Christ's Infinite Downward Journey of Humility (Philippians Sermon 8 of 24)
November 16, 2003 | Andy Davis
Humiliation of Christ, Exaltation of Christ
Introduction: The Long Descent
Ezekiel’s Vision of Christ
Philippians 2:5-11, we come to just one of the greatest passages in the New Testament, to try to understand the deity of Christ and the kind of life that we should live. We’re looking at Christ’s infinite downward journey of humility this morning. And I am brought in my own mind back to one of the darkest moments of Israel’s history, up to that point had been the darkest moment. The exile, that Babylon had already begun. Many of God’s people had already been deported. The King of Judah had been put in chains and deported. And many of God’s people, many of the Jews had been slaughtered for their wickedness, for their idolatry, for their sin.
And there on the plain of the River Chebar, in Babylon, by the rivers of Babylon, the people of God sat and wept, for all that had been lost. But God chose one man, the Prophet Ezekiel and filled his mind, with visions of glory. In Ezekiel 1, you get one of most dramatic pictures of the glory of God you will ever find. And it was at such a dark place, a light shining in a dark place. A vision of a wind storm and an immense cloud and lightning, flashing back and forth and heavenly beings, four living creatures with visual appearance that almost defies description. And with these monstrously, huge crystallite wheels, touching the ground and then rising above the ground, high and awesome they were. Filled with eyes, wheels intersecting wheels, we can’t understand what it would look like, but we get the sense of awe inspiring grandeur, of elevation.
And high above these living creatures, there was an expanse that sparkled like ice. And high above the expanse, there was a throne. And high above the throne, there was, it seemed, a man, sitting on the throne. It says that he looked from his waist up as if you were glowing metal, as if full of fire and from there down he looked like fire and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow and the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it I fell face down. I believe this was the appearance of the likeness to the glory of Jesus Christ, the second person of the trinity. And if Ezekiel could have imagined what was yet in store for Christ, that someday he would not actually be in the appearance, as he was at that point of a man, but would actually be a man.
And that that lofty grandeur and glory would be the starting point of the longest journey in history. A descent of humility, all the way down to the humiliation at the cross, when Jesus Christ, betrayed by one of his closest followers, deserted by all his disciples, arrested, bound, tried like a common criminal. Mocked, spat upon, scourged, condemned to die by a Gentile governor, paraded through the streets, rejected again and again. And scorned by his own people, crucified with long spikes driven through his hands and feet, his blood poured out on the cross, surrounded by ravenous enemies, who are filled with blood lust and hatred and arrogance and insults and curses. Suffering intensely under the wrath of God for sins that he himself did not commit.
There on Golgotha, the hill of skulls, he would die. And that was the endpoint of his infinitely downward journey of humility. And from that low point, God exalted him to the highest place and that is the journey that the Apostle Paul traces out for us here in Philippians Chapter 2.
Ezekiel & Isaiah’s Vision of Satan
And that’s exactly the mirror image of the journey that Satan took, also described in the Book of Ezekiel. “For Satan,” it says, “was in the Garden of Eden, the garden of God,” Ezekiel 28, “every precious stone adorned you,” it says, “you were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you, you were in the holy mount of God, you walked among the fiery stones”. Filled with a kind of glory, a created glory, unlike that of Christ, but a glory nonetheless. And he looked inward and found that he was beautiful and that he was glorious and decided to make something of himself. He decided to go upward.
It says in Ezekiel 28, “You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till wickedness was found in you. Your heart became proud, on account of your beauty. And you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.” And so, we get the upward ascent, described more accurately for us in Isaiah 14, “You said in your heart. I will ascend to heaven, I will raise my throne above the stars of God. I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend to the tops of the clouds, I will make myself, like the most high.” And so, up he went until God threw him down.
Ezekiel 28 again, “So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God. And I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. I threw you to the earth. I made you a spectacle before kings.” What a contrast we have here, Christ downward journey of humility, downward journey to the lowest point, and then God exalting him to the highest place. And Satan, exactly inverted, rising ever higher, until God threw him down and humbled him. Satan’s upward journey of pride, his love of himself, his love of his own glory and his hatred for God’s people. Sadly, humanity joined in that journey. We joined with him in his rebellion. We wanted to be like God, we wanted to go up, up and ever up. And so we started to ascend with him, how devil like.
America is the land of upward mobility. The place where you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps. The Horatio Alger story, from rags to riches. Well, in one sense there is nothing wrong with that, in one sense it’s a better culture than that which was found in Europe, where it was so set and there was no mobility possible. But could it be that it would corrupt our pride as well. And that we would follow after the same upward pattern, devil like. Sadly, the Church follows the same approach. Seeking selfish ambition and vain glory, always wanting to go up and up. And as we’re going up, we’re missing Jesus, who is going down the other way. Descending he is, to death on the cross.
Now, in this text, in Philippians 2, understand that these majestic verses have a purpose. Now, they teach you in seminary, you always want to try to find the central purpose of the text. Now, the central purpose of this text is to teach you to be humble and to treat other people better than yourselves, that’s it. But you know what’s funny, I think that the words, so outstrip and outshine that central purpose that they kind of take a life of their own. They become really a basis for glory in Christ, worshiping him. And by the way, we are ethically transformed to treat others better than ourselves. But I’ll tell you that the central idea here is that we should treat others better than ourselves. We should have this mind in us, which was also in Christ Jesus.
I. Christian Unity: The Gospel Adorned (v. 1-4)
Now we’ve talked in Philippians 2:1-4, of the unity which is the Gospel adorned. There’s a perfect unity that’s in mind in the Gospel, that we would be one, as the Father and the Son are one, perfectly one together, that is the goal of the Gospel. Now, sin has an, as we talked about last time, an explosive effect, fragmentation effect, it just blows things that were together apart, so that everything’s atomized into bits. And then Jesus Christ comes and puts it back together, draws all things together under one head, even Christ. That’s what the Gospel does. The perfect unity, therefore, is the final goal of the Gospel. An imperfect unity, an imitation as best we can in our sinfulness of the unity that the Gospel will eventually produce, it’s the Gospel adorned. As we treat each better than ourselves, as we are lowly and Christ-like and humble, we adorn the Gospel with the beauty the world cannot imitate and it’s very attractive, isn’t it? When churches really love each other, when Christians really treat each other better than they treat themselves, when families are drawn together with this kind of humble servant attitude, it is the Gospel adorned. And so, this is essential to the progress of the Gospel.
II. The Humiliation of Christ (v.5-8)
And so, in the midst of all of this, this exhortation to be humble and lowly and meek and treat others better than yourselves, the Apostle Paul brings forward and sets in front of us the perfect example of Jesus Christ. And that’s what we get in Verses 5-11. Now, the first thing we see in Verse 5 is, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus,” or in the NIV gives us, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” The focus here is on Christ’s mindset, his attitude, his way of thinking, that’s where we begin. Christ’s outward example flowed from his internal mentality.
Now, our imitation of his mindset is here commanded. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ, it’s commanded. What’s interesting is that in another place, it’s already given to us. It says in 1 Corinthians 2, “You have the mind of Christ.” Isn’t that wonderful? So what’s commanded here is already granted to us. We have the mind of Christ. We don’t seem to use it though, do we? We have been granted a way of thinking that is Christ like, but we don’t seem to use it. And so, the very thing that’s commanded here, which is already given to us in the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 2, will someday be ours in perfection. When the church, in John 17, is brought together into the perfect unity, just like the Father and the Son are one, we will think like this, won’t we? Oh, I’m looking forward to that day. When I lose all selfishness. When any concern for self is gone and drowned in that vision of Christ that we have face to face, seeing him in all his glory.
And so, this mind, which was in Christ, is commanded of us here. It’s already granted to us in the Gospel and someday it will be perfected in heaven. So all that Paul is doing is saying, “Please, act like what you’re going to be someday. Think the way someday you will spend eternity thinking, live up to the calling of the Gospel.” And then he gives us this example of Christ, “who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing. Taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on the cross.” There’s the downward journey. Now, the starting point of the downward journey in Philippians 2 is the deity of Christ. That’s where it begins. It starts with the deity of Christ. “Who being in very nature, God.”
Thomas Jefferson’s Bible
Now, the deity of Christ is greatly attacked by the unbelieving world. Greatly denied by unbelievers. For example, Thomas Jefferson went through the New Testament and removed all references to the deity of Christ, removed all references to supernatural actions on his part. They didn’t make sense to his rational way of thinking. And so, you can go to Monticello and you can buy Thomas Jefferson’s bible. I have one. It doesn’t make very good reading, it’s a very short book, very brief. And wholly without glory. It’s a bunch of ethical injunctions that have no basis. It’s like a bunch of cut flowers with no root-bed at all. And so you read it and say, “Oh, how much he missed through his unbelief.” But he could not accept the deity of Christ. As the Unitarians of his age could not accept the doctrine of the Trinity, it’s really one and the same thing. They couldn’t accept it. Well, let me tell you something, if Christ is not God in the flesh, you are still in your sins and you have no hope.
You must believe this doctrine, this is not an optional doctrine. Paul makes Christ’s deity absolutely clear in two amazing ways. First of all, he just says it. “Who being in very nature, God.” There, it says it. I don’t know how much more plainly we need it. But the Greek word here is “morphe” who in the form of God, the outward form, outward and visible form, corresponding to the internal reality of what he really was, that’s what the word means. And so, he says, “He was in the nature of God.” Very much, from the core of his being, in the very nature God. He says it directly.
But he does it in another compelling way, which I think we would probably miss, compared to the Jews of Paul’s era. He does it in a second half in verses 9-11, when he says, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God, the Father.” Now, like I said, unbeknownst to us, who did not know, who do not know the Old Testament, as well as the Jews, the Scribes and Pharisees of Paul’s age did. He is quoting the Old Testament here. He’s quoting Isaiah. Now, from Isaiah 40-49, Isaiah the mouthpiece of God, the Prophet of the LORD, is taking on Israel’s idols. God is speaking about the idols.
I, even I am the LORD
Now, Israel had a bad habit. They worshipped the LORD, they worshipped Yahweh, they worshipped Jehovah God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But they also worship Moloch. They also worship Ba’al. They also worshipped all of these other little deities. They just kind of mixed it all together. They were polytheistic, they were synchronistic, they had a mishmash of religions. And then they said, this is the God of Heaven but then we’ve got all these other Gods, the God of the hills, and the God of the sea and all that. And God said, “No.” In Isaiah 40-49, he says again and again, “I am God and there is no other.” Listen to Isaiah 43:10-12, “Before me no god was formed, nor there will be one after me.” Is that clear. “I, even I am the Lord and apart for me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed. I and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses, declares the Lord that, I am God.” Isaiah 44:8, “You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.” This is God speaking. He’s saying, “I know the universe. I made it. I’ve studied and scoured the universe, I’ve looked around and there is nothing in the universe like me. Not even close as a matter of fact. I alone am God and I alone am worthy of your worship,” he says. And he makes it clear, it’s really repetitive in these 10 chapters. Isaiah 40-49, and he comes to it again in Isaiah 45:5-6, “I am the Lord and there is no other, apart from me there is no God.” Alright, we’ve established the point, God’s message is clear, God is so exalted and unique and high and lofty that you can’t compare him to anyone else. There’s no one else like him. Alright, in the midst of this extended section, God speaks through Isaiah about the salvation of the whole world. Listen to this. It’s Isaiah 45:22-23, “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; and by me every tongue will swear.”
Paul knew Christ’s glory
Now do you think that the Apostle Paul forgot about that when he ascribed that to Jesus Christ? Was he not saying Jesus is God? He is the one before whom you will bow, he is the one before whom your knees will bow on Judgment Day. He is God. He was a Pharisee. He knew what he was doing. And as the matter of fact, if Jesus is not deity, then what Paul was doing here in Philippians is blasphemous. But he is deity. He is God in the flesh. He ascribes this to Jesus of Nazareth. That “In the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God, the Father.” And so the deity of Christ is established twice in this text, said straight out at the beginning, and then through the ascription of the Isaiah passage at the end. We have here, therefore, in these verses, the mystery of the incarnation. 100% God, 100% man. And no, Thomas Jefferson, you can’t reason this out. It does dwarf your intellect and your reason. You can’t figure this out, but that doesn’t mean we take it out of the Bible. It means we bow our knees before it and we worship. We worship this God man. This is a great stumbling block to those who do not believe, but it is the Gospel that we preach. That God took on a human body and died on the cross in our place. This is the starting point for the longest and greatest journey in the history of the universe.
Heaven, you know, is a place of perfect order. Everything focused on the glory of God. Heaven is a place where there is no death or mourning or crying, or pain. Heaven is a place where Christ is held in absolute honor, and reverence, and he is worshipped. Heaven is a place where Christ’s slightest command is immediately obeyed by the angels; the cherubim and the seraphim. Heaven is a place where everyone knew exactly who Jesus was, and they hid their faces in front of him. A splendor and a glory we can’t even imagine. Christ gave all that up to come to earth, gave it all up.
Earth is a place of death. It’s a place of mourning, of crying, of pain. Earth is a place of great injustice, and misery, and wickedness, and violence. Earth is a place where God is not known, not loved, not obeyed, not worshipped. Earth is a place of ugliness and disorder and hatred. All of it caused by sin’s disease. Earth is a place where Jesus knew full well he would be rejected, and despised, and spat upon, and murdered. He knew it. It was prophesied before he entered it. Isaiah 53:3, “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces. He was despised and we esteemed him not.” Oh, they hid their faces on earth because he looks so grotesque on the cross. Not like the seraphim who hide their faces because of his glory.
The downward Journey explained
John Chapter 1, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not know him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” And so that is the starting point of the downward journey, the perfect deity of Christ. And we see here the downward journey of humility in six steps. Satan simply says, “I will go up, up, up.” but Jesus goes ever downward:
Step one, he did not consider equality with God something to be grasped or seized. It’s a difficult phrase, the Greek word usually means robbery or plunder, maybe that some of you have KJV with you, you can see the word robbery in there. He didn’t consider it robbery. It’s an interesting word. If you can imagine like an eagle descending on a rabbit with talons extended and it seizes up the rabbit and takes it to itself. Or you can imagine a ravenous army descending on the plunder after the battle is won. That’s the word, “harpazo” is a Greek word, that’s the verb form. This is what it is. It’s the idea of robbery and plundering of grabbing and grasping, pulling to one’s self. But what does it mean? Well, first idea would be that Jesus did not consider equality with God something he needed to grasp. He already had it. It wasn’t necessary for him to grasp it, he already was equal with God. Well, that’s possible.
Another idea is that Christ did not think he had to hold on to and grasp to himself as with white knuckles, all the trappings of outward glory. The radiance and the bright shining glory and the throne and all the worship, he didn’t hold on to that, but was willing to let it go. And I think that’s quite possible, as well. Another idea is that Christ wasn’t in competition with God, the Father, so that he’s stealing something that doesn’t belong to him because he already was in very nature, God.
But I have a very different take on it. What I think is that Jesus did not consider his position as being equal with God, a platform for plunder in which he would come and plunder us. Now, think of it this way, how many kings or emperors or conquerors use their position of power as a place from which they would plunder other people? Well, there are bad judges or governors or others would take their position of power and go plunder the people that were entrusted to their care. Jesus never did this. He didn’t use equality with God a platform for plunder, but made himself nothing. He didn’t come to grab from us. He came to give to us, did not consider it something to be plundered.
Step two, he made himself nothing. He literally emptied himself. This is the idea of “kenosis” from the Greek word, to empty yourself. Earthly pride, by the way, consists of making much of yourself. Making much of yourself. “Let’s celebrate me.” “Well, enough about me, let’s talk about you, what do you think about me?” [laughter] That kind of thing. It’s very me focused. “Let’s make a lot about me.” Jesus emptied himself of me. He wasn’t focused on me in that sense. Kings always have a large entourage of people who tell them how great they are. The worst that I’ve read in history was Louis the 14th, the Sun King of France. What an interesting man. He called himself “The Sun King” because like the sun, he radiated to everyone who was around him with his glory. I mean, people have been telling him those things since when he was an infant. They’re saying, “Oh, you are the Sun King.” And around him he had all these counselors that would tell him exactly what he wanted to hear. Like he said to one of his ministers, he asked him what time it was, and he said, “Whatever time your majesty desires.” [laughter] That’s strange but that’s what we do. That’s what we humans do. We want to make much of us. Christ went exactly the opposite way. He made himself nothing.
A theological warning
Now, let me give you a theological warning here. There’s some bad theology around this phrase, the emptying one’s self. Some people believe that Jesus emptied himself of his deity. That he was not God while he was on the earth. When he was on the cross crying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” That’s kind of proof that he was not truly God at that point. Oh, my friends, the Trinity is eternal. You don’t take off deity. He is forever God and will not, cannot, ever take off his deity. And this actually enhances the mystery, does it not? He was fully God while dying on the cross.
And it says in Colossians 1, “In him, all things hold together.” So Jesus, as the second person of the Trinity, is holding together the nails that are holding him to the cross. Well, that’s a mystery. He was holding together Mary’s womb while he was growing inside of it. I can’t understand that. It’s mysterious to me, but he did not empty himself of deity. No, he emptied himself of the outer trappings of glory. And he chose not to use all of his capabilities, his omnipotence, his omnipresence, his omniscience. He chose not to use them. That’s what “emptied himself” means.
Step three, he took the very nature of a servant. Now, this convicts me greatly because the exact same word “morphe” is used, “Who being in the form of God, became in the form of servant.” What that means is he’s as much servant as he is God. Now some of us are good at playing at servant for a little while. I’ve done it myself. And the proof of it- you want credit for it. Do you realize how much of a servant I’ve been this afternoon? I mean, this was hard for me to do these things, and I want you to know it. Not that you would give me any credit for anything. This is called “playing at being a servant”. Jesus really was a servant right to the core of his being. He was as much servant as he was God. And so he said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and finish his work.” “I would rather die than disobey the one who sent me.” It’s the attitude of a servant. Hebrews 10:7 says, “Here I am, it is written about me in the scroll, I have come to do your will, oh God.” That’s all. “I am the servant, I’ve come to do Your will.”
Step four, being made in human likeness. What a great humiliation for God to become man. What a step down. We’re always wanting to go to the next step and ever higher. He goes backward. Celsus talked about this, an ancient enemy of the Gospel, said, “Why would sublime glory want to become flesh?” It didn’t make any sense. But that’s what he did. He was made in human likeness. The immortal God kicking and crying as a helpless baby. Ultimate picture of humiliation. Totally God, yet totally helpless, concerning his human needs. He looked very ordinary. He had a face, hands, probably a beard. Mouth, feet, nothing unusual. Even more striking, he came to the earth as the son of a Jewish virgin living in an obscure town in the northern part of Galilee. All this came from the attitude of his mind, he made himself nothing.
Step five, as a man, he humbled himself. It’s how he lived his life. He obeyed every moment as a servant. Somebody came to him, he went with them. My daughter is sick, I’ll go. My servant lies at home, terribly suffering. I’ll go with him. Whoever came, he went and served. It’s the way he lived his life. But even that wasn’t enough. He became obedient to death. He became obedient to death, willing to die as a servant.
Step six, even to the ultimate humiliation of death on a cross. Josephus, the Jewish historian, said the practice of crucifixion was the most wretched and despicable of deaths. The Romans would never crucify a Roman citizen. Paul was not crucified. Probably executed by beheading, but Jesus, he was crucified. It was the death of slaves. But Jesus’ death, even death by crucifixion, wasn’t low enough, was it? Because there were two other people crucified that day. But only Jesus bore the sins of all of his people, for all ages, from every tribe, and language, and people, and nation. Defiled to the uttermost by our lust, and pride, and selfishness, and greed, and anger, and all our wickedness poured on him. That is the lowest point, as he’s receiving the wrath of God. We’re at the bottom now. The downward journey of humiliation as Jesus is the sin bearer for people like you and me.
III. The Exaltation of Christ (v. 9-11)
Now, I was considering preaching two sermons on this, but I couldn’t do it, because I can’t leave him at that lowest place. And so, “Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Amen and amen.
And so it say, “Therefore, God exalted him,” That “therefore” is so vital, because it teaches us whom God exalts. It teaches us whom God exalts. “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted,” Matthew 23:12. Jesus himself said in Matthew 20:25-28, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them and their high officials exercised authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave. Just as the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” You want to be great? Be nothing. That’s hard to do, isn’t it?
Every day say, “I’m nothing. I count my life worth nothing to me. If only I may do his will.” Do his work. This is a challenge for me. This sermon absolutely humbles me, because I realize how little I think like that. Every day, on a Monday, or on a Friday, or on a Saturday, or any time, morning, noon, night, be nothing, make yourself nothing. Be a servant. That’s what Jesus did. Now notice the contrast, the downward journey took six steps, the upper journey, instantaneous. “Today you will be with me in paradise,” he said to that robber who died on the cross. God exalted him to the highest place. There’s no waiting period there, he died and he was with God in glory to the highest place even.
There’s all kinds of delegated authority in God’s universe. He delegates to the sun rulership over the day, and to the moon rulership over the night, and to the animals over the... There’s all these circles of authority and there’s rulers, and there’s authorities and powers, and there’s people, and all that at the height of all of those circles of delegated authority is Jesus Christ. He rules over all of it. Ephesians 1, “God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all ruling authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only the present age, but also in the one to come.” And “God placed all things under his feet.” “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me,” said Jesus.
The highest place and the greatest name
A name is a reputation. Jeremiah 45, “Don’t make a name for yourself, Baruch.” Don’t expect great things for yourself, but how much we want to make a name for ourselves. Some people are even willing to do something awful to make a name for themselves.
Genesis 11, the builders of the Tower of Babel, they said, “Come, let us build a great city and a tower that reaches up to heaven and so make a name for ourselves and not be scattered all over the earth.” Let’s make a name for ourselves. It’s a very strong drive in us. Joseph Stalin had posters of his face all over the USSR. He had a city named after himself, Stalingrad. Chairman Mao had 2.2 billion little pins made with his portrait, given out all over china. The personality cult. And you say, “Well, I would never do something like that if I were put in a position of absolute authority over nation.” Oh, really? We have this tendency to make a name for ourselves. The highest name has been given away and it’s not yours or mine, it’s Jesus’. He has the highest name.
Now, God is able to take a name and make it great. He said to Abraham, Genesis 12:2, he said, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you. I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” God can do that. He did it to David. 2 Samuel 7:9, “Now, I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men of earth.” And so, it’s not a bad thing to have a great name if God does it. But the highest name has been given away to Jesus. The highest name, Christ’s name alone has been proclaimed to the ends of the earth. Christ’s reputation alone is perfect. His character, also his deeds, his accomplishments, unmatched. Christ alone, has the right to open the scroll in the right hand of him who sat in the throne, Revelation 5. And Christ’s name alone is the only one by which you may be saved.
Acts 4:12, “There is no other name under heaven, given to men by which you may be saved.” And so you’re commanded to call on the name of Jesus to be saved. This is the name that saves you. When I was a student at MIT, there’s a place called Killian court. And up around in the high places, like up around here, there were all these great names; Newton, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and da Vinci, all of these great names, and they put them up there because you want to aspire to go up. You look at those names. Let me tell you something. If you went to the gates of heaven and knocked, and the door opened, and you were to say, “I want to enter.” They say, “By what name will you enter?” Well, the name of da Vinci is not going to get you in, or the name of Beethoven or Napoleon. None of these great names will allow you entrance.
Only one name will get you in, the name of Jesus Christ. It is the greatest name of any that has ever lived. The name that is above every name, and then the universal confession that, “at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God, the Father.” This is being fulfilled, but it’s not finished yet. Its perfect fulfillment will be Judgment Day.
Every knee will bow
Now, for you as a believer, if you’re a believer in Christ, that will be your moment, where you finally get to see Jesus face to face to and you get to kneel before him, and you get to love him and with glad submission, glad submission, consummate the faith that you had here while you’re on earth. In life, we gladly knelt before him in faith when we are saved. We kneel before him in prayer when we have needs. We kneel before him in worship. We kneel before him to consecrate our lives, to confess our sin. We kneel before him again and again.
We will be delighted to kneel before him then, as we are delighted to kneel before him now. But it says, “Every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” And that includes people who are not believers. They will kneel, too. The night that Jesus was arrested, Satan filled Judas, and Judas betrayed Jesus and brought a huge group of soldiers, 600 perhaps as much, and they went. And Jesus went out, in John 13 and confronted them and said, “’Who are you seeking?’ And they said, ‘Jesus from Nazareth,’ and he said ‘I am.’” And they all fell before Him, all of them, including Satan. All he did was say, “I am.” What will it be then when he is revealed in majestic and terrifying glory? What will his enemies do but melt in front of him, fall before him and confess that he is Lord, but it will be for them too late, because now, today is the day of salvation. Now is the time of faith and we are justified by faith alone. There will be no faith at that point, it will be sight. Time is over. This is not a universalistic verse saying that everybody is going to be saved, not at all. Just that everybody will kneel and every tongue will confess.
This is the confession of the entire universe, and that moment will be the fulfillment of Psalm 110:1, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’” They’ll be all on the floor before you Jesus at Judgment Day. And every tongue’s going to confess. The devil will swear it. It’ll be interesting to hear him say that, won’t it? The devil’s going to swear it. All Muslims will confess it. In life, they had a different slogan, “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed as his prophet.” They won’t be saying that on that day. They’re going to be saying, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” All the Buddhists and the Hindus will confess it, all the Jews that could not bring themselves to accept Christ as their Messiah. They will do it at that point. They will acknowledge that He is Lord.
Jehovah’s witnesses will see too late the faults of their doctrine. Rationalists, atheists, agnostics, materialists, and just regular unbelievers will kneel before him and swear that he is Lord to the glory of God the Father. And that’s the final step of shared glory. All of Jesus’ glory is the Father’s glory. He is the radiance of God’s glory. There’s no jealousy in the Trinity, is there? Isn’t that wonderful? So all of the honor and adulation that will be poured on Jesus, the Father accepts as his glory for him.
Now, what applications do we take?
First, stand in awe of Christ’s awesome humility. Do you realize this downward journey saves your soul if you’re a Christian? Stand in awe, worship him.
Secondly, have this mind in you, which was also in Christ, think about it. Are you a servant? Do you live for your own glory, your own pride? Do you consider other people’s needs better than your own?
And third, can I urge you to bend the knee now? While there’s time. In a moment, you’re going to have an opportunity to bend the knee. I mean, I would actually urge you to do it. Some of you may want to come forward and just kneel down here. You may already be Christians, but you just wanted to just kneel and just say, “Lord, I love you. I want you to be my King, I want to follow you.” It could be that you may want to just kneel before him for the first time as your savior and say, “Lord, take all of my sin on yourself.” Nothing magical about coming forward, you can kneel right where you are. And frankly, there’s nothing magical about physically kneeling. The question is what’s going on in here? But I’m going to kneel, and I’m going to give myself again to serving him and ask that he would work in me in a mighty way. Let’s pray, and then, if you feel comfortable coming forward or kneeling right where you are, bend the knee before Christ.
Let’s pray. “Father, I thank you for the time we’ve had to study your word. And I ask, oh Lord, that you would work in us, that we would not just bend our physical knees, but we would bend our proud hearts and yield ourselves fully to you and that we would therefore be humble servants of you first and of one another. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.”