The Christian life is a life from glory to glory. Many of us may not see that right now. As we look around the state of the church—especially in the light of things such as social distancing and limited church fellowship and activities—we see weariness and heavy burdens. But do we see glory?
“From His fulness we have all received grace upon grace (John 1:16).” “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).”
Do we see the glory that Jesus Christ provides to his church, especially in the light of the fact that we are all being changed “into the same image from glory to glory.” Jesus takes his precious ones and changes us. The Apostle calls this a change “from glory to glory.”
How glorious are the changes occurring in your Christian life? Again, you may not see glory—and especially “glory to glory,” but I would like to encourage you to see this glory upon glory. Richard Sibbes, the Elizabethan puritan preacher known as the “sweet dropper” or “the heavenly doctor”, spoke of the four glories that Christians participate in in their Christian life. Meditating upon these glories during times of weariness or difficulty ought to be a balm unto your soul.
The first “glory” that Sibbes identifies working in the Christian is that initial glory where the grace of God has redeemed, justified, and adopted. This glory is bestowed on all who are in Christ and is to be contrasted with life outside of Christ. Sibbes said, “The knowledge of [the Christian’s] deliverance from that cursed and damnable state that he is in; the knowledge, likewise, of his title to everlasting life.”
What a contrast. Curse and damnation or knowledge of God and the title of everlasting life. This glory is bestowed on all who come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ; a glory to all who are God’s friends. Sibbes said, “Is it not glory to be friends with God, and to have God deal with us as friends? To reveal his secrets to us of his love and grace in Christ? To discover the hidden mysteries of his love to us, that was hid from the beginning of the world?”
But the glory of the Christian does not stop there. Our glory does not stop when we are justified. There is more. Glory grows in the Christian life.
The second glory that the Christian experiences is the glory of his sanctification. From glory to glory we can be assured that Jesus provides glory to his church as we grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Sibbes said, “As the Christian grows in assurance of his salvation and further friendship with God, and further peace and joy and comfort, there is a further degree of glory. The growth of grace is glory.”
As you are stretched and conformed to the image of Christ, there is great encouragement. The Apostle Peter said, “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.” He goes on to say, “Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Christian life is a life of glory—grace and peace multiplied to you as you grow in Christ and the virtues that reflect him. You may see discouragement and difficulty and suffering around you—but there’s glory in growth. Embrace that glory and grow.
That growing glory will carry you through until, as Toplady reminds, your “eyes shall close in death” and you “rise to world unknown.” As a believer you will then be in the presence of God—in glory.
The “soul enjoys the presence of God in heaven,” says Sibbes. That satisfaction and friendship and sinless joy will continue for the Christian into eternity.
Have you considered that in eternity God will continue to pour glory onto you as one in union with Jesus Christ? You will stand in the presence of God in purity and in holiness—and you will reflect that glory that Christ has been forming in you and through you for all those years prior? The presence glory may seem as though it will never end.
But it does. For more glory.
There is one more glory and it is the one that will continue for all eternity.
“When the body and soul shall be united again. This is perfect glory,” said Sibbes. Despite the struggles that the church is experiencing currently, and despite the troubles of body and soul that you may be experiencing presently, the glory of your slow—and sometimes painful—growth will fade away and Christ will call you forth by name. Your body will be reunited with your soul and you will enter into eternity with full and consummating glory.
Jesus will lay out a feast and you will enter into the marriage supper of the lamb. And, in the words of another puritan, you will be in heaven, “the world of love.” This is the glory that is yours if you are in Christ, a glory of eternal consummation and love.
You will be “changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” From glory to glory. Initial. Growing. Presence. Consummating. Be encouraged Christian, for you are a receptacle of the glory of God.
The four glories can be further seen in Sibbes’s sermons on 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, “The Excellency of the Gospel Above the Law,” published in 1639.