20/02/2017

Carmen Christi

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 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 2:5-11).

Introduction
The passage before us is known as the ‘Carmen Christi’ or ‘Hymn to Christ as God’. It is one of the most precious passages in the whole of Scripture – worthy to be written in letters of gold. Within a few lines of poetry, we find the whole Gospel beautifully summarised. Paul urges the Philippians to have this Gospel ‘in mind’ as a reflection of the mind of Christ who humbled Himself as the Saviour of sinners. In other words, this hymn ought to shape our thoughts and our affections. We are to have the mind of Christ formed in us – this Christ-like spirit of humility. Paul is calling upon the Church to be gracious, lowly, kind, compassionate, and self-giving, even as Christ gave Himself to death upon the Cross. There is a connection between the objective reality of the Gospel and the responsibility of Christian conduct: ‘Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus’ (v.5). The ethos of the Church ought to reflect the mind of Christ. We are to be a people of love: tender, merciful, compassionate, kind, generous, selfless, and charitable. We are to be conformed to His image – a people who follow Jesus Christ. 

Think of the incomparable grace that the Lord Christ has shown us in our salvation. He came into this world for us. He went to the Cross for us. He shed His blood, and gave His life, and He died for us. This message should penetrate our minds, and sink into our hearts, and transform our lives. We need the knowledge in our heads of this Gospel to sink into our hearts and make us more like Jesus in our conduct and affection. This encounter with the Crucified God in Scripture ought radically to change us, so that He becomes everything to us. His mind, His values, His ethos, His love, His mercy, His grace must be impressed upon our hearts. There is something profound and uncanny about His obedience unto death:
 
And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain –
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?


Wesley had an experiential awareness of the amazing love that Christ – the Immortal God – demonstrates to lost mankind by dying in our stead. He saw and felt the wonder of it all. It was real to Him. My friends, have we lost sight of that? When did we last feel anything at all? Any love? Any joy? Any hope? Any sorrow? How can we stand before the Cross of Christ and the blood He shed unmoved? The exhortation to ‘have this in mind’ is essential. We must have this experiential Christianity. This wonderful Gospel of Christ coming into the world, dying upon the Cross, rising from the dead, and ascending to the right hand of God, ought to permeate our minds, transform our affections, and melt our hearts with love.

We see that there’s basically two parts to this hymn: the humiliation of Christ (vv. 6–8) and the exaltation of Christ (vv. 9–1). The Lord Christ comes down from the heights of heaven to the death of the Cross, and from death to resurrection, and from resurrection to glory everlasting. 

1] Firstly, I would like us to think upon the humiliation of Christ (vv. 6–8). ‘Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped’ (v.6). Jesus Christ was in the form of God. This is a reference to His eternal pre-existence as God the Son. We often use the word ‘form’ differently today, but the meaning of ‘form’ in Greek thought, the language of the New Testament, expresses the idea of His ‘essential nature’. The simple and plain meaning of our text is that Jesus Christ in His very essence is God. As the writer to the Hebrews says, Jesus is the ‘brightness of the Father’s glory, the express image of His person’ (Hebrews 1:3). All the reality, the complete form and being of God, is most perfectly expressed in the person of Christ. The Lord Jesus didn’t come into existence at some point in time. He is eternally the Son of God. He is one with the Father and the Spirit. He is mighty, majestic, and powerful. He is infinite, eternal, and unchanging. He is the Creator of heaven and earth. This vast universe was formed by His power and is sustained by His powerful Word. This is the incredible starting point from which Paul begins expounding the work of Christ. He begins with the deity and the glory of Christ as God. That’s where the story of redemption begins: in the heights of heaven’s glory with the eternal Son of God who condescends to rescue lost mankind. 

The deity of Christ is so essential to His nature that ‘He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped’ (v.6b). Think of Satan trying to usurp God – to rob God of His glory, to grasp at His power and majesty. It’s not like that with Jesus Christ. He is equal with God by nature. He doesn’t grasp at deity. He doesn’t rob God of His glory. He is God. He is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit, but in humility He is willing to set aside His glory, to assume human nature, even to face the death of the Cross. Can you imagine a great King coming down to the slums to live with the poor and needy? That’s what Jesus Christ has done. He remains the King of the Universe, but He comes down freely into the human situation. He comes down to the slums of earth – to a world of sin and degradation. He comes down into misery, and suffering, and sorrow. He comes into a world of tears – a world of sickness and death. There’s no pride in the heart of Christ. Though He is the King of heaven and earth by right, yet He has a humble, gentle, merciful, and compassionate heart. He didn’t grasp at the glory and majesty of God as though unsure of His position and status as the Son. He knows that He is God the Son. He is fully self-aware of His power and majesty, yet He freely comes into this world that He might seek and save the lost. There is something deeply practical about Jesus Christ. He’s not an armchair theologian. He’s not a god of the philosophers. He’s sees the desperate need of sinners, and He hears the cries of lost mankind, and He comes in the flesh to rescue and to save. He rolls up His sleeves and gets on with the business of redemption. He doesn’t sit in an ivory tower moving chess pieces, but He comes to our reality. He comes right down into the muck and the mess of life to lift us up from the miry pit.

‘He made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men’ (v.7). Paul is not saying that Jesus Christ ceased to be God in the incarnation, rather as Paul says to the Colossians, ‘For in Christ all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form’ (Colossians 2:9). There is no subtraction of deity, only the addition of frail humanity. He makes Himself nothing – ‘of no reputation’ (KJV). He becomes the great nobody. He becomes like an undercover King clothed in beggar’s rags. He becomes God incognito – God in disguise. He clothes Himself in human nature. He takes a body like our own, being born of in the likeness of men. ‘He took the form of a servant while He retained the form of God’ (William Hendriksen). And these two natures (divine and human) are perfectly united in the person of Jesus Christ – the God-man. It’s not that Christ simply appears to be like a man, but that He is a real man. Though He is truly God, yet He is truly man. His humanity is as real as His deity. That’s why John in the prologue to His Gospel uses the word ‘flesh’: ‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us’ (John 1:14). There’s something tangible about the idea of ‘flesh’. There is a physical reality to this incarnation. I’ve heard it described as ‘the enfleshment of God’. He takes a real body – skin, nails, teeth, hair, bones, organs, capillaries, arteries, veins, a human heart, a human mind, a human soul. He assumes the whole reality of humanity, yet without sin. He is consubstantial with us according to the manhood, but sinless and pure in every way.

‘And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a Cross’ (v.8). In the divine nature alone, it would be impossible for Christ to suffer and die. God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchanging in His being. You cannot crucify God. You cannot hurt God or humiliate God. He is invincible and invisible. He is a pure, immortal, almighty spirit. He’s not subject to physical pain and suffering like human beings.  In order to suffer human frailty and die for humanity, the Lord Christ had to be ‘found in human form’. Therefore, He takes our nature upon Himself and He humbles Himself in obedience to the will of His Heavenly Father. He is obedient, but we were disobedient. He is holy, but we are unholy. He fulfilled the Law of God, but we’ve broken it. We’ve not loved God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We’ve not loved our neighbour as we love ourselves. We’ve hated God. We’ve trampled upon His commandments. We’ve put Self on the throne and pushed God aside. The Lord Jesus Christ, however, was obedient in every way. He satisfied the demands of God’s Law perfectly. He was the Man of love. He loved God as His delight and highest good. He loved humanity. He was always kind and gentle with broken and sinful people. He was perfect in obedience. He is altogether righteousness and holy. He is just, good, faithful, gracious, loving, and fair. 

There is a consequence for human rebellion against the righteousness commandments of a Holy God. There is a penalty to pay – a debt is owed. There is a sentence upon sin – ‘the wages of death’ (Romans 6:23). Not merely physical death, but death to God – alienation from a personal love relationship with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Sin places an iron curtain between God and man. The Lord Christ is not merely the moral example of a holy life, He is the atonement for sin. He dies the death we all deserved to die. He faces the punishment that was due to us for our sin. At the Cross, there is this great transaction: the guilt of our sin was laid upon Him, and He faced the wrath and judgement of a Holy God in our stead. 

‘He was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross’ (v.8b). Notice that there is this emphasis upon the particular manner of His death. He was not lying comfortably at home in His bed. He was suspended between heaven and earth upon a Cross of wood. This death, this particular death, is stressed by the Apostle Paul because it was an accursed, painful, and shameful death – a death cursed under divine Law: as Moses says, ‘Cursed is He that hangs on a tree’ (Deuteronomy 21:23). This was a death filled with unspeakable agony and shame. Nails were driven through His hands and feet and the weight of His body hung there as He struggled to breathe. This was the death of a criminal and a slave, not of a free-man, and surely not of a good man. This death was a public spectacle. You hung where every eye could see you in all your shame, nakedness and agony. He was obedient to the point death, to the point of this death, even the death of the Cross. Such was the obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ.

There is more to this death than the physical pain. At the back of these sufferings, there is the outpouring of divine judgement against sin. There was one awful moment upon the Cross where the darkness of sin and the weight of divine wrath so clouded the sight of Christ from the Father’s love that He cries, ‘My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?’ (Matthew 27:46). The Father had never stopped loving His only beloved Son, but for a moment the horror of sin was so unbearable that even the Son of the Father felt stricken by God and cut off from His loving presence. This was the cost of our redemption – ‘For God so loved the world, He gave His one and only Son’ (John 3:16). He gave Him to die upon a Cross. Yet the more that Christ saw of His Father’s hatred for sin, the more He set His face like flint to obey His Father in love. Even when darkness covered the earth and the love of God felt like a distant memory, He obeyed. ‘The more real His apprehension of the hatefulness and dreadfulness of sin which consists in disobedience to God, the more did it engage the Lord Jesus Christ not to disobey Himself, but to love – to love God and to love sinners of lost mankind’ (adapted from Jonathan Edwards). He obeyed to the very end. He was obedient to the point of death, even death upon the Cross. He fulfilled perfectly the redemption-mission He had received from His Father, even that He should drink this bitter cup and go through these sufferings to rescue sinners of mankind lost.

The death of the Cross therefore was the highest act of voluntary obedience. The more Christ saw of His Father’s hatred for sin, the more He determined to obey His Father. ‘The more He had a sense of what an odious and dreadful thing sin was, the more His heart was engaged to do and suffer all that was necessary to take it away to carry this odious, dreadful thing away from those that His heart was united to in love, those whom the Father had given Him to save’ (Jonathan Edwards). The more He saw of the horror of sin, the more He longed to save us from it. Here is the greatness of His obedience and love for sinners: He tasted the bitter cup and drank it to the dregs because He loved His Father and He loved those whom the Father had commissioned Him to save. He humbled Himself in obedience to the accursed death of the Cross because of His love for helpless sinners, and supremely because of His love for the Father and the pleasure of doing His will.

I wonder, my friends, can we learn from His obedience? If Christ, the Son of God, so willingly humbled Himself, how much more should we cast down our pride and self-righteousness, and humble ourselves before His infinite majesty? If the Lord Christ was willing to obey His Father even unto death for our salvation, how much more should we seek to obey our Father in heaven, to keep His commandments, and live in gentle holiness for the glory of God? If Christ was so zealous to come and rescue us from sin, should we not also be zealous to make known His Gospel to the world and become soul-winners for the glory of Christ? If Jesus Christ was willing to abase Himself for our salvation, should we not also abase ourselves and be willing to count all things but loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord? If we desire to have the mind of Christ formed within us, then we must give ourselves to His example, to this message, and learn from His obedience and humility. 

2] Secondly, I would like us to think upon the exaltation of Christ (vv. 9–11). The reward of His obedience is exaltation. We’ve seen that He came down even to death upon a Cross, now we see that God lifts the Lord Jesus to the highest place and gives Him the Name above every other name. ‘We’ve seen the Sun of Righteousness in eclipse; now we witness the Sun coming out of the eclipse, and shining in full glory’ (Thomas Watson). If we had finished the story at the death of Christ, what hope would there be? If He remains dead in the tomb, then what’s the point? Why are we here? What’s the meaning of it all? No! He’s not dead! For the great hope and expectation of Christianity is resurrection. The Lord Jesus was crucified, dead, buried, but He didn’t stay dead. On the third day, He rose again, according to the Scriptures, and was seen by many witnesses, and ascended into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of the Father in majesty on high; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the living and the dead, and His Kingdom shall have no end. We look forward with the eyes of faith to the resurrection of the dead and the glorious life of the world to come. We have this great and certain hope. He is alive. He is risen. He has conquered sin, and death, and hell once and for all. He’s been lifted up from death to Glory and now He is exalted as the King over all. He’s been given the Name above every other name. There’s no one higher than Jesus Christ. He’s the boss. He’s number one. He is the Lord of lords and the King of kings. There’s no one greater or more incredible than Jesus Christ. He is awesome in power, and majesty, and glory, and He rules and reigns as the Alpha and Omega.

The most remarkable aspect of His exaltation is the reality of His humanity. He is risen and exalted as the God-man. There is a real man in heaven making intercession for the people of God as our great High Priest, pleading before the throne of Heaven for sinners of lost humanity. He considers all of our prayers. Have you ever thought about that? Millions upon millions of prayers every moment, and He’s ever ready to listen and He hears and answers each and every single one of them. He desires to hear you pray and to take your needs and concerns to Him. He wants to help you and to lead you in His righteousness. If He has assumed our nature and has lifted our humanity up to glory, can we not see that He is deeply and passionately concerned about us, so much so that He represents us in the courts of heaven as a real man? And though He is highly exalted, yet that human heart He still retains. He feels for us in heaven. His heart beats with love for sinners. He knows the hardships of life. He remembers the struggles. He understands the pain, the suffering, and the despair. He hears your sighs and He bottles your tears. We can always approach Him as our sympathetic High Priest and representative in Glory. He is clothed in our humanity and He sits at the right hand of God as a real man, as our Shepherd King and loving High Priest.

The calling of this hymn to Christ is to exalt Him. If God has so highly exalted Christ, let us labour to exalt Him also and worship Him in the beauty of holiness. Let us exalt Him in our hearts: believe upon His word, trust in His Gospel, adore Him, worship Him, love Him, and sing His praises. This is true experimental Christianity. We must act upon this wonderful Gospel in faith. We are called to submit and bow the knee to His Lordship and majesty. There can be no such thing as a passive Christian. We must worship Him actively, and serve Him, and follow Him, and pray to Him, and glorify Him with every breath. ‘We cannot lift Him up higher than heaven, but we may lift Him up in our hearts’ (Thomas Watson). Let us exalt Him as we sing hymns. Let us exalt Him as we pray. Let us exalt Him in our lives every day, by living for the sake of His glory. Let us exalt His truths – the truths of the Gospel. As the hymn-writer says, ‘Tell out my soul, the greatness of the Lord’. Let’s make known the Gospel to our families, and our friends, and colleagues, and neighbours. We lament that our Churches are emptying, but if we sit on our hands and seal our mouths concerning the truths of Christ, then God will not honour us. ‘How can they believe on Him of whom they’ve never heard?’ (Romans 10:14). In vain we pray for revival if our lips are sealed concerning the Gospel of Christ. Truth is the most precious pearl in the crown of Christ, and it is the proclamation of truth that will set men and women free from bondage to the law of sin and death.

The day is coming when He shall return and every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. It’s far better that we bow the knee today than on that coming day. It’s far better to urge men and women to bow the knee in repentance and faith this day, or else they will do so under the judgement of Christ at the last day. My friends, there is an urgency to the words of the Apostle and this hymn. Jesus Christ will return with glory, and majesty, and power. He will come as the King of kings and Lord of lords, and everyone in all creation, the living and the dead, will fall at His feet and worship Him. Let us watch and be ready for His return. Let us plead as dying men and women to a dying world concerning Christ and His Gospel. Let us implore others to see by faith the risen and exalted Saviour who was obedient unto death, even death on the Cross. Amen. 

References & Reading
Ames, William, Medulla Theologica (1623).
Motyer, Alec, The Message of Philippians (1984).   
Watson, Thomas, A Body of Practical Divinity (1692).
Williams, Garry, Silent Witnesses: Lessons on Theology, Life, and the Church from Christians of the Past (2013), chapters 3 & 4.
Wilson, Geoffrey, New Testament Commentaries: Philippians to Hebrews and Revelation (2005).

16/02/2017

Christ Set Forth

He is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the Church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be pre-eminent. For in Him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His Cross (Colossians 1:15–20). 
Introduction
The Apostle Paul was full of Jesus Christ. He took every opportunity to speak and write about the Lord Jesus. There was never a wasted moment, never a missed opportunity. It’s a great tragedy to hear sermons without Christ. To quote Charles Spurgeon: ‘The motto of all true servants of God must be, “We preach Christ, and Him crucified”. A sermon without Christ in it is like a loaf of bread without any flour. If there’s no Christ in your sermon? Then go home and never preach again until you have something worth preaching’. We must preach Christ crucified. The whole Bible points to Jesus Christ and His work of redemption. Every passage, every chapter, every book is about the person and work of Jesus Christ. He is the key to unlocking the Scriptures. Do you remember when Jesus meets His downcast followers on the road to Emmaus? Their understanding of His person and work has been clouded by the darkness and despair of Golgotha. What does the Lord Christ do in this situation? He takes them to the Scriptures and ‘beginning with Moses and all the prophets He explains to them the things concerning Himself’ (Luke 24:27). Jesus Christ is a light in the darkness. If we have a clear vision and understanding of Christ, we can apply ourselves to the Scriptures and learn more about Him and find our hearts ‘burning within us’ (Luke 24:32).

The passage before us is a brilliant light for understanding not only the Scriptures but all things in life and experience. C. S. Lewis famously said, ‘I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else’ (C. S. Lewis). The vision of Christ at the heart of Christianity enables the eyes of the mind to see that ‘something lives in every hue that Christless eyes have never seen’. This vision of Christ not only saves us and sanctifies us, but helps us to see everything in a new light. There is something beautiful and wholesome in Christ. He is the cure for the darkness of sin and despair. He is altogether lovely, gracious, kind, compassionate, and gentle, merciful, and patient. He is holy, and righteousness, just, good, faithful, and true. He is the great example to the Church of the beautiful life, and Christians ought to reflect something of the beauty and the glory of Christ in their own lives. There’s to be nothing of arrogant self-righteousness in our midst, but a spirit of Christ-likeness, conformity to his image, and subservience to His sovereignty. This vision of Christ set forth by the Apostle in our text should cause us to tremble in holy wonder at the feet of Christ in humility and lowliness. Christ is our King and we must fall down at His feet in wonder, love, and awe.

1] Firstly, Jesus Christ is revealed to be co-equal with God. Paul says, ‘He is the image of the invisible God’ (v.15). Within a few decades of the death of Christ, here we find a Jewish Christian declaring the Crucified Messiah as God. It’s incredible. The highest honours of the Godhead are given to Jesus Name. The idea here is that Jesus Christ reveals the glory of the invisible God. The Lord God by nature is invisible. He is a pure and holy spiritual being. You cannot see God or touch God. He transcends physical reality. He is hidden from our sight, and yet in Christ He is wholly revealed. The hidden God is seen expressly in the person of Christ. The writer to the Hebrews says that Jesus Christ is ‘the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of His person’ (Hebrews 1:3). All the fullness, all the glory, all the brightness of God is manifest in Christ. When Paul uses the word ‘image’, he’s not talking about a photograph or a picture but about the essential nature of God. To make an image of God, as you know, was absolutely forbidden in the Law of Moses (Exodus 20:4), and yet here the Apostle Paul says that Jesus Christ is the ‘image of the invisible God’. It wouldve been blasphemy for a Jewish scholar like Paul to utter such thoughts unless of course they were true.

Paul goes on to say that Jesus is ‘the firstborn of all creation’ (v.15b). He is not saying that Jesus Christ was created by God at some point in time or that Christ is the first creature of many. On the contrary, the meaning is that Jesus Christ is the ‘first begotten’, as the Nicene Creed says Jesus is eternally ‘begotten of the Father before all worlds’. That’s the idea. Jesus Christ existed before creation. He stands above creation. He is first. He is exalted over all things. This verse concerns the supremacy of Christ as the Lord of heaven and earth. The meaning of our text is that Jesus Christ is pre-eminent as the Potentate of space and time. It cannot possibly mean that Jesus Christ is Himself a creature because Paul in the very next verse say that He is the Creator of all things: ‘For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible’ (v.16a). Jesus is the Creator of all things. He stands at the back of everything: space and time, this vast universe, every star, every galaxy, countless great and ponderous worlds, our solar system, the sun, the planets, the earth, the seas, the sky, all life, every amino acid, every protein, every molecule, every atom, every subatomic particle – it all belongs to Him, everything both visible and invisible. Science describes proximate causation – it tells us how things work, but Jesus Christ tells us why. He answers the ultimate question. He is the meaning and the reason for everything. The sunset, the raindrop, the snowflake, the mighty wind, the thunder, the lightning, the crash of the ocean – the beauty and purpose of it all is found in Him alone. He is the answer. ‘He’s not the God of the gaps, He’s the God of the whole show’ (John Lennox). As the Psalmist says, ‘the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof’ (Psalm 24:1). Creation is a great theatre wherein Christ displays His glory. It is the setting for the drama of redemption and the agony of the Cross. It is the place of final consummation for the marriage supper of the Lamb with the Church, His beautiful bride, clothed in His righteousness and washed in His blood.

None stand above Him. Not ‘thrones, or dominions, or rulers, or authorities – for all things were created through Him and for Him’ (v.16). The tyrants of this world, the dictators, the lords and ladies, queens and kings, aristocrats and plutocrats, the powerful and mighty, presidents, and parliaments, and prime ministers are nothing compared with Him. He is the Lord. ‘He who sits above the heavens laughs … and He will break the nations with a rod of iron and dash them into pieces like a potter’s vessel’ (Psalm 2:4, 9). He alone is Sovereign. He alone is King. He is ‘before all things’ (v.17). He is before space, before time, before cosmos – He is before all Creation. Yet without Him everything would fall apart. He is everywhere present sustaining the universe by the word of His power. ‘In Him’, Paul says, ‘all things hold together’ (v.17b). He is pulling everything into place. He is ordering all things according to His providence. ‘The whole created order, in time and space, owes its existence to Christ. He is its true origin. He sustains it in being. Without Him, it would have no ultimate meaning’ (Dick Lucas). This is Jesus of Nazareth. This is the child in the manger. This is the man upon the Cross; the man in the upper room with nail prints in His hands, and feet, and side; the man in glory seated at the Father’s side – even the God-man, Christ the Lord.

2] Secondly, Jesus Christ is revealed to be Lord of the Church. Paul says, ‘He is the head of the body, the Church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be pre-eminent’ (v.18). There is much confusion about what the Church is today. Christians talk about ‘going to Church’ by which they mean a building, or a place, or a meeting, or a gathering of individuals, or a particular denomination, or even a Sunday club. That’s not how the Apostle Paul understood the Church at all. The Church, he says, is a body and Christ is the living head. The Church is like an organism. It’s alive. It has a beating heart and a living head. The Church as a loving community is bound together in Christ and should stand in contrast to the world around us. We live in the century of the self, a culture of narcissism which makes man his own prisoner. There is no solidarity anymore. There is no cooperation. There is no community. There is no family. There is only the great idol of the self and the worship of the creature rather than the Creator who is forever blessed. The Church however ought to be radically different to the world as the body of Christ alive in Him our living head. This is how Paul describes the Lord Jesus: ‘He is the head of the body’ – not a pope, not a bishop, not a minister, but Christ alone. Great harm and sadness comes to the Church when men put themselves in the place of Christ. There is no place for tyrants and autocrats in the Church. Ministers of the Gospel have authority only in so far as they preach Christ and Him crucified, and are faithful to the Scriptures, and follow the gracious and lowly example of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are all part of the body of Christ. He alone is the head of the Church. He calls the shots. He makes the decisions and we listen to Him. We gather around His holy and infallible Word as it is given in Scripture. We listen for the voice of Christ in the Bible and we follow Him.

The reference to Christ as ‘the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent’ (v.18b) concerns His resurrection as Lord of the Church. Not only is the Christ the first to rise from the dead, but He’s the first of many – a great multitude from every tribe, and tongue, and nation. We look forward as Christians to a resurrection hope. The idea that God is only concerned about the soul of mankind is not Biblical. We believe in holistic redemption – the redemption of body and soul together. We anticipate glorified bodies in a new heaven and a new earth wherein righteousness dwells. ‘The Church is the company of those who share the risen life of Christ [and know the power of His resurrection]’ (Dick Lucas). When He returns at the end of time, all the dead in Christ shall be raised – all the atoms and molecules of countless billions of Christians will be restored and sanctified and the souls of men and women properly united with the body. Those who are alive in Christ upon earth will be glorified together with the risen saints. There will be a very real physicality about the resurrection and the glorification of the body. Eternity will not be pure spirit, but tangible reality. Even Job under the Old Covenant anticipates this reality: ‘For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. Even after my body has decayed, yet in my flesh shall I see God, whom I shall see for myself with my own eyes’ (Job 19:25–27).

The Lord Christ as the risen Saviour represents the first fruit of those who have died. He rose in the same body in which He had been crucified. He ascended into heaven as a real man of flesh and bone. As the saying goes, ‘There is a man in the glory’. He is coming back with a physical body to judge the living and the dead, and to gather His Church as His beautiful bride. His resurrection is the ‘first instalment’ in cosmic redemption (Karl Barth). He is number one. He is pre-eminent. He broke the chains of death itself and rolled the stone away. He is risen. He is alive forever more. He is the paradigm for the resurrection of the Church as He sits exalted at the right hand of the Father. The Apostle describes this great event of resurrection in the most dramatic terms: ‘Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall all be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality’ (1 Corinthians 15:51–53). The trumpet sounds and ‘a sleeping army is awakened to stand on its feet in a flash’ (Anthony Thiselton). Think of the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37 and how God in a moment by the power of the Holy Spirit brings to them life, breath, and vitality. ‘Resurrection is no harder for God than creation’ (Anthony Thiselton). If God made this vast universe out of nothing by His very speech, then what is it my friends for such a God to raise the dead? If God breathed life into humankind at the beginning, how difficult is it for Him to breathe new life into the dead? If it was impossible for death to hold the Son of God in the tomb, how much more will it be impossible for death to hold the members of His body? The hope of resurrection for those who trust in Christ is certain. He says, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whosoever believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live’ (John 11:25).

3] Thirdly, Jesus Christ is revealed to be the Saviour of the World. Paul says, ‘For in Him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross’ (vv.19–20). The first point to see here is that all the fullness of God dwells in Christ. This is a particular reference to the incarnation – the hypostatic union of divinity and humanity in the person of Christ which Paul clarifies in the second chapter by saying: ‘For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity dwells in bodily form’ (Colossians 2:9). He is everything that God is – all the fullness, all the deity, all the attributes, all the power, all the majesty, all the glory of God is found dwelling in a real man, the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s important to understand this wonderful truth: ‘Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man in one person, and will be so forever’ (Wayne Grudem). The whole of our salvation depends upon this truth. It’s because He is God that He is almighty to save, and it because He is man that He is able to represent mankind and mediate on our behalf.

The reason for this hypostatic union of the fullness of God with the frailty of man is to bring about the reconciliation of heaven and earth and make peace between God and man. This is what Paul says in our text, ‘and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven’ (v.20). The principal idea here is that reconciliation is the work of God in Christ. The word reconciliation means ‘to make peace’ – to make amends for the offence of human sin in the sight of a holy God. The great problem of mankind is this enmity to God. Human sin is an act of rebellion against a righteousness God who cannot turn a blind eye to sin. He cannot simply ignore our rebellion. He is just. He is good. He is by nature loving. How can a just, good, and loving God wink at sin? He cannot – He cannot do what is contrary to His own nature. Amends have to be made. The Fall has to be put right. The demands of God’s absolute righteousness must be satisfied. The wonder of the Gospel is that God Himself brings about the reconciliation through His Son. God is the offended party, yet He brings the peace. Our sin is blight against His honour, yet He so loves the world and desires to make peace with sinful men that He comes Himself in the flesh to interpose His precious blood and make atonement for sin. This is why the incarnation and the hypostatic union are essential doctrines: ‘God must take human flesh to provide the Man who will be able to represent all mankind as the substitute for sinners. It is only through Christ – the God-man – that reconciliation can be attempted and accomplished’ (adapted from Dick Lucas). Christ faces God as a real man, yet as a real man co-equal and co-eternal with God Himself: ‘We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and He is the propitiation for our sins’ (1 John 2:2). Jesus is our federal head. He is our representative before the Father. If you are afraid to pray, if you find it difficult to approach God the Father, then put your hand in Jesus’ hand and He will lead you. He is the Son of the Father’s love and all who come to God through Him will be embraced as sons and daughters of the Living God.

There is a sober message here as well: the awful reality and the seriousness of sin is seen in need for atonement. Reconciliation comes at great personal cost to the Godhead. The Father gives His one and only Son to die upon the Cross. In the reality of space and time, in the world He created, Jesus Christ manifest in the flesh dies upon the Cross bearing our guilt, and sin, and shame, facing the judgement due to us for our sin, and dying the death we deserved to die. Peace comes to us only ‘by the blood of the Cross’. Our sin is so terrible that nothing but the death of God the Son – the shedding of His blood – could make amends for our guilt and shame. My friends, there’s no room for pride in Christianity. The Christian faith teaches us that we are all – each one of us – sinners. We deserve nothing from God, yet He gave us everything in Christ. It’s all free grace. It’s all His work. All we have to offer is our sin and our shame, yet He gave His Son to die for sins not His own. How can there be pride in our lives? How can there be self-righteousness? How can we look down our noses at others in this world? We cannot. All we have is sin and that’s all we bring to Christ. He alone makes peace by the blood of His Cross.


Forbid it Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

This is our only boast. This is our Gospel – that 'God in and through Christ crucified substituted Himself for us and bore our sins in His own body, dying in our place the death deserved by us, suffering the wrath and judgement of a Holy God in our stead, in order that we might be reconciled to God and brought even into His family and adopted as His beloved children' (adapted from John Stott).

The promise here is not only of personal reconciliation with God, but of cosmic redemption – that the Lord Christ will ‘reconcile all things to Himself, whether on earth or in heaven’. The Lord Christ, as I’ve mentioned already, is not only concern about the redemption of the soul, but also of the physical world and the body. Sometimes I hear Christians say disparaging things about the world and the human body, but there’s no place for such attitudes in Christianity. The error of Neo-Platonism and Gnosticism was to seek emancipation from the body and this physical world to a higher world of spiritual forms. However, that’s not the message of the Gospel and the New Testament. On the contrary, God in Scripture is deeply concerned about His creation. He’s not going to leave His creation to be soiled and ruined by sin. The Apostle Paul is teaching us that God in and through Christ will reconcile ‘all things to Himself, things in heaven and things on earth’ – the whole cosmos will be transformed and sanctified by the power and righteousness of Christ. It’s a wonderful thought to consider. The whole universe is being sustained and upheld by Jesus Christ, and waiting to be redeemed and sanctified with His righteousness.

In the letter to the Romans, Paul says that one day ‘the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God’ (Romans 8:21). The Apostle Peter anticipates the ‘new heavens and the new earth wherein righteousness dwells’ (2 Peter 3:13). It will be a world of righteousness – every atom and molecule, ever leaf, every tree, every garden, every household, every school, every village, town, and city will sparkle with the righteousness of Christ. It will all be glorious. The children of God will be clothed in the righteousness of Christ and dwell in a place of wonder and blessing forevermore. The idea that we’ll spend eternity as disembodied spirits in a perpetual prayer meeting is absurd. There’ll be a glorious world of righteousness to explore and appreciate, and we shall live every day for the glory and enjoyment of God. It’s a wonderful hope that takes in the whole of creation and all those who turn away from sin and trust in the blood of the Cross. The new heavens and earth will be a world of peace and happiness – a world of love, where all the tears, and sorrows, and hardships of life are washed away. And we have this great hope as Christians that death is not the end. There is more to life than suffering, sickness, old age, and death – there is the hope of resurrection, and the hope of ‘all things’ sharing the wonder of sins forgiven and peace with God. Amen.

References & Suggested Reading  
Barth, Karl, Dogmatics in Outline (1949).
Grudem, Wayne, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (1994).
Lucas, Dick, The Message of Colossians & Philemon (2000).
Macleod, Donald, The Person of Christ (1998).
Stott, John, The Cross of Christ (1986). 
Thiselton, Anthony C., Systematic Theology (2015).

06/02/2017

The Glory of Christ

‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14).

‘Show me Thy glory’
Under the Old Covenant the saints of God had a great desire to behold the glory of the Lord. It was Moses who prayed, ‘Lord, show me Thy glory’ (Exodus 33:18). That was his great desire – to see something of the glory of God. But the Lord said to Moses, ‘You cannot see my face, for no man can see Me and live’ (Exodus 33:20). So Moses was led to a cleft in the rock, sheltered in the hands of the Almighty, and there the presence of God passed by and Moses was given a glimpse of His glory, but not of His face. How did God reveal His glory to Moses? Was it am ecstatic feeling that overwhelmed him? Or a supernatural aura, or a blinding light? No. The presence of God was marked by His speech – His word, His voice. He proclaims His name to Moses: ‘The Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin …’ (Exodus 34:6). In other words, God’s revelation of His glory was a revelation of His divine nature and attributes. God made Himself known to Moses personally as the God of mercy and grace who is able to freely pardon and forgive sinful people. The glory of God, then, is the sum of His attributes. He is infinite, eternal, and unchanging in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. This is our God. This is His glory. So when Moses cried out, ‘Lord, show me Thy glory’ (Exodus 33:18), he was pleading with God for a revelation of the divine being. He wanted to know God. He was thirsting and longing for experiential knowledge of the great I AM – to know Him, to love Him, and to learn of His nature and character.

‘The Word …’
As we come to the New Testament, we find that the fullness of the Father’s glory is revealed in the face of Jesus Christ. As the hymn writer says, ‘Would we see His highest glory? Here it shines in Jesus’ face’. ‘All that mortal man is capable of knowing about God the Father is fully revealed to us by His Son’ (J. C. Ryle). He is the brightness of the Father’s glory, the express image of His person (Hebrews 1:3). ‘For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form’ (Colossians 2:9). ‘He is the image of the invisible God’ (Colossians 1:15). He Himself says, ‘I and my Father are one’ (John 10:30). He says, ‘He that hath seen me hath seen the Father’ (John 14:9). John, in our text, calls the Lord Jesus ‘the Word’ – the Logos. He says, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (John 1:1). He affirms the eternal pre-existence of Christ, His unity with the Godhead, and the fullness of His Deity – ‘The Word was God’. The Logos, the Word, is the One who makes the Father known. He is ‘the Sermon’ of God (Calvin). He is the Reason for everything – the Creator of all things visible and invisible, the one through whom all things were made (v.2). He is the Answer – the meaning of life. ‘In Him was life,’ John says, ‘and that life was the light of men’ (v.4). Indeed, He is the Light of the World who says to lost mankind, ‘Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (John 8:12). So the Lord Jesus Christ is God the Word – the whole reality of God is most perfectly expressed in Him. He is everything that God is. He is equal in every way with the Father and the Spirit. He is autotheos – God of Himself. We see in Him all the attributes of deity. The Name Moses heard proclaimed by the Lord God is manifest in Jesus Christ – ‘His perfect wisdom, His almighty power, His unspeakable love to sinners, His incomparable holiness, His hatred of sin could never be represented to our eyes more clearly than we see them in Christ’s life and death’ (J. C. Ryle).

‘Became flesh’
The Lord Jesus Christ is God incarnate – the embodiment of the second Person of the Trinity. He is ‘God manifest in the flesh’ (1 Timothy 3:16). He is the meeting-point between the Trinity and lost humanity (J. C. Ryle). John says most clearly, ‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us’. The infinite, eternal Son of God took a body and entered the reality of space and time. He intervened physically in human history. He took human nature upon Himself, and became a man like ourselves in all things, yet without sin. He was a man of reasonable body and soul. He had human hair, teeth, nails, skin, hands, and feet. He had capillaries, arteries and veins. He suffered human frailty. He hungered, thirsted, ate, drank, slept, got tired and worn out, felt pain, wept, rejoiced, suffered at the hands of cruel men, sweat drops of blood, faced untold agonies, indeed He was crucified, and He died. He was a real man. He became flesh. The Chalcedonian Creed (451 A.D.) says that He is ‘consubstantial with us according to the manhood, in all things like unto us, yet without sin’. He has a human body, a human mind, human emotions, human affections, a human soul. He was like us in every way, sin only excepted.

The Apostle Paul even goes so far as to say that He came ‘in the likeness of sinful flesh’ (Romans 8:3). He didn’t come as a sinner, but He came in all the weakness and frailty of lost mankind. He knew what it was like to hurt, to cry, to suffer, to die. He knew agony of mind and body. He was tempted in every way, yet He never sinned. He was taken into the wilderness by the Spirit and there He battled with Satan in the realm of His mind (Matthew 4:1–11). Satan tested His obedience to the Father – He pushed Him to His very limits. So the Lord Jesus understands the human situation. Even now, as He is enthroned in glory, that human heart He still retains. We have a sympathetic high priest, one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. He came into full identification with lost mankind. He understands the plight of man not merely because He is omniscient as God, but because He has experienced it as man.

‘And dwelt among us’
John says, ‘He dwelt among us’. For thirty years of His life, He was the great nobody. He was God incognito. The divine Lord of Glory came and dwelt among us like an undercover agent. He was born in an obscure village. Though he was the Son of God, yet he was brought up as the son of a carpenter. He worked there for most of His life. He made things. He worked with His hands. He never had a family. He never owned a house. He never went to college. He had no A Levels, no degrees, not even a GCSE. He didn’t travel far from home – at the most, he went 200 miles away from the place where He was born. ‘He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him’ (Isaiah 53:2). He looked like any other man. You’d pass by Him in the street, yet He was true Almighty God.

Thomas Goodwin said, ‘when God became man, heaven kissed earth’. But why did He come into this broken world? Why did God become man? He came to bring us back to God. He came to rescue and to save. ‘For the Son of man came to seek and save the lost’ (Luke 19:10). He came to live a holy and a blameless life. He came to obey the will of His Heavenly Father. He came to keep the Holy Law of God perfectly. Indeed, He is the fulfilment of the Law (Romans 10:4). We’ve trampled upon God’s righteous commands. We’ve smashed His statutes and offended His honour. We’ve lived as if God did not exist. But He came in the beauty of holiness and He lived a life full of love – love for God and love for mankind. He carried all of our griefs and sorrows. He took all of our sins and lawlessness upon Himself. So great was His identification with lost mankind that ‘God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God’ (2 Corinthians 5:21). ‘For God has done what the Law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh’ (Romans 8:3). All of our guilt, all of our sin, all of our shame was laid upon Him. ‘He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief … He was despised, and we esteemed Him not’ (Isaiah 53:3). He was taken to Calvary and crucified there for sins not His own. ‘He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds, we are healed’ (Isaiah 53:5).

He is the God-man (theanthropos), and it is only the God-man who can save us. None but Jesus can do helpless sinners good. He is perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood. He is truly God and truly man – two natures (divine and human), concurring without confusion in one remarkable person. ‘He is almighty, because He is God, and yet He can feel with us, because He is man’ (J. C. Ryle). He is powerful to save us because He is God, and He is fit to represent us because He is man. To quote one of the Puritans, ‘What a wonder it is, that two natures infinitely distant, should be more intimately united that anything in the world; and yet without any confusion. That the same person should have both a glory and a grief; an infinite joy in the Deity, and an inexpressible sorrow in the humanity! That the God upon the throne should become an infant in the cradle; that the thundering Creator should become a suffering man – these are such expressions of His mighty power, and condescending love, that they astonish men upon earth, and angels in heaven’ (Thomas Goodwin). 

Are we astonished by this? It is truly remarkable. As C. S. Lewis once said, the incarnation is the ‘greatest miracle’ in human history: ‘He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still … [into] the womb [of a virgin] … down to the very roots and sea-bed of the Nature He has created. But He goes down to rise up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him’. We need Him. We need the God-man. We need the whole Christ (totus Christus) and only Christ (solus Christus) to save us. As B. B. Warfield reminds us, we do not need ‘a humanized God or a deified man, but a true God-man – one who is all that God is and at the same time all that man is: upon whose almighty arm we can rest, and to whose human sympathy we can appeal. We cannot afford to lose either the God in the man or the man in the God; our hearts cry out for the complete God-man whom the Scriptures offer us’.

‘And we have seen His glory’
The Apostle John testifies as an eyewitness to the glory and majesty of the God-man. He says, ‘And we have seen His glory’. His glory is the sum and substance of their message. His glory is the very essence of Christianity. You cannot separate the good news of the Gospel from the beauty and glory of Jesus Christ. The Good News is Christ ‘clothed with His Gospel’ (Calvin). Sometimes as Christians we talk about the blessings of salvation as if they were abstracted from Christ. We talk about regeneration, and justification, and glorification, but without Christ none of these things would be possible – for all of our salvation is found in Him. Paul reminds the Ephesians that every spiritual blessing comes to us ‘in Christ’ (Ephesians 1). They come to us by virtue of a spiritual union with Him that was established before the foundation of the world – a union that becomes a reality in our lives through faith in Christ alone. For the Christian, there is something more wonderful than the blessings of salvation. There is something more glorious than the new birth. There is something more beautiful than sanctification. There is something greater even than justification and adoption. There is the glory of Christ Himself. Stephen Charnock says, ‘there is something in Christ more excellent and comely than the office of a Saviour; the greatness of His person is more excellent than the salvation procured by His death’. This is what the beloved disciple saw in Christ – His glory, His majesty, His beauty, His radiance. They looked upon Him and were lost in wonder, love, and awe. ‘We have seen His glory’. He was glorious in life and in death – never was He more glorious and majestic than when He died and rose again for lost mankind:

In His highest work, redemption,
See His brightest glory blaze!

The work of redemption is like a great mirror wherein we behold the glory of Christ. The world was His theatre and Calvary the stage upon which the God-man made know His glory to sinners of lost mankind. ‘We have seen His glory’, John says. The things of this world, all of our sins, all the temptations, all of vanity fair pales into significance in the light of His glory and grace. So we must look away from ourselves, and behold Jesus. The Psalmist says, ‘They who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed’ (Psalm 34:5). The Lord Christ Himself says, ‘Look unto me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God and there is no other’ (Isaiah 45:22). On this looking to Christ depends all of our salvation and assurance of faith. If we keep looking inward, into ourselves and into sin, then we’ll fall to pieces. But the sight of our Saviour dispels all thoughts of darkness and despair. For who can cheer the heart like Jesus? All the glory, and majesty, and power, and power, and love of God is found in Christ.

Words fail to capture the beauty and glory of Christ. We need psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs to lisp our praise – to worship and love Him. Solomon says, ‘He is the fairest of ten thousand, the lily of the valley, the rose of Sharon, yes, He is altogether lovely’. Solomon and Moses only had a glimpse of the glory of God, but these disciples, these fishermen, these tax collectors and sinners – they have seen His glory in the face of Jesus Christ. My friends, have we had such a sight of His glory? If Moses under the Old Covenant had such a view of the glory of God and such holy desires to know Him then, how much more should seek the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ? John Owen says, ‘We need a constant view of the glory of Christ to revive our souls and cause our spiritual lives to flourish and thrive’. What do we know of this constant view of Christ in our lives? The Apostle Paul speaks of ‘the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ?’ What do we know of this glory by experience? Are we thirsting and longing for a sight of His glory? Are we hungering for His righteousness? Are we longing for a sense of His presence?

The Lord Jesus wants us to enjoy His glory by experience. He says to His Father, ‘Father, I desire that they also whom you gave me may be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which you have given me; for you loved me before the foundation of the world’ (John 17:24). Oh that we may behold the glory of Christ more clearly by faith in this world, so as to prepare to behold His glory more clearly by sight in the next! If we cannot behold Him by faith in the here and now, how shall we behold Him by sight in the hereafter? Have we seen His glory with the eyes of faith? May God stamp a vision of Christ upon our eyes.

Practical Applications
I] Of comfort: we see in the incarnation the depths of His love for us. Sometimes we are prone to think harsh thoughts of Christ and we imagine that He doesn’t love us. We look at our many sins, we look at our failures, we feel our own worthlessness, and we think to ourselves ‘How can He love a sinner like me?’ Yet, as one of the Church fathers observed, ‘it was our sorry case that caused the Word to come down, our transgression that called out His love for us, so that He made haste to help us and to appear among us. It is we who were the cause of His taking human form, and for our salvation that in His great love He was both born and manifested in a human body’ (Athanasius). He came into this world for us. He came because He loved us and desired to save us. He came to show the love His Heavenly Father for lost mankind. ‘When we had lost ourselves by sin, God, in the riches of His grace, sent for his Son, made of a woman, to redeem us’ (Thomas Watson). Oh the love of Christ! So great and so vast His love that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6–8, 10).

II] Of encouragement to prayer: there is a real man in glory who ever lives to make intercession for us. He came down to earth and assumed our nature, and He went back up into heaven as a real man, with a human heart, and human feelings. He understands our situation. He knows. He is ever ready to listen and to hear us. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize without weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin’ (Hebrews 4:15). He knows what you are going through. He knows the pain, the suffering, and the anxiety. He understands the searing pain of temptation, He knows the sorrows of life, and the misery of death. He feels for you. His heart beats in heaven with love for poor sinners. He prays just for you. He goes to His Heavenly Father with your name upon His lips. ‘He hears your sighs and bottles your tears’ (Thomas Watson). He is ever ready to listen. At your lowest ebb, when all things are falling apart, when the world is crashing to bits around you – there is a Saviour, the God-man, in the glory pleading for you with tears before the throne of mercy. You can always cast yourself upon Him – ‘I know one gate is open, one ear will hear my prayer’.

III] Of exhortation to evangelise: John’s great desire was to testify concerning the glory of Christ. He spoke from the heart concerning what He had seen with His own eyes. We may not have seen the glory of Christ with our physical eyes, but we behold Him by faith and our calling in this world is to know Christ and to make Him known. We are called to be witnesses. It is not enough for us to pray for revival. It is not enough for us to hope that sinners will wander into Church. We are called to speak up for Jesus – to say a word for Him. We may not have great gifts or eloquence, but we have Him. We know Him. We love Him. We’ve sat through hundreds of sermons about Him. So we must stand up for Him and speak of His greatness and His glory. How can we not? How can we keep silent about Him? He is incredible. He is remarkable. He is Good News. Oh that we might have a fresh sight of His glory! Oh that we might come to know Him and love Him more! If we have grown cold and stale in the work of evangelism, then let us look upon Him and find fresh energy and enthusiasm for the work of the Gospel. There is something terribly wrong with a Christian who has no desire to make Christ known. It is not simply a duty; it is our delight – our highest privilege. Paul says to the Corinthians, ‘For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified’ (1 Corinthians 2:2). Jesus Christ and His work of redemption is the pervasive characteristic of Paul’s theology – everything in His preaching and teaching is connected with Him. This is how our Churches and our evangelism must be – we are to be the ‘Jesus people’. There must be absolute clarity about where we stand – ‘we preach Christ and Him crucified’ (1 Corinthians 1:23).  

Sinclair Ferguson closes His wonderful book The Whole Christ (2016) with an anecdote about Scottish Pulpits. Many of them, he says, would have a small brass plate fastened inside the pulpit with the words visible only to the preacher: ‘Sir, we would see Jesus’. That’s the ethos we need today in every pulpit in Wales. The chief desire of every Christian and every Gospel preacher should be to know Christ and to make Him known – ‘to seem Him more clearly, to love Him more dearly, and follow Him more nearly’. Amen.

References & Further Reading
Athanasius of Alexandria, On the Incarnation (c.318).
Ferguson, Sinclair, & Derek Thomas, ICHTHUS: Jesus Christ, God’s Son, the Saviour (Crossway, 2015).
Ferguson, Sinclair, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism & Gospel Assurance – Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters (Crossway, 2016).
Jones, Mark, Jesus Christ: An Introduction to Christology (Christian Focus, 2012).
Jones, Mark, Knowing Christ (Banner of Truth, 2015).
Macleod, Donald, The Person of Christ (IVP, 1998).
Olyott, Stuart, What the Bible Teaches about the Person of Christ (Evangelical Press, 2016).
Ryle, J. C., Daily Readings from all four Gospels (Evangelical Press, 2015).
Warfield, B. B., The Person and Work of Christ (Presbyterian & Reformed, 1950).
Watson, Thomas, A Body of Divinity (Banner of Truth, 1965), pp. 192–208.