The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Philippians 2:9-11 "A Universalist Case"

This attachment outlines arguments for a universalist interpretation of “every knee will bow” in Phil. 2:9-11, offered in the course of my Sunday School class on Philippians.
Philippians 2.doc (29.5 KB)

A great message Bob. Thank you.
Can I take it that you are allowed to teach universalism in your Sunday School?

Pilgrim, I’m in the class and he does not outright teach universalism. We go through verse by verse, right now in Hosea, and he gives various views/ways of interpreting it. Hard to miss which he’s persuaded of. He doesn’t outright call it universalism, however, since this would only confuse people and their misconceptions about what it is. He lays the groundwork, but it’s really the bible that does that for him. :wink:

Gene and I sure enjoy Sunday School with him! It’s always so encouraging. We get so much out of it. We wish all of you could join in our class! Boy, wouldn’t that be something! They wouldn’t know what to do with us. :laughing:

I wish I could.
It’s great that you’ve got this opportunity to share. May God continue to bless your ministry.

I couldn’t access these “arguments”. Would someone post them in this thread, please?

Message: “God honored him… so that all created beings —even those long ago dead and buried will bow in worship and call out in praise that He is the Master, to the glory of God the Father.”

Today’s hymn: One day every tongue will confess you are God, one day every knee will bow

Still the greatest treasure remains for those who gladly choose you now.
Brian Doersken 1998 Mercy/Vineyard Publishing CCLI 90961
Cf. Matt Redman’s “There’s a Louder Shout to Come:” All the people with one Lord, and what a song we’ll sing upon that day.

Philippians 2:9-11 Agreement is nearly universal on three conclusions
1. In the end, an obedient expression of worship affirming Christ’s Lordship will glorify God.
2. This outcome is an assured victory of God (all “will confess Jesus is Lord” -NAS).
3. Paul refers to all people here (everyone in heaven, earth, or under it includes the living and the dead).

But does this confession display redemption or damnation? Today’s consensus is that other passages assert that God will cut unbelievers off from any redemptive hope. Thus, we must only perceive here that God is ‘forcing their knees to the ground’ to extract an unrepentant admission of defeat.

A Minority View: Strong Arguments for a Hope taught by church leaders nearest to the New Testament.

  1. This is Paul’s precise language for defining who is saved. “If you confess Jesus is Lord… you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9). Paul never suggests that any who confess this are forever punished.
  2. Only God’s Spirit (who doesn’t ‘force’ the fruit he creates) can produce this. “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13). Paul never depicts an involuntary confession of Lordship.
  3. The verb “confess” is regularly used for a voluntary response, usually praise. Heb. 13:15 “Let us offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly confess (NAS: give thanks to) his name. Rom. 15:9 Therefore I will praise (=confess) you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name. Matt. 11:25 NAS I praise (lit. confess to) You, that You have revealed these things to infants. 1 Tim. 6:12 Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession.

In Paul’s Greek O.T., this word, translated ‘confess,’ means to praise. Indeed, the very passage Paul is quoting here clearly involves real praise. Isaiah 45:23 “To Me every knee will bow, every tongue will ‘confess.’ 24 They will say of Me, ‘Only in the Lord are deliverance & strength.’ All will come to Him….”

Revelation 5:13 appears parallel. “Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever!”

  1. “Every tongue” includes believers, whose worship must be a willing tribute. Yet Paul uses the same heart language of worship for all. He indicates no distinction between that of the saved or the damned.

  2. This song of confession brings glory to God. But Jesus made it clear that worship or words that are not from the heart don’t please or glorify God at all (Matt. 15:18). Psalm 51:6 confirms, “You desire truth in the innermost being.” Phil. 2 is the language of worship, which by its’ nature must be offered sincerely.

  3. The parallel in Colossians 1:20 promises “all things created” (16) are reconciled! To achieve supremacy (18b), God “reconciles to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” Again, this could not be a forced illusory ‘reconciliation,’ or an un-glad pacification, where rebels remain alienated in hell. For “reconciliation” is Paul’s language for salvation, where a ruptured relationship is restored to harmony between believers and God (Cf. Rom. 5:11; Eph. 2:14-16). In vs. 22, “reconciled” means to “be in God’s sight without blemish.” In vs. 20, it brings a true, healing “peace,” which fits believers. For example,. Rom.5:1,11 “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God… and reconciliation.”

This peace results from the “blood” of the cross. God could ‘force’ unwilling obedience, without Jesus dying! But the cross & the crucified Jesus of Philippians 2 is not glorified by forced or insincere praise. The power of the cross is to “demonstrate God’s love” (Rom. 5:8), which overcomes evil by changing hearts and winning genuine worship. It’s love is not satisfied by a final condemnation, but by a willing reconciliation that ends hell’s rebellion (cf. Isa.53:11). Submission can be forced, but “reconciliation” is only real, when rebels sincerely embrace Christ. Indeed, if they themselves are brought to genuinely choose Christ as Lord, then they are by definition “reconciled.”

  1. Many of Paul’s passages similarly sound like God’s victory will bring reconciliation to all men. Romans 11:32 “God has bound everyone to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”
    5:18,19 Through Jesus’ obedience, “all men… will be made righteous (future tense)… resulting in justification & life for all.” 8:21,22 “The whole creation… will be brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”
    1 Cor. 15:22,28 “As in Adam all die, so in Christ, all will be made alive…so that God may be all in all.”
    2 Cor. 5:19 “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.”

  2. Some argue that this later confession will be too obvious to ‘count.’ But the Gospel denies that our response is meritorious or earns God’s grace. He is glorified when He provokes our response (Phil. 2:13).

  3. If Paul is describing a forced confession, it cancels the argument that God can’t or won’t achieve his goals by overriding our ‘free will.’ So, does God have ability to bring all of us where we need to be?

Which view seems closest to yours?
A. God gives us free will, so that “forcing” a true confession in us will violate what he gloriously seeks. (Thus, Arminians say, God’s love wants to save all, but can’t or won’t, since that would violate our integrity.)
B. In the end, God has the power and ability to achieve in every creature all of His glorious purposes. (But, Calvinists say, God won’t save all, because He chooses that it’s best to only love, die, and save some.)
C. Both A & B affirm vital truths, but are wrong in what they agree on. God loves all and it won’t fail to achieve his will. For He has the ability to ultimately bring the genuine response that is appropriate to his saving purpose and glory. (See the earlier paper on the purpose of His “destruction” of sinners.)

We are designed for God, so that we can never find our deepest needs, identity, or the joy we seek until we find it in Him. Further, God’s ability is unlimited to bring painful lessons as well as demonstrations of the superiority of his love and way. So, his advantage is compelling. There is no need to ”force” us by some kind of “puppetry” into an outcome for which we all yearn. Since He only needs to help a person “come to himself” (Lk. 15:17), His sovereign power has an ability that can’t ultimately be defeated.

1 Like