Heavenly Sovereign, Human Servant
Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus,
who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death— even to death on a cross. For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow— of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth— and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:5-11 HCSB
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I love hymns. Do you? Not only do they stir us up to worship, but hymns have been used to instruct the church in sound biblical doctrine for centuries. Today we’re going to spend time thinking about one of the earliest hymns we know of. The passage quoted above from Philippians is a jewel. It sits in the golden setting of joyful, gospel-filled Philippians and it shines. It is very likely an early Christian hymn or creed. It has poetic qualities in its arrangement, lyrical quality in its language, and it crescendos like a good hymn of praise. You can sense the power of it as it exalts the goodness and grandeur of our Savior Jesus Christ. We'll take a brief look at each verse to learn just what this early song is singing about.
"... who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage" Here we learn of the deity of Jesus Christ. He was and IS God. He is not God the Father. Notice the short phrase “equality with God.” If you’re going to say “equality with”, it means there is another to compare to. In other words, there is God the Son and there is God the Father. In other places we learn of God the Holy Spirit. This is our doctrine of the Trinity. But today the focus is on the Son. He always has been and is truly God. And you, if you are a believer, can be assured that this Jesus, being truly God, has had his heart set on you before the stars were put in place.
"Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men." So this wonderful, exalted Son of God, emptied himself, condescended to become as his creation was: frail flesh and blood. In this way, as truly divine and truly human, he was able to become our one true Savior. 1 Timothy 2:5 says that there is “one God, and one Mediator between God and man . . . the man Christ Jesus.” We needed a God-man. And that is what Christ became for us. Jesus, the Son of God, was truly man. He knows what it’s like to walk around in skin and bones, to grow, to hurt, to feel, to die: all those things that scare us. As truly man, Jesus Christ sympathizes with our experience.
"He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on the cross." Jesus lived a perfect life of righteousness before God. He obeyed actively, by following all of God’s laws perfectly. He also obeyed passively, by allowing himself to be sacrificed on the cross, receiving the punishment for the sins of his people.
Today’s passage speaks of the extent of this obedience – obedience to the point of death. It's important that we realize Jesus wasn’t obedient to death. Christ doesn’t obey death. A better way to understand this is that he was obedient to the point of death. He did not fail or falter at the last minute, he lived perfectly until the end when he surrendered, as he always had, to the Father’s plan, which included the cross. Jesus was perfectly obedient. All the way to the cross. For us.
For this reason God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name. A name above every other name. What is that name? It's Jesus. Now let’s unfold it. In Matthew 1 an angel instructed Joseph to name Mary’s child “Jesus, for he will save his people from his sins.” In Hebrew, Jesus is "Yeshua," a combination of “yah”, short for Yahweh, and “shuah” which means “to save, to rescue.” So you have this name which means God saves, God rescues.
But let's look even closer. In Isaiah 45:22-24 we read:
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; Truth has gone from My mouth, a word that will not be revoked: Every knee will bow to Me, every tongue will swear allegiance. It will be said to Me: Righteousness and strength is only in the LORD.”
Today’s passage is a reiteration of these words, isn't it? And when Paul writes “Lord” in Philippians 2, he uses the Greek “kurios” which is the equivalent to the Old Testament “LORD” you see in your bibles, and that “LORD” is actually best translated as "Yahweh."
So Paul applies the Isaiah description of Yahweh to Jesus Christ! If you needed any proof of the deity of Jesus Christ, here it's here in buckets! Jesus’ name and position is equivalent to that of the Father’s. Christ’s name is supreme.
And His name is the name we speak when we’re afraid. His name is the name we speak when we’re alone, when we’re lost, when we somebody to save us. His name is precious and powerful.
"...so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Every person who was given a witness of Jesus Christ from a friend, a preacher, or even a Gideon Bible, but refused to accept their sinful condition and turn to God for forgiveness and restoration will bow and confess. Every person who saw the wonders of God in creation but did not acknowledge him will bow and confess. Every criminal and addict who never repented, as well as every outstanding citizen who never repented and turned to God will bow and confess.
Please understand - there will be criminals and housewives on both sides . . . the difference will be whether they belonged to Christ and confessed him in this life or not.
And it’s not a matter of if, but when, that every knee should bow – and every tongue confess. Some will do this in tears of rapturous joy – and others in tears of terror.
...to the glory of God the Father." The work of the Son brings glory to the Father. Soli deo Gloria: to God alone be the glory. Just look at what God has accomplished through his Son!
It makes the day brighter, hope stronger, temptation weaker. It makes the darkness trembles, gives the sinner hope and the struggling believer confidence!
Our heavenly sovereign became a human servant to save his people from their sins.