d) Phil 2:9–11: The Trinity exemplifies self-giving. Thus, both the cross and the sacrificed lamb best reveal God’s character (John 8:28–29; John 12:27–33; John 1:28–29).[1]

Since crucifixion had such negative connotations (Phil 2:8), the only plausible explanation for the rise of Christianity is that something extraordinary happened to Jesus after his death.[2]

This hymn cited by Paul concludes by celebrating the unrivaled honor bestowed upon the one who abased himself and now reigns in supreme glory.[3]

For those in Philippi, where people worshiped Caesar as Lord, this passage elicited shock.[4]

While followers of Christ worship Jesus as king, all things have not yet come under his subjection.[5] Consequently, this Scripture concerns the period of time in which we live. Many bible scholars call this era “the now and not yet.”

A radical shift occurs in Phil 2:9, a great reversal on several levels.[6]

To this point, Jesus has performed the action (Phil 2:5–8). From here until the end of the hymn, Christ receives the action,[7] as he sits enthroned in the heavenly court (Ps 110:1; Matt 16:24–27; Matt 18:4).[8]

Although this hymn cites neither the resurrection nor the ascension of Jesus, the author assumes both of them.[9]

Paul quoted, “Therefore God super-exalted him.”[10]

This action by the Father serves as the vindication of Jesus’s righteousness, rather than as a reward for Christ’s self-abasement.[11]

Unlike the gradual descent into humiliation, God raised his son in one dramatic act from the depths of degradation to the loftiest heights.[12]

As a result, Christ reigns over the universe (Acts 2:32–36; Eph 1:18–23; Heb 1:3; Heb 7:26).[13] Consequently, he must receive the highest honor, praise, obedience, and submission from everyone (Ps 97:9).

In addition, Paul gave Christians a model to follow. By being obedient even to the point of death, God shall vindicate and glorify us (Matt 10:16–39; Phil 3:20–21).[14]

Since he was equal with God prior to the incarnation, Christ has returned to his previous eminence (John 17:4–5).[15] No higher place exists than that occupied by the Lord.[16]

That God “bestowed on him a name which [is] above every name” comprises one aspect of Christ’s super-exaltation.[17] This literary repetition reinforces the extent of Jesus’s supremacy.

In the ancient world, a name not only revealed one’s inner character but also emphasized status (1 Sam 25:25; John 1:40–42; Matt 16:16–18).[18]

By receiving the name above all others, the Father gave Christ his own power and authority.[19] Once again, the Son enjoys equality with the Father.[20]

Although Paul did not overtly specify that name,[21] the Greek Old Testament translates the name Yahweh as Lord (kyrios, such as in Exod 3:4).[22]

Observant Jewish people regarded the divine name as too holy to speak; therefore, they substituted “Lord” for “Yahweh.”[23]

“Jesus is Lord” serves as the earliest Christian confession, with the term “Lord” appearing 717 times in the New Testament (Acts 2:36; 1 Cor 12:3; Rom 10:9–10).[24]

Paul alluded to Isa 45:21–25 here, confirming that the name Yahweh belongs to Jesus.[25]

In particular, note the statement “For I am God and there is not another” (Isa 45:22). As a result, the apostle made an astonishing pronouncement, for he asserted that we owe homage directly to the Son, rather than to the Father through the Son.[26]

God made this bestowal “in order that before the name of Jesus every knee might bow.”[27]

This refers to the historical man who came from Nazareth, instead of a cosmic nonentity.[28]

“To bend the knee” is an idiom meaning “to acknowledge and submit to the authority of another.”[29] The one who previously obeyed fully must now be fully obeyed.[30]

By citing the passage in Isaiah, Paul implied that at Christ’s return, all—those willing and unwilling—will bend the knee to him. Jesus’ supremacy shall be an inescapable reality.[31]

Some people will experience great joy, while others face shameful disgrace for resisting his rule.[32]

Everyone shall acknowledge his sovereignty at the end of time, even if they now refuse to yield their wills to his.[33]

This shall be true of “[those] of heaven and of earth and under the earth.”

Ancient people believed in a three-part universe (Rev 5:3).[34]

For example, Homer wrote, “Now therefore let earth be witness to this, and the broad heaven above, and the down-flowing water of the Styx (the entrance to the underworld).”[35]

“Those of heaven” refers to angels, even those who have rebelled against the Lord’s authority (Job 1:6; Mark 1:21–26; James 2:19).[36]

Among those “on the earth” are the people who persecuted the church in Philippi (Acts 16:19–24; Phil 1:27–30).[37]

The ones “under the earth” consist of those who have died (Ps 16:9–11).[38] Worship will be universal (Rev 5:11–14),[39] extending to all of creation (Ps 148).[40]

“And every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ [is] Lord.”

Here the hymn reaches its apex, for everyone shall recognize “the name that is above every name” as authoritative. Christ will be installed as head of the universe, not only of the church,[41] for everyone shall see that Jesus has been resurrected.

However, for those who persist in unbelief, this confession will not result in conversion (Heb 9:27–28; Rev 20:12–15).[42] Instead, Jesus shall triumph over his foes.[43]

Similarly, an individual who dislikes the president still swears an oath of allegiance to the commander-in-chief when joining the military. One may not like the person but cannot deny the office belongs to him.[44]

All of this shall be “to the glory of God the Father.”

Paradoxically, Christ’s exaltation does not displace the Father,[45] who handed over his name and rule but suffered no reduction in his glory (1 Cor 8:6).[46]

Thus, the Incarnation redefines monotheism to include more than one person within the Godhead.[47]

Just as the Son took the role of a servant, here we see the Father doing likewise.[48] Therefore, when we confess “Jesus is Lord,” we do not dishonor the Father, for this fulfills his divine plan.[49]

In keeping with the perfect unity of the Father and the Son, in this era of the “now and not yet,” Christ rules over all authorities, powers, and dominions.

However, when all of creation has been subjected to him, Jesus shall place everything under the Father. This includes himself, “in order that God may be all in all” (1 Cor 15:24–28; John 13:31–32; Rev 3:21).

According to Augustine, due to the unity within the Godhead, whenever one of them is magnified, so is the other.

Therefore, “When [Christ] shall have delivered up the kingdom to…the Father, Jesus does not take the kingdom from himself; since, when he shall bring believers to the contemplation of God, even the Father, doubtless he will bring them to the contemplation of Himself.”[50]

In Roman colonial cities, public inscriptions glorified Caesar Augustus as the savior of the world. One inscription gives the rationale for setting the emperor’s birthday as the first day of the year:[51]

Since Providence…has set [the world] in most perfect order by giving us Augustus, whom she filled with virtue that he might benefit humankind, and sending him as a savior, both for us and for our descendants, that he might end war and arrange all things…   surpassing all previous benefactors and not even leaving to posterity any hope of surpassing what he has done, and since the birthday of the god Augustus was the beginning of the good tidings (euangelion) for the world, which Asia resolved in Smyrna….[52]

In addition to denoting “good tidings,” euangelion also means “gospel.”[53]

This hymn in Phil 2 undercuts all imperial claims,[54] despite Paul’s confinement in Nero’s prison when he wrote this letter (Phil 1:12–14).[55]

The apostle turned the notion of how one achieves honor and power on its head: the one worthy to rule over all is the one who serves all (Mark 10:42–45).[56]

Thus, no sacrifice we make for the cause of the gospel can be too great.[57] Furthermore, if the Son humbled himself to the lowest place, how can those who claim to follow him quarrel and fight for social status?[58]

As Augustine wrote:

What mercy could be greater, so far as we poor wretches are concerned, than that which drew the Creator of the heavens down from heaven, clothed the Maker of the earth with earthly vesture, made Him, who in eternity remains equal to His Father, equal to us in mortality, and imposed on the Lord of the universe the form of a servant, so that He, our Bread, might hunger; that He, our Fulfillment, might thirst; that He, our Strength, might be weakened; that He, our Health, might be injured; that He, our Life, might die?

And all this [He did] to satisfy our hunger, to moisten our dryness, to soothe our infirmity, to wipe out our iniquity, to enkindle our charity. What greater mercy could there be than that the Creator be created, the Ruler be served, the Redeemer be sold, the Exalted be humbled and the Reviver be killed?[59]

Image via Wikimedia Commons

 

Read Phil 2:9–11. How shall Jesus be glorified? What characterizes the relationship between the Son and the Father? Why would this passage have given hope to Paul’s readers in Philippi? How does Phil 2:5–11 affect the way we understand the word “us” in Gen 1:26? What are the implications of this hymn for how we live?

 

 

 

 

Go to Made in the Image of God

 

[Related posts include Equality with God (Phil 2:5–6); A Summary of Trinitarian Creeds (Appendix to Phil 2:5–6); The Eternal Subordination of the Son to the Father: Orthodoxy or Heresy?; Taking the Form of a Slave (Phil 2:7); Obedient to the Point of Death (Phil 2:8); Let Us Make Humanity (Gen 1:26); A Most Cruel and Ignominious Punishment (Matt 27:26–37); A Second Resurrection (John 5:28–29); Confession and Belief (Rom 10:8–10); Future Vindication (Rom 10:11–12); Victory over Death (1 Cor 15:53–55); Citizens of Heaven (Phil 3:20); Glorified Bodies (Phil 3:21); The Firstborn of All Creation (Col 1:15–18); Greek Translation of the Old Testament; and Ancient Literature]

 

[Click here to go to Chapter 3: The Image of God (Genesis 1:26–31)]

 

[1] Witherington, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 156.

[2] Witherington, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 150.

[3] Hawthorne, Philippians, 107.

[4] Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 197.

[5] Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 219.

[6] Hawthorne, Philippians, 123.

[7] Witherington, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 151.

[8] Hawthorne, Philippians, 123.

[9] Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 220.

[10]Danker, et al., “ύπερυψοω” (hyperupsoō), BDAG, 1034. This term appears nowhere else in the New Testament.

[11] Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 220.

[12] Hawthorne, Philippians, 125.

[13] Georg Bertram, “ύψοω” (hypsoō) TNDT 8:602–14, 609.

[14] Witherington, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 151–2.

[15] Thielman, Philippians, 120.

[16] Witherington, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 152.

[17] Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippian, 220–1.

[18] Hawthorne, Philippians, 126.

[19] Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 225–6.

[20] Hawthorne, Philippians, 126.

[21] Thielman, Philippians, 120.

[22] Witherington, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 152.

[23] Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 225.

[24] Witherington, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 153.

[25] Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 222.

[26] Hawthorne, Philippians, 127.

[27] Thielman, Philippians, 121.

[28] Hawthorne, Philippians, 127.

[29] Witherington, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 153.

[30] Hawthorne, Philippians, 127.

[31] Witherington, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 153–4.

[32] Schreiner, Paul Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ: A Pauline Theology, 188.

[33] Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 224.

[34] Hawthorne, Philippians, 128.

[35]Homer, The Odyssey (trans. A. T. Murray; LCL; Cambridge; London: Harvard University Press; Heinemann, 1919), 5.184–6, http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0136%3Abook%3D5%3Acard%3D145.

[36] Keener, IVPBBCNT, Phil 2:10–1.

[37] Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 224–5.

[38] Witherington, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 155.

[39] Hawthorne, Philippians, 128.

[40] Witherington, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 154–5.

[41] Hawthorne, Philippians, 128.

[42] Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 225.

[43] Hawthorne, Philippians, 128.

[44] Witherington, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 154.

[45] Hawthorne, Philippians, 130.

[46] Witherington, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 153.

[47] Ibid., 155.

[48] Witherington, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 153.

[49] Hawthorne, Philippians, 130.

[50]Augustine, “On the Trinity,” in NPNF1–03 (ed. Philip Schaff; trans. Arthur West Haddan, revised by William G. T. Shedd; Edinburgh; Grand Rapids: T & T Clark; Eerdmans, 1887), 1.9, 27, https://archive.org/stream/aselectlibrary03unknuoft#page/26/mode/2up.

[51]Masseiana.org, “The Priene Inscription or Calendar Inscription of Priene,” http://www.masseiana.org/priene.htm.

[52]Craig A. Evans, “Mark’s Incipit and the Priene Calendar Inscription: From Jewish Gospel to Greco-Roman Gospel,” JGRChJ, no. 1 (1 January 2000): 69, http://craigaevans.com/Priene%20art.pdf.

[53]Arndt, Danker, and Bauer, “εὐαγγέλιον” (euangelion), BDAG, 402–3.

[54] Witherington, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 156.

[55] Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 222–3.

[56] Witherington, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 156.

[57] Thielman, Philippians, 128.

[58] Witherington, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 156.

[59]Augustine, “Sermon 207,” in Saint Augustine: Sermons on the Liturgical Seasons (trans. Sister Mary Sarch Muldowney; FC; New York: Fathers of the Church, 1959), 89–92, https://archive.org/stream/fathersofthechur009512mbp#page/n111/mode/2up.