The Glory of God in the Face of Jesus Christ
Often times in our epistles the apostle Paul speaks to us about the wealth that we possess from God’s grace in this dispensation of His grace. Not material wealth, of course, but the wealth of spiritual blessings, possessions, and privileges that are ours in the Lord Jesus Christ. For example, Paul tells us of how the Lord Jesus Christ “became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” and that we have been the recipients of God’s “unspeakable gift.” We truly have been made rich in Christ and possess a fortune of spiritual blessings. God’s gift of Christ to us and all the spiritual blessings given to us in Christ is a wealth of glory, and it’s unspeakable in the sense that its magnificence and glory cannot fully be expressed in words. Its wealth of glory to us goes beyond what we can adequately find words to describe. It is truly wealth that can never be told. In accordance with this, Paul also speaks about the “riches of God’s grace” unto us, and the “exceeding riches of His grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” yet to be ours in the “ages to come.” In truth, there is wealth that we do not even know of yet, which will be ours in the dispensation of the fullness of times. We are rich in Christ beyond imagination. But there is more. In connection with God abounding toward us “in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will” we are possessors of the full knowledge of God’s plan and purpose in Christ, “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” There are precious treasures of the knowledge of God for us to revel in and enjoy right now, as God in His grace has richly honored us by taking us into His privy counsel. We can sit in the lap of the luxury of the “mystery of Christ” and just be dazzled by the grandeur of what God is doing, and the grace that has made us partakers of it. In like manner, there are other rich privileges of God’s grace in connection with our sanctified position in Christ. For example, in Christ we are now the “servants of righteousness” and are able to live unto God to His honor and glory. What a precious privilege that is. Riches of God’s grace is indeed what we are possessors of, and as such we are abundantly wealthy. We possess a wealth of spiritual blessings in Christ, and a wealth of privileges of God’s grace to enjoy and engage in right now.
Among the wealth of privileges that God has given to us is one very special privilege, which, though often spoken about, it frequently fails to be seen for the very rich privilege that it really is. It is the privilege of being entrusted with the glorious gospel of Christ and having the honor of being able to make it known unto others. In II Corinthians 4, Paul speaks of this privilege as a “treasure” that he possesses and he even describes just how it is that it is to be looked upon in this way. Unfortunately, though, too often testifying about the gospel is looked upon as a duty and an obligation. Sometimes it is even described as how a Christian repays God for saving him. But this is never how we ought to look upon opportunities to preach the gospel. What Paul understood and appreciated about the privilege of bearing witness to the gospel of Christ, we ought to make sure we likewise understand. For it truly is a very rich privilege and a treasure that is part of the wealth of God’s grace unto us.
“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels,…” (II Corinthians 4:6-7a)
The “knowledge of the glory of God” is in the person of Jesus Christ and His redemptive work for us on the cross of Calvary. As the gospel of Christ declares, by nature all men are sinners and “come short of the glory of God.” There is no capacity for any man to obtain “glory and honor and immortality” by his works no matter what he does, though he may seek for it diligently and valiantly try to make himself righteous before God. A man’s good works cannot make up for his sins, and since “the wages of sin is death” there is no way a man can pay for his own sins and satisfy God’s justice in connection with them. On top of all this is the fact that the righteousness of men is as “filthy rags” and “dung” to God, and as such is not only completely unacceptable to the Justice of God, but is also offensive and irritating to Him. Therefore, obtaining the glory of God, or having the hope of the glory of God, is an impossible thing for men to secure by their own efforts and works. Instead a man’s own works of righteousness when offered to God for his salvation only puts him in the position before God of “treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”
The idea that a man can obtain the glory of God by doing good works is not only a delusion of his own sin nature, but it is also backed up and given support by the false gospels that Satan has propagated as “the god of this world” that he is. As Paul declares, Satan has “blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” Men by nature have a darkened understanding regarding the glory of God, which is only intensified in its darkness by the false gospels of Satan’s policy of evil that pervert the gospel of salvation and preach that men’s works are a requirement for salvation from the debt and penalty of sin.
The gospel of Christ, though, is “the LIGHT of the knowledge of the glory of God.” Though the glory of God is unobtainable by any of man’s works, God has provided for men to have it through “the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” and He offers it as an absolutely free gift of His grace obtained through faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. The “knowledge of the glory of God” is in Jesus Christ and His redemptive work, and it is “the LIGHT” that needs to shine unto men in the midst of their darkness.
It is this light that Paul recognized he had the privilege of giving, or shining, “in the face of Jesus Christ” and thereby directing men to behold Him and His redemptive work as their only hope of obtaining the glory of God. And to be able to do this is a rich privilege and honor. For few privileges are as great as having in one’s possession an essential, indispensable, or vital piece of information; a piece of information so necessary that a cause is lost without it; and then being able to give it to the ones in desperate need of it. In the world of military intelligence a person possessing such information would be called a life-line, because the information he possessed was the life of an entire operation and was required for saving it from destruction. As such the one being the life-line knew he was entrusted with a great responsibility, but he also knew he was highly privileged and honored to be allowed to serve in this most vital way. In a similar sense Paul knew that he possessed a treasure and a high privilege in being able to give, or shine, “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” For in the midst of great darkness and hopeless blind groping, the one possessing the light is nothing less than a life-line.
The same sense of a high privilege is conveyed by Paul again when he describes himself as an “ambassador for Christ” with “the word of reconciliation” committed unto him.
“Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (II Corinthians 5:20-21)
Though Paul was greatly mistreated by men and was despised by Satan as Christ’s ambassador in this evil world, and even suffered as an “ambassador in bonds,” none of that erased the great privilege he knew he possessed in being an ambassador. He beseeched and prayed “in Christ’s stead” as the ambassador that he was. What greater privilege could he possess?
It is our privilege too, as ones who have been justified through faith in Christ Jesus, to also proclaim to others the gospel of Christ and so shine “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” We too are so honored. In accordance with this Paul describes the faithful Philippian saints as ones who were shining as lights in the world, and so encourages them to stand fast and continue to do so regardless of the opposition they face, simply because of the privilege of shining the light.
“Do all things without murmurings and disputings:
That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;
Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.” (Philippians 2:14-16)
To “shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life” is not a duty or an obligation. Instead, it is clearly an honor, and one that we have neither earned or deserved. And by no means is it a requital for our salvation. Again, it is a privilege of God’s grace that has been granted unto us and ought to be responded to as such. It is purely a glorious part of the wealth of the blessings, possessions, and privileges that God has given to us in Christ in this dispensation.
— K. R. Blades