Philippians 2:5-11 is one of the most important Christological passages in the New Testament.
It records a vital statement about the divine nature, redemptive work, and sovereign authority of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The text makes this statement about Jesus Christ in two parts: the humiliation of Christ (Phil. 2:5-8) and the exaltation of Christ (Phil. 2:9-11).
Philippians 2:5-11 is one of the most important Christological passages in the New Testament. It records a vital statement about the divine nature, redemptive work, and sovereign authority of the Lord Jesus Christ.The text makes this statement about Jesus Christ in two parts: the humiliation of Christ (Phil. 2:5-8) and the exaltation of Christ (Phil. 2:9-11).
Philippians 2:5-8 explain the humiliation of Christ by contrasting the eternal deity and the human life of the Lord Jesus. Verse 6 teaches that Jesus Christ is eternally God. First, the pre-incarnate Christ was God by his nature. Verse 6 describes Christ as being “in the form of God.” This statement refers to the eternal nature of Christ before he came into the world as a human being.
Second, the pre-incarnate Christ was God in his status. Verse 6 says that he had “equality with God,” meaning that the pre-incarnate Christ totally shared the fullness of God’s nature. So Christ must never be placed in any category below or less than God. Third, although the pre-incarnate Christ is eternally God, he became fully human. Verse 6 says, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.” Every privilege of deity belonged to Christ, because he is God. Yet he did not hold on to the glory of his deity, like a robber clutching his stolen loot. Verses 7-8 affirm this humiliation of Christ in two ways: the incarnation and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Historically, the church has referred to this miracle of the incarnation as the doctrine of the kenosis. In the Kenosis, Christ laid aside his heavenly glory and the independent use of his authority, divine prerogatives, eternal riches, and favorable position with the Father. In addition, Christ became what he had not been in his eternal deity: a human being. Verse 7 says He “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” Christ made himself nothing in the reality of the incarnation. But he made himself nothing by his role during the incarnation: a servant. With respect to the Crucifixion, Verse 8 says, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
The death of Christ is mentioned twice in verse 8. And these two statements describe the submissive nature and sacrificial manner of his death. This leads us to the second part of this hymn of Christ, namely, the exaltation of Christ. While verses 6-8 record the humiliation of Christ, verses 9-11 record the exaltation of Christ. The cross is not the end of the story, for God “highly exalted him.” God raised him to a position of supreme majesty. The humiliation of Christ was fully compensated by God. In fact, it was totally reversed. Philippians 2:9-11 records the Father’s answer to that prayer. God highly exalted his Son, Jesus Christ. And these verses record the present reality and future realization of the sovereign exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
What, then, is the present reality of Christ’s Exaltation? Verse 9 says, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.” The exaltation of Christ is rooted in three real, concrete, and historic events—the resurrection, the ascension, and the coronation. What will be the future realization of Christ’s Exaltation? Philippians 2:10-11 explains the intended purpose and proper response to the exaltation of Christ: “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” The implication of Christ’s exaltation is that the Lordship of Christ will not be denied.