"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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    Images of the Savior (31 – His Transfiguration)

    And after six days, Jesus takes Peter and James and John his brother, and brings them up into a high mountain alone; and he was transformed before them, and his face shone as the sun, and his garments became white as the light. – Matthew 17:1-2

    The great mystery of the work of redemption, and the matchless wonder of the Redeemer himself, consists of the diverse excellencies displayed to infinite degrees in the accomplishment of the work. Consider into what depths of humility Christ plummeted, as he followed his Father's will to purchase back a people from their unimaginably deep sin and rebellion: he, the infinitely high and happy God, took on human form, lived a life subject to all human weaknesses and temptations, suffered rejection, despite, shame, and mockery at the hands of his creatures, and bore in his own body the full mass of putrid sin which we had heaped up to heaven, together with the full cup of the Father's holy wrath against this sin. This is humility inexpressible and illimitable! But consider what great glory he has won through such ignoble means: he has won the greatest victory in all the history of the world, against the greatest enemy of all that is good and right who has ever had existence – that old Serpent, the devil. He has fully displayed the infinitely glorious and diverse majesty of the invisible Godhead, whom no man has ever seen, in such a manner that the weakest of men might see God's true form and glorify him. He has won a people for his everlasting inheritance, and wrought the unspeakable work of making them who had been horribly disfigured and marred into the very image of himself, and a spotless and pure bride. And he has done what by all accounts should be impossible for the infinitely glorious God to do; he has gained a glory which did not inhere in the Godhead before, and obtained a name which did not previously belong to him; for the glory of Mediator, Redeemer, Perfect Man, Immanuel, and, in short, Jesus, who saves his people from their sins, did not from eternity belong to the Godhead; but in consequence of the perfect work of the Christ, the new and glorious name Jesus has been added to the eternal and glorious name Yahweh, in the person of the eternal Son of God – for is this not what is expressed in the words of Paul: “Wherefore, God also has highly exalted him and given him the name which is above ever name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on the earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11)? In our next account, that of the transfiguration of Jesus before his disciples, we see the first glimpse of the infinitely high glory which should adhere to Jesus in consequence of the infinitely low position to which he stooped, contrary to all human reason or expectation.

    Let us observe, in the first place, that the brightness of glory which shone from the face of Jesus that day on the mountain, was in particular the glory which belonged to him by virtue of his office as Redeemer. For first of all, it was a glory which shone from his face and his clothes, which are attributes of Jesus as the divine Man, and not of Jesus as the eternally pre-existent God. It was only Jesus as the Mediator who took upon himself human flesh; and now, that office which belongs to him alone, is seen in the glory which inhered in it from the beginning, although the glory was veiled, as it were, throughout his lifetime, and despised and rejected among men. When Jesus first took on human flesh, it was with no outward form of glory (see Isaiah 53:2); but after having descended into the depths of humiliation, as the Father had willed for him to do in pursuance of his great work, he would infuse that humble form with all the glory of divinity, so that the body of humiliation, which he had taken upon himself, would be changed into a glorious body, which he should possess as a robe of his majesty for all eternity. And we must also note that his glory is increased in that he did not gain this glorious body for himself alone, but for all his people; as we get a foretaste of in the sight of Moses' and Elijah's bodies, which were like the glorious body of Christ. The saints who have died in Christ do not yet have their glorious bodies, as a general rule; but as Elijah was taken up bodily into heaven (II Kings 2:11); and as Moses was buried by God himself (Deuteronomy 34:5-6), and it appears later that there was a dispute between Michael and Satan over this body (Jude 9); we have no doubt that they were the two exceptions to this rule, and were granted their resurrection bodies before the rest of us, as a glimpse of what Christ's acquisition of a body of glory should someday accomplish for us who hope in him.

    So Christ's glory on this mountain was peculiarly a glory won by his taking on of human flesh, and in that body of flesh working the victory of the ages; and we see, moreover, that it was furthermore a glory won by his fulfillment of all the prophecies in the scriptures pertaining to the Messiah. For Moses, the giver of the law, and Elijah, the greatest of the prophets, here appear conversing with him as if to say, all that is written in the law and the prophets (which is a Jewish expression for all the Old Testament scriptures) is fulfilled before us today. And in particular, we learn from Luke's account that they were conversing about Jesus' impending exodus which he was about to fulfill in Jerusalem, by which term is intended his sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father, so as to lead his children out of slavery and into their eternal rest, even as the type Moses brought along the children of Israel on their exodus out of Egypt. This accords very well with what Jesus himself taught his disciples, first, asserting that all the scriptures were written to testify of him (Luke 24:27); and second, explaining to them from those scriptures that it was necessary that the Christ should suffer and arise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name unto all the nations (Luke 24:47). Moreover, we hear in the Father's statement overtones of the glory of Christ in his three mediatorial offices, his decree of “well-pleased” indicating an approval and acceptance of Jesus' priestly work of offering up his own body for the sins of the people and granting to them his own righteousness; and his command to the disciples to “hear him,” clearly alluding to Moses' promise of a great Prophet whom the people would hear (Deuteronomy 18:18-19); and also expressing the obedience which he deserved as the eternal Davidic King. Hence, the glory of Jesus on the mount of transfiguration was a glory which inhered in his fulfillment of all the prophecies given of the Messiah, and in his perfect discharge of his offices as prophet, priest, and king.

    Third, Christ's glory is especially seen in this, the approval of the Father in his work as the Redeemer. The Father had from all eternity designed this monumental task, and the Son, in perfect agreement with the divine counsel, had undertaken to accomplish it (Ephesians 1:3-6; John 5:36; Luke 2:49). In exchange for this perfect work of obedience, the Father had promised the Son an inheritance of his own peculiar people, as well as authority over all the world, to judge and reign (Psalm 2:7-8; John 17:1-5; John 5:22-23). Now, the Father is expressing his approval of the Son's messianic work, and so sealing the glory which he had before promised in exchange for this work. He had done a job most pleasing to the infinitely holy God; and the glory which had been promised was now his by rights (see Hebrews 2:10). This is a wonderful truth, and we would do well to reflect much upon it.

    Fourth, we must observe that this glory is actually sealed and finalized only in the resurrection of Christ from the dead. This was just a momentary glimpse, given to those three disciples who were nearest to Jesus, and with express instructions from him not to make his glory known until after he had arisen from the dead. The Father's stamp of approval was here given, but the final seal, and the actual impartation of the promised glory, would not come until the resurrection. This was the specific means by which Jesus, the eternal Son of God, was declared to be the Son of God before all (see Romans 1:1-4). We must observe from verse three of Romans chapter one that Jesus was indeed the Son of God before the resurrection declared him to be so; but he was finally and fully displayed as such only in the resurrection from the dead. This was the pinnacle of the divine plan, and the single event in which the economical Trinity most perfectly displayed the relationship which had eternally inhered in the ontological Trinity. The culminating event of all history was the resurrection of Christ from the dead; and we learn this, among other ways, by noting Jesus' command to his disciples not to make his glory known until his resurrection should have finally displayed it before all the world. Remember how well Peter and John followed these instructions, after Jesus' resurrection declaring the account of his transfigured glory to all the Church (see II Peter 1:16-18; I John 1:1-3).

    And finally, we will notice that this glory is not at once visible to all the world, as it will be some day; but that only those who see it now, through the eyes of faith, will rejoice in it when it is displayed before all creation. Only those who, having not seen Jesus, still love him with “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (I Peter 1:3-9), will be granted rest and comfort when he comes again “to be glorified in his saints and to be admired in all who believe” (II Thessalonians 1:10). O reader, Christ is glorious indeed, with the unspeakable glory of the Redeemer, a glory which descends the deepest lows of sin and shame, turning all to light, peace, and forgiveness, and climbs the highest heights of Kingly power and dominion, divine radiance and majesty, fearful power and wrath. Do you see this glory? Have you tasted the wonder of his divine and diverse excellence, even though you have not yet seen him with your physical eyes? I promise you that one day you will see him in all his glory, and bow before him in profound worship. But if you have not seen him in this life, the brightness of that glory will consume you as stubble before the fire, and you will be punished with “everlasting destruction away from the presence of the Lord” (II Thessalonians 1:9). But if you have tasted his glory now, it will be your ever-increasing delight for all eternity, and its brightness will be your joy and peace. Oh, pray the Father for a sight of this glory! Pray him to lead you up the mount of transfiguration and grant you to see the wonder of the divine majesty gleaming from the face of perfect humanity! You were made for this! Apart from it, you have nothing to look forward to but misery and torment; but by its sight, the everlasting eons of eternity will roll down upon you in ever-increasing waves of ecstasy, as you rejoice in the presence of the all-satisfying glory, and lift up your voice with all the saints in songs of truest praise.

    Posted by Nathan on July 4, 2007 09:46 AM

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