A Series of Answers to Common Questions

Sam Shamoun


Paul says in Philippians 2:9 that Jesus was given the name Lord at his exaltation, which means that he wasn’t the Lord before that moment in time. If Christ becomes Lord at some point then wouldn’t this prove that Jesus isn’t God?


This objection is similar to the one made in regard to Acts 2:36. To understand Paul’s point it is vital that we quote the entire text:

"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though being in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess the Lord Jesus Christ to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:5-11

Paul, by inspiration, states that Jesus exists in God’s form, which is just another way of saying that Jesus is God in nature, that he voluntarily humbled himself in order to become a man, at which time he also became a slave. Christ did this, Paul says, in order to obey God’s will that he should die on the cross. In response to this voluntary act of humiliation God the Father then exalted Christ to the highest position and bestowed on him the highest of all names, which in this context refers to the name Lord or Yahweh. We know that Paul is referring to God’s covenant name because he applies an OT text regarding every knee bowing before Yahweh to Jesus:

"Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.’" Isaiah 45:22-23

Yahweh swears that all will bow the knee to him, whereas Paul says that all will bow their knee to the Lord Jesus!

This isn’t the only place where Paul wrote that Christ was exalted to the highest level and realm of authority, nor was he the only inspired writer that made this claim:

"and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come; and he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all." Ephesians 1:19-23

"Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him." 1 Peter 3:21-22

These texts demonstrate that Christ didn't seek to exalt himself after completing the mission he was sent to do, but humbly waited to be exalted by his Father. After all, the Lord was perfectly doing what he told his disciples to do so that they could experience the following blessing:

"The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." Matthew 23:11-12

In light of the foregoing we can now understand the point Paul was making. While on earth Jesus set aside his Divine authority by assuming the role of a slave. Upon completion of his earthly mission Jesus was exalted to the position he enjoyed before he came to the earth. Therefore, God giving Jesus the name above all names refers to authority, that Christ was given the highest authority belonging to Yahweh alone. Christ went from being a slave who had set aside his authority to being the exalted Lord who holds supreme sovereignty over all creation!

Putting it in another way, the name Lord here isn’t referring to Christ’s nature, that Christ was granted a Divine nature or attributes which he did not already have. We know that this isn’t Paul’s meaning since he has already told us that Christ has the very nature of God. Rather, Paul’s point is that Christ received the authority that belongs to One who is Lord by nature, or Yahweh, because Christ is by nature very Lord.

That the word "name" often refers to a person’s authority is easily proven from the following examples:

"Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin; but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.’" 1 Samuel 17:45

David fought Goliath in the name of Yahweh, meaning by the authority and power which Yahweh gave him.

"The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us IN YOUR NAME!’ … ‘Behold, I HAVE GIVEN YOU AUTHORITY to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you.’" Luke 10:17, 19

"And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’" Acts 2:38

"But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST OF NAZARETH, walk.’ And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and walked and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God… ‘And HIS NAME, by faith IN HIS NAME, has made this man strong whom you see and know; and the faith which is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all. Acts 3:6-9, 16

The disciples cast out demons, perform miracles and baptize in Jesus’ name, which clearly refers to the authority Christ had granted them in order to do all these things.

Thus, Christ receiving the name refers to his being given authority, in fact his very own authority which he had set aside when he became a slave. In light all of these factors this is how we would paraphrase Philippians 2:9-11:

"Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the authority which is above every authority, which is the authority of Yahweh since Jesus is Yahweh. Thus, because Jesus is Yahweh and exercises the authority belonging to Yahweh, every knee must bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Yahweh to the glory of God the Father."

To summarize our analysis of Philippians 2, we learned that:

  1. Jesus exists in the very nature of God.
  2. Jesus humbled himself and became a slave when he took on human nature.
  3. By becoming a slave Jesus emptied himself of his Divine authority without ceasing to be God in essence.
  4. Jesus’ purpose in humbling himself was to obey the will of God the Father, which included dying on the cross.
  5. After perfectly accomplishing his mission, God rewarded Christ by exalting him and bestowing on him a name above all names.
  6. Name in this context refers to the authority Christ was given, that Jesus has the very authority of Yahweh God himself.
  7. This is not an authority which Christ didn’t initially have prior to receiving it, but one which he regained since as God he would have had this Divine authority already.
  8. Hence, Christ’s exaltation included his regaining his Divine authority which he had set aside.
  9. This results in Christ receiving the worship of all creation, that all creation must confess Jesus as Yahweh to the glory of God the Father.

For more on the meaning of Philippians 2:6-7 that Jesus is in the form of God who then emptied himself, please read the following article: http://answering-islam.org/Shamoun/q_kenosis.htm

There are some scholars and commentators that are of the opinion that the name which God gave Christ is actually Jesus, not Lord. One such individual was the late NT Greek scholar A.T. Robertson:

Wherefore (dio). Because of which act of voluntary and supreme humility. Highly exalted (uperupswse). First aorist indicative of uperupsow (uper and upsoß) late and rare word (LXX and Byzantine). Here only in N.T. Because of Christ's voluntary humiliation God lifted him above or beyond (uper) the state of glory which he enjoyed before the Incarnation. What glory did Christ have after the Ascension that he did not have before in heaven? What did he take back to heaven that he did not bring? Clearly his humanity. He returned to heaven the Son of Man as well as the Son of God. The name which is above every name (to onoma to uper pan onoma). What name is that? Apparently and naturally the name Jesus, which is given in verse Hebrews 10. Some think it is "Jesus Christ," some "Lord," some the ineffable name Jehovah, some merely dignity and honour. (Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament; source)

What this interpretation implies is that even though Christ was given the name Jesus at his birth:

"But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel’ (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus." Matthew 1:20-25

"And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.’" Luke 1:30-33

"And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb." Luke 2:21

God had already anticipated and determined that he would exalt this name above all other names after Christ’s resurrection and ascension.

In fact, this interpretation lends further support to our exegesis. Much like Christ was already called Jesus even before his exaltation, in a similar manner he was already the Lord long before his ascension:

"And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy.’" Luke 1:41-44

And the angel said to them, ‘Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’" Luke 2:10-11

"You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, FOR SO I AM. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet." John 13:13-14

Furthermore, this interpretation would also imply that God has made the name Jesus equivalent to the name Yahweh. In other words, the name Jesus (which in Hebrew is Yashua or "Yahweh Saves") is to be revered and honored in the same exact manner that God’s Covenant name Yahweh is revered and honored. This makes sense in light of the fact that the name Jesus was given specifically to reveal the nature and function of Christ. The name signifies that Christ is Yahweh God who came to the earth as a man in order to redeem his people from their sins. Thus, by calling him Jesus one is simply acknowledging the fact that Christ is Yahweh who has come to save!

A Series of Answers to Common Questions
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