Settle yourself into prayer and get ready to reflect on the Word of
And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became
obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross. Therefore
God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every
name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, 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.
A fascinating snippet of Scripture sums up the Bible’s understanding of names and their significance: “as his name is, so is he” (1 Samuel 25:25a). In the Biblical worldview a person’s name is not just a tag or label, but rather, the expression of the person’s character and reputation. A name was a message about whom the person was to his family, community, and God. A person’s character was represented by the mere mention of his or her name.
Choosing a child’s name is an important decision for parents, but something that Mary and Joseph did not have to do. Their Baby’s name was determined by God and announced through an angel: “you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sin” (Matthew 1:21). Only God could fully understand the Baby’s character and reputation to choose the right name for Him. Centuries earlier God foretold Christ’s character and reputation by giving Him another name: “they shall name him Emmanuel… God is with us” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23).
Through Isaiah God designated yet more names to reveal the character and reputation of the baby Jesus: “he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). The names given to Jesus reveal something of whom He is, why He came, and why He is worthy of universal worship. The Baby in the manger will grow up to be known as the “Almighty One”, “Bread of Life”, “Good Shepherd”, “Light of the World”, “Friend of Sinners”, and “Savior”. Many names are required to encompass His greatness.
But in today’s Scripture, Paul states that the humble Jesus has been exalted and given “the name that is above every name”. All other names fall short. This does not mean that God gives Jesus a new name. Rather, God declares Jesus’ new reputation, a new honor as the humble God who lays down His life for others.
The thought of a humble, crucified deity given a name above every name likely provoked reaction among status-conscious Philippians. Names and titles meant so much to them. A humble, downwardly mobile Savior would have been “a shocking and surprising inversion of Roman social values.” (Joseph Hellerman, Embracing Shared Ministry) It is no less shocking and surprising in today’s Big Me culture. But, in an inversion of all worldly values, God exalts the crucified, rejected Jesus as Lord.
The three triumphant words, “Jesus is Lord”, soon became the earliest creed and message of early Christians. It was on their lips as they were marched to the arena, chopping block, or cross.
The many glorious names bestowed on Jesus reveal dimensions of His infinite majesty and humility. Herein is the secret to life: God exalts the humble. Great reward awaits those who humble themselves and let the mind that was in Christ be in them.
This was Christ’s promise to suffering Christians at ancient Pergamum who were “holding fast to my name” (Revelation 2:13). Jesus foretold that at the Last Day He would give them and all of His followers throughout history “a new name” as they reign with Him (Revelation 2:17). They will then see the Biblical truth: “as his name is, so is he.” With new names they will experience God’s radical inversion of the world’s values: God exalts the humble and lifts high the lowly!
- In the Bible a person’s name stands for one’s reputation and character. What does the thought of Jesus giving His followers “a new name” mean to you?
- From the Bible’s many names for Jesus, which name stands out to you today? What is there about that name that stands out for you? Why not pray to Jesus right now using that name?
“The grandeur of this passage can easily cause one to
forget why it is here. Paul’s reason is singular: to focus on
Christ himself, and thus to point to him as the ultimate model of
the self-sacrificing love to which he is calling the Philippians—and us.”
Gordon Fee, Philippians