So what does all this mean? We’re talking about Jesus the king. What are we to make of this passage with respect to Jesus’ kingship?
Remember, the context for this beautiful, rich passage about Jesus is a call to the Philippians to be humble and obedient. These are the central themes to the first part of the description of Jesus. Other-centredness is the root cause of Jesus’ self-emptying. Humility is the source of his obedience. Through his other-centredness and humility our sins are forgiven and we are saved to new life. This is the kind of king Jesus is. We serve a king who emptied himself and obeyed the Father to the point of death. As his subjects, as those who call him Lord, we are called to be of the same mind as Jesus, to follow his model, to be shaped and moulded into the likeness of our king. That is life in the Spirit- to be “regularly transformed into the likeness of Christ” by the Spirit. [Fee, p. 227]
But who is this king we serve? How is it that Jesus it king?
What are the expectations of a king? A king must be declared to be so by the appropriate powers. Typically that was through birth or conquest. Kings wield swords and carry sceptres as signs and tools of their power. Kings have servants and ambassadors to carry out their will within their own realm and to carry their word to other realms. They have the power to set laws, to judge and to condemn their enemies according to those laws. They also have the power to pardon those who break the law if they so choose.
Consider, now, for a moment how God has established Jesus as king. [Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology, p. 355] First, God declared Jesus to be king. Both at his baptism and at the transfiguration, God said, “This is my beloved Son, in him I am well pleased.” [Matthew 3:17; 17:5] So by birth, by heredity, Jesus is king of all because he is the Son of God. God, in whom all authority lies, declared him to be his Son and therefore to be his heir.
In Hebrews 1:8, we read, “But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.” So God has given the Son a scepter of justice. Similarly, throughout Revelation, Jesus is depicted as having a two-edged sword coming out of his mouth [Rev 1:16; 2:12, 16; 19:15, 21]. In Rev 19:15-16 Jesus is depicted has having a sword and a scepter and is called King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Christ also has servants and ambassadors. Paul always refers to himself as a servant, or even slave, of Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:20 tells us that we are Christ’s ambassadors. In Ephesians 4 Paul gives a list of different roles including apostles, evangelists and teachers whose role is to serve Christ, making his will known both to his subjects and to those outside his kingdom. In fact, Jesus subdues us to himself- his people. We were rebellious but Christ won us over to himself in repentance, bringing us under his authority to be his people.
With respect to laws, Jesus has the authority to regulate his church. Matthew 5, the Sermon on the Mount, gives direction on how his people are to live. In Matthew 5:17 Jesus declares that he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. Jesus writes his law on the hearts of his subjects according to Hebrews 8:10. [Thomas Vincent, The Shorter Catechism Explained from Scripture, p. 81]
Jesus also has the power to judge and condemn his enemies, and pardon those whom he chooses. John 5:27 reads, “[the Father] has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.” Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:24-25, the chapter we looked at last week about Jesus’ resurrection, “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” In Matthew 5:6 we read of Jesus healing the lame man, Jesus said, “I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man,“Get up, take your mat and go home.”
This is just a taste of Jesus’ kingship. But in just a few minutes we begin to see how Jesus fulfills so many of the expectations of a king. He is declared king by an appropriate authority- God- because of his heredity. He holds a sword and scepter as signs of his power, using that sword to destroy his enemies. He has servants and ambassadors to carry out his will and to represent him to others. He has the authority to regulate his church, to establish the laws of his kingdom. He also has the power to judge and condemn his enemies are pardon those whom he chooses in pardoning sin. In all these ways we see Jesus’ role as king being fulfilled.
On the cross Christ triumphed as a king on the field of victory. [incl pic] In his exaltation, that is his resurrection and ascention to the right hand of God the Father, he triumphed as on a king’s throne or riding a triumphal chariot. [William Ames, The Marrow of Theology, p. 145] Often a king must either win his throne or defend his throne on the field of battle. When an enemy invades the king’s territory, the king’s role is to defend his people and rescue those who have been captured and liberate those whose cities are occupied. Jesus fought that battle with sin on the cross and won. In his own death, he broke the power of his greatest enemy. The devil’s power, the power of sin leading to death, was broken when Jesus was raised from the dead. Death could not hold him. Having descended to the place of the dead, he then ascended to Heaven. Having been subjected to death he was exalted to the right hand of the Father.
Jesus is a king. In fact, he is the king of all kings. His authority is superior to all other authorities. He is the Lord of Lords. He chose to humble himself, not considering his godly status something to be clung to at all costs. Instead, he humbled himself as a mere man, and not only a man, but an obedient man. He was obedient to the point of death. And because of that humility and obedience, God raised him up both in terms of the resurrection from death and in terms of exalting him to the status of king of kings.