … (laughter) purpose clause! So that means purpose clause. So look at it in the scripture. What do we see before that “so that”, verse 9, for this reason God exalted him and bestowed upon him the name above every name so that, this is why God does what he does in verse 9, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow of those who are in heaven and those who are on earth and under the earth and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father.
In response to what God does for the Son, the Bible says everyone bows, everyone confesses Jesus is Lord. His Lordship may be debated and denied by some today, but one day it will be crystal clear. One day no one will debate, no one will deny, everyone will look, everyone will bow, everyone will confess Jesus is Lord. And notice there is a ring of certainty to this. Verse 10 says every knee will bow. Verse 11 says every tongue will confess. There is certainty to it. There is no doubt here. There is no hesitation. There is no, “Well I don’t know about this…there is a stubborn old geezer over here and I don’t know if he will ever recognize who Jesus is.” No, he will! He will. He will bow, he will confess, Jesus is Lord.
This phrase Jesus is Lord. Bible scholars tell us that this is probably the first confession by the early church. Jesus is Lord. So that means before the early church gets together and thinks about what do we believe about things like justification. What do we believe about things like sanctification. What about the ultimate act of glorification. All of those big theological things, before the church figures any of those things out, they are getting together they are saying what do we really believe. We believe Jesus is Lord. Well, what do we think about things. We think Jesus is Lord. That is a pretty good place to start, Jesus is Lord.
To me this is just amazing to think that thousands of years before anyone ever thought of Vista Baptist Church, before anyone ever thought about 901 North Parker, there were people getting together to make the same confession we are making on this Sunday morning. Jesus is Lord. Isn’t that amazing to think about? That we are just a small group in the big line of people who have been getting together and making the same confession, Jesus is Lord. And in some sense as we get together on Sundays and rally behind this confession, we are anticipating the day when everyone will make this same confession, Jesus is Lord.
Unless we think that anyone may escape this reality, the Bible mentions three categories. You see them there in verse 10. At the name of Jesus every knee will bow. What does he mean by that? What does he mean by every knee will bow. Well, what about my maw who passed away? What about the sailors who lost their life at sea? What does this mean, every knee will bow, and then we have this qualifying description here, look at this: of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth.
That pretty much covers it, right? In heaven, on earth, under the earth, so three categories. Those who are in heaven. Whose is in heaven? Angels, angels are in heaven. So one day angels will bow, and worship, and confess Jesus is Lord. Who else is in heaven? Anybody else in heaven? You guys know anybody who is in heaven? Redeemed people who have died in Christ, they are in heaven, and all of those people one day will bow and make this confession: Jesus is Lord.
The next phrase on earth. Well, that’s us. We are on earth. Turn to your neighbor and say you are part of the group that is on earth. Now turn to your other neighbor and say I may be, but in a lot of ways I am out of this world. Oh, that’s lame, right! That’s pretty lame. I couldn’t pass that one up though.
On earth, that’s us. It is a reference to those people who are alive when Jesus comes back, the rapture, we’ll call it the rapture generation. So we have in heaven, on earth and then the last phrase, those people who are under the earth. That’s a reference to demons and those who have died apart from Christ.
Now think about that. One day every rebellious angel that was booted out of heaven, even Lucifer, remember Lucifer’s reference last week? One day Lucifer will bow and confess Jesus is Lord. All of the demonic hosts that rebelled with him one day will bow and confess Jesus is Lord. Every single person in this room will one day bow and confess Jesus is Lord. When you go home today , nd you pass by all those people, every single one of them will one day bow and confess Jesus is Lord. Your grandkids, your neighbors, your friends, even those who have died before us. Every knee will bow and confess Jesus is Lord.
This is what we are moving towards. Oh listen to me, beloved. This is where we are going. Sometimes I hear people say, and I know what they mean by this, they say what is the world coming to. Well, it is coming to Jesus. This is what the world is coming to. This is where we are headed. History is not like being on a treadmill, where you go and go and go and don’t go anywhere. History is going to this moment in time when every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess, Jesus is Lord.
So the exalted position of Christ, the confession of everyone else, those are your two observations.
Here’s your warning. This passage of scripture does not teach universalism.
That is not what we are saying here. We often use that phrase, and I am going to use this phrase here at the end of our service, Romans chapter 10, verse 9 says that if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
The confession that Philippians chapter 2 talks about, this is not a confession of salvation. We are talking about a universal confession here, but it is more like a universal confession of who he is, and of what he has done. It is not a universal confession that automatically saves everyone. It is a time (I think it is in Romans chapter 2 that will say when every mouth will be closed. Every mouth will be closed)… That’s what Philippians chapter 2 is talking about. A time when every person stands before Jesus, their mouth is closed, they have no defense, and they know, they just know, it’s undeniable at that point, this guy is Lord. That is what Philippians 2 describes for us here. A time when every tongue will be silent, every knee will be bent, and all recognize and all acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Today, today you can do that and receive grace. On this day, when you do that, you will receive judgment. Today you can freely bow and confess Jesus as Lord. On that day you must bow, you must bow and confess him as Lord. Today you can do so in joy, then on that day you will do so in terror. Today you can know Jesus as Lord and savior, as redeemer, reconciler between God and man. Then, it will only be Lord because the day of salvation will have passed.
When I was a kid I can remember seeing a commercial about Frame oil filters. I think we have a picture here of this guy. You guys remember this? This guy would come on the commercial, and it was like he was looking right through the TV, right into your little eyeballs and he would say, you can pay a little now, or you can pay a lot later. Pay me now, pay me later. And in a sense, that’s what the Bible is describing here. Jesus is Lord. He is just Lord. You can bow before him now, or you can bow before him later, but you will bow, and you will confess, Jesus is Lord.
Let me pray for us.
Father, thank you for this time together in your Word. Thank you Father for your Spirit that is in us, your Spirit that is among us helping us to understand your scripture and pressing upon us the vital truth of your Word. Father, would you help us, maybe for the first time, maybe for the first time in a long time, will you help us to willingly in this day of grace and salvation to bow in glad submission to Jesus.
Father, thank you for speaking to us, thank you for your strong presence among us this morning. Lord, would you just continue to speak and move and minister and encourage and lift up and just continue to do what you do. Give us courage to follow you. We pray this in the strong name of Jesus. Amen.