The Church and Its Glory

 •  17 min. read  •  grade level: 11
READ Eph. 1
OF the three objects which have been mentioned in the first lecture as about to form the subject of our study, that of the church and its glory is to have the first place. It introduces us to the name of Father, the character in which God has revealed Himself to us, and whence flow to the church, the fruits of grace, and all the circumstances of its state of glory, as everything flowed to Israel from the name of Jehovah. To this name of Father, however, is to be added another relationship, distinctly marked in the epistle to the Ephesians, and closely allied to the principal one, namely, that the Father has given the church to Christ as His bride, so that it will fully participate in all His glory. In adopting us for His children, the Father has associated us with the dignities and glory of the Son, " firstborn among many brethren," Rom. 8:2929For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29). As the bride of Jesus, we enjoy, in virtue of His incomparable love to us, all the privileges that belong to Him. " The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand," John 3:3535The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. (John 3:35). This is the first great truth we desire to set out from. And as the Son has glorified the Father, so the Father will glorify the Son.
Our second point is: we shall participate in the glory of the Son; as it is said in John 17:2222And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: (John 17:22), " And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them "; and it is in order that the world may know that the Father loves us as He loves Jesus Himself. In seeing us in the same glory, the world will be convinced that we are the objects of the same love; and the glory which we shall have at the last day will be but the manifestation of this precious and astonishing truth.
Thus the hope of the church is not alone salvation, that is, to escape the wrath of God, but to have the glory of the Son Himself. That in which the perfection of its joy consists is the being loved by the Father, and by Jesus; and, in consequence of this love, the being glorified. But more than this, the Father would have us enter into the full intelligence of these riches, and has even given us the first fruits by the presence of the Holy Ghost in all those who are saved. Before we follow up these thoughts by other testimonies from the word of God, let us look into the chapter before us.
In the very first lines, God presents Himself as a Father, and in the relationships already indicated. He is " our Father " (v. 2), and " the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (v. 3). From this until verse 8 the apostle expounds salvation. God " has made us accepted in the beloved "-this " to the praise of the glory of his grace," in God's presence, in conformity to His nature, and adopted as children to the Father. We have redemption through Christ's blood. This is according to the riches of God's grace.
From verses 8 to to, we see that this grace of salvation introduces us by its actual power, by the Holy Spirit, into the knowledge of the proposed purpose or decree of God as to the glory of Christ; a touching proof, as we have before remarked, of the love of God, who treats us as His friends, and tranquillizes our souls, in an ineffable manner, in making us see the termination of all the efforts and all the agitation of the men of this world. The decreed purpose of God is this, God will " gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth."
Until verse 8, we have seen our predestination to the state of children of the Father, and the actual accomplishment of salvation. " We have redemption through his blood." In that which follows, we have the purpose of God, as to the glory of Christ, in relation with all things; afterward, from verse I 1, our participation, yet future, in the glory thus designated; and, further, the sealing of the Holy Spirit whilst we are waiting in expectation of this glory. " In whom also we have obtained an inheritance... that we should be to the praise of his glory." Previous to verse 8, it had been " to the praise of the glory of his grace." Now it is " to the praise of his glory "; and then, " after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory." The remainder of the chapter is a prayer of the apostle, that the faithful may understand their hope, and that the power of the resurrection and of the exaltation of Christ, to whom the church is united, may be accomplished in them, a power which works towards them as believers.
This position of the church, which enjoys its own redemption, and which waits for the redemption of the inheritance, has its perfect type in Israel. This people, redeemed from Egypt, did not enter at once into Canaan, but into the wilderness, whilst the land itself remained still in the possession of the Canaanites. The redemption of Israel was finished, the redemption of the inheritance was not. The heirs were redeemed, but the inheritance was not yet delivered out of the hands of the enemy. " Now all these things," says the apostle (1 Cor. 10:1111Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. (1 Corinthians 10:11)), " happened unto them " [the Israelites] " for types, and they are written for our admonition " [the church], upon whom the ends of the world are come." Christ is waiting for the resurrection of the church, in order that everything may be subjected to Him, subjected not of right only, but in fact. He is waiting for that solemn moment when Jehovah will make all His enemies as a footstool under His feet; Psa. 110:11<<A Psalm of David.>> The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. (Psalm 110:1). Until that moment arrives, kept as a secret in the depth of the divine counsels,1 He is sitting on the " right hand of the majesty on high," Heb. 1:33Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; (Hebrews 1:3).
Christ will take the inheritance of all things as a man, in order that the church, bought with His blood, may inherit all things with Him, purified co-heir of an inheritance which will be itself purified.
Let us keep in mind, then, these two fundamental points: Firstly, Christ, in the counsels of God, possesseth all things. Secondly, In virtue of being the bride of Christ, the church participates in all that He has, and in all that He is, except His eternal divinity, although in a sense we do participate in the divine nature.
Let us look through the passages which furnish the thoughts we have been giving out. All things, we say, are for Christ. " He is appointed heir of all things," Heb. 1:22Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; (Hebrews 1:2). They belong to Him of right, because He is their Creator; Col. 1:15-1815Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 18And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:15‑18). Observe, in this passage, two headships of Christ; first of all He is called "firstborn [or, chief] of every creature," then, " firstborn from the dead," " the head of the body, the church "; a distinction which throws much light on our subject. " All things were created by him, and for him." Moreover, He will possess them as man, as last Adam, to whom God has intended in His counsels to subject them.
It is thus that we read in Psa. 8, which is applied to Christ by Paul (Heb. 2:66But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? (Hebrews 2:6)), and is, in fact, the corner stone of the doctrine of the apostle upon this subject. He cites the psalm three times in his epistles, in passages, the leading thoughts of which are the subjection of all things to the Man Christ under three different aspects, every one of which is important for us.
According to Heb. 2:66But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? (Hebrews 2:6), the prophecy is not yet accomplished, but the church has, in the partial accomplishment of that which is yet to come, the pledge of its final consummation. All things are not yet put in subjection to Jesus; but, in the meantime, Jesus is already crowned with glory and honor- certain proof that what remains will have its fulfillment in due time.
Under the present dispensation (the object of which is the gathering together of the co-heirs) all things are not subjected to Him; but He is glorified, and His followers acknowledge His rights. In Heb. 2, then, we have the application of Psa. 8:5, 65For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor. 6Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: (Psalm 8:5‑6), and we are informed that the subjection of all things to the last Adam has not yet taken place.
In Eph. 1:20, 2320Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, (Ephesians 1:20)
23Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Ephesians 1:23)
, we equally see Jesus exalted, highly exalted, at the right hand of the Majesty on high, and the putting of all things under His feet is also offered to our attention; but as the effect of this is the introduction of the church into the same glory, Jesus is presented to us, in this glory, as the Head of the church, His body, " the fullness of him that filleth all in all "-the other truth upon which we have been insisting.
Again, in 1 Cor. 15, this same fact, the glorification of Jesus, and the subjection of all things to Him, is shown to us, but still in another point of view, that is, as about to take place at the resurrection, according to the power of which Jesus has been declared the last Adam, and withal head of a kingdom which He will possess as Man, and which He will eventually deliver up to God the Father, whilst He Himself, as last Adam, is to be " subject unto him that put all things under him," instead of reigning as Man, as He had been doing, over all things-all things, we say, except over Him who will have subjected them to Him.
The truth, then, which we have presented, besides the proper joy of being with Him and like Him and in the Father's presence, is, a subjection yet to come of all things to Christ, a reign which He will share with the church, inasmuch as this is His body, and which will take place therefore at the resurrection of this same body, and a power which He will afterward resign to God the Father, at some decreed time, in order that God may be all in all. Christ, glorified in His Person now, and whilst the church is gathering, is sitting upon the throne of God, waiting until it be complete; until, in short, the time be come for His being invested with His royal power, and that Jehovah shall have put His enemies as a footstool under His feet.
An important distinction results from the passages we have been citing: it is this, that besides the reconciliation of the church, there is the reconciliation of all things. You may have perceived this in the chapter, with the reading of which the lecture began: we saw that the proposed intention of God was to gather together all things in Christ; that the reconciliation of the church is represented, in the verses which precede verse 8, as a thing accomplished, and the glory as a thing future, of which we have as yet but the earnest in the presence of the Holy Spirit in us after having believed. But we see in Rom. 8:19-2319For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. 20For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, 21Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. 23And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:19‑23) that the deliverance of creation will take place at the time of the manifestation of the sons of God. As to the present, that is, the time during which Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, everything is in a state of misery, the whole creation remains in the bondage of corruption. It is true that we are redeemed, and that even the price for the redemption of creation has been given; and more than this, we have received the firstfruits of the Spirit as earnest of the glory. But all this is but our expecting state, until the Most High enters upon the exercise of His power, until He reigns, and becomes possessor in fact, as He is by right, of the heavens and the earth. Inhabiting in our bodies a fallen creation, whilst indeed by the Spirit we are united to Christ, we have, on the one hand, the assurance of being children " accepted in the beloved," and the joy of the hope of the inheritance by the Spirit which is the earnest of it; but, upon the other hand, by the same Spirit, we give utterance, inasmuch as we are in the body, to the sighs and groanings of the creation, being participators therein owing to this body of death. All is in disorder; but we know Him who has redeemed us and made us heirs of all things, and who has introduced us into the enjoyment of the love of the Fattier: we enjoy these privileges; but, understanding also the blessings which will be shed upon the inheritance, when Christ shall take it and we shall appear with Him in glory, perceiving likewise the miserable state in which the scene of His future dominion actually is, we serve, by the Spirit, as a channel to those sighs which go up to the throne of the God of mercy.
The passage already cited from the epistle to the Colossians accurately establishes this distinction. It is said (v. 2o), " And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you... (the saints) now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh, through death." The church is already reconciled. The things of earth and heaven will be reconciled later, by the efficacy of His blood already shed.2 The order of the ceremonies on the great day of atonement explained this reconciliation typically, though in special reference, as to details, to the part which the Jews will have in these blessings.
In Col. 1:1616For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: (Colossians 1:16), we clearly see what are the things which are comprehended in this reconciliation: " All things were created by him, and for him." All that He has created as God, He will inherit as the restorer of all things. Were there, for example, a blade of grass that was not subjected to His power in blessing, Satan would have got an advantage over Christ, over His rights, and over His inheritance. Now it is the judgment which will vindicate all the righteous title of Christ.
Besides all this, Christ, when He comes, will be the source of joy to all created intelligences, joy reflected and elevated by the blessing which will be spread over the whole creation; for the joy of witnessing the happiness of others, and also that which flows down in the freeing of creation from the servitude of corruption, is a divine part of our enjoyments; we partake of it with the God of all goodness.
As to us, it is in the " heavenly places " that we shall find our abode. The spiritual blessings in heavenly places which we enjoy even now in hope, though hindered in many ways, will be for us, in that day, things natural to our physical and normal state, so to speak; but the earth will not fail to feel the effects of it. " Wicked spirits in heavenly places " (see margin, Eph. 6:1212For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)), whose place will be then filled by Christ and His church, will cease to be the continual and prolific causes of the misery of a world subjected to their power by sin. The church, on the contrary, with Christ, reflecting the glory in which she participates, and enjoying the presence of Him who is at once to her its source and fullness, will beam upon the earth in blessing; and the nations will walk by her light-" help meet for him" (Gen. 2:1818And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. (Genesis 2:18)) in His glory, full of thoughts of her beloved, and enjoying His love, she will be the worthy and happy instrument of His blessings; whilst, in her condition, she will be the living demonstration of their success. For God has done these things, " that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness towards us through Christ Jesus," Eph. 2:77That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:7). The earth will enjoy the fruits of the victory and of the faithfulness of the last Adam, and will be the magnificent testimony of it in the sight of principalities and powers, as it is at present, in the chaos made by sin, of the ruin and of the iniquity of the first Adam. Without doubt, the crowning joy-the joy of joys-will be the communion of the Father and of the Bridegroom; but to be witness of His goodness, to have part in it, and to be an instrument of it towards a fallen world, will certainly be to taste of divine joys, for ' God is love."
It is this earth that we inhabit that God has taken to make the scene for the manifestation of His character and His works of grace. This earth is the place where sin has entered and fixed its residence; it is here that Satan has displayed his energy for evil; it is here that the Son of God has been in humiliation, has died, and has risen; it is upon this earth that sin and grace have both done their wonders; it is upon this earth that sin has abounded, yet, notwithstanding, grace has much more abounded. If now Christ is hid in the heavens, it is upon this earth He will be revealed; it is here that the angels have best penetrated the depths of the love of God; it is here, also, that they will comprehend its results, manifested in glory; upon this earth, where the Son of man has been in humiliation, the Son of man shall be glorified. If this earth in itself is but a small thing, that which God has done upon it, and will do, is not a small thing for Him. For us (the church), the heavenly places are the city of our habitation, for we are co-heirs, not the inheritance), we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ; but the inheritance is necessary for the glory of Christ, as the co-heirs are the object of His most tender love, His brethren, His bride.
I have, then, detailed to you, dear friends, briefly and feebly, as I am well aware, what is the destiny of the church. The Spirit can alone make us feel all the sweetness of the communion of the love of God, and the excellence of the glory which is given to us. But, at least, I have pointed out passages enough in the word to make you understand-with the help of the Holy Spirit, which I implore for you all-the thoughts which I had on my heart to tell you to-night. It results clearly enough that we live under the dispensation during which the heirs are gathered together, and that there is another which will take its place at the coming of the Savior,-that in which the heirs shall have the enjoyment of the inheritance of all things,- that in which all things shall be subjected to Christ, and to His church, as united to Him and manifested with Him. What is to follow that is not our business now: I mean that last period, when God will be all in all, and when Christ Himself, as Man, will be subject to God; and chief, as Man, of a family eternally blessed in the communion of God, who has loved that family, and whose tabernacle will be in the midst of it- God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, eternally blessed. Amen.
It is in occupying herself with these subjects, full of hope by the Spirit, that the church will be detached from the world, and will clothe herself with the character which becomes her as the affianced bride of Christ, to whom she owes all her heart and all her thoughts.