Whoever Humbles Himself will be Exalted (Philippians 2:9-11)
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Whoever Humbles Himself Will Be Exalted!
The exaltation of Christ, the humble–Philippians 2:9-11
I know you have had humbling moments–I have far too many. I take a seminary class in Israel for a grade, and Jean audits the same class. I get a B, she gets an A. I officiate a wedding, but forget to scuff the soles of my brand new dress shoes and slip on the carpet like it was ice at the end of the ceremony in front of everyone.
I am conducting a choir of 200 collegians in front of 3,000 people. I hit the microphone with my hand, it flies off in a perfect arch, hits the flowers in front of the pulpit and knocks those plants to the ground–the domino effect. I am having lunch with some high-powered pastors, cutting my burrito with my fork. Pressing too hard, my finger slips off my fork only to slap the guacamole and spray that tasty green goo all over the two men seated opposite of me–two suited, formal, legalistic, non-humorous Baptists.
I could go on and on–you’ve all been humbled . . . the ‘A’ student who fails, the championship athlete who loses the game, the precision mathematician who adds wrong, or the super mom who gets overwhelmed by one kid. But all of these examples are of being humbled–there is a big difference between being humbled and choosing humility. There is a distinction between embarrassment being forced upon you and you choosing, out of love, to humble yourself for others.
True humility is not forced upon you–you decide to be humble. True humility is a choice to take the low road, a determination to love others through sacrifice. Get this–I was humbled, but Jesus Christ chose humility. And like Christ, God calls you to choose humility. In fact, God expects you to clothe yourself with humility all the time.
First Peter 5:5 to 6 says exactly that. Your favorite outfit is not a short-sleeve shirt, cargo shorts and flippas–no, the Christian fashion craze is humility. “And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.”
Actions of true humility will ultimately be exalted by God. This world teaches you to claw your way to the top. God says, “Humble yourselves”–regard others as more important than yourself. There are only two choices in this life–be self-exalters or be God-exalted. When there is someone at work taking advantage of you, when there is a classmate who is telling lies about you–what do you do? Where do you turn?
Philippians 2:9 to 11 contains the answer. Open your Bible and take out your outline. “Whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” In our day of self-love and self-promotion, it’s crucial we be reminded of Matthew 23:11, “The greatest among you shall be your servant.” The path to greatness is the path of service. And verse 12, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”
God says He is opposed to the proud but will give grace to the humble. And for those who pursue the Lord’s choice of humility, there is a promise of great reward. “Whoever humbles himself will be exalted,” blessed in life, rewarded in death.
In verses 1 to 4, Paul commands unity in the Philippian church. Then in verses 5 through 8 he uses the example of Christ as a motivation for the Philippians to pursue unity. If Christ would do all that for me, then can I not humble myself to get along with you? Today in verses 9 to 11, Paul motivates the Philippians by describing how God exalted Christ for His humility. “Whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”
Verse 9 is a decisive turning point in this hymn. Christ is the main actor in His actions of humility in verses 5 to 8. But now in verses 9 to 11, God the Father is the lead actor. Read from your outline. “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
#1 The SOURCE of Christ’s exaltation: God the Father EXALTS God the Son
Who do you rely upon to be vindicated? Who do you turn to when you’ve been slammed? Don’t defend yourself, don’t correct the problem–trust God. Why? “Whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” Christ humbled Himself to the point of death, then the Father exalts Him. If you’re in a struggle with someone, instead of creating a faction or causing disunity, you’re to humble yourself and trust the Father to make it right in His perfect time.
After Christ chose to humble Himself in verses 6 to 8, now in verse 9 God exalts Christ. The Father is the source of Christ’s exaltation. Read in verse 9, “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him.” Notice, “for this reason”–the Greek word for is referring to what was just written, meaning, on the basis of Christ’s incredible sacrifice in verses 6 to 8, now this in verse 9.
When Christ’s self-humbling reached the bottom of the barrel in a horrific death reserved for the worst of criminals–at that critical place, at that dramatic moment, the Father steps in and vindicates God the Son by exalting Him to the highest place in the universe. God the Father rewards God the Son and Paul’s hymn shows how the Father exalts the Son in one dramatic action.
Verse 9, “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him.” Highly exalted is a compound verb composed of over and to lift. God lifted up His beloved Son in the most magnificent way, to be exalted over everyone. Christ is the Judge of all mankind–He is your Judge. John 5:22, “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son.” You must give answer for your life to Jesus Christ.
The root word for exalted comes from height–exalted means to lift someone to the highest position. Like standing over the edge of the Grand Canyon or the top of Mount Whitney, you are in the highest place. Christ is honored and given a status far beyond normal. The magnitude of His exaltation is not a 4.0, but a 10.0. Acts 1:3, “Christ is exalted above the heavens.” And Acts 2:33, “The risen Christ is set at God’s right hand in the place of rule.”
And friends, it is God the Father who exalted Christ, not you! Charles Spurgeon said this, “Christ did not crown Himself, but His Father crowned Him. Christ did not elevate Himself to the throne of majesty, but His father lifted Him there and placed Him on His throne. Man hissed at Christ, mocked Him and condemned Him. Mankind didn’t exalt Christ. No, man dishonored Christ, but God exalted Him.”
Don’t forget who you’re going to meet face-to-face. You will not see the humbled Christ of verses 6 to 8. You will not meet the Christ of the gospels, the veiled Christ–you will meet the exalted Christ, the unveiled Christ, the Christ in all His glory revealed in verses 9 to 11. This is the Christ you will see when your faith turns to sight.
Underneath Paul’s declaration is an assumption–just as God exalted Christ, God will exalt Christians if they too choose to live humbly and selflessly. Jesus was willing to die first before being vindicated and believers should be willing to die to self before trying to vindicate themselves. The only exception we see is when Paul defended himself in 2 Corinthians when an accurate understanding of the Gospel was at stake.
But earlier, Paul said to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 4:5, “Do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” Have you been wrongly accused, lied about, or slandered? I have. Trust God to make things right in His time. Truth and time will work for His glory and your good. The Father vindicates the Son by exalting Him—“whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”
#2 The ACTION of Christ’s exaltation: How God vindicates His own humble Son
What does God do when His Son has been unjustly treated? Read verse 9b, “and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name.” This is God’s gracious conferral. This is the title of Christ’s exaltation. Bestowed is the idea of giving freely and wholeheartedly. God the Father joyously, graciously favored His Son.
The gift God bestows on Christ is “the name which is above every name.” What does that mean—the name? Augustine thinks it means “Son”. Cyril thinks it means “God”. Some say name meant office, rank or dignity–God gave Christ the rank or dignity of being above all others. The best explanation for name, though, is the name “LORD”.
The context makes that very clear in verse 11, “and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” One day very soon, that name will be expanded to, Revelation 19:16, “King of kings and Lord of lords.” Lord refers to Christ as the ultimate sovereign authority. Lord is His rank above all–His authority over all. Lord is the name, verse 9, “which is above every name.”
The name not only reflects Christ’s divine essence and nature, but also the new and unique privileges the Father gave Christ in response to His redemptive work. There is only one Lord–that name belongs to Jesus. God the Father vindicates the incredible humility of Christ and Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on the cross by affirming His authority over all. Humility, which is necessary for unity, is rewarded by the Father. Christian, it is worth it to humble yourself so as to remain one with your brothers and sisters if you can–God will ultimately exalt you.
“Whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” Verse 9b, “and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name.” Christ’s name is above every name. James Montgomery Boice illustrates it this way. Suppose a king was about to bestow an honor on a subject who had never previously distinguished himself–the only names he’d ever received from anyone were scoundrel, bum, crook, or good-for-nothing.
But then he did something that deserved the king’s attention and response. The king does not say, “Arise, Sir Dodson,” or “I wish to present you with the Order of Merit.” He says, “Well, you have certainly distinguished yourself. You are a faithful subject.” The name Faithful is above all the other names that had previously been given to this man–but the name would only be one step above nothing.
Suppose, however, there was also a knight of the realm who had already distinguished himself greatly and had been decorated on many occasions. He had already risen to a very high position in the kingdom. To honor Sir Maitland, the king would need the highest title at his disposal, and it would be especially glorious when measured against the knight’s other names and honors. This is what God did with Jesus—He was already great, but now is bestowed with a “name above all names.”
Jesus is God’s Messiah, God’s Son, the Son of man, He is Prophet, Priest, and King, the Alpha and the Omega, the Door, the Beloved, and many other names. But the name above all the other names is “LORD”.
#3 The RESPONSE: of the Father exalting the Son
Verse 10, “so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow.” Jesus is ultimately acclaimed by all. Christ is above all things, all persons, all powers, and all beings. Look at verse 10. When the Greek word for “so that” is used with a subjunctive verb, like here with will bow, and later with will confess, it introduces a purpose clause. Paul says Jesus is given the name which is above every name for the purpose that, or with the result that every knee will bow.
And verse 10 is literally not AT the name of Jesus, but IN the name of Jesus–meaning on the basis of His nature, His inner person, His inner character, or IN His name. Let this hit you. You’ll bow to Christ not only because of His position, you’ll bow because of His person–WHO Jesus is.
Remember what happened to Christ’s most intimate apostle, John, when John stood before the glorified Christ on the Isle of Patmos? He passed out. This is Jesus–glorious, creator, God. You’ll bow because of who He is. You’ll bow in the name of Jesus, as “name” in the Bible is most often describing character and inner person.
Who Christ is will result in our bowing to Him as Lord. And in His name, LORD, every knee will bow. The apostle means all will bow in honor of Jesus, pointing to future worship of the exalted Christ. We know it’s worship because Paul is about to say every tongue should confess Jesus Christ is Lord, describing an act of reverence paid directly to the Son.
This is a future time of worship when all created beings will worship Christ. We know it’s future worship because Paul uses the future tense in verse 11, “Every tongue will confess.” Every being in the future will bow before the only one who is worthy of our worship. Paul is telling the believers in Philippi that everyone else who lives in Philippi, who currently declare Caesar as Lord, will one day declare Christ as Lord.
For us, every Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Catholic, Democrat, Republican and atheist will bow to Jesus. That family member who has rejected Christ, every indifferent-to-the-Gospel friend, that guy at school who made fun of you, the girl who won’t give up her boy craziness, the guy who lives to party, the dude at work who only wants money . . . all, each one, will bow before Christ. Paul makes it clear, no one is left out.
Look at verse 10, “of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” Paul is referring to all rational creatures. Those in the heaven—namely, all the good angels. Those on the earth—namely, humankind, saved and unsaved. Those under the earth–that’s not dwarves, but all the damned of Hell, including fallen angels and all the unredeemed dead. And to make certain there’s no debate, Paul uses the Greek word every twice–every knee will bow, every tongue confess. Every man, woman, angel, demon, race, religion—all will bow. Everyone will bow–no rational being will be left out.
The Philippian Christians are hearing how God vindicates the humility and sacrifice of Christ. This is to motivate them to be humble and give up their rights like Christ did as they deal with one another in order to cultivate unity. Paul is motivating them by the Father rewarding the Son in overwhelming ways. So as the Father exalts Christ for His humility, so the Father will exalt you for your humility–by blessing your life now and rewarding you in the future. “Whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” Look at what every creature will confess, verse 11, “Every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
During Christ’s earthly ministry, very few acknowledged Christ as Lord. Some called him Lord, but only a handful meant what they said. To some, Lord was a title of respect, or the title for a great teacher, but not true God. Even the twelve didn’t fully understand who they were dealing with. But one day soon in the future, all will publically affirm Jesus Christ as the only Lord. The verb confess describes an open, public declaration–it is a total-person affirmation of the absolute sovereignty of the crucified, risen Christ. It is never a private confession. Believer and unbeliever, friend and enemy of God will confess.
But there will be a distinction–for those not in Christ, their confession will not lead to salvation but to damnation. Before death or the Lord’s return, there is still hope–the promise of Romans 10:9 still stands true for you, “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
But after death or the Lord’s return, this coming confession of Christ as Lord (which everyone will make), will not rescue those who have ignored or rejected Christ. On the lips of those who belong to Christ, this confession will be a willing, loving, ongoing declaration of adoration and happy allegiance, looking forward to the bliss of Heaven.
But for those who have rejected Christ in this life, this confession will be an unwilling, irresistible, compelled acknowledgment of Jesus Christ as the sovereign Lord of the universe and the righteous Judge, leading to the certain reality of eternal torment in Hell. Read Revelation 20:15, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” At this point in the future, this universal confession will not give salvation to anyone. It is an acknowledgement and affirmation of Christ’s absolute authority as Lord.
Look up here–there is still time for you this morning. While you have life and before Christ returns, the Savior is calling men and women to Himself in saving faith. Paul rejoiced in 1 Timothy 1:16 that he had “…found mercy, so that in me as the foremost [of sinners], Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.”
No matter what you’ve done, no matter how bad you’ve been, Christ can forgive you. If Christ can forgive Paul, a murderer, He can forgive you. If you’ve messed up your kids, aborted a child, stolen from friends, cheated on your spouse or worse, Christ can still forgive you and transform you, verse 11. It will happen–you either confess now or you will confess later, “Every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
This is the crescendo of these verses–the entire universe declares Jesus Christ is Lord. This is the confession of the Early Church and this is the crucial confession for you today. This public confession must be made and lived, or you can’t be saved. Paul declares in Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Thomas confessed in John 20:28, “Thomas … said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ ”
Listen, the Bible is not telling you to make Jesus Lord–the Bible says Jesus is Lord. You don’t make Jesus Lord–that phrase, “Make Jesus Lord” is unbiblical, misleading and confusing. You don’t make Christ Lord, He is Lord. And if you do not affirm Him, follow Him and obey Him as Lord, you can’t be saved. Confess Him now in praise, or you will confess Him later in punishment. Bow before Christ the Lord now in salvation or you will bow before Christ the Lord later in condemnation.
Christ is called Lord some 747 times in the New Testament. In the book of Acts, Jesus is only called Savior twice, just twice–but Jesus is called Lord 92 times. The only Savior is the Lord. You can’t embrace the Savior without Him already being Lord. Salvation is not mere belief in a work, it’s embracing a whole person. You can’t have half of Christ, the Savior part, but not Christ as Lord. He is Lord, and if you don’t have Him as Lord, then you don’t have Him as Savior.
All genuine Christians acknowledge, follow and obey Christ as Lord. Jesus asked in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” Jesus warned in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” And John 3:36 says, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
You don’t obey Christ to be saved–but once you’re saved, you obey the Word of God. You don’t work in order to have faith, but once you have faith, you work. Again, salvation does not come through obedience, but a true profession of faith produces obedience. If there’s no true obedience to Christ’s Lordship, your faith is worthless. The New Testament is heavy with warnings–those who don’t follow Christ as Lord are not saved.
James 2:26 says, “Faith without works is dead.” First Corinthians 6:9, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” And Ephesians 5:5, “You know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, …, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” Then Galatians 5:21, “Envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, … those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Finally, Hebrews 12:14, “Pursue … sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.”
The regenerate heart is an obedient heart. No genuine Christian accepts Jesus as Savior, then later makes Him Lord. If He is not Lord, you are not saved. And the born again heart not only confesses Christ as Lord, but lives it. The genuine, believing heart wants to obey Christ from the Scripture. Paul reminds us in Romans 6:17, “Thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed.”
Don’t forget, Paul is writing to Christians in Philippi–this is a city in love with Rome, filled with retired Roman soldiers and citizens, happy to publicly affirm Caesar is Lord. The Emperor cult was the chief religion of the Roman world, and the affirmation of Caesar as Lord was the expectation of all Roman citizens. Early Christian Father Polycarp was told he would not be executed for his faith if he merely affirmed Caesar as Lord–he refused.
As Paul writes this letter, refusing to call Caesar Lord and calling only Jesus Lord was the true test of loyalty for a believer. And beloved FBC, nothing has changed today–acknowledging, following and obeying Christ as Lord is still the true test of loyalty. Genuine authenticity is proven by faithful obedience.
In Peter’s first sermon at the birth of the Church, Acts 2:36, “God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” The only way of salvation is through the Lord Jesus Christ, and only those who live Christ as Lord evidence salvation. Every single genuine Christian will confess Christ as Lord. The only question is this–will you confess now in saving faith, or will you confess after death resulting in eternal condemnation?
I keep meeting people who say they’re Christians, but they’re not. As they reveal their heart through conversation, there is always one clear choice, one area, one direction where they prove Christ is not their Lord. I am not describing a believer’s struggle with sin. I am not referencing failures or battles with sinful bents.
I am describing a heart that’s made an intentional choice, a deliberate decision where a make-believer has chosen their will over God’s will, remaining un-surrendered. Their heart is exposed by an obvious intentional choice. They demonstrate they’re not in submission to the Word of God. They’ve determined they will go their way and not God’s way.
They could be in disobedience awaiting discipline, but more often they are in defiance awaiting damnation. They didn’t lose their salvation, they never had it. They are the self-deceived who will say “Lord, Lord,” but Christ will say, “Depart from me you who do lawlessness.” They have a self-designed, man-made, easy-believism–not a heart-transformed, dependent faith in biblical truth. They call themselves Christian, but Christ is not their Lord.
Is Christ genuinely your Lord, where you do what He says? You don’t ignore biblical commands. You submit to His will over your own, even though you struggle, sin, mess up and are unfaithful–you still want to obey His Word in all things. Do you acknowledge, follow and obey Jesus as Lord? Jesus IS Lord, and you are not. Do you have a new heart which causes you to do what He says over what you want?
Verses 9 to 11 tell us the Father exalts the Son after the Son humbles Himself to the point of death in verses 5 to 8. Paul writes this with an expectation for the Philippians to humble themselves in their dealings with each other to produce unity, with the hope in the future they too will be exalted, rewarded and blessed by God beyond measure. “Whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” Why is this important?
#4 THE PURPOSE of Christ’s exaltation: Why would God exalt the Son?
Christ has absolute, supreme and universal dominion over all things as deity. And now in verses 9 to 11, as Lord, Jesus Christ/the God man is invested with all power in Heaven and Earth, and in the future will rule as the God-man over all. What’s the purpose of all this? The end of verse 11 is awesome.
Think about division, disunity and tensions in relationships, then ponder the end of verse 11 to the glory of God the Father. Christ’s universal acknowledgment as Lord does not make the Father jealous. Instead, it’s the fulfillment of the Father’s perfect will and brings Him glory. The love between the differing members of the Trinity is so perfect, there’s no competition, disagreement or difficulty with the three in the slightest degree.
One God, three persons–their relationship is so perfect. As one yet three–as Christ is glorified, the Father is glorified. Whoever honors the Son, honors the Father—and whoever dishonors the Son dishonors the Father (John 5:23). This is a powerful point–have you caught on yet?
Verses 1 to 4 call for unity in the Philippian church
Verses 5 to 8 describe the sacrifice and the humility of Christ as an example for the Philippians to behave in the same manner–like Christ did . . . the denial of rights, the choice of humility, and the willingness to sacrifice for others will create unity
Verses 9 to 11 not only describe Christ’s exaltation, which is His reward for His humility and sacrifice, motivating the Philippians to live selflessly toward others
Also in verses 9 to 11 you see the actions of the Godhead–the Father toward the Son, demonstrating an incredible oneness, harmony, unity, and focus on the other members of the Trinity, which is also a powerful motivation for the Philippians to pursue unity. The Father is not jealous as He honors the Son, and we should not be jealous as others are elevated around us. We should maintain a unified oneness just like God is one.
Every rational being who has ever existed will confess Jesus as Lord, and the purpose is to bring glory to God. Those who are in Christ in Heaven will bring God glory and those without Christ in Hell will bring God glory. All of God’s character and attributes will shine forth as every being who has ever lived publicly affirms the absolute sovereign authority of Jesus Christ, the Lord. “Whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”
A Is Christ your Lord?
There are only two kinds of people–those who follow Christ as Lord now, or those who only publicly acknowledge Christ as Lord later. If you wait, read what awaits you in 2 Thessalonians 1:8 to 9, “dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”
It doesn’t matter if you’ve gone to church your entire life, prayed a prayer when you were five, or have parents who are missionaries–if Christ is not your Lord, if you don’t follow Him, you are not saved. Jesus says in John 10:27, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” Those who turn to Christ, are given a transformed heart that will obey Christ, like Hebrews 5:9 says, “He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.” Turn from your sin in repentance and depend on Christ and His work on the cross by faith—now. “Whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”
B Are you CHOOSING humility with others?
Augustine said, “There is something about humility that appeals to my ego.” God the Son chose to humble Himself, sacrifice Himself, becoming a servant, obedient till death. God’s Word here asks you today, “Then can’t you choose to die to self in your dealings with others?” God the Father elevates the Son and exalts Him as Lord of all.
All creation affirms His sovereignty, yet the Father is not jealous or bothered, but glorified in all this. Since the Father exalts the Son, then will you be free to exalt others and honor them? “Whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”
C Will you WORSHIP God’s awesome greatness?
These verses describe amazing truths about God. The Trinity–three yet one. Christ’s hypostatic union–being fully God and fully man, yet one person without confusion. The incarnation, when eternal God humbled Himself to be born a man. And the sovereign authority of God who is Lord of all, King of all kings and Lord of all lords–Jesus Christ. Let’s worship Him.
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