The Exaltation of Christ
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (vv. 9–10).- Philippians 2:9–11
Fundamental to biblical Christianity is the notion that Christ is the fullest revelation of God. To see Him is to see what God is like, for as Jesus tells us about Himself, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
Consequently, Jesus is not an incomplete picture of the Almighty, as if God in the incarnation pretends to be someone He is not or as if the human nature of Christ prevents God from truly being God. Jesus’ humility in washing His disciples’ feet (John 13:1–20) and the great love He displayed in not using His majesty to seek His own advantage at His people’s expense show us the character of God — One whose very nature is to give Himself for the sake of those He loves (Phil. 2:5–8). And if the sovereign Lord of glory will do whatever is necessary for the good of His people, how can we refuse to do likewise? (vv. 1–4).
Saying that our Creator does not seek His own advantage at the expense of His people, however, is not the same thing as saying that He does not seek His own advantage. After all, the Lord does seek His own glory above all else (Ex. 14; Isa. 42:8), and revealing this glory is an “advantage” for Him, at least in some sense. Yet even God’s pursuit of the “advantages” of His own position is not done in a way that denies the good of others. For if our glorious God is the most worthy, excellent, and beautiful being in existence, then seeking to exalt His own glory and to display it to His people is the best thing He could ever do for us. Dr. John Piper explains, “God is the one Being in all the universe for whom seeking his own praise is the ultimately loving act. For him, self-exaltation is the highest virtue. When he does all things ‘for the praise of his glory,’ he preserves for us and offers to us the only thing in all the world which can satisfy our longings” (Desiring God, p. 49).
God the Son humbled Himself in the incarnation not as an end in itself but in order to be exalted above all else, thereby achieving our highest good (Phil. 2:5–11). He did not achieve an exalted state that He lacked prior to the incarnation, for as God He has always been the most exalted One. But in pursuing the way of humiliation for His people, Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, gained as a gift the exaltation that was His by nature, giving us no reason to doubt the glory of the God-man.
If Jesus’ path to glory involves humbling Himself for the sake of His people, then one of the greatest ways we can bring Him glory is to remind the world of the clearest evidence of His humiliation — His death on the cross. When we proclaim the gospel, we are proclaiming the humiliation of Jesus, and when we proclaim the humiliation of Jesus, biblically defined, we are drawing attention to His glory as our Lord and Savior.
Passages for Further Study
1 Samuel 2:1–10
1 Chronicles 14:2
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to www.ligonier.org.
Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343