Monday, December 22, 2008


In my last post I quoted Paul’s poem about the incarnation of Christ, but ended in the middle of the poem, so I’ll pick up where I left off. Paul in describing the self-emptying and humiliation of Christ as an example to his readers in Philippi, could not stop with his death. He had to go on to speak of the exaltation of Christ.

Therefore also God has exalted Him to the highest
and granted to Him the Name
which is above every name,
so that at Jesus’ Name
every knee should bend --
of heavenly beings,
and earthly beings,
and sub-earthly beings,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord
to the glory of God the Father! (Philippians 2:9-11)

Though Jesus Christ in His pre-incarnate state had shared the glory of the Father in eternity past (John 17:5), in some way the Father “has exalted Him” – the One who is now both God and Man – “to the highest” because of His humiliation. Because Christ had not “clung to” His equality with the Father, the Father was exalting Him in a new way, by bringing His deity to recognition by all moral creatures.

When God revealed Himself to Moses in Exodus 3 as the God of his fathers, Moses asked His name.

And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM” (Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyah); and He said, “Thus you shall say to Israel, ‘I AM (Ehyeh) has sent me to you!’” And God said further to Moses, “Thus shall you say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD (Yahweh) the God of your fathers … has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever and this is My memorial-name to generation of generation.” (Exodus 3:14, 15)

While God (Elohim) could be said to be His generic name, the name LORD (Yahweh) is God’s personal name. It is related to the verb “to be” or “I AM” and has been understood to mean something like “The One Who Is” or “The Self-Existent One.” We’re not even sure how it is pronounced because it ceased to be pronounced by the Jews long before vowel points were added to the Hebrew alphabet. Whenever a Jew, ancient or modern, in his reading comes across the four consonants YHWH, he automatically reads Adonai, a title for God, which means “my Lord” or “my Master.” Most of our English Bibles reflect this by translating Yahweh as “LORD” (all capitals) and Adonai as “Lord” in the Old Testament.

When the Old Testament was translated into Greek about 200 or so years before the time of Christ, the translators rendered both Yahweh and Adonai by the Greek word Kurios, which normally means “master” or “lord” (human or divine) or even simply “sir.” This usage was carried over into the Greek of the New Testament. The Greek word Kurios is usually translated “Lord” in our English New Testament, thus leaving the reader with an interpretation problem: when Jesus is addressed as “Lord” (Kurios) is He being addressed as Deity, or as Master, or simply as Sir? The context determines.

In Isaiah 45, the LORD (Yahweh) is speaking:

I am the LORD and there is none else;
beside Me there is no God. (verse 5)
Thus says the LORD,
the Holy One of Israel and his Maker ... (verse 11)
Thus says the LORD,
the Creator of the heavens, who alone is God … (verse 18)
Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth,
for I am God and there is none else. (verse 22)
By Myself I have sworn …
that to me every knee shall bend,
every tongue will confess. (verse 23)

In Philippians 2:9-11, Paul is alluding to Isaiah 45:23. The “Name which is above every name” (verse 10) is the Greek word Kurios, translated “Lord” in verse 11. Here the word clearly refers to Yahweh in Isaiah 45:23. The Jesus of the New Testament is the Yahweh of the Old, the One to whom “every knee will bend and every tongue confess.”

Paul is saying here that because Jesus Christ did not cling to His prerogatives of deity, because He emptied Himself of those prerogatives, because He humiliated Himself to be born in a stable and to suffer a criminal’s death, He has been granted that every creature must confess Him as Yahweh – as God!

Bill Ball

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