To Whom We Should Bow

With all the ‘bowing’ going on lately I thought a reminder would be in order. There’s a time coming when 

“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.” Philippians 2:10-11

“For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”” Romans 14:11

“By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’ “ Isaiah 45:23

We can repent of our sin now and bow before the King of Kings or we’ll bow to Him from the depths of hell, the former out of love and latter out of fear.

Albert Barnes Commentary:

Philippians 2:10

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow – The knee should bow, or bend, in token of honor, or worship; that is, all people should adore him. This cannot mean merely that at the mention of the name of Jesses 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 honor in it above the other names which he bears? And why should we how 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; compare Neal’s History of the Puritans, chapter 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 (compare the notes at Rom_11:4); and it cannot be done to the Saviour by those who are in heaven, unless it be divine.

Of things in heaven – ἐπουρανίων epouraniōn – 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 eta creature in heaven. In this whole passage there is probably an allusion to Isa_45:23; see it illustrated in the notes at Rom_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 Rev_5:13; Exo_20:4; compare Psa_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, people; 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 riley shall all acknowledge him as universal Lord; all how to his sovereign will; all be subject to his control; all recognize 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.

Philippians 2:11

And that every tongue should confess – Everyone should acknowledge him. On the duty and importance of confessing Christ, see the notes at Rom_10:9-10.

That Jesus Christ is Lord – The word “Lord,” here, is used in its primitive and proper sense, as denoting owner, ruler, sovereign; compare the notes at Rom_14:9. The meaning is, that all should acknowledge him as the universal sovereign.

To the glory of God the Father – Such a universal confession would honor God; see the notes at Joh_5:23, where this sentiment is explained.

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Albert Barnes (1798-1870) was an American theologian, born at Rome, New York, on December 1, 1798. He graduated from Hamilton College, Clinton, New York, in 1820, and from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1823. Barnes was ordained as a Presbyterian minister by the presbytery of Elizabethtown, New Jersey, in 1825, and was the pastor successively of the Presbyterian Church in Morristown, New Jersey (1825-1830), and of the First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia (1830-1867).

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