15. The good news of the glory of Christ.
“If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” (2 Cor. 4:3, 4.) Reader, ponder these words — “the gospel of the glory of Christ,” for it should not be read the glorious gospel of Christ.” Glorious, indeed, is the good news of Christ, but the Spirit of God, in the text before us, addresses our minds rather to the subject than the quality of the good news.
There is divine good news for man in the fact that the once-crucified Christ is a man in glory.
The light of His glory on earth.
When our Lord was upon earth He “was the light of the world.” Every act and deed of His, grace or truth, gentleness or reproof, was the shining out of the Divine character. He was both “the image of God” and “the light of the world.” Suppose we take a torch into a cavern; its light reveals the character and contents of the cave, makes manifest that which, before the entrance of the torch, was hidden in darkness. Such was the Lord's shining way through this world; it detected everything. But man “loved darkness rather than light,” and understood not His perfections. “The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1:5.) “The world 'at large' knew Him not;” the circle of His ancient people “received Him not.” (v. 10, 11.) The darkness did not mingle with the light; the light did not modify the darkness. By Jesus the Light, the image of the invisible God, is the character of God expressed to man. By knowing the Son we know the Father. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” (John 1:18.) Man learns God in the person of His Son. Therefore, to reject the Son, is to reject the Father who sent Him. Receiving the Son, God gives us the privilege of becoming His children. (John 1:12, 13.) From the Person of Christ the glory of God shines out. We understand the cross, we know pardon and peace, we perceive the character of the throne of God in its holiness and justice, and we know, too, that God is love.
The effulgence and rays of His character reached man through the Son. Even as the light emanates from and surrounds the sun, so Christ is the brightness of God's glory (Heb. 1:3), and as we see not the sun itself, but its effulgence, we see not God save through Him who expresses to us who and what God is.
A glorified Christ in heaven.
At length the darkness sought to put out the light and drive it from the world. And with what result? The Light is no longer beaming from this earth; Jesus is in heaven; He is in the glory of God as a Man. There, the Man, Christ Jesus, bears upon His Person the marks of man's rejection, while the fact of His presence there attests God's estimate of His work upon earth. The light of His words and works led man, in his darkness, to crucify Him; the light of His Person, now on high, expresses to man the brightness of God's glory and His grace to the chief of sinners.
The Lord revealed Himself to Saul as Jesus of Nazareth, glorified at God's right hand in heaven, and with Him, as He is, every man must have to do. The christian knows not Christ after the flesh, but in resurrection-glory. Christ is not the Man of sufferings upon earth; He is not the dying One upon the cross; He is not the slain One in the sepulchre where, eighteen hundred years ago, the shining angels said to the women, “He is not here, He is risen.” No, He is the Risen Man, the Ascended Man, the One whom the chosen few beheld ascend from Olivet. And whither went He? To heaven! But to what part of heaven? The Son of God, the brightness of God's glory, the express image of His Person, “when He had, by Himself, purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” It was from that glory He announced Himself to Saul, “I am Jesus of Nazareth,” the self-same Jesus, who had walked in humiliation and in rejection upon this earth. And this is a message distinct from everything previously given by God to man.
The gospel of His glory.
Prophets had predicted His coming, and the yet future day of His glory upon earth, when, under His sceptre, righteousness should be established and peace should reign. The angelic hosts had praised God, and proclaimed peace on earth and good pleasure concerning man when He was born the Babe in Bethlehem. He Himself, when here, had preached eternal life to all that believe on Him; and His apostles, after His resurrection, had published forgiveness of sins through faith in His Name. But the special good news of the Man rejected and despised on earth, linking His own with Himself in heaven, was reserved to be made known to man, until His own lips announced that gospel from the glory above.
Human eye could gaze upon the lowly Babe of Bethlehem, could look upon the Man of Sorrows, and, even now, man can allow his imagination to paint an ideal — chisel a careworn countenance — carve a crucifix; but His ascension-glory is beyond the perception and grasp of mere humanity. His enemies fell to the ground as dead in the presence of the light of it. The radiance of which was brighter than that of the noonday eastern sun. They “saw, indeed, the light, and were afraid,” and Saul was blinded by “the glory of that light,” the moral perfection of which, however, by the power of the Holy Ghost, shined into his heart “to give the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Satan's effort to hide Christ from man.
The enemy, “the god of this world,” gained a seeming victory at the cross. His power of darkness allied with man's will cast out of the world the only One who could tell man who and what God is. And now the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ, is hidden from the chief part of the earth — darkness is upon the face of humanity. By far the greater portion of the world is heathen or Mahomedan, and only in a very small part of that which is Christendom is the word of God so much as read, and within those narrowing limits but very few believe. Save within the hearts of God's hidden people, there exists upon the earth the most vague idea of God. The fact of a risen and glorified Jesus does not enter into the calculation of the popularized christianity of our day. Thus has “The god of this world blinded the minds of them that believe not.”
But the strongholds of Satan become weakness in the presence of Jesus, once crucified, now glorified. Where He has gone Satan's power cannot follow, and when a man believes Christ, and apprehends where He is, he triumphs in the victory of his Lord. Thenceforth to him infidelity and superstition are the creatures of that darkness which the god of this world rules, and by which he sways the minds of those who do not believe. The christian's faith is beyond the darkness, fixed on Him who is in glory, and from whom glory shines.
The glory of Christ, good news.
By the gospel we have not only the tidings of forgiveness of sins, peace with God, and new life in Christ, but we have also the message of glory for ourselves. The ministry of the law, engraven in stones, which Moses brought with him from the mount, was accompanied with surroundings of glory. The face of Moses shone as he came down from Sinai with the tables of the law in his hands and the reflection of God's glory upon his countenance. Then Moses put a veil upon his face, to hide the glory from a trembling people under the law; for Israel could not read the meaning of the reflections of glory upon Moses' face, because the tables of the law were in his hands. It is impossible to receive grace from a law-giver, and until grace be known by man, the glory of God is terrible to him. It is only as believers in Christ crucified that we can know Christ glorified. The holiest is opened to faith's vision through the rent veil of His flesh. His grace in dying for us has made His glory our joy.
There is no veil before the face of the ascended Jesus. It is all love, grace, glory. Not a cloud upon His face, not a shadow of doubt should remain in the hearts of His own. We know that He would not be the glorified Man on high had He not been the crucified Man below. We see Him, but not holding the tables of the law in His hands, and bidding us “do this and live;” we see Him with hands once pierced for our sins, and the glory of God shining from His face, telling us that all is done, that our sins are gone, and that God is magnified. We know that He who was forsaken for us is the new measure of our acceptance — “We are accepted in the Beloved.” Thus is the glory of Christ good news to His people.
The glory of Christ gives His people the christian hope.
God had a great purpose in making man. He made him in His own image, and set him over the works of His hands. The image is now sorely marred by sin, man is grievously unlike God. But God has not departed from His purpose, and what sin has spoiled upon earth, grace will establish in glory. What has been permitted to fail in the first creation, will be built up in perfection in the new. In due time God's people will be made like to the glorified Christ on high. As they have borne sin's stamp and sin's suffering here, so shall they bear His image, who has died for sin, and risen out of death and sorrow there. “As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” (1 Cor. 15:49.)
How this end will be effected.
Resurrection is the mighty power of God. The lesson which we learn yearly, in the bare grain becoming the fruitful ear of corn, will be fulfilled in the bodies of God's people by the Lord Himself. “Our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body” (or, body of humiliation), “that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself.” (Phil. 3:20, 21.)
When will this be elected?
The day, the hour, we know not. But when the Lord comes, His own will rise, and those of His who are living will be changed. “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1 Cor. 15:51, 52.) And this is the highest christian hope. The hope of the redemption of our bodies on that day of glory (Rom. 8:21); the hope of being conformed to Christ's image and likeness, of being in body, soul, and spirit pure like Himself.
This hope is a purifying hope. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.” (1 John 2:2, 3.)
Moreover, the occupation of the heart with Christ where He is, produces holiness within the christian. “We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor. 3:18.) We see an unveiled face of the glorified Christ in the presence of God. Faith sees it, and present holiness follows, for we are changed. The change is progressive, it is “from glory to glory;” there is no standing still — “not as though I had already attained, or either were already perfect.” The light of a glorified Christ poured into the soul by God the Spirit produces holiness, even as the fruit is surely, though imperceptibly, ripened by the sun's rays. As it grows, it is changed to sweetness by the light. There is no effort in this work, but a great result. “Beholding . . . . we are changed.” We hinder holiness by looking to the earth, to self, to one another. There is but little holiness where Christ is not all.
Acquaintance with Christ in the glory is the great energizing principle of the christian faith. Christ in glory beamed like the light of a beacon before His servant, Paul. It guided and drew him on in his troublous course on earth. It led him with unwearied force to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14.) He saw before him the brightness of a glorified Jesus, and he longed to be like Him on high. The prize of resurrection-blessings glistened before his soul. He panted for the day when he should be exactly like Christ, and in the power of that prospect he counted what he once so dearly prized, as dung, and was ready, even should it be by the means of martyrdom, to be with Christ, whose image he would shortly bear. Reader! the force of his example appeals to us, while his tears, as he tells of those “who mind earthly things,” warn us; for we are either running in the race as was Paul, or we are turning to the world — there is no neutral ground.