The Attractiveness of Christ in Glory

(Revised Notes of an address)

When the Son of God was on earth, as predicted by the prophet Isaiah, His people Israel saw no beauty in Him; but there were those who were drawn to the Son by the Father, and who were attracted to Jesus by the grace of His Person. Out of a full heart John the Baptist exclaimed, "Behold the Lamb of God!" When some of His disciples went back, and the twelve were challenged by the Lord, Simon Peter answered, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." Mary of Bethany, who had seen His glory shine out at the tomb of her brother Lazarus, anointed His feet with ointment, and wiped them with her hair. Mary of Magdala, who had been the subject of His power and grace, in deep devotion, watched at His tomb, seeking her Lord.

In the glory, where the Father has seated His well-beloved Son, the Lord Jesus is still attracting His own. When He left this world, His disciples "looked steadfastly towards heaven," but "a cloud received Him out of their sight." They could not at that time say what can now be said, "We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour" (Heb. 2:9). The coming of the Holy Spirit has given us the spiritual vision to see Jesus glorified in heaven. After telling the disciples of the coming of the Holy Spirit in John 14:16-17, the Lord says in verse 19, "Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me." Without the indwelling Spirit of God we could not behold Christ in glory.

Stephen, as seen in Acts 7, beautifully illustrates this precious truth. His was indeed a special case, because of the special circumstances, but what Stephen saw in a special way is what Christians now are enabled to see by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit. What made Stephen's case peculiar was that Christ had just gone to heaven, and the Spirit of God had come to bear witness to Him in the glory, and Stephen was the vessel taken up by the Holy Spirit for this witness. Others had spoken of the exaltation of Jesus: Peter had witnessed before the High Priest and the council, "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour" (Acts 5:30-31). But Stephen's witness was to actually seeing Jesus glorified at God's right hand, and this testimony of the Spirit was rejected by the leaders of Israel.

When Stephen looked up stedfastly into heaven, he was "full of the Holy Ghost," and he "saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God." We cannot doubt that it was Christ in glory that had hitherto enabled Stephen to carry on His service for Him, but now he is altogether absorbed with Him there as he looks stedfastly into heaven. It is the Person of Jesus in the glory of God that holds the eye and the heart of Stephen. Even as the words of eternal life were inseparably bound up with the Person of the Son in Manhood, so now is the glory of God indissolubly bound up with the Son of God at God's right hand.

While on earth the Son sought only the Father's will and glory, and at the close could say to the Father, "I have glorified Thee on the earth; I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do." And in regard to the place into which He was about to enter, He said, "Glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee" (John 17:1, 4). The whole existence of the Son, whether in time or eternity, is linked with the Father's glory.

What joy there was for Stephen to see Jesus in that glory, but the testimony of it filled with rage the leaders of Israel. Stephen's testimony was simple, faithful and powerful, and condemned those who had rejected the Son of God, and who now added to this their rejection of the testimony of the Spirit of God to the glory of Jesus. Absorbed with Jesus in the glory, the servant of the Lord is unmoved by the rage of Christ's foes: he is occupied only with His Master, and manifests the lovely traits that were seen in Jesus when He was rejected here below.

Stephen, like his Master, suffers without the city, and dies as a faithful witness to God and Jesus. When those in the council gnash on him with their teeth, he turns to heaven where his Master is. He does not rely on his own strength, or on the support of others; he can meet the power of the enemy, expressed through Israel's leaders, by turning to heaven. Such circumstances called for special grace, and the view he received of Jesus in the glory sufficed to strengthen him for the ordeal of martyrdom. And when the stones are doing their deadly work, Stephen is still occupied with heaven, where he turns in prayer. He commits his spirit to the Lord Jesus, even as the Lord had committed His spirit to the Father; and like his Master, in dying, intercedes for his foes.

While Stephen was bearing his faithful testimony to Jesus, and sealing his testimony with his blood, those who stoned him laid their clothes at the feet of a young man whose name was Saul. This is the one that God had chosen to continue the witness of "The Glory of God and Jesus." In such Scriptures as 2 Corinthians 3-4, and the epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians, we learn something of what Paul had learned of the glory of God and Jesus; and in Philippians 3 we see the effect produced on the apostle by the attractiveness of Christ in Glory.

The things that he had once valued as Saul of Tarsus he now "counted loss for Christ." What a remarkable transformation had taken place! From being a notorious persecutor of God's Son, he had become a faithful witness, whose great absorbing desire was to be like Christ. What had produced this great change? He had caught sight of Christ in glory, and he was so attracted by the Person and the beauty of Jesus that henceforth nothing but Christ held his heart's affections.

Once a proud Pharisee, and highly valuing all that belonged to Judaism, its legal attainments, its religious positions and ceremony, its imagined righteousness and misdirected zeal. Now, all is seen as worthless in the light of Christ in glory, in the glory of the great light that brought him down on his way to Damascus. From that day his whole life and outlook were altered; the One he had formerly persecuted in His saints now held his heart and mind, and absorbed his whole attention. All the prizes of Judaism were now but worthless, glittering tinsel, and things to be got rid of.

If he "counted" all things to be loss, his valuation of them had not changed with the passing of time. After all he had passed through for Jesus' sake, and after having travelled much in His service and seen all that this world had to offer men, he can say, "doubtless … I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." The knowledge of Christ in the glory of God far surpassed anything this poor world could offer. The acquisition of present things instead of being an asset to the servant of the Lord will be viewed as loss when Christ in the glory holds the heart.

Man after the flesh strives only after present things for he knows not Christ in heaven. The Christian, though knowing Christ, has also the flesh, and there is ever the danger of his heart being drawn away from Christ by what the present scene can give. Paul realised that what appeals to the natural man is a hindrance to the apprehension of the knowledge of Christ in glory, and so was glad to be rid of them. For Christ, he could say, "I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ." The vessel that was once filled with the treasures of this world had been emptied, but God had filled it with abiding, heavenly treasure, even the excellency of the knowledge of Christ at His right hand.

How proud Saul had been of his legal righteousness, for as touching the righteousness of the law he was blameless. None could point a finger at him. Now he seeks the righteousness of God in Christ. In the light of Christ's glory his garment of legal righteousness is seen but as filthy rags, something to be rid of; instead he has the best robe of God's providing; he is found in Christ before God, where no charge of guilt can be brought against him. Paul has nothing now outside of Christ: he here shows that the truth of righteousness, which he had written to the saints at Rome, possessed his own heart.

Christ was so attractive to Paul that he only desired to "know Him." He had known Christ from the day he was apprehended on the way to Damascus, but he desired to be constantly deepening in acquaintance with his heavenly Master who had made Himself indispensable to him. He also desired to know in his life, day by day, the power of His resurrection, the divine power that took Christ out of death and that would make him superior to every trial and difficulty, and triumphant over every foe in his witness for Him. This devoted servant of Christ also sought to suffer for righteousness sake, because Christ so suffered, and he would also die a martyr's death, because his Master died in this way, and because he would come out of death in resurrection, as did his Lord. Christ so filled his vision that he desired to be like Him in every possible way.

Very soon we shall leave this world for ever, and according to the call and grace of God we shall share the glory with Christ in the coming day. The prize of "the calling on high of God in Christ Jesus" which so held the heart of the beloved apostle Paul is to hold our hearts also. The prize is in Christ in glory, and it was this that made it so valuable and attractive to Paul. Are our poor hearts likewise attracted? Is Christ in the glory the all-absorbing object of our hearts? Alas! so often the hearts of the saints are held by some trivial present thing. We need the exhortation of the apostle John, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols." Everything else that would hold our hearts; anything that would challenge Christ's right to fill the heart is an idol. Let us see to it that nothing is allowed into our hearts or into our lives that would hinder our being held by the attractiveness of Christ in the glory.