The Man in the Glory.

Acts 7:54-60.

The striking scene described in the closing verses of the Seventh chapter of the Acts, brings before us in a vivid way the great truth that, at the present moment, Christ is in the glory as the Son of Man. This does not imply that He ever ceases to be God; but having become Man He ascends to glory as the Son of Man.

Two great facts are presented in the first seven chapters of the Acts; First, the ascension of Christ; secondly, the descent of the Holy Spirit. These two events distinguish the present period from all other dispensations, past or future. All the great events brought before us in the Acts — the establishment of Christianity, the formation of the Church, the proclamation of the Gospel, and the preservation of believers, depend upon these two facts. Yet, strangely enough, in Christendom these two mighty events are very largely overlooked, and their import almost entirely forgotten.

All evangelical Christians rightly make much of the Cross as the righteous foundation of all our blessing. Rightly, also, believers press the Second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ by which the redeemed will be brought into the fulness of blessing. But the two intervening facts — that there is a Man in the glory, and a Divine Person on earth — are but little appreciated.

Nevertheless, the importance of these two facts cannot be overstated. For, while the Cross closes our past, and the coming of Christ opens to us the future, these two great facts secure our present blessing. This becomes plain when we remember that the Church is formed of believers united to Christ, the Head in heaven, by the Holy Spirit present on earth. To lose sight of these two facts will mean the loss of the great truth of the Mystery of the Church. This alas, has happened, with the result that confusion has come into Christendom, and believers have formed themselves into companies under some humanly appointed head. The result has been that the One Body formed by the Holy Spirit has been practically ignored, the Church outwardly has been ruined, and the children of God scattered and divided.

In the first two chapters of the Acts these two great events are brought before us. The first chapter opens with presenting the risen Lord in the midst of His disciples. In His last words He tells them that the Holy Spirit was coming and that they would receive power after that He had come. Then we read, "When He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up: and a cloud received Him out of their sight." The Angels immediately speak of Him as "Jesus, which is taken up into heaven." Then, in the beginning of the second chapter we have the record of the second great event — the coming of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 1, Jesus goes up to heaven as a Man; in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit comes down to earth as a Divine Person.

Passing on to Acts 7, we see the practical effect of these two great truths upon a believer on earth. In this striking chapter we have Stephen's address before the Jewish Council. He commences his testimony with the statement that "The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham." His witness ends with the statement, "Behold I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God."

It was wonderful that the God of glory should appear to a man on earth; it was still more wonderful that a Man should appear in the glory of God in heaven. And yet these two facts are closely connected. The first gives us the call of God, the second the purpose of God for which we are called.

What does Stephen mean when he speaks of "the God of glory?" What does he mean by "glory?" In Scripture "glory" is always that which displays the distinguishing character of a person. Looking at this world we see on every hand the glory of man, or that which displays man. But there is another world, a better and a brighter world where everything speaks of the glory of God — where God is displayed; a world that is filled with love, and life, and holiness — a world into which nothing that defiles can enter, and where no shadow of death will ever come. Now the God of that scene — the God of glory, appeared to Abraham and called him out of this present world of sin and sorrow and death. The purpose for which God called him is clearly seen at the end of the chapter, when Stephen looks up through the opened heavens and sees a Man in the glory of God. If God calls a man out of this world, it is with the blessed purpose of having that man in glory with Christ and like Christ.

This call and purpose is true, not only for Abraham and Stephen, but, for every believer at the present time — the youngest as well as the oldest. In Romans 8:28, these two truths, "calling" and "purpose," are found together, for we are said to be "called according to His purpose." In 2 Timothy 1:9, we again have these two truths brought together, for we there read that God "hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace." Then in 2 Thessalonians 2:14, believers are definitely told by the apostle Paul that they are "called by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." Into this scene of glory we are permitted to look, for we read of Stephen that he "looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God." He saw a scene filled with all that speaks of God — love and life and light. But he saw more: in the midst of that scene he saw a Man — JESUS — and he exclaims, "Behold I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God."

What Stephen saw we can still see by faith: for the Man that has gone back to glory — to Whom the everlasting doors were flung wide to let the King of Glory in — has left the heavens open behind Him, so that Christians on earth can by faith look up and say, in the words of the apostle, "We see Jesus crowned with glory and honour."
Oh the sight in heaven is glorious!
Man in righteousness is there;
Once the Victim, now victorious
Jesus lives in glory fair.

Now mark the practical effect of these two great truths — that there is a Man in the glory and a Divine Person indwelling the believer on earth — as set forth in the story of Stephen. Let us remember the circumstances in which Stephen finds himself. He has been taken prisoner and taken before the Council; false witnesses have been set up against him, and he has been wickedly charged with blasphemy. He has borne a faithful witness, with the result that his opposers are cut to the heart and gnash upon him with their teeth. In the presence of this sore trial how does he act? His enemies gnash upon him; does he gnash upon them? They revile him; does he revile again? He suffers; but does he threaten? He does none of these things that are so natural for the flesh to do. What then does he do? In the presence of false charges, malice, and violence, instead of turning upon his enemies, he at once turns to the Lord in glory. Let us then note the four things that take place in this fine scene that depicts the believer on earth in the presence of trial.

First, "Being full of the Holy Spirit," Stephen "looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God and Jesus." The Holy Spirit has not come to exalt the believer before others, or to prosper the believer in this world, or to settle believers in comfort, and ease, free from every trial. He has come to exalt Christ, to turn our thoughts from earth to heaven, and from men in their wickedness to Christ and His glory, to occupy our thoughts and affections with Christ. The result then of being filled with the Holy Spirit will be to lead a man on earth to look up to the Man in heaven. Thus Christ in the glory becomes the object of the believer's affections and the unfailing resource in every trial.

Secondly, the result of a man on earth looking up to the Man in the glory is that the man on earth is supported by the Man in the glory. In the midst of the most terrible circumstances (Stephen) is not, in this case, delivered from the trial, he is supported in it. Surrounded by an infuriated mob, with the stones falling fast upon him, he is so sustained that no word of anger, or reproach, escapes his lips; and in the very presence of death his spirit is kept in perfect calm.

Thirdly, being supported by the Man in the glory, the man on earth becomes a true representative of the Man in the glory. Thus Stephen having looked to Christ, is supported by Christ, and becomes like Christ. He prays for his enemies, even as the Lord, when enduring yet greater sufferings, could pray for His enemies saying, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." Again in view of death, Stephen calmly commends his spirit to the Lord, recalling the Lord's own words, "Father into Thy hands I commend my spirit."

Fourthly, having witnessed a good confession and finished his course, Stephen fell asleep and departs to be with Christ in glory.

Let us remember that the experiences Stephen passed' through are not apostolic. They are possible for every believer during the Christian period. We may not, like Stephen, be called to pass home by a martyr's death; nevertheless, in different forms, and in varying measures we all have to face trial and opposition. It may be that we are called to meet envy, malice, insults, and provocation, and that even from the children of God; but, whatever the form of the trial, the question comes home to each one, "How do I act in the presence of the trial?" We can, alas, act in the flesh, and too often do so, with the result that we render evil for evil, and railing for railing, to our shame and loss. But there is another way, and a better way; we can act in the Spirit after the pattern of Stephen. So doing, whatever the trial,
We shall at once look to Christ in glory, to find,
We are supported by Christ in the glory, and thus,
We become representatives of Christ in the glory, until
We are taken to be with Christ in the glory.

Thus in this fine scene we have set forth all the outstanding characteristics of the present dispensation:
1. Christ is seen as the Man in the glory supporting His tried saints on earth, and receiving them to heaven as they fall asleep.
2. The Holy Spirit is seen as a Divine Person on earth filling believers and leading them to look up stedfastly to Christ in heaven.
3. The believer is seen filled with the Spirit drawing all his resources from the Man in the glory, and, while so doing, becoming changed into the likeness of Christ, from glory to glory, so that the Man in the glory is represented in the man on earth.
4. The world, stripped of all its glory, is seen in its true character as rejecting Christ, resisting the Spirit and persecuting the believer.
5. Heaven is seen as flung open to disclose to us Christ in the glory, and to receive the spirits of the saints as they fall asleep.
H. Smith.