The Name which is Above Every Name

(Some MSS. read "the" instead of "a" name; and the Revised Version has adopted it.)

Sometimes the question is raised as to what this name is; but whether it be the name of Jesus - as seems probable, if the amended reading be adopted - or not, its significance is very apparent. A passage from the epistle to the Ephesians will explain this. In connection with the display of the exceeding greatness of God's power "to usward who believe, according to … His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead," the apostle proceeds, "and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come." (Chap. 1:19-21.) Here the meaning evidently is that, whatever the exaltation or dignity of any of the heavenly hierarchies or intelligences, Christ as the glorified Man has been set above them all. Among the vast number of celestial beings He is absolutely supreme. The rendering "far above" may not be exactly justified by the word used; but we cannot doubt that our translators seized its spirit in seeking to express that there was no second to the glorified Christ, that His exaltation is so unspeakable that all the highest gradations of angelic existences are far beneath His feet. Similarly in Philippians "the name which is above every name" will betoken the absolute supremacy in the whole universe of the glorified Christ as Lord. Nothing short of this will satisfy the terms of this scripture.

This will be more readily understood if we consider the place and connection in which these words are found. In a sense the passage from v. 5 to v. 11 is complete in itself. It grows out from previous exhortations; and herein is the marvel that all this blessed unfolding of the Person, of the character of the incarnation of Christ, His humiliation and consequent exaltation, should be given to enforce the apostle's exhortation that the mind "which was also in Christ Jesus," seen in His coming "from Godhead's fullest glory, down to Calvary's depth of woe," should be before believers as their example! Let us then ponder upon it, for the more it is considered the more deeply will it impress itself upon our souls. In a past eternity He, who has been down here as the humbled One, was - subsisted - in the forth of God. Such a statement, however far beyond the utmost range of all our thoughts, cannot signify less than His absolute and essential Deity. It speaks of His eternal existence as God, even as John says of the Word, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." On this blessed truth hangs the whole truth of revelation and redemption. To surrender it would be to lose the sun from the solar system, and thus to bring in darkness, chaos, and destruction. On this very account controversy has raged in all ages around the Person of Christ. Now His humanity, and now His Deity has been obscured if not denied. Faith meets all the arguments of man by the simple statements of the Word of God.

If, however, the Deity of our blessed Lord is here introduced, it is but to magnify His grace and self-humiliation; for the assertion of it is followed immediately by words of transcendent importance. First, He "thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but," secondly, "made Himself of no reputation," or, more literally and exactly, "emptied Himself." The first clause will mean that although He subsisted in the form of God, He did not use it for self-exaltation, "did not," as one has translated it, "esteem it an object of rapine to be on an equality with God." It is, doubtless, a contrast to Adam, who fell into Satan's snare of seeking to exalt himself, to be "as gods, knowing good and evil." Adam being a man sought to exalt himself; Christ being God humbled Himself. How blessed the contrast! This was the mind which was in Christ Jesus; and the next clause - "but emptied Himself" - contains the first expression of that mind. It must be with unshodden feet (for the place is holy) that such a statement must be approached. Of what, then, did He who subsisted in the form of God empty Himself? It has been lately written that He emptied Himself of "divine prerogatives"; others have taught that the "emptying" included His divine attributes. Far be the thought! To admit it is certainly to becloud the essential truth of His deity, and to open the door to rationalism in its worst forms. For what are attributes? They are the characteristics of Deity, so that to empty Himself of the former is to lay aside the latter. No! a thousand times, no! As another has said, "The essential being of Godhead cannot change. His emptying Himself applied to the form."

The next sentences will make this plain, describing as they do the process and the effect of the emptying: He "took upon Him the form of a servant and was made (rather, 'became' - it was His own voluntary, and, indeed, divine act) in the likeness of men." It was as God He emptied Himself, and now these words present Him to us after He had done so; for we see Him in the likeness of men, and in form as a "bondsman." This includes the whole truth of the incarnation, and through it we are enabled to form some estimate, however inadequate, of the immensity of the descent from "the form of God "to the "form of a servant." None but God was equal to such condescension and grace, for it was really the exhibition of divine love in the midst of sinners, and none but God could have made such a stoop, for man is limited to his own form and mode of existence. In the fact of the incarnation, therefore, we behold one of the glorious mysteries of redemption. And while unable to grasp its full and far-reaching significance, we yet learn that the lower Christ went down, the more brightly the effulgence of His divine glory shone forth! For God is light and God is love; and where do we behold this? Surely in Him who took upon Him the bondsman's form. In every step of His pathway, in His words of grace and truth, in His works of power and mercy, light and love in all their perfection may be perceived by the opened eye; and the divinely-instructed heart is constrained to exclaim, Lo! God is there.

As God, it has already been said, He emptied Himself, and now we learn that as man He humbled Himself. Indeed, the whole life of our blessed Lord as man is compressed into the words, "He humbled Himself"; for it is not, as in our translation, and became obedient unto death, but becoming so, that is in humbling Himself: and then, to bring out the full character of the humiliation, it is added, "even the death of the cross." It was a low place indeed He took when He assumed a bondsman's form; but how much lower when, "being found in fashion as a man," He went down to the shameful death of the cross! And let us again remind ourselves in our meditations, while we wonder and adore in the presence of such infinite condescension, that Christ is here presented as our example. The question may well be asked, in the beautiful language of another, "Are not our affections occupied and assimilated in dwelling with delight on what Jesus was here below? We admire, are humbled, and become conformed to Him through grace. Head and source of this life in us, the display of its perfection in Him draws forth and develops its energies and lowliness in us. For who could be proud in fellowship with the humble Jesus? Humble, He would teach us to take the lowest place, but that He has taken it Himself, the privilege of His perfect grace. Blessed Master, may we at least be near to and hidden in Thee."

Such is the wondrous foundation on which the present exaltation of Christ is based. That there is a direct connection between the two is seen from the word "wherefore," which also expresses to us the estimate of God's heart of the self-humbling of Christ. Many grounds of the glory of Christ are given in Scripture. His worthiness, for example, is celebrated in Revelation 5, in virtue of the redemption which He had secured through His death, and through the efficacy of His blood. He Himself claims to be glorified in John 17 because He had glorified the Father on the earth, and had finished the work which had been given Him to do. Here it is quite another aspect. It is God Himself stepping in, in the joy of His heart, in His delight in the One who had so humbled Himself, and raising Him to those heights of glory which He now occupies; and the act proclaims aloud throughout the whole universe that no other position would have been commensurate with His deserts, that He who went down the lowest of all must have the highest place. Morally it is the exemplification of the principle, in all its perfection, which the Lord Himself enunciated - "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted." It may then be said that His being highly exalted was but His meed and crown. The apostle in his epistle to the Ephesians touches upon another side of this great subject. There he tells us that He who descended into the lower parts of the earth is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things. (Chap. 4:9-10.) While we may not be able to fathom this profound language, it cannot mean less than that, in virtue of the humiliation of Christ, and of the work He thereby effected for the accomplishment of the counsels of God, He will eventually flood the whole universe with His own redemption-glory. And this, and nothing short of this, will be God's answer to the humiliation of His beloved Son.

Returning to our Scripture, we learn that "the name which is above every name" is given Him as a part of His exaltation; nay, that it is God's own estimate of what was due to the One who had humbled Himself and become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. It is thus the worthiness of Christ shown out by the place which God has given Him to occupy. We say, "given Him to occupy," because the presentation here is that of His exaltation as Man, as the consequence of His perfect obedience and entire devotedness to the glory of God through the whole of His pathway on earth up to, and including, death. What "the name" is, or whether it is the name of Jesus, it has already been remarked, cannot be decided; and, indeed, it is the thing signified to which the Spirit of God would direct our attention. The significance, let it be repeated, is that, whatever exalted beings may surround the heavenly throne, the glorified Jesus is above and beyond them all. The name accorded to Him, in virtue of His humiliation, bespeaks a dignity which far transcends the most exalted ranks of the celestial host, and tells, moreover, that He is supreme in all the worlds which constitute the universe of God. If then this position which He now fills is expressive of God's delight in the once humbled Christ, will it not also awaken the delight of God's people, as they contemplate Him in that state and glory? It is in the grace of our God we are called to share in His own delight in His beloved Son; and the enjoyment of this, however feeble its measure, is really the foretaste - the commencement - of heavenly joys, which, filling the heart, even while treading the sands of the wilderness, can only find an outlet through the channel of worship and song.