If Christianity was something we were making up, of course we could make it easier. But it is not. We cannot compete, in simplicity, with people who are inventing religions. How could we? We are dealing with Fact. Of course anyone can be simple if it has no facts to bother about. C. S. Lewis
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. Phil 2:9-11
To know God and to understand his ways is not easy. It takes hard thinking. As Lewis reminded us, “God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers.” Asking questions of the text is crucial if we are to squeeze out of the passages the truth we seek. Very early in my studies, I was told by one of my mentors that one of the questions I needed to ask was, “Where for the therefore?” “Therefore” [or “wherefore”] is used 446 times in the Bible. So, it is important for us to discover where the “therefore” is pointing. It means, “in the light of what you have just read, this is the result.” “Therefore” points back to what Paul has written about Jesus in verses 5-8 as a set up for what he is about to declare.
Paul was concerned about divisions in the church and the attitude that birthed it, pride. Christ died to birth a new people united in him and bound with his love. Division, competition and manipulation were improper in God’s family. The antidote for division is humility. If the members of the church don’t know how that looks, he counseled them to look at Jesus. We should have the same attitude [2:5] that was in Christ when he entered our world and lived among us. He humbly gave up his divine prerogatives to live among men with the same kind of weakness that we humans have. In other words, for his time on earth he chose not to use his unique powers of omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence. He lived as a man, dependent upon His Father, living in full trust of His love and care for his every need. He came not to “Lord it over us” but to serve us in weakness.
His mission was unique in time and eternity. The Creator God did not just come to earth. He came all the way to earth. He did not grasp his position but let go of his rights. He lived not as a master but as a slave. Instead of being hailed as King he was reviled as a criminal. He died not in the quietness of sleep but in agony of the cross. His whole life was directed toward experiencing the depths of human suffering. For sin to be fully atoned for, it was to be fully felt in the life of our Savior.
That is the blessed “therefore” of which Paul writes. Because of what Jesus suffered, because he willingly descended to the lowest place, because he fulfilled the Father’s will to the letter, therefore, the Father lifted him to the highest place. He honored the obedience of the Son by giving him a name above every other name in heaven and earth. That name is Jesus. Every single knee will bow to him, either now in repentance and faith, or then, in fear and judgment. All that Jesus suffered, all that he accomplished, all that he has received, is done “to the glory of the Father.”
There are two crucial blessings that radiate from this passage. First, the length to which God would take to reconcile us to Himself is absolutely mind blowing. This is not a case where the Father is wrath and the Son is love; or where the Father commanded the Son to go and he went reluctantly. We were chosen by the Father in eternity past. The Son was slain from the foundation of the world. In other words, our salvation came as a gracious act of the Godhead who acted in concert and total agreement. The choice, the grace, the cost, should overwhelm us with gratitude and humility. In the words of Charles Spurgeon: “Be not proud of race, face place or grace.” It is truly a humbling to understand and appreciate what God has done for us. Pride is not appropriate but confidence is.
The second blessing is this: A pattern has been established that applies to us as well as the Son. We are called to live like the Son. We are to give up all confidence in the flesh and live trusting in the faithfulness of the One who called us. It will mean forgetting about ourselves for the joy of serving Jesus. It means giving up what “we deserve” for the chance of giving others what they need. Following Jesus will mean we give up the lights of Hollywood for the nights in darkest Africa. It will mean being tired, getting sick, leaving family and possibly even dying. All of this is done without one speck of complaint of regret. Why? The answer: life’s great therefore.”
Here is the blessing. Nothing that we lose compares to what we gain by serving Jesus. Nothing given up for the sake of Christ will be lost. Jesus said it like this: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” [Matt 19:29-30] To be caught up in the things of God, to discover more and more of the treasures that are in Christ, to be friends with him and to daily uncover the secrets of friendship with him, is the only truly exciting and satisfying way to live.
It all begins when we humble ourselves and exchange our independence for dependence on the promises of God. James wrote in James 4:6, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” To do it our way, to be the self-made man, is to invite God’s resistance. If all that was created exists to give God glory, we are in reality opposing him. But, when we humble ourselves, when we make it our life’s passion to honor him with our lives, while we do all things in the strength he provides, he lifts us up. So, James concludes, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” [James 4:10]
“Pride,” C. S. Lewis observed, “leads to every other vise: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.” Jesus Christ not only gave us a model to show us, by his death and resurrection he changed us. The “great therefore” means that because we are in Christ, we can live the same God honoring, people serving, pride busting life he demonstrated in his mission to earth. And, we can count on this; that the same God who exalted the name of Jesus above all other names, will in due time will lift us up.
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” –Jim Elliot, 1949