What Happened Afterwards

Let’s review the context, beginning with the start of the chapter:  In response to the grace of God in your life…if you have any experience of that – extend that same grace into the Church.  Be engaged with the Church.  No haughty distance between you and the Church.  Take the Church seriously.  Take pains to tender to the Church the same love and interest that you instinctively tender to yourself.

Then, in vv. 5-8 Paul puts forward the example of Jesus Christ in summoning the Church to an engaged and humble service toward each other.  Christ Jesus was God, obviously God.  But instead of holding onto the privileges and prerogative of God, He kept choosing humbleness and obedience to the Father, becoming a man, a servant… following the Father’s lead all the way to death on a cross.  

We said that the crucial thing to remember is why Paul is raising the example of Jesus Christ.  Not simply to call Christians to humility generally, but to call them…us… to an engaged and humble service toward the Church.    

Still with this specific application in mind, Paul then concludes his mini-overview of Christ Jesus:   

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.

Christ humbled Himself all the way to death on a cross.  But there’s an afterward.  And that “rest of the story” should also impel us to engaged service toward the Church.  Let me explain:  

Therefore –  In response to Christ Jesus’ willingness to empty himself and humble himself all the way to the cross, God has highly exalted him.  

Upon the man who was savaged, humiliated, abandoned, pummeled, laughed at, gaped at, taunted – God bestowed on him the name that is above every name.  From the depths of degradation, God catapulted Jesus to the heights.   

From humility to honor: that’s an established pattern.  Humility, then honor is in the nature of things.  God created the world with that sequence embedded.  And humility before honor agrees with how God is ruling over history.  And this goes along precisely with what Jesus Himself said: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”  (Mark 9:35)

God has highly exalted the Man Christ Jesus.  We already knew that since day 1… or rather day 6.  God chose Adam, that is, Humanity, to be the unique creation, made in the image of God.  Humans were created with dignity: the honor of image bearers, endowed with a particular set of God-like traits, having dominion over the rest of the creation and – in their male and femaleness – presenting God into the world.  In their role as image bearers, no creature is more exalted than humans.    

People are awesome.  There’s a YouTube channel by that name, and you can get on there and watch image bearers doing inventive, amazing, freakish things.    

But people are awesome, even if they don’t do anything spectacular, because God has exalted humans.  He loves people.  He’s taking them seriously.  And that, throughout all of their life.  I often refer to the story of Job because I find it to be so full of insights.  One of those insights is that, even as Job is middle-aged, his kids grown up and established in their careers, God hasn’t moved on from Job.  He’s still dealing with him, teaching him lessons, explaining the world to him, explaining Himself.  Yes, human being, God is toward you as He is with no other creation.  

But now we hear that God – in response to Jesus’ chosen path of humility – has declared that Jesus be the most important Man of all the creatures in the cosmos.  People are amazing…but God has “super-exalted” this Man.    

What about that phrase?  Bestowed the name that is above every name isn’t saying that the word “Jesus” has won the award for the best name ever.  Although, as a stutterer let me say how great a name that “Jesus” is.  That soft “g” – a dental fricative by the way – what an easy sound to make.  Thank God for the name of Jesus!      

But that’s not what we mean by the highest name!  Rather, the whole Bible uses the term “name” to pinpoint the intersection of one’s status, his reputation, his identity, his history, his destiny.  Someone’s “name” is a blend of his status…his reputation…his identity…his history…his destiny.  

So, in response to Jesus’ obedience and humbleness since His becoming a man, God has all along celebrated and promoted and strengthened Him.  From Bethlehem and onward God has ranked Jesus as #1 Human.  Think about it: As in no other moment in history, the night of Jesus’ birth God sent 1000s of angels to announce His becoming man.  At His baptism, the Father can’t keep quiet: This is an image bearer of the Father, my Son in whom I delight.  At His Transfiguration God reveals the hidden glory of His Person, as if to say “Let the glory of this Man for a few minutes be uncovered so it can be written into the human historical record.”  “Listen to Him.”    

In raising Jesus from the dead God justifies Him, testifying that this utterly reliable Man who totally relied on God is the exclusively True Man and deserves to live and have dominion.  “It was impossible for death to hold onto Him.”  Yes, this is the Human I had in mind when I first breathed life into the dirt.    

And when He ascends to the Father?  Well, I like how Augustus Strong put it: As the resurrection proclaimed Christ to men as the perfected and glorified man, the conqueror of sin and lord of death, the ascension proclaimed him to the universe as the reinstated God, the possessor of universal dominion, the omnipresent object of worship and hearer of prayer.  

Brothers and sisters, we need to reckon with the fact that God has given Jesus the highest name.  The day after Ben and Ellie married, we went to a church in Salida, CO, where Ben’s in-laws attend.  (Ben’s new dad-in-law is a lay-elder there.)  Anyway, that morning we heard a helpful and encouraging sermon.    

The speaker – another lay-elder – made the observation that a lot of moderns are spiritual people who believe in a Higher Power.  Yet, they’re reluctant to come down on any details about Him.  It appears that, while they like the idea of God, they prefer not to know much about Him.  Don’t want to define God: He’s this and not this.    

He gave this analogy: it’s like a game of hide and seek, but you lose when you find the person.  Always be a seeker.  Always keep God distant, mysterious.    

Or, we could say: never name this God.  Because when you associate God with a name – JESUS – you’re now accountable.  Accountable to His words, and you have to react to what He did, and you come to realize that you really should ask and answer certain questions: is the Father of Jesus reliable?  Is Jesus reliable?    Is there anyone more reliable?  Then why am I not entrusting myself to Him?  

My friend, when you go through your months, years as a nice guy or a nominally spiritual person OR even as a so-called Christian…but you never get to the name of Jesus… That is, you never grasp and then grapple with the details of who this Jesus is.  You might even, without much thought… automatically, rank Jesus highly… but you’ve coasted to that evaluation – you’re just mouthing words – you don’t actually worship Jesus.    

However you don’t… when you don’t truly acknowledge the name of Jesus, you’re at cross-purposes with God.  You’re resisting God.  Because God has highly exalted him and given him the name that is above every name.  

God’s promotion of Christ Jesus isn’t confined to the past but will continue into the future.    

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.  

Where is history going?  Just there.  Christ Jesus, the Greatest.  And that not just in God’s mind, but is the obvious truth recognized by all.  

It’s helpful in understanding these verses to realize that Paul is alluding to an Old Testament text here, in Isaiah 45.  Please turn to that chapter.    

The LORD is speaking to Cyrus, the Persian King who will release Israel from their Babylonian captivity.  By what He’ll do through Cyrus it’ll becomes clear that, as v. 5 states:  I am the LORD, and there is no other/ beside me there is no God.  

God alone the Supreme King over earthly kings and their angelic counterparts.

And again, in vv. 6,7, God wants:  

That people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me/ I am the LORD, and there is no other/ I form light and create darkness/ I make well-being and create calamity/ I am the LORD, who does all these things.  

God the primary Actor in the middle of creation and history, setting the scene.  No one else is so central.

Later on in the chapter, Israel will be saved so that the peoples of the earth will be saved, so that the world won’t eventually spin around, empty of inhabitants.  And this salvation of life is toward the goal of this being clear:  

For thus says the LORD who created the heavens (he is God)/ who formed the earth and made it (he established it/ he did not create it empty/ he formed it to be inhabited!) I am the LORD, and there is no other.  

No one like him.  Everyone should acknowledge this about Him.  God saves the creation in order to make clear that there’s no one like Him.    

And, in fact, to recognize the uniqueness of this God is to live in reality, is to already be saved.  So, turn away from all the other futile and tiresome ways of trying to sustain yourself, and acknowledge My uniqueness, God says in vv. 22, 23:  

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.’  

That’s the chapter in its context that Paul is citing here.  So, when he says that every reasonable creature shall acknowledge Christ Jesus as Lord, He means recognize Christ as Jehovah LORD, the King of kings, the Creator of the world and the One who stands in the middle of creation and history shaping everything to His purposes.  God declares only He will be known as Lord of all, and [back to our Philippians passage] it is that name that Christ Jesus has been given: the Lord of all.     

God has bestowed this name, His name, on Christ Jesus.  But hold on: wasn’t Christ the eternal Son of God who was very God and shared in the glory of God before His incarnation?  So why does it sound like something has changed for Christ?  That there’s been an upgrade?  That God has bestowed this on Him in response to His humbling Himself?  

And I think the advancement here is that a Man – the true Man – has been given the name of Jehovah.  The Human – let’s call Him the “Second Adam” has taken the place at the right hand of the Eternal Father.  So that this Man born of and suckled by Mary can now say: “I am the LORD, and there is no other.”       


Every knee should bow – The bowed knee is a sign of abasement of one’s total being.  To bow knees before Jesus is to acknowledge God’s estimation of Him: highly exalted above every other name.  This is where history is heading.  All who bow the knee might not enjoy the fact that Jesus is above them, and yet they’ll recognize and yield to His authority, His will, His significance.  They’ll officially be in His thrall.  

in heaven and on earth and under the earth – because of God’s promotion of Him in response to His obedient and humble engagement, all reasonable creatures of every order will bow before Jesus.  It’s interesting that Paul names these three realms of being: heaven, earth, under the earth.  Paul is expanding our worldview and our scope of Christ’s authority!       

We’re familiar with one out of the three: on the earth.  All peoples, be they rich or poor, however they’re categorized will name Christ Jesus as their liege.     

The knees in heaven bowing before Jesus are super-natural creatures: including angels and dominions and principalities and watchers and powers and thrones and spiritual forces and beasts and rulers.    

These are all spiritual entities.  In heaven, yes, but also entities that heavily exert influence on individuals and groups and businesses and nations and movements in our visible realm.  Truly, this is an enchanted world.  A layered world.    

The knees under the earth – those in the realm of Sheol: the departed dead, the spirits in chains that Peter speaks of, the Lady Folly of Proverbs, the dragon, the Satan himself.  Even Death is sometimes personified (Psalm 49:14) existing under the earth, shepherding the dead to his place.    

So… the beings on the earth we see, but there are plenty more above and beneath us.  All creatures of reason, the creatures that surround us and fill the cosmos – all of them will joyfully or grudgingly bow before Jesus.    

Christopher Hitchens.  Billy Graham.  Napoleon.  Genghis Khan.  Inca warriors.  Beasts covered with eyes.  Scholars.  Pornographers.  Salesmen.  Brad Pitt.  Oprah Winfrey.  Frederick Douglas.  The hairy knee of Satan will bow before Christ Jesus.  The gray knee of Death.  Gabriel.  David.  Your neighbor.  The last person who texted you.  Democrats and Republicans.  Imams.  Witch doctors.  Joe Rogan.  David Goggins.  “Live Free or Die-ers.”  Taylor Swift.  The noonday devil that drains young men of their ambition and settles depression onto middle-aged housewives.    

All will bow before Christ when God discloses publicly His exalted name.        

And no silent acknowledgement this will be:  every tongue confess thatJesus Christ is Lord.  

You are Lord.  I have loved you and longed for this to become public knowledge.  

OR – You are Lord.  I never even considered the question of where all this was going…I was too busy living.  

OR You are Lord, and I hated the life you gave me and the people you surrounded me with and I hate the fact that you’re over me.  

There will be different feelings about Jesus being the Lord.  But all will come to say: You are our Better.  We have served Your purposes.  Our resistance to you was pointless.  Apathy toward you was the height of pride.  Service in Your name to Your people was worth it.

How far we’ve come from this: Quoting Fleming Rutledge: “Crucifixion was specifically designed to be the ultimate insult to personal dignity, the last word in humiliating and dehumanizing treatment.  Degradation was the whole point.  As Joel Green describes it, ‘Executed publicly, situated at a major crossroads or on a well-trafficked artery, devoid of clothing, left to be eaten by birds and beasts, victims of crucifixion were subject to optimal, unmitigated, vicious ridicule.’”   

Let’s remind ourselves why Paul is overviewing the career of Christ Jesus.    

2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus..  

Considering what happened to Christ Jesus should affect the mindset of believers toward engagement with the Church.  

Well, we can understand how the example of Christ Jesus’ humbling Himself compels us to not proudly stand apart from the Church but, in humility, identify with it and serve it.  

But what does the exaltation of Christ Jesus have to do with us not looking only to our own interests but also to the interests of others within the Church?      

And the answer comes by looking again at v. 5: not only is Christ Jesus an example for us.  Also, we participate in Christ Jesus.  The Church is “in Christ Jesus.” He is the vine, we are the branches of the vine.  What has happened to Him, what is true about Him, always shows up…eventually… in the Church.    

And if Christ Jesus has been and will be exalted, that should affect how we think, specifically how we consider one another.  We should have this mindset about ourselves in light of who we are in Christ Jesus.  Because the Church is in Christ Jesus, we are to consider the Church as a weighty Body, worthy of our respect and investment, the people whom God obtained with His own blood, whose destiny is glory, who will one day judge angels, the great creatures of the cosmos.  “We shall be like him.”  “The Lord Jesus Christ will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body.”  

Go ahead and look around the room.  Who are these people?  Who are they in the exalted Christ Jesus?  Who will they become?  

With a couple of modifications, let me quote C.S Lewis:  

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting [church member] you can talk to [will] one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, … All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to [this destination]. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary [church members]. [In church] you have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to [the Church] as the life of a gnat. But [in the church] it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit … everlasting splendors.”  

Will you take these people seriously because of your faith in the exalted Christ Jesus?  Instead of gathering together and then forgetting about them for the rest of the week, will you work at counting them as more significant than yourself?  It’s not that hard, if you see them for who they are, joined to the exalted Christ.  These are great creatures sitting next to you.  Humans, yes.  Furthermore, humans now joined to the exalted Christ.  Wow!    

Think over their lives and pray for them.  Pray for their child rearing.  For their grandparenting.  Pray for their thoughts.  For their alertness.  Pray for their faith.  Pray for their bodies – they’re the very bodies that Jesus has decided to transform.    

Brothers and Sisters: In the name of the exalted Jesus Christ, you are commanded to take His Church seriously.      


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