Chapter 1: Our Exalted Lord (cont.)
If, therefore, the exaltation of our Lord took place in, and affects only His human nature, it plainly follows that it does not denote a divine power, and that we must carefully distinguish between His power as the Son of God in the divine nature, and the power He exercises in and through His human nature.
The two natures of Christ, though inseparably united in the Person of the Son of God, are never fused or mixed, not even at His exaltation at the right hand of God.
The human nature did not become divine, nor was it made to share in the divine attributes.
The power and authority He has according to His divine nature is original, external, self-existent; the power which He exercises in and through His human nature is bestowed on Him: constantly He receives this power from Him that sitteth on the throne. God did not abdicate His authority, prerogative, and function as the sole governor of the universe. It is not thus, that, before the exaltation of Christ at the right hand, God Himself, by His almighty and omnipresent power, upheld and governed heaven and earth, and all that Is in them; while now, after Christ’s exaltation, He resigned this power and function of providence In favor of Christ. On the contrary, God alone is the creator and sustainer of the universe, who upholds all things by the Word of His power. But He bestows on Christ, the Son in human nature, the wisdom and power and authority, in virtue of which He is able to occupy the position at the pinnacle of that created and sustained and divinely governed universe. As the Catechism expresses it: “by whom the Father governs all things.”
Christ is Lord over all, but as the servant of Jehovah.
He reigns, but as the representative of God, the visible representative of the invisible Sovereign of heaven and earth.
He sways a universal scepter, but in the name of God, and according to His will.
His position is an office, the highest office in the whole universe: He is king-priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
Hence, the power He has as the Son of God in the divine nature is infinite. The power He exercises in and through the human nature, however, is creaturely, even though it is universal: the human nature was not rendered omnipotent. It is the highest possible realization of that lordship, an image of which was seen in Adam’s original position in the state of rectitude. For he, too, was lord of all the earthly creation, yet under God. Dominion was given him over all creatures, yet so, that it was his calling to function as God’s priest, to consecrate all things to Him, and to reign over the works of God’s hands in His name and in strict obedience of love to the Most High. But the first man fell, and became rebellious. He proposed to subject all his domain to the will of the devil, and to press them into the service of unrighteousness. God, however, will give His glory to no other. Only the servant of Jehovah may be king of the universe. For His Lordship must be revealed, even in the lordship of man. And this good pleasure of God was realized in Christ, who in His death and descension into hell revealed Himself as the perfect servant of the most high God, ready to do His will to the very last; and Who therefore is exalted to the highest position in the universe, and functions as Lord at the pinnacle of all created things in heaven and on earth.
And yet, although it is quite necessary so to distinguish between the power of Christ in the divine nature and the power that was bestowed upon Him in His human nature at the exaltation, the two may never be separated, no more than the two natures can ever be conceived as separated from each other.
Such supreme power as was and is bestowed upon the glorified Christ could be given only the incarnated Son of God.
It is the same Son of God, who created all things, and who still upholds and governs all things by the Word of His power, according to His divine nature; who has power and authority, given Him of God, to rule over all created, things, as the visible representative of God’s sovereign lordship.
His divine Lordship flashes through his human lordship.
All things are united under Him, and in Him to God. In and through Him, the kingdoms of the world have become the kingdom of our God!
Chapter 2: The Significance of Christ’s Exaltation.
The power which Christ, as the exalted Lord, exercises, even to the time when He shall come to judge the quick and the dead, is twofold: He rules over all the world by His might, and He rules over His Church by the power of His grace. The Catechism points to this distinction in question and answer fifty-one: “What profit is this glory of Christ, our head, unto us? First, that by his Holy Spirit he pours out heavenly graces upon us his members; and then that by his power he defends and preserves us against all enemies.”
It is very important that we bear this distinction in mind.
If we fail to give ourselves account of this distinction we expose ourselves to the danger of entertaining the erroneous notion that this world is now become the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of God; that by the power of the exalted Lord all the various departments and domains of human life, the home and school, society and the State, will become christianized, or that, perhaps, it belongs to our calling thus to christianize the world and to crown Christ king over all; and that in this way the world will gradually be transformed into the perfect kingdom of God in which all will acknowledge Christ as the universal King.
The result is a very serious deception.
For it is along this line of reasoning that we present our cause, the cause of man, the cause of this world, as if it were the cause of the Son of God. Is not Christ Lord of all? Well, then, let us make Him king! Let us crown Him lord of all! Let us make Him the supreme head of our government, the real ruler of our land, the general of our armies, the head of our associations and unions. Let us fight our wars in His name, and make Him the real president of our peace conferences and world-councils. If we do so, our cause will surely prosper, we will surely gain the victory in our battles, and create the perfect society in which all will enjoy the more abundant life, realize the four freedoms, and attain to the ideal of universal peace and the perfect world!
Thus we will make of this world the true kingdom of God!
This social gospel was and is still being proclaimed in various forms, and by men, too, who are far from believing in Christ crucified and raised, in whom is all our salvation. And the sad thing is that some such view is not infrequently presented by those who claim to be Reformed, and that it is preached as the highest ideal of a Calvinistic faith.
This is a very serious and pernicious error.
For, first of all, it fails to acknowledge the reality of the universal lordship of Christ, and presents the matter as if the kingship of our exalted Christ depends somehow on our efforts, on the efforts of men, for its realization. We must crown Him king! But this is exactly a denial of Christ’s lordship. He is the Lord! He is supreme over all things, not in the sense merely that He has the right to reign over all things in heaven and on earth, but in actual reality. He is Lord, not in virtue of our willingness to acknowledge Him as such, but solely by the sovereign act of God whereby He raised Him to His right hand, and that, too, whether we confess Him as our Lord, or stand in rebellion over against Him. And mark you well, not only in the confession of those that believe in Him, but also in the very rebellion of those that harden their hearts against Him, it is exactly His absolutely sovereign Lordship that becomes manifest and is glorified. For that you confess and willingly bow before Him as Lord is only due to the fact that He sovereignly realized His Lordship in you: for no one can say that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Spirit, His own Spirit. And when, you rise in proud and foolish rebellion against Him, it is again a revelation of His sovereign refusal to translate you into the blessed light of His kingdom.
And, secondly, this view that would enlist Christ for our cause, and make Him king of this world, substitutes the world for the kingdom of God, and is a denial of the antithesis. For after all, the scope of the kingdom of God is strictly limited to the operation of Christ’s own sovereign grace, and outside of that scope there is nothing but the kingdom of darkness. Only where, and in as far as, it pleases Christ to pour out His heavenly graces, where men are regenerated, called out of darkness into His marvelous light, so that they become poor in spirit and mourn, hunger and thirst after righteousness, become merciful, pure in, heart, meek, peacemakers, the salt of the earth, the light of the world,—only in that sphere of grace there is realized the kingdom of heaven. Beyond that sphere no man is able to extend that kingdom in this world. The scope of that kingdom, therefore, is in no wise contingent upon man’s efforts, it is sovereignly determined by the absolute lordship of Christ Himself. He holds the key of David. He opens and no man shuts; He shuts and no man opens. And that key He employs strictly according to the will of His Father, that is, according to the sovereign good pleasure of election and reprobation. And if it pleases Him to translate you out of the power of the world into His blessed kingdom, it is your calling, not to make of this world a kingdom of God but to stand for the cause of the Son of God in the midst of, and in antithetical relationship to a world that lieth in darkness.
Hence, it is important that we clearly distinguish between this twofold exercise of Christ’s supreme lord-ship, that of His power and that of His grace.
O, to be sure, Christ is the Lord supreme!
He is king of His Church, and in and over that Church He rules by His grace, by His Spirit and Word.
Let no form of error deceive you so as to deny this blessed and glorious truth. Nor must the Church of Christ in the world allow any human power or authority to interpose itself between. Him and herself.
There are many in our day that deny this kingship of Christ over His Church. Christ, say they, is the King of Israel, the Jewish nation; but He is the Head of His Church. Israel is the kingdom of Christ, the Church is His body. When His kingdom people rejected Him, and nailed their King to the accursed tree, they were dispersed and sent into exile. However, He will yet return to them, in the end of time, and gather them as His real kingdom-people. And in the interim, while Israel is in the dispersion all over the world, He gathers another people, the Church; and this Church is His body.
They deny the kingship of Christ over His Church.
But this is an error, plainly contrary to Scripture. For God set His king upon His holy hill of Zion, Ps. 2:6. And in the new dispensation it is said to the Church: “But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels; To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.” Heb. 12:22, 23. That “church of the firstborn” is the same as mount Zion, and upon that mount Zion God has set His Anointed as king for ever. In the last part of the first chapter of the epistle to the Ephesians, the apostle writes about the glorious kingship of the exalted Christ Whom God “set at his own right hand in heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet.” And then the apostle denotes the relation and position of that mightily exalted Christ with respect to the Church in the words: “and gave him to be the head over all things in the church.”
To be sure, He is also the head of the Church in the organic sense of the word. The Church is His body. He lives in them, and they live through and out of Him. As the branches live in organic connection with the vine, and bear fruit in that living connection, so the believers are engrafted into Christ, and they have their life In Him. Without Him they can do nothing.
But this does not alter the fact that Christ Is also the head of the Church In the juridical sense: He is her king. And that this is the meaning of the word in Eph. 1:22 is evident, not only from the context which speaks of Christ’s exalted Lordship, but also from the fact that He Is called “the head over all things” In relation to the Church. In the organic sense, He is the head of the church, and the latter is His body. In the juridical sense, He is the head over all things in the Church, and the latter is His domain.
And in this domain He rules by the power of His grace, and, therefore, through His Spirit and Word. It is there that He dwells with His brethren. There, as the Catechism expresses it, “by His Holy Spirit he pours out heavenly graces upon us his members.” For this mighty Lord, when He was exalted at the right hand of God, received the promise of the Holy Ghost, Acts 2:33. And in this Spirit He returned to His Church to dwell in her, and to make her partaker of His wondrous grace. There it is that He opens and no man shuts. There He diffuses His marvelous gifts of grace, of life and faith, of love and mercy, of wisdom and knowledge, of hope and confidence, of hunger and thirst after righteousness and satisfaction, with the bread and water of life, of the forgiveness of sins and sanctification, and of all the fullness of spiritual blessings He has obtained for her by His obedience even unto death, His resurrection, and exaltation at the right hand of God.
And thus He makes us, the members of His Church, His glad and willing servants, citizens of the kingdom of God.
For by nature we are but slaves of sin, enemies of God, children of our father the devil. Sin is enthroned in our hearts, and has dominion over us. Nor have we the power to liberate ourselves from this bondage.
But when He, the mighty Lord, enters into our hearts, sovereignly, by His Spirit, and calls us through the Word of the gospel, the shackles of sin are shattered, the devil dethroned, and His own throne is established in our hearts and minds.
And thus we become willing to acknowledge Him, and it becomes our only comfort in life and death that we are not our own, but belong to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ, Who delivered us from all the power of the devil, and makes us sincerely willing henceforth to serve Him.
Then we Hear His Word, and obey and keep it.
And we represent the cause of the Son of God in the midst of this present world. For we confess that Jesus is Lord over our whole life in all its implications and relationships. He is Lord over our body and over our soul, our mind and will and all our desires, our means and possessions, our wife and children. As our Lord we are determined to acknowledge Him in our home and family life, in respect to the relation between man and wife, parents and children; in all our relationships in the world, in society, in shop and office, as employer and employee; in Church and State. And we proclaim His Word, keep His commandments, and hold fast that which we have, that no one take our crown. All this we do in principle, to be sure. For we are never perfected in this life. The motions of sin are always operating in our members. But even so, we have a sincere desire to walk, not only according to some, but according to all His precepts.
And we are placed in an antithetical position over against the world of darkness.
Such is the revelation of Christ’s mighty Lordship in the realm of grace.
And within the scope of that revelation is the kingdom of God. There Christ is gladly and willingly acknowledged as Lord of all.
However, His Lordship is not limited to this.
He is Lord over all things in the whole world. All things in creation are at His disposal, to use them, for His own end. For by Him “the Father governs all things”. He rules over the brute creation, as well as over all the affairs of men. He reigns over sun and moon and stars, over floods and droughts, over fruitful and barren years, over rain and sunshine. He governs and directs all matters of war and peace, of business and industry, of social and national and international relationships. He rules over the secret intents of the hearts of men, and controls all their plans and counsels. He holds the keys of death and of hell. The course of the four horsemen pictured in the book of Revelation is continually determined and controlled by Him. For it is He that was deemed worthy to open the book with its seven seals, that was on the hand of Him that sitteth on the throne. He rules over the devil and all his demons, over the wicked and all their devices.
For Christ is the Lord!