THE GLORY OF THE CHURCH
In this message we will study a part of the prayer which Jesus offered for His disciples at the last supper.. The little band, consisting of Jesus and the eleven apostles, were about to leave the upper room where the Passover feast had been observed and the Lord's Supper had been instituted. They were about to go into the night, a night which was the most fateful night in all the world's history, but before they would enter into the tragic events of that night and the day to follow, Jesus offered this beautiful prayer for His disciples. These are the very words of Jesus, recorded in the order in which they were delivered by Holy Spirit through the inspired writer, John .
One of the noteworthy things about this prayer is something that should make us all very thankful In this prayer He prayed for each and every one of us who are here today He prayed thusly in verses 20,21, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that you sent Me.” Jesus looked across all the centuries reaching to eternity, and offered a prayer for all those who would be led to believe through the preaching of the word which first was delivered by the apostles. This prayer was for all of us; for all who preach the word and for all of us who have believed the word, since the word we preach and believe came to us from the apostles. He was about to leave this world, and the responsibility to bless the world with the gospel of salvation was to be placed squarely on the shoulders of the apostles. Thus, they needed His prayer.
It is impossible to measure the debt of gratitude we owe to Jesus and those apostles. It should fill our hearts and our lives with devotion, loyalty and faithfulness for the Lord whose concern for us is so great. If the apostles needed God's blessings and watch-care, so do we. It gives us great comfort and hope that no matter how poor we might be, how uninformed, or how little esteemed by the world, nevertheless all Christians were the objects of this prayer in John 17; and we can be absolutely certain, that these petitions reached the throne of grace. This prayer teaches us an important fact that we should often reflect on. Because of what He said in this prayer there is something each one of us can say over and over again as we journey through life. We can say, “The Lord prayed for ME, when death for Him , was but a few hours away.” I want everyone in the audience to repeat out loud these words after me, “The Lord prayed for ME—when
death for Him--was but a few hours away.” Believe that and never forget it.
It will do us all good to consider what Jesus, on His last night on
earth, told God He gave His disciples. One of the things He asked God to do for us was to give us glory. What He was saying was, “Father, glorify all who believe in me through the word of the apostles.” Jesus offered this prayer in verse 22, “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one even as we are one.” This word glory is used several times in this prayer, and it has a remarkable variety of meaning. The word glory is a translation of a Greek word which means honor or beauty. To glorify someone is to honor, beautify or magnify them in some sense.
The word has such a variety of meaning that we need to have our wits about us and read carefully in order to know what is the precise meaning. of the term in a given place. Scripture speaks of the glory of God. In v. 5 Jesus prayed, “Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with you before the world was. “ When He existed in the beginning with God as he Word, He had the same Glory as the Father. But Christ had a different glory when He existed on the earth as Immanuel, God with us. He had to give up some of His glory to become a man. Jesus prayed, “the glory that You gave Me, I have gven them, “ that is the disciples. Thus there is the glory of God, the glory of Christ when He was the Father before the creation; there is the glory of Christ when He was on the earth, and there is the glory of the church.
The glory we are primarily interested in this study is the glory which He said that He gave to His disciples, to the church. Christ said “The glory which You gave Me I have given them.” What is this glory Jesus gave first to the apostles, to His disciples when He was on earth, and then to all disciples who believed on Him through the teachings of the apostles? We know this glory was not the glory Christ had when He was with God in the beginning, before the creation. At that time He was one of the Divine Three in the Godhead. No, He didn't give that glory to the church.
Since Christ gives to His disciples the glory which God gave to Him when He lived here on earth, we must first ascertain what that glory was which God gave Jesus when He lived on earth. If we can find out what God gave Him, we can then know what the glory is that Jesus has given us, for they are one and the same thing.. When Jesus walked the earth as God incarnate, the Bible says He was surrounded with glory beauty, and magnificence. John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelled among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” The apostles said they saw this glory that God gave Jesus. As the Word made flesh God gave Christ exceeding great
glory. What was it the apostles saw?. What the apostles saw the people of northern Palestine also saw. When Jesus came into their midst Matthew 4:16 says, “The people who sat in darkness saw a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death, light has dawned.” What did these people see? They saw the same glory the apostles saw. To people who were living in ignorance, sin and misery, just to see Him and be around Him was like turning on a light in a room of darkness. Jesus was a bright light in a world of darkness.
From what the apostles said about Him and from the impression He made on the common people, it seems to me that a chief part of the glory of Christ when on earth lay in the moral and religious glory of His character His glory was the way He lived. His glory was a beautiful character. His glory was His moral character and religious character. No human being had ever developed such a character. God gave Him this character, and He has given His character to us, and that is our glory on this earth even as it was His glory on earth. Moreover, He has taught how to develop the same character that He had. 2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us how He transfers His glorious character to us The word of God says, : “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” The New Testament is like a mirror reflecting the glory and beauty of Christ's character. As we read and study about Him and continually correct and improve ourselves, as we strive to imitate the way He lived, by this process we are being transformed into the likeness of Christ. This change is sad to be, “ form glory to glory.” The more we become like Him, the more beautiful becomes our character, and thus greater becomes the glory we enjoy on this earth. One thing God gave Him and He has given to His disciples is a beautiful character. Christians differ from other people because they believe differently and live differently. Even the ungodly take a kind of delight in high and noble character.. They have admiration for a life so high they cannot attain to it. That is part of the glory He has given us.
Another aspect of glory that God gave Him, and He has given to His disciples is expressed John 17: 6, “I have manifested Your name to the men whom you have given to Me, and they have kept Your word.” Another glory Christ had on earth was that He knew the name and character of God. As the only begotten Son of God, He was given a knowledge of God's character that no human being has ever possessed. Jesus Christ is the final authority on the subject of God, including His existence and character. The Father gave to His Son on earth all He wanted mankind to know about
the Most High God. His remark, “I have manifested Your name to the men You gave Me out of the world, “ seems to mean that He revealed the Father fully to them. When Jesus lived on the earth, there was a profound ignorance about the true nature and person of God. The Gentile world worshiped imaginary idol gods by the hundreds who didn't even exist. Israel too was ignorant of the true n nature of God. It was revealed to the Son of God that there are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. All three are mentioned in the Old Testament, and it was given to the Son to bring these three Beings out of obscurity and clearly make them known to the world. Furthermore, Jesus knew by his complex nature, He was connected with the second person of the Godhead. Jesus said that He and the Father are One, and Jesus said, “He that has seen Me has seen the Father.” In John 1:18, Jesus said, “No man has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” Jesus was so close to God and had such a vast knowledge of God, He is figuratively said, “to be in the bosom of the Father.”
When Jesus prayed, “I have manifested Your name to the men you have given me, “ it means He revealed to them the true nature of the Godhead, the triune God consisting of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Therefore, we can conclude that the subject of God's nature is now closed; it has been fully explained: and there is no more to k now about the subject. Christ manifested the true nature of God first to the apostles, and they manifested it to the church. If men would see and know the true God, let them look to Jesus, and I would add, let them look to the church, for this truth was revealed to Christians. It is the glory of Christians that they have the truth about the one true God, and by the fact that they are mirrors of the divine character. The present condition of the world leads us to believe that we must change the world's concept of God if we a re to convert it.
I will mention one more glory or honor that God gave to Jesus and Jesus in turn gave to His disciples. Jesus said to the Father in John 17:14, “I have given them Your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world.” A third aspect of Christ's glory, when He walked among men was that the heavenly Father gave to Jesus the words which He wanted declared to all mankind. One of the greatest truths about God in the Christian religion is revealed in Hebrews 1:1,2, “God who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed Heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.” Ever since the first century A..D. the only authentic communications from the heavenly Father have come through Christ. Only Christ has the words of God, and God
speaks through no one else. All of the words in the New Testament are the words of Christ and came to us by the Holy Spirit, who inspired the writers of the New Testament.. Anyone who claims to have a revelation other than the one Christ gave to His disciples is an imposter and must be rejected. Christ received the full revelation of the mind of God. He t was the depository of the divine words of God, and this was part of His glory while on the earth.
Furthermore, Jesus said to the Father, “I have given them the words you have given Me, and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You, and they have believed that You sent Me.'‘ One of the glories Christ has given His church is the complete knowledge of God.. Into their hands the gospel is given. It is the responsibility of the church to manifest the name of the one true God to a lost world. One of the greatest honors bestowed upon the church in the New Testament is recorded in I Tim. 3:15. Paul planned to visit Timothy but was delayed, so he wrote these words to him, “I write to you so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” A greater honor could hardly be bestowed on the church than by calling it the pillar and foundation of the truth. In this figure of speech the church is compared to the great temples the Gentiles built for their gods. It was an open building with a mammoth, majestic roof, supported by great numbers of marble pillars. The temple of Athena in Athens was 228 feet long, l01 feet wide, 60 feet high. The gigantic roof was supported by 52 marble columns or pillars. When Paul said the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth, it means that the church supports and holds up the truth for the whole world to behold. The church, Christ's disciples and God's family, , is she temple of God in the Christian religion. The only Temple God has in the world today is a spiritual temple, the church, and it possesses all truth about God, true religion. and eternal life. The meaning is the church possesses, supports and holds up divine truth in the world. The truth can be found nowhere else but in ghe Bible and the chuch of the living God.. It is the church-- not science, not the Universities and not the wisdom of man. that supports and protects God's truth. . If the world wants to know the truth about God, about salvation, about life in this world, and about life in the world to come, let them come to the church of the living God, for there God has deposited divine truth. It holds this honor so long as it is faithful to the word of Christ and the word of His apostles.