This may be, at least for Evangelicals, one of the best know passages in the Bible. Obviously, there’s John3:16, the Christmas story and Jesus’ Passion story. However, I do think most Evangelicals know that “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess” but I suspect they don’t understand what St. Paul was suggesting. Instead, I think many see this as occurring at the “Great Judgment”. And, yes, I’m sure it will happen then.
However, I also think it is currently happening. I think St. Paul is telling the Philippians and us that, upon understanding just who Jesus is, everyone will acknowledge His lordship so that, as verse 11 indicates, Glory will be given to God the Father. What do you think? Is this the most important part of the passage? What is St. Paul trying to tell us?
The Asbury Bible Commentary goes so far as to make sure we understand what “every knee” and “every tongue” actually mean. This is not, they say, “universal salvation” but it is instead, “universal recognition”. I think they are close, if not correct. That’s why I think this is not just an “end times” situation. For I truly think that everyone really does know. As Bill Cosby once joked about earthquakes in California: when the ground shakes everyone looks up.
The IVP Commentary considers the context and offers comments concerning how St. Paul is using this “song” to provide, as verse 5 indicates, an example of how both the Philippians, and how we also, are to treat each other. That is, we should have the same ‘mindset’ as Christ. There are several essays on these few verses, each making a specific point.
The IVP essay on verse 8 and the Matthew Henry commentary address the idea of Jesus’ divinity and his humanity. If you meet someone who doubts either the divinity or the humanity of Jesus, these two commentaries may help you. St. Paul’s description of Jesus’ divinity and humanity indicate that the Philippians already understood the concepts. A discussion of Jesus’ humanity and divinity would be, for our study of Philippians, a ‘rabbit trail’; albeit a very important one. It is, in fact, a very necessary part of St. Paul’s argument. My guess is that the problem in Philippi is in how they were (or were not) implementing the ideal of imitating Christ.
Once understood, this passage might not be so popular. In the context of 1:27 – 2:4 we find ourselves faced with a tough challenge: imitating Christ. I think the key to the whole passage is verse 5.
Finally, I think this passage is a wonderful example of taking Scripture “out of context”. As I indicated, I think most Evangelicals know this passage. But I think they do not understand the context. So I will ask, “Why did St. Paul include the verses about “every knee” and “every tongue”? What do you think his point is, in the context of 1:27-2-4? The commentaries listed above did help with this question. However, there may not be ‘one answer’ but a variety of ideas.