The Glories of Christ: His Incarnate Glories

The Glories of Christ: His Incarnate Glories

In our previous study we considered the pre-incarnate glories of Christ. Those glories that He had with the Father before the world was. Little is revealed to us of this glory, but even as we looked “through a glass darkly,” we felt provoked to worship and praise. In this study, we will consider the glories of Christ associated with His humanity.

THE INCARNATE GLORIES OF CHRIST

HIS GODHEAD GLORY

One of the doctrinal errors that has afflicted the Church teaches that in coming into humanity, Christ surrendered His deity. This, of course, is absolutely false. The incarnation was not a subtraction from His person, but an addition to it. He had always been the eternal Son of God, but now in incarnation He became something that he had not been before: “Son of Man.” Perhaps an appeal to the book of Numbers would help to illustrate our point. The Ark was the symbol of the presence of God in the midst of His people, and when the Tabernacle was pitched, it was enshrined in the Holy of Holies, behind the veil, surrounded by the Shekkinah glory where men were forbidden to enter upon threat of death. When the time came for Israel to strike camp, the priests went into the Holy Place and they took down the curtain – the veil – that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, and they draped it over the Ark. Following this it was covered in badger’s skins, and then with a cloth of blue. The Levites were then brought in to carry the Ark across the wilderness. So when the Ark was in transit, all that men saw was the cloth of blue. But behind the coverings, the Ark was the very same that dwelt in the unsullied light of the presence of God in the Holy of Holies. So it is with Christ. He remained what He ever had been in the pre-incarnate state, but His glory was now veiled in His flesh. As the Ark moved among men, there was nothing unique about it in appearance, so with Christ. The Lord had no halo round His head, or garments that glowed, nor did He assume any outward appearance of being other than man. However, like the Ark’s covering of blue, the Lord Jesus always displayed his heavenly character whilst here among men. He belonged to another sphere, and to it He would soon return. Men spoke about Him as “Joseph the carpenter’s son.” But behind the outward veil of His flesh, absolute deity was enshrined. With the hymn writer we can say with wonder:

Christ by highest heaven adored, Christ the everlasting Lord,
Late in time behold Him come, Offspring of the virgin’s womb: Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate deity.

Now as to the manifestation of His Glory during his sojourn here below, it is John who reminds us

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth”. (John 1:14). The question naturally arises as to when, how and where the Glory of Christ was seen? We will consider the incarnate glories of the Lord Jesus in three separate spheres: His Personal Glories; His Official Glories; and His Moral Glories.

HIS MORAL GLORY Holy

The angel speaking to Mary concerning the birth of the child said “….the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God”. (Luke 1:35). This is one of the unique glories that belonged to Christ in humanity – He was holy. There was a time when Adam was innocent, but we never read about Adam being holy in his nature and character. Here we are reminded that the humanity of Christ was different from ours. He had not partaken of Adam’s fallen nature. Unlike ourselves, He was not “born in sin and shapen in iniquity” Paul writing to the Corinthians reminds them, “The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven”. (1 Cor. 15:47). It was not only that He lived a holy life–and He did-but this was an attribute of His pre-incarnate deity, that was present in His incarnation – He was HOLY. The same glory of His holiness that caused the seraphim before the throne to cry “Holy, Holy, Holy…”(Isaiah6:3) was retained in all its fullness when He came into humanity.

Sinless

In the same way that God demanded that the Passover lamb, and all of the Levitical offerings had to be “without blemish”. So also it was absolutely essential for the Lord to be sinless, else His death on the Cross would not have been effective. But he was not only holy, He was also sinless. The Lord Jesus was the only human being to cross the stage of time, and never to have sinned.

Witnesses from earth and heaven testify to His sinless character. The Lord Himself said “And he that sent me is with me:…. for I do always those things that please him”. (John 8:29). There never was a single moment of deviation from the path of His Father’s will and pleasure. Pilate said “I find no fault in this man”. The dying thief said, “This man has done nothing amiss”. The centurion standing by the cross said, “Certainly, this was a righteous man” (Luke 23:47). Matthew and Mark add that the centurion also said “Truly this was the Son of God”. Paul, the man of intellect writes “who knew no sin”. (2 Cor. 5:21). Peter, the man of action writes “He did no sin”. (1 Peter. 2:22), and John, the man who lay on Jesus breast, wrote “In Him was no sin.” (1 John 3:5).

Impeccable

The sinlessness of Christ is a truth that is unchallenged in evangelical circles. We all recognize that to be our Saviour, and Sacrifice, He needed to be without sin. But the truth of His “impeccability” goes further, and emphasizes that our Lord Jesus was not only sinless, but that he was incapable of sinning – that there was nothing in the Lord Jesus that could respond to the temptations of sin. This is why the writer to the Hebrews wrote, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin”. (Heb. 4:15) – or more correctly, it should be translated “apart from sin”. The Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples said “Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me”. (John 14:30, AV). Another proof of the impeccability of Christ lies in the fact that He was God. To conceive of God being able to sin is reprehensible, and so also with the Lord Jesus.

Some would mock at this truth, saying that He could not have been a genuine man, unless he experienced all that we experience in the way of temptation. We repeat, that the Lord was a real man, but with this difference, He was of a different order and had none of Adam’s potential to sin. He was the Lord out of Heaven. The Lord was indeed tempted with all the intensity that Satan could bring to bear, but never from within – as we are – but always from without. Lest we should think that such a temptation was not of any consequence, we are reminded that in the midst of His temptations, angels were sent to strengthen Him in moments of crisis and temptation in His life.

We stand in awe at the manifestation of His moral glory seen in His holy, sinless, and impeccable humanity.

THE GLORIES OF HIS WORKS

The apostle John records the first miracle that the Lord performed in turning water into wine, saying: “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory”. (John 2:11). Again on the day of Pentecost, Peter speaking to that great multitude of Jews reminded them “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:” (Acts 2:22).

So we learn that His glory was seen in His mighty works. As we read through the Gospels, we see His glory demonstrated in His control over creation, over disease, demons and death. He stilled raging waves, fed multitudes, healed the diseased, cast out demons and raised the dead. All of these manifested His glory as the mighty creator God.

HIS COMPARATIVE GLORIES

As we read through the Gospel records, we discover that the excellence of the glory of Christ is enhanced by comparing Him with other illustrious characters who had a measure of glory in their day.

Greater than Abraham: John 8:53

Listening one day to the claims of Christ, the Jews said, “Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? …” (John 8:53). The context in which this statement was made had to do with the fact that the Lord Jesus had claimed that those who kept His saying would never see death. The Jews pointed out that Abraham and all the prophets, great men though they had been, were now dead, and they mocked the claim that the Lord made. Later the Lord Jesus also astounded them by saying “Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am”. (John 8:58). Yes, Abraham had been a great man, but a greater than Abraham was here. The Lord had pre-dated Abraham.

Greater than Jacob: John 4:12

Sitting by Sychar’s well, the Lord Jesus engaged in conversation with a woman of Samaria. The Lord offers her living water that would slake her thirst forever.

She only knew the well of Sychar, with its traditional link to Jacob, and she says to Him “Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?” (John 4:12). Jacob’s well could never satisfy, but here was living water that would satisfy the deepest longings of her heart. Of course, Jacob was the father of the nation of Israel, but Christ would introduce blessings that would go far beyond the pale of Israel, and embrace the entire world. Soon she discovered that the one who spoke with her was indeed greater than Jacob, and running into the city in her excitement she cries “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (John 4:29).

Greater than Solomon: Matt. 12:42

Solomon was one of the wisest men that ever lived on the face of the earth. God had endowed him with this unique gift because he had not sought greatness or glory for himself. His fame became universal, and on one occasion of note, the Queen of Sheba came and visited with him. She was absolutely overcome when she met him and saw the appointment of his house and the way in which his men conducted themselves and the wisdom that he had, and it is recorded that “there was no more spirit left in her”. She confessed, “The half was not told me and thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard”. (1 Kings 1:7). Later, the Lord Jesus made this statement to the skeptical Pharisees “The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here”. (Mt. 12:42, AV).

The greatness of the Lord Jesus in comparison with Solomon has to do with his wisdom. The apostle Paul writing to the Colossians makes this statement concerning Christ “In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”. (Colossians 2:3) and again “For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily”. (Colossians 2:9). We bow our hearts in worship, and confess indeed, that a “Greater than Solomon is here”.

HIS OFFICIAL GLORIES

There were three offices that were created by God in the Old Testament.

These were the offices of Prophet, Priest and King. Any who assumed these offices had to be God appointed, and anointed, before he could function.

His Prophetic Office: Greater than Moses

As Moses, that great man of God, looked down the vista of time he made this prophecy: “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;” (Deut. 18:15). We learn from Acts 3:22 that this prophecy referred particularly to Christ and to no other. The writer to the Hebrews endorses this statement when he wrote “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath 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;” (Heb. 1:1-2). Israel had been waiting for centuries for this prophet who would come, and when Christ appeared, and when they saw him feed the five thousand we read they said “… This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world”. (John 6:14). This was the moment of recognition.

His Priestly Office: Greater than Aaron

Aaron had been the High Priest in Israel, and his posterity had carried the responsibility for this office throughout the centuries. When Christ appeared, the priesthood was in disarray and corrupt to the core. It was but an outward shell of its original glory. But Christ came, and although he was not a priest whilst here upon earth, as the Hebrew epistle reminds us, yet he came and combined in Himself the roles of Offering, Offerer and Priest. The Hebrew writer enlarges upon His priestly office and shows how the His priesthood excelled that of Aaron in its continuity. He writes, “But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood”. (Heb. 7:24). Again we read, “As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec”. (Heb. 5:6, AV). He also excels Aaron because of the finality of His sacrifice, as we read, “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;” (Heb. 10:12, AV).

His Kingly Office

We have already addressed the superlative greatness of Christ compared with Solomon on a personal basis, but he is also greater than any of the greatest kings in an official capacity. We have already seen that Christ in His priesthood is of the order of Melchisedec, and he was one who combined in his person the office of Priest and King. We read in Hebrews, “For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;” (Heb. 7:1, AV). Never before, until we come to Christ, do we find the offices of Priest and King combined in one person. But Christ is both Priest and King. The day is soon to come when His kingly glory and authority will be demonstrated in the same world where he was crucified in shame, and the accolade will ring through the entire universe of God “King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and he shall reign forever and ever”.

THE GLORY OF HIS CROSS

The Glory of the Cross-work of the Lord Jesus is far beyond the scope of our brief meditation to touch even the surface of the subject, but we mention a few of the outstanding glories that emanate from His cross.

The Cross and the Glory of the Father

In John chapter seventeen, we are privileged to hear the Lord Jesus praying to His father before going to the Cross, and John records that “Jesus lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:” (John 17:1). This was the sole preoccupation of the Lord Jesus as he faced the horrors that lay ahead – that He would glorify the Father. No words of self pity, or pleas for deliverance. Only that through it all, He would glorify the Father. Sometimes we become pre-occupied with what the Cross means to us, but here we are reminded of what the Cross meant to the Father. We see Christ here as the anti-typical burnt offering, where there was nothing in it for man, but all was for God. This is the highest form of worship that we can attain to – what Christ meant to the Father. One of the hymns that sing as we gather to break bread captures this thought as we read “Blessed Lord, our hearts would treasure, all the Father’s thoughts of Thee”.

The Cross and the Purposes of God

The Cross was the pinnacle to which eternity past looked forward, and the pinnacle to which eternity future will ever look back. We are reminded by Peter on the day of Pentecost, that Calvary was no misfortune, or mistake or miscalculation, but something that emanated from the heart of God in eternity past. Peter said, “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:” (Acts 2:23, AV). The Cross was the culmination of Divine purposes from all of eternity.

The Cross and the Fulfilment of all Types and Shadows

For centuries, God had been educating His people regarding the coming Messiah through the medium of type and shadow. In particular, the Levitical offerings were pointing forward to the Cross and the various aspects of Christ’s death at Calvary. When the Lord Jesus cried “It is finished”, every type and shadow found its fulfillment, because he was the reality – the true substance. The book of Hebrews is devoted to the subject of the excellence of Christ, in comparison with the Levitical system. Whether it be in its leadership, its priesthood, its sacrifices, its covenants, Christ had fulfilled all, and has introduced a better Covenant. As we sometime sing:

In Him the Shadows of the Law, Are fulfilled and now withdraw.

CONCLUSION

As we conclude this brief glimpse of the incarnate glories of Christ, we readily admit that even these have bedazzled our vision and we realize as the hymn writer said:

The High mysteries of His name,
An angel’s grasp transcend, The Father only, Glorious claim,
The Son can comprehend.
Worthy O Lamb of God art thou,
That every knee to Thee should bow.

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William Burnett

William Burnett was born and raised in Scotland, and spent his entire professional life in the Oil refining industry. He was seconded to Canada by his employer in 1972, and accepted early retirement in 1994. He has been a "tentmaker," - working in business, whilst ministering among the assemblies - since his late teen years. Early retirement has enabled him to undertake a much wider sphere of itinerant ministry throughout North America, and abroad. He also sits on the board of Counsel Magazine, and contributes regularly to various publication, including Uplook, Precious Seed and the Choice Gleanings Calendar. He and his wife Beth reside in Oakville, Ontario, where they are in happy fellowship in Hopedale Assembly. They have three married sons, and eight grandchildren.