Exaltation of Christ (Philippians 2:6-11)

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This passage is considered to be a fragment of an early Christian hymn. Such hymns existed in order to honor and praise God.

There is, of course, a pastoral frame around the hymn. The function of the hymn here is to persuade and motivate Philippian Christians to imitate Christ in his humbleness and obedience (Phil 2:5; 2:12-15). The impetus of this hymn is to reach recognition from God as Christ did (Phil 2:9). However, we would like to consider the hymn in its own right.

We can divide the hymn into two parts: humiliation (Phil 2:6-8) and exaltation (Phil 2:9-11). The first part (humiliation) shows the true and original identity of Christ. Despite his identity and status, Christ leaves everything behind in order to reach humanity. What is stressed here is especially obedience which resulted in his death on the cross (Phil 2:8). This marks Christ’s way of downward, which is done on his own part without any foreign agency.

Now there is the second part (exaltation) introduced by the word “therefore” (gr. διὸ). What Jesus did is not left without response. God takes the initiative and exalts Christ into the position of Lord. This recognition is done “in order” (gr.  ἵνα) that everyone will acknowledge Christ's identity (this is similar to Rev 5:12-14). This marks Christ’s way of upward, which is, in this case, done on the account of God’s agency.

The climax of the hymn is a revelation of the title “Lord” (gr. κύριος) (Phil 2:11), which is, simply put, New Testament equivalent of Old Testament Jehovah (he. יְהוָה).

This hymn leads us to realize what God is (remember John 14:8-10). It is someone who suffers and does everything possible for the benefit of those whom he loves despite his own comfort.


Word Meaning
εἰμί I am; be
ἴσος, η, ον equal
ἀλλά but, however
κενόω to empty; render void
λαμβάνω take
ὁμοίωμα, τος, τό image, similarity, likeness
σχῆμα, τος, τό form, shape
εὑρίσκω find
ὡς as, like