In our last study on this paragraph we noted the parallelism between it and 2 Corinthians 8:9 “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” We are learning through Paul’s description of what our Lord did for us, how rich He was. He lived eternally as part of the Godhead. All that defines what God is, He is. For our sakes, “He became poor.” How did He become poor? For a little while, He became lower than the angels. Hedid not demand that He remain in the position of being equal to God. He emptied Himself of some of His glory (John 17:5). He took the form of a slave. He was man of very man while at the same time He was God of very God. Then He who is Lord of all, “humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” He became accursed from God for us. He was rejected that we might be accepted in Him.
This is not the end of the story. God the Father showed His acceptance of our Lord’s sacrifice for our sin by raising Him from the dead and exalting Him to the place He occupied before His incarnation. This exaltation is the subject of our study today.
The Apostle Paul continues on to tell us how high God the Father exalted our Lord Jesus Christ. “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him.” The Father’s response to our Lord’s obedience is to exalt Him from being a little lower than the angels to His rightful place of honor and glory.
Paul wrote of this exaltation also in Ephesians 1:18-23. “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Paul described the exaltation in this text in three parts.
Step one, He raised the Lord Jesus from the dead and seated Him at His right hand. “According to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.” God the Father restored to the Son the glory that was His before the world began. He exists as equal to God there is no higher place to which our Lord could come. Paul wants us to know that this place is “far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.” It is far above any other authority in existence, seen or unseen. It is also above every other name ever named. We think of great names in history, Abraham, Jacob, Plato, Augustus Caesar, etc. Jesus is so much above them that He is in a category all His own.
Second, God the Father also “put all things under His feet.” He is over all humankind.
Third, God the Father “gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” The Father made His Son the final authority and the functioning head of His church. He is the head, we are the body to do His will.
Do we begin to get an understanding of what this little verse means? “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him.” What does it mean to us?
First, it means that all that He did for us is accepted by the Father. We are saved because God accepted His shed blood on our account. The transaction is complete. Salvation is ours because “He made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” We know that we are accepted in the Beloved because the Father has highly exalted Him. This is the Father’s amen to our Lord’s “It is finished!”
Second, because of our union with the Lord Jesus Christ, we are exalted together with Him. Ephesians 2.4-6 “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” None of this is because we merit it. All of it is because the Lord Jesus condescended and humbled Himself for us.
Third, this should make us want to give everything to Him. Charles Spurgeon wrote on this text. “There is yet another feeling, which I think is extremely necessary to any very great enjoyment of this truth, that Christ is exalted. It is a feeling of entire surrender of one’s whole being to the great work of seeking to honor him. Oh! I have striven for that: would to God I might attain unto it! I have now concentrated all my prayers into one, and that one prayer is this, that I may die to self, and live wholly to Him.”
The second truth about this exaltation that the Apostle Paul wants us to understand is that someday everyone who ever lived will bend the knee and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord. They will recognize His exaltation.
The day will come when “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
It appears that there was an Old Testament Scripture running around in Paul’s head as he wrote this verse. Isaiah 45:22-23 “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, And shall not return, That to Me every knee shall bow, Every tongue shall take an oath.” Paul wrote that this will happen to the Lord Jesus Himself. Salvation is available to all who will believe Just look and be saved. Still, even those who refuse to believe will one day bow the knee and glorify the One whom they blasphemed.
There is a day coming when our Lord Jesus will be glorified by all. The categories of those who will bow the knee are interesting – “of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth.” This is describing all those already in heaven, all those still on the earth, and all that are under the earth. We find this same designation in Revelation 5:11-13. “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!’ And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!’”
Will we bow the knee to Christ now in grace and salvation or will wait until that day when all creation will be compelled to bow to Him?