The Knowledge of the Glory of God

2 Corinthians

The Knowledge of the Glory of God

March 12th, 1967 @ 10:50 AM

2 Corinthians 4:6-17

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. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, 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. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. 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;
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THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE GLORY OF GOD

Dr. W. A. Criswell 

2 Corinthians 4:6-17 

3-12-67     10:50 a.m. 

 

 

On radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Knowledge of the Glory of God.  It is a text in 2 Corinthians chapter 4, verse 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, "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]. 

The apostle brings together here two events that are separated by eons of ages in time.  He mentions the creation, when the iridescent splendor of God changed the darkness of this universe into light; when "God commanded the light to shine out of darkness."  Then he speaks of the glory of God in the incarnate Prince of heaven, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem [2 Corinthians 4:6].  Two tremendous facts, both of them equally fact.  The creation is a fact.  One of the typically foolish, ephemeral, sloppy philosophers in the days of old rugged Thomas Carlyle said, "Well, I accept, I accept the universe."  And Thomas Carl said, "Egad, he’d best!" 

It is a fact, the stars above us and the terrestrial earth beneath us and our lives in it.  But no less a fact is the fact of Jesus the Christ; He is not just a sentiment or just a humanistic ideal, He is an historic and redemptive fact.  And the apostle brings these two together: the glory of God that shined from His person when the night was turned to day, and the glory of God that shined in the marvelous personality and life of the incarnate Prince of heaven, when

 

. . . 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 fulness have all we received, and grace for grace, added to grace, on top of grace. 

For the law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by 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 the Holy Scriptures.  There is a human glory, a glory of human achievement.  In the third and climactic temptation [Matthew 4:8-9], Satan took the Lord Jesus on the top of a high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, the glories of ancient civilizations, the glories of modern technical advancement, the glory in art and poetry and drama and literature and architecture, the achievements of the human race.  There is a glory that is human. 

There is a glory that is natural.  As the psalmist said, "The heavens declare the glory of God" [Psalm 19:1].  The wondrous chalice of the sky, the stars that it firmaments, the beauty of the world around us, the whole creation is but the flowing robes and the celestial garments and the heavenly vesture whereby the Eternal clothes Himself.  There is a glory of creation. 

There is a glory of the eternal.  There is a glory of the invisible.  He spake of it in the context:

For which cause we faint not; though our outward man perish, a dying people, yet the inward man is renewed every day.  For our light affliction, the sorrows we know in this life, are but for a moment, and worketh for us a far more and exceeding weight of glory.

[2 Corinthians 4:16-17]

 

What kind of a glory, transient as the flower that fades, as the grass that withers?  Yea, the very heaven and earth shall pass away.  No: "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 4:18]. 

There is a glory of the invisible of the eternities.  These are the soul of faith that shall never pass away.  Now in them, where would you find the full-orbed glory of God?

 Can we find the undiminished, unwasting, abounding glory of God in human achievement?  Yes, I believe in God; I believe that all history is in the sovereign elective purpose of the Almighty.  And God’s hand can be seen in the molding and the shaping of human history.  But not His fullness; not the ultimate glory of God is seen in human achievement, however inspired and however heavenly and divine.  Then, can the fullness and the full-orbed glory of God be seen in His handiwork, in the stars of the heavens and the earth around us?  Yes, God’s glory can be seen.  For the eye to behold and the heart to receive, God can be seen in the handiwork of His fingers [Psalm 19:1]. 

I read this last week, in preparing this message, in the life of Walt Whitman, the American poet, he attended an astronomer’s lecture on the heavens.  And he said, "The lecture was dull and dry and tedious, and the hall was stuffy and the charts and the diagrams were un-illuminating."  And he said, "Finally, I stood up and walked out into the night and beheld the stars and the glory of God for myself."  But not in this can be found the full-orbed plenitude of the glory of God.  Why, the Milky Way itself is but the dust of His chariot wheels. 

Can the glory of God, full-orbed, be seen in the eternity, in the Ancient of Days?  Our imaginations, as we seek to grasp the infinitude of the Almighty, turns backward and backward and backward, beyond the temples on the seven hills of Rome, beyond the storied columns of Karnak, beyond the ancient civilizations, back to the dawn of the creation of the first man.  Then our imagination goes beyond and beyond, into the illimitable eons and ages of the beyond.  Back and back and back until finally we hear, beyond the darkness of the primeval chaos, the words from a farthest shore, "In the beginning God" [Genesis 1:1], when time lay unborn in the womb of the eternal, and there is God.  Can the glory of God be seen full-orbed in the Ancient of Days?  Never aught eon or age when He was not; yesterday, today, and the forever [Hebrews 13:8].  There is no doubt but that death and the shortening of life is the colossal weakness of all mankind.  We’re like a vapor.  We’re like a mist.  We’re like a shadow and soon pass away.  But oh! the infinitude of the glory of the Eternal.  But again, but again, not in eternities can be found the full-orbed glory of God. 

Why, I verily believe that maybe one day in the story of the little town of Bethlehem has more significance than all of the eons and all of the ages of the Neolithic and the Paleolithic eras.  And of the stars: there is more of God that can be seen in the face of a little child than in all of the stars of the immeasurable universe.  Oceans can’t love God.  Stars can’t think God’s thoughts after Him.  The Lord made the first man that He might have someone to fellowship with, to converse with, to visit with, to talk to, to love, someone who could respond.  Are you not like that?

How empty are marbled palaces and treasures of gold and possessions if there were none there but just that.  God was like that.  His oceans and His universes and His stars; and He made a man in His own image, after His own likeness [Genesis 1:26, 27], that there might be someone who could think God’s thoughts, who could love God in his soul, who could respond in a speech, in a language.  Is not the abounding glory of God to be found in the incarnation, in the life of a man, in the face of a human being?  "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]. 

You know, we have many, many metaphysical, theological conceptions of deity.  And especially in this modern day and in the new theology – I read so much of those involved speculations.  They are meaningless.  They are nothingness.  These theological conceptions for example, when we speak of the omniscience of God or the omnipotence of God or the omnipresence of God, they are nothing.  Only when they are incarnate do they have significance and meaning for us.  Like music: study music in books, counterpart, theory, the scientific equations found in harmony and in tone, all of it.  But it is not music until it is in a Jenny Lind, or a Caruso, or Paderewski, or a Fritz Kreisler, or a glorious choir; not in a book, not in theory and speculation, but in the exuberance, the overflowing of a glorious peon of praise.  That’s music. 

William James, the tremendous psychologist of Harvard College of the last generation, spoke of one time of spirituality.  Someone said, "What is spirituality?  What do you mean by the term spirituality?"  And the great psychologist paused, and he said, "I don’t think I can define it.  I don’t think I can describe it in words, spirituality."  Then his eyes lighted up and he added, "But I can point it out to you.  Spirituality is Phillips Brooks, the great and eloquent preacher of Boston."  So with God. 

All of the attributes of God are as nothing and all of the metaphysical speculations about God are nothing.  It is God to us when we see Him incarnate in man [Colossians 2:9].  Would you know the love of God?  Look at Jesus our Lord.  Would you know the grace of God that can forgive our sins and make us whole again?  Look at our Savior the Lord Jesus [Ephesians 2:5-8].  Would you know the compassion of God?  Look at our blessed Savior. "Jesus, moved with compassion" [Matthew 14:14; Mark 1:41]; is His enduring name.  Would you know the power of God that can regenerate the heart, make us anew?  Look at Jesus the Christ.  "He that hath seen Me," He said, "hath seen the Father" [John 14:9].  The glory of God, full-orbed, abounding, overflowing, is found in 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 in the face of Jesus Christ" [2 Corinthians 4:6].

And what an amazing revelation, the glory of God in Christ.  Look: follow me for a moment.  He is born in a marble palace?  He is clothed with imperial purple?  He is surrounded by adoring nobility?  No, no!  Oh, oh, He is born in a stable.  He is laid in a manger.  They are so poor.  They have no little dresses or clothes.  But they wrapped Him with swaddling clothes, with rags [Luke 2:10-16].  And His companions?  They are oxen, they are sheep, they are donkeys, they are four-footed beasts.  Ah!  Then it is a glory beyond the trifles of affluence and parade, the glory of God in Jesus Christ.

Look again, and He is in the temple, just a youth.  He is just twelve years of age, and there in the temple are the theologians of the day.  These learned in the school of Hillel, and these versed in the school of Shammai, and these seated at the feet of the great rabbi Gamaliel; and the theological knowledge and discussions and scholastic dissertations of the ages are represented in these learned theologians. Then standing in their midst is a child, a youth!  And these learned ecclesiastics, these first theologians cannot answer His questions, and they are overwhelmed at His intuitive knowledge [Luke 2:10-16].  Then, it is a glory beyond that of scholastic theology and academic learning. 

And look at Him again.  He is so poor, so unobtrusive and unostentatious.  In the form of a servant does He live and walk [Philippians 2:7].  He has on a peasant’s garb.  He is hungry and thirsty [Mark 11:13, John 19:28].  He has no home; no place to lay His head [Matthew 8:20].  He is so poor that the women of Galilee feed Him.  What an astonishing, what an amazing life!  He, the Lord God, who must stoop to look up at the skies, who must bow down to see what angels do – look, He walks in a peasant’s garb, and He lives a life of penury and want.  Then it is a glory beyond the pride of life. 

Look more: He suffers.  He agonizes in prayer [Luke 22:44].  He is spat upon, and His beard is plucked out [Isaiah 50:6], and He is beat with Roman rods.  He is crowned with thorns, He is nailed to a cross.  He dies between thieves [Matthew 27:26-50].  He is buried.  He has suffered all of the agonies of this life and has fallen into the grave.  Oh!  Then it is a glory beyond death and the grave [Matthew 27:57-60].  "O death, where now is thy sting?  O grave, where now is thy victory?  Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" [1 Corinthians 15:55, 57].  It is a glory beyond suffering, beyond age, beyond death.  "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].

But more: the story of His disciples in the earth has been full, has been written with tears and with blood.  Yesterday, through the centuries, and today in China this moment, our brethren are being ground to death; the Red Guard has been given the tragic and ruthless assignment of stamping out the name of Christ in the earth.  The story of the churches of God have been written in human suffering, in toil, in tears, and in blood.  Is this all?  Is it God’s elective purpose for us in the earth, to suffer, to die? 

No, lift up your eyes, look!  Look beyond the heavens.  Look beyond the stars.  Look beyond the skies.  "Behold, He cometh with ten thousands and thousands of His saints" [Jude 14].  "The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever," hallelujah! Amen [Revelation 11:15].

Then it is also 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].  As a babe, as a child, as a humble ministering servant, as the Savior on the cross, as the Lord in heaven, as the King coming of the universe, the glory of God in Jesus our Lord. 

Now may I add just a word about us?  "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give us"; we contain it, possess it, think of it!  The vessel is we, "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" [2 Corinthians 4:6].  We possess it.  Oh, what a conception!  As Paul wrote in the first chapter of the Colossian letter, "Christ in you, the hope of glory" [Colossians 1:27].  God’s glory shining in us!  Oh!  As the thirty-[fourth] Psalm said, "They looked unto Him, and were radiant" [Psalm 34:5].  The victory, the triumph, the glory, the exaltation, the abounding presence of God is to shine in our souls, is to be seen in our faces.  It’s to brighten from our eyes.  O Lord!   

When I think of the times that I have looked blue, and the times I’ve been discouraged, and the times I have been down, and people have seen me; "Is this God’s servant sitting under a juniper tree?  Is this God’s preacher, and he’s discouraged?  Is this God’s man, and he’s crushed?"  Oh, what have I done to the light of the glory of God that is shined unto my heart?  Lord, Lord, lift me up, raise me up.  Make me a light to shine for Thee. 

"For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give us the knowledge of the glory of God that was seen in the face of Jesus Christ."  O Lord, that the glory of God might shine in my soul, triumphant, victorious, abounding, glorious!  O God, in life, in death, in the eternity that is to come, a glory beyond the frustrations of the pilgrimage we know in the wilderness of this world; a glory beyond death and the grave, and a glory that shall reach into the eternities of the eternities as we reign with Christ our King and Lord forever and ever and ever, amen.  O God, make me shine for Thee!  Make this church shine for Thee.  Make our lives, Lord, glow in iridescent splendor for Thee.  May our very countenances light up and brighten every room into which we enter, every conversation that we share, every situation in life that we know.  O God, may we burn gloriously for Thee.  "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, in our souls, in our lives, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" [2 Corinthians 4:6]. 

While we sing this hymn of appeal, somebody you give himself to the Lord; a family you to put your life with us in the fellowship of this dear church.  As God shall press the appeal, as the Spirit shall bear on wings of love this invitation to your heart, come this morning.  Come this morning.  In the balcony round, somebody you, on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, "Here I am, pastor.  Here I come.  This is my wife.  These are our children.  All of us are coming today."  Or one somebody you, while we sing this song, while we make the appeal, and while our people prayerfully wait for you, come.  May it be a great hour.  May it be a glorious hour because of you.   Come, make it now, on the first note of the first stanza.  When you stand up, stand up coming.  "Here I am, pastor.  I make it this morning.  I make it now."  Do it, while we stand and while we sing.