The exaltation of the name of Jesus is a theme we find developing throughout the New Testament. The key passages are some of the best known ones in the Bible. We’ll start with the first few verses from the letter to the Hebrews. These verses establish the divinity of the Lord Jesus and the excellence of His name.
Hebrews 1:1-4 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
This is a good place to start because it gives us clear statements about what we sometimes call the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Regarding His person, that is, His identity, we learn that He is the Son God, the heir of all things (at the end of time as we know it, everything will belong to Him and be under His authority), the Creator of the physical universe, the perfect expression of divine glory, the one who holds everything together. That’s an impressive list to be sure. It covers both who He is and what He did in relation to the original creation. But, as they say in the commercials, there’s more…
This one who is fully God, the creator and sustainer of the material universe, glorious in every way, is notable for other things as well. He dealt with human sin, then sat down, all His work both in terms of creation and redemption finished. The passage indicates that, though He was already superior to the angels, His work of salvation moved Him into a new category of “so much better than” them. Consequently He has obtained a more excellent name, one that is above every other name.
One little point of interest: in this passage it speaks about the name of the one identified as the Son of God, yet it doesn’t actually mention the name itself, Jesus. In what some consider to be the cornerstone passage on this theme, the name is stated clearly.
Philippians 2:5-11 “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
It is often pointed out that this passage gives us seven steps down, as Jesus the Son of God humbled Himself in order to complete the task of saving us followed by seven steps up as God exalted Him on its completion. I’m not going to take time to trace this out for you today. Let’s just note that the name of Jesus is above every other name and thus will be honoured by every living being. Some people choke on the idea that every knee will bow to Jesus and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Ironically, these are people who don’t believe He is Lord and honoured as such. If they are right, which they believe they are, then this won’t be an issue. Could it be that though they live their lives without regard for the lordship of Jesus, they fear that, just maybe, He really is Lord and they won’t want to be forced to acknowledge that.
In fact, I don’t think anyone will be forced to either bow before him or acknowledge that He is Lord of all. I suspect that this will be an entirely spontaneous response to Him as He is revealed in His glory. Just as a scene of great natural beauty may render all who view it in awe of its grandeur, when the throngs of humanity see Jesus, the one God has exalted above all, every individual will gasp in amazement and without even thinking about it bow before Him as they understand who He is and the implications of that for them.
Paul not only saw the name of Jesus as the most exalted one, he urged Christians to live in such a way that prompt others to glorify Him before the great moment of his universal revelation. Listen to these words.
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Here we find Paul telling his friends in Thessalonica about how he prayed for them. He mentioned several things: that God would count them worthy of their calling, that He would do everything in them that would give Him pleasure, that the name of Jesus might be glorified in their lives, and that they would be glorified in Him.
For our purposes, we’ll note particularly that Paul desired the name of Jesus to be glorified in the life of believers. Though he wrote this to a specific group of people he had in mind, like all of Scripture, the words reach forward into the 21st Century and challenge us. I invite you to keep an inventory of your life over the next few days. Jot down the things you do and say that glorify the name of Jesus — that is, bring honour to it. You might also want to keep track of the things that bring shame on His name.
Here’s another thought related to this. Most people think that as long as no one sees them in shameful acts, while they are not obeying the Lord, they are not disgracing Him. After all, if no one sees us in moments of spiritual rebellion, they won’t think poorly of our Lord, or of us, for that matter. That’s a comforting thought, but let’s remember that people are not the only ones who witness our activities. While I wouldn’t be dogmatic about this, there are verses which strongly suggest to me that spirit beings which we can’t perceive are also abroad in the world. Whether demons or angels, they have some awareness of us and knowledge of what we are up to.
I don’t want to get distracted on this, but consider how in the story of Job, Satan was aware of him and knew what kind of man he was. We have examples of angels interacting with people in several Old Testament books. In the gospels, we see examples of demons interacting with people and the material world. Hebrews 13:2 suggests that hospitality to strangers is important because some of those strangers may be angels. My point here is that we may be continually or occasionally observed by spirit beings who are aware of behaviour that no other person knows about.
Let’s move to another passage which encourages us to respond positively to God in the name of Jesus.
Heb 13:15-18 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. Pray for us; for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably.
The writer here encourages us to vocalize or speak out our praise, specifically giving thanks to the name of Jesus. This pleases God who accepts them as the sacrifices or offerings of our souls as we are aware of the greatness and goodness of our God.
Sometimes we hear people say things like “don’t praise so-and-so too much it’ll go to his head.” It’s true that some people who hear positive comments about themselves begin to think of themselves very grandly, forgetting that, essentially, everything they have is a gift from God and to be received with thanks, not received as something they deserve. This is never the case with Jesus. It would be impossible to lift His name too high, to praise Him too much, to honour Him too greatly. He is the worthy one — worthy of all honour since He is the beginner and finisher of everything.
Let’s take a couple of minutes before we finish today and peek into heaven where we find a host in heaven glorifying the name of Jesus.
Re 15:2-4 And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God. They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: “Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested.”
This always stirs me. I have a very distinct recollection of the first time I became aware of this passage — the song of the Lamb. I was in the home of a friend who was experiencing a profound spiritual moment and he sang these words as the expression of his heart. It was moving for me as a teenager to experience this older man so caught up in worship.
Listen to those words again: “Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested.”
These words are written of that coming day we read about in Philippians when everyone will recognize Jesus for who He is — not just a great teacher who made a profound impact on the world for a couple of millenia, but the great saviour who made the world and everything in it and then redeemed all who would believe through His own death. Amazing!
That name of Jesus is unique. God Himself says it is the highest name. It reminds both the heavenly Father and His earthly children that Jehovah saves — that there is One who is the perfect mediator between Holy God and sinful humanity: The Lord Jesus Christ.
We have come to the end of our little study. I’m glad you’ve joined us. I trust you’ve profited from the reminders of things you may have forgotten and the new things you’ve learned. It has been a great study for me. I’ve been refreshed as I’ve thought about the name of Jesus over the past few weeks.
This is the name through which salvation came to the world 2,000 years ago and comes to you today. It also releases power in our lives — power over all of our enemies: sin, death, and hell. It is the means by which we can make use of our right as children of God to approach our Father. I hope you take advantage of that privilege frequently. This name of Jesus is at the centre of God’s people. As it draws us to Him we gather around Him as a community which shares His life.