THE GLORY IN THE CHURCH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-29-70 10:50 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Glory of God in the Church. In our preaching through the Book of Ephesians, in the third chapter, we have come to that final verse:
Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
I prepared the sermon, The Glory in the Church; and it had four sections, four points. The first one was, the glory in the church; it is the presence of Christ among us. The glory of God in the church; it is the love of Christ for us. The glory of God in the church; it is the revelation of the truth through us. The glory of God in the church; it is the fellowship of the saints in it. But yesterday morning, Saturday morning, as I always do, laying the message before God, getting it into my soul so that I can stand up here and preach it without notes, living it – and after all, that’s what preaching is: taking the truth of God and living it in the heart and life of the spokesman in this sacred pulpit – as I began yesterday morning, I was not pleased. There is so much more in that than the sort of devotional message that I had prepared. So I threw it away; and yesterday morning started all over again, and finished it late last night.
The Glory of God in the Church; you have it translated here in the King James Version out of which I preach, "Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus." Auto, "to Him"; he doxa, "the glory"; en te ekklesia, "in the church"; en Christo Iesou, "in Christ Jesus" – not, "by Christ Jesus" – "Unto Him, unto God, be the glory in the church in Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen" [Ephesians 3:21]. What is the glory? "Unto God be the glory in the church in Christ Jesus." For the most part, the word translated "glory" in the Old Testament is chavod; in the New Testament it is doxa. Our word "doxology" comes from it. And for the most part, those are the two words that are used in the Bible translated "glory." And doxa is an exact translation of the Hebrew word chavod.
As I studied the best I could, it seemed to me there were five different ways – maybe among others, but these mostly – there are five different categories in which that word "glory" is used [Ephesians 3:21]. One: it refers to beauty, symmetry, impressiveness. For example, David said, "I cannot build the house for the Lord; but my son Solomon will build it. And I will prepare the materials for him, for," said David, "the house must be exceeding magnificent, of fame and glory throughout all the nations" [1 Chronicles 22:5]. There the word "glory" refers to the beauty and symmetry of the house for the Lord.
Again: the word "glory" refers to dominion, and power, and majesty, and might. In the nineteenth Psalm, the first verse: "The heavens declare the glory of God" [Psalm 19:1]. In the New Testament: "And Satan," in that third temptation, "caused to pass before the Lord Jesus the vision of all the nations of the world, and the glory of them, and said, If You will bow down and worship before me, I will give You all these things" [Matthew 4:8-9]. In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord said, "Solomon in all his glory, in all of his grandeur and might and majesty, is not arrayed like one of these lilies" [Matthew 6:29]. In the twenty-first chapter of the Revelation, the apostle John said, that, "Into that beautiful city the kings of the earth shall bring their honor and glory" [Revelation 21:24]. In the sixteenth chapter of Matthew, the Lord says, that, someday He is coming "in the glory of the Father with the holy angels" [Matthew 16:27]. James and John came up to the Lord and said, "Grant unto us that one of us may be on Your right hand, and the other on Your left hand, in Thy glory" [Mark 10:37]. And in the last chapter of Luke, the Lord teaches His disciples, after He was raised from the dead, "Should not the Son of man have suffered, and have entered into His glory?" [Luke 24:26]. In the seventeenth chapter of the Book of John, the Lord refers to the glory He had with God the Father before the world was [John 17:5]. Here the word "glory" refers to majesty, and dominion, and power.
A third use of that word "glory" refers to the essential nature and character of God Himself; what God is. Isn’t that an unusual use of that word? It is identified with the essence, the being of God Himself. The first historical use of that word in the Bible is in the thirty-third chapter of Exodus. Do you remember it? Moses said to God, "Lord, show me Thy glory,that I might see Thy glory." And the Lord said, "No man can see Me and live; but I will hide you in the cleft of a rock, and cover you there with My hand. And I will make My glory pass before you. And after I have passed, I will take My hand away from the rock, and thou can see the afterglow, the twilight." [Exodus 33:18-23] The glory of God, the being of God, the essence and character of God, glory; that’s why in the one hundred sixth Psalm, speaking of the worship of those Israelites around the golden calf, that’s why the psalmist says, "They exchanged the glory of God, their glory, into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass" [Psalm 106:19-20] – the glory of God, the being, the excellence, the presence of God.
In the fortieth chapter of Isaiah and the fifth verse, here is a passage they sing in the "Messiah":
The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord.
For every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be brought low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it.
Well, what does that refer to? That refers to the coming of our Lord. "And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together" [Isaiah 40:5]. That’s the coming of Jesus. His first coming announced by the great Baptist preacher named John [Matthew 3:11-12]; and His second coming in glory with the holy angels [Matthew 16:27] – identified with the Lord Himself, the glory of God, the presence of God. And when it came to pass, John wrote of it like this, in the fourteenth verse of His first chapter: "And the Word was made flesh,and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten Son of God" [John 1:14]. Glory: identified with the character and being and presence of God Himself.
Then there is a fourth use of that word "glory" [Ephesians 3:21]: it refers to brightness, to brilliance, to dazzling splendor, to iridescence, to effulgence; the glory of God. And if I could say it in my words, to me that refers to the garments of God. This is the way He is clothed: He is clothed in glory. And when God is present, and when God appears, there is glory, there is brightness, brilliance, splendor, iridescence, effulgence: the glory, the shekinah garments of the Lord, glory. In the fifth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses, after he lists the Ten Commandments, reminds those Israelites who were there, he reminds them, saying, that, "You saw the greatness and the glory of God"; that is, that mount trembled and was on fire – the presence of the Lord! [Deuteronomy 5:22-24]. The Book of Exodus refers to the pillar of cloud by day and the column of fire by night as the glory of God [Exodus 13:21-22]. When the tabernacle was made, the place was filled with the glory of God [2 Chronicles 7:1-2]. When the temple was dedicated, the priests could not enter because the house was filled with the glory of God [2 Chronicles 5:14]. In the sixth chapter of Isaiah, when the young man describes his call to the prophetic ministry, Isaiah says he saw "the Lord high and lifted up, the train filled the temple, and above Him the seraphim cried, Holy, holy, holy, the whole earth is filled with Thy glory" [Isaiah 6:1-3]; the light of the presence of God.
When the angel came down to announce that the Son of promise had been born in Bethlehem, the Book says, "And the glory of the Lord shone around the shepherds" [Luke 2:9]. Wouldn’t you have loved to have been there? "And the glory of the Lord shone around the shepherds."
And in the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Acts, when Paul describes his conversion, he says, "And I could not see for the glory of that light" [Acts 22:11]. The presence of Jesus; the garments of our immortalized, glorified, risen Lord: it blinded him that he couldn’t see. In the eighteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation it says, "And a mighty angel came down, having great power; and the whole earth was lightened by His glory" [Revelation 18:1]. Think of that. Think of that! These are the garments of God: the glory.
Then there’s a fifth use of that word "glory" [Ephesians 3:21]: it refers to praise, and adoration, and thanksgiving, and reverence, awe, and worship. Praise: "And the angels burst into exclamatory praise, and said, Glory to God in the highest, glory, praise, exaltation, Glory to God in the highest!" [Luke 2:13-14]. And in the Book of Luke, when the Lord heals the ten lepers, just one, a Samaritan, comes back to thank Him; and the Lord says, "Is there none but this stranger who returns to give glory to God, praise and thanksgiving?" [Luke 17:15-18].
In the last verse of the first chapter of Galatians, Paul, describing his conversion after he had wasted and persecuted the church, said that, "They knew me not by face in Judea, the churches in Judea: but they had only heard, That he who had wasted the church now preached the faith that once he destroyed. And they glorified God in me" [Galatians 1:21-24]. Praise God! Thank the Lord! They were encouraged, and glorified God.
Well, as I studied, it seemed to me that those were the great five ways that that word is used in the Bible. Now, let us apply that in the church. "Unto Him be the glory in the church" [Ephesians 3:21]. We know what that word means now; let’s apply it in the church: "Unto God be the glory in the church."
First: beauty, symmetry, appearance; "Unto God be glory in the church" [Ephesians 3:21]. After prayer, I felt that God would bless me if on Sunday afternoon I would take the pastorate of a little church that had died. I’ve been adding to this ministry ever since I started; still at it. The church had been closed and gone out of business. The windows were broken; mischievous boys had thrown rocks through them, and the weeds were higher than my head. This was in Kentucky where weeds grow high. And the house was filled with dirt. And after prayer, and feeling that God would bless me as I tried to rebuild that church in that community – and they needed it, they had so many young people – you know the first thing I did? I called all of the men of the community together, and I said, "Let’s come and make God’s house habitable and pretty." So we cut down the weeds, and we restored the panes of glass, and we swept out the dirt, and we painted the interior and the exterior; because that was God’s church house, that was God’s meeting place. And the weeds ought not to be there, and those panes of glass ought not to be broken, and the dirt ought to be swept out; that’s God’s meeting place. And that’s the glory in the church. We don’t glorify God letting our church turn into a dump: unclean, unkempt, unpretty, unbeautiful. Insofar as we have hands to help and insofar as we have ableness to do it, God’s house ought to be a beautiful house, as fine as we can make it – the glory of God in the church.
Sometimes we’re limited. One of the finest services I was ever in in my life was in a leper clan settlement in Africa; and the church was made out of mud. The pews were made out of mud. The pulpit was made out of mud. The pulpit desk was made out of mud. The two seats up there for the choir were made out of mud. The whole church was made out of mud. But they had done it, those lepers, the best they knew how. It was good mud, pretty mud. The glory of God in the church: as beautiful as we can make it.
The glory of God in the church [Ephesians 3:21]: it refers to dominion and power. Dear me! for the congregation to meet together in God’s name and there’s no power among us, no saving regenerating grace among us, is unthinkable and unimaginable and of all things most tragically unspeakable! To me the greatest miracle of the mighty working power of God is not a star or a sun or an ocean or a continent: to me the greatest mighty working power of God is a regenerated man; somebody who is born again, saved. And that’s the glory of God in the church.
The wonder-working miraculous power of the Lord in redeeming men; by fiat He made the stars – He just spoke them into existence [Genesis 1:14-16]. But to regenerate, to redeem, Christ had to die [John 3:16, Hebrews 10:4-14], and the Holy Spirit must do His office work through us. And this is the power of God in the church; that is, the glory of God in the church. When people are saved, when God is adding to His congregation, that’s the glory in the church.
How many churches over the door you could write, "Ichabod": there’s nobody saved, there’s nobody moved, there’s’ nobody helped, there’s nobody regenerated. That’s the glory of God in the church: "I’m a new man. I’ve found the Lord. And the deep weaknesses of my life, God is helping me overcome. I am encouraged in the faith." The glory of God in the church: the power of God in regeneration.
Third: the glory of God in the church [Ephesians 3:21]: the very nature and character of God, the divine being; we share it, we share it. Whatever God is, we are. We’re in His image [Genesis 1:27]. Do you remember in the eleventh chapter of the first Corinthian letter, Paul says, "When you men come to church, you are not to put a hat on your head; you are to be here in church bare-headed." Why? Paul says, "Because we have been made, created in the image and glory of God" [1 Corinthians 11:7]. Isn’t that a remarkable thing? "In the image and glory of God"; we share His nature. Look again at this incomparable verse in 2 Corinthians: "But we all, with open face beholding as in a mirror the image 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]. Ah! Looking at the glory of God we are changed into the same image from glory to glory; that is, as the Holy Spirit works with us and sanctifies us, we rise from one triumph to the other, from one glory, from one image, likeness of God, to the other, until finally we come to the perfection of glory in heaven. As the seventy-third Psalm says, "He will guide me with His eye, and afterward receive me up into glory" [Psalm 73:24].
Fourth: the brightness and the effulgence of God: that is in the church – the iridescent splendor of the Lord, the glory of God in the church [Ephesians 3:21], His shekinah glory, the brightness, the splendor. Do you ever look at the Bible, really? In the third chapter of the second Corinthian letter, Paul writes of the glory on the face of Moses when he came down from the presence of the Lord: the skin of his face shone, and Moses put a veil over it. And Paul says he did that in order that Israel might not look unto the vanishing away of that glory [2 Corinthians 3:14]. He uses that as an allegory, the changing of that old dispensation. But anyway, he uses the illustration of the glory of God in the face of Moses that passed away [2 Corinthians 3:7]. Then in the next chapter – and isn’t it too bad they put chapter headings in there, because Paul put them all together – in chapter 4 he says, now listen to him: "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]. We have a glory that never passes away – a glory, an effulgence, a brightness.
"Really? Why preacher, some of the Christians I see give me the heebie-jeebies just looking at them." Oh!
Ah! That’s the glory in the church: that it shines in our faces. And think of the glory that is yet to be: glory here when the light of God shines through our eyes and is heard in our voices, the very tone of our language, the shining of God in the face of His people. Think of the glory that is to be. Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus in their glory, the Book says, in their glory [Luke 9:30-31]. And the apostle Paul says, "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" [Romans 8:18]. And look again in that triumphant fifteenth chapter, the resurrection chapter of 1 Corinthians, listen to Paul as he writes:
The glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
There is a glory of the sun, there is a glory of the moon, there is a glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another in glory.
So is the resurrection of the dead. It is planted in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:
It is planted in weakness; it is raised in glory: planted in dishonor; raised in power:
Planted an earthly body, a natural body; raised a spiritual body.
[1 Corinthians 15:40-44]
The glory in the church, the shining of the Lord in His people.
And fifth, and last, the glory of God in the church [Ephesians 3:21]: the praise and the thanksgiving. Ah! We glorify God in our attendance. We glorify God in our prayerful presence. We glorify God in our faithfulness. We glorify God in our acceptance of responsibilities. We glorify God with the sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise. The glory of God in the church: singing about Him, and loving Him, and reading about Him, and preaching about Him, and giving appeal in His name, praying to Him, calling upon Him. The glory of God in the church: praising the Lord, thanking the Lord.
You know what I’m turning over in my mind? Been doing it for years, for years, and I am just about to call our people together and see if God will not bless us in doing it. You know what I’m thinking about, and have been for years and years? To start off with, on the first Sunday, the first Lord’s Day of each month, to have a service at 5:00 o’clock in the afternoon, and it’s a praise service, it’s a thanksgiving service, it’s a loving God service, and it’s a communion service, a Lord’s Supper service. "Well, pastor, what put that in your heart?" Because it is the Eucharist: the communion is called the Eucharist. "What do you mean Eucharist?" Eucharistes, the Greek word for "thankful, grateful"; eucharisteo, "to give thanks, to express gratitude."
"Well, how could that be the body and death of Jesus?" Oh, we have missed, I’m afraid – and that’s why I want to do it – we have missed some of the very heart and meaning of the Christian faith! "And the Lord took bread, and gave thanks, eucharisteo, and broke it, and said, This is My body broken for you. And He took the cup, and eucharisteo, He gave thanks, and said, This is My blood, shed for the remission of sins. Drink ye, all of it" [Matthew 26:26-28, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26]]. And the communion is called the Eucharist, the thanksgiving. Bless God; this is how my sins are forgiven! Bless the Lord; this is how I’m saved! Bless God; this is God’s incomparable gift to me! Bless God!
Or could I say in my text, "Glory to God!" [Ephesians 3:21]. We’ve been saved, and we’re thanking the Lord, and we’re praising the Lord. I’ve got it in my heart just to have a service like that on the first Sunday of each month, at 5:00 [o’clock] when even our older people could come. And all the service is, is a eucharistic service, just thanking God – even for the cross and death. That’s the Christian faith.
As the Lord said to Simon Peter, "Follow Me. As an old man, they will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go. You will stretch forth your hands, signifying by what death he should glorify God" [John 21:18-19]. That is, Peter was to die by crucifixion.
"Well, pastor, do you glorify God in suffering and in death?" That’s the Christian faith. Anybody can glorify God and thanks be to God when he is well and everything is going his way, and he is prosperous; most of the time we just even forget Him. But what glorifies God is in sorrow, or in age, or in death, or in suffering, or in crucifixion, by what death, that is, by the stretching out of the hands, that is, by crucifixion, "This spake He signifying by what death he should glorify God" [John 21:19]. That’s the glory. That’s the glory.
"Lord, I’m weighed down. Lord, I’ve been destroyed. But the Lord gave, and the Lord took away;; blessed be the name of the Lord!" [Job 1:21]. The Eucharist: thanking God for the cross.
We must close. Our time is far spent.
Oh, just wading around in the deep water, children. There is so much to learn. May God give us that glorious, glorious, glorious, from grace to grace, from glory to glory, until our final perfection, in His dear name.
Now we sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, a family you, whose hearts God has touched; or a couple you, or a one somebody you, while we sing this hymn of appeal, come and stand by me, "Pastor, today I give my heart to Jesus." "Pastor, we’re all coming today." "I want to put my life in the fellowship of God’s church. I want to glorify the Lord with these dear and precious people." As God shall say the word, come. Do it now. It’s late. On the first note of the first stanza, come, while we stand and while we sing.