Philippians 2:9-11 “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above very name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
There is the cliche that whenever the word ‘therefore’ is found in the Bible one must ask what it’s there for, and as it’s the very first word in our text we must certainly find out the answer to that question. The word always looks back to what has gone on before, and so in our text to what has been written about the cross of Christ.
1. CHRIST WAS EXALTED BECAUSE HE HAD OBEYED GOD EVEN TO THE DEATH OF THE CROSS.
“Therefore,” that is, because the Son was obedient even to death on a cross, “God exalted him to the highest place.” The exaltation was a divine reaction, the considered response of heaven to Calvary. And so what is your response to the death of the Lord Jesus Christ? Isaac Watts’ was this . . . “Therefore . . . my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.” He goes on to say that if the whole realm of nature were his that would be an offering far to small to give to God for what his Son has done for us on the cross. In God’s judgment the exact recompense which his Son merited by his death was to exalt him to the highest place. In other words, by our text we may look into the heart and mind of God, what God esteems, how God responds to the most important event of the most magnificent person this universe has ever seen. God made this assessment of his Son, that Jesus was worthy to receive honour and power divine, the very highest exultation, and we are being tested concerning what our response may be to the death of Christ.
This connection between the cross and the crown is also found in our Lord’s words in the High Priestly prayer of John 17: “Glorify the Son!” Why? “Because I have finished the work you gave me to do.” Jesus is lifted up again to the bosom of the Father not simply because that is where he came from, and what comes round comes round even in heaven. Jesus is exalted not just because he is the eternal Son of God. He is elevated to the highest place that heaven can afford not only because God in sovereignty wants to honour his dear Son. Jesus is exalted because he has obeyed, because of his inherent merit, it is because of this that he now deserves the highest place that heaven can afford. He has finished the work he set out to do and so God lifts him very high. Do you see the glory of that?
No man has ever been able to do what Christ did. No man possibly could. Salvation by works is absolutely impossible. No one ever succeeded in loving God with all his heart or loving his neighbour as himself. No one has begun to attain to that. From ourselves right back to Adam is one great chain and on every link the word ‘failure’ is deeply engraved. Then Jesus comes, and he by himself accomplishes everything that God requires of a man, so that when God himself scrutinises his life he says, “I am well pleased with it! Success, not failure!” Jesus’ life and Jesus’ death have propitiated the wrath of a sin-hating God. The Father has exhausted his judgment against our sin in this beloved Substitute on the cross. So we are always under a cover. There is always the protection of the blood. The Lord’s people in all their shame have this spotless robe covering them. The Son has lovingly taken all that the Father has imputed to him. So then heaven’s response is to elevate him to the highest height imaginable.
He died the accursed death of the cross. He is exalted now to the blessings of heaven. What a contrast! There was the Lord Jesus in his nakedness and vulnerability, hanging so exposed upon Golgotha. He had no cover. He couldn’t provide a sacrifice or a substitute for himself. He was under no propitiation. He wasn’t protected by any mediator. Nobody at the right hand of God was pleading for him. The Lamb of God hung utterly alone, and in his own exclusive merit. There and then he became his own propitiation, and his own sacrifice, and his own advocate. Those were his protection. In the Old Testament the people came bringing their lambs and goats and heifers, and those worshippers stood at the side of the altar, and within a moment or two they had to gaze at the ugliness of the disembowelled sacrifices, steaming there, bloody, exposed to the heavens, lying on the altar. Forgiveness was theirs because thod had been shed, and that sacrifice had been made. That is the prefigurement of the Lamb of God. That is the reason for the ugliness and shambles of Golgotha. The Lord’s anger towards the church had been appeased, completely and for ever. There is therefore now no condemnation – whatsoever. There is not even some mild disapproval. There is rather the same love towards these favoured people as there is for the favoured Son. I think that many of you cannot believe that, but that is the breathtaking achievement of Christ’s obedience to the death of the cross. He died accursed before God, and we live blessed before him.
All has been settled very openly before the courts of heaven. The slate has been wiped clean by God himself. The work of suffering was been ended with the death and burial of Christ. But Paul says, “Christ being dead, dies no more.” Not because he’d got an advocate or had found a substitute, but his obedience to the death of the cross became his own eternal advocacy. He was the one man who had made a perfect righteousness for himself. “Why should I let you into my heaven?” says the Father to the Son. Jesus replies, “Because of my righteousness . . . because I was obedient – unto death – even the death of the cross.” And that is our answer too, “because of Jesus’ righteousness,” because he was obedient to the death of Calvary. That is the basis of our own security. All our hopes of glory lie reposed on that righteousness. We do not rest simply upon the love of God. We do not cast ourselves simply on God’s compassion, but upon the work that Christ set out to do and accomplished all by himself – the finished work of Christ.
You see the glory of that? Not only that God may pardon, and must pardon, but that God may not not pardon. Not only is he faithful to forgive our sins, but faithful and just to forgive them, because he has exhausted all his judgment on the Lamb of Calvary. Do you realise that our security today and for ever lies in fact in the holiness of God, in the just law of God, in the fierce rectitude of God, and in the absolute integrity of God? Because it is to those majestic attributes of the God who is light – that all the eloquence of the cross is directed. Christ’s plea that God should glorify him is not, “Exalt me because you are pitiful.” It is not, “Save all those whom you gave to me before the foundation of the world because you are loving.” Rather, this is the argument: “I was obedient to all that your holy law requires of sinners as the God-man. I fulfilled the law, I finished the work, and I wrought a righteousness of my own by consummate obedience, so glorify me. I loved you with all my heart and I took your just wrath against all their sins in my body on the cross. I absorbed it all, and exhausted it. I have paid every penny of their debt. They are now righteous – every one – and they are debt-free, so your justice requires that you exalt them in me that they may see my glory.” That is the meaning of the ‘therefore.”
That is the boldness that the Christian is given. Do you know the great words of Toplady? Hear him as he pleads his cause with holy Jesus, the Lamb in the midst of the throne:
And will the righteous Judge of men
Condemn me for that debt of sin
Which, Lord, was charged on Thee?
Complete atonement Thou hast made,
And to the utmost Thou hast paid
Whate’er Thy people owed.
How then can wrath on me take place,
If sheltered in Thy righteousness,
And sprinkled with Thy blood?
If Thou hast my discharge procured,
And freely in my room ended
The whole of wrath divine;
Payment God cannot twice demand,
First at my bleeding Surety’s hand,
And then again at mine.” (Augustus Toplady 1740-1778)
Therefore God exalted Christ to the highest place. All that was necessary to be done to save a company of people in number like the sands on the seashore has been done. Christ doesn’t need to become reincarnate again and set out on another pilgrimage to save any more. He that was dead dies no more. He left nothing undone in the sight of God, and none of his people are left with their sins unatoned for, sins past, sins present, and sins future have all been forgiven, every single one of them. All those sinners have been washed. All have been justified. All have been sanctified. All are ready for the inheritance of the saints in light. “Therefore” . . . God exalted him to the highest place. That is the connection between atonement and exaltation.
2. WHAT DOES THE EXALTATION OF CHRIST ENTAIL?
i] Let me clear away some misunderstandings. It does not mean that then, at the moment of the exaltation of Christ, Sovereignty and Kingship were conferred upon him. He was born in Bethlehem the King of the Jews. He showed his sovereignty over the waves, winds, animals, the fish of the deep, demons, men, and death itself throughout his life. “What kind of man is this?” men asked, “that even the winds and seas obey him” (Matt. 8:27). We may not argue, “Well, when he was on the earth he was priest, but now that he is in heaven he is king.” No. He is now an exalted priest, and while on earth he was a humbled king, and even at the lowest point, when he hung in dereliction on the cross he then was reigning from the tree as King of Kings, for example, turning the sun to darkness, raising some of the dead, and causing a great earthquake. You remember the placard that was nailed over his head on the cross, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” The cross was a kingly act of Christ. On the cross he was fighting for us and defending us against all our enemies, spoiling principalities and powers. Christ there destroyed him that had the power of death. Calvary was the throne of the conquering Christ. Our sin was upon his shoulders, yes, but the government of the universe was also upon his shoulders while he hung on Golgotha’s cross. He put to death death itself. “Endless is the victory Thou o’er death hast won.” So the exaltation of Christ does not mean that then God bestowed upon him divine sovereignty.
ii] We must add one other negative, and it is this, that at the moment of exaltation Christ did not become God. If we ask, “When did Christ become God?” then the answer is that Jesus Christ never became God. Jesus Christ was God in the beginning. The exaltation of Christ does not alter or modify the Godhead of Jesus Christ. The exaltation does not change the Godhead of Jesus. The reason is obvious that it is an eternal and immutable Godhead, and it cannot be rendered more divine. You could not add one iota to the majesty of the divinity of Jesus. So God exalting him does not mean God adding one attribute to Jesus. It does not mean God adding one prerogative to Jesus, not one function to Jesus. There was nothing at all added. There was nothing changed in the essential and eternal deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then we must ask in what does the change in the status of Christ consist? (Here I am indebted to Donald Macleod again, who has over many years succeeded n making this passage lucid and doxological for me.) The change which exaltation achieves takes place in the condition of the humanity of Christ.
The low state Christ was in, as to his human nature, was terminated. An end for ever was put to the misery in which it had existed. His body was lying dead in a tomb, and that body was resurrected. He arose, and for 40 days met with his disciples encouraging them and speaking of the kingdom of God. Then he ascended into heaven to be welcomed to the midst of the throne of God, where he began his heavenly ministry. All of these changes affected the humanity of the Lord Jesus. It was a glorification of both our Lord’s body and also his soul.
In what sense was his body glorified? We can go back to the Mount of Transfiguration and we are told that “it became white, whiter than any fuller on earth could whiten it,” and that is the closest analogy to the change in Jesus’ body. The greatest word we have upon the glorification of the body of Jesus is the metamorphosis that took place at that particular moment. You remember that this description is not of a spotlight trained on Jesus from the outside. We are being told of a light shining out from within Jesus, which affects even his clothes making them brilliantly white. He had humbled himself and been found in the appearance of a man. So at infancy he was wrapped in swaddling clothes, and at the end of his life in grave clothes. The first Adam was clothed by God when he became ashamed of his nakedness. Adam’s whole metabolism was changed by the fall and he was embarrassed by his own body. Then God in grace, while driving him out of the garden, also clothed Adam and Eve. The last Adam on the Mount of Transfiguration is a clothed Saviour. He veiled his glory when he came to earth. He laid aside nothing and yet he veiled and eclipsed everything, made in the likeness of sinful flesh and taking the form of a servant. He had a true body and in this world he identifies with us men. He is not a sinner, and not capable of sinning, and so he is certainly not ashamed of his own nakedness. But he comes clothed, and that is part of his identification with sinful men and women, and still in the midst of the throne in heaven the friend of publicans and sinners is clothed, and we too in heaven shall be dressed by God in robes of white.
Later, on the island of Patmos John has a similar view of the exalted Christ. He tells us that he saw “someone ‘like a son of man’ dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance” (Rev. 1:13-16). So there is a staggering change in the appearance of the once crucified and dead Jesus of Nazareth. All that the divine power and the divine aesthetic can do to make the man Christ Jesus the most beautiful being in the universe has been done.
If we ask what takes place in the soul of our Lord then the answer to that is that he has become perfectly blessed, in the full enjoyment of God. He had been the man of sorrows, one acquainted with grief. His heart had broken as he’d seen the city of Jerusalem, the sinfulness and misery of the world. He wept at the grave of Lazarus whom he loved and at the grief of his friends who were Lazarus’s sisters. He looked forward and he saw that ultimate confrontation zooming up to him when to him would be imputed our sin. He would take full responsibility for it, and he would stand under the sword of the utter integrity of Almighty God.
With what a tremendous sense of relief did Jesus cry at the last, “It is finished!” At that moment the burden falls and he can commend his soul to the healing embrace of his Father in heaven. All the humiliation has been consummated and our Lord is then perfectly blessed. There is an end to sorrow, and an end to apprehension, and an end of suffering for the sins of the world. It is all over. That is why he says to his disciples as they are utterly dejected at the information he has given them that he was going to leave them, “If you loved me you would rejoice because I go to the Father.” In other words, “You little understand the anguish I have known, but which I shan’t know for one moment beyond the consummation of my work.”
So our Lord in body and soul has been transfigured and glorified. He was raised out of the humiliation of death. He is exalted above every possibility of pain and weakness, and he is placed as a man with a human soul and spirit, at the right hand of the One who is called ‘the Majesty on High.’ There he sits, we are told. When Caesar the Emperor enters a room let no one remain seated. But our Lord enters the presence of the Ancient of Days, the greatest place in the whole universe, and he sits down in the midst of the throne of God. The great promise that he has made to the church that God himself will wipe away every tear from our eyes he himself has experienced. He hungers no more, neither thirsts any more. The sun shall not smite him by day, nor any heat, and he shall be fed by the fountains of the waters of life. His body is transfigured and his soul is glorified at ‘the right hand of God’. In other words, he has the power of God. The right hand was the one in which kings held their sceptre, and whoever sat on the king’s right was the most powerful and trusted minister in the kingdom. That is the place that now belongs to Christ. That is where his triumph over sin and death has taken him. That is the beginning of his exultation.
There had been a veil hiding his divinity, a veil of humiliation. He had been made in the likeness of sinful flesh and that had covered his glory; the climax of that covering was in the accursed death of the cross. But now that whole veil was stripped away. “The King there in his beauty without a veil is seen.” That was his exaltation. He is declared the Son of God with power by the Spirit of holiness in his resurrection from the dead. In his state of humiliation you had the whole contradiction. Here was God the Son, existing in the form of God, and the glory of God, with the names and titles and attributes of God. But all that seemed to be denied by the low condition. It didn’t square, God in a manger, God in a wedding, God exhausted and asleep in a boat in a storm, God in bloody anguish in a garden, God being whipped, God on the cross, God dead in a tomb. It didn’t square. That was such an effective incognito, a veiling and covering of the splendour which the Creator of the universe must have. His condition was a contradiction of his status.
But now that Christ is exalted that contradiction is for ever gone. He is where he deserves to be. He is seated at the right hand of the majesty on high. He is again experiencing the glory which he had with the Father before the world was. He is still the Lamb of God, yes, but he is now in the midst of the throne. That is where you look for God today, not on a crucifix but highly exalted. The veil has been torn away for ever.
Do you see the application of that to ourselves? John says, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God.” Then he says, “what we will be has not yet been made known” (I Jn. 3:2). There is a veil over us too. Men and women don’t nudge one another when we walk down the street and whisper respectfully, “There goes a child of God.” In fact these children of God are passing through every kind of humiliation, and all kinds of suffering, pain and shame. They are burnt at the stake and tortured. They die slowly of wasting diseases. They groan with the whole creation longing for the manifestation of the sons of God. They sing, “Oh that will be glory for me. When by his grace I shall look on his face.” When they see him they shall be like him for they shall see him as he is. Then their condition will accord with their state. Then they shall be with Christ in the glory that is his. That is his own determinate purpose: “that where I am these may also be.” That is the meaning of God’s high exaltation of the Lord Jesus. He is hyper-exalted, super-exalted. I don’t accept for a moment that that means that he was raised to an eminence higher than his pre-existent glory, but in his human nature he is more than exalted because that human nature of the incarnate Lord is placed in the midst of the throne at the right hand of the majesty on high.
2. HOW GOD HONOURS HIS EXALTED SON.
Then Paul proceeds to tell us in our text three things God did to his blessed Son:
i] God made Jesus the possessor of the supreme name.
God “gave him the name that is above every name” (v.9) In other words, God gave him that reputation that was commensurate with who and what he is. Men had called him Beelzebub. They said he was a friend of publicans and sinners. They said he couldn’t save himself. They pronounced him a criminal and they sentenced him to die on a cross. That was the name he had on earth. But God was at times perforating his life with that voice from heaven, scorning the fools, and saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,” and at his exaltation God gave him the most exalted of all names.
In the Bible a name usually has a double significance: “On the one hand, it is a public designation, that is, a name in the same sense that each of us is given a name. It is something by which others know us. But the Bible, on the other hand, very frequently insists that a man’s name has a much more personal significance also: that it describes the character or nature of the person who bears the name. God’s first response, then, was to bestow on his Son a public designation which exactly matched his personal nature and character” (J.A.Motyer, “The Richness of Christ,” Inter-Varsity Fellowship, London, 1966, p.83).
A number of names had already been bestowed upon Jesus. He had been called the Messiah, the Christ, that is, the anointed one of God. He was the long promised deliverer. He had been also called the Son of Man, and that name doesn’t mean ‘a pre-eminent man”. That figure which the prophet Daniel first sees which is identified to him as “one like a son of man” comes in the clouds of heaven and has authority, glory and sovereign power. Jesus was also called the Son of God and that name certainly points to his divinity. “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he is in God” (I Jn. 4:15). So Jesus has already been given those names, but Paul is referring here to a new act of God not merely the authentication of some already existing names. So what is the name that God gave him at his exaltation that is above every name? It must be the name ‘Jehovah’, the personal name of God Himself.
Three reasons have been given to support this. Firstly that no other name but the name of ‘Jehovah’ has a right to be called “the name that is above every name.” Secondly, look at the context, how the words flow on to the universal confession that “Jesus Christ is Lord” (v.11), that is ‘Jehovah’ Jesus. Many had confessed that he was the Christ the Son of the living God while he was on earth but here is an additional ascription to all the earlier names: Jesus the Christ, Son of Man and Son of God is also Jehovah. Thirdly, Paul quotes from Isaiah 45:23 in verse ten. In that Old Testament prophecy Jehovah is speaking and declaring himself to be the only God and the only Saviour and that he will be the one Object of universal worship and adoration. This honour, Paul tells us, is now focused on Jesus. He was always Jehovah, but now the veil of humanity and suffering has been stripped away. See him as very Jehovah of very Jehovah. That is his name now, not given to him by his disciples or even by angels. God has given him his own identical name. Jehovah the Father and Jehovah the Son and Jehovah the Spirit. The only living and true God.
“Behold Him there! The bleeding Lamb,
My perfect spotless Righteousness.
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace.” (Charitie Bancroft, 1841-86).
So Jesus is the possessor of a supreme name.
ii] God Appointed Jesus the Object of Universal Worship.
“That at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (v.10). Whenever he is thought of or spoken about or witnessed to, then every knee must bow. When the angels sing of him (and they sing of him all the time), then they are a kneeling choir. When the devils in the pit speak of him with the purest hatred then they find themselves pressed low down under the earth in their frustration against him. When we believing sinners speak of him we do so with the utmost reverence and godly fear. Every knee bow! It doesn’t matter what is the context, our whole posture at the thought of him is bowing and kneeling. That is the only adequate relation to such a Lord as this: every knee bow.
Listen to Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s words on this: “Every knee should bow at the name of Jesus, because he is Lord, he is God. And that is the tremendous and startling statement which the Apostle here makes with respect to this Person. And that, of course, is the thing of which we remind ourselves now. We can look at it in the form of a question. What is Jesus Christ to us? Where does he come into our scheme of things? What do we believe concerning him? Have we bowed the knee to him, have we surrendered to him, do we make this confession concerning him? Do we say that Jesus of Nazareth, that man who walked about the face of this earth, is Lord, the anointed of God, the one who was set apart to bear the sins of man, including our own? Do we say that it is there alone, in that death, that we find salvation and all that it means, and by which we are reconciled to God? Do we confess that to us he is God and that we worship him to the glory of God the Father? That is the confession.
“Am I returning to this too frequently? I wonder if that is possible! My plea is that I find it everywhere in the New Testament and that there has surely never been a greater need of this re-emphasis than there is at the present time. How easy it is to turn the New Testament into a philosophy or a set of rules and regulations and a scheme for life and living, a general outlook. No, the central point everywhere, the whole emphasis here, is that it is my personal relationship to him that matters. I do not accept the Christian philosophy primarily; I accept him. I believe on him, I bow my knee to him, the Person. I make a statement about the individual: Jesus Christ is Lord, he is my Lord; it is a personal relationship, and a personal confession. And that is the primary thing in the whole Christian position – our relationship to him. There is no true knowledge of God apart from him, and to know him is to know God. Jesus said, ‘He that hath seen me hath seen the Father’ (John 14:9) – that is it. The centrality of Christ (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “The Life of Joy,” Hodder, London, 1989, pp. 153&154). So Jesus is also the object of universal worship.
iii] God Designated Jesus as the Sole Glory of the Father.
“And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (v.11). When he came into the world Jesus did not grasp at equality with God and refuse to let his reputation go. He allowed himself to live unknown in the world which he had designed and which his own hands had made. And in this world he was surrounded by people who were living and moving and having their being in him. The glory was hidden, but it is not hidden in heaven now. They are bowing before him. Nor is that glory hidden on earth in the church.
“At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow
Every tongue confess Him, King of glory now.” (Caroline Noel, 1817-1877)
That is our praise. Every Christian has a confession and we hold fast to it. What is the confession? It is not a testimony to our own experience. We may have a story to tell of God’s dealings with us, but that is not the confession we make with our tongues. It is this, that we have a great High Priest at the right hand of God, that his name is Jesus Christ, and he is Jehovah. That is our confession. That’s what we won’t let go. We honour him, and Paul says that that gives glory to the Father. When you legitimately glorify the Son, the Father is not offended; the Father is not jealous. When our knees bow to Jesus and our tongues confess that he is Lord then the Father is not deprived rather it is the Father who is glorified, the one God, Jehovah.
That was Christ’s great High Priestly Prayer in John 17 in which he said, “Father, glorify thy Son, that thy Son may also glorify Thee.” You see the marvel of that? Our Lord is given this tremendous exaltation to the highest place in the heaven of heavens. He is given the name above every name. Every knee bows at the mention of his name, and every tongue confesses the Jesus is Jehovah, and what is the response in Jesus? To what use does he put all this? It is all to the glory of God the Father – “that thy Son may also glorify Thee.” That is the acme of consecration. That is the apex of self-surrender. When our Lord walked this earth in humiliation he delighted to do God’s will. Now that he is exalted to the glory that his Godhead entitles his concern is still to glorify God the Father.
I wonder about ourselves, with all our abilities, and gifts, and opportunities, and experiences – all these things – are we sustained by that kind of motivation? Can you answerur heart when I ask you what is your chief end, “My chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever.” Are we sustained by motivation of that kind? That is what it means, that we take our all, and we consecrate it to him, all that we have and are and all that we owe God and our fellow men. We give Thee back the life we owe. We live to glorify God. So we face a future with fading health and the death of our loved ones, but there is a point to it all – “that I may glorify him in sickness and in health.”
This endeavour never ends; when we get beyond this world and enter the glories of heaven, when we see him as he is, when we have bent down and quenched our thirst at the fountain of the waters of life, how shall we spend our eternity? In no other way than this, “Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” It is part of our confession that glory is not the end of the endeavour. Seeing the glory of Christ is not the finish of the enterprise. Enjoying the glory of God is not the end of labouring for the Lord. We shall cease from the sweat of our brows. All that was anguish, and torment and burden will be over. We shall stop all of that, but not our works. They will not end. That whole attitude of living for the glory of God will follow us for ever, and we will live in the adoration and love and praise and consecration and surrender to God for ever. What every Chrstian wants in this life – to serve my Lord and to serve my brothers and sisters – that immense privilege – is what we shall do for ever and ever.
So what is the name of the one who occupies the highest place in heaven and earth now? Jesus Christ the Son of God. Who has the name that is above every name now? Jesus Christ the Son of God. At whose name will every knee bow? Jesus Christ the Son of God. Whose name will every tongue confess? Jesus Christ the Son of God. You look on this world with all its sadness and torments. Behind every door in this town is a story of frustration and disappointment and pain. And the question the world asks us is whether the universe has a Lord anywhere? Is there anyone, anywhere in charge, who will have the final say, who will expose the abductor and the murderer of a teenage girl? Is there anyone who can save this world from the judgment and disaster? Is there anyone who has the whole world in his hands? Has this world a purpose? Has it any direction? Does this world have any coherence? And the Bible says ‘Yes!’
We are living in a world of despair. Men without God are men without hope. People feel they are walking so close to the brink of anarchy, and our message to them is that Jesus Christ is. He is a living Saviour and mighty Lord. He is not the one he used to be or one who was. He is alive for evermore. There are those marvellous words in Mark’s gospel, spoken to those who came to the tomb: “He is not here. He is risen. Look at the place where they laid his body. He’s not there.” And that is where we stand. This world has meaning because Jesus Christ is in charge of it. My life with its griefs and burdens has a purpose because it is a life lived in Christ. God will gather together all things in him. Does this world have a King? Yes, and he is the Lamb of God, and he is in the midst of the throne, right there, are the right hand of the majesty on high.
But let us we warned too. Let us pay heed. Do we see Aberystwyth bowing before King Jesus today? I must let Dr Lloyd-Jones speak again: “Christ is now in the place at which every knee should bow and every tongue should confess, but, alas, that is not being done. There are men who, in their foolishness, stand arrogantly in defiance of him. They laugh and ridicule him; they refuse to bow the knee; they will not confess with the lip and the tongue that Jesus Christ is Lord. They deny him, yes, but it says in the New Testament that he who has been exalted will appear, not in the form of a servant this time, not in the likeness of man, not in the fashion of a man. He will come on the clouds as King of kings, and Lord of lords. He will come attended by the heavenly hosts and will finally rout his every enemy. At that time every knee shall bow to him, while those who pierced him will see him, and the sight of him in glory, and the sight of his holiness, will subdue them, and he will consign them to their punishment. Then reluctantly and with shame, but nevertheless with awe, they will have to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord; that the lowly, despised Jesus was none other than the Son of God! The death on the cross at which they laughed, and which they regarded as a sign of weakness, was the work of the Messiah, the anointed one who has removed the guilt of sin from those who believe on him! They will have to confess that he is the eternal Son of God. He is there in the position of authority and power. He has already had his victory, and he will finally manifest himself beyond any doubt or question in the sight of the whole world. Then you see where Paul’s imagery comes in; things in heaven, things in earth, things under the earth, angels, spirits, fallen beings, all, everywhere, throughout the entire universe will acknowledge him. Read right through the book of Revelation, and especially the fourth and fifth chapters, and you will see that everything will have been subjugated and he will be confessed as the God he is” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “The Life of Joy”, Hodder, London, 1989, pp. 157&158).
In all the pessimism, chaos and despair of our day what peace for us to know that there is a sovereign in control, and to know more, that that sovereignty is upon the shoulders of Jesus, not upon the shoulders of a ‘force’, or fate, or some unidentifiable power, or evolutionary survival of the fittest, but that the sovereignty is in the heart of Jesus Christ the Son of God. And with his authority he gives eternal life to men and women. That is why he became incarnate, to give redemption. That is why he lived and taught, to give redemption. That is why he died, to give redemption. Now that he lives at the right hand of God it is to give redemption. And now that he reigns it is to give redemption. And now that he can move heaven and earth it is to give redemption for the sinner’s salvation.
What is exalted to the highest place? It is grace. What has the name above every name? Grace. What is in the midst of the throne? It is grace, and it is the greatest force in the universe of God. That grace is enfleshed in the Son of the God of grace. This Jesus is determined to build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. He is determined to give eternal life. All that the Father gives him will come to him, and he that comes Christ will in no way cast out. He will be our God and Saviour, not the poor weak one hanging on crucifixes everywhere, but the mighty one who is in the midst of the throne. I say the greatest force in the world today is Jesus’ determination to save. He has made up his mind. He has pledged all his divinity to that end.
Aren’t we followers of his a wonderfully blessed people. Aren’t we complete in him? Isn’t this where we are found today, in him? Are we not joined to him and seated in him in the heavenlies? Don’t we stand in all the fulness that is in him? I say to you, surely you are complete! Certainly there is no condemnation whatsoever, not even for that one dreadful sin. We are all tense and concerned about ourselves but we are not tense and concerned in him. We know him. We know today where he is and what he is doing. We know that his sacrifice and his ministry now from the throne is totally and entirely adequate for our justification, and our sanctification and our glorification. Because he has the highest place and the greatest name of all.
13th October 2002 GEOFF THOMAS