In my prior post about honor-status reversal, I stated that, as followers of Christ and members of his body, the church, Scripture teaches that we are called to identify with our Lord to such an extent that our relationship with him leads to a magnificent increase in our own collective honor status. Using Scripture, I hope to make the case in this post that this increase in honor status for believers is real, and that it is embedded exclusively and totally in relation to Jesus Christ. My approach is to list several verses followed by some comments.
However, first of all, shown below is a graphic based on a diagram from the ESV Study Bible which illustrates the honor-status reversal of Jesus Christ based on Philippians 2:9–11. Observe this truth again—that after Christ’s public humiliation through the crucifixion, he was rewarded by supreme, magnificent, comprehensive, highly exalted honor.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 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 2:9-11 ESV)
So this honor-status reversal is clearly represented here in the life, drama and Person of Christ. Can we also apply this dynamic of honor-status reversal to the community of believers who call Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior? Or is it reserved exclusively for Christ? Consider the verses below.
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6:3–5 ESV)
Normally, we do not associate the truth of being “baptized into Christ Jesus” and “baptized into his death” as identification with his humiliating shame. It’s ugly and assaults our sense of pride. We like to think that Jesus died for my sins in my place, but being “baptized into his death” is so harsh and hard for us to grasp.
- Could it be that in order for us to experience the sense of being “united with him in a resurrection like his” (v. 5)—which includes the honor and exaltation of his resurrection—we must first identify with Christ in the shame of his death?
- It is clear that our identification with Christ in his resurrection is not solely for our eternal life after we die. Otherwise, Paul’s emphasis that “we too might walk in newness of life” would not make sense, as this clearly represents living life on earth after salvation and prior to death. Could it be that “walking in newness of life” refers to a new lifestyle which both contains and reflects the glory and honor of Jesus Christ?
- Is this identification with Christ primarily experienced individually—or corporately? Could it be that the emphasis in this passage—as are most of Paul’s writings—is corporate, that his epistles are intended primarily for believers in community? Could it be that the individualistic bias we have in the West keeps us from apprehending this reality?
Other passages in Romans that illustrate the honor-status reversal for believers in Christ:
- Romans 6:6–14 actually elaborates even further on the honor-status reversal that believers experience in Christ.
- Romans 8:34–38 expresses the dynamic of believers being on the low, shameful end of the spectrum, “being killed … regarded as sheep for the slaughter”, whereas on the high, honorable end of the spectrum, being “more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Think of the believers at Rome, the church as an oft-shamed minority group, who breathed the air of the honor of the Roman Empire and it’s “glorious” conquerors. What did it mean to know that, in Christ, they were “more than conquerors”? This again is an example of honor-status reversal for the believer.
These other passages are also examples of honor-status reversal for believers, with that honor and glory embedded exclusively and totally in Christ:
- 1 Corinthians 1:26–31
- 1 Corinthians 15:42–49
- 2 Corinthians 5:16–21, 2 Corinthians 13:4
- Galatians 2:20–21, Galatians 4:5–7, 26–31
- Ephesians 2:1–7 gives us a dramatic picture of honor-status reversal from being “dead in trespasses and sins” to having been “raised…up with him and seated…with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”. This is followed is followed by the classic verse about grace: Ephesians 2:8-9. Then Ephesians 2:11–22 offers another example of honor-status reversal—but this time, it is with regard to the Old Testament story of God’s people: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (2:19). What is so striking to me is that the famous verse about salvation by grace is wrapped inside of a text which has two powerful examples of honor-status reversal.
- Ephesians 4:8–10
- Philippians 2:5–11, Philippians 3:8–10, 20–21
- Colossians 1:13–14, 21–22, Colossians 2:12–15
The honor-status reversal which Christ himself experienced was not just for his glorification, but also for the community of believers who would follow him as Lord. Honor-status reversal is also for believers—in Christ!
In what is known as the High Priestly Prayer of Christ in John 17, Jesus prayed to the Father:
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one (John 17:20-22 ESV).
Why is it so radically challenging to our Christian sensibilities, that Jesus prayed to the Father, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them”? Normally we think that glory belongs exclusively to God. But this is not supported by Scripture. Could it be that when we, as believers in community, embrace our honor-status reversal in Christ, we will more easily apprehend that Jesus actually has shared with us—his glory and honor.
What does this mean for people struggling with shame? What does this mean for people whose overwhelming concern is their honor status? What does this mean for Christ’s gospel being extended to the billions of people and thousands of people groups whose pivotal cultural value of honor and shame?
I’ll be writing more on those topics later.