Skip to comments.Covenant Theology: Glorification (Part 1)
Posted on 02/18/2004 12:51:12 PM PST by sheltonmac
Covenant Theology: Glorification
(Part 1 Sermon Number Seventeen)
James E. Bordwine, Th.D.
We are studying the issue of salvation within Covenant Theology. We have been following the ordo salutis as we examine the various parts of our salvation and their relation to one another. Previously, we have studied the doctrines of effectual calling, justification, adoption and sanctification. In this sermon, we will be dealing with the doctrine of glorification.
As we prepare to study the doctrine of glorification, let me briefly review the four preceding elements in the order of salvation. Effectual calling is that act of God whereby, through the Holy Spirit, He awakens and draws the sinner into saving union with Christ. When we speak of God's effectual call, therefore, we mean His supernatural activity in the sinner that enlivens that sinner's dormant heart and makes him a new creature according to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The second element in the ordo salutis is justification. The doctrine of justification refers to that declaration of God whereby the sinner is pardoned, or absolved of guilt, and counted righteous, not according to anything in the sinner, but solely upon the basis of the finished work of Jesus Christ. Primarily, the doctrine of justification has to do with the sinner's standing before God.
The third element is adoption. Adoption is concerned with an act of God whereby the justified sinner is received into the family of God and enjoys all the blessings of sonship. Adoption, like justification, is concerned with a change in the sinner's status. The sinner who is declared righteous in the sight of God, is received by God as a son. Thereafter, the adopted sinner enjoys all the benefits of having God as his heavenly Father, including possession of the Spirit of adoption by which he is sealed unto the day of redemption.
The fourth element in the order of salvation is sanctification. Sanctification is a gracious work of God in which the elect, who have been regenerated and justified, are purified as the Holy Spirit applies Christ's atonement. The doctrine of sanctification deals with the activity of the Holy Spirit as He causes to be manifested in the sinner the implications of our union with the Savior in His death and resurrection.
This leaves us with the final part of the order of salvation, which is the doctrine of glorification. The glorification of the believer is the terminus or finishing point of his redemption; it is that to which all other elements in the sinner's conversion point and lead.
1. The Definition of Glorification
The first question to be answered is, of course, What is the doctrine of glorification? The doctrine of glorification is the Biblical teaching that those who have been called, regenerated, justified, adopted and sanctified will, one day, be confirmed in sinlessness and experience a state of unending joy and blessedness in the presence of God. Don't let that definition go in one ear and out the other! Our glorification is where we are headed; it is that goal toward which we began traveling when God effectually called and regenerated us. The idea that we will one day be done with sin and will dwell in the actual presence of God is overwhelming, but that is the doctrine of glorification.
Earlier in these sermons on the doctrine of salvation, I referred to a passage from Rom. 8 as Biblical grounds for conceiving of an ordo salutis. I would like to return to that chapter and read vv. 29, 30:
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; 30 and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
In context, these verses describe the entire event of conversion, from election before the foundation of the world to final and full sanctification in Jesus Christ, which is glorification. I want to say a few words about the term translated glorified in order to help us understand the doctrine of glorification. The Greek term used is one that is familiar; it is doxazo. This word means to praise, extol, magnify, to honor, to hold in honor, to render excellent, to cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest and acknowledged. These meanings clarify for us what the doctrine of glorification aims to convey. The end of a believer's journey is his revelation as the peculiar treasure of God, a treasure that is honored, dignified and of great worth. Glorification marks the completion of Christ's work of redemption as the believer stands before God having been awakened from sin's deadly slumber, having been given a new heart and having been purified completely in soul and body.
We can hardly say these things about our coming glorification without being reminded that there is more to this matter than the exaltation of human beings. We cannot fail to think of our Savior when we consider our coming glorification; we cannot fail to think of our merciful God when we contemplate our glorification. We cannot think that the praise and honor associated with our glorification is due to our labors; we cannot think that the excellence and dignity that is to be revealed in us one day will come as a result of our efforts. What I'm saying is that the doctrine of glorification includes as the objects of praise and honor our Savior and our heavenly Father. In other words, our glorification will be their glorification; our honor will be their honor. The completion of that good work begun in us by God will result in praise for Him. Our appearance in the state of glorification is not intended for our praise; it is intended to bring forth praise for our great God as the final results of His wonderful plan of redemption are manifested for all to see.
I want to look at two passages that will show the connection between our glorification and the greater glory of our Savior and heavenly Father. I'll begin with Eph. 1:1-14:
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, 8 which He lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fulness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation-- having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.
What I want us to notice in this marvelous passage is how Paul describes the purpose of our redemption in Christ. After his customary greeting, the apostle immediately declares the blessedness and praise of God for what He has done in Christ Jesus. It is God our Father, Paul writes, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing and who chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. (vv. 3, 4) With God's love as a foundation, Paul continues, we have been adopted as sons through the Savior (v. 5). And notice the purpose for which God has done these things: ...to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. (v. 6)
The ultimate end of our redemption, the decisive aim of our salvation, is the praise and glory of God. Our eventual glorification, when the redemption of all of God's elect is complete and they are assembled before Him in their new, heavenly bodies, will result in God being praised, honored and magnified. Our glorification, once again, will be God's glorification, God's honoring and God's exaltation, for He will be shown to be a sovereign, loving, merciful and just God in an unparalleled manner. The gathering of the fully sanctified and glorified Church of Christ will be an event unlike anything ever witnessed in all of God's creation, throughout all time; it will be an event unsurpassed for its stunning beauty and its atmosphere of rejoicing.
Paul continues and describes in more detail the method of our redemption. We have been redeemed through [Christ's] blood; in the Savior, Paul says, we have the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the working of God's grace (vv. 7, 8). Christ is the central figure in God's plan of redemption; it is God's will that Christ's work of atonement be the galvanizing accomplishment that brings restoration and wholeness to heaven and earth (vv. 9, 10). The apostle speaks of an inheritance that is reserved for those who have been the objects of God's saving activity (v. 11); this inheritance is all that the believer receives in Christ in this life and in the life to come.
Paul then makes another summary statement concerning God's redemption of us: to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. (v. 12) Paul is teaching that God's plan for our redemption was conceived in eternity past, was comprehensive and includes the destinies of all His children; and the completion of this plan is designed to bring praise and glory to God. Even though believers will experience this plan as it unfolds in history, and even though they will know the joy of forgiveness, and even though they are the ones being delivered from damnation, these are not ends in themselves for the plan of redemption. The plan of redemption, I repeat, has as its goal the magnification of God's glory and greatness. Our glorification, therefore, can only result in praise being heaped upon God for what He has done.
The last two verses of this passage repeat this truth. Having believed the gospel, the Ephesians were sealed in [Christ] with the Holy Spirit of promise. (v. 13) The abiding presence of the Holy Spirit is a pledge from God that a complete and full redemption is coming (v. 14). This complete and full redemption is the glorification of the believer in body and soul as I've described it earlier. At the same time, and ultimately more important is the fact that the glorification of the believer in soul and body will be to the praise of [God's] glory. This is a stirring thought. The day is coming when the dead in Christ will join those of their brethren who are alive on the earth and they, together, will be reunited with their transformed bodies. In that blessed state, they will join with the angels in declaring the praise and glory of God.
A second passage comes from the first chapter of 2 Thessalonians. I'll read vv. 3-10 and comment briefly on certain things said here by Paul:
3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; 4 therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. 5 This is a plain indication of God's righteous judgment so that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. 6 For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed-- for our testimony to you was believed.
These opening words of Paul are intended for encouragement. The Thessalonian believers were experiencing some form of persecution, which appears recently to have intensified. Paul takes note and offers these words of support as their struggle continued. His purpose, at this point in the letter, is to assure the Thessalonians that their grief and hardship were not unknown to God and would be addressed by Him. It also is evident that the apostle thought highly of these Christians. Paul witnessed a transformation in these people as the gospel and the Holy Spirit arrived and took up residence in their hearts.
With this background of God's certain work in the hearts of these people, Paul teaches the Thessalonians patiently to endure their persecution, for it is God's method of refining their faith and equipping them to reside in His kingdom (v. 5). The apostle wants these suffering Christians to understand, however, that even though God is allowing them to pass through trials and even though He is using these trials for the good of the Thessalonian believers, He will, in the end, bring swift and sure judgment upon those who afflict His people (v. 6).
This swift and sure judgment will occur when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (vv. 7, 8) A great Judgment Day is coming, Paul declares; and on that Great Day, the enemies of Christ's people, who are, in fact, the enemies of Christ, will face the wrath of King Jesus and the end of that Day will witness the destruction of all those who have refused to obey the gospel (cf. v. 9). The momentary affliction of these Christians was being used by God to purify them and their enemies would receive a just response for their actions against the redeemed.
For our purposes, what Paul says next is significant. Christ will come, the apostle writes, to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed. (v. 10) Here, then, is a statement that makes the final deliverance and transformation of the people of God a matter of praise for Christ. The consummation will bring about the judgment of all of Christ's enemies and the completed restoration of His people; together, these elements will result in the Savior receiving adoration, praise and glory from all the redeemed and from the elect angels; He will be the object of our eternal thanksgiving and worship. Once again, therefore, we have to say that our glorification will be His glorification; our honor will be His honor. The final state of the redeemed will demonstrate what always was the goal of God's plan of salvation: the exaltation of our heavenly Father and our blessed Savior, Jesus Christ.
In the doctrine of glorification, then, we understand that the final transformation and purification of the people of God is not an end in itself; it will be the cause for heavenly celebration and for honoring our God and Savior. We will know sinlessness and we will inhabit a body prepared for our new existence, but the focus of that Day, if I may use this term, will be the God of all grace and His Son, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us.
For our application, I want to stress something that is implied as we study the doctrine of glorification. What is implied is that there is a sense in which our salvation is not yet complete. Biblically, we find our redemption described as having occurred and, at the same time, as not yet having been completed. The doctrine of glorification gives us a good opportunity to explore this idea. The believer can say that he truly has been called, regenerated and declared righteous, but he cannot say that he has experienced the completion of the redemptive process. The believer is forgiven and has had the righteousness of Christ imputed to him; he has been adopted into the family of God and enjoys the benefits that accompany that status. But we have yet to experience the last phase of our salvation and that is our confirmation in sinlessness and the resurrection and transformation of our bodies. The believer is bound for heaven just as surely as if he were already there, but, nevertheless, his salvation will not have been completed until, in his transformed body, he is assembled with all the redeemed of all ages in the presence of God.
I'm deliberately stressing this point for a reason. I'm not saying that we are not saved until we experience glorification; I'm not saying that there is anything insufficient about our status here and now. What I'm saying is that we need a grander vision of what our salvation is all about. We need to understand that the Scripture teaches that there is more to come, that what God has begun, He is going to complete. And the completion of our conversion experience is going to be something never before seen in this universe. God did not cease to work in us at the point of our calling and regeneration; God did not cease to work in us upon His declaration of our justification or our adoption into His family. Those acts of God marked the beginning of our redemption; those acts of God set in motion a larger and more extensive work, which is the eventual recreation of us, body and soul.
When we think of our salvation from this perspective, that is, from the perspective that, in a sense, our salvation is still happening as we live our lives and as God patiently and sovereignly leads us to maturity, then our perspective on life will be changed. Imagine that the day is coming on which you are going to be among a multitude that no man can number; and this multitude will be gathered in the presence of God; and this multitude will consist of sinners who have been purchased by the blood of God's Son. The sinners who make up this multitude will have been confirmed in sinlessness and will have taken up residence in new, incorruptible bodies. Now that is something to look forward to! What happens on that day is going to leave us totally astonished, totally awe-struck, unable to do anything except praise God and magnify His great name. The sight of this redeemed and recreated multitude is going to be more than earthly eyes can bear, more than earthly minds can grasp.
How many of us are living with this perspective on our salvation? How many of us are living with this perspective on life itself? This perspective puts everything else into perspective! This perspective lets us see our few brief years on earth for what they area few brief years! This perspective keeps us from becoming too attached to this temporary place; it keeps us from laying up for ourselves treasure here and causes us to lay up for ourselves treasures in that place where we are going to spend eternity. With this perspective on our salvation, what this life has to offer will be seen as the empty, ultimately worthless rubbish that it is; with this perspective, even death can be dismissed with a wave of the hand.
The day is coming on which we are going to be revealed as the peculiar, beloved and protected treasure of our Father in heaven. The day is coming when He is going to announce to all creatures in heaven and on earth that we are His beloved. The day is coming when the whole redeemed humanity is going to stand before God spotless and arrayed in heart-stopping beauty. There is nothing in this life that can compare to that, there is nothing that we might face in this life that can lessen our expectation of that day of glorification. The only problem that this doctrine ought to cause for us is this: it ought to make us so eager for the day that we have trouble concentrating on anything else in the meantime.
What is most thrilling about this doctrine is that what I've just described is not even the most remarkable part about the day of glorification. What's going to happen to us is not even the most astonishing element of that day. What is even more marvelous, what is even more humbling, what is even more a cause for anticipation is what is going to happen with reference to our dear Savior and our loving heavenly Father. On that day, our Savior finally will be shown for what He is; He finally will be acknowledged by all as the Savior-King who gave Himself for His people, who suffered and died for them and who reigned over them as an all-powerful and benevolent Monarch throughout history. The kind of praise that we would like to give to our Savior will be given to Him on that day; the kind of thanksgiving that we would like to express to the One who died for us will be expressed on that day. What a day that will be!
And on that day, our heavenly Father who determined to call us to Himself, who sent His own Son to become one of us, will receive the adoration of the new humanity. The heavens will ring with our praise on that day; and God will be exalted before us and we will behold Him and we will raise our voices and our hands as we cry out to Him in joy. On that day, the magnificence, the wisdom and the power of our heavenly Father will be obvious to all. What a day that will be!
Conclusion (Preparation for the Lord's Supper)
The sacrament that appears before you this day is, of course, a portrayal of our Savior's death for us. That death sealed our destinies; that death makes certain the coming day of glorification. Therefore, this sacrament properly directs our attention not only to what has happened, but also to what is to come. We eat and drink these elements now, but the day is coming when we no longer will need these symbols, for we will be with our Savior in heaven. A grand celebration of all the redeemed from all the ages is planned. On the day of glorification, that celebration will take place. Receive these elements as confirmations of your place in that celebration; receive them in anticipation of the completion of God's work in you.