In this passage, Paul either composed or borrowed one of the earliest poems or hymns of the Christian faith. In most modern translations, you’ll notice how the text is formatted to resemble a psalm rather than straight text. In verses 1-4 of chapter 2, Paul encourages the followers of Jesus in Philippi to become like-minded in practicing self-sacrificing love towards each other. Then when he gets to verse five, he says, "Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus…." In other words, he says, if you need something to remind you of how your life is to be lived, sing this song, play this CD, download this MP3.
In verses 6-8, Paul describes a descent: Jesus leaves heaven–>Jesus, while being God, does not utilize or claim rights to His authority as God–>Jesus becomes a man and lives according to the laws that govern man–>Jesus, God himself, allows himself to die–>Jesus allows himself to be executed in the most humiliating way possible.
Then, in verses 9-11, he begins an ascent of honoring and exalting Jesus as the name above all other names, as the One to whom everyone else in heaven, earth and under the earth will bow down to and confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
So, according to Paul, Jesus is honored and glorified because as God, he chooses to humble himself to the point of death in order to save the world. This flies in contrast to how the rest of the world viewed divinity. When an emperor grew his kingdom, overthrew other governments, amassed more wealth, and consolidated power under his authority, he was deemed to be, at least, part divine. The ancient pharaoh’s were considered to be divine. Alexander the Great of Greece was believed to be a god, for only a god could conquer kingdoms at such a rapid pace as he. Mere mortals couldn’t accomplish this. Julius Caesar became known as "Julius the Divine." And then his son Augustus received the title, "Son of the Divine" or "Son of God." The more powerful, wealthy and famous an emperor was, the more divine he was viewed to be.
So since power, wealth and fame were considered synonymous with divinity, it only makes sense that people viewed the God of the universe as looking a lot like these earthly emperors. And, of course, these men were feared because of who they were. So it would only be natural, that a healthy fear of God developed as well. Even the Israelites, the Jews had this view of God. So it is no wonder that when Jesus came, most of the people of power, wealth and prestige missed him or did not show him respect or outright tried to destroy him. He was not godlike. He was more human than anyone. And for this, Paul celebrates Jesus and gives him the highest honor and says, that rather than "Caesar is Lord," "Jesus is Lord."
See, what Jesus did during his life, death and resurrection was reveal who God really was. God was not the distant, power-mongering, iron-fisted ruler of the universe that viewed humanity, at best, with annoyance and, at worst, with disdain. Even many Christians today view God as the judge who must punish and destroy sinners and see Jesus as our rescuer from a God who has to rid the world of sinners and sin. But this is not who Jesus is. In John 14.9, Jesus told his followers, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father." There is no disconnect between who Jesus is and who His Father is. They are the same. They are both full of love. They are both humble. They are all about saving and developing a relationship with us. This is who God is. He’s not a vengeful emperor, he’s not almighty Zeus, and he’s not Caesar on his throne. Who Jesus was is who God is. And because Jesus revealed this to us, He gets all the glory, honor and praise. He’s straightened us out on our view of God and he’s brought us into an eternal relationship with God. In fact, he has made us "sons of God" and "daughters of God." Amazing, huh? Where only the most powerful were considered descendants of the divine, through Jesus, the lowest outcast has now become part of the family divine. Wow.