The Knowledge of the Glory of God
March 12th, 1967 @ 8:15 AM
2 Corinthians 4:6-17
The Knowledge of the Glory of God
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Corinthians 4:6-17
3-12-67 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Knowledge of the Glory of God. It is an exposition of a passage in the fourth chapter of 2 Corinthians, and the text will be 2 Corinthians 4:6, and the context is this:
If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
In whom the god of this world hath 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.
For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.
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.
[2 Corinthians 4:3-6]
For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
[2 Corinthians 4:16-18]
And the text, 2 Corinthians 4:6, “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.” This is truly one of the most beautiful passages and one of the most meaningful in all of the Word of God.
The apostle brings together here two facts from remote time and in the generation in which he lived, so vastly separated by eons and millennia of ages: one, the creation of the world in the age of the ages past [Genesis 1:3]; and the other, the incarnation of Christ [John 1:1, 14]. And both of them are equally tremendous facts. The creation of the world around us is a fact [Romans 1:20]. How ever one may philosophize, or discuss, or deny, or add to or take away, it would be very difficult through any philosophical approach to deny the fact that we are here and we live in an expansive universe. The incarnation of Christ is no less a fact [John 1:14]; He is not just a sentiment or a humanistic ideal, but Christ is a historic, redemptive fact. And the apostle, in this text, has brought those two facts together. As the light of God broke through at the beginning of the creation, and the darkness of chaos was illuminated by the resplendent presence of God [Genesis 1:3], so the glory of God has shined through in the face of Jesus Christ [2 Corinthians 4:6].
For 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.
And of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.
For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
[John 1:14, 16-17]
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.
[2 Corinthians 4:6]
There are three glories that are spoken of in Scripture. One is the glory of human achievement. In the last temptation Satan took Jesus to a high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and said, “All this will I give Thee if Thou will but fall down and worship me” [Matthew 4:8-9]. There is a glory that is human, and it is unmistakable; no one would deny it. Human history is filled with the glorious achievements of man. In poetry, in drama, in literature, in architecture, in artistry, in a thousand ways do we see the glorious achievements of mankind. There is a glory that is human.
There is a glory of the natural. As the psalmist sang:
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork.
Day unto day unto uttereth speech, eloquent,
and night unto night showeth knowledge, declaring the glory of God.
The universe, the starry heavens are the raiment, the vesture, the flowing robes by which God clothes Himself. There is a glory of the natural, the creation around us.
There is a glory of the invisible; the enduring, the eternal things that never pass away. The flower fadeth, the grass withereth, the fashion of this world changes, even heaven and earth shall pass away. But there is a glory of the invisible that endures forever. Paul spoke of it in the context:
For our light affliction, the sorrows we know in this world, our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more eternal and exceeding weight of glory;
While we look not at the things which are seen: but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal: but the things which are not seen are eternal.
[2 Corinthians 4:17-18]
There is a glory of the invisible, the eternities that shall never pass away.
Wherein shall we find, or could we find, the full measure of the glory of God? Could we find it in human achievement, the glorious things that mankind has wrought? I do not deny that God is in history. Through all the centuries in every civilization God works, God moves. And all history is a part of His sovereign and elective purpose. There is the glory of God to be found in human history, but not in His fullness. Could the glory of God be seen in its fullness in the starry heavens, the universe above us and around us? No one would deny that the handiwork, the artistry, the lacework of God can be seen in the firmament and the beauties and glory of the created universe [Psalm 19:1].
I read this week where Walt Whitman, the American poet, was attending an evening lecture on astronomy. And the astronomer was dull, and the lecture uninteresting, and the charge un-illuminating; the hall was stuffy, and the whole thing monotonous. And Walt Whitman said he got up and walked out and into the night, and he looked up at the stars themselves. There’s no doubt but that the glory of God can be seen in the starry heavens around us [Psalm 19:1]. But not in His fullness is the glory of God seen in the creation of the worlds beyond. The very Milky Way is but the dust of His chariot wheels. Not in His fullness can God be seen in the starry skies [Psalm 19:1].
He is called, “The Ancient of Days” [Dan 7:9, 13, 22] but not in the eternities can the fullness of God be seen; yet how glorious the hand of God through unmeasured time, beyond the temples on the seven hills of Rome, beyond the storied pillars of Karnak, beyond the ages of the ages back to the beginning of human life [Genesis 1:26-27], and beyond the story of mankind himself, into the ages of the darkness and the chaos [Genesis 1:1-2], when time lay unborn in the womb of eternity. As far as human imagination can reach, back and back and back into the primeval chaos, we hear the echo from some distant shore: “In the beginning God” [Genesis 1:1]. Yet not in primeval time or in the eternity of the eternities can the fullness of the glory of God be seen.
Why, my brother, to me there is more of God to be seen in the face of a little child than in all of the geological ages! And the dinosaurs, and the prehistoric animals, and the geological strata, all that could be found in the Neolithic and Paleolithic ages back, all together are not comparable to the image of God seen in the face of one little child. Nor, in my humble persuasion, do the stars and the starry skies and the great universe around us exhibit the glory of God as it is found in human personality, in human life, in the human spirit, in the human heart. For oceans and stars and universes cannot think God’s thoughts after Him; they cannot love God; they cannot respond to the presence of God; they are speechless; they are inanimate; they are dumb. God created man in order that He might have fellowship with someone who could love Him, and speak to Him, and commune with Him, and walk with Him [Genesis 1:26-27, 2:19; Revelation 4:11].
The fullness of the glory of God can never be found in these vast vistas or these glorious creations, but the fullness of the glory of God is to be found in the spirit of the man that He made. And that would lead us to the certain—the theological, yes—but the certain avowal that the fullness of the glory of God could ultimately and finally be seen in the perfect Man, the God-Man, the eternal Man, Christ Jesus. “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”— where?—“in the face of Jesus Christ” [2 Corinthians 4:6].
All of the abstracts, all of the theologies, all of the metaphysics of God are nothing in themselves; they are meaningless. We can speak, for example—this is what I am talking about—we can speak, for example, of the omniscience of God. We can speak of the omnipresence of God. We could speak of the omnipotence of God [Matthew 19:26]. But these attributes, and these metaphysical delineations and descriptions and definitions are nothing in themselves; they must become incarnate for them to have meaning and significance to us [Colossians 2:9].
Let me illustrate that. The study of the science of music: counterpart, counterpoint, the scientific gradations of tone qualities and the theories of music, and all of the book knowledge of sound; these things are not music. Music is Jenny Lind, a Caruso, Paderewski, Fritz Kreisler. That’s music! Somebody asked William James, the great and famous psychologist of Harvard College, “What do you mean when you use the word spirituality?” And the great professor said, “Well, I don’t know just how you could define spirituality, and I don’t know how you’d say it in words.” Then his eyes lighted up, “But I can point you to a man who is it. Look,” he said, “at Phillips Brooks.” These metaphysical, philosophical, theological conceptions of God are as nothing in themselves, nor all of the inanimate matter that is the creation of His hands; in themselves they are nothing of the revelation of God Himself. These things of the Lord must be incarnate for us to see them and understand them [Colossians 2:9].
What is the love of God? Would you know? Look in the face of Jesus Christ [John 3:16]. What is the grace of God by which we are forgiven, in which we are saved? Look in the face of Jesus Christ [Ephesians 2:5-8]. What is the compassion of God, the condescension of God? Would you know? Look in the face of Jesus Christ [Matthew 14:14; Mark 1:41]. What is the power of God who can heal us and regenerate us and remake us? Look in the face of Jesus Christ [John 14:9]. “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the knowledge of the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” [2 Corinthians 4:6]. Would you see the Father? Then look upon Jesus [John 14:8-9]. The glory of God is found in its fullness, in its plenitude, in its abounding wonder in Jesus our Lord [2 Corinthians 4:6].
So we shall look upon the glory of God in Jesus. Was He born in marble palaces? Was He clothed with imperial purple? Were His companions the noble sons of the realm? And was He reared in affluence and clothed in riches? No! He was born in a stable. He was laid in a manger, and His companions were the oxen and four-footed beasts [Luke 2:10-16]. So it is a glory beyond the trifles of luxury and parade [Luke 2:10-16].
Again, in the midst of the doctors of the law [Luke 2:41-50], these men of the rabbinical schools who were learned in Hillel and Shammai, who were led by the great rabbi Gamaliel, who looked through those great endless tomes of theology, and who were versed in all the theological scholastic erudition of the age—and here a little Child, twelve years of age, speaking in His innocence of the things of God, and asking questions the learned doctors of the law could not answer [Luke 2:46-47]. What an astonishing thing! Then it is a glory beyond the theological conceptions of men.
Again, look at His life. Look at His life: all of His life dressed like a peasant, humble, poor, no home, no place to lay His head [Matthew 8:20], a sojourner and a pilgrim. He knew what it was to hunger and to thirst [Mark 11:12-13, John 19:28]. Nay, He unrobed Himself, and girding Himself with a towel He washed the disciple’s feet [John 13:4-5]. Think of it! He who must stoop to view the sky, He who must bow to see what angels do, washes the disciples’ feet [John 13:4-5]. Then it is a glory beyond the pride of life. He humbled Himself in the form of a servant [Philippians 2:7].
Look again: and He suffers and He agonizes, He wrestles in prayer [Luke 22:44]. He is condemned, forsaken [Matthew 27:46]. He is nailed to a cross, and He dies between felons [Matthew 27:38-50]. And God exalted Him and raised Him from the dead because Jesus humbled Himself and became obedient unto death [Philippians 2:8-9]. Then it is a glory beyond death and the grave. “O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be unto God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” [1 Corinthians 15:55, 57]. It is a glory, then, beyond Death and the Grave.
And last: think of the years that have intervened, the years of the pilgrimage of God’s people in the church; the heartache, the frustration, the martyrs in their suffering. Think today of our fellow Christians in China where the very name of Christ is being stamped out by the violence of the Red Guard. Oh, the sorrow and the suffering of the story of God’s people in history. But look, but look, lift up your face and look: “Behold, behold He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him” [Revelation 1:7].
“And the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever,” hallelujah! Amen [Revelation 11:15]. Then it is a glory beyond human history. “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” [2 Corinthians 4:6].
Now in the moment that remains may I speak of the second part of this passage so briefly? “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, hath shined in our hearts—oh, how much, how much could be said!—hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” [2 Corinthians 4:6]. “Christ in you, the hope of glory” [Colossians 1:27]. What does that mean? Or that glorious passage you read:
But we all, with open face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory,
even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
[2 Corinthians 3:18]
Christ in us, the hope of glory [Colossians 1:27].
Just in a moment to say a word. All of the fullness, all of the triumph and the victory of God in Christ is also in us, in us [Colossians 1:27]. For us to be defeated, pessimistic, is inconceivable, impossible. Look at this pessimism, a poem from James Thompson, “The City of Dreadful Night.” Listen:
We have the sense that every struggle brings defeat
Because fate holds no price to crown success;
For all the oracles are dumb or cheat
Because they have no secret to express;
And none can pierce the great dark veil uncertain
Because there is no light beyond the curtain;
But all is vanity and nothingness.
This is modern philosophy. But to those of us to whom the light has come in Jesus Christ, as Psalm 34:5 writes, “They looked unto Him, and were radiant.” The reflection of the victory and the triumph and the glory of God is to be found in us, in us. And a beautiful pattern of life that graced our Lord is to be seen in us. Oh, maybe someday I’ll have opportunity to continue the message and preach about it, the grace of our Lord, the humility of our Lord, the compassionate love of our Savior in us.
O Master, O precious Savior, lift me, Lord; raise me up. Transform me, Lord; regenerate me. Put a glory in my soul, O God, to praise, to exalt, to exalt; to be filled with the power of the presence of God. Do it, Lord. “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, shines in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” [2 Corinthians 4:6]. Lord, reflect Thyself in me, live again incarnate in me. Let the glory, O God, of Christ shine through in me. May it not be darkened, Lord, by me, or refracted or broken or bent or distorted in me. O God, let the light shine through in me. Do it, Savior, do it, precious Jesus.
Now we must sing our song, and while we sing it, somebody you, to give himself to the Lord [Romans 10:8-13], come and stand by me. A family you, to put your life with us in the fellowship of this dear church, on the first note of the first stanza come and stand by me. “Pastor, the glory of the Lord, may it shine in my soul; may the presence of God live in our home. Here I come, preacher, and here I am.” Make it this morning. On the first note of the first stanza, come. When you stand up in a moment, stand up coming and God bless and attend your way as you walk down one of these stairwells, as you come down one of theses aisles. As the Spirit of God shall press the appeal to your heart, come this morning, come now. Do it now, while we stand and while we sing.
OF GOD IN THE FACE OF JESUS CHRIST
vastly separated points in time here brought together
created light shining out of darkness
The light shining in the face of Jesus Christ
fact of creation, the fact of Jesus Christ(John
II. The Scriptures speak of three glories
glory of human achievement(Matthew 4:8)
glory of creation (Psalm 19:1)
glory of the invisible eternal(2 Corinthians
III. Where do we find the true, full
measure of the glory of God?
in the glory of human achievement
Not in the glory of creation
Not in the glory of eternities
can’t love God; stars can’t think God’s thoughts after Him
God made the first man that He might have someone to fellowship with
The abounding glory of God found in the incarnation, in the life of a man – in
the face of Jesus Christ
Theological conceptions of deity meaningless without the incarnation(John 14:9)
IV. The true knowledge of the glory of God
in Jesus Christ
Babe of Bethlehem – a glory beyond the trifles of affluence, parade
As a Youth in the temple – a glory beyond scholastic theology and academic
among men, wearing the garb of a peasant – a glory beyond the pride of life
crucifixion and death – a glory beyond death and the grave (1 Corinthians 15:55)
years of turmoil and strife of the Christian witness – a glory beyond history (Revelation 1:7)
V. Shining in our hearts
glory of God breaking through today(Colossians
1:27, Psalm 34:5)
of the shining face, heart, life