The Honor That Cometh From God Only

John 5:44  •  17 min. read  •  grade level: 11
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There are various lights in which redemption is presented to us in the Scriptures. To follow out any one of these exclusively is never profitable for our souls, and tends to obscure the glories of the Lord Jesus Christ. But, in whatever light redemption is presented to us, it is always intended to illustrate "the riches of God's grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." Redemption is presented to us as an escape, a deliverance, a rescue by the interposition of almighty saving grace. Sinners are "warned to flee from the wrath to come." Those who have been turned to God, through faith in Jesus, are delivered "from the wrath to come." We give thanks to the Father, "who hath delivered us from the power of darkness." Or again, "Christ gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father (Gal. 1:44Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: (Galatians 1:4)). In these and similar expressions, the prominent thought is the danger, misery, and condemnation, out of which we have been brought by Jesus, and would place us analogously to Israel at the Red Sea (their enemies being destroyed), and on the edge of the wilderness, but short of entering into Canaan. But whilst redemption is escape, deliverance, and rescue, it is much more. It is entrance into Canaan as well as deliverance out of Egypt, and yet withal the experience of the wilderness. If God has delivered out of the power of darkness, He has translated now into the kingdom of His dear Son." God presents to us the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, in all the blessedness of its results as counseled and known by Him. We are "called out of darkness into his marvelous light"; yea " called into His own kingdom and glory."
Whilst, therefore, experience of deliverance, and relief from the burden of a guilty conscience, may raise many a grateful emotion in the heart, and call forth praise and thanksgiving; it will be found to fail in practically emancipating from the principles, spirit, and power, of the world. This will hardly be effected where the relation of the Holy Ghost to the believer as the seal of God set on the perfect work of Christ, and as the earnest of the inheritance, is not prominently maintained. It is the doctrine of the "other Comforter," the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of truth, come down in consequence of Jesus being glorified, which gives its true dignity to the present standing of the believer; and explains that enigma how we "see Jesus" when the world seeth Him no more-how Jesus is " manifested" to His disciples without being manifested to the world. The object of the Holy Ghost is to glorify Jesus; and He presents Jesus to the soul as the object of admiration and desire as well as of salvation. It is thus that the Holy Ghost enables the believer to weigh every object of human ambition, however high and noble in itself, with 44 the honor which cometh from God only," and to see how poor and mean it is. A man may weigh things morally, and estimate justly enough the great variety of human character; but a believer in Christ is able to weigh objects, and to see how infinitely short the highest object of human ambition falls when compared with that which is before him. The apostle Paul contrasts men in their objects-those who by " patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory, and honor, and immortality," with those who are " contentious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness." Rivalry and contention are the great principles of human ambition. It is hardly possible to attain human distinction without them. Of Jesus it is said, "Behold my Servant, whom I uphold; mine Elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my Spirit upon Him: He shall bring forth judgment unto the Gentiles; He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street" (Isa. 42:1,21Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. 2He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. (Isaiah 42:1‑2); Matt. 12:18,1918Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall show judgment to the Gentiles. 19He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. (Matthew 12:18‑19)). Jesus humbled Himself, even to the death of the cross, and therefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and made the name of His humiliation to be the very name which, in due time, shall be universally acknowledged either in judgment or in salvation. Jesus "endured the cross, and despised the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." This path of Jesus from the lowest humiliation to the highest honor, sets forth to us a great principle, "the truth;" and this principle is embodied by Jesus Himself in His memorable axiom: "Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted." According to this principle, rivalry and contention are disobedience to the truth. And if any one asserts the human principle of strife and vain-glory in order to obtain the favor of God, he is judged before God as one who is obeying unrighteousness; for in the estimate of God every human plea arising from human distinction is the highest act of unrighteousness, as setting aside, or superseding the work of Christ in His humiliation and obedience unto death, even the death of the cross. But not only so, but the object of rivalry and contention is one which, if attained, has only the praise of men, and seeks no higher praise. Contrasted with contention and rivalry is patience to "them who by patient continuance in well-doing." Patience, or endurance, is necessarily associated with faith. It is the great practical word of the New Testament, corresponding to "waiting" in the Old Testament. "Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord" (Psa. 27:1414Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord. (Psalm 27:14)). "Hope maketh not ashamed." God never disappoints those who propose to themselves the object He presents to them, and who pursue it according to His way. The objects which God presents to us in Christ Jesus are "glory, and honor, and incorruptibility." The objects which man pursues are honor and glory from men, "one of another;" very fleeting and uncertain here and they have no incorruptibility in them. Hence the principle on which they are sought is utterly inapplicable to such lofty objects as God presents to us. The moment such objects are before the soul, the impossibility of attaining them by any effort becomes apparent, and they can be entertained on one principle alone, and that is, the riches of God's grace as displayed to us in the cross of Christ.
"How can ye believe who receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only." The existence of faith is morally incompatible with the way of attaining honor from men. That honor can only be accorded on the ground of personal superiority over others; this may be so or not; but if it be so, how can that man, whose object is superiority over others, recognize the humbling truth, that before God "there is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God?" How can he recognize that the essential difference before God is, that which God makes by His own grace, and not that which man can attain by his own effort? How can he realize that everything which is worth having, or seeking, is to be found in Christ and in Him alone? Is there any moral compatibility between confessing Christ and denying self, and seeking honor one of another?
If it be difficult to realize in any measure approximating the truth, "the vanity of man in his best estate," and his real degradation as being at "enmity with God," "hateful, and hating one another;" it is far more difficult to realize the grace of God in Christ Jesus reaching down to where man actually is dead in trespasses and sins, and exalting him at once before Himself to where Christ is. Such exaltation never entered into man's heart to conceive; it is "an honor that cometh from God only." The highest thought of man, if he thinks of salvation at all, is the thought of escape; heaven itself, in his thoughts, is hardly more than negative, that is, not to be in misery-the thought of association with Christ, and witnessing as the joy of his soul the absolute supremacy of Jesus, never enters into his heart. This honor comes from God only.
One remarkably distinguishing character of the honor which cometh from God only; is, that "such honor have all His saints." The very honor, itself, excludes all thoughts of rivalry, because the highest honor is the common honor. It is the answer of God to the humiliation of Christ-if Christ be the common righteousness of His church, the glory in which they will be manifested is the glory to which that righteousness is entitled. " We, through the Spirit, wait for the lope of righteousness through faith." Boasting, then, is excluded in glory as well as in justification. To sit even at the right hand and left hand of Christ in His kingdom, is not so high an honor as oneness with Him, as His bride, as being of that body of which He is animating and sustaining Head. Let this place, or that place, be assigned to one or another of the Father, such place is still secondary to the common honor which cometh to all saints from God only. No one can take a place more officially distinct than an apostle; yet when the apostle Paul is writing most especially concerning his ministry, although he might have regarded his converts as "his crown and joy" in the day of the revelation of Jesus, yet he loses that object for the moment in the common but higher honor of all saints. "So then death worketh in us, but life in you. We have the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believe, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe and therefore speak; knowing that He which raised up the Lord Jesus, shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you" (2 Cor. 4:12-1412So then death worketh in us, but life in you. 13We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; 14Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. (2 Corinthians 4:12‑14)). How unselfish as an object is the honor that cometh from God only.
If we descend to particulars, there is hardly any honor of which men are more tenacious than nobility of descent; so to be able to link themselves, through a long line of ancestry, with some illustrious personage as their parents stock. But what is this honor compared to the honor of being born of god. "To as many as received Him, to them gave He power (right or privilege, marg.) to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." Viewed in the light of a divine lineage, the apostle Paul could well afford to forego all the advantages of such purity of descent as he could legitimately boast of as a Hebrew of Hebrews. He considered this, among other advantages, as " loss for Christ;" after the knowledge of Christ, any resting in his hereditary purity of descent would take him away from his real nobility as born of God. In the same strain, he deprecates "endless genealogies" as puerile for one born of God to be occupied about. In the wide-spread corrupt Christianity by which we are surrounded, the withering influence of false doctrine is especially seen. Men are taught that they, are born of God, with all its connected blessings of being sons and heirs of God, without ever having had the conscience brought into contact with God, without any acquaintance with the real evil of sin, or any appreciation of the sacrifice of Christ. Such blessings, so cheap in their estimation, are never for a moment considered as realities, and the nominal Christian plainly shows, whenever the alternative is presented to him, that in his heart and judgment he prefers the smallest temporal advantage to all the high-sounding privileges he has been taught to belong to him from his infancy. This, in the language of Scripture, is profaneness. This is characterized as "trampling under foot the Son of God." In the early days of declension in the Church, "they cast their pearls before swine, and gave that which was holy unto dogs"—all the privileges of the redeemed were cast indiscriminately to those who were not born of God; and they were either trampled under foot, or used as a weapon to undermine the truth of God. On this principle it is alone to be explained, that the wonderful honor of being born of God, sons of God, and heirs of God, has been considered a mere conventional figment, instead of an everlasting reality on which even angels themselves gaze with reverence.
There is another aspect of the honor, which cometh from God only, and that is, divine righteousness-the conscious possession of which alone delivers from anxiety as to personal qualification to commend us to God, or from comparative righteousness between man and man. This honor also have all his saints. " The righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ is unto all and upon all them that believe, for there is no difference " (Rom. 3:2222Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: (Romans 3:22)). In the conscious possession of such a righteousness, the apostle Paul regarded the highest supposable righteousness attainable by man as loss-" And be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith" (Phil. 3:99And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: (Philippians 3:9)).
That the Lord himself should be the righteousness of all who believe in his name, must be an honor that cometh from God only; for the highest imaginable human attainment must necessarily fall infinitely below divine righteousness. "Of Him, are ye in Christ Jesus, who of (or from) God is made unto us wisdom, even righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. That, according as it is written, he that glorieth let him glory in the Lord" (1 Cor. 1:3131That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:31)).
This great honor is so intimately connected with the honor that cometh from God only in being born of God, that no one, save he that is born of God, " sees," as a present reality, " the kingdom of God," in " righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."
Another honor that cometh from God only, and which is an honor given to all believers, is the gift of the Holy Ghost, as the seal and earnest of the inheritance. This is a gift as unpurchaseable as Christ Himself. It can come from God only, and is His seal to the divine righteousness in which believers stand before God. " This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" (Gal. 3:22This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (Galatians 3:2)). No legal attainment had ever such a seal set on it by God; it is that which faith attains unto in Christ, even the reception of Him, as our righteousness, which receives this seal from God, even the gift of the Holy Ghost, the present witness to us of this peculiar glory of Christ. The Son of God himself was sealed by God, as the only righteous and holy one at his baptism by John. And Jesus himself says, "Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man will give unto you; for Him hath God the Father sealed " (John 6:2727Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. (John 6:27)). But this honor in virtue of Christ's presenting before God all believers " holy, unblameable, and unreprovable in the body of his flesh through death" (Col. 1:2222In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: (Colossians 1:22)), is given by God to all believers here. " Now He which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God, who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts" (2 Cor. 1.21). It is an honor that came from God only to the meanest Corinthian believer as well as the apostle Paul—"us with you." The high official honor which the apostle had as an apostle, was not to be compared with that which he had in common with all believers.
But if the Holy Ghost be the seal set by God himself on all believers, He is also-the earnest given of God in our-hearts. Good society is a very allowable ambition to man; but if he gets the best human society, moral and intellectual, it is infinitely below that into which the believer in Christ is introduced. " For through Him we both have access by one. Spirit unto the Father" (Eph. 2:1818For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. (Ephesians 2:18)). How few, comparatively speaking, have the privilege of introduction to earthly royalty; and thus it must almost necessarily be in all the distance of state. But the Spirit leads through Christ to the Father, and. discovers the Father in the Son, thus giving the greatest possible nearness and intimacy with. God, in His revealed relation by the Son as the Father. " Truly our fellow-ship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ." These are high and holy intimacies, in which Jesus confides in us as "friends," instead of commanding us as servants (John 15:14,1614Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. (John 15:14)
16Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. (John 15:16)
). God hath "made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself" (Ephes. 9). " The Spirit searcheth all things, even the deep things of God." And thus, by the honor of intimacy with God in His thoughts, as written in the Scripture and taught by the Holy Ghost, the believer in Christ is not left to the hazard of conjecture, and is relieved from judging by the sight of his eyes, or the hearing of his ears, because, knowing the mystery of God's will respecting the heading-up of all things in Christ, he forms his judgment as to the bearing of all things on that mystery.
Not to go into further detail, there is one remarkably comprehensive statement to our point in the First Epistle of Peter: "To whom coming as unto a, living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious."  ... "Unto you therefore which believe he is precious." The marginal reading is, He is an honor. All the preciousness that Christ is to God, it has pleased god to set upon all that believe in His name. This is an all-comprehensive honor indeed. Hence believers are precious to God by reason of the honor He himself has set on them. Worthless in themselves, who can estimate at a just rate the price of believers in the sight of God, "bought with a price," and all the preciousness of Christ set upon them by God.
It is this that we need to know. Believers in Christ ought to occupy their vantage ground, and show to a world overrun with corrupt Christianity that they cannot help on its course. They have their own riches and their own honor; their thoughts and interests are in things above, where Christ their life is, and they cannot come down to lower interests and pursuits without damage to the instincts of that life which is hid in Christ with God.
If we were but true to our own objects—glory, honor and incorruptibility—how should we rebuke the infidelity around us, which thinks of adapting Christianity to the exigencies of the age, to help on the course of this world. We are loudly called upon practically to assert, that the glory and dignity of our calling has become all the more conspicuous by reason of the very progress the world has made, and is making the present glory of the world fade away before our own excelling glory "that remaineth."