We have been served well by six brands of car. Last year when we were looking for a new car I asked our mechanic at Forrest Beach his opinion of cars these days. He mentioned his  preference and then said, “Really, there’s not a lot to pick between them!”

I think that’s how many folk sum up all the available religious gurus. People may have their favourites, but “really, there’s not a lot to pick between them!”

So some may take offence at the claims we have been talking about over the past two weeks. Jesus claimed that there is only one way to come to the Father and he is that Way. Peter asserted that the name of Jesus is the only name by which salvation is possible for anyone. Because of this we insist that the distinctive of true prayer is that it is “in the name of Jesus”, whether that phrase is used or not. That’s not just a personal preference – some quirky Christian “thing”. If there is no other way to access God, no other approach is true prayer at all.


In Philippians 2 Paul notes a number of commendable things he observes among the Philippian believers. He wasn’t confronting the threat of false teaching as he had in Galatians and Colossians, nor the excesses and divisions that existed among the Corinthians. This letter is marked by warmth and encouragement. Our Christian life centres on Christ, and it is important that we humble ourselves, that we consciously allow Jesus Christ to be the Lord of our lives – Jesus who has given us the supreme example of humility.

Verses 6 to 11 may have been an early Christian confession or hymn. It begins with Jesus’ glory and ends with his glory and in-between gives the picture of his self-humiliation.

Christ Jesus “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped” (v. 6). “Being in the form of God” as the King James put it – these words point clearly to the eternal pre-existent nature of Christ Jesus. He was always part of the Godhead.

“Thought it not robbery to be equal with God” in King James – the Greek word refers to an act of seizure or grasping, which is why the King James has “robbery”. He didn’t hang on to all the prerogatives that were part of his essential being. Instead, he “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (v. 7).

How would you tell which is Jesus in a crowd? Look for a glow of light around his head? No, the halo was added by Christian artists somewhere in the fourth century. However, there was no external “thing” that distinguished Jesus from other men.

The “very nature” of God... the “very nature” of a servant... – the same Greek word is used. “In human likeness” doesn’t mean that Jesus only looked like a man. He was in every way a man. And so, as we read in Hebrews 4.15, he was “tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin”.

Humbled and Obedient

Not only did he empty himself and become a man, but, “being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (v. 8). The word used doesn’t mean that he obeyed death, but that he was obedient “right up to the point of” death.

Think of Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 5.39). Or Peter, speaking to the crowd on the day of Pentecost, “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2.23). The prophetic words about the suffering Servant in Isaiah 53.10, “Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand”.

The crucifixion of Jesus was the most dastardly human act, the biggest miscarriage of human justice, the most deliberate rejection of God, the most unforgivable human sin... It was all of that, but that wasn’t all of what was happening. Remarkably, we hear Jesus on the cross saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23.34). Peter, speaking to the crowd that gathered after the healing of the cripple, “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders” (Acts 3.17). It didn’t look like ignorance. It looked like full-blooded, calculated rejection. Yet God was fulfilling his will for the salvation of all humankind – sinners all!


“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name...” (v. 9).

Christ Jesus had “emptied himself” – “made himself nothing”. He had laid aside his heavenly glory and prerogatives. He had “humbled himself” – obedient right up to his death on the cross. Now we have his exaltation. Paul doesn’t give a time-frame, but possibly at his ascension – forty days after the resurrection – risen, ascended and glorified.

“God exalted him to the highest place” – super-exalted him! He couldn’t be more exalted. Only God has the right to exalt him to the highest place. And that “highest place” includes all that he forewent in his self-emptying and self-humiliation. The Son of God had cried in desolation on the cross, “ My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27.46, from Psalm 22.1) and was now restored to fellowship, dignity and honour alongside the Father.

But of course there’s more to it! “It is finished!” (John 19.30) wasn’t admission of defeat, but an affirmation of “mission accomplished”. The Greek word translated “It is finished!” (tetelestai) was written on business documents or receipts in New Testament times to indicate that a bill had been paid in full. Something has come to an end, has been completed and accomplished in full.

To expand the quote from Hebrews 4 – “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin” (vv. 14-15). So the “name above every name” (Philippians 2.9) is clearly the name of Jesus – who always had the very nature of God, made himself nothing, took the very nature of humanity, humbled himself, was obedient to the point of death on a cross, now exalted to the highest place...

“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” (vv. 10-11). Strikingly, these verses take up words directly from the Greek translation (LXX) of Isaiah 45.23 where God says, “To me every knee will bow and every tongue will confess to God”. That’s Yahweh speaking (LORD in four capitals). By New Testament times the divine name was no longer pronounced for fear of taking it in vain. They substituted the name Adonai, Lord. Written Hebrew was all consonants. A number of centuries AD, a group of scholars called the Massoretes devised a system of little symbols above and below the letters to indicate the vowels. Every time four letters for Yahweh appear in the text they added the vowels for Adonai – to remind them to say Adonai when they came to it in the text. If you try to pronounce this combination, it makes a very un-Hebrew word “Jehovah”. The incredible thing that is happening in Philippians 2 is that words applied in the Old Testament to Yahweh (Jehovah God) are applied to Jesus. “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14.6). As Peter said, “ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4.12). It is on that basis that Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name... Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16.23-24).

Human history is littered with the names of many people – religious leaders, generals, kings, emperors, philosophers, scientists... Some of them have graves that attract tourists, admirers, followers... Some are still alive with ambitious plans to rule the world – or perhaps even to save it.

Ultimately, there is only one who is truly and rightfully Lord – Jesus!  – designated, not by ballot or opinion poll, but by God himself with the name that is far above every other human name.

I can’t remember what was on the news or who was on the horizon at the time in 1992, but I was driving from Buderim to Brisbane. I began singing these words over and over –

Jesus is Lord! Jesus is Lord!

Ev’ry knee shall bow,

ev’ry tongue confess

that Jesus Christ is Lord!

That’s it! Amid all the competing claims for our allegiance, there is only one true Saviour. No human action is going to “save the planet”. The root problem has nothing to do with global warming, cooling, climate change or whatever. It has to do with a human race that is out of relationship with our Maker. It has to do with human sin and our need for forgiveness and restoration.

Amid all the competing claims for our allegiance, there is only one true Lord – only one who is worthy of that title.

In the simple words of the song we sang with the children, is he “the Lord of me”? If so, then live it out and spread the word!

© Peter J Blackburn, 23 October 2011, Edmonton Uniting Church
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © International Bible Society, 1984.

Name Above Every Name

Reading: Philippians 2.1-11

© Peter J Blackburn, 23 October 2011, Edmonton Uniting Church

Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © International Bible Society, 1984.