Glory and Grace

Luke 9. 32, 42, 43; Acts 22. 15; Ephesians 1. 8-12.

In Psalm 84. 11 we read, ‘the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory’. As in so much of the Old Testament, these features have their fullest expression in the Lord Jesus Christ, as ‘God … manifest in flesh’, 1 Tim. 3. 16. This article looks at the manifestation of glory and grace in Jesus personally, and in the blessings conferred on believers of the present dispensation.

Glory was nowhere seen so remarkably as on the Mount of Transfiguration, where Jesus had taken His three disciples Peter, James and John, to witness this unique experience. Matthew 17. 2 and Mark 9. 2 both refer to His being ‘transfigured’ there, thus giving the mountain its traditional name. But only Luke 9. 32 states specifically that the three disciples saw His glory. Luke’s account is also the only one which enlarges upon the miracle performed by the Lord immediately after descending from the mountain, by describing the effect on those who witnessed that manifestation of divine glory and grace.

There could hardly be a greater contrast than between the scene on the mountain and that which took place afterwards on the plain below. The former was virtually a preview of the Lord’s coming glory, and the saints, represented by Moses and Elias, in the enjoyment of it with Him. The second, a scene characterized by the power of evil over the souls and bodies of both adults and children, and by human misery and impotence. Yet there is a wonderful connection between these two scenes as presented by Luke. Besides the supreme fact of the presence of the Lord of glory, 1 Cor. 2. 8, as the central figure in both, the same disciples have their part in both; and the glory manifested is the same in both, as we shall see.

This last fact is a very wonderful thing. To think that the divine majesty and glory, as seen without hindrance in Jesus in the transfiguration, should be brought to bear upon a case of abject need in what can only be termed sordid conditions down on the plain! This is the meaning implicit in the Holy Spirit’s use of the same word megaliotes, translated ‘mighty power’, (‘glorious greatness’, JND), in Luke 9. 43, to describe the Lord’s glory, and as related by Peter when he speaks of being eye-witnesses of His majesty on the holy mount, 2 Pet. 1. 16. In this remarkable use of the same Greek word we have virtually the whole truth of the intervention of God in Christ. God Himself has in grace entered into the conditions of degradation in which natural man is found, in order to meet man’s need by the display of His own glory, by cleansing, healing and restoration. As a hymn of JND’s puts it -
There see the Godhead glory
Shine through that human veil,
And, willing, hear the story
Of Love that’s come to heal.

Disease, and death, and demon,
All fled before Thy word,
As darkness, the dominion
Of day’s returning lord.

But, some might say, that only applies to the Lord’s pathway on earth. No, not at all, for what the Lord did in a literal and physical way here on earth, He does now in a moral and spiritual way in our souls and, we may say, in our bodies too so that they should be delivered from the power of sin and be secured as vessels for God’s will. To this end, the testimony of glory and grace has been brought to us in the gospel from an ascended Christ, and by no one more distinctively than by the apostle Paul.

So, in the second scripture cited, the Lord through Ananias instructed Paul that he was to be a witness for Him to all men of what he had seen and heard. What Paul had seen on the Damascus road was glory, the glory of Christ in heaven, a light ‘above the brightness of the sun’ at midday; and what he had heard was ineffable grace: ‘Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against goads’, Acts 26. 14 JND. And the commission he subsequently received from the Lord, v. 18, was pure grace. No doubt he learnt, in his three days of deep exercise following, without seeing, eating or drinking, how real was this activity of glory and grace towards himself, the chief of sinners. He was thus peculiarly qualified to convey this precious ministry, ‘this treasure’, as he calls it in 2 Cor. 4. 7, to others for their blessing.

In the Ephesian saints, Paul was addressing a company who were the product of this same ministry, and to whom he could enlarge upon these precious thoughts of glory and grace. The first part of chapter 1 of that epistle might be regarded as summed up in the expression ‘the glory of his (God’s) grace’, which occurs in verse 6. In five (ie. vv. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8) verses the apostle presents the greatness of the blessings which God the Father has conferred upon us (believers) in Christ in three spheres: first, in giving us a place in His purposes prior to the coming in of sin and outside of our responsible histories, vv. 4 to 6; second, in meeting our moral need in the time scene by redemption, verse 7; and third, in giving us the ability to enter intelligently into His own thoughts and purposes of love, verse 8. In all these things the transcendent grace of God is the prominent thought, ‘the glory of his grace’.

Then the apostle proceeds to engage us more directly with the thought of God’s glory, operating to provide an answer for Himself, so establishing Himself as the supreme object of worship. Also, setting Christ as Man as the head and centre by whom everything in that heavenly system is held together and controlled. Thus verses 9 and 10 speak of God’s purpose to head up all things in Christ, for His own satisfaction; and it is shown how the saints of the dispensation are brought into these great operations, v. 11, and the end in view, ‘that we should be to the praise of his glory’, v. 12.

In keeping with the close connection between grace and glory implied by Psalm 84. 11, the scriptures considered above show that when our side of things is prominent, grace is the feature that is stressed, and yet glory attaches to this; and when God’s side of things is prominent, glory is the feature that is stressed, and yet grace is linked with it. How inextricably bound together in this way are these blessed features of glory and grace, which were expressed so perfectly in Jesus on earth, and which shine through His activities now in the souls of those to whom He addresses Himself in the gospel, and in the ministry of His servant Paul. In writing to the Thessalonian assembly Paul presents ‘the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ’ as the objective to which God has called all those who believe, through His gospel, 2 Thess. 2. 14. Many Christians have but little conception of what this involves, being apparently content merely with relief from their sins. We need to be constantly under the sanctifying, stimulating and elevating influence of God’s glory and grace if we are both to worship ‘in spirit and truth’ and to walk in a way worthy of ‘him that has called us by glory and virtue’, 2 Pet. 1. 3, and, as Paul exhorted the Ephesians, worthy of the (heavenly) calling wherewith we have been called, Eph. 4. 1.


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