Distinctive Glories of Christ — An Address by William J. House

Webmaster’s Note:  This has to be one of the best pieces of ministry I have ever read!  I hope this is as much of a blessing to you as it was to me!  Mr. House focuses the attention of his listeners on the Lord Jesus in a very touching and wonderful way!

 

Hebrews 1: 1 – 6; Luke 3: 21 and 22; Exodus 25: 10 – 16, 26: 15 – 19, 29; John 17: 1 – 5

One has been enjoying a little, dear brethren, the message of the angel to Mary in regard to the blessed person of Christ. You remember he said: “He shall be great.” One desires that the sense of that greatness might increase in all our hearts, so that the spirit of John the Baptist might be with us, for he said, as he looked upon the Lord, “He must increase.” If it involved that John must decrease, that did not concern him. “He must increase.” The Lord is going to increase until, dear brethren, He fills heaven and earth: There is no one like Him, is there? He has gone up, it says, far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. The word “fill” is a wonderful word. It means there is no room for anything else. If a thing is filled, then nothing else can come in. There is no room. It will be true of Christ for all eternity, that He fills heaven and earth. So tonight, with the Lord’s help, one desires just to speak simply of the Lord, in four ways in which He is unique in manhood. I wanted, dear brethren, to speak of four unique glories that are His in manhood, that He shares with no one. I think we love that; I am sure we do. Not that one would, of course, in any sense fail to appreciate what He shares with us! How much He shares with us! Think for a moment, beloved brethren, of what He shares with us! As the greatness of that dawns upon our hearts, it would only add to the delight we would have in seeing that there are glories that are His alone. For instance, He says: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you.” Speaking to the troubled hearts of His own at the moment (and to ours), He would convey to us that He would share His peace with us. He would share it with us, and fill our hearts with it. What a peace was His! We have often thought of it, for instance, on the lake. He proposes to cross to the other side, and in all the peace of His own blessed heart He sleeps. A storm arose, the wind rages, the waves would beat into the ship, but it says Jesus was sleeping on a pillow. Think of the comfort and peace and restfulness that was His amidst the storm! He says: I will share that with you. “My peace I give unto you.” Then, in another place. He says: “That they might have My joy fulfilled in themselves.” The joy that filled His own blessed heart as Man—He says, I want you to have that. I will share it with you. The joy that was not affected by the disappointments of this scene, for in the place of His rejection and despising, where His most marvellous works had been done, and not appreciated, it says: “In that hour He rejoiced in spirit.” His heart and spirit were filled with joy amidst the disappointments and sorrows of this scene. He says, I want them to have My joy. I will give it to them. He goes further. Speaking to the Father, He says “The glory that Thou hast given Me, I have given them.” I have given them the same glory that Thou hast given Me. The very glory that was given to Him, He says, I will share it with them. Think of the words: “The glory that Thou hast given Me, I have given them.” And, indeed, dear brethren, He says also in 14th John that He would share His own abode with us. He says: “In My Father’s house are many mansions (many abodes) … That where I am there ye may be also.” He would share His own place with us. In the light of that, and much more also, let us look for a few moments at these four glories that are His alone that He does not share.

In Hebrews 1: 4, I have particularly in mind the glory that is His as inheriting sonship. It says: “He has by inheritance a more excellent name than they.” For it says: “To which of the angels said He at any time. Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee?” – pointing out, dear brethren, that He has the place of sonship by birth. No one else in the universe has that. No one. He is the only begotten Son, having that most blessed and glorious relationship by the right of birth. As the angel Gabriel said to Mary: “The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee … therefore that holy thing … shall be called the Son of God.” That is His alone. It is unique – His glory as Son by birth – begotten. That He shares that relationship with us is perfectly true, but He retains eternally His own unique place. We have the place of sons, but we have it by adoption. We have not it by birth. God, in His eternal purpose, has marked us out, it says, beforehand for adoption. It is according to His purpose to place us before Him in all the liberty and dignity and affection of sonship, but we have it every one of us (there are many sons) by adoption. The blessed person of Christ in manhood has it by birth. It is His in a unique and distinct form. You say, is it really sonship we have? It is really sonship. You see, God has done what no one else but God could do. If I proposed to adopt a number of sons and place them in my home and before my heart and mind as sons, I could not in the very nature of things give them the feelings and instincts and affections of sons. I may place them there, but I cannot really make them sons, but God can. The way He does it is that He takes the Spirit of His Son, and He puts that same Spirit into our hearts, whereby we cry: “Abba, Father.” If I had a son, and I could take the spirit of my own son by birth, and put it into the hearts of those I adopted, I would constitute them sons in very truth. That is what God has done. He has given us, as He says, the Spirit of His Son in our hearts, so that our place in sonship is real, true, and eternal by the gift of the Spirit of His Son in our hearts. But how the Lord stands out in His unique glory! By birth He is Son. He was begotten. “This day have I begotten Thee” is unique to the blessed person of Christ, and we adore Him in His unique glory.

Now the passage we read in Luke brings before our hearts another glory that is entirely His, and that is the character of His reception of the Spirit. The manner in which the Holy Ghost came upon Christ in manhood is entirely unique to Himself. It is remarkable that these details as to the coming of the Holy Spirit on Jesus are recorded more or less similarly in each of the four Gospels, to emphasise again and again to our hearts the importance of it; the greatness of it. The witness is that when Jesus was baptised, He prayed, and the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended, as Luke presents it, in a bodily form as a dove, and abode upon Him. Now I would like, with the Lord’s help, that we should see the magnificence of that. The Spirit of God came upon Christ as a dove, and on Him only. That is confined entirely to Him. The reference undoubtedly goes back to the days of Noah. You remember that into the scene of death and darkness and corruption Noah sent out a raven – a bird of prey, an unclean bird, a scavenger – and it could find all it wanted in that corrupt and dark scene, so that it never returned. Then, it says, Noah sent out a dove. But the dove found no rest. The dove is a clean bird that could not find its home in anything that is defiling, in any element of corruption. The dove cannot rest. You can think of it as hovering over those awful scenes. It says, the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned to Noah. I believe that is what we should consider in this passage, that the Spirit of God, as a dove, can find no resting place, no abiding place, on anything that is corrupt. Where there is any trace of what is unholy, where there is any element unsuitable to His own nature, the Holy Spirit cannot rest. But when Jesus appears publicly, He comes and He abides on Him in the character of a dove. There is everything in that blessed Man that is entirely suitable to the Holy Spirit, so that, in the form of a dove, He comes and rests and abides there; John says: “Abode upon Him.” But then in Luke, another word is added — “in bodily form” – a most remarkable expression to apply to the Spirit. You see, when the people of God were together (as recorded at the beginning of Acts), and the Spirit came, at the beginning of Christianity, there was no bodily form. You cannot conceive a bodily form in the rushing mighty wind. The mind of man cannot conceive such a thing as a bodily form in the wind. When you think of the Spirit in the character of living water, you have not a bodily form brought before you. When you have the Spirit as fire, you have no bodily form in regard to fire. It is there, but not in bodily form; but when you think of Jesus, the Spirit of God descends, it says, in a bodily form, meaning that the Holy Spirit in its entirety was there. That is the idea of bodily form. The Spirit of God is there absolutely and entirely. God places His beloved people in the midst of the wind, but no one person is able to receive this rushing mighty wind. It is a power we can be in, but we do not receive it in its entirety. God would have us drink the living waters, that they may be in us a well of water. But we do not have all the water. No one person has all the water. God would have us know the Spirit as fire to enable us to judge in ourselves what is unholy. But we have not all the fire. He would have us in all the dignity of the anointing, of the oil; but no one has all the oil. But when you come to Jesus, He receives the Spirit in a bodily form. The Spirit is there completely. In every view you may take of the Spirit – as the Spirit of holiness, as the Spirit of life, as the Spirit of power – all is there in entirety, all is in the Person of Christ. I believe that is what underlies the coming of the Spirit upon Jesus in a bodily form, and as a dove. It is entirely unique to Christ. We love to gaze upon this unique glory of Christ. While we are thankful to God for the gift of the Holy Spirit to us, we do not receive it in the same way as He received it.

When we come to Exodus, I want to say only a few words about that. The ark and the boards of which we read are remarkably alike – there is much that is common to them both. The ark is made of shittim wood – a figure of the incorruptible manhood of Christ, a character of manhood that could not be corrupted. What a wonderful kind of manhood that is! We were looking at it this afternoon, in the temptations; there came to light the shittim wood, a character of manhood that could not be corrupted. The word “incorruptible” is one of the most magnificent words in scripture. It does not mean that, up to the present moment, there is no corruption, but it means it is impossible to introduce corruption. That is what incorruptible means. That is what comes out in Jesus, a character of manhood that cannot be corrupted. So the apostle delights to say He has brought life and incorruptibility to light. Where? In Christ! Incorruptibility is brought to light in that blessed, holy, spotless Man. But the boards are made of shittim wood also. The work of God is to conform us in our moral beings, in our hearts, to the character of manhood as seen in Christ. The apostle Paul evidently recognised that there was incorruption amongst the saints at Ephesus, for he says: “Grace be with them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in incorruption.” (Ephesians 6: 24.) He sees there are incorruptible affections in the Ephesian saints – affections that you cannot introduce corruption into. The shittim wood in the boards represents this feature. The ark is overlaid with gold, within and without, meaning that, in that blessed Person, the glory of God shines forth. Look at Him where you will, what shines out is the display of what God is. The gold is there, everywhere; the whole of His manhood is covered with it, the expression of what God is shining forth in His glory. The boards also are overlaid with gold. Every single board that stands up in the presence of God is overlaid with gold. It is a wonderful thing, is it not, that God is going to have a vessel – God is going to have a city that has the glory of God. It says in Revelation 21: “The city is of pure gold.” The whole city is pure gold. Everything you look on in that city speaks of. God. What a blessed thing that is! But there is one great difference between the ark and the boards. The proper place of the ark, according to Scripture, is in the holiest of all – right in the presence of God, the holiest of all. There it stands. What does it stand on? It stands on its own base. What does that mean? The blessed person of Christ as Man – that wonderful Vessel, so outwardly small, so intrinsically great, stands in the immediate holy presence of God on the ground, on the basis of what He is personally, in Himself; on the basis of His intrinsic moral worth. The intrinsic worth and glory of His blessed person entitles Him to be in the immediate presence of God. But what of the boards? They are around. They form the tabernacle in this holy place. It says they stand up; the boards stand up! What a wonderful thing! What do they stand on? Every one of them has silver sockets. Every one of them typically has had to be redeemed. Every one stands there on the foundation of redemption, but the blessed Person of Christ as Man stands there in the holiest of all on the foundation of what He is Himself. You see it illustrated in the fourth and fifth chapters of Revelation combined. There is the throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne, who was like a jasper and a sardine stone, speaking of the holiness of God who is light, for jasper speaks of light. In Him there was no darkness at all. He sits on that throne. And in the midst of the throne and round about the throne were the four living creatures, full of eyes, which rest not day and night, saying “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, which, was, and is, and is to come.” The seven lamps are before the throne showing everything perfectly. The sea of glass is there. In the fifth chapter we read, “I beheld … in the midst of the throne … a Lamb as it had been slain,” standing right in the very midst of the throne of God. Albeit, the living creatures cease not day and night to say “Holy, Holy, Holy,” nevertheless, He can stand there amidst the lightnings, and thunderings, and voices – all the evidences of holiness and judgment, but there is one blessed Person in manhood that can stand there on His own feet – Jesus – the Ark. Around the throne are the twenty-four elders sitting, but they tell you how they come to be there. They are there, too, in the full light of the “Holy, Holy, Holy” that continues day and night, in the presence of the seven lamps, that burn with fire in the presence of the sea of glass-like crystal, and under the eyes of Him who is like jasper. There they are sitting. But they tell us how they come to be there. They speak of redemption; they say of the Lamb: “Thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every people and nation.” That is how they can be there. That is how we are there. They are there because they have been redeemed. But He is there because of His intrinsic right to be there, because He is the holy Ark. That is His glory.

Now, just a word as to John 17. One feels one can say but little about it. The Son, there, is speaking to the Father. I think the greatest privilege that Scripture affords – and it affords many – is to listen to these holy utterances of Christ in His communion with the Father. He is speaking anticipatively. In His own blessed spirit, everything is past. He says: “I have finished the work, that Thou gavest Me to do.” He lifts His eyes to heaven and blesses the Father. He desires to be glorified so that He might continue to glorify Him. He says: “I have finished the work that Thou gavest Me to do.” Everything that He had entered manhood to do is over and completed perfectly. In His spirit, anticipatively, it is all finished. He says “Now glorify Me, Thou Father, along with Thyself, with the glory which I had along with Thee before the world was.” One feels that we are speaking of what is beyond us. But what I understand that to relate to is that the Lord Jesus asks to receive back the glory which He had in the uncreated sphere. As to His own blessed Person, He was always who He was, but as to the glory of it, He had laid it aside. I believe that is what is referred to in Philippians as “emptying Himself.” The glory that was His in the past eternity He had laid aside. He had emptied Himself of it. That glory was equality with God. “The glory that I had along with Thee.” He was there in that past eternity with God, on equality with God, and was God. The glory of that He laid aside. But now, having finished the work which He came to do, He desires to receive back the glory that was His in the past eternity. No one ever saw, and no one ever could see, this glory. It was before the world was – before, dear brethren, God moved out in a mediatorial way to create anything – there was this glory “along with Thee.” And the Lord says: “Glorify Thou Me with the glory which I had along with Thee before the world was.” I believe it means, dear brethren, that though still in manhood — (the fact that He is asking for it shows He is speaking as Man) He is able to enter the unapproachable light – that, as a blessed Man, He passes into the unapproachable light where God dwells. We worship Him as we see Him disappear from our gaze (or, as has been said, pass beyond our range). No one can follow Him; no creature could ever enter that unapproachable light. God, it says, dwells in light unapproachable, whom no one hath seen or can see, to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen. But Jesus, in this wonderful scripture, in holy, spotless manhood, passes out of the range in which we can know Him, and enters the unapproachable light with the glory He had in equality with God, while at the same time He remains in the mediatorial sphere for all eternity in the place of subjection. For the Son, it says, is placed in subjection to Him, who put all things in subjection to Him. You say, How can both be true? It is because of the unique and supreme greatness of this blessed Person. He can be with us as a blessed Man, where we can see Him and gaze upon His face, and talk to Him, as we were reading this afternoon, in the place of subjection, but He also can pass out of our gaze into the unapproachable light of equality with God. That is the glory. This was always true as to His Person, but He left the glory of it. The glory of it is distinct from the thing itself; He laid by the glory of equality with God, but He asks in this wonderful scripture to receive it back again; and we can all be assured that it was granted Him, for everything He asks for in this setting is granted, for He always asks for what is pleasing to the Father. One loves to see Him, dear brethren, in this wondrous light. It is a ray of glory that is delightful to one’s own heart, to see that, while He is still with us as Man, and indeed in this very prayer He says, “That they may be with Me and behold My glory which Thou hast given Me,” there is another glory which He receives, which entitles Him to pass as Man into the unapproachable light, where God alone is and where no creature can ever enter. But we can, as it were, see Him pass into it, and every heart and spirit bows down in holy adoration and worship to the One who can enter (though still in manhood) the unapproachable light of the immediate presence of God on equality with Him. “Glory which I had along with Thee.” He enters that scene where no creature can come, though, at the same time, as I have said, He is with us, and we with Him; and He takes the place of subjection in that mediatorial sphere, and holds it all for God throughout eternity.

May the Lord add to our souls some distinct sense of the greatness of the One who would wax greater and greater until He becomes very great; and thus may we be fortified to meet the breaking up of this world with the conscious sense in our souls of the intrinsic and personal greatness of the One we know above.

Town Hall, Glenferrie, (Melbourne) 28 March 1932

 

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