Why I Should Glorify Jesus Christ by Martyn Lloyd Jones
All the passages below are taken from Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ book “Expository Sermons on 2 Peter.” The sermons were preached at Westminister Chapel, London, from October 1946 to March 1947. It was originally printed in 1948-1950. The current publication is in 1999.
‘But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.’ (2 Peter 3:18)
`To Him be glory both now and for ever’, or, as another translation puts it, `To Him be glory both now and to the day of eternity’. We thus look at this Epistle for the last time in this particular series of meditations. These are the closing words. We observe that the Apostle ends his letter as he began it. He began by saying, ‘Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.’ Thus, I say, the Apostle ends as he began; and that is something that is truly characteristic not only of him but of all the other New Testament writers. We have seen in working our way through this particular letter that Peter, as a wise pastor, has been very rightly and naturally concerned about the problems of the people to whom he was writing. It is right that we should discuss our own personal and peculiar problems; but the church ultimately is not an institution which is concerned merely or primarily with a discussion of the problems of men and women. The main function and business of the church is to proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ. So Peter, as it were, hurries to end his letter on this note, `grow in grace’. After all, he says in effect, that is the big thing, that is the important thing. But even to put it like that is to think too much in terms of the people to whom he was writing, so on he goes to say, `to whom be glory both now and for ever, Amen’.
Now there we have a perfect illustration and example of what I would call the healthy-mindedness of the New Testament. You see, the New Testament is not a textbook on psychology. It does not start with us, and just consider us, and then end with us, leaving us perhaps a little bit happier for the time being, and feeling very nice and comfortable. That is not the great purpose of this Book. It is the good news concerning Jesus Christ. It is the Gospel, it is a declaration from God and it is concerned with something that God has done. You and I come into the picture because it was designed for our benefit; but it starts, not with us, but with Him. Anything that may be true of us, or that we may derive, is secondary to this major theme. Now surely in the world as it is today we should thank God for this. The world is very much immersed in doubts and problems. The books are concerned about this, even the very novels have apparently entered into that vortex. They have all become so subjective, so self-centred, so introspective. Modern man with all his boasting has become a problem to himself, and he spends most of his time in looking at himself. That is why he is so miserable and unhappy; that is why, in an intellectual sense, he is so inferior to his forefathers. He has turned in upon himself, and there is an unhealthy morbidity about him. But, here, we find ourselves in an entirely different realm, what we may call the realm of grand objectivity where we are asked to cease looking in upon ourselves and to look out upon Him. Peter exhorts us to grow in grace, and we have been at pains to point out that if we adopt the New Testament method of doing this, as distinct from the methods which we have described as psychological, we shall be saved from that danger—the danger of introspection. This follows because the most essential principle in growing in grace is to look at Christ and not to look at ourselves. As we look at Him we shall become like Him; as we meditate upon Him we shall desire Him more; and as we seek to please Him we shall incidentally be growing. It does not turn us in upon ourselves, it always draws us out to Him.
Now the last words of this Epistle put all that very plainly and clearly to us. You cannot read these letters of Peter, you cannot read any of the New Testament letters whatsoever, without seeing that Jesus Christ is the centre of all, and He is the constant theme. It is a Book about Him, everything looks to Him—forward to Him, back to Him; it is all an exposition of Him. We are reminded, then, that the Christian life is essentially a life of relationship to Him. Christianity is Christ. It is not a number of views or a collection of ideas; it is not a number of terms and categories which, if we apply them and use them and meditate upon them, will do certain things to us. It is all about Him, and I say that this letter we have been considering together in these studies makes that quite unmistakable. Peter cannot keep away from it. He has to deal with various problems, but all along he brings them back to Christ. He started by saying he wanted them to grow in the knowledge of Christ; he ends with the same thing. He tells them how he was on the holy mount with Him, how he beheld His glory—all along it is Christ. Peter was a man whose whole life and outlook were entirely governed and controlled by Jesus Christ. Christ had changed everything for him, and ever since he first met Him, and first understood Him, He was the key to the whole of existence, to every problem and to every situation. And thus when he ends his letter it is inevitable that he should end with the words we are considering together now. He so loves Christ, and he is so concerned about Christ, that his great ambition in life is that all glory should be given to the Lord Jesus Christ.
What does it mean? It means that Peter felt that everything he had, and everything that everyone else had, should all be devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what he meant by saying, `to Him be glory both now and for ever’. It is his way of expressing his desire that Christ may receive all the honour and be magnified, that Christ may be glorified by the whole world and the whole of creation. We see exactly the same thing as we read the second chapter of Philippians. It is `that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’. That was the thing that really filled the minds and the hearts of these people, and that was their burning desire and their greatest ambition. And it is to that that the Apostle exhorts these people thus at the end of his letter.
What he says in effect is this—Are you so living that the glory of your lives is going to Jesus Christ? Are you concerned about His glory; are you desiring to promote His glory? Now if we illustrate this by means of something else, perhaps it will be still more clear. We know what this means in terms of country; we know what it is to stand for our country and desire her name to be great. We all know something of the response to an appeal like that; and in response to an appeal like that, men are prepared to die. We know what it is to stand for, and to be anxious for, the honour and glory of great men or of a great cause, or of something in which we are particularly interested and which appeals to us strongly. Now what Peter is saying is that Jesus Christ should be like that to the Christian. He should be the centre of his meditation, the law of his life, the One he loves with his whole being. His main ambition in life should be to bring everybody to acknowledge Him and to praise Him, to submit themselves to Him and to do everything they can to promote His honour and glory, and to make Him stand out supreme in the whole world of men. That is exactly what he means, and that is his last and final appeal to the people to whom he is writing.
Now, I suggest that that is a call that comes to us who claim the name of Christ at the present time. The Person of Christ must stand out, and we must be very careful to make it clear that we are not concerned with a collection of ideas, but that our whole position is a personal relationship to this Person. Our proclamation is that He is not only worthy to be praised, but that He deserves all the glory that man can give to Him.
Someone may ask, Why should this be done? What are your reasons for saying, `To Him be glory both now and unto the day of eternity’? Incidentally, let us notice that last striking phrase before I answer the question. There is something rather odd and almost paradoxical about it—`day of eternity’. `Now and for ever,’ says this Authorised Version. Well, Peter no doubt is keeping in his mind here what he had been saying earlier in the self-same chapter, `Beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.’ So he talks about ‘the day of eternity’. Here you are now, he says, in time. But, as he has been explaining to them, the end of time is coming. The end will be ushered in by the return of our Lord, and the kingdom of glory will be set up in a new earth under a new heaven. That is what he means by `the day of eternity’. Let Christ be glorified amongst you now, continually, and until `the day of eternity’—that glorious day of which he has been speaking.
Well, now, why should He thus be glorified; why do we Christian people say that He is worthy of all this honour and glory? Let me suggest some answers to the question. The first answer to the question is that He is to receive all glory and honour because He is God. Jesus Christ is God. Putting it negatively, if Jesus Christ is not God, then this statement of the Apostle Peter is nothing but blasphemy. God alone is worthy to be glorified and honoured by the whole world. It is God alone, because He is God, who deserves all the glory. To Him all the glory is to be ascribed. Peter says here, `to whom’—the Lord Jesus Christ—`be glory both now and for ever, Amen’. What is the implication? Unmistakably, that Jesus Christ is God; and that is our central Christian affirmation; that the Person, Jesus of Nazareth, who was born as a Babe in Bethlehem, who lived for thirty years an ordinary life, following the occupation of a carpenter, and who set out to preach at the age of thirty and who `went about doing good’, working miracles and teaching the people for those three years—we say that that Person is none other than the second Person in the Blessed Trinity—God. On what grounds do we say this? On what do we base our affirmation that this Jesus, to whom we thus ascribe all glory, is really God the Son? One almost apologises for asking that question, but in view of certain recent publications it seems to me to be necessary still that we make certain affirmations clearly and unmistakably.
On what grounds do we say that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, the unique Son of God, and that He is God Himself, the Second Person in the Trinity? The first answer is the Virgin Birth. Here is a doctrine clearly stated in the New Testament. There are people today, even in prominent positions in the church, who say that that is something which is scientifically impossible. But the Christian church has never claimed that this is something which science can understand. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is, avowedly and confessedly, supernatural. One does not expect the natural man to understand. Indeed, Paul says that the natural man cannot understand. We do not start by saying that the generation of Jesus Christ is the same as that of every other person who lived on earth. We say, No! He is essentially different. We affirm that He was born of a virgin, that He was `conceived by the Holy Ghost’, that it is a supernatural action—the Virgin Birth. He is different in His birth. He starts differently. He has come into the world; He has not been generated in the ordinary fashion and manner. We claim, therefore, that He is God, were it merely because of the very way He came into this life and world.
And then we look at His claims for Himself and His teaching. We observe how He contrasted Himself with all who had gone before Him, how indeed He puts Himself above and in a position superior to all the ancient teachers. He says of Himself, `Before Abraham was, I am’, `I and the Father are one’. He claims for Himself a totalitarian allegiance from men; He called upon men to leave their work and their vocation and to follow Him. He sets Himself in that position in words and in actions. He claims a uniqueness, He claims to be One with God. He claims to have an intimacy and an intimate relationship with God which no other man ever had.
We likewise point to the miracles. Again I am reminded that certain people tell us today that we really must cease talking about the miracles, and that with our modern scientific knowledge a belief in miracles is utterly impossible. To that there is but one simple reply. A miracle by definition is something that science cannot understand because it is supernatural. A miracle does not mean that a law of nature is broken; it means that a law of nature is superseded. And there is no scientific knowledge or understanding or advancement which has in any way, or to the slightest conceivable extent invalidated the claims of the New Testament concerning miracles. The New Testament presents us with its miracles as something out of the ordinary, and to say that it is unscientific to believe in miracles is just to make a thoroughly unscientific statement. Science is something which is concerned with the realm of things which can be touched and measured and verified by experimentation. A miracle, by definition, is something above and beyond that. To attempt therefore to put science and the miraculous in contradictory positions is, it seems to me, to fail to understand both the meaning of science and the meaning of miracles.
Let me put it from the New Testament standpoint. If you take the miracles out of the four Gospels what have you left? If the miracles are not true, what can I believe? If I cannot accept the records of these men about Christ’s actions, can I accept what they say about the words and the teaching? If I take all the miracles out and say they are false or exaggerations, can I believe anything at all? I have nothing, as we found in dealing with the question of authority in the first chapter of this letter. The position in which we find ourselves as Christian people is that we either accept the testimony of the four Gospels, of the men who were with Christ and who saw Him, and who were witnesses of His life and death and resurrection, or else we believe, and accept, and base the whole of our life and outlook upon the suppositions and the statements of modern men—it is one or the other. We have no authority apart from this Book, and either it is right or it is wrong. I can understand the man who says it is altogether wrong and who rejects it; but the man I cannot understand is the man who claims that modern thought is the ultimate authority and then applies that to this Book, and takes out of it what he does not like and accepts that which pleases him. That seems to me to be a complete denial of the New Testament. The New Testament tells us to ascribe glory to Christ because He is God. And it tells us that He revealed the fact that He is God by the miracles He worked—`Though ye believe not me, believe the works,’ He said. The miracles of Christ attest His deity and proclaim that He is indeed God.
What else? The Resurrection. Again we are told that no modern man with scientific knowledge can believe and accept the fact of a literal physical resurrection. But if there had not been a literal, physical resurrection, would there have been a Christian church at all? Look at those disciples after the death of Christ! Are they the sort of men, or were they in a condition to start a movement that would soon `turn the world upside down’? No, there is only one explanation—it is the Resurrection that led to the church. It was the Resurrection that gave the assurance to them that He was the Son of God. The Resurrection! It is in the light of these very things that are so denied—the Virgin Birth, the Miracles, and the Resurrection—that we state and affirm that He is God, and that because He is God we ascribe all glory and honour unto Him.
And then add to that the sending of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. That is the ultimate proof of His deity. Having done all, He proves He has authority by sending upon them `the Promise of the Father’. That is the reason for ascribing all glory unto Him—He is God. This amazing Person is none other than the second Person of the Blessed Trinity.
In the next place, we ascribe all honour and glory to Him also because of what He has done. There is the eternal Son of God, He leaves the Eternal bosom and the courts of heaven. You remember the language of Paul in the second chapter of the Epistle to the Philippians—He humbled Himself, though He was so glorious. He counted it not robbery to be equal with God, and yet He divested Himself of all the signs of His eternal glory and was born a Babe in Bethlehem. Look at that Babe, look at that Boy at the age of twelve in the Temple, look at that young man during those silent eighteen years, sharing the ordinary life of men. Remember that He is the Only Begotten Son of God, the Second Person in the Blessed Trinity. There He is in all His loneliness. He humbled Himself, He took upon Himself the form of a servant, just like an ordinary person. He mixed with His own people and worked with His hands, though He was the Son of God. And then look at Him and watch Him in His public ministry. Listen to His teaching, observe again His works. Look at Him as he has to suffer at the hands of His enemies—the scribes and the Pharisees and the Doctors of the Law—the insults they heap upon Him, the misunderstandings from which He suffered! And then look at Him on that marvellous Palm Sunday when suddenly the people, rising above and beyond themselves, seem to have seen, though without understanding, who He is. Follow that great procession and His triumphal entry into the City of Jerusalem. But you must go on to Gethsemane and the agony and the shame of it all, and then—the cross. He humbled Himself even unto death, yea, `even the death of the Cross’. Think of the crown of thorns, think of the nails, think of the thirst, think of the sweat and the agony, the cry of dereliction, and then the death, and the burial in the grave. Now, says Peter here, He is to have all glory and honour because of what He has done. And this is exactly the argument of the great Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians—it is because of all this that `God hath highly exalted Him and given Him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth’. So that if anyone asks today, Why should I ascribe glory to Him, that is the second answer. Not only because He is who He is, but because of what He has done. This blessed, glorious Person has come down to earth and has endured all that; and it is for that reason that we praise Him and magnify His Name, and give Him such honour and glory.
But you do not stop at that—to Him be all glory and honour and praise because of His present position. For the Gospel does not stop at the burial and the grave. It goes on to speak of His Resurrection, and it goes on to say that after that Resurrection He ascended up on high. It tells us that He is seated there at the right hand of God’s authority and power, that He shares the throne with God, and that at this moment this very self-same Person is there in glory reigning with God. Now these are things which are so transcendent, and so marvellous in their very nature, that our minds seem to be baffled and bewildered, and we cannot contemplate them; but these are the statements of the New Testament. You start in the heavens, you see Him coming down, you follow His earthly course, then you see Him back again in heaven. And every one of these things is a reason for ascribing honour and glory unto Him.
The Apostle has been working out this particular point in detail in the body of the Epistle. He has been asking these people to endure, he has been giving them comfort in their sufferings. His ultimate consolation for them is this, that Christ is on the throne, that the Son of God is in glory, that whether we know it or not, whether we believe it or not, the fact is that this Person who suffered under Pontius Pilate and who died and was buried in a grave is now seated at God’s right hand at this moment. He is King of kings and Lord of lords; all authority has been given to Him, all power is in His hands. He has already opened the book of life and history, He is already the King on His throne, and we are to ascribe all glory unto Him for that reason also.
What else? Well, the next reason is that we are to ascribe glory to Him because of what He is going to do. Here, again, you see once more that Peter in this last word is but gathering up into a sentence everything he has been saying in his Epistle. Here we are upon the face of this earth, in a world which has emerged out of two World Wars, in a world where there is talk of wars and rumours of wars, in a world of sin and contradiction and shame: and the call to us is to give glory to Christ. Why? He does not seem to be glorified, men deny His Deity, they deny His miracles, they deny His resurrection. They would make Him just a man, a teacher. The majority are not thinking about Him at all, and are not concerned. The world is against Him, why then should I ascribe all glory to Him? The further answer is that that blessed Person, who is there seated at the right hand of God at this moment, is going to come back into this world. He will come on the clouds, He will come into the world, not riding upon an ass, but seated upon the clouds of heaven in glory transcendent, and all who see Him will acknowledge and know Him. `The day of eternity’ is coming. The kingdom of glory is going to be ushered in. The Christ who was crucified, the Christ who is forgotten, the Christ whom men deny, is nevertheless coming in glory, and He will set up His kingdom and He will reign for ever. Why am I to ascribe glory and honour to Him? Because I believe that; because I, with the eye of faith, see all that happening; because I now know it is true; because I anticipate the glory that is yet to be revealed.
But let me give the last reason for ascribing all glory to Him. I am to glorify Him because He is God, because of what, He has done, because of His position in glory now, because of the glory that is yet to be revealed concerning Him. But if you want a still more personal reason, the reason is—that it is as a result of all I have been saying, of all that He has done, that it is at all possible for us this day to know God. My ultimate reason, therefore, for glorifying Him is because of what He has done for me. Without Him where are we? We are the children of wrath, we are born in sin and shapen in iniquity. We have broken the laws of God, and God looks upon us with displeasure. In the eye of the law we have no hope. We are wretched in life and doomed and damned beyond death. But Christ has come and has done what we have described; and the result is that God forgives us, we are reconciled to God, we are made children of God and all things are become new.
Why should I glorify Christ? Well, because of the new life He has given me, because of the hope He has given me, because he makes life different, because He changes everything. He has made life endurable and bearable; He has delivered me out of that wretched, unhappy life of trying to live for pleasure, trying to forget my problems, with no hope in life or anything beyond death but darkness and blackness itself. He has died for my sins and has reconciled me to God. It is He who has brought me into the kingdom of God. It is He who gives me the assurance that whatever man may do I shall be with Him in His glorious kingdom, and shall spend eternity in His glorious, blessed presence. To Him be glory both now and to the day of eternity! Many things may happen between now and the day of eternity. It does not matter, they cannot affect Him, they cannot change Him, they cannot deflect Him from His purpose. And finally nothing can separate us from His love. To Him, God the Son; to Him who made Himself of no reputation, who went even to the death of the cross; to Him who rose triumphant over the grave; to Him who is seated at the right hand of God; to Him who will yet come and bring in His glorious kingdom; to Him and to Him alone, be glory both now and until He comes, and `to the day of eternity‘. [253-263]