Whole Life Whole Bible Day 51
Philippians 2:5-11 (NASB)
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 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.
50: To the glory of God
The Lordship of Christ and the glory of God: there could hardly be a more appropriate place to end our tour through scripture.
Actually, it’s where we began too, with Jesus as Lord of all in Colossians 1:15–20. Here, as there, the biblical story of salvation, never far below the surface of Paul’s letters, rises to the top. Here, as there, we are taken from the beginning to the end of all things, an account in which Jesus is central. Here, as there, it is this particular story of this particular person that shapes us, providing a pattern of thinking and living that is ours by dint of being ‘in Christ’.
At the center of the story stands the cross, Paul’s words here evoking the horror and shame associated with the public execution of criminals. Yet, that scandalous cross was central to Christ’s own determination to press on to Jerusalem, showing the true nature of God’s self-giving love. And the cross is central to our understanding of what it means to be a disciple, to follow in his footsteps in serving others: his death not only brings about redemption but also provides a model for our lives.
Even then, the cross is not the end of the story, for God raised Jesus to a place of highest status and assigned him a name that reflects his vindication, with the result that all will confess him ‘Lord’. Paul’s language deliberately echoes Isaiah 45:22–23, with Christ receiving the glory that God says is reserved for him alone. Beyond this, the confession would have carried political overtones, perhaps especially in Philippi, a colony of the Roman empire in which emperors were proclaimed as ‘Lord’. The church’s worship of Jesus as Lord not only qualifies the empire’s rule but also anticipates the confession that will be offered by the whole universe — the sovereignty of Christ over everything.
This, no doubt, had profound implications for the daily life of Christians in Philippi, and of Christians everywhere since. We ‘work out’ our salvation, with God himself working in us ‘in order to fulfill his good purpose’ (Philippians 2:12–13), concretely applied in our relations with each other and our integrity of witness in the world, where confessing him as Lord means committing to a way of life marked by his Lordship.
And all for the glory of God.
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For further reflection and action
Some scholars think that this passage in Philippians might be an early hymn, predating the letter itself and thus forming one of the oldest parts of the New Testament. It could have been a poetic celebration and confession of Jesus as Lord sung by groups of Christians, which puts us in touch with very early expressions of faith in Christ. Reflect on the significance of this possibility and turn it into an opportunity for praise.
Read Philippians 2:5–11 again, thinking about some of the suggestions for the background of the passage. Which, if any, provides the best fit with the passage, and why?
Personified divine Wisdom, who leaves her dwelling-place with God to come into the world to be with humankind (Proverbs 8:22–31).
A contrast between Jesus and the first human beings in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3; compare Romans 5:12–21), emphasising the different choice made by Jesus, whose equality with God was not something to be exploited for his own personal advantage.
Parallels with the suffering servant of Isaiah 52:13—53:12, who humbled himself (53:4, 8), was obedient (v. 7) and poured himself out to death (v. 12).
Even though there are political implications to calling Jesus ‘Lord’, the early Christians still submitted to Roman authority, understanding that the emperor had lawful authority delegated by God (see, for example, Romans 13:1–7; 1 Peter 2:13–17). If Jesus, not Caesar, was Lord, why did they act in this way? If it is more fitting to describe the early Christians’ approach as ‘subversive’ rather than directly ‘counter-political’, how appropriate is it to follow their lead in our own context?
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