Humility and Exaltation


Phil. 2:9    Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.


Something amazing happens in this hymn. First there is the focus on the humility of Christ and the beauty of his incarnation. Then comes the connecting word “therefore” that leads us to new heights in understanding the love of God. This is the exaltation of humanity because Christ's humility was the assumption of human flesh. It was not Jesus that needed the exaltation — it was us! 

By assuming human flesh, Jesus was able to exalt humanity, saving us from death. When Jesus was lifted up by the Father, so were we. Jesus creates a human bridge between created and Creator that allows us to become partakers of the Divine nature; we can now fellowship with the Triune God. 

We are the ones who were in desperate need of this work of God. We all die in Christ, but are then exalted and raised up with him. The result is a Christian life which is empowered by the resurrection. Paul’s purpose in reminding the church of this hymn is unity. Jesus’ followers journey with him in humility to the cross, and are exalted with him into a holy life. In this scenario there is no room for fighting, or personal ambition, only a church community that is focused on Christ.  


The beauty of Christ’s humility and exaltation is that it has a profound effect on our lives. It is in walking the pathway of humility that we are able to experience the exaltation. This is a message of hope and transformation for the here and now. We don’t have to wait until death to experience the exaltation, but it’s God’s desire for us to participate in Christ today. 

Many people in all of Christendom will be baptized on Easter. This has been a part of Christian tradition for nearly 2000 years. It makes sense when we see baptism as dying out to our former selves and raising up out of the water, united with Christ in new life. Baptism itself is humility and exaltation. 

Far too many of us get lost in humility, and often a false humility at that. A bruised self-image is not humility. Allowing our emotions to be beaten up by others and destroying any healthy sense of self is not what this passage is about. It is about the sacrifice of personal ambition, for the sake of Christ. It is about laying down ourselves, our self-interest, our desire to be “right,” so that we may know Christ. 

The beauty of being united with Christ is that we may participate in a transformed community. This isn’t easy because our own thoughts, ideas, opinions and egos can easily get in the way. But that’s why following Jesus is different. If we truly unite with him in humility, we experience the exaltation or participation with him. This is where the renewing of our minds takes place, and no longer do we need to prove that we are right, or that our way is the best way. Instead, there is a genuine desire to know Christ, and this radically transforms our thinking. 

Exaltation is our sanctification as we are united with our holy God. The awesomeness of this encounter can only lead us to praise and adoration, where we confess that Jesus is Lord! The significance of this phrase would not have been lost on those first-century believers. Only Caesar was called Lord, because the people believed in the deification of the Emperor. This was the deification of Christ, who created a pathway for humanity to be united with the Divine. “Jesus is Lord” was a declaration that the humility and exaltation had accomplished much more than any earthly ruler could even imagine. 

This weekend we celebrate Palm Sunday. The people were excited and engaged in praising Jesus, but they had no comprehension of who he really was and what he would accomplish. If we don’t humble ourselves, we won’t have any substantive understanding either. Let’s not get stuck at Palm Sunday, but begin, even now, to dive into resurrection life and Christ’s exaltation. It will be transformational. 


Lord, may I follow you in humility, and live in the power of resurrection. Amen. 


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