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EPISTLE TO THE PHILIPPIANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 10

Verse 10. That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow. The knee should bow, or bend, in token of honour, or worship; that is, all men should adore him. This cannot mean merely that at the mention of the name of Jesus we should bow; nor is there any evidence that God requires this. Why should we bow at the mention of that name, rather than at any of the other titles of the Redeemer? Is there any special sacredness or honour in it above the other names which he bears? And why should we bow at his name rather than at the name of the Father? Besides, if any special homage is to be paid to the name of the Saviour under the authority of this passage—and this is the only one on which the authority of this custom is based—it should be by bowing the knee, not the "head." But the truth is, this authorizes and requires neither; and the custom of bowing at the name of Jesus, in some churches, has arisen entirely from a misinterpretation of this passage. There is no other place in the Bible to which an appeal is made to authorize the custom. Comp. Neal's History of the Puritans, chap. 5. Ninth. 5. The meaning here is, not that a special act of respect or adoration should be shown wherever the name "Jesus" occurs in reading the Scriptures, or whenever it is mentioned, but that he was so exalted that it would be proper that all in heaven and on earth should worship him, and that the time would come when he would be thus everywhere acknowledged as Lord. The bowing of the knee properly expresses homage, respect, adoration, See Barnes "Ro 11:4"; and it cannot be done to the Saviour by those who are in heaven, unless he be Divine.

Of things in heaven. epouraniwn —rather, of beings in heaven, the word "things" being improperly supplied by our translators. The word may be in the neuter plural; but it may be also in the masculine plural, and denote beings rather than things. Things do not bow the knee; and the reference here is undoubtedly to angels, and to the "spirits of the just made perfect" in heaven. If Jesus is worshipped there, he is divine; for there is no idolatry of a creature in heaven. In this whole passage there is probably an allusion to Isa 45:23. See it illustrated See Barnes "Ro 14:11".

In the great divisions here specified—of those in heaven, on the earth, and under the earth—the apostle intends, doubtless, to denote the universe. The same mode of designating the universe occurs in Re 5:13; Ex 20:4; Ps 96:11,12.

This mode of expression is equivalent to saying, "all that is above, around, and beneath us," and arises from what appears to us. The division is natural and obvious- that which is above us in the heavens, that which is on the earth where we dwell, and all that is beneath us.

And things in earth. Rather, "beings on earth," to wit, men; for they only are capable of rendering homage.

And things under the earth. Beings under the earth. The whole universe shall confess that he is Lord. This embraces, doubtless, those who have departed from this life, and perhaps includes also fallen angels. The meaning is, that they shall all acknowledge him as universal Lord; all bow to his sovereign will; all be subject to his control; all recognise him as divine. The fallen and the lost will do this; for they will be constrained to yield an unwilling homage to him by submitting to the sentence from his lips that shall consign them to woe; and thus the whole universe shall acknowledge the exalted dignity of the Son of God. But this does not mean that they will all be saved, for the guilty and the lost may be compelled to acknowledge his power, and submit to his decree as the sovereign of the universe. There is the free and cheerful homage of the heart which they who worship him in heaven will render; and there is the constrained homage which they must yield who are compelled to acknowledge his authority.

{*} "at the name" "In"

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