that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth
Humility. The book of Philippians is known for a great many verses, especially in chapter 4, where many short but impactful verses would certainly rank amongst the favourites of a great number of Christians over the generations. In chapter 2, however, Paul implored the Philippians to practise humility – to imitate the humility of Christ, Jesus Christ, to whom we are to revere. Jesus is worthy of being worshiped by every being in heaven, on earth and under; and yet, such a man was immensely humble himself. His humility was expressed at his willingness to lower down himself, to become flesh, to suffer in our stead, and to die for those whom did not deserve it, whether they appreciated it or not. We have no such opportunity – or need – to express our humility in such epic proportions. Our greatest act of humility is, perhaps as simple as it sounds – the bowing of our knees. In this study, we will examine how the extent of the greatness of Christ is such that every single being on earth ought to express our greatest humility to him and submit to him in reverence and worship.
in heaven and on earth and under the earth – and that’s basically, everywhere – not just horizontally so, but also vertically so. If the Bible just said everywhere, we would have merely thought of all the creatures on the earth, since it is not natural for us to see things of the spiritual realm. What are the beings in heaven? Spiritual beings, generally understood as angels in our lingo. Beings under the earth? Either the spiritual beings – the evil spirits or devil in the abyss, or the dead in the grave. They too will confess that Jesus is Lord, compelled to acknowledge him and submit to his universal will. Beings on earth? Most prominently, human beings, but some would include all the living creatures too, even if majority of them do not have knees and have no obvious methods of being able to worship the Lord. Yet, so great is Jesus our Lord that even those who seemingly cannot worship him will worship him; even those who seemingly never would worship him will come to worship him, and every being – horizontally or vertically will worship him. The sheer extent of the magnitude of this verse is necessary for the reverence that our Lord deserves.
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow – Jesus is not an uncommon name amongst the Jews. It is the Greek version of the name Joshua, which is a rather popular name, and even the Joshua in the Bible was called Jesus once, in Hebrews 4:8. Not many versions kept it as Jesus, since it was obvious that it was referring to Joshua, but check out some older versions like the KJV – For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. I’ve personally never come across anyone called ‘Jesus’, but I’m sure there are many, and if we take this verse literally, are we supposed to kneel and bow at them? Or, are we supposed to kneel in reverence every time somebody says ‘Jesus’? That might mean we have to kneel several times a day, especially on Sundays. The name alone has no power – we’re not to worship the name, but to worship the One who has that name in the Bible. It is not because of the name that Jesus is worshiped but it is because of Jesus that the name is celebrated. And when we pray in His name, because’s it’s him, there is power – not because of the name itself. This concept is not hard to understand, but what about the kneeling?
every knee should bow – which basically means, every being should revere the Lord, whether you have a knee or not. I’m not much of a kneeling person, being brought up in a church with no kneeling culture. In my society we don’t kneel or even bow a tenth the times that the Japanese or the Koreans do. Some years ago a Korean pastor joined my church, and he delivered a message during a small, 30 person prayer meeting while kneeling for 45 minutes, I remember being impressed, but at the same time very distracted – as he spoke, I kept thinking “when is he going to stop kneeling?” I’ve no excuse for myself – but it was a culture shock. Kneeling is, in most cultures at least, the highest form of reverence that one can express to another. It is a humbling act, an act that recognizes the other as greater, as superior, as worthy of being submitted to.
Whether you kneel or not, whether you stop for a moment to revere Jesus or not every time you hear his name, I think that’s not the point of this verse. When Paul spoke to the Philippians – in your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! [Phil 2:5-8] – to have the same mindset as Christ, it is the mindset of humility. We’re never too good for anything.
And we’re certainly not too good to kneel down before Christ.