The Glory of Christ
April 5th, 1959 @ 10:50 AM
THE GLORY OF CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-5-59 10:50 a.m.
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message at eleven o’clock entitled The Glory of Christ—which is a message from the first chapter of the Book of Hebrews:
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;
Who being the brightness of His glory, and the expressed 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;
Being made so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
For unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son . . . And again, I will be to Him a Father…
And again, when He bringeth in the first begotten into the world, He saith, And let all the angels worship Him…
But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever . . . And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of Thine hands.
They shall perish; but Thou remainest; they all shall wax old as doth a garment;
As a vesture shall Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail.
“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever” [Hebrews 13:8]; The Glory of Christ—the Holy Scriptures reflect the glory of Christ.
“Pŏlumĕrōs—pŏlutrŏpōs, in many pieces and facets and fragments and parts—pŏlutrŏpōs, in many ways and in many manners God spake in time past unto the fathers” [Hebrews 1:1]. The Bible is composed of a great variety of sententious proverbs, of exalted passages, of glorious doctrinal treatises, of history, of apocalyptic revelation—“In many ways, in many manners, in many times” [Hebrews 1:1], and yet the Bible is so indubitably one, that it is all bound up together. The disintegration of one carries with it the dissolution of it all. It stands or it falls, together. There is a great variety; but it has in it a tremendous unity. And however the facet, or the color, or the time, or the manner, or the turn, it has one great exalted recurring theme: the glory of the Son of God.
God has written two books; and both of those books are exactly alike. In God’s first book, the book of nature, we find that same great massive, illimitable variety in unity. Paul spoke of it in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of  Corinthians, “All flesh is not the same flesh: there is one kind of men, another of beasts, another of fish, another of birds” [1 Corinthians 15:39]. Then he turned to the heavens. “There are celestial bodies, and terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory” [1 Corinthians 15:40-41].
“There are diversities of operations,” he says, “but the same God worketh all in all” [1 Corinthians 12:6]. No two leaves in the forest are the same. No two snowflakes that have ever fallen are exactly alike. No two faces in a crowd are exactly alike. There is great diversity and variety in God’s book of nature.
And yet, by a subtle and strange and mysterious interlocking, every part of God’s world is invisibly connected with every other part. There is the same mind and hand of God in the tree, in the flower, in the molecule, in the planet, in the diatom, in the man. All through nature, there is an indescribable oneness and indescribable unity. When you probe into nature anywhere—whether into the infinitesimal atomic world or the vast infinite macrocosm above us—you will find the same map, the same mind, and the same hand; the mind and hand of God.
So it is in the other Book that God hath written: Pŏlumĕrōs, the facets, the fragments, the forms, the many, many, many, many, many different ways. And the pŏlutrŏpōs, all of them so varied and so different: and yet, all through the Holy Scriptures, there is one great recurring, never-failing theme; the glory of Christ. The Book was written in many different ages; in the far distant past in the days of the patriarchs; in the days of the kings and of the kingdoms. Finally, the last chapters were written when Jerusalem itself, the Holy City, lay smitten and trodden under by the Roman legionaries of Titus.
It was written in many countries; in the deserts of Arabia under the shadow of the pyramids; in the great sweep and tides of life that swept through the Greek and Roman cities. We hear in the Scriptures the murmur of the blue waters of the Sea of Galilee, and we hear in them the clang of the chain of a Roman prison cell—in many, many countries.
And the Scriptures were written by many, many different kinds of men—men who greatly differed in thought and in method of appeal. There is the prophet. There is the priest. There is the king and the historian. There is the shepherd. There is the fisherman.
It is written in stately, gorgeous, beautiful religious Hebrew. It is written in polished Greek. It is also written in the plain, common vernacular of the people. It is written sometimes in the days of the glorious empire, golden of Nebuchadnezzar. It is written reflecting the pastoral, simple life of a humble people on the hills of Judea.
All so very, very different and yet, whoever the amanuenses, there is the same inspired mind and hand that is writing. Whether it is written large over the heavens above and the earth beneath; or whether the same mind and hand is writing in the Holy Scriptures of the Word of God, it is still one and the same. Whether it be the exalted paragraphs of Paul, or the marvelous, rhetorical perorations of Isaiah, or the humble pastoral words and sentences of Amos, or the friendly letter of Paul to Philemon about Onesimus—the same great, inspiring mind and hand in it all. And those sixty-six books are strong on one great cord—the sacrifice, the atonement, the resurrection, and the glory of the Son of God. And they are like pearls on the strand, all of them belonging together and all of them presenting a beautiful facet of Jesus—God’s Son and our Savior.
The glory of Christ is also seen in Him as the origin of creation, by whom also He made the worlds [John 1:1-3]. And the Holy Scriptures are much given to that affirmation: that the worlds were created by the hands that were nailed helplessly to the cross:
We have redemption through His blood—
through His sacrifice—
Him, who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation:
For by Him were all things created . . . in heaven . . . in earth, visible, invisible—
then he names the orders of the celestial hosts—
He is before all things, and in Him all things—hold together—consist. . . For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God. By Him were all things made; and without Him was not anything made that was made.
Creation is unfailingly presented in the Bible as the work of the hands of the Word, the Son of God. The rolling rivers, the swelling seas, the waving forest, the stars that sparkle like diamonds, the flowers that burst into bloom, the caroling birds—all were created by the hands that were nailed to the cross. We find the name of Jehovah God in the farthest star; in the humblest flower; in the dew that distills in the early evening; in the showers that bring blessings to a parched and thirsty world. In it all— the tree, the flower, the heavens, and the earth—in it all is written large the name of Jehovah Jesus. And He is the God of providence—“upholding all things by the word of His power” [Hebrews 1:3].
This word translated “worlds” here: “by whom also He made the worlds (aiōnŏs)” [Hebrews 1:2]. Really it is “the ages”—all of the sweep of history, and of time, and of tide—yesterday, today, and forever, is in His gracious and precious but all-powerful hands—“upholding all things by the word—of His authority—of His power” [Hebrews 1:3].
It is Christ! It is Christ and not faith. It is Christ and not nature. It is Christ and not abstract, impersonal law. The decrees of Christ are but the way by which He guides the destiny of the world and holds the stars in their courses. But all of providence is in His gracious hands. From the raindrops and the dew, He makes the fruit of the vine; from handfuls of grain, He fills the autumn barns. He turns the storms into calm. He leads the path of the great fish through the sea. He holds the stars in their courses. And He guides the destiny and consummation of all history—it is in His gracious hands. “Upholding all things by the word of his power” [Hebrews 1:3].
And He is our immutable Lord God.
Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; the heavens are the works of Thine hands:
They shall perish, but Thou remainest: they shall wax old as doth a garment;
As a vesture shall Thou fold them up, they shall be changed: but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail.
He refers there to the changing world in which we live. Even the stars burn out and turn to cinder and ash. But when the heavens themselves have grown old and the vesture of God—which is His creation—is folded up, and changed, and we have a new heaven and a new earth; Thou art still the same—Jesus our Lord: yesterday, this day, and tomorrow’s day forever, the glory of the immutable and unchanging Christ.
And the celestial world speaks of His glory:
Made so much better than the angels, as Thou hath by inheritance, receiving from the prophets and from His wonderful life, a more excellent name than they.
For unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son…?
And again, “I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son” [Hebrews 1:5]. Because He said He was the Son of God, His enemies persecuted Him [John 15:18-21]. And because He made Himself equal with God, He was crucified [John 5:18]. And yet, unfailingly, these Holy Scriptures present the Lord Jesus as God. “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever” [Hebrews 1:8]—this He said unto the Son.
The worship of Jesus is the heart of the Christian faith and the Christian religion. The Bibles do not present our Lord as someone to be admired or to be emulated. He is not just an example or a heroic and noble martyr. But the Holy Scriptures attribute to Jesus deity, and the epistles and the Apocalypse heap with words of adoration and worship to the Son of God.
This little instance here, involuntarily recorded, coming from the heart of those first little bands of disciples is so typical: “And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continuing in the temple, praising and blessing God” [Luke 24:51-53]—“and they worshiped Him” [Luke 24:52].
In the days of His flesh, how often do you meet that? Bowing down before the feet of Jesus; kissing the hem of His garments; adoring Him, worshiping Him; praying and beseeching unto Him. So through all of the glorious revelation, our Lord is God, and He is to be adored and worshiped! We bow the knee before Him [Philippians 2:10-11]—our Maker, our Savior, our Redeemer, our Lord, and our ultimate and coming and visible King [Revelation 19:16].
The worship of Jesus was the thing that the pagan world could not understand. When they carried those early Christians to the death racks and exposed them to torment, and trial, and torture, beyond what any people had ever suffered, they learned from their lips those words of glory and worship and adoration to Jesus our God.
In the Palatine palace—digging, unearthing it from the days of the ancient Romans—they found on one of the walls, a jive, a cartoon, a caricature of an early Christian. It was this: on the wall a crude, apparently pagan slave had drawn a picture of a man with an ass’s head nailed to a cross. And to the side he had drawn a picture of a Roman in a tunic bowing down before the man with an ass’s head, nailed to the cross. And underneath was the rude, crude inscription in Greek: “Alaxamenos adores his God.”
In jive, in ridicule, in sarcasm, the early Roman world made fun of the Christian who bowed down before Jesus and worshiped Him as God. But that is the true religion of Jesus Christ. For God the Father said to the angels: “And let all the angels of God worship Him” [Hebrews 1:6].
The highest form of our assemblies is when it is given to the adoration and the worship of Jesus Christ, in spirit and in truth [John 4:24]. Our greatest hymns are the hymns of objective religion, of objective worship. There are two kinds of religion. There is objective religion, and there is subjective religion. There is a religion of Christ and of God—adoring Him, worshiping Him, looking to Him—a religion that goes beyond yourself.
There is a religion of subjectivism—a religion of psychiatry; a religion of probing yourself; a religion of looking into yourself. I do not deny the effectiveness of the second kind of religion—the subjective religion, where you look on the inside of yourself, and you probe yourself, and you look at yourself, and you watch yourself, and you build your whole life and everything around yourself—and you go to the psychiatrist and you tell him about yourself; and you pay him to tell you about yourself—and you live around yourself. That’s one kind of religion.
But the great religion is always objective—out of yourself, into Christ. Our great hymns are always objective hymns.
Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, Holy, Holy! Merciful and Mighty!
God in Three Persons blessed Trinity!
Holy, Holy, Holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who wert, and art, and evermore shall be.
[“Holy, Holy, Holy,” Reginald Heber, 1827]
A great and marvelous hymn—another one:
Majestic sweetness sits enthroned
Upon the Savior’s brow;
His head with radiant glorious crown,
His lips with grace o’erflow,
His lips with grace o’erflow.
No mortal can with Him compare,
Among the sons of men;
Purer is He than all the fair
Who fill the heavenly train
Who fill the heavenly train.
[“Majestic Sweetness Sits Enthroned,” Samuel Stennett]
I could go on endlessly. Your great hymns are the objective hymns, singing to the glory of Christ. Your lesser hymns are hymns about us. I did not deny that there is a subjective religion, and it has its place. Subjective hymns have their place:
I need Thee every hour
I need Thee… stay Thou nearby.
I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Oh, bless me now my Savior,
I come to Thee.
[“I Need Thee Every Hour,” Annie S. Hawks, 1872]
That is a wonderful hymn and a blessed one. But it does not compare with those glorious hymns of objective praise. Here’s another one—and a subjective hymn.
I must tell Jesus all of my trials;
I cannot bear these burdens alone
I must tell Jesus all of my troubles;
He is a kind, compassionate friend…
[“I Must Tell Jesus All of My Trials,” Elisha A. Hoffman, 1893]
Those are wonderful songs. But your great songs, and your great hymns are always objective, looking up, reaching out and above and beyond ourselves unto Christ.
Now may I preach a little sermon for which I will charge you nothing? I want to say a little word about you. After thirty years as a pastor, I have come to a certain and definite conclusion. The trouble, the burden and finally the heartache of so many, many of God’s people is this; that they look upon themselves and try to find in themselves the great assurances of the religious faith. And they constantly wait, and they constantly probe, and they constantly look, and they constantly ask: “Oh, have I repented right? Have I repented right? Oh, have I believed right? Have I believed right? Oh, am I saved? Am I saved? Am I saved? Did I do that right? Did I do it right? Oh, I’m so disturbed. I’m so distressed. I am so full of burden and anxiety and care and grief.”
And you look on the inside of yourself, and you look at yourself, and you look at yourself, and you live miserably. How triumphant and how glorious is the Christian who can look away from himself, and put his eyes, and his heart, and his love, and his affection and his devotion upon Jesus.
It is exactly like Peter, walking on the water: “If it be Thou, Lord,” he said, “bid me come unto Thee.” And the Lord said: “Come.” He is delighted in any expression of a man’s faith. “Come, come, ask what you will. You want to walk on the water? Come!” And Simon Peter clamored over the side of the boat and walked to Jesus on the water.
Then the Book says: he began to look at the winds and the waves and saw himself walking on the water and began to sink. As long as he kept his eye upon Jesus, as long as he looked at his Lord, he walks on the water. But when he began to look at himself and around him the winds and the seas, he began to sink [Matthew 14:28-31]. So it is with us: as long as our eyes are fixed on Him—God be praised for Jesus, the name of God be honored and blessed for my Savior—looking to Him, we’re all right. But when we begin to look at ourselves, we soon begin to stumble and to fall.
What we need to do is to get out of ourselves, away from ourselves—get into Him; His love, His message, His work, His ministry, His commission, His mission. Oh, how much God bids us—less and less and less of us until there is nothing of us—and more and more and more of God until it is everything of Him—an objective religion; an objective faith! My salvation isn’t found in me; it’s in Him. My hope doesn’t rest in me. My hope is in Him!
On Christ, the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
[“On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand,” Edward Mote
& William Bradbury]
Now that was extra. If anybody wants to send a little donation for it, it’s all right. But I’m not charging. I’m not charging.
We’re speaking of the glory of Christ, and I come back to my sermon now. The last that he presents here—the glory of our Lord—the last is His most enduring and abiding name. The glory of Christ is the Savior as the Savior of sinners.
Who being the brightness of God’s glory, and the express image of His person, upholding all things by the word of His power—who He was—when He had by Himself purged our sins, He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.
The glory of Christ as Redeemer and Savior—Paul said it like this:
Though He was in the form of God, thought it not a thing to be seized, to be equal with God:
But—poured Himself out and—made Himself of no reputation. . . and was made in the likeness of a man…
And humbled Himself even unto death . . .
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name…
“He 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”—He did it—“when He had by Himself”—He saves us—“when He had by Himself”—He is the sacrifice and the atonement for our sins—“when He had by Himself purged our sins, He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” [Hebrews 1:3].
Now the Greek of that word: “By Himself purged our sins” is very pointed and very effective: “Di` autou katharismon… poiēsamenos tōn hamartiōn.” Di` autou, “by Himself,” that’s first, “by Himself.” “Katharismon” is “purification,” “the purging.” “Poiēsamenos” is a past perfect, “having made,” it is done, “purging, purifying our sins, He sat down” [Hebrews 1:3].
All of that in the Greek is very effective and very positive. “It is a finished work! It is done! And having completed the atonement for our sins, He sat down”—a finished and accomplished work [Hebrews 1:3].
And that is the way that we are to look upon our Lord. Our poets and our artists and our preachers have so misled us. Our picture of the Lord, our enduring picture of Christ is almost always as “a man of sorrow, and acquainted with grief” [Isaiah 53:3], pressing on His brow the crown of thorns [Matthew 27:29]—nailed to the tree [1 Peter 2:24]. There is a great religious segment of the Christian faith that perpetuates His agonies. Year after year, century after century, generation after generation, they crucify the Son of God afresh. And they leave Him there—they picture Him there—nailed to the cross.
I would not for a moment take our hearts away from the sublimity of the sacrifice of the Son of God. The sign of the cross is a memorial of our salvation. But my dear people, our Lord is no longer in Gethsemane [Matthew 26:36-56]. Our Lord is no longer hanging on a tree [1 Peter 2:24]. Our Lord is no longer wrapped in swaddling linen and lying in Joseph’s new tomb [Matthew 27:57-61]. Our Lord is risen from the dead! [Matthew 28:5-6].
We must never forget the glory that He had before the world was [John 17:5], nor must we forget the glory into which He entered after His Passion and suffering and resurrection from the dead. Our Lord is a living Lord, and having made atonement for our sins, He sits down on the right hand of the glory of God, awaiting until His enemies are His footstool [Hebrews 10:12-13]. And then we shall see Him in the glory of His person [1 John 3:2].
And John tried to describe Him. But I don’t think even language could hold the marvel of the glory of the person of Jesus Christ:
His voice as the sound of many waters . . . [Revelation 1:15]
His eyes as a flame of fire . . . [Revelation 1:14]
His hair, white like snow . . . [Revelation 1:14]
girt with a golden girdle . . . [Revelation 1:13]
His feet as fine brass in a furnace . . . [Revelation 1:15]
And I fell at His feet as dead. And He put His right hand upon me, saying, Fear not . . . [Revelation 1:17]
Glorified, immortalized, transfigured—the same Lord Jesus. “I was dead—tasted death for every man, purged our sins on the cross—“But now, I am alive forevermore. And I, I have the keys of Death and of Hell” [Revelation 1:18], He, our Lord, our Savior, the glory of the Son of God [Colossians 2:9].
We must close, and while we sing our song, somebody you, to give your heart to Jesus, somebody you put your life in the fellowship of the church, while we sing this song, while we make this appeal, would you come and stand by me? “This morning I give my heart to the Lord and here I am.” Or “This morning our family is coming into the church.” In this balcony round, there’s a stairway here, there’s a stairway there, come down one of these stairways and to the pastor. On this lower floor into the aisle, into the aisle and down here to the front, “Today, I make it now, giving my heart in trust to Jesus,” or “coming into the fellowship of His church,” while we sing this appeal prayerfully, earnestly, would you make it now? While we stand and while we sing.
THE GLORY OF CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Polutropos – “many parts, many ways”(Hebrews 1:1)
1. In the Bible is great variety, but tremendous unity
a. Has one exalted recurring theme – the glory of the Son of God
B. Both God’s books have illimitable variety in unity
1. Book of nature(1 Corinthians 12:6, 15:39-41)
2. The Holy Scriptures
a. Written in different ages, countries by different men
b. Yet there is the same inspired mind and hand that is writingII. The created universe reflects the glory of Christ(Hebrews 1:2)
A. He is the origin of creation(Colossians 1:14-19, John 1:1-3)
B. He is the God of providence(Hebrews 1:2-3)
C. He is the God of unchanging immutability(Hebrews 1:10-12, Psalm 102:25)III. The celestial world reflects the glory of Christ(Hebrews 1:4-6, 8)
A. Angels commanded to worship Him
B. During His lifetime, constantly recurring acts of homage(Luke 24:51-53)
C. Objective, subjective religion
1. Great religion is always objective
2. Objective, subjective hymns
D. Trouble with looking inside ourselves for assurances of the faith(Matthew 14:28-30)IV. The finished work of atonement reflects the glory of Christ (Hebrews 1:3, 8)
A. “By Himself purged our sins” (Hebrews 1:3, Philippians 2:6-9)
1. A finished work
B. He is a King(Hebrews 1:3, 8)
1. Poets, artists, preachers almost always present enduring picture of Christ as on the cross(Isaiah 53:3, Matthew 27:29)
2. But He is risen (Matthew 28:5-6)
3. We must never forget the glory He had before the world was, or the glory into which He entered after His resurrection(Hebrews 10:12-13, Revelation 1:13-15, 17-18)