IV. The glorified Christ in the letters of Paul
The glorified Christ and Paul's Service
All the apostles had seen the Lord. In a certain sense, all the apostles had also been sent out by a glorified Christ (Eph. 4:11). But the great difference in Paul's case was that the glorified Lord had appeared to him. This was the starting point of his mission, not a sending out on and from the earth, as with the Twelve. Paul had not disobeyed the "heavenly face" (Acts 26:19).
glorified Christ was thus the starting point for Paul's ministry. This appearing of Christ to Paul on Damascus Road, was not only a historical peculiarity, but this circumstance would characterize Paul’s ministry. Christ in glory and our union with Him - this is a central theme in his letters. Peter and John also speak of the man in glory, but not as their central theme. We find this especially with Paul. The following focal points can be identified:
- Paul is primarily concerned with the present glory of Christ in heaven;
- Peter is primarily concerned with the coming glory of Christ, especially in his appearing;
- John focuses on the personal glory of Christ.
There is a certain amount of divine irony in the fact that God calls Paul, of all people, to this particular ministry. Paul – still called Saul until Acts 13:9 – had been the most determined opponent of the glorified Christ. He was already present when Stephen gave his testimony to Christ in glory. He had guarded the clothes and – as it is expressly stated – had consented to the killing. He had, as he had to learn, "persecuted" the glorified Christ (Acts 9:5). And the Lord chooses him, this great opponent, and makes him a "chosen vessel", the chief proclaimer of his name before "nations, kings and the sons of Israel" (Acts 9:15). It was precisely his life's task to "to proclaim the unfathomable riches of Christ" (Eph. 3:8).
It almost reminds one of Haman, the implacable enemy of Mordecai. He was the one who had to describe the glory of Mordecai: "And Haman said to the king: And Haman answered the king, For the man whom the king delights to honour, let the royal apparel be brought with which the king arrays himself, and the horse that the king rides upon, and on the head of which the royal crown is set; and let the apparel and horse be delivered into the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes, and let them array the man whom the king delights to honour, and cause him to ride on the horse through the street of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honour!“ Haman thought he was that man. But then he hears the king's words: "Make haste, take the apparel and the horse, as you have said, and do so to Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate: let nothing fail of all that you have said." (Esther 6:7-10). Of course, there is a crucial difference between Haman and Paul. Paul became – by God's grace – a voluntary, joyful and conscious preacher of the glory of Christ.
Paul’s writings give us ample opportunity to look to, or even into, the open heaven. At the same time we want to ask ourselves the question: To what extent does this look give us new strength? The following sections will highlight some of the facets of the wonderful panorama that opens for those who are willing to look up.
The glorified Christ and the Epistle to the Romans
If we now take a look at some passages in the Epistle to the Romans, then a brief preliminary remark is in order: Of course, the actual subject of this letter is the gospel, the salvation of God (Rom. 1:1, 9, 15 etc.), not so much the glorified man in heaven. Nevertheless, this letter is important and revealing for our theme. Let us take an example. In Romans 4 verse 25, it is about Christ as the risen one (not directly as the glorified and exalted man in heaven). But when we look into the open heavens and see the glorified Christ there, we immediately realize that He lives and that He is risen! And so it is obvious that the tremendous insights of which Paul speaks of in the Epistle to the Romans are connected with Him.
In short, when we see the man in glory, this look tells us that our miraculous salvation is based on Him, and that we could receive all the blessings of the gospel only through Him.
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