Thursday, November 26, 2015

Phrases That Jump Out At You

This one did:

“Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.”

The three words that stuck in my head are “for OUR glory”.

The Mystery and the Glory

Hmm. I can understand how a secret and hidden wisdom might be to the glory of God, but in what sense is this hidden wisdom for our glory? Commentators deal well with the earlier part of the verse but frequently gloss over this aspect.

William MacDonald, for instance, says of this passage:
“A mystery is an NT truth not previously revealed, but now made known to believers by the apostles and prophets of the early Church Age. This mystery is the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory. The mystery of the gospel includes such wonderful truths as the fact that now Jews and Gentiles are made one in Christ; that the Lord Jesus will come and take His waiting people home to be with Himself; and that not all believers will die but all will be changed.”
That would explain the mystery aspect, but not the glory.

The Meaning of Glory

In scripture, glory is a pretty broad term. It can mean an exalted position. It can refer to possessions. It can refer to strength or wisdom. It can refer to the qualities of patience or mercy. It may be translated “brightness” or connected with splendor, as in the sense of adornment.

One commentator has an idea what Paul might be after specifically here:
“Paul gives an indication of what he means here by glory when he writes, ‘Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father’ (Rom 6:4). Thus, it means sharing the life of God.”
— John H. Wright, Divine Providence in the Bible
If this is correct, then the “glory of the Father”, at least in this context, is the force or energy by which the Lord Jesus arose out of death and went forth into new life and, by extension, the means by which, like him, those of us in Christ will one day be transformed.

Resurrection Glory

I think Wright is probably correct about this, since if we jump forward to the end of 1 Corinthians, we find Paul talking about the fact that we will share in the life of God in resurrection glory:
“There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.

So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory.”
Here “glory” is set in contrast to our current state of “dishonor”. The word translated dishonor is used elsewhere to convey shame, reproach, the absence of recognition or impermanence.

The Hope of the Believer

Our destiny is the opposite of this: Our shame will become exaltation. Our reproach will turn to confidence. Insignificance will become commendation. That which is currently temporary and corruptible will live forever. Everything dishonorable and temporary finds its antithesis in resurrection glory. The life of God mediated to us through our unbreakable association with his Son will transform man forever.

“None of the rulers of this age understood this,” Paul goes on, “for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” Indeed, for it is in the person of Christ that man becomes glorious.

Only those in Christ and in whom Christ dwells can confidently claim that hope.


  1. So you are differentiating, or also allowing for, between confidently claiming that hope and not confidently claiming that hope?

    As in going to church, or being in prison, or being in prison but attending services there.

    Or are you saying that if you claim that hope then it can always be done confidently?

  2. The apostle John talks about having confidence in the hope of resurrection. He says he has written "to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life" (1 John 5:13). So our confidence is based on the word of God mediated to us by the Spirit of Christ in us.

    Now of course Christians do not always display this confidence. It's possible, I think, to exercise genuine belief in a very tentative way. Maybe it's even a common experience where the word of God is not clearly taught. But I don't think it has to be, provided we receive with faith what God has said.