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.
These verses continue the thought from verses 5-8 of the mind of Christ, who humbled Himself and made Himself of no reputation. From the state of Jesus Christ’s deep humiliation, climaxing with His death on the cross, these verses we consider reveal Christ taken out of the state of humiliation and lifted up to the state of exaltation—glorious exaltation! “Wherefore” is the word that connects those two states. “Wherefore,” that is, since Christ has made Himself of no reputation, taking on our human nature and becoming obedient to the death of the cross, God now justly rewards Him for that unspeakable, unfathomable humiliation with supreme exaltation! In a word, God tells us that the way up is down!
He tells us that in connection with His exhortation to put on the mind of Christ—that nothing might be done through strife or vainglory in the church, that each must esteem others better than himself, that the church might manifest her blessed beauty and unity in her Lord. Thus, these verses set forth the great incentive for us to humble ourselves and to live that life of humility and service for the sake of the church. Because the mind of Christ was to humble Himself to the lowest levels, He was supremely exalted! So also will God deal with us!
Remembering this, may we be encouraged to humble ourselves in the manner our Savior did! For we too can expect to be graciously exalted by God in our Lord who was exalted supremely by God, and whose exaltation will one day be supremely displayed for His glorious purpose.
The text begins with the supreme exaltation of Jesus Christ by God: “Wherefore God hath also highly exalted him….” What kind of “high exaltation” is this? A “super” one! A super, supreme exaltation of Jesus Christ, in which God gave to Jesus the highest possible position that can ever be had by anyone, that of being at God’s own right hand in heaven. That place or position at God’s right hand is, of course, not literal but a figure of speech. The idea of being at God’s right hand is one with which we are familiar: a “right-hand man” is in a supreme position of trust, to the extent that all the authority and power is delegated to him. That is in keeping with the original Greek here, a word used nowhere else in the New Testament: a “high” exaltation of Christ that is supreme, and unmatched!
This is only fitting! To be sure, the supreme exaltation spoken of here is for the man Jesus. The divine second Person, the Son of God, has always been supremely exalted, since He is God and never ceased to be God, even when He assumed our human nature. Fittingly, the Holy Spirit uses this distinctive word exclusively for the supreme exaltation of Christ. For this is in accord with the supreme humiliation our Savior suffered for us! He Who is in the bosom of the Father in heaven departed from those joys and glories! He, the Creator God, came down to our lowly creaturely level, the level of the dust of this world, a sinful world! He took on our flesh, suffered all His life long, and bore the punishment of hell for all our sins! Who can understand the depths of pain, anguish, and humiliation our Savior suffered for us? According to the perfect justice of God, He rewarded that supreme suffering and humiliation with supreme exaltation. As part of that supreme exaltation, Christ was given that supreme position of glory and power at God’s right hand.
But still more, Jesus was also given a super-exalted, supreme name or title: “and given him a name which is above every name….” What is that name? Some suppose that it is “Jesus,” according to verse 10a. But it is not “Jesus,” because Jesus was already given that name at the time of His birth (cf.). Nor is the name “Christ,” which means “Anointed” or “Messiah,” a name we already read of in the Old Testament, from which we learn that God had appointed this Jesus to be His anointed servant. The name given for the supreme exaltation of Jesus is “Lord”: “And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord…” (v. 11a). He is King of kings and Lord of lords!
The great significance of this name is well expressed by various apostles under inspiration—by Paul in, by Peter in , and perhaps most emphatically by John in the book of Revelation: “These shall war against the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful” ( ); “And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” ( ). From these biblical references, we see that the name “Lord” given to the man Jesus is a supremely significant name in the mind of the Holy Spirit who inspired these apostles. It also was the chief confession made by Christians in the early, post-apostolic church: Jesus Christ is Lord! Not any of the powerful caesars who ruled over them, but Jesus Christ, is Lord! Not Caesar Augustus, not Caesar Trajan, not Caesar Nero, but Jesus Christ is Lord!
This was the paramount confession of Christians then. A paramount confession made with a paramount price! How many thousands of Christians were not tortured, martyred, and killed when they refused to acknowledge caesar as Lord! Is that your confession, reader? Are you willing to make that confession, even if it will cost you something: an inconvenience, a loss of your job or your friends, shame, or even physical suffering? Today, there are those in the church who consider themselves “Christian” who will have Jesus as Savior but not as “Lord,” and are acknowledged as true believers by their church leaders. How different is the testimony of Scripture and the historic Christian church from yesteryear!
What a precious, comforting confession this is! Do we realize what comfort it brought to Christians in ages past? Can you imagine what a comforting confession it was for the apostle Paul when he was in prison, and the apostle John while he was banished on the isle of Patmos for maintaining that confession? It was not their powerful persecutors who were Lord. Jesus is Lord! And it is His Lordship that determined that Paul would be a prisoner and John a lonely exile for His name’s sake. It is His Lordship that will cause all things to work together for good to them who love God! The same enjoyment of comfort was had by suffering Christians who lived during the time of the Roman Empire and maintained that confession in the face of severe persecution! You who maintain that confession, you who love God, is it not a confession that brings you comfort? We see wicked rulers ruling over all the world. We see sin and evil growing all around us. But it is not Christless man or the forces of evil around us who are Lord. It is not Antichrist who is Lord, but it is Jesus and Jesus alone, our Savior, who is Lord!
The truth of that confession will be supremely displayed when the Lord Himself shall come again. The text speaks of this supreme display in verse 11a: “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth.” The Word of God covers every rational, moral creature that ever existed, exists, or will exist. Those in heaven— all the host of good angels, and the church triumphant that has been called home to be with the Lord. Those on earth—all of mankind, elect and reprobate on the earth. And those under the earth—all the damned in hell, both human beings and the fallen angels. Of all these creatures, from these three categories, “every knee [shall] bow and every tongue [shall] confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” When the King of kings and Lord of lords shall return, when the Lamb of God shall return as the Lion of Judah, then the Lordship of Jesus Christ will be supremely displayed. He alone has all the power and authority of God, and He alone will be Judge of every rational, moral creature that ever lived. Then, either with humble adoration and love, or with gritted teeth in subjection, every knee (of both the righteous and the wicked) will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!
What a supreme display that will be!
How is that truth and confession to be applied? This way. To the impenitent, there will be no comfort and joy, but only dread and terror. And rightly so, because justice will be meted out to them. What a day of terror that will be! But to all the penitent, to all who trust in the Lord and love Him, there is and will be comfort for us. All our sufferings endured for the blessed name of our Savior and God will have been worth it! Will we then not be diligent in speaking of this truth often before and to our family, extended family, and brethren? Will we not also, seeing the terror of the Lord that is to come, give witness to others who do not yet know Jesus to turn from their sins and flee to Him?
The day when this truth of the supreme exaltation of Christ is supremely displayed is also when the supreme purpose of God will be fulfilled, which is the glorification of God the Father (v. 11b). God has purposed to glorify Himself through glorifying Jesus Christ as Lord in the way of His wondrous salvation of us by His cross! That is the supreme purpose of God: to glorify His Son and our Savior as Lord.
Is that not also your purpose, dear reader? If so, live out your life with that one goal and purpose in mind more and more. Do so by putting away strife and vainglory! Do so by being humble, by putting others first, by looking not only on your things, but also on the things of others! Do so in your life and service to your family, church, denomination, and all who love His Name! Having the mind of Christ in you, you too will be exalted with your Lord, who shares His great exaltation so graciously with you and with me.