Study Notes: John 12:41-43: The Transforming Glory of God in Christ

Below are some abbreviated notes from my lesson on Sunday.  I say “abbreviated” because I added a lot on the fly that was not written down, so these served more as an outline rather than my usual (rather extensive) written notes.  Nevertheless, I hope they are useful to those who missed class.

PJW

12:41-43 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.

The Power and Purpose of the Glory of God

We are given here an amazing insight as to why Isaiah wrote these things. The reason, John says, is, “because he saw his glory”, and that motivated him to take action and “speak of him.”  It is the overwhelming glory of God on the throne that completely captures Isaiah’s life and mission. Here is the passage from Isaiah 6 where the scene is set in a vision that the prophet had:

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

            “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;

the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:1-8 ESV)

It is in this passage that we see that Isaiah was motivated to go and preach the word of God after being overwhelmed by the glory of God. And so it is that when that glory is revealed to us, when the excellencies of Christ are revealed to us, we are motivated in our spirits to go and serve the Lord.  This is not a motivation in the way we traditionally think of motivation where we see a reward and chase it like a carrot on a stick. This is a motivation fueled by the realization that all other purposes fall short of the ultimate reality of who God is and what He has made us to do. All other realities shrink in comparison to the supreme reality of who God is, and our souls react in such a way that we can’t help but share with others who He is because we are overwhelmed by His greatness.

The Glory Transforms Us

Have you ever wondered what it is that will eventually transform us/how that will happen?  Well Paul tells us: it will be God’s glory that eventually transforms us completely and is transforming us now. It is in “beholding” God’s glory that changes us!  This is why reading Scripture, prayer, and dwelling on the person of Christ is so important.

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

This is what happened to me a few years ago in the Spring of 2010 when I was reading R.C. Sproul’s books ‘The Holiness of God’ and ‘Chosen by God’.  The magnificence of the glory of God overwhelmed me to a point where one evening I got down on my knees at 2am in the middle of my living room and cried.  I realized, through Sproul’s exposition of Isaiah 6 and other similar passages, who God is and who I am. And to then connect that reality with the gospel which tells me that the Man in whom all the excellencies of God are bound up, came to earth and died for my sins, blew me away afresh. A deeper understanding for the character and the glory of God grows not only your love for Christ, but your desire to share that love with others.

Christ is the glory of God

One of the amazing truths of Scripture is that Jesus Christ is the glory of God. If we want to know what God’s glory looks like manifested in a human being, we need not look any further than the only begotten of the Father.

Look at what Scripture says about Jesus:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 ESV)

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. (Hebrews 1:1-4 ESV)

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:15-20 ESV)

It cannot be said enough that if we want to know what it means to behold the glory of God, we ought to begin by beholding the face of Jesus, and the way we do that is by meditating on the Scriptures that talk about who Jesus is.

We are the Reflection of Christ’s Glory (in a manner of speaking)

In a way, we are to be the reflection of Christ to the whole earth. Jesus talks about this in Matthew 5:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 ESV)

This means that as we are conformed to the image of Christ, we are to reflect His image, and love others in a way that reflects how Christ loves us. This is a very large challenge, and one that we really cannot begin to accomplish without His help.

God’s Glory will Eventually Cover all the Earth

We ought to also contemplate what the Bible promises about the future, and in so doing realize that one day the glory of the Lord will cover the entire earth. This was the idea behind God’s mandate to Adam in the Garden – to go and subdue the earth, and essentially expand Eden to cover the entire earth so that God’s glory would be spread throughout the earth. God saw fit to use His creation (Adam) to expand His glory over all the earth even prior to The Fall.

Yet despite the Fall, God still has a plan to renew the earth and has said that through the work of His Son, the Suffering Servant and King of kings, His glory will eventually cover all the earth. This is mentioned in Numbers 14 and below is the passage.  The context is that the people of Israel have just sinned and have no faith that God will give them the land of Canaan because of all the enemies dwelling in the land.  Moses then intercedes on their behalf and God reacts to the intercession of Moses, which is where we pickup the narrative:

Then the LORD said, “I have pardoned, according to your word. But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD, none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it. (Numbers 14:20-23)

Southern Baptist Theologian James Hamilton sees a strong connection between this passage and surrounding passages in Numbers, and the passage in Genesis 3, Genesis 12, 18, 22 and 49 where God promises to crush the head of the serpent with the seed of the woman, and then promises Abraham land, descendents and stipulates that He will bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him. One of the ways that the Lord will extend His glory throughout the earth is through the rule of a King who will bring blessing to all the earth and also victory over the seed of the serpent. This King is Jesus Christ, who crushed the ruler of this world (Satan) through His righteous obedience, cross work and resurrection, and is spreading the glory of God through human instruments (us) throughout the entire world (Matthew 28) just as He first intended for Adam to do. In this way, the curse is being reversed through the work of mankind as we spread the gospel of the glory of God through which His character and love is revealed.  The final consummation of this work will occur when Christ returns in power and the invisible becomes visible (namely His kingdom and authority).

The Glory from Men is not Worth to be Compared to that Glory which will come from God

A very striking statement is made by John in verse 43: “for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”  It is convicting to me how much I personally seek the glory which comes from men rather than the glory which comes from the Father of lights.  Peter briefly talks about this, and emphasizes that during our short life here on earth we will endure many trials, but they all fall away in comparison to the glory that will one day be ours:

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:6-9 ESV)

And so in conclusion I want to point to us to Christ’s instruction in Matthew 6:33:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33 ESV)

There is a glory that comes from men, but it is fleeting and shallow. Let us set our faces toward the heavenly Jerusalem and seek that which is above, which is eternal and unending. Let us act with loving-kindness toward others (as Christ loved us), and let us dwell on the richness and glory that is the Lord Jesus Christ that our minds may be renewed and transformed into His image.

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