that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.—Philippians 2:10-11
How we see God and how we show Jesus to others can very much be reflected in how we present passages such as this. In the past, this passage reminded me of popular movie scenes where a person was dragged before a ruler, then forced to their knees against their will. Usually, the person was gut-punched, hit in the head, or otherwise forced to bow though they had no desire to whatsoever. Generally, this seems to be the type of imagery conjured by such verses.
But is that how our God of Love works? If we look at the meaning behind these words, we can see a different viewpoint.
The Greek word used here for “should bow” is kampsē, a derivative of kamto. Note that the extended definition states “in honor.” This seems to imply a willing bending, as opposed to another Greek word used in the Bible—sugkuptó—which implies a forced bending such as in Luke 13:11.
But perhaps everyone will willingly (honorably) bend in the end when they see Jesus face to face and realize their fault. This would be likely except for the rest of the verse—“that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Okay, so if they realize they were wrong, and then they willingly bend, wouldn’t they also willingly confess Jesus? This might be considered, but this is “to the glory of the Father.” Is it really glorifying Father if we only bow and confess because we have no other choice? Could there be another meaning?
Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.—1 Corinthians 12:3 (emphasis mine).
Here it seems Paul is giving clarification as to how anyone is ever able or confess Jesus is Lord—it is only by the Holy Spirit! It seems God’s plan is that at some point, every single person will willingly, honorably bow and confess Jesus is Lord, to the glory of Father, by the Holy Spirit!
Do we really dare to hope in such a loving God? Is God’s plan really to save everyone? Is he really that powerful? Would God allow someone the indwelling of the Holy Spirit just to bow and confess, then rip it away so they are lost for all eternity? Is our hope in God that eternally loves all—or only some?
6 thoughts on “Bow and Confess”
John, I always enjoy and am uplifted by your posts.
“Would God allow someone the indwelling of the Holy Spirit just to bow and confess, then rip it away so they are lost for all eternity?” When anyone asks this who truly doubts God is love (and I know you don’t), I respond with a verse from Revelation 21 which so beautifully describes New Jerusalem, the new heaven and the new earth combined as one. Verse 25 states, “and its gates will never be shut by day – and there will be no night there.”
Never be shut – for all eternity grace is possible for anyone who chooses, even after death, for all time.
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Absolutely Susan! That’s the kind of love I can have faith in—a love that doesn’t stop, even if our heart does!
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[…] read John’s post entitled Bow and Confess earlier today with great interest and since he ended it with a series of questions, I thought it […]
I, too, have problems with the “worthless worm” view of our relationship with God, and with “fear of God” as a craven hand-licking process, etc.
At the same time, though, the opening “movie scene” image you use, responding to that Philippians text, really isn’t one that has ever sprung to mind for me. I’ve always envisioned more a “regal court” sort of scene, with courtiers acknowledging the majesty of the King. The Phlippians text itself, is one of my favorites, as God exercises His mysterious irony in exalting Jesus above All, because He was the most humble, the most servant, the most self-sacrificing in love of All.
I grant you, being “modern Americans”, the concept of “bowing” may not come naturally. Further, the word “confess” has taken on so much religious baggage over the centuries that it’s nearly as twisted as “repentance” in the mind of most believers.
But for me, personally, this phrase “bow and confess” hasn’t been any more traumatic than simply to gesture in respect of the Kingship of Jesus, and affirm my own fealty to Him. “He is Lord. He is MY Lord. And I rejoice in that fact.” That causes me no discomfort, regardless of culture. Am I “coerced” into that, by any degree of fear? Not a bit. That’s a simple acknowledgment of both “the fact of the matter”, and my love.
On the other hand, when the sky is rolled up, and all things are known and clearly seen… when the FACTUAL Lordship of Jesus is seen in its fullness, are there those who will truthfully acknowledge that reality, whether or not they welcome or embrace it?
I believe so.
I don’t think God has to gut-punch anyone, as His own Infinite Radiance and the Infinite Wonder of His Love shine forth as “Palpable Elements/Forces” out in the big middle of all Creation. I have no clue what that experience will be like, but I have absolutely no doubt that it will prompt the sheer AWE of all who behold it.
By the same token, even in this world, in Jesus’ travels, there were those who encountered Him, recognized Him, acknowledged His rank and authority and spoke of it (confessed), and YIELDED to that authority (asking where they could go and what He would allow them to do or not do. These were, of course, the various demons He encountered.
So, in general, my sense is that to “acknowledge the facts” of Jesus’ Nature and Status, both in affirmation and in gesture… doesn’t necessarily require that one’s heart embrace those as welcome. I have “saluted” and said “yes, sir” to a “uniform I respect”, without regard for the fact that it was worn by someone that I did not.
Just my rhetorical responses to rhetorical questions! 🙂
Grace to you — LM
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