Before Jesus’s death, he declared in Matthew 23:12, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Turns out that declaration was a prediction about himself.
Philippians 2:9-11, Jesus “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Jesus humbled himself, so God exalted him. Jesus did not take his exaltation into his own hands. He left his exaltation in his Father’s hands. And those are good hands to trust in.
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
Every knee will bow and every tongue confesses, whether happily or bitterly. Whether joyfully or angrily, everyone will humble themselves on judgment day before Jesus. To the glory of God the Father.
If you want to be exalted by men for 80 years, be prideful. Draw attention to yourself. Prioritize winning arguments over preserving relationships. If you want to be exalted by God for eternity, be humble.
When we exalt ourselves, we attempt to steal God’s glory. When God exalts us, he gets the glory, because he’s the one doing the exalting.
We can actually — with pure motives — humble ourselves with the hope to be exalted if God is the one doing the exalting we’re hoping for.
Paul says in Philippians 3:21 that when Christ Jesus comes back, he “will transform our lowly bodies to be like his glorious body by the same power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” If you’re not looking forward to that, your shoulders must not dislocate as much as mine. We should long to be glorified. We should long to be exalted by God after Jesus comes back.
Paul elaborates on this future exaltation of Christians in Romans 8:16-17. He writes, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” A few verses later Paul says, “We ourselves … groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.”
Those who are in Christ will humble themselves because Christ humbled himself. We behave how Jesus saved.
Jesus saved by becoming obedient to the point of death on a cross. And on the cross, he counted us more significant than himself by taking the punishment of God’s wrath that we deserved. So God gets all the credit for our salvation because we’re saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. God gets all the glory because our salvation is all of grace. And if our salvation is all of grace, Christians should be the most humble people on the planet. You tend to not think too highly of yourself when you remember that the only difference between you and that person who gets under your skin is God’s grace alone.
Sit Down, Be Humble
If Christ died to unite us to God, we can die to our pride to unite his Bride. Only those whose identity is in Christ alone can live for another’s interests because they already have all they need in Christ. There is nothing we can obtain that we do not already contain, in Christ. The Psalmist cries, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth I desire besides you.” A heart filled to the brim with Christ has no space for selfish ambition.
When you leave your home today, the world will tell you to be proud of yourself. To take pride in what you do. To do unto others what they do to you.
God says, “Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.”
We would be wise to sit down, be humble, and be obedient no matter how much we suffer. It will be so worth it. But we do not sit down and be humble, by thinking less of ourselves. We sit down and be humble, by thinking more of Christ. We sit down and be humble, by thinking more about how Christ saved us, and who Christ saved us to be: a humble, unified church.
The church finds unity through humility. And we find humility by remembering the cross. And we find joy in humility by remembering who sat down at the right hand of God and how he got there. Jesus humbled himself, so God has highly exalted him, from the tomb to the throne, and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus. Go therefore and make humble disciples of all nations. Urge people to joyfully confess with their tongues that Jesus is Lord today, or they will bitterly confess that Jesus is Lord on judgment day. Count people’s eternities as more significant than your selfish ambitions. Because the only reason Christians are still on earth anyway is for others’ progress and joy in the faith.