Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ on the fortieth day after the resurrection was surely a local ascension. Christ departed from one place in the universe, the earth, never to return in that personal, visible, bodily sense until He comes again to judge the quick and the dead. And He went to another place in God’s universe, the highest heaven, in order to sit at the right hand of God and to rule supreme over all things in His church and in the world. And it is necessary, too, to emphasize this “local” aspect of the ascension over against all who would deny it and reduce it to some kind of change of condition. Christ indeed ascended into heaven; and if He did not, then there is no such thing as the ascension.
But the ascension is much more than a change of place. It represents in the very real sense of the word an advance in the state of exaltation. We are accustomed to refer to Christ’s ascension as the second of four steps in the state of exaltation; and indeed it is that. And as such it represents progress, advance. Christ not only was raised and arose from the dead; but He was exalted further in His ascension. The ascension means that our Lord Jesus Christ became very, very, very great!
God highly exalted Him!
We have—no, we belong to—an unimaginably great Christ! There are not sufficient superlatives to describe His greatness! He has a name, the name, above every name. At His name every knee in all the universe must bowl And every tongue in all the universe must confess the LORD JESUS CHRIST!
Do not overlook the fact that the purpose of the Word of God here is a practical one: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Apparently the text here no longer is speaking of the mind of Christ and of what Christ did in that mind, but rather of the mind of God and of what God did to Christ: He highly exalted Him. Yet, as the word “wherefore” indicates, the two are inseparably connected as cause and effect, as ground and act. Hence, with Christ and His mind the matter stood thus, that He humbled Himself, completely emptying Himself, having taken the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man. He humbled Himself even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. And, though being in the form of God, He never considered the robbery of being equal with God. And in all this, His deepest motive was obedience, obedience in the love of God! Yet, through all this there was also in the mind of Christ the perfect trust that God would justify Him, and there was in the mind of Christ the hope of the joy that was set before Him. And in this Christ was not put to shame: God highly exalted Him!
Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus!
In the cause of God’s covenant the mind of Christ must be actively in us and be manifest in us. This is possible, of course, only because by grace the mind of Christ is in us principally; otherwise we could never manifest it. And by that mind we must be willing and ready that self, the big capital I, should be completely negated and denied and should submerge. But in that humiliation and self self-denial we may have the perfect confidence that God will exalt us. This cannot possibly fail: for God Himself is concerned in it.
And if you would know that this is true, then look to Jesus and to what God has done to Jesus Christ. He has already highly exalted Him, Him Who is our Head, to Whom we belong, Whose mind is in us! And we shall be exalted with Him!
Have this mind in you, the mind of Christ!
What an amazing exaltation!
First of all, consider for a moment from what depth this exaltation took place. The starting-point was the depth of the cross. That was the lowest stage of Christ’s self-humiliation: “He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” From that point His exaltation occurred. And understand well what this means. It means that He had no name left, neither divine name nor human name, except a negative name: Cast away!
And then consider to what height Christ was exalted. God hath highly exalted Him, lifted Him up to an amazing height! And that amazing height is indicated by the expression “a name above every name.” Actually we should read: “the name above every name.” For it lies in the nature of the case that Christ’s is a unique name: after all, there can be but one name that is above every name. And then remember that a name in the Scriptural sense of the term is not an empty word, involving a meaningless honor. But that name which Christ received denotes His place and position in relation to all creatures. And that name is: LORD! Lord He is, in relation to all creatures in heaven, in relation to angels and principalities and powers. Lord He is, in relation to all creatures on earth, in relation to men and beasts and all things, in relation to land and seas, in relation to storm and tempest, in relation to earthquake and volcano, and in relation to all the plans and activities and aspirations and strivings and movements of them all. Lord He is, even over the spiritual powers of darkness: the devil and his host! Nothing is excluded from that Lordship. Nothing rivals that Lordship. Nothing is next to or equal to or even approaching equality with that Lordship. God hath highly exalted Him. He is absolute Lord!
God gave Him a name. And the emphasis here is upon the fact that this is altogether different from our giving of a name. When God gives a name, that person is what God calls him. And when God gave to Jesus Christ the name LORD, this means that God made Him actual Lord. God gave to Christ theauthority, the prerogative, to reign. And God gave Him the power to maintain and execute and wield that authority of His Lordship. Christ became through this high exaltation exceedingly beautiful and glorious, majestic and strong in all the vast creation!
What an amazing Lord!
Under the overwhelming influence of that name all shall bend the knee and worship. When the apostle writes that “in (not: “at”) the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess,” that is not the same as if he had written “in the name Jesus.” No, the reference is to the same name as mentioned in the preceding, the name God gave Him, the name LORD. And to bend the knee in the name is not the same as to bend the knee at the name: it means under the overwhelming influence of that name which God gave Christ. Such is the tremendous impact of that name LORD!
Universally He shall be worshipped. To bend the knee is an act of reverence and fear. It is an act of worship such as belongs to God only. And to confess with the mouth implies praise and adoration. The content of that praise and adoration is: “Jesus Christ is LORD!”
This worship, moreover, shall be universal: every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess. And then the apostle goes on and specifies: of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth. There shall be no exception. Universally He shall be acknowledged!
The reference here is to the conscious, rational creature. Some have tried to explain the text as referring to all creation, rational and dumb. Yet the expressions “bend the knee” and “confess with the tongue” are too definite to permit this interpretation: they refer to actions of the conscious, rational creature. Hence, even though it is true that through the rational creatures all creation shall worship and confess Him as LORD, this is not the reference here. The emphasis is rather on the fact that universally the rational creatures shall worship.
But they shall not all worship in the same way. In the expression “under the earth” I find a reference to the creatures in hell, in outer darkness, to devils and damned men. They shall be compelled to worship Him—they who once damned Him and blasphemed His name! But they shall worship not in love and obedience. On the contrary, in overwhelming fear they shall acknowledge: Jesus is LORD! The reference to creatures in heaven and on earth, on the other hand, refers to the angels and the redeemed church. They confess Him now already with bended knee; And they shall confess Him forever and ever, in love and delight, as they are all united in Him, and shall say: Jesus Christ is LORD!
To the glory of the Father!
What is the glory of God? It is the radiation, the shining forth of all the infinite perfections of His Godhead. And this glory of God the Father is at stake in Jesus’ exaltation. The exaltation of Jesus Christ, this means, is theologically necessary.
Indeed, you can and must consider His exaltation from a soteriological viewpoint, from the viewpoint of our salvation. Christ had come to save His brethren, the elect, and to remove their guilt and deliver them from the power of sin and death and give them eternal life. And even from that viewpoint Christ’s exaltation, by way of His humiliation, was necessary. It was necessary that He should die for our sins. But it was also necessary that He should be raised for our justification. And it was equally necessary that He should be clothed with all authority and power and that He should become the quickening Spirit—all in order to bring about our actual salvation, our actual deliverance from sin and death, our actual participation in all the blessings of salvation.
But in the ultimate sense of the word, Christ’s exaltation, His being made LORD, must serve the purpose of the glory of God the Father.
You see, the question is: who is Lord? Who is the Lord and the Heir of all things among God’s creatures and in His creation? God’s answer is: I am Lord-Sovereign, and My servant is Lord under Me, over all things. Thus it was with Adam in Paradise the First: He was God’s King-Servant, to rule over all things in the earthly creation in the name of and in the service of God. The devil’s answer is: I am sovereign, and my servant shall be Lord in the world. And the ultimate attempt of the devil to maintain his answer—an attempt, however, that shall be utterly frustrated—shall be Antichrist in his final manifestation. He shall say, “I am Lord, and every knee must bow before me!”
But God’s answer must and shall stand! He anointed His King upon His holy hill of Zion, His Servant, His Son, to become obedient in all things, even unto the death of the cross. And even as His Anointed Servant was obedient unto the death of the cross, therefore God hath highly exalted Him.
Jesus is LORD! To the glory of God the Father!