The Excellency of Christ is one of Jonathan Edwards most powerful and beloved sermons. As you read, you will notice chapter divisions. These are mine, not Edwards’, and are simply used as markers to help break the text up a bit.
Disclaimer: This is a lengthy sermon. My best guess is that it took Edwards over two hours to preach it. Happily, in spite of its length, the modern English rendering allows for a smooth read. Keep in mind, it is not only a long sermon, but a very good sermon, worth every investment people are willing to put into it. In fact, this sermon is essentially an exercise in making much of the Lord Jesus Christ. It will lift your thoughts to him, focus your heart on him, and, especially in the application, make you long for him to be your Savior and Friend. It is a sermon designed to invoke true, heartfelt worship. That’s why it is worth the read. Edwards’ complete title is The Admirable Conjunction of Divine Excellencies in Christ Jesus. His version can be read at the Jonathan Edwards Center. Edwards preached this message in August 1736.
The Excellent Qualities of Christ
The Lion and the Lamb
Revelation 5:5-6 And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain.
This passage describes events the apostle John saw as God presented various revelations to him. God had providentially planned all these things to happen in the future.
The first vision presented in Revelation 5 was of the book of God’s decrees. All the future events that God had planned and that John was witnessing are recorded within it. The one sitting on the throne was holding this book in his right hand. It is described as “written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals.”
In those days books were usually made of broad leaves of parchment, paper, or some similar object. The pages were joined on one edge and rolled up together. Then the pages were sealed or fastened together in some other way, so that they would not unfold and open. We find a reference to this kind of book in Jeremiah 36:2, where the prophet speaks of the “roll of a book,” seemingly the same kind of book John saw in the vision.
Because of the way it was constructed, John noticed that it was “written within and on the back.” It had writing on the inside pages and also on the outside page, the one that was used to roll the entire book up together.
It was also “sealed with seven seals.” This indicates that the words contained within the book were perfectly hidden and secret. God’s decrees of future events are sealed and closed up. It is impossible for them to be discovered by created beings until God wants to reveal them.
Why seven seals? In Scripture the number seven is often an indicator of perfection. It signifies the superlative, the most perfect degree of something. It most likely has this meaning because of what took place on the seventh day of creation. God had finished bringing all things into existence and observed his creation, complete and perfect. He rejoiced over what he had made, resting from his work.
Upon seeing this book, John informs us of a dilemma:
Revelation 5:2-3 I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it.
Then he “began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.” John’s heart was broken by this painful dilemma! However, his tears were soon cleared away. He tells us how:
Revelation 5:5 One of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered.”
There was someone who could open the book! The elder declared that Christ the Lord was both able and worthy to open it. This was the tear-drying reality that comforted the beloved disciple.
The next chapters in the book of Revelation account for how Christ actually opened each of the seven seals one at a time. As he opened them, God’s decrees regarding the future were revealed.
Also in Revelation 5, Christ is seen coming and taking the book from the right hand of the one on the throne. When that happened, those in heaven and on earth erupted in singing, lifting joyful praises from everywhere.
Of course, many other observations could be made from this text. However, my only purpose for now is to focus on the two distinct labels used of Christ in this passage. He is called both Lion and Lamb.
In verse 5 the elder commanded John to look carefully at the one who could open the book, saying, “Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah.” This particular designation for Jesus Christ seems clearly to refer back to Jacob’s blessings on the twelve tribes of Israel. Do you remember that passage of Scripture? Jacob blessed each of them as he lay upon his deathbed. When it was Judah’s turn, Jacob compared him to a lion:
Genesis 49:9 Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?
This prophecy is clearly connected to the designation of Christ as the Lion in Revelation.
There is another connection between a lion and the tribe of Judah. According to ancient Jewish tradition, the tribe of Judah displayed a lion on their standard as they camped in the wilderness. This connection is extremely significant when we remember that Christ was born as a member of this very tribe of Judah.
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The Excellency of Christ:
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Jacob’s prophecy in Genesis 49 also pointed ahead to the valiant acts of King David, who was also part of the tribe of Judah. Jesus was a descendent of David, and in our text he is called the “Root of David.” These are some of the reasons our passage calls Christ the Lion of the tribe of Judah.
John was told that this great Lion had prevailed to open the book of God’s decrees. So he probably expected to turn and see a lion in his vision. However, in spite of his expectation, he turns and sees the Lamb open the book! But a lamb is a much different kind of creature than a lion! A lion is a dreadful meat-eater that slaughters and devours other animals. In fact, the lamb falls prey to him more easily than any other creature! Furthermore, Christ is represented not only as an extremely vulnerable lamb, but also as a “Lamb…as though it had been slain.” His body was marked with deadly wounds. Christ, therefore, appears to us possessing both lion-like qualities and lamb-like qualities.
In the next chapter, I will make several doctrinal observations from this text. We will focus especially on how wonderful it is that Christ is both the Lion and the Lamb at the same time.
Infinitely Majestic and Infinitely Humble
Having seen in the previous chapter that Jesus is called both the Lion and the Lamb, we will now consider how this forms our beliefs about him.
The main doctrinal point I wish to make and develop is this:
There are many different types of excellent qualities that connect together in Jesus Christ in a most admirable way.
This doctrine is illustrated well when we analyze the animals of Revelation 5. Even though a lion and a lamb are very different, they both possess certain excellent qualities. For example, the lion has excellent strength, a majestic appearance, and a mighty roar. The lamb excels in his lowliness and patience. He is an excellent source of good food and yields wool for our clothing. Lambs also provided a proper sacrifice for people to offer to God.
Notice, the excellent qualities of the lion are unique to the lion. The lamb does not have them. Likewise, the excellent qualities of the lamb are unique to the lamb. The lion does not have them. But in our passage we see Christ compared toboth lion and lamb. In him all the various excellent qualities of both animals meet together in a wonderful way.
As I approach this subject, my goal is, first, to show how these varied excellent qualities connect together in Jesus in ways that cause us to admire him. Secondly, I want to show how this admirable connection appears in Christ’s actions. Lastly, I will make some applications from these great truths for our lives.
I. How Christ’s various types of excellent qualities connect together in ways that cause us to admire him
This major point is broken up into three further sections. First, when it comes to the way we conceive of things, the excellent qualities of Christ are very diverse from each other. Second, in Christ there is a connection of such extremely diverse excellent qualities that, if they did not appear in him, would seem to us to be totally incompatible in the same subject. Third, Christ exercises all these diverse qualities towards people. Again, if Christ were not doing this, it would seem impossible to exercise such diverse qualities towards the same object.
In this chapter we will consider the first of these three sections.
A. When it comes to the way we conceive of things, the excellent qualities of Christ are very diverse from each other.
This is an amazing fact! Christ has many different types of divine perfections and excellent qualities all appearing together in one place within his being. Since Christ is divine, he possesses all the attributes of God. But Christ is also a man, possessing the highest, most excellent qualities that a man can possess.
So when we analyze all of Christ’s attributes, it seems that many of them are very different from many of the others. These differences can mostly be seen in the way they relate to each other. Examining them side-by-side, we are really able to see their great diversity, at least in the way we conceive of them. Those qualities that seem most diverse from one another are the ones that lead us to admire him most! In him they meet up perfectly! I will elaborate on two instances of this.
Instance 1: Infinite highness and infinite condescension
In Christ, these two extremely diverse qualities connect. As to his infinite highness, we must remember that he is God, so he is infinitely great and high above all. As the King of kings and Lord of lords, he is higher than all the kings of the earth. He is higher than the heavens, higher than the highest angels of heaven. He is so great that all men, even the greatest kings and princes, are like worms in the dirt beneath his feet. Compared to Christ, all the nations of the earth are like drops of water falling into a bucket and like dust that hangs in the light. Even the angels are like nothing before him!
As a matter of fact, Christ is so infinitely high and great that he has absolutely no need of us. Far above our reach, it is impossible for us to be profitable to him. Far above our conceptions, it is impossible for us even to comprehend him. The Word of God teaches this:
Proverbs 30:4 What is his name, and what is his son’s name? Surely you know!
Suppose our ability to understand things was stretched to the highest degree it has ever achieved; even then we could not reach up to the level of his divine glory.
Job 11:8 It is higher than heaven – what can you do?
Christ is the great Creator, the owner of heaven and earth. He is the sovereign Lord of all, the ruler of the entire universe. As such he does whatever pleases him. With limitless knowledge, he has perfect wisdom that no one can avoid or prevent. His infinite power cannot be resisted. His riches are immense and inexhaustible, and his majesty is infinitely awful.
But even though Christ is infinitely high, he is also a person of infinite condescension. Indeed, no one is too low for him to reach. In his downward stretch, he notices those so inferior to him and shows them grace. He condescends to the angels, being humble enough to see the things done in heaven. Reaching down even further, he condescends to incredibly poor creatures like human beings. He notices the great leaders of nations and the famous people, but not them only. He also considers those of lowest rank and degree. He cares even for “the poor of the world” (James 2:5), the kinds of people commonly despised by their fellow man. Christ reaches down even to these lowly ones and does not despise them:
1 Corinthians 1:28 God chose what is low and despised in the world.
In fact, Christ reaches down so low that he even notices beggars (Luke 16:22) and servants. He is concerned with people of even the most despised nations: In Christ there is neither “Barbarian, Scythian, slave, or free” (Colossians 3:11). The Lord Jesus, so extremely high in majesty, condescends and reaches infinitely low. Oh, what wondrous grace the Lord shows as he reaches down so far! He even pays attention to little children!
Matthew 19:14 Let the little children come to me.
But there is even more to his great condescension than this. He even takes gracious notice of the most unworthy, sinful creatures. He reaches down to the ones who deserve nothing good at all – yes, even people who deserve nothing but infinite horrors. In his condescension, Christ concerns himself with these most abased creatures, noticed by nobody else but him.
See, the Lord Jesus has infinite ability to condescend. He is sufficiently able to reach as far down as he wants, whenever he wants. In the past he succeeded perfectly in his condescending work. Nothing stood in his way. Likewise, in the future nothing will thwart his desire to reach even the lowliest of sinful creatures.
For example, his condescending ability is so sure and strong that he can even become the very friend of sinners. He reaches low enough to become their companion, uniting their souls to him in spiritual marriage. He even stretched down low enough that he took their human nature upon himself. He became one of them so that he could be with them! What a wondrous condescension!
Yet he reached down even lower for the sake of sinners. He was willing to expose himself to shame while people spat on him. Christ, the King of glory, gave himself up to a humiliating death in order to save wretched sinners. Can anyone think of a greater act of condescension than this? But this is exactly what Christ has lowered himself to do for despicable and unworthy people.
The connection between the infinite highness and infinite condescension of Christ, coming together in the same person, should move us to greatly admire him. When we think that he is both highest King and lowest sacrifice, our hearts should be filled with praise for him!
People who are placed in a high station in life often have a tendency to display quite a bit of bad character. We frequently observe one worm being a little exalted above another worm. Perhaps, he has more dust than the other worm or maybe a bigger dunghill! But, oh, how he exalts himself, keeping a wide distance from those that are below him! And when he does reach down slightly to the lower worm, he wants others to praise and acknowledge his tiny act of condescension.
But Christ, the Lord of the universe, condescends to wash our feet! These other so-called great men (rather, the bigger worms) consider themselves to be humble by acts far less condescending than what Christ has done! No wonder we should admire him who is both infinitely high and infinitely condescending at the very same time.
Instance 2: Infinite justice and infinite grace
Christ is divine, thus infinitely just and holy. He hates sin in an infinite way, and he is willing and able to execute the punishment people deserve for their sin. As the infinitely just Judge of the world, he will not at all acquit the wicked or by any means clear the guilty.
But the Lord Jesus is also infinitely gracious and merciful. His grace is sufficient to overwhelm every person, covering them with his kindness. None are beyond his merciful reach. This is true even though his justice is absolutely strict on sin and even though his justice demands punishment for those who break his law. The Lord’s grace is still sufficient for every sinner. In fact, it reaches even to the chief of sinners.
Amazingly, by his grace he not only shows mercy to the most unworthy, but he also bestows the greatest good upon them! His grace doesn’t merely grant a little good to them, but it is sufficient to supply all the good they will ever need. Indeed, it does all things for them. There isn’t one single benefit or blessing too great for the sufficient grace of Christ to provide, even to the greatest sinner who ever lived.
Plus, his grace is so great that he is willing to do whatever is necessary to show it. Christ was even willing to suffer in order to grant his mercy to sinners. Keep in mind, he didn’t suffer in a normal way, it was extreme. Furthermore, his suffering led to his death, the most terrible of all natural evils. But he did not die a quick, simple death. No, in every way it was the most humiliating, tormenting, and horrific death we could ever imagine, inflicted upon him by the hands of merciless and wicked sinners.
Beyond his physical death, Jesus suffered even greater torment than any person could possibly inflict upon him. After all, they could only torment his body, but he also suffered in his soul. It was there that the very wrath of God was poured out against the sins of the people for whom he was dying.
Both of the instances prove the point I wish to make. In Christ there is a connection of what appears to be extremely diverse qualities. When we truly reflect on the intersection of these amazing qualities in him, we are moved to admire and worship him!
In the next chapter, we will consider how the connections of these qualities in Christ are not something people could simply have imagined. It seems impossible to our minds that they could connect at all. However, in spite of what our minds are capable of conceiving in their own power, when we observe Christ closely, we see them intersecting perfectly in him. He is, after all, both the Lion and the Lamb.
Only Compatible in Christ
In the previous chapter, we began considering how the excellent qualities of Christ are extremely diverse from each other. They are as different as a lion’s qualities are from a lamb’s. Yet when we meditate on their intersection in Christ, it moves us to admire his greatness and honor his being.
In this chapter we will unfold and extend that idea with a second doctrinal lesson:
B. In Christ there is a connection of such extremely diverse excellent qualities that, if they did not appear in him, would seem to us to be totally incompatible in the same subject.
In other words, these diverse qualities do not join up in any other person, whether divine, human, or angelic. No man or angel could have ever even imagined these excellent qualities meeting up in the same person, if we had not seen it happen in Christ. Beginning here and extended into the next chapter, seven powerful examples are provided to make this point clear.
Example 1: Infinite glory and lowest humility
In no other person but Christ do we find the conjunction of infinite glory and the virtue of humility. In fact, these two qualities simply cannot meet together in a created person, since no created person has infinite glory. Nor do they meet together in any other divine person except Christ.
No doubt, God the Father and the Holy Spirit also abhor pride, for the divine nature is infinitely against it. But at the same time, it isn’t proper to predicate humility to the Father or the Holy Spirit. After all, humility is a quality that is proper only for a created type of nature, which exists in a radical state of lowness and littleness when compared to God. Indeed, there is an incredibly great distance between God the Father and his created subjects. This is why anything that has been created must exhibit humility. But it would be a contradiction to suppose the Father should exhibit humility.
It is different, however, for the Son. Jesus Christ is both God and man, so in him alone do these two excellent qualities unite in this wondrous, sweet way. Think about his infinite glory and dignity in which he is forever exalted. Reflect on the teaching of the following passages:
Philippians 2:6 Being in the form of God, [Christ] thought it not robbery to be equal with God.
The honor owed to Christ is equal to that owed to the Father, as John confirms here:
John 5:23 That all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father.
God the Father himself says to Christ:
Hebrews 1:8 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.
Furthermore, the angels in heaven give Christ the same supreme respect and divine worship they give to the Father, as we read here:
Hebrews 1:6 Let all God’s angels worship him.
However, no matter how high above all, Christ also exhibits himself as the lowest of all, expressing wondrous humility. Amazingly, he portrays this humility at the exact same time he portrays his high dignity.
Never has the precious virtue of humility been as greatly exhibited as it has been in Jesus. No human being can claim greater humility, nor can any angel. No person was ever as keenly aware of the distance between himself and God the Father. In his humanity Christ truly understood and appreciated that distance. His words in Matthew 11:29 show that nobody ever had such a heart so lowly before God. This wonderful spirit of humility was visible in all his behavior while he was here on the earth.
He was content, for example, living a lowly type of life as far as his outward condition was concerned. For thirty years he lived happily in the family of Joseph the Carpenter with Mary his mother. During his ministry he continued to be content living in lowliness and poverty, at least in his visible, outward lifestyle. Very often, rather than receiving great respect and notoriety from many people, others held him in contempt.
Also, we see his humility in his attitude toward his disciples. He spoke to them in such a tender and kind way. He even washed their feet!
Thus Christ Jesus, the infinitely glorious King, lived in the form of a cheerful servant throughout his life. Then, at his terrible death he submitted himself to the most immense humiliation we can imagine!
Example 2: Infinite majesty and transcendent meekness
As with the previous example, these two qualities do not meet together in anyone except Christ.
In defining meekness, we discover that it is a virtue only a creature should possess. Hardly ever does the Scripture mention meekness as a divine attribute, at least not in the New Testament. Meekness seems to indicate a calmness and quietness of spirit that arises out of humility. This only happens in mutable (or changeable) beings that are naturally susceptible to the injurious assaults of this violent world. These assaults very often ruffle them, causing major struggles for them. By nature God is never the least bit susceptible to these things, unlike his created beings.
But since Christ is both God and man, in his humanity he is able to possess this attribute of meekness. Indeed, he possesses both infinite majesty and unmatched meekness at the very same time. As to majesty, this verse refers to him:
Psalm 45:3 Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, in your splendor and majesty!
He is the mighty one who rides with excellence on the heavens! He is the terrible one who comes from his holy places. He is “mightier than the thunders of many waters” and “mightier than the waves of the sea.” A “fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around.” When he is present the earth quakes and the hills melt. He is the one who “sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers.” He “rebukes the sea and makes it dry,” and he “dries up all the rivers.” “His eyes are like a flame of fire.” Wicked people will be sent away from his presence, and by the glory of his power they will be punished with everlasting punishment. Indeed, he is the “blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.” Heaven is his throne and earth is his footstool. Christ is “the one who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity” and whose “kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.” The dominion of Christ will never end.
Yet in this same person we observe the most marvelous instance of meekness ever. He had the most humble quietness of spirit. It was just as the prophecies concerning him predicted:
Matthew 21:4-5 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
This matches what Christ declared about himself:
Matthew 11:29 I am gentle and lowly in heart.
As with his humility, his meekness is clearly seen in the way he behaved while in the world. Never before or since has a person been so meek, even though he was injured and criticized by his enemies. When they reviled him, he did not revile in return. Rather, he possessed a wonderful spirit of forgiveness, ready to forgive even his worst enemies. He prayed for them with passionate, effective prayers. His incredible meekness was extremely evident while the ring of soldiers surrounded him. They held him in contempt and mocked him. Yet he was silent and did not open his mouth, like a lamb being led to the slaughter.
So we see that Christ is the Lion when it comes to his majesty, and he is the Lamb when it comes to his meekness.
Example 3: Deepest reverence towards God and equality with God
Amazingly, the Lord Jesus possessed both of these seemingly different qualities at the same time. When Christ was here on earth, he was full of holy reverence for God the Father. He honored the Father with the deepest possible worship, praying to him with profound respect. He even postured himself in such a way to exhibit this high regard and respect. The Scripture speaks of him kneeling down to pray (Luke 22:41). This type of reverence was fitting for Christ, since he had taken on true human nature.
But at the same time he possessed the divine nature of God within himself. In every respect Christ was (and is) equal to the Father. Every attribute and perfection the Father has, the Son also has in equal degree and equal glory.
So these two things, deepest reverence for God and equality with God, connect together in no other person except Jesus Christ. This connection should move us to admire and praise him!
Example 4: Infinitely worthy of good treatment and great patience under sufferings caused by evil people
Christ, as the Lion, is infinitely worthy of being treated extremely well. But as the Lamb, he has a wondrous ability to show great patience while evil people cause him terrible suffering.
Because Jesus was perfectly innocent, he did not deserve to suffer. He had no guilt of his own that God would ever need to punish him. Neither did he deserve to be mistreated by other men; he was not a harmful person who deserved to suffer for his crimes. No, he meant no harm towards others. Instead, he was infinitely worthy of infinite love from the Father. And he was worthy of infinite and eternal happiness. He was also infinitely worthy of all possible esteem, love, and service from every person in existence.
But even though he was worthy, he demonstrated perfect patience under the greatest sufferings that were ever endured in this world. Hebrews 12:2 says he “endured the cross, despising the shame.” And remember, he did not suffer for his own faults. The wrath of his father was poured out upon him because of our faults. Furthermore, and with such irony, he suffered for the very things that made him infinitely worthy. Men tortured him precisely because of the wonderful things he did, but what he did was what made him so worthy of their love and honor. Rather than respect him for his deeds as they should have, they brought about his violent death. But it most certainly wasn’t because he had any faults himself.
Because he suffered in this way, his patience shines all the more wonderfully and gloriously! The apostle Peter explains:
1 Peter 2:20-24 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
Only in Christ do we see innocence, worthiness, and patience under sufferings all coming together in this marvelous way. Nobody else possesses these excellent qualities, in all their amazing connections, the way he does.
In the next chapter, we will look at three more examples of connections between his lion-like qualities and his lamb-like qualities. We will also analyze how Christ expresses these qualities towards people.
Expressing Excellent Qualities towards People
In the previous chapter, we saw several examples of how the diverse excellent qualities of Christ come together only in him. If they did not come together in him, it would seem to us utterly impossible for these qualities to unite together at all in the same person. But in Christ they connect perfectly and cause us to admire him greatly.
In this chapter we will continue observing examples of these amazing connections. When that list is finished, we will discuss the reality that Jesus Christ actually expresses these diverse qualities towards people.
Example 5: Tremendous spirit of obedience and supreme dominion over heaven and earth
Jesus Christ is the supreme Lord over all things. Think of his lordship in the following two ways. First, he is the God-man and Mediator. As such he was appointed by the Father to have dominion. In this sense, pertaining to his humanity, his power is delegated to him from the Father. However, secondly, he is Lord of all things according to his original nature. He is God, thus by natural right he is the supreme Lord of all and over all, just the same as the Father. For this reason his dominion over the world is not merely delegated to him. He rules it by his own power. He is not some kind of “under-god” like the Arians teach. Rather, for all intents and purposes, he is supreme God.
Yet Christ also had the greatest spirit of obedience to the commands and law of God. Nowhere in the entire universe do we find someone who could equal the obedience he portrayed in this world! He said, “I do as the Father has commanded me” (John 14:31), and “I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (John 15:10).
The spirit of Christ’s obedience must be thought of as great because his obedience was nothing short of perfect. He obeyed with perfection even the commands that were very difficult to obey. We must remember that no other person ever received commands from God as difficult as the ones Christ received. Nobody else has ever had to face such a difficult trial of obedience. In fact, one of God’s commands to Jesus was that he should yield himself to dreadful sufferings. He obeyed God in this horrendous ordeal every step of the way. Jesus spoke clearly of this command from the father:
John 10:18 No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord…This charge I have received from my Father.
And he was thoroughly obedient to this most difficult command:
Hebrews 5:8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.
The same teaching is found here:
Philippians 2:8 He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Never has any other man or even an angel obeyed God’s commands like the Lord Jesus has. He obeyed perfectly, even though at the very same time he was the supreme Lord of both angels and men.
Example 6: Absolute sovereignty and perfect resignation
These two attributes provide yet another unparalleled conjunction of attributes appearing only in Christ and nobody else. Again, these are the kinds of connections that, in the basic human way of thinking, we could never conceive of coming together anywhere. But in Christ they merge in spectacular fashion.
Christ is God. This means, among other things, that he is the absolute sovereign ruler of the world. Thus he alone brings about all events that occur in this world. The decrees of God are his sovereign decrees. Likewise, God’s work of creation is the work of Christ. God’s works of providence are the works of Christ. It is Jesus Christ who works all things according to the counsel of his own will. These realities are clearly implied in passages like these:
Colossians 1:16-17 By him all things were created…all things were created through him and for him.
John 5:17 My Father is working until now, and I am working.
Matthew 8:3 I will; be clean.
But in spite of the fact that Christ works as sovereign God, he also exhibited in his humanity the most wonderful attitude of resignation ever. Resignation refers to his willingness to except the Father’s will no matter how painful it would be. He was resigned to embrace his Father’s desires for him, even when his terrible sufferings and death were looming. When he considered the dreadful cup that he had to drink, his soul overflowed with sorrow. That sorrow was so severe that it led him nearly to the point of death. So great was the agony that his sweat fell as great drops of blood to the ground. But read of his willingness to accept what God had planned for him:
Matthew 26:39, 42 My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will… My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.
Even in those horrifying moments, Christ, the sovereign ruler of all, was absolutely and perfectly resigned to accept the will of the Father. What a most excellent connection of lion-like attributes and lamb-like attributes!
Example 7: Self-sufficiency and total trusting reliance upon God
Finally, consider this last connection of qualities that would be very difficult for us to conceive of connecting together anywhere according to our way of thinking. But they meet together perfectly in Christ.
Since he is divine, Christ is self-sufficient, needing nothing at all. Though all creatures are dependent upon him, he is not dependent on anyone. He is independent in the absolute sense. Even though he proceeds from the Father, it is an eternal procession or eternal generation. There was never a moment when Christ wasn’t proceeding from the Father. This being the case, Christ has no dependence on the will of the Father, properly speaking. His eternal proceeding is natural and necessary, not arbitrary.
Yet in spite of his absolute self-sufficiency, Christ still trusted entirely upon the Father. Even his enemies say of him:
Matthew 27:43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now.
Furthermore, the Apostle testifies in 1 Peter 2:23 that Christ “continued entrusting himself” to God.
Each of these seven examples demonstrate the remarkable connections of seemingly diverse attributes in Christ. When we see these connections in him, but no place else, it should move us to praise him. In fact, as already indicated, we couldn’t even conceive of them coming together at all if we had not seen them converge in Christ.
Under the next heading, we will examine how Christ takes all these connected qualities and expresses them towards other people, another remarkable and praiseworthy reality.
C. Christ exercises all these diverse qualities towards people.
It seems impossible that these diverse qualities could all be expressed by the same person towards other people, but the Lion and Lamb does it. In particular, we will consider how he shows the three qualities of justice, mercy, and truth to others. All three of these are mentioned in this text:
Psalm 85:10 Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Let’s focus on each of these in turn.
Quality 1: Justice
How does God bring about justice (seen in the word “righteousness” in the verse above) towards other people? Answer: God’s strict justice against the sins of men is most gloriously seen in Christ. This is true even when God’s justice is motivated by revenge. But how does Christ demonstrate God’s strict justice towards people? Answer: He showed infinite honor to God’s justice in his sufferings and death. He was willing to undergo extreme sufferings and die in order to save sinners. Note carefully, Christ would not have been willing to provide salvation for men if it meant bringing injury to the honor of God’s justice.
In addition to honoring the just nature of God the Father, Christ is also Judge himself. Indeed, Christ is the Judge of the entire world, exercising strict justice. He does not clear the guilty or acquit the wicked as he judges them.
Quality 2: Mercy
The fact that Christ judges so severely makes it all the more wonderful when he displays infinite mercy towards sinners! What glorious, inexpressible grace and love has been and continues to be poured out by Christ into the lives of sinful men! Yes, he is the just Judge of a sinful world, but he is also the Savior of that same world. Even though he is a consuming fire towards sin, he is also the light and life of sinners. Study these inspired words of Scripture:
Romans 3:24-26 God put [Christ Jesus] forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Here we see justice like a lion and mercy like a lamb coming together in the same place – the person of Christ – and being directed towards people.
Quality 3: Truth
In the same way, Jesus Christ portrays the clearest appearance of the unchanging truth of God’s law as it is directed to people.
To see this, it must be understood that God’s law is a threat against sinful people who fall so short of keeping it. These threats are absolutely true, thus they cannot be altered under any circumstances. On the cross, Christ experienced these frightening threats on behalf of sinners. As he suffered, he personally faced the truth that God’s law cannot be altered. Nobody else has experienced the law’s threats like the Son of God did when sin was imputed to him. Furthermore, all the threats were actually carried out against him. They were turned from threats into reality fully and completely, not partially.
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The Excellency of Christ:
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No other person has ever endured the true brunt of the law like Christ did and nobody ever will. Now, other people will eventually face the full consequence of breaking God’s law. At some point they will endure the punishment. They will be directly confronted with the threat of God’s law and suffer beneath it for all eternity, and eternity will never be finished. But Christ is an eternal being, thus he was able to fully and completely absorb the threats of the law in his temporal sufferings.
Christ also shows high honor to God’s unchanging truth in the way he judges the world, as mentioned above. His honor for truth and his willingness to judge are intrinsically connected. He takes the covenant of works as his rule of judgment and will not infringe upon this high standard even the tiniest amount.
He will do nothing contrary to the law, even though it has a major element of threat in it against the people he has made. Yes, it threatens sinners, but this doesn’t stop him from upholding it. Christ is committed to God’s truth and faithfully carries out every part of the law no matter what. He is committed to bringing about its complete fulfillment, even the parts that threaten the well-being of people.
But even in the face of this fearful reality, Christ has offered us many great and precious promises. In him we have the promise of perfect deliverance from the penalty of God’s law! Indeed, he has promised us eternal life! As the Scripture teaches us, in Christ all the promises of God are answered with a “yes” and an “amen!”
So Christ brings about the lion-like side of God’s truth and the lamb-like side of God’s truth, expressing them both towards people. The threatening truth of God’s law and the sweet truth of God’s promises meet together in Christ, both at the same time.
This brings to conclusion our first major point of the sermon. In it we have observed the various areas where we see the different types of Christ’s excellent qualities connecting together and being expressed to people. As we study these connection points, we are moved to admire Christ immensely.
In the next chapter, we move on to the second major point of the sermon. There, we will be analyzing how these connections of excellent qualities can be seen and praised in the deeds Christ has accomplished and will accomplish.
Admirable Connections in Christ’s Actions
The apostle John believed he was turning to see the “Lion of the tribe of Judah,” but instead he saw “a Lamb…as though it had been slain.” In this sermon we have been reflecting on what these two animals represent and what they teach us about the Christ. Now, we move to consider the second major point of the message:
II. How this admirable connection of excellent qualities appears in Christ’s acts
Under the previous point, we saw how Christ’s excellent qualities converge in his person. That is, he is both the Lion and the Lamb as part of his very nature. The types of qualities these two animals possess are very different from one another, but in Christ they come together in perfect harmony. For example, he is simultaneously both the King of kings and the slaughtered sacrifice. We also noted how the convergence of these qualities are expressed by him to people.
Under this second heading, we are looking at how these attributes are actually exhibited in what Christ does, the actions he performs. Through his actions, we see the same excellent yet diverse qualities merging in him in a most amazing way, moving us to admire and praise him in an even greater way.
We will focus specifically on five acts. They are (A) his taking on of human nature, (B) his earthly life, (C) his sacrificial death on the cross, (D) his exaltation in heaven, and (E) his final victory when he returns in glory. The first two of these will be covered in this chapter.
A. Taking on human nature
Truly, we see Christ’s diverse, excellent qualities merging together in this great act. He took on human flesh! Can you see his infinite condescension in doing this? God actually became a man. The Word was made flesh. He took upon himself a nature infinitely lower than his original nature.
These facts are even more remarkable when we consider the lowliness of his circumstances at his coming. He was conceived in the womb of a poor, young woman. We discover that she lived in poverty when we read of how she came to offer the sacrifices for purification. Mary brought as her sacrifice the animal that was allowed by the Law only in the case of poverty. Luke records this:
Luke 2:24 To offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”
Sacrificing these particular animals was allowed only if the person was too poor to afford a lamb (see Leviticus 12:8). So Jesus was born into very humble circumstances.
However, we can also see the divine dignity involved in his becoming a man. Even though Christ’s infinite condescension is portrayed in it, so is his wondrous glory. Yes, he was conceived in the womb of a poor virgin, but he was conceived there by the power of the Holy Spirit! His conception took place within the womb of a corrupted woman; Mary was a member of the fallen human race. But Jesus was conceived and born without sin. The angel affirmed this to the blessed virgin:
Luke 1:35 The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God.
What about the circumstances surrounding his actual birth? These also demonstrated Christ’s infinite humility in a marvelous way. He was born, after all, in a stable. The inn was full, already occupied by others who were considered more important. Mary, the blessed virgin, was shut out even though she was in such great need. People who counted themselves her superiors would not offer her a place. She was poor and despised. In her labor pains, she was forced to find shelter in the stable. When the child was born, he was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a feeding trough for farm animals. There Christ lay as a little infant, the little Lamb of God resting in such a lowly place.
Yet this feeble infant, born in a stable and placed in a manger, was born to conquer Satan, to triumph over thatroaring lion! Jesus Christ came to subdue the mighty powers of darkness and openly expose them. He came to restore peace on earth and bring God’s good will to all people. He came to do these great things all for the glory of God in the highest. These were the lyrics filling the joyful songs of the glorious angels. The shepherds heard these songs even as the infant lay in the manger!
So we see both the infinite humility and the divine dignity of Christ in his incarnation.
B. Earthly life
When we study the life of Christ as he lived it out on earth, we find his lion-like qualities and his lamb-like qualities converging constantly in his various deeds. The condescension and humility of Christ can be clearly seen in the fact that his outward circumstances were meager. His majesty was veiled. Nevertheless, his divine dignity and glory did often shine through this veil. Some of his many wonderful acts reveal with great magnificence that he was not only the Son of Man, but also the great God.
When he was a baby, his outward meagerness was seen. But then came an event that portrayed his divine dignity – the wise men came. They had been stirred up within their souls, traveling from the East to honor him. They followed the miraculous star, fell down before him in worship, and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
We also see his wonderful humility and meekness in his childhood. He willingly placed himself under the authority of his mother and earthly father. This was a picture of Christ as the Lamb. But his divine glory broke out and radiated at the age of twelve when he was engaged in deep discussions with the religious authorities in the temple. In this event he showed to some degree that he is the Lion of the tribe of Judah.
After he began his public ministry, we see his marvelous humility and lamb-like meekness again. His outward appearance was very paltry, but he was content in his circumstances. At times he was so poor that he had no place to lay his head. The beginning of Luke 8 informs us that sometimes he even depended on the charity of some of his followers for food and shelter.
He also treated his disciples with great gentleness. He condescended to their level. He spoke in kindness with them, treating them like a father would treat his own children. He even considered them his friends and companions. Likewise, he patiently endured the disapproving expressions hurled at him from the scribes and Pharisees, who regularly afflicted and injured him. In all these things Christ appeared as the Lamb.
Yet at the same time, Christ was radiating with divine dignity. His many works, particularly his miracles, demonstrated his divine majesty and glory. His miracles were obviously the works of God himself, displaying omnipotent power, declaring his status as the Lion of the tribe of Judah.
As God he even took nature into his own hands. He could wonderfully and miraculously stop its normal operations and change its course as he pleased. When he healed people of their maladies, he was demonstrating that he is the God of the body. The one who created the eye has the power to open blind eyes. The one who created the ear has the power to open deaf ears. The one who created legs has the power to make lame legs walk. Dead people were even raised at his commanding! By lifting people up from death, Jesus presented himself as the Author and Fountain of life itself. He is “the sovereign Lord who rescues from death.”
When Jesus walked on the water in the midst of the storm, even as the waves were crashing all around, he was showing himself to be the God revealed in Job 9:8, who “trampled the waves of the sea.” He calmed this raging sea with his powerful command, “Peace! Be still!” When he spoke these words, he was demonstrating his command of the universe. He is the God who brings things to pass by simply speaking his words of power. He calls for something to happen, and it actually happens. It is Christ who is spoken of in these passages:
Psalm 65:7 [He] stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves.
Psalm 107:29 [He] made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.
Psalm 89:8-9 O LORD God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O LORD, with your faithfulness all around you? You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them.
Jesus also revealed his status as the Lion of the tribe of Judah when he cast out demons, a remarkable thing for him to do. As he cast them out of people, he was showing that he is stronger than the devil, that roaring lion who seeks to devour people. The demons were forced to obey his commands. They were terrified of him, falling before him and begging him not to torment them. In one case he forced an entire legion of demons to leave a person. He merely spoke his powerful word, and they left their old habitation. But they could not so much as enter into the herd of swine without his permission.
Christ also acted as the Lion when he revealed the secret thoughts of people. In several biblical accounts, we see him describing these very thoughts, demonstrating his omniscience. He was showing himself to be the God spoken of in Amos 4:13, who “declares to man what is his thought.”
So even in the midst of Christ’s meager, outward appearance and humiliation, his divine glory was clearly seen in his miracles. The apostle John reminds us of this:
John 2:11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory.
As we study the Gospel accounts, we find that most of the time Christ lived without showing his outward glory. In fact, much of the time he lived in great obscurity. But there was one occasion when he threw off the veil in a most amazing way. He appeared in his divine majesty so far as it could be handled by men in such a frail state. This happened when he was transfigured on the holy mountain. Peter saw this glorious display and describes it here:
2 Peter 1:16-17 We were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
This was the voice Peter and the others heard from heaven as Jesus radiated with divine and holy glory.
There is one final area where Christ’s lion and lamb attributes merge in his earthly life. It is seen in the nature of his relationship to his disciples and the Pharisees. Even as he made it his habit to show meekness to his disciples, he also sharply rebuked the Pharisees. In his condescension to his disciples, he spoke with them as the Lamb of God. But he regularly exercised divine authority as the Lion of the tribe of Judah against the scribes, Pharisees, and other hypocrites.
In the next chapter, we will consider the third area of Christ’s earthly life where we see these attributes merge, namely, his sacrificial death on the cross.
The Sacrifice of Christ
In the previous chapter, we looked at the first two of five areas where the lion-like and the lamb-like attributes of Christ connected in his earthly life. First, they connected in the way he took on human nature and, second, in the way he conducted his earthly life and ministry.
In this chapter we will be looking at the third area, his sacrificial death on the cross. It should be especially noted that in this particular act of Christ the connections are incredibly clear.
C. Sacrificial death on the cross
It is a remarkable reality that Christ offered himself up for sinners in his final sufferings. This was his single greatest work in the process of bringing redemption to mankind. Never in any of his other works did Christ appear as a slain lamb to the degree he did on the cross. He came like “a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7). He was offered up to God as a lamb without blemish and without spot. He was the antitype of the Passover Lamb:
1 Corinthians 5:7 Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
Yet in this same act, above any of his other acts, Christ was seen as the Lion of the tribe of Judah. The following list provides seven instances where Christ’s sacrifice revealed his status as the Lion, even while he suffered and died as the Lamb.
Instance 1: Greatest humiliation but by it the greatest glory
As Christ was sacrificed, he faced the greatest humiliation of his life. But because of that very humiliation his divine glory appeared at its highest level.
Throughout his life, Christ’s humiliation was great. In the previous chapter, we reflected on the reality that he was born into poverty to a poor virgin. He came into the world in a stable and was laid in a manger. Later in his childhood, he graciously submitted to Joseph the carpenter and Mary his mother. In adulthood he also lived in poverty. Many times he didn’t even have a place to lay his head. Though he went about preaching and working miracles, he suffered many bitter words from his enemies.
All of these things were humiliating for Jesus. But never did he face humiliation like he did in his last sufferings, beginning in the garden and ending with his death on the cross. During that sorrowful time, Jesus was exposed to public shame like never before. He had never experienced so much pain in his body. His soul was also in supreme agony. Never before had he exercised so much condescension, humility, meekness, and patience. Never before was his divine glory covered over with such a thick veil. He emptied himself and made himself of no reputation like never before.
But never before was his divine glory revealed in such a supreme way! In the very same act of giving himself up to these sufferings, his lion-like qualities were also becoming visible. But it would be after the fruit of his sufferings came to bloom that their glory would truly appear. Over time the mystery of his sufferings began to be understood, for the point of what he did on the cross was unfolded and comprehended.
Once this happened, Christ’s sufferings were seen as the most glorious act he ever did for mankind! Even the angels in heaven celebrate the sacrifice of Christ with special praises. All the hosts of heaven join the angels in declaring this act supremely glorious. We read of their celebration in this wonderful passage of Scripture:
Revelation 5:9-12 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
As we read these words, it becomes clear that at the cross the Lord Jesus experienced the greatest humility imaginable. But by his sacrifice on that same cross, he experiences the greatest eternal glory.
Instance 2: Greatest love for God and greatest love for the enemies of God
Consider now another way Christ’s sacrifice reveals the connection of his excellent qualities. In no other act does he show love for God in such a great way while at the exact same time showing supreme love to the enemies of God.
Jesus obediently laid down his life, following the command of his Father. He sought the vindication of his Father’s authority and majesty and suffered inexpressible pain to achieve it. This is the eminent love of Jesus for his Father, and this love is seen more clearly in his sacrifice than in any of his other works. No mere creature has ever been able to match such a great testimony of love for God. Yet this great expression of love to God was actually carried out as Christ demonstrated incredible love for sinful man, the very enemies of God. Paul expresses it this way:
Romans 5:10 While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.
His wondrous love for sinners is so great precisely because it is a dying love. The great drops of blood that fell from Jesus’ brow were shed because he loved God’s enemies. Furthermore, these enemies of his Father were his own enemies as well. He endured shame, spitting, bodily torment, and a soul filled with deathly sorrow, all because he loved those who rebelled against his Father. He underwent these excruciating sufferings to save them from hell and to purchase eternal glory for them.
Now, put it all together in your mind: In this sacrificial act, Christ supremely revealed his concern for his Father’s honor. He offered himself up as victim of avenging justice, thereby vindicating this honor. But also, in this same act of honoring God, Christ revealed his love to those who dishonored God. They showed great dishonor to his Father, especially as they crucified the Son. Here is the great irony, when they slaughtered the Lamb they brought such guilt upon themselves that only the blood of the Lamb, and nothing less, could atone for what they did.
Instance 3: Suffering for divine justice and suffering under divine justice
In Christ’s sacrifice we also see him suffering for the cause of divine justice and yet suffering under divine justice. He did these both at the same time and to the uttermost in both cases.
In his great sufferings, Christ showed his infinite respect for and regard of God’s justice in a most special way. It was this regard for God’s justice that motivated him to humble himself and willingly suffer and die on the cross.
Yet in these same sufferings, Christ was the very target of the vindictive expressions of that same justice of God. He was not spared at all. Revenging justice was poured out upon him in all its force. Because our guilt was laid upon him, God shot him through with arrows of vengeance, causing him to sweat blood and cry out in agony upon the cross.
More than likely his vital organs were ripped apart. His heart, the fountain of blood, was literally broken. Either his heart or some other internal blood vessels were damaged so badly that it caused a violent fermentation, turning his blood to water. When his side was pierced with the spear, blood and water gushed out. This appears to be blood that had leaked from the vessels and was swelling in the tissue. Perhaps, this is a literal fulfillment of the ancient Psalm:
Psalm 22:14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast.
This is the means Christ used to stand up for the honor of God’s justice, by suffering under its terrible executions. It could happen in no other way. Christ took upon himself the task of saving sinners, substituting his own life for them. But the only way for this to be possible was for God’s justice against those sinners to be honored. In order to save them Christ had to suffer the actual vengeful expressions of the Father’s justice.
It is only in Christ that we see these two diverse excellent qualities meeting together. He has infinite regard for the justice of God, and he has incredible love to those who face the justice of God for their sin. In yielding himself as a sacrifice, he demonstrated both qualities at the same time and to extreme degrees.
In the next chapter, we will study three more instances where Christ’s suffering and death portrayed the connections of his excellent qualities. In particular, we will analyze what it means that his suffering was caused by the very people to whom he was showing supreme love.
Suffering and Supreme Love
In this chapter we continue considering how Christ’s suffering and death demonstrate the connection of his diverse and excellent qualities.
Instance 4: Brightly shining holiness and treated as utterly guilty
In the sufferings of Christ, we see yet another important connection of his excellent qualities. Never before had Christ’s holiness shone so brightly, but at the same time, never before had he been treated as so guilty.
Because Christ’s holiness was under such a great trial, the greatest it ever endured, it was manifested in the greatest way as well. His holiness was tried in the furnace and came out as gold. It was as illustrious as silver purified seven times.
The holiness of Christ was shining in his unstoppable willingness to obey the Father. If he’d been unwilling to obey the Father’s plan for him, his holiness would have been tarnished. But he did not fail in the least, even when he was called upon to endure excruciating sufferings. He pursued the honor of God with perfect consistency. His yielding himself to death was the supreme greatest act of obedience ever paid to God by anyone since the beginning of the world. As he obeyed, his bright and glorious holiness was glowing with brilliant luster.
Yet Christ was treated as a wicked person. To the highest level, he was considered a criminal and was apprehended and bound as such. He was accused and represented as a most wicked wretch. Prior to being crucified, he was treated like the worst, most vile man in existence.
We know he was treated this way because of the type of death chosen for him. Only the worst criminals were made to suffer this sort of death. The cross was reserved only for people whose personal character was deeply flawed and who were guilty of the darkest of crimes. But Jesus suffered in this shameful way.
Indeed, he suffered as though his guilt was pronounced from God the Father himself, since our sin was imputed to him. The Scriptures teach that he who knew no sin was made sin for us. He was subjected to the wrath of God as if he had been sinful himself. Though perfectly holy, he was made a curse for us.
On the cross Christ showed how he hated sin committed against God, dying to take away the dishonor sin causes God. Yet at the same time, he faced the terrible consequences of God’s hatred of sin, enduring his Father’s wrath against it. At the cross both of these happened to the highest degree. So we see meeting in Christ, the Lion and the Lamb, the diverse and excellent qualities of both love to God and grace to sinners.
Instance 5: Treated as unworthy but by this considered worthy
In relation to the previous instance, we further observe that Jesus was treated as unworthy in his sufferings. Never had he been treated as more unworthy than at that time. The mob thought of him as unworthy even to live. They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” (John 19:15). Instead of Christ they chose to set free the criminal, Barabbas. Even more, the sufferings he endured from the Father were fit for a person whose demerits were infinite. This is because our demerits were laid upon him.
Yet it was precisely his willing subjection to these sufferings that merited his exaltation and gave him glory. It was chiefly his suffering that made him worthy, even as he was treated in such an unworthy way. We see this here:
Philippians 2:8-9 He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death…Therefore God has highly exalted him.
His sufferings are also the main reason he is praised as worthy by the saints and angels. “Worthy,” they say, “is the Lamb that was slain…” There is a wondrous connection in Christ of infinite dignity and infinite condescension, especially seen in the way he loves the infinitely unworthy.
Instance 6: Sufferings caused by the same people to whom he was showing supreme love
Another connection of Christ’s glorious attributes can be seen in the following reality. His sufferings were most severely caused by the same people to whom he was showing the greatest possible love.
Jesus had never suffered under the wrath of his Father like this before. By the way, the Father was not showing wrath to Christ because he hated him. No, but it was because he hates our sins. Even still, as Christ suffered he realized that he was forsaken by the Father. No longer could he experience the comfort of the Father’s presence with him. We read of this in the expressions of the prophet:
Isaiah 53:10 It was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief.
Yet at the same time he was being crushed, Christ was showing, in the greatest way, how much he loved his Father. Likewise, he was suffering like never before at the hands of wicked men, simultaneously exercising the highest level of love for those same men.
However, it wasn’t just those who crucified Jesus that treated him badly during that time. Never before had his own disciples treated him so badly. It seems they were unconcerned for him as he suffered! They wouldn’t stay awake with him even one hour in the garden. When the soldiers came and arrested him, all the disciples abandoned him and ran away. All of them, that is, except for Peter. But it was Peter who went on to deny him with oaths, cursing his name! Yet when Jesus shed his blood and poured out his soul in death, it was for them.
Indeed, it’s likely he was shedding his blood for some of the very people who were actually causing his blood to pour out. Yes, he even died for some that killed him. He even prayed for these while they were in the process of crucifying him. Later on, some of these very people were probably carried home to Christ when they heard Peter preach (we see this when we compare the following texts: Luke 23:34; Acts 2:23, 36, 37, 41; 3:17; 4:4).
All these facts show how praiseworthy the connection is between the justice and grace of God, as can truly be seen only in the redemption of Christ.
Instance 7: Delivered up to the power of his enemies while at the same time obtaining victory over them
In this instance, once again, we see Christ’s lion-like qualities merging with his lamb-like qualities at the cross. This time we observe what took place from the perspective of power. In his sufferings Christ was delivered up to the power of his enemies like never before. But it was by these same sufferings that Christ obtained his highest victory over his enemies,demonstrating his infinite power in the process.
They had certainly wanted to kill Jesus before this! But they were restrained, and each time Christ escaped from their hands. The Scripture teaches that his time had not yet come. However, the time did come when they were able to work their evil schemes. To the highest degree, he was subjected to the malicious and cruel power of both wicked men and demons. We read of how his enemies came to apprehend him and what he said to them:
Luke 22:53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.
But even though his enemies seemed to triumph over him, those same sufferings were the principal means he used to conquer them! Christ never so effectively bruised Satan’s head as he did in the very instance when Satan bruised his heel! The cross was the weapon Satan thought he was using to overthrow Christ, but instead, this was the very weapon Christ used to overthrow Satan. Through his death on the cross, Christ warred against the devil, obtaining complete victory and glorious triumph over him. Dying, Jesus brought Satan to shameful destruction.
In the following passage, the Apostle speaks of the victory of the cross. He explains how God brings forgiveness by it and how Satan’s domain is crushed by it:
Colossians 2:14-15 By canceling the record of debt that stood against us…nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
In his final sufferings, Christ destroyed the very foundations of Satan’s kingdom. He conquered his enemies in their own territory, using their own weapons to obtain victory over them. He was like David who cut off Goliath’s head with the giant’s own sword.
The devil had seemingly swallowed up Christ, like Jonah was swallowed up by the whale. But in swallowing Christ, he also swallowed something toxic to him, a poison (so to speak) that caused a deadly internal wound. He soon became sick from his food and was forced to vomit it up! To this day the devil is sick in his heart from what he swallowed as prey!
The foundations of Christ’s glorious victory are laid in his sufferings. He has already obtained his victory over Satan. He has already overthrown the heathen kingdom of the devil. We see this victory in the history of the Roman Empire. We see it in the success the gospel has had since that time. Doubtless, we will see it in the future in even more glorious ways throughout the earth! Thus Samson’s riddle is fulfilled in a most amazing way:
Judges 14:14 Out of the eater came something to eat. Out of the strong came something sweet.
Christ Jesus is the true Samson. Just as the historical Samson did more destruction in his death than in his life, so Christ did the same but on a much grander scale. Samson yielded himself to death by pulling down the temple of Dagon. But in this very act, he destroyed thousands of his enemies, even while they laughed at him and mocked his sufferings.
Also in relation to the god Dagon, we read of Christ as he is pictured in the Ark of the Covenant. When the Ark was brought into the temple of Dagon as a captive, the statue of Dagon was pulled down to the ground, breaking off both his head and hands. This destruction happened in his own temple!
Thus in the same act of suffering and at exactly the same time, Jesus Christ is seen as both the Lion and the Lamb. He was the Lamb to his cruel enemies. They grabbed him with their brutal claws, and he was crushed between the devouring jaws of the roaring lion. He was literally slain by this wicked lion. Yet at the same time, he was the Lion of the tribe of Judah. As such, he conquered and triumphed over Satan, destroying the devouring lion. Again, he was like Samson who once ripped a roaring lion into two pieces as if it were a baby goat.
Now, understand all of this carefully: In no other act did Christ appear more like the glorious, enemy-destroying Lion than when he was brought as the Lamb to the slaughter. It was when he was most weak that he was actually most strong. It was when he suffered the most from his enemies that he brought the greatest confusion to his enemies.
This concludes the list of seven instances where we see Christ’s excellent attributes merging in his final sufferings. Through his lamb-like sacrifice, as he willingly offered himself up to God, he proved himself to be the Lion of the tribe of Judah.
In the next chapter, we will reflect upon two more of Christ’s actions where his lion and lamb qualities merge, his current ministry in heaven and his return one day in the future. These will also lead us to greatly admire and worship the living Christ.
Christ Is Exalted and Coming
In Christ we see qualities of both the lion and the lamb coming together in excellent, powerful ways. In particular, we have been discussing how these diverse qualities merged in his acts, the very deeds he carried out in his life. In the last chapter, we paid special attention to his sacrificial death on the cross as a major intersection of lion-like and lamb-like attributes.
In this chapter we will finish this point, analyzing the fourth and fifth areas, beginning with his:
D. Exaltation in heaven
The connection of Christ’s admirable qualities, as seen in his works, is not confined to the works he has carried out in the past, that is, in his earthly life and sacrificial death. Those glorious deeds are now history, but Christ continues to work in the present. The same merging of his qualities can be seen in the works he is performing in the here and now. Right this very moment Christ is exalted in heaven! In his exalted state, Jesus shines in a most gloriously way, exhibiting his lion-like qualities. But he also still appears as the Lamb. Remember what John saw in his vision of the exalted Christ:
Revelation 14:1 Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb.
When he was in his state of humiliation on earth, Christ appeared mainly as the Lamb. But as we have seen, there were also manifestations of his divine majesty and power as the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Now that he is lifted high to the right hand of God as the exalted King of heaven and the Lord of the universe, he appears mainly as the Lion.
Nevertheless, he remains in his human nature, so he continues to excel in humility. Jesus Christ is ranked above all creatures in heaven. But even in his highly exalted state, he continues, even now, to excel all creatures in humility. Indeed, he excels in humility as much as he does in glory and dignity. Nobody understands the distance between God and himself like Christ does. Even though he is shrouded with majestic glory, and even though he has dominion in heaven, he continues to appear as the Lamb. The saints continue to see his condescension, and they experience his mild and sweet treatment. For even though he is exalted to his throne, he stands in heaven as the Lamb. He that is the Shepherd of the whole flock is himself like a lamb, leading them into heaven. As God’s Word says:
Revelation 7:17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
In heaven every knee bows to Christ. The angels fall down before him in adoration. But he, nonetheless, treats his saints with infinite mildness and endearment. His loving and amazing condescension continues even there.
Plus, he treats the saints who are now on earth in the same way, appearing to them as the Lamb. He shows them great love and tenderness. He intercedes for them as one who has experienced affliction and temptation. He has not forgotten what these things are! He has not forgotten how to pity people who fall prey to them! He shows them patience, love, gentleness, and compassion, relating lovingly to his sheep. Likewise, he instructs, supplies, supports, and comforts them. He comes to them often, revealing himself to them through his Spirit. He comes to eat with them, and he invites them to come eat with him. He admits them into his presence through sweet communion, giving them confidence and boldness to come to him, bringing peace to their hearts. Doubtless, we should greatly admire Christ the Lamb for expressing these tender qualities to us.
At this very moment in heaven, Christ still bears the scars resulting from the wounds inflicted upon him. He remains visibly the slain Lamb. This is how Saint John saw him in the vision. This is how the text of Revelation represents him when he came to open the book sealed with seven seals. This is all part of the glory of his exaltation.
E. Final victory when he returns in glory
We now consider one last example of how the excellent qualities of Christ connect in his acts. On the day of his Last Judgment, Christ will appear more as the Lion of the tribe of Judah than ever before. He will be seen as infinitely great and majestic, shrouded in the glory of his Father. All the holy angels and every person on earth will tremble before him. The very hills will melt in his presence.
This is the day we read about in Revelation 20:11. He is seated on a great white throne, and before his face earth and heaven flee. The wicked will see him and be filled with dread and terrified amazement. The devils shake when they think about this appearance of Christ.
When this day comes, kings will hide themselves in caves. The mighty men of earth will join them, along with the wealthy people and the high captains. It doesn’t matter if they are slaves or free, every single one of them will run for cover into the rocks of the mountains. All of them will beg for the rocks to fall on them to hide them from the face and the wrath of the Lamb.
Nobody really understands how terrible God’s wrath will be towards these people. There are no words available to describe the horror of it. They will tremble in astonishment. They will shriek and gnash their teeth as they stand before his Judgment Seat and receive the terrible sentence of his wrath.
But at the same time, he will be the Lamb to his saints. He will mildly receive them as friends and brothers, showing them infinite love. They will see nothing terrible in him. In his demeanor towards them, he will be clothed only with sweetness and endearment. This is the Wedding Day for the church, who will be admitted into his presence as his Bride. With the sweetest of voices, he will invite the saints to come. They will inherit the kingdom and reign with him in it for all eternity.
This brings to conclusion the doctrinal section of the sermon. Hopefully, you have learned much about Christ from these words, especially that he is both the Lion and the Lamb and deserves to be infinitely praised because of it. But what we have learned now needs to influence our practice in life. We can’t educate ourselves regarding these glorious truths about Christ and then remain unchanged! So in the next several chapters, we will draw three major applications for life from the teaching we have learned.
Accept Christ as Your Savior
In the previous chapters, we have focused on doctrine. Now is the time to focus our attention on application. Doctrine is about what we believe while application is about what we do, or how we conduct ourselves, on the basis of what we believe.
How should our understanding of Christ as Lion and Lamb affect our behavior? As a reminder the great doctrinal truth we have learned in this message and from our text is this:
There are many different types of excellent qualities that connect together in Jesus Christ in a most admirable way.
From this doctrine we draw three applications. First, we should gain insight into why the Scriptures use such a variety of names for Christ. Second, this doctrine encourages us to accept Christ as our Savior. Thirdly, this doctrine encourages us to accept Christ as our friend.
APPLICATION 1: We should gain insight into why the Scriptures use such a variety of names for Christ.
This application has to do with our interpretation of Scripture, where we find many different names and titles used to identify and describe Christ. From what we have studied, it is clear why he is labeled in so many different ways. Having so many varieties of names and titles better signifies the variety of excellent qualities connecting together in him. Now that we have thought deeply about these connections, we can have a much better understanding of his names and titles and their relationships to one another.
There are times within the pages of the Bible when many of his names and titles are mentioned together in one verse. Here is a powerful example:
Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
This verse reveals a wonderful connection of excellent qualities all joining together in Christ. Amazingly, the same person is both the Son who is born and given and the everlasting Father who is without beginning or end. He is a child, yet his name is Counselor and the mighty God. Since these diverse qualities are all connected together in him, it is certainly fitting that he is also called Wonderful!
Similarly, because of these connections, Christ is also represented in Scripture by a great variety of other excellent things. For example, in some places he is called a sun, as in Malachi 4:2. In other texts, like Numbers 24:17, he is called a star. A very special symbol for him is the morning star, since it shines brighter than all other stars, and since it is the forerunner of the day (Revelation 22:16).
Our main text for this message is also a place where we see this. There he is compared to a lion in one verse and a lamb in the next. And then sometimes he is compared to a young deer, which is another creature much different than a lion.
In other texts he is called a rock. In others he is compared to a pearl. We also see him called a man of war and, in another place, the Captain of our Salvation. Sometimes he is represented as a bridegroom. In the Song of Solomon 2:1, he is compared to a rose and a lily, which are sweet, beautiful flowers. In verse three he is compared to a tree that yields sweet fruit. In Isaiah 53:2, he is called a root out of dry ground. But in distinction from that picture, we read in other places that he is the Tree of Life that grows “in the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7).
The more we learn of his diverse qualities meeting together in such wonderful ways, the more precious each and every one of his names and titles will be to us!
APPLICATION 2: We should be encouraged to accept Christ as our Savior.
By way of further application, let all these wonderful truths about Christ induce you to trust him as your Savior. Remember, in him all of these excellent qualities find their meeting place in spite of their immense diversity! When you think of that, it should move you to finalize your acceptance of him as Savior. Just as there are a variety of excellent qualities that meet up in him, so also there are all kinds of arguments and motivations stemming from him that should move you to choose him as Savior.
Poor sinners who are considering the glorious person of Jesus Christ should be encouraged to come now and trust him. Sinners should see how complete he is as the Savior, sufficient to supply everything they need. This is apparent from his many types of excellent qualities.
Man is sinful and fallen. Because of this condition, he is in terrible misery. He is a helpless, poor, weak creature, like an infant expelled in its own blood on the day of its birth. But Christ is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He is strong while we are in our weakness. He has prevailed to win victory for us, doing what nobody else could have done. Fallen man is an impoverished, despicable creature; he is a contemptible worm. But Christ, the one who has worked for our cause, is infinitely honorable and worthy. Fallen man is polluted, but Christ is infinitely holy. Fallen man is hateful, but Christ is infinitely lovely. Fallen man is the object of God’s indignation, but Christ is infinitely dear to him. We fallen humans have provoked God in a dreadful manner, but Christ has carried out the righteousness that is infinitely precious in the eyes of God.
Furthermore, in Christ we find not only infinite strength and worthiness, but also infinite condescension. He shows his love and mercy in just as great a way as he demonstrates his great power and dignity. If you are a poor, distressed sinner, you do not need to fear going to Christ. Though he is the Lion, he will show you tender mercy.
But perhaps you feel like God will never have mercy on you, and you are afraid that he is either unable or unwilling to help you. However, you shouldn’t fear these things. There is a strong foundation in Christ, and he is an inexhaustible treasure. In him you will find the solutions needed for your poor soul. You will find his infinite grace and gentleness inviting you, a poor, unworthy, and fearful soul, to come boldly into his presence. If Christ accepts you, then you have nothing to fear. You will be safe. As the strong Lion, he is your defender. And he is the Lamb to everyone who comes to him. He receives each one with infinite grace and tenderness. If you come to him, you need not fear whether he will accept you. He will indeed!
Yes, it is true that his majesty is awesome! He is the great God who is infinitely high above you. But a poor sinner should be encouraged by the fact that Christ is man as well as God. This should bring a sense of boldness to the sinner. Christ has a creature-like nature as well as the nature of the Creator. Thus he is more humble and lowly in heart than any creature in heaven or on the earth. Surely this will give courage to the poor sinner to come to him. You don’t need to hesitate even for a moment. You can run to him and throw yourself upon him, and he will receive you graciously with meekness. Yes, he is the Lion, but if you run to him, he will only be the Lion toward your enemies. He will be the Lamb in relationship to you.
Only in the person of Christ does this make sense. Nobody could have imagined a Savior so inviting and so encouraging to sinners. Only in him can we see how it is possible. What a wonderful Savior!
You don’t need to be afraid to come to a Savior like this, no matter what your particular circumstances may be. You might be an extremely wicked person, but in Christ there is enough worthiness to save you. You might be an utterly impoverished, broken, and ignorant creature. No matter! You will not be despised by Christ if you come to him. How can this be possible? How can he accept even a wicked, broken sinner? It is because even though he is so much greater than you, he is also immensely more humble than you.
Some of you are fathers and mothers. If your child comes to you in distress you wouldn’t think of despising one of your own children. Neither is there a danger that Christ would despise you, if in your heart you truly come to him.
Now, let me reason a few moments with you who I know are poor, burdened, and distressed in your souls. What are you afraid of? Tell me, why will you not venture out and place your soul upon Christ? Are you worried that he can’t save you? Perhaps you fear he is not strong enough to conquer the enemies of your soul. But how can you desire anyone stronger than “the mighty God?” This is what Christ is called in Isaiah 9:6. Do you need strength that is greater than infinite strength?
But are you afraid that he would not be willing to stoop down so low? Are you afraid that you are too low for him to take notice of you and show you grace? Oh, remember the ring of soldiers gathered around him! He exposed his precious and blessed face to them, which they beat and spat upon. Remember how they bound him and uncovered his back to be tortured. See him there hanging on the cross! He stooped down low enough to save even some of those who crucified him! Don’t you think he is willing to condescend enough to accept you, if you come to him?
Or are you afraid that Christ will accept you but God the Father will not accept him? But think about it. Will God reject his own Son? He delights in his Son infinitely. From all eternity Christ is united to the Father. If the Father rejected Christ, he would be rejecting himself. The Father accepts the Son, and if you are in the Son, the Father will accept you as well.
What qualities do you want from a savior that you do not see in Christ? What attribute would you want a savior to have that is different from what Christ has? What superior point of value is lacking in Christ? Can you think of some great thing or even a mere good thing that Christ is missing? Can you think of a respectable or winning attribute that he should have but that isn’t part of his character? Is there some adorable, enduring, or encouraging excellency that cannot be found in him?
Would you want your savior to be great and honorable, since you would have no respect for an impoverished person? Well, is Christ not honorable enough to be worthy of your dependence upon him? Is he not an exalted enough person to handle the honorable matter of your salvation? Do you not want the Savior who is this highly honored?
In spite of his exaltation and dignity, he was also made to experience great humility. He underwent trials and afflictions that he might learn from those things he suffered. He did this so that he could pity people who also suffer and who are also tempted. Has Christ not been made humble enough for you? Has he not suffered enough? Is it not enough for you that he experienced the trials and tribulations that you now experience? Do you also want him to experience the incredible wrath of God that you fear will come upon you after your death? If he experienced that, then he would be able to pity those in danger of it and deeply afraid of it. Well, Christ has indeed experienced that great wrath! Thus he has a thousand times better understanding of it than you or any other living person.
Do you desire your savior to be near to God, so that when he mediates for you, he will win favor with the Father? Is it possible to imagine someone nearer to God than Christ? Christ is the only begotten Son; he is the same in essence with the Father. Who could be closer to God than that?
Do you want your savior not only to be near to God, but also near to you? If he were near to you, then you would have free access to him. Is it possible for Christ to be nearer to you than he is? He took upon himself your same nature when he became a man! But not only this, he is also united to you by way of spiritual union. This union is so close that it is rightly represented by the relationship a wife has with her husband. Its closeness is also pictured in the nearness a branch has to the vine, or a body part to the head. It is considered one and called one spirit. This is how near he is in union with you, if you accept him.
Do you want a savior that provides a great and extraordinary testimony of his mercy and love to sinners? Do you desire this testimony to be based upon his actual actions and not something he merely talks about? Can you think of anything greater than what Christ has done? Can you imagine even one thing greater than what he has accomplished? Was it not a great thing for God to take human nature upon himself and become a man from that time onwards for all eternity? You may be more impressed if there was some savior willing to suffer as a way of loving sinners. But would you desire a savior that has suffered more than Christ has suffered for sinners? What is Christ missing? If you could, what would you add to make him more fit to be your Savior?
In spite of the complete sufficiency of Christ, some still linger without coming to him. You may be one who is slow to enjoy his saving benefits. But why would you hesitate to trust him? It might be that you do, indeed, want to trust him as your Savior, but you are waiting for him to offer an invitation. Some people are like this. They do not wish to intrude upon others unless they have been cordially invited to do so. In the next chapter, you will see that Christ has issued, as both the Lion and the Lamb, the wondrous invitation you are awaiting.
Invitation from the Lion and the Lamb
In the previous chapter, many powerful reasons were provided to encourage you to trust Jesus as your Savior. But it might be that you are awaiting his formal invitation before you trust him. The invitation you have been waiting for has been given, coming from Christ as Lamb and Lion. Consider each of these in turn.
A. Invitation from Christ, the Lamb
Think of the times and ways in Scripture that Christ shows his lamb-like qualities, inviting you to come and trust him. The Lamb of God calls you with sweet grace and kindness:
Proverbs 8:4 To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the children of man.
The Lord uses the same approach here:
Isaiah 55:1 Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
The graciousness of Christ is so clear in this text! He invites everyone who is thirsty, and he repeats his invitation time and again: “Come to the waters…come, buy and eat! Come!” He also declares the excellence of what he offers when he says, “Come, buy wine and milk!” He invites you to enjoy all these things! Furthermore, he assures you that your poverty will not be an obstacle: “Come…he who has no money! Come…without money and without price!” There is nothing for you to pay!
We see the kindness of his invitation in the gracious arguments and persuasive words he uses with you. Let me paraphrase the second verse of Isaiah 55 to show you what God says to you: “Why do you spend your money on things that aren’t real food, and why do you labor for what doesn’t really satisfy you? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.”
It is like he is saying, “It is needless for you to continue laboring and toiling for what does not satisfy you. Stop seeking rest in this world and in your own righteousness. I have made abundant and excellent provision for you that will satisfy all of your desires. I stand ready to accept you and provide the solutions you need. You do not need to be afraid. If you come to me, I will make sure all your needs are supplied, and I will make sure that you are a happy creature.” This is precisely what he promises in the third verse as well:
Isaiah 55:3 Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.
Then there is Proverbs 9! His sweet and gracious invitation is again seen close to the beginning, where it says, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here.” If you were the poorest, most ignorant and blind creature alive, you would still be welcome. Christ has laid out his provisions for you: “Come eat of my bread, and drink the wine that I have mingled.”
You are in a wretched state, famished and starving, unable to find food to feed your perishing soul. Though you have been seeking, you haven’t been satisfied, and you remain destitute. Listen up! Christ is now calling you to eat of his bread and to drink of the wine that he has mingled! Oh, the wonder of how Christ appears as the Lamb in this text:
Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Oh, you poor and distressed soul! Are you afraid you will never be saved? Think about what Jesus is saying! He mentions your very situation. He is calling to people who labor and carry heavy burdens! To you he repeatedly promises to give rest. Here Christ says, “I will give you rest.” Then he promises, “You will find rest for your souls.”
This is exactly what you want! This is the very thing you’ve been searching for but haven’t been able to find! Oh, your rest would be sweet, if you could get it. Come to Christ, and it will be yours. See how he encourages you by representing himself as the Lamb! Are you afraid to come to him even though he invites you in such a meek, humble way? Look how he approaches you in this text:
Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
This is how far Christ lowers himself for you. He not only calls out for you, but he even comes and knocks on your door! He could have sent an officer to seize and arrest you, since you are a rebel, a vile criminal. But instead he comes, humbly knocking at your door. He desires for you to receive him into your house as your friend and Savior.
Notice that he not only knocks, but he also waits. He stands patiently at your door even though your life is backwards and you are unwilling to receive him. Plus, while he is waiting, he makes promises to you about the privileges you will have, if you open the door to allow him entrance. He says that he will “eat with you, and you with him.”
We read more about the tender kindness of Christ here:
Revelation 22:16-17 “I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
It is so amazing how in this text Christ places directly in front of you his winning, attractive, and excellent qualities! See how he condescends so low in order to invite you to come. But the invitation is not his alone. He also declares to you the invitation of the Spirit and the Bride. Anything to encourage you to come! It is so amazing! He invites everyone who has the desire, to come and “take the water of life without price.” Even though it is such a precious gift − it is the very water of life − he invites people to accept it from his hand freely with no cost.
B. Invitation from Christ, the Lion
Now, if you come to Christ, he will be for you not only the Lamb, but also the Lion. As the Lion, you will see his glorious power and dominion, and he will be your defender. All the lion-like qualities he possesses, in all their excellence, will belong to you. That is, he will employ them all for your sake, to defend you and keep you safe. He will promote your glory and fight viciously against all your enemies. If someone touches you or offends you, they are stirring up the wrath of the Lion. Unless they have the power to conquer this Lion, they will never be able to destroy you. They will not even be able to harm you slightly. Unless their strength surpasses the Lion’s strength, they will never be able to hinder your happiness. Read about this great truth here:
Isaiah 31:4 For thus the LORD said to me, “As a lion or a young lion growls over his prey, and when a band of shepherds is called out against him is not terrified by their shouting or daunted at their noise, so the LORD of hosts will come down to fight on Mount Zion and on its hill.”
There is no reason at all for you to reject Christ at this point. He is everything you will ever need, and he has offered to you a most excellent invitation to come and trust him. Therefore, yield yourself to him, the Lion and the Lamb, and accept him as your Savior.
Additionally, you should accept him as your friend. This is the third point of application that we will consider in the next chapter.
Accept Christ as Your Friend
We now continue making application of the doctrine discussed in this sermon. We have learned that Jesus Christ possesses attributes that picture him as both the Lion and the Lamb. These attributes converge in his being and actions in marvelous and admirable ways.
So far we made two applications from this doctrine. First, we should gain insight and understanding into why the Bible employs so many names and titles for Christ, for this is one way to show the many connections of his excellent qualities. Second, we should be encouraged to accept Christ as our Savior. In the next two chapters, we will consider the third and final application.
APPLICATION 3: We should be encouraged to accept Christ as our friend.
You should most certainly accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, but in light of his glorious being and wonderful deeds, you should also choose him as your friend. Everything that has been said ought to motivate you to love him as your closest companion and your greatest reward.
Remember how all the diverse and excellent qualities connect in him. Remember how adorable and admirable he is because of these connections. When you look closely, you will find in him everything that makes him worthy of your love and choice. His excellent nature should most certainly win your love and engage it! Whatever qualities make a friend desirable, Christ has them all to the highest level!
Do you want to choose a friend who has great dignity? People are like this; they want a friend who has a much higher standing than they do. They feel honored when a person of higher standing calls them friend. Think about how a lowly maid would be greatly honored if she were deeply loved by a great, prestigious prince.
Well, Christ is infinitely higher than you. For that matter, he is infinitely higher than all the princes of the earth. He is the King of kings! He is dignified and honored in the highest conceivable way, yet he offers himself to you as the nearest and dearest kind of friend.
Do you want a friend who is not only dignified but who is also a good person? In Christ, infinite dignity and infinite goodness connect! Perfectly! Each of his attributes receives glory and luster from one other. His high dignity is made to shine in an even lovelier way because of his infinite goodness.
If a person lacks goodness, then it doesn’t matter how noble he is. In fact, the greater amount of his nobility, the greater is his evil. Nobility without goodness is not an attractive situation. But if the person has infinite goodness joined together with the highest nobility, then this connection makes the person’s nobility truly adorable and glorious.
It also works the other way around. Christ’s infinite goodness is made all the more illustrious by the fact that he is infinitely dignified and noble. Goodness is an excellent and beautiful quality, and whoever possesses it is also excellent and beautiful. But a person who possesses goodness and who is also great in understanding and ability should be esteemed even higher.
There are some lesser and lower beings, who are not as great or powerful as Christ but who are inclined toward goodness. This is certainly excellent to some degree. But in Christ infinite goodness and infinite greatness are welded together. Thus he should be praised and adored in a much higher way than these lesser and lower lights.
Gold provides a good illustration of this. It is a precious substance and considered extremely valuable. Larger portions of gold are seen as more precious than smaller portions. It is the same when goodness is possessed in larger portions. How wonderful it is when we see the infinite goodness of Christ joined together with his infinite greatness and dignity!
He is the great Creator and supreme Lord of heaven and earth, yet at the same time, he condescends to impoverished, unworthy people, showing them deep pity and mercy. When we consider his almighty power, infinite majesty, and self-sufficiency, it is all the more surprising that he gives such exceeding love and grace. Furthermore, his willingness to stoop to our level and show us compassion helps us understand his qualities of majesty, power, and dominion as pleasant instead of terrible!
Don’t you want a friend like this? Don’t you want a friend who is great and honorable yet full of grace, willing to come to your level? Even though he is so far above you, he has opened a way of free access to him. There is nothing to hinder your free enjoyment of his friendship.
But maybe you want something more in a friend. Sure, you would want your friend to be infinite in greatness and majesty. Sure, even though he is great, you would want his greatness and majesty to be tempered by his willingness to show grace and come down to your level. But maybe you want even more from your friend.
Is it that you want your friend to also be the same kind of being you are, so that he can truly come near and understand you? People are this way. They want a close friend to be highly dignified, as we noticed above, but they also want that friend to be able to share in their particular circumstances. Again, look to Christ to find what you are searching for. Even though he is the great God, he has willingly brought himself down to your level. He became a human being just like you. In doing this, not only is he your Lord, but he is also your brother. He has become a fit companion for a worm of the dust, as people are.
You see, this is one reason Christ took on flesh and became a man. He wanted people to enjoy the benefits of a closer connection with him. The divine nature simply could not allow this type of familiarity, since there is infinite distance between the human nature and the divine nature. This is why, prior to the coming of Christ, God’s people longed for the Incarnation. We see this sentiment in the following verse:
Song of Solomon 8:1 Oh that you were like a brother to me who nursed at my mother’s breasts! If I found you outside, I would kiss you, and none would despise me.
One of God’s purposes in the gospel is to bring us to the place where God is our all in all. He wants our undivided respect. He wants our hearts to be engrossed in every way with him. Whatever natural inclinations there are in our souls, he desires to be the center of them all.
But there is an inclination in our souls as creatures not only to adore a sovereign lord, but also to find joy and satisfaction in a friend. We feel a need to love and delight in someone and converse with them as a companion. This inclination is not squelched or destroyed when a person is seeking to be good and holy. Rather, this is exactly how God intended for our hearts to function, and he has set up the process of redemption so that only a divine person can truly fulfill this need. Our nature is inclined to want a friend, and he has taken upon himself our nature, becoming one of us, in order to be that friend, brother, and companion we need. This is clearly seen here:
Psalm 122:8 For my brothers and companions’ sake I will say, “Peace be within you!”
But maybe you want still more from your friend! Perhaps it isn’t enough to invite you to come to a friend so high in dignity and majesty. Perhaps it isn’t enough to encourage you to enjoy the free access of a friend who has condescended infinitely low in order to show you grace, even taking on your own nature and becoming a man.
Do you want more from your friend that might bolster your boldness to come to him? Do you need more from him in order to win you over? Would you also like for him to be a man of wonderful meekness and humility? Well, Christ exhibits these wonderful qualities perfectly as well! He not only became a man for you, but he became by far the meekest and most humble of all men. Nobody has ever exhibited a greater instance of these sweet virtues than him, and nobody ever will. Furthermore, besides these two qualities, he has every other excellent human quality in its highest degree of perfection!
We should be careful not to misunderstand this. It is not as though his excellent, perfect human qualities were adding something to his divine qualities. Since his divine nature is infinitely perfect in every way, nothing at all can be added to it. So Christ is no more excellent since his incarnation than he was before it. Yet the perfect human qualities he possesses are additional manifestations of his glory. Through these human qualities, he is showing his perfections to us in ways we can grasp. They serve to recommend his love and esteem to creatures that are finite in their ability to comprehend things.
To explain this further, Christ’s perfect human qualities are reflections (or communications) of his perfect divine qualities. In other words, the light of his human perfections is reflected light. Because of this, it falls short of the divine fountain of light, at least in its immediate glory. That being said, his human qualities shine with a reflected light that brings important advantages to us as we observe it and are moved emotionally by it.
But how does this work? The glory of Christ in his perfect human qualities shines to us in attributes that we can readily identify with. They are the kind of qualities that we also can have ourselves and that we can admire in others. We understand them and exercise them in various ways. Thus they function well in attracting our interest and in touching our emotions.
Sure, the glory of Christ as seen in his divine nature (as the Lion) is far brighter and dazzles our eyes. The brightness is so strong that our sight is not even able to comprehend it. But when we see his perfect human qualities (as the Lamb) his glory is brought to us more on our own level. Even though it is still shining with the same divine beauty and sweetness, it is nonetheless also suitable to our nature and ways. Our conceptions are better able to grasp it.
Consider this fact as well: In Christ we see both his excellent divine qualities and his excellent human qualities meeting together. As they meet together, they recommend each other to us. Therefore, when we understand that Christ possesses the human qualities of meekness and humility in their highest degrees, this moves us to adore his divine qualities of majesty and holiness all the more. His great holiness and high dignity are all the more lovely to us when we think that he has become one of us, our brother, in order to give us the right to freely enjoy him. Because he humbles himself by taking our nature and showing great concern for us, he encourages us to look more intently at his divine perfections, no matter how high and great they might be.
This also works the other way around. Christ’s meekness, humility, obedience, and resignation all shine even more glorious when we remember that he is the eternal Son of God. The excellent human qualities we so much admire in him become exceedingly and surprisingly more wondrous when we consider that he is the Lord of heaven and earth!
Taking all this into account, you should choose Christ to be your closest friend. Never could you have any other friend as amazing! When he is your friend and reward, the benefits you reap are beyond comprehension. In the next chapter, we will discuss two of these incredible benefits and bring this sermon to a conclusion.
Amazing Benefits from Our Friend
Having seen in the previous chapter how wonderful Jesus Christ is as a friend, we will now consider two specific benefits of knowing him as a friend. Remember, we can attribute these amazing benefits to the reality that in Christ, diverse and excellent qualities merge together in powerful, admirable ways. Truly, it is only because of who he is, Lion and Lamb, that he can benefit us in the ways discussed in this chapter.
A. Benefit 1: Christ will give himself to you for your full and everlasting enjoyment.
In him all the various excellent qualities we’ve discussed connect together, providing you joy for all eternity. He will always treat you like a dear friend. And you will always long to be with him, to see his glory, and to dwell with him. There will be the most free and intimate communion between you and the Lord, and the level of your joy will be at its highest. When God’s saints arrive in heaven, they will not merely see Christ and serve him as subjects to a glorious and gracious sovereign Lord, but Christ will also entertain them as friends and brethren.
We see this pattern in the way Christ spoke with his disciples while he was on earth. He was their sovereign Lord and as such required their supreme respect and adoration. Never did he refuse the honor and respect they gave him. But he never treated them the way earthly kings often treat their subjects. He did not keep them away at an awful distance from himself. Instead, he held friendly conversations with them, like brothers or like a father among his children. He treated Mary, Martha, and Lazarus with this same tenderness. He called his disciples friends, not servants. And we read of one of them who even leaned back upon his chest.
No doubt if he treated his earthly followers this way, he will also treat the saints in heaven the same. He will not give them less freedom or less affection than he gave his disciples on earth. He will be exalted there, but this will not lead him to keep his people at a greater distance. Rather, he will carry his followers into that state of exaltation with him! This will be the way Christ expands his own glory. He will make his beloved friends partakers with him of it. He will glorify them in his own glory. In the Gospel of John we read these words that Christ spoke to the Father:
John 17:22-23 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them…
Think about this wondrous and incredible reality! Christ is greatly exalted, but not as a private person, for himself only. Rather, he is exalted as the head of a people. He is exalted in their name and for them. He is exalted as the first fruits that represent the entire harvest! He is not exalted in order to be at a greater distance away from them. No, he is exalted so they might be with him.
To illustrate, the head is not exalted and honored in order to separate the head from the bodily members. The members of the body are still in the same relationship with the head as before. They are in union with the head and are, therefore, honored with the head. When Christ is exalted, the distance between him and his people is not increased. Instead, the union between them becomes even nearer and more perfect. When believers arrive in heaven, Christ will mold them into his image and bring them even closer to him. He will sit down on his Father’s throne, and they will sit down with him, becoming like him.
Christ comforted his disciples with these realities. On the day he ascended into heaven, he reminded them that in a little while he would come again. At that time, he promised he would gather them together to be with him again. We are not to think that when those disciples arrived in heaven, Christ kept a greater distance from them than he did when they were together on earth. Not at all! He no doubt embraced his friends and welcomed them into his Father’s house, which is also their Father’s house. He brought them into his glory, which is their glory as well. The ones that were his friends in this world, after their departure, were welcomed by him to that state of rest. While they were together on earth, his friends suffered with him and experienced the troubles of life with him. But now they share in his glory. He led them into the rooms of his Father’s house and showed them all his glory. This is how he prayed for them:
John 17:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me.
He also led them to his fountains of living water where they enjoyed his delightful supply.
John 17:13 That they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
Furthermore, he sat them down at his table in his kingdom. They shared in the wonderful food prepared for them there, just like he promised they would (see Luke 22:30). He led them into his banqueting house where they enjoyed new wine with him in his heavenly Father’s kingdom. He had told them this would happen during his institution of Lord’s Supper (see Matthew 26:29).
Yes, in heaven there will be even more intimacy with Christ than his followers on earth now enjoy. The saints there will have even freer access to him, because in heaven the living union between Christ and his people will be perfect. On earth it is deeply imperfect. The saints of God in the world continue to live in a sinful and dark place. There are many bleak things that separate them from Christ. In heaven all these things will be removed.
While on earth, God’s saints do not have the full experience of Christ’s manifestations of love. These are designed to be enjoyed in the hereafter. When Christ spoke to Mary Magdalene (John 20:17), he seemed to be signifying this reality. She saw him after he had risen from the dead, and she was moving to embrace him, but he said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.”
But in heaven the saints will see Christ’s glory and exaltation. Indeed, this sight will possess their hearts with higher admiration and respect. They will adore him there. However, their awe will not cause them to want to be separated from him. Instead, it will only heighten their surprise and joy. They will be amazed at how Christ condescends, allowing them entrance into his presence. They will enjoy intimate access to him, and he will freely and fully reveal all that he is to them.
So the benefit is clear. If we choose Christ to be our friend and our reward, he will forever receive us. Nothing will hinder our fullest enjoyment of him. The cravings of our souls will be satisfied to the utmost. We will be able to fully gratify our spiritual appetite with all these holy pleasures. Christ will then say to us these words:
Song of Solomon 5:1 Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love!
He will entertain us this way for all eternity, and our great happiness will never end! Nothing will ever interrupt our enjoyment! Nobody will ever be able to even slightly sabotage our joy!
B. Benefit 2: Your enjoyment of God the Father will be much greater than it could ever otherwise be.
Only when you are united with Christ, can your union with the Father become exceedingly glorious. The saints’ relationship to God becomes much closer in Christ, his Son, because they become children of God in a much higher sense. By being a member of Christ, they are in some way sharers of his relationship with the Father. They are certainly sons of God by having been regenerated, but even more, they are sons by a kind of communion in the sonship of the eternal Son. This seems to be the intention of the following passage of Scripture:
Galatians 4:4-6 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
The church is God’s daughter. He has given her birth through his Word and Spirit. But the church is his daughter in another sense. She is also the spouse of his eternal Son. So we who are members of the Son are sharers in the Father’s love to the Son. Each saint partakes of that love in proper measure and finds deep, abiding peace and satisfaction in him. We learn this clearly from these verses:
John 17:23 I in them and you in me…you…loved them even as you loved me.
John 16:27 The Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.
And so it shall be! According to our capacities, we will share in the Son’s enjoyment of God, and we have the fullness of his joy in ourselves (see John 17:13). This is how we will come to an immensely higher, more intimate, and fuller enjoyment of God than we ever could have otherwise.
But it will only happen through Christ. For doubtless there is an infinite intimacy between the Father and the Son, expressed in the Scripture that describes Christ as being in the bosom of the Father. And the saints of God are in Christ. So, to the degree they are capable, they will partake with Christ in this intimacy with the Father, and they will enjoy the blessings of it.
This is the way our redemption works. We are brought to a place of an immensely exalted kind of union with God, both the Father and the Son. In this place we are able to enjoy him and draw closer to him in a way that could not be possible were it not for Christ.
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The Excellency of Christ:
Updated to Modern English
Because Christ has taken on human nature (as the Lamb), we now have the benefits of greater freedom with him and fuller enjoyment of him. If Christ had remained only in the divine nature (as the Lion), we would not be enjoying these advantages. Similarly, because we are united to a divine person, we can be more connected and have a deeper relationship with God the Father, who is only in the divine nature. Without our being members of Christ, who is in the divine nature himself, we simply could not have this depth of relationship with the Father.
To summarize this great benefit: Christ, a divine person, took upon himself our nature and came down low to us from an infinite height above us. In doing this, he brought us the incredible advantage of the full enjoyment of God. This works the other way around as well. Because we are in Christ, who is a divine person, we ascend with him up to God, even though the distance is infinite. Again, this gives us the advantage of the full enjoyment of God.
As a finishing thought to this message, consider that Christ has a final design in all this. He is bringing it to pass that he, his Father, and all his people might be perfectly united as one. He teaches this directly in the Gospel of John:
John 17:21-23 That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one.
Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the sacrificed Lamb, has indeed brought this to pass! Every person given to him by the Father is brought into the household of God, where Christ, his Father, and his people all comprise one society, one family. He has brought about this wonderful reality: The church has gained entrance into the society of the blessed Trinity!