Pathway to Glory
Topic: Expository Passage: Philippians 2:9-11
Read vv. 1–11
Everyone enjoys a good “rags to riches” story. We love to hear how someone who is born into great poverty works hard and overcomes great odds and to become highly successful. That’s one reason among many why Abraham Lincoln is such a fascinating character.
Several years ago, we had the privilege of visiting his Presidential Museum. When you walk into the main plaza of the museum, it immediately emphasizes Lincoln’s rags to riches journey through this visual (slide). On the left is a model of Lincoln’s boyhood home on the frontier. It presses home Lincoln’s humble beginnings.
And then on the right, in startling contrast, is a model of the White House, with the Lincoln family out front in formal attire. It visualizes Lincoln’s place as one of the greatest if not the greatest presidents in our nation’s history. Truly, Lincoln’s rise from rags to riches is a remarkable, great story. But today we get to look at an even greater rise from rags to riches.
Two weeks ago we studied Philippians 2:5–8. And we saw that in an incredible act of humility, Jesus didn’t go from rags to riches, but from riches to rags. He willingly let go of infinite glory to descend to a humiliating execution on a cross. No one has ever fallen from glory like Jesus did, and yet he descended willingly in obedience to the Father. In the process he endured our judgment in his body on the cross.
The story of the cross is amazing. However, if the gospel ended with Jesus hanging on the cross, it would be powerless to save. But thankfully vv. 9–11 tell us that there is more to the story. God the Father responded to Jesus’ obedience by raising him from the dead and exalting him with great glory.
And even thought may not be immediately apparent, this exaltation is massively significant for our spiritual struggle today, for our eternal hope, and in this particular context, for how we should walk humbly with each other.
We’ll begin by walking through the text and explaining what it says about the exaltation of Christ, and then we’ll close by reflecting on what it means for us. First, let’s answer the question…
1. What did the Father do (v. 9)?
Notice that the subject changes in v. 9. Christ is the subject of vv. 6–8. He left glory, and he humbled himself to the point of laying down his life on the cross. And now God the Father becomes the subject as he responds to Christ’s obedience. Specifically, God the Father responded to Christ’s willing humiliation with two actions. First…
The Father exalted Christ. Verse 9 says, “God has highly exalted Him.” Paul uses a compound verb here that literally means that the Father hyper-exalted or super exalted Christ. In other words, the Father restored all the glory that Jesus gave up when he left heaven to become a man. He exalted Christ to the highest possible place. The Scriptures tell us that the Father did this in a couple stages.
First, Christ’s glorification began with his resurrection from the dead (Rom 1:3–4). God says that by raising Jesus from the dead God declared once and for all that Jesus is the Son of God. This is because in the resurrection, Jesus did something that only God could do. He conquered sin and death. As a result, he demonstrated great glory.
Then after Jesus walked the earth for 40 days came the second stage to Christ’s glorification. Jesus ascended to the Father’s right hand, and he sat down in great glory (Acts 2:32–33, 36). So today, Jesus sits at the Father’s right hand, in great glory. And notice the authority that he enjoys from his throne (Eph 1:20–23). Every power, both good and evil is subject to Christ. They are “under his feet.” Jesus said himself in Matthew 28:18, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”
And what is especially significant for us is how Jesus is using his seat of glory for our good (Rom 8:34). God assures those of us who are in Christ that we don’t need to fear condemnation. We will never face God’s wrath against sin.
This is not because we don’t sin or deserve judgment. Our sin is great and we deserve condemnation. But our resurrected and glorified Savior is constantly pleading for us. And his prayers are always effective. I love how the song, “Before the Throne” says it, “When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look and see Him there who made an end of all my sin.”
So, we should worship Christ today, because “God has highly exalted Him.” He possesses all glory. And we should give thanks that Christ continues to serve us, even from that glorious seat. He is our advocate and intercessor. Then notice at the end of v. 9 a second work of the Father in response to Christ’s humbling of himself.
The Father declared Jesus Lord of creation. Paul says that God gave “Him the name which is above every name.” The obvious question about this statement is what name did the Father give Christ? Verse 10 mentions “the name of Jesus,” so we may think this is the name. However, Jesus received this name before his birth to signify the salvation he came to bring. Therefore, we should expect a new name that reflects his glorified status.
This is because in the ancient world names were intended to communicate something about the individual. People didn’t name their son Bob, simply because they liked it. There was always significance behind a name. And v. 11 tells us what this very significant new name is. Paul says that one day all people will confess what? That Jesus is Lord. So, Paul is saying that when Jesus was exalted to the Father’s right hand, He declared Jesus to be Lord.
Now this may not seem like that big of a deal to us. We are very used to talking about “the Lord Jesus Christ,” and we throw the word lord around in many contexts without thinking a second thought. But for a Pharisee like Paul, this is huge. This is because kurios, the Greek term we translate Lord is the equivalent of the Old Testament name Yahweh/Jehovah. And God had been very clear about the fact that he would not share this name (Isa 42:8). To attach the name Lord to anyone but God was blasphemous idolatry.
And raising the stakes even higher is the fact that Paul quotes Yahweh’s words in Isaiah 45:20–25. This passage looks forward to a day when God will invite the nations to come to him for salvation. As we read pay attention to the significance of the name Lord and notice the wording that Paul borrows (read).
Paul clearly borrows from vv. 23–24, and he is clearly saying that Jesus is the Lord, or Yahweh who is speaking in this text. He is saying that the Father has made Jesus both Savior and Lord. That’s huge.
Folks, Jesus is not a lesser god, and he is certainly not merely a great man. He is God, and after Jesus’ humiliation, the Father declared Jesus’ glory. He “highly exalted Him and gave Him the name (Lord), which is above every other name.”
Therefore, even if we’ve known all this our whole lives, we need to step back and reflect on who Jesus is and where he is today. I opened by talking about Lincoln’s rise from a log cabin to the White House. But Jesus’ rise is infinitely greater. He didn’t merely live in a log cabin; he died as a curse on a cross designed for traitors.
But then the Father glorified him to the highest heights. He is Lord. He doesn’t merely dwell in the White House as President of the United States. He dwells at the right hand of the Father in unapproachable glory and light.
And he is not merely Lord of some stuff out there. No, God says that he is my Lord and your Lord. So, we need to worship Christ today as Lord and submit to him as Lord. And praise the Lord that as Isaiah 45 says, we don’t just submit to him as a master, but as a Savior, who offers grace and salvation to all who come to him.
In sum, the Father did not leave Jesus on the cross; he highly exalted him and gave him the name, Lord. This brings us to our second question…
2. Why did the Father do this (vv. 10–11)?
Verses 10–11 follow with 2 purpose clauses, which tell us why the Father “highly exalted” Jesus and gave him the name Lord (read). First, he did it…
So that every knee will bow before Christ (v. 10). This verse paints a pretty incredible scene. The fact that vv. 10–11 mention knees and tongues indicates that Paul is thinking of personal beings. He’s not thinking of rocks and trees or the animal world. He is thinking of mankind and the entire angelic realm.
And Paul says that every human being and every angel will bow the knee to Christ, including “those in heaven, and those on earth, and those under the earth.” We can’t know for sure how Paul is dividing these groups, but most likely “those in heaven” are good angels and dead saints. “Those on earth” are people who are alive when Christ returns. And “those under the earth” are the demons, Satan, and unbelievers who have died.
Paul says that all of them, including even the most evil, stubborn, and rebellious, will bow the knee before Christ. Jesus is Lord, and even Satan cannot resist his lordship. He will bow the knee. And then v. 11 adds a second closely related purpose. The Father exalted Christ…
So that every tongue will acknowledge Christ’s lordship. Again, this is a powerful picture, though we have to acknowledge that there is both a light and dark side to this confession. On one hand, those of us who are believers have already bowed the knee and confessed Christ’s lordship over us. We love our Savior, and we confess him as Lord with joy.
It’s worth emphasizing that this confession is at the heart of the gospel. You don’t become a Christian by “Giving Jesus a try.” No, Romans 10:9 states, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Verse 13 adds, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
If you are a Christian, it all began when you saw Jesus in his glory and holiness but also in his gracious love, and you came to him as a broken sinner in need of grace, and you confessed that Jesus is Lord and Savior. He became your Savior and your Lord. He changed everything.
And someday, we will gather before his throne with believers from all ages and from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation, and we will declare, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!...Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” And will fill fall “and worship Him who lives forever and ever” (Revelation 5:12–14). It will be our joy to worship our Lord for all eternity.
But the dark side of vv. 10–11 is the fact that for Satan, the demons, and all of lost humanity, this will be a forced submission. I want to be clear that Paul is not saying that they will all ultimately be saved. The Scriptures are very clear that they will be condemned to the Lake of Fire for all eternity.
But beforehand, they will unwillingly bow before the Lord. Revelation 20:11–12 describe the terrifying scene for the unbeliever. Even heaven and earth will flee from the glory of Jesus, but then every unbeliever will be forced to stand before his holiness and give account of their lives. And they will bow the knee and acknowledge Christ’s lordship on their way to everlasting destruction.
If you have never received Christ as your Savior, this scene should terrify you. You do not want to be at this judgment. You can pretend that you are your own master and that you can get by with whatever you want, but you would be believing a lie. God is graciously warning you that Jesus is your Lord, and you have rebelled against his Law. As a result, you are on a slippery path toward eternal judgment. That’s the truth.
But incredibly, there is salvation in Christ. Verses 6–8 declare that Jesus humbled himself to die on a cross so that he could bear your punishment for sin and provide salvation. And Romans 10:9 promises, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” If you bow your knee before Jesus today, he will be your Savior, you will receive his grace, and you will forever be protected from his judgment.
Do not wait until it is too late to bow the knee. Bow today and be saved. If you have questions, we’d love to talk with you at the close of the service about you can know the salvation that Jesus provides. Please bow the knee today. And then notice that v. 11 adds one final purpose of Jesus’ exaltation.
So that the Father will be glorified. Paul ends this glorious paragraph by saying that everything he has described from Jesus birth, to his death, to his glorification is all ultimately “to the glory of God the Father.”
There is no conflict, no power struggle in the Trinity. All of this, from beginning to end, is according to the Father’s will. It demonstrates his wisdom, his power, and his grace.
So when Jesus has finished his work, destroyed all evil, and reconciled all things to himself, he will gladly hand it all back over to the Father. 1 Corinthians 15:28 states, “Now when all things are made subject to Him (Jesus), then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.”
It’s another reminder that even as Jesus has done incredible things for us, God’s glory outshines even the eternal benefit we have received. Everything, even our salvation, is ultimately for God’s glory, because he is infinitely greater than us.
And this fact reminds us of our purpose. I’m not ultimately on this earth to make a name for Kit or to fulfill my every dream. No, we are here to manifest Christ and to declare the glory and grace of the Father. I exist, and this church exists for God’s glory.
In sum, these 3 verses point us to a glory far beyond any of us. And this brings us to a final, very important question.
3. What does it mean for us?
Worship the Lord. We live in a day of “give God a try” Christianity. Essentially, God exists to serve my needs and my agenda. This passage is a blunt reminder that we were created to worship the Lord, not ourselves. I exist for him.
And for those who are saved, our greatest joy for all eternity will be to dwell in his presence and worship him. If that’s the case, then what could be better today than to do what we were made to do. We should give thanks that we can gather as God’s temple and worship him, and we should worship with full hearts that are amazed at the glory and grace of our God.
Submit to Christ’s lordship. Christ is the Lord. And even those of us who are saved, we need lots of reminders of Christ’s lordship. We very quickly begin to think that we are our own lords. Life becomes about my passions and my glory. So, we need lots of reminders that our Savior sits in glory at the right hand of the Father. He is Lord. Therefore, my job every day of my life is to submit every thought, every care, every passion, and every decision to his lordship. I must do what is right, no matter cost.
1 John 5:3–4 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments (But notice the hope in the remainder of the text). And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world.” We want to obey, because we love him, and we can obey by his grace.
Follow Christ’s pathway to glory. In context, this is the main point of the text. Paul is not merely giving a theological treatise regarding the glorification of Christ. No, he is calling us to follow him.
Remember that v. 5 is the hinge on which vv. 1–11 turn. We must embrace Christ’s attitude. So, how do vv. 9–11 call us to imitate Christ’s attitude?
To answer this question, we have to rewind to vv. 3–4. Remember that strong relationships require that we put aside “selfish ambition and vainglory.” That’s hard, because we are wired to chase “what I want and what will make me look good.” But we all know that in addition to being sinful, these passions destroy our brothers and the unity of God’s people.
However, the humility necessary to fix this is often costly. If I live for others the way Jesus did, it’s going to mean lots of hard work, and it’s going to mean sacrificing my ambitions, my pleasure, and my glory. After all, we generally receive little human glory from true service. And if you wired like I am, it’s very hard to let go of glory.
But that’s exactly what Jesus did. He let go of glory. And here is the key for us today. He did so with faith that the Father would restore the glory he had sacrificed. He left every personal concern in the Father’s hands.
And vv. 9–11 declare that the Father was faithful. He more than restored the glory that Jesus sacrificed. And the clear implication of vv. 9–11 in this context that he will do the same for us.
I have to believe that Paul wrote this passage thinking of Jesus’ words in Mark 10:42–45. Jesus promises that true greatness that God exalts is down the pathway of service.
And notice how 1 Peter 5:5–7 tie all of this together. This passage acknowledges the urge in all of us to take life and the cares of life into our own hands. We want to fix our own problems, do it our way, and grab our own glory. But God says to humble yourself before God and before each other. Leave your cares in God’s hands. And finally, believe the promise, “He (will) exalt you in due time.”
So returning to our text, Philippians 2:9–11 challenge us with the fact that unity in the church, in your marriage, and in your family requires that you not live your life fighting for your rights and your glory. No, love others, be humble, and do the right thing every day. And then by faith, leave the consequences with the Lord. Believe that in his time and his way he will exalt you. Follow Christ’s pathway to glory.