Philippians 2:10-11

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Puritan Board Freshman
Hey there, I have a question (hope this is in the right forum)--so I'm sometimes in discussion with other Christians on different message boards. A few weeks ago I got into a discussion with a Universalist (who calls himself a Christian) who described that verse in Philippians as meaning in the Greek, "Will bow in honour and religious veneration ( for that is the Greek meaning of bow) and every tongue shall confess in honour and acknowledge openly and joyfully, to celebrate in praise of ones honour (for that is the Greek meaning of confess) that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father". So he uses this as proof that everyone will be saved since by the joy and celebration of them confessing Jesus that can't mean that they will still be sent to hell.

I told him that since I am not knowledgeable in the Greek language I would seek out some people to ask about this. So any comments about what this guy says about what the words actually mean here in this verse?


Puritan Board Junior
It's a very poor argument to rest your whole case on a lexical definition, as words mean what they mean in context, depending on how they are used. Especially when Scripture is very clear on hell in other places.

I suppose one could argue that implicit in the English word for bowing is the idea of reverence and respect, as the outward act and inward disposition should always go together. But it doesn't always work that way in today's world.

In North Korea, by law you may never turn your back to a picture of those of the Kim dynasty. Never. It's a rule meant to promote honor and respect. And when you come to the gigantic statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang, you may not approach the statues unless you bow to them.

However, who is going to argue that, by and large, the people are bowing because they really do love the Kim family? Perhaps they do. Though I suspect many do it because there is a gun to their head, or they know that if they don't, there's a prison camp cell with their name on it. It's rather plain when you analyze a North Korean's behavior that their reverence is constrained and unnatural, regardless the inward veneration that is intended by commanding the act of bowing.

Sometimes a bow just tells who is in charge.

In context, the point is that Christ is King, and because of the superlative greatness of His work that He will have all the honor and respect that is due to Him, and His power will be shown in that even His determined enemies will be forced to acknowledge His lordship. But that they don't do so happily is evident from other places. Of course, unlike tyrants, Christ deserves the honor and respect.
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Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
Jake makes the key point when he says it's a weak argument if it's based on a definition in a lexicon. Words have a range of meaning. How they are being used depends on the context and the person using them. So if you want to know what Paul means in Philippians 2:10-11, you need to think about Paul and his context.

Paul was steeped in the Old Testament and in the teachings of Jesus and the other apostles. So you want to look at those things, as well as Paul's other writings that are similar or address the topic. At the very least, one ought to consider how the following passages inform Philippians 2:10-11.

Philippians 2:12-18 (which is adjacent to the verses in question and a continuation of Paul's thought)
Philippians 3 (the very next chapter, which makes a distinction between those who attain resurrection in v. 11 and those whose end is destruction in v. 19)
Isaiah 45 (which Paul is quoting in the verses in question), taken in context with the surrounding chapters of Isaiah. I would not say this passage, which is where Paul gets his language, supports the idea that everyone is joyful about bowing to the Lord.
Romans 14:10-12 (in which Paul quotes the same passage as he does in Philippians)
Psalm 2
Matthew 25:31-46
Revelation 5 (considered in context with the whole book of Revelation)
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Staff member
Agreeing with Jack, Isaiah 45 came immediately to mind:

23 I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, And shall not return, That to Me every knee shall bow, Every tongue shall take an oath.
24 He shall say,`Surely in the LORD I have righteousness and strength. To Him men shall come, And all shall be ashamed Who are incensed against Him.
(Isa. 45:23-24 NKJ)

Some of the knee bowers are ashamed.


Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks for the info, guys. Yeah, it seems that he was missing how context needs to be taken into consideration. I also responded that sure these people may bow in adoration and confess joyfully when they see the glory of the Lord, but that doesn't mean they still won't be condemned. He answered, "Does that sound like it will be to late for them? Do not the scriptures tell us confession is made unto salvation? why then do you believe their confession is not?"

I regret I answered him no further except to say I didn't have knowledge of the Greek language to discuss the matter anymore, but Yes even if they do confess and bow to him in this way it will be too late for God has revealed, "It is appointed for man once to die and then the judgment." After-death confessions won't receive salvation for they have died outside of Jesus.

It just tends to end in frustration for me when I talk with these people since they seem to pick and choose parts of God's word and make up hole-laden arguments of the very clear depictions of hell described by Jesus [well, he didn't mean eternal suffering, he was talking about the garbage dump that was utilized for trash in those times--so non-believers will be disposed of in that way and just burned up...(???)]. That's why I said in my intro why the Reformed faith blew me away for how the truth rang out loud and clear--there is no verse that's dismissed or that's not looked into. But everything is given a full and clear explanation and is explained in light of the entire word of God.

Of course, that guy was telling me how I was picking and choosing and how I didn't see these verses in the full context of Scripture. Their fellow Universalists seem to want to insist that the verse that says "Jesus died for the sins of the world" absolutely means he died for every single person ever in existence even when I pointed out that absolutes such as "all the world" or "everyone" often do not mean literally every single person. For example, when Jesus in talking to his disciples said, "And everyone will hate you"--well he couldn't mean literally everyone --the disciples aren't going to hate each other, are they? And when one of the Sanhedrin says, "...else the whole world will go after him!" It's hard to rationalize there that the guy meant every single person in all of existence at that time--Jesus' ministry probably didn't make it much farther than northern Africa even if it made it that far (though I thought Simon of Cyrene came from Africa, but I could be mis-remembering). You just can't reason with these people; ugh, it's just frustrating.
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