Philippians 2:9-11 Devotional
Philippians 2:9-11. Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Reflection. Last week we considered the first part of the ‘Christ hymn’ (2:5-8). But to speak about parts or halves is a slight misnomer, since 2:5-11 paints a glorious whole. It is a tapestry showing how the eternal Son of God humbly relinquished his divine privilege and joy to enter into our condition and the abject humility of selfless servitude. Yet that is not how the story ends. Though Christ became became a servant he now reigns over ever conceivable corner of reality. Note both the superlatives and dramatic scope in the passage: “highest place” (2:9); “name that is above every name” (2:9); “every knee…in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (2:10); finally, “every tongue” (2:11). The entire creation will praise Jesus Christ, “to the glory of God the Father” (2:11).
But let us pause on the very first word of these verses, because the conjunction “therefore” suggests a causal link between what precedes (2:6-8) and the coronation envisioned in 2:9-11. To turn it around: God exalted Christ to the highest place because he humbled himself. So instead of merely telling us that the Son returned to his eternal prestige and power, Paul says that Christ’s exaltation was in part the of result of his obedience, death and service. Thus all exultation of God is inseparable from Christ’s self-emptying. He is forever exalted as the one who gave himself up.
Let us briefly consider what this means for our faith. For starters, though Christians should not obsess over the cross they cannot overlook it. Jesus’ death is a fundamental component to the Christian faith. When we think little of the cross we strip the Christ of his work that - as we are told here - will forever be on our lips.
As I said in the previous devotional, we often fail to perceive the thread of Philippians 2:5-11 when we speak about Christ’s death. For we tend to dislocate the cross from the grander eternal narrative: the Son of God became incarnate to serve those he had made, with the result that all of creation will pour forth praise to that same Son now exalted. The “therefore” of 2:9 implies that the songs sung in glory will be fuller because of Jesus Christ’s selfless sacrifice and service. When we bow the knee and delight in his name, the cross will not be a distant memory. In many ways it will fuel our passionate praise of the Son. To isolate the cross as Jesus’ substitutionary death, forgetting the fact that the Son left heaven in order to do so, is to ignore the far more powerful and complete story told here and throughout Scripture. The Son of God came from heaven to go to the cross. In the immortal words of one early church father: ‘the Son of God became a man so that we might become sons and daughters of God.’
This devotion has focused the indicative of 2:9-11. Because it is a description we should savour. But how might it shape our lives? Again, I don’t think we need to look much further than the first word and remember the broader context. Paul is exhorting Christians to give their lives up in service of others, considering their needs and thinking of them ahead of ourselves. Easier said than done. But the link made between Christ’s humiliation and exaltation is, I think, programmatic for the believer. In other words, though this needs far more thought, believers will also be exalted. However, like their Lord, the extent of this will in some ways be determined by our selfless service and humility here. After all, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.