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JESUS IS THE GLORY OF GOD


The Deity of Jesus Christ


John Piper


Christ does not exist in order to make much of us. We exist in order to enjoy making much of him. The assumption of this book is that to know the glories of Christ is an end, not a means. Christ is not glorious so that we get wealthy or healthy. Christ

is glorious so that rich or poor, sick or sound, we might be satisfied in him. The first particular glory that upholds all the rest is the mere eternal existence of Christ. If we will simply ponder this as we ought, a great ballast will come into the tipping ship of our soul. Sheer existence is, perhaps, the greatest mystery of all. Ponder the absoluteness of reality. There had to be something that never came into being. Back, back, back we peer into endless ages, yet there never was nothing. Someone has the honor of being there first and always. He never became or developed. He simply was. To whom belongs this singular, absolute glory?


The answer is Christ, the person whom the world knows as Jesus of Nazareth. The apostle John, who wrote the last book of the Bible, received the decisive revelation. He quotes God: “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty’” (Revelation 1:8). This is not Christ talking. This is the Almighty God. He calls himself “Alpha and Omega”—the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. In the alphabet, one cannot speak of anything (or nothing) before alpha. There is no “before” alpha in the alphabet. Nor can one speak of anything (or nothing) after omega. There is no “after” omega in the alphabet. So it is with God and reality. There is no “before” God and no “after” God. He is absolutely there, no matter how far back or how far forward you go. He is the absolute Reality. He has the honor of being there first and always. To him belongs this singular glory. This is the essential meaning of his Old Testament name Yahweh (or Jehovah). It is built on the verb “to be.” When Moses asked God his name, “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. . . . Say this to the people of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you”’” (Exodus 3:14). This “I am” is unfolded by God in Isaiah as implying absolute, eternal Reality—past and future. “‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD . . . ‘that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no God was formed, nor shall there be any after me’” (Isaiah 43:10). To be “I am” is to be absolutely the first and the last. No “before” and no “after.” Simply “I am.” God makes this explicit in Isaiah 44:6, “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no God.’” And again in Isaiah 48:12, “Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am he, I am the first, and I am the last.” This is his name: Yahweh—the one who absolutely, eternally, and invincibly is. He has the unique honor and singular glory of always having been, when nothing else was. Nor will he be outlasted by anything. This is what it means to be God. What, then, does this have to do with Christ, whom we know as Jesus of Nazareth? Everything. The apostle John quoted Christ near the end of his Revelation: “Behold, I am coming soon. . . . I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. . . . I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches” (Revelation 22:12-13, 16). This is Christ talking, not God the Father. Now, two cannot be “Alpha and Omega” unless they are one. Two cannot be absolutely “first and last” unless they are one. Yet Christ (who calls himself Jesus) claims for himself the same honor and glory belonging to God the Almighty (see also Revelation 1:17-18; 2:8). Christ even took to himself the uniquely glorious name of God, “I am.” “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am’” (John 8:58). “I am telling you this now,” Jesus says to his disciples near the end of his life, “before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am” (John 13:19, author’s translation; see John 8:24). Nothing greater can any man say of himself. It is true, or it is blasphemy. Christ was God or godless.


John knew which. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh . . . the only Son [some translations, “begotten”] from the Father” (John 1:1, 14). Jesus Christ, the “Word,” was “begotten,” not made—and not at any point in time, but eternally. Two Persons standing forth as one God, not two Gods—the “Son” begotten from the “Father,” one essential deity. This is a great mystery, as we would expect it to be. But it is what God has revealed about himself. The apostle Paul also knew the unique glory that belonged to Christ. He is “according to the flesh . . . the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 9:5). Nevertheless, “though he was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:6-7). Therefore, “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9; see 1:19). And we Christians are now waiting not for a mere man, but for “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13; see also 2 Peter 1:1). This is why the writer to the Hebrews is so bold as to say all the angels worship Christ. He is not the chief among angels who worship God. He is worshiped by all angels as God. “And again, when [God] brings the firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him’” (Hebrews 1:6). For he is the Creator of all that is, and is himself God: “Of the Son [God] says,

‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. . . . You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning’” (Hebrews 1:8, 10). Thus the Father bears witness to the deity of the Son. 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” (Hebrews 1:3).


Jesus Christ is the Creator of the universe. Jesus Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. Jesus Christ, the Person, never had a beginning. He is absolute Reality. He has the unparalleled honor and unique glory of being there first and always. He never came into being. He was eternally begotten. The Father has eternally enjoyed “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3) in the Person of his Son. Seeing and savoring this glory is the goal of our salvation. “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me” (John 17:24). To feast on this forever is the aim of our being created and our being redeemed.


A P R A Y E R



Eternal Father, you never had a beginning. You will

never have an ending. You are the Alpha and the

Omega. This we believe, because you have revealed it

to us. Our hearts leap up with gratitude that you have

opened our eyes to see and know that Jesus Christ is

your eternal, divine Son, begotten, not made, and that

you, O Father, and he, your Son, are one God. We

tremble even to take such glorious truths on our lips

for fear of dishonoring you with withering and inadequate

words. But we must speak, because we must

praise you. Silence would shame us, and the rocks

themselves would cry out. You must be praised for who

you are in the world you have made. And we must

thank you because you have made us taste and see the

glory of Jesus Christ, your Son. Oh, to know him!

Father, we long to know him. Banish from our minds

low thoughts of Christ. Saturate our souls with the

Spirit of Christ and all his greatness. Enlarge our

capacities to be satisfied in all that you are for us in

him. Where flesh and blood are impotent, reveal to us

the Christ, and rivet our attention and our affections

on the truth and beauty of your all-glorious Son. And

grant that whether rich or poor, sick or sound, we

might be transformed by him and become an echo of

his excellence in the world. In Jesus’ name we pray,

amen.





Taken from John Piper’s Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, copyright © 2001. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois, 60187. This material is not to be electronically transferred. Down-load for personal use only.