God Glorified and Glorifying Himself.
WE have seen the work of atonement as a work needed by
man, applicable and applied to him for his complete justification and
deliverance. And this involves, as we have seen, Gods satisfaction with
the blessed work done on mans behalf, of which the rent vail and the
resurrection are the prompt witnesses on His part. But we have reserved to this
place, as the fittest for it, the full divine side of the cross, so far as we
can utter it. In our review of Scripture, it has necessarily often occupied us;
but in this sketch of the doctrine - now very near conclusion - it needs to be
afresh considered and put in connection with it. It is indeed, and must be, the
crowning glory of the whole.
We begin, naturally and necessarily, with that which meets our need as sinners, and yet even so that need is never rightly met until we have seen, not merely our sins put away, but whose hand it is that does this. Nor must we stop here even with Christ for us. It must be "God for us." "Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us."
Quite true, if we have come to Christ we have come to the Father; if we know Christ we know the Father: and so our Lord replies to Philips words which we have just quoted. But we need to understand this. It is no long road to travel, from the Son to the Father. The Father is perfectly and only revealed in the Son. Yet many stop short of this for long; using Christs work more as a shelter from God than a way to God: like Israel on that night in Egypt when God says, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you;" but how different from the Psalmists deeper utterance - "Thou art my hiding-place." To be hidden from God, or hidden in God - which is our faiths experience, reader?
It is evident that in these two thoughts God is in contrasted characters: to pass from one to the other involves a revelation. As Philips words truly say, nothing but this last suffices the heart. God has made it for Himself: nothing but Himself will satisfy it.
It is true "the Son of Man must be lifted up" here is a necessity. Yes, but "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son" here is God Himself revealed. It is the cross in each case that is contemplated, but how differently! And it is this divine side of the cross that is now to occupy us.
God glorifies Himself in revealing Himself. He shines out. Clouds and darkness no more encompass Him. He is in the light, and in Him is no darkness at all. We, blessed be His name, are in the light! The darkness is passing, if not passed. The true light already shines. Through the rent vail of the flesh of Jesus the divine glory shines. It is of His cross our precious Redeemer says, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him; if God be glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will straightway glorify Him." These words may well serve as the text of all we have to say.
"Now is the Son of Man glorified." No ray of glory shone upon Him: all was deepest darkness, profoundest humiliation; yet in the cross the Son of Man was glorified. Well might He say to Peter, "Whither I go, thou canst not follow Me now." Who but Himself could have gone down into the abyss where was no standing, to lay again the misplaced foundations of the earth? Who but He could have borne the awful trial of the fire of divine holiness, searching out all the inward parts, and in that place have been but a sweet savour to an absolutely holy God? Who but He could have assumed those sins of ours which He calls in the prophetic psalms "My sins" and risen up again, not merely in the might of a divine person, but in the power of a thoroughly human righteousness?
Yes, verily, "the Son of Man was glorified;" but more - "God is glorified in Him." There are two ways in which we may look at this.
First: God was glorified by the perfect obedience of One who owed no obedience, as He had done no wrong. He restored what He took not away. He confessed fully a sin He had Himself to measure in infinite suffering and alone. He confessed and proclaimed a righteousness and holiness in God to which He surrendered Himself, vindicating it against Himself when God forsook Him as the bearer of sin. And He presented to God a perfect humanity, fully tried and beyond question, in which the fall was retrieved, and Gods thought in mans creation brought out and cleared from the dishonour the first man had cast upon it. And goodness triumphed in weakness over evil; the bruised foot of the womans seed trod down the serpents head.
But secondly: when we think of the mystery of His person, it is God Himself who has taken - truly taken - this earthen vessel of a pure and true humanity, that He might give to Himself the atonement for mans sin. It is God who has coveted and gained capacity for weakness, suffering, and death itself, that He might demonstrate eternal holiness, and yet manifest everlasting love to men. It is God who has "devised means that His banished should not be expelled from Him." And it is God who has cleared up all the darkness of this world by this great joy found at the bottom of a cup of awful agony; who has brought out of the eater meat, out of the strong sweetness, out of death and the grave eternal life!
It is this revelation of God in the cross that is its moral power. In all that He does, the Son of God is doing the Fathers will, keeping the Fathers commandments, making known the Fathers name. The gospel is the "gospel of God" - His good news - in which "glory to God in the highest" coalesces with "peace on earth, delight in men". And so it is "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me." Every way it becomes true, "when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son." This is that moral power of the cross which some would make the whole matter, but which can only be when found in a true atonement for our sins. Mere exhibition would be theatrical, not real, and could not do the work designed in it. A real need really met, a just debt paid at personal cost, guilt measured only and removed by such a sacrifice, - this alone can lay hold upon the heart so as to be of abiding control over it. And this does control: "O Lord, truly I am Thy servant; I am Thy servant and the son of Thine handmaid; Thou hast loosed my bonds."
But the moral effect of the cross, the power of the display of divine glory in it, is not to be measured merely by what it accomplishes among men. Scripture has shown to us, clearly if not in its full extent, a sphere which is far more extensive than that of redemption. Into the "sufferings of Christ and the glories which should follow," says the apostle Peter, "the angels desire to look." And while by it the Redeemer, "gone up on high," has "led captivity captive," and "having spoiled principalities and powers, made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it" - on the other hand, "God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, and raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." And more precisely the same apostle speaks of Gods "intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known through the Church the manifold wisdom of God." (Eph. ii. 4-7; iii. 10.)
Not to us only, nor only for our sakes, is the glory of God revealed! Would He hide from others the glorious face which has shone upon us? On the contrary, if "the Lamb" be "the light of" the heavenly city of the redeemed, the light of the city itself is "like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;" for He that sits upon the throne is "like a jasper and a sardine stone," and the city has the glory of God (Rev. iv. 3; -xxi. 11). "Unto Him," says the apostle, "be glory in the Church, in Christ Jesus, through all generations of the age of ages" (Eph. iii. 21).
God, then, being glorified in Christ, glorifies Him in Himself, giving Him a name above every name. "By His own blood He enters in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption" (Heb. ix. 12). Not simply as the divine Person that He always was does He enter there, but now as the One who has by Himself purged sins He sits down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (chap. i. 3). He is Head over all things, Head of all principality and power, Head to the Church which is His body (Col. i. 18; ii. 10; Eph. i. 22). His request is fulfilled: "Father, glorify Thy Son," and the end in which His heart rests He names, "that Thy Son also may glorify Thee "(Jno. xvii. 2).
The end and object of all is the glory of God. It is perfectly, divinely true, that "God hath ordained for His own glory whatsoever comes to pass." In order to guard this from all possibility of mistake, we have only to remember who is this God, and what the glory that He seeks. It is He who is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, - of Him in whom divine love came seeking not her own, among us as "One that serveth." It is He who, sufficient to Himself, can receive no real accession of glory from His creatures, but from whom - "Love," as He is "Light," - cometh down every good and every perfect gift, in whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning. Of His own alone can His creatures give to Him.
The glory of such an one is found in the display of His own goodness, righteousness, holiness, truth; in manifesting Himself as in Christ He has manifested Himself and will forever. The glory of this God is what of necessity all things must serve, - adversaries and evil as well as all else. He has ordained it; His power will insure it; and when all apparent clouds and obstructions are removed, then shall He rest - "rest in His love" forever, although eternity only will suffice for the apprehension of the revelation. "God shall be all in all" gives in six words the ineffable result.
Christ, then, is the One in whom God has revealed and glorified Himself - glorified by revealing Himself. Upon Him all the ages wait: "all things were created by Him and for Him." He is the "Father of eternity:" Head of the Church His body; last Adam of a new creation.
And in this eternal purpose of God we have our place, therefore, and how blessed an one -"chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love"! (Eph. i. 4) "That in the ages to come He might show forth the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" - "God, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ; and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus."
The cross of Christ was an absolute necessity for the salvation of men; but it is more - it is an absolute necessity for the fulfillment of Gods eternal purpose to show forth the exceeding riches of His grace. In it already has been accomplished that which is the wonder and joy of heaven, the fullest song on the lips of her adoring worshippers. But the grace in this must have full expression - the fullest. He who has become a man for our salvation cannot give up again the manhood He has assumed. Service is the fruit of love. He has taken the place of service, and will keep it: the love is not temporary, but eternal, in His heart; the expression of it should be as eternal as the love.
And if He come down to this place, and as man lead the praises of His people, men must be in the nearest place to Him; that it may be, not merely compassion seen in Him, but love; and love, free, unearned, divine, the exceeding riches of the grace of God.
Thus, too, the cross is honoured, exalted, lifted up before the eyes of all the universe. That He died; for what He died; how gloriously the work has been achieved. While the arms that thus are thrown around men encircle all: for it is God in Christ who has done this, and who is this - God, the God and Father of all.
There are various circles and ranks among the redeemed in glory. There are earthly and heavenly, and differences too among these. This of course implies no difference in justification, in the atonement made alike for all. A common salvation has been taken generally to mean a common place for every one of the saved; and the special place and privileges of the body of Christ have been assumed to belong to all of these. But Scripture is as plain as need be that this is not so. There will be, of those whose names are written in heaven, a church of first-born ones, as there will be a company of "spirits of just men made perfect" - a suited designation of Old-Testament saints (Heb. xii. 23). There will be a new earth, in which dwelleth righteousness, as there is an "inheritance reserved in heaven" for believers now (i Pet. i. 4; 2 Pet. iii. 13). I cannot dwell upon this here, and yet if it is not seen, there must be real and great confusion. But all in these different places are blood-washed ones alike: the same sacrifice has been made for all; His name under whom Judah shall be saved and Israel shall dwell safely will be, for them as for us, "The Lord our Righteousness" (Jer. xxiii. 6). Yet Israels promises are earthly, and not heavenly. We see, then, that to have "Christ made unto us righteousness" involves no necessary place in heaven.
And yet the cross is the sufficient justification of whatever place can be given to a creature; and it has pleased God to take out of the Gentiles a people for His name, to make known the value of the cross and show forth the exceeding riches of His grace. In Christ we are already seated in the heavenly places, and where He is is to be our place forever. This we know; and it is part of the blessed plan in which God in Christ shall be fully made known, to the deepest joy and adoration of His creatures.
We are reminded here of the unequal offerings of the day of atonement, - the bullock for the priesthood, and the two goats for the nation of Israel. They are types of the same sacrifice, but in different aspects; and the priesthood clearly represent the heavenly family, as the holy place to which they belong represents the heavenly places themselves. We have considered this already, however, in its place.
And now we may close this brief and imperfect sketch of an all-important subject by reminding our readers of the way in which the Lamb - the atoning victim - fills the eye all through the book of Revelation. Not only by the blood of the Lamb the saints robes are washed and the victors overcome; not only is it the Lamb that the redeemed celebrate, while the wicked dread His wrath; but He is the opener of the seven-sealed book, the interpreter of the divine counsels; His is the book of life, and the first-fruits from the earth, and the bride the Lambs wife; the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of the city; the glory of God lightens it, and the Lamb is the light; while the river of the water of life flows eternally from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
"Soon shall our eyes behold Thee,
With rapture, face to face;
One half hath not been told me
Of all Thy power and grace.
Thy beauty, Lord, and glory,
The wonders of Thy love
Shall be the endless story
Of all Thy saints above."
F. W. G.
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