Presenting Every Man Perfect, Part 1 (Mike Riccardi)

Colossians 1:28-29   |   Sunday, May 13, 2018   |   Code: 2018-05-13-MR


Presenting Every Man Perfect, Part 1

The Scheme and Substance of Discipleship

Colossians 1:28–29

 

© Mike Riccardi

 

Introduction

 

At the end of the month, I’ll be heading to New Zealand for the Impact Bible Conference at Riverbend Bible Church in Hastings. I’ll be speaking alongside Chris Mueller, whom many of you are familiar with, and the theme of the conference is “Follow and Lead.” We’ve been asked to consider what Scripture has to teach us about discipleship in and through the local church. And as I’ve been preparing for that conference, I thought it was a good idea to preach those messages to GraceLife as well. So we’re going to take a brief hiatus from 2 Corinthians and consider the theme of discipleship. 

 

And as I thought about the angle from which I’d dig into discipleship, I couldn’t help but to be drawn to the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul. If there was anyone apart from the Lord Jesus Himself whose life embodied the most passionate commitment to discipleship, it was Paul the Apostle of Christ Jesus. His was a life wholly devoted to the Great Commission that His Lord left with His disciples: to go and make disciplesof all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all that Christ commanded. And apart from the glorious Person of the God-man Himself, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the Apostle Paul lived the most fascinating and exemplary life in human history. Pastor John—who is, I believe, the closest approximation to the Apostle Paul ourgeneration has seen—has often been asked who he regards as a mentor in the ministry, and he’s consistently responded that his mentor—his hero in the faith—is the Apostle Paul.

 

And I understand that sentiment. As I’ve preached through Philippians and 2 Corinthians over the past six years here in GraceLife, I’ve begun to know the rich blessings of carefully studying the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul. I’ve often thought that if I don’t make it through the entire New Testament like Pastor John has, I’d be content just preaching the Pauline epistles! In Paul’s letters, the great doctrines of the Gospel are expounded upon in unequaled detail. We learn about the great significance of the events of the life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus—significance that we wouldn’t have understood even if we were eye-witnesses to those events. It’s in these epistles that we learn the pattern of sound words which we are to hold to and pass to the next generation of followers of Christ. We learn how to conduct ourselves in the household of God, how to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel, to live in a way commensurate with our high calling in Christ. And we learn all of that against the backdrop of tireless commitment to the ministry of the Gospel throughout the entire known world. 

 

And from our studies of just two of those letters, we’ve seen clearly that the Apostle Paul was a drivenman. His faithful devotion and commitment to the ministry that the Lord had entrusted to Him is unparalleled. It would be one thing for a servant of Christ to carry out the ministry Paul was called to in relative comfort and ease. But to do it in the midst of the constant conflict and crippling suffering is nothing short of amazing. And if there was ever a phrase that you could write over the life of the Apostle Paul, I think it would be: Joyful, enduring ministry in the midst of affliction, by the grace of God. Paul suffered immensely for the sake of the Gospel. He was well-acquainted with affliction that came as a result of his ministry. 

 

And again, we’ve been well-acquainted with that in our studies here in GraceLife, especially with all of those catalogs of his sufferings in 2 Corinthians. In chapter 4, verses 8 and 9, he says, “We are in all things afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down.” Verse 10: “Always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus.” Verse 11: “For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake.” Chapter 6, starting in verse 4: “In everything, commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, [and] in hunger.” And in chapter 11, verses 23 to 27, we have that famous list that we’ve reviewed a number of times. He speaks of labors and imprisonments, being beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times thirty-nine lashes. Three times beaten with rods, once stoned, three times shipwrecked.  Dangers from rivers and robbers, from Jews and Gentiles, in the city, in the wilderness, and on the sea. He speaks of sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, in cold and exposure.” And then in verse 28 he says, “Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?” It wasn’t just the physical, external trials! On top of that, there was the internal heart-concern for the spiritual well-being of all the believers! 

 

And if there’s anything that this teaches us, it’s that ministry is work! It’s that genuine Christian ministry is always going to be attended with the suffering inflicted by a world hostile to Christ and His Gospel, and by a church that still struggles with the presence of remaining sin in the flesh. And so Paul could write in Philippians 1:29, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” And in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” 

 

Now, in light of all of that—afflictions, persecutions, hardships, burdens, labors, beatings, imprisonments, and so on—I want you to consider: What drove Paul to endure all of this affliction? “Paul, why are you doing all this? What’s all this for?” What was it that animated Paul? What was the great purpose for all of these great labors? What was he trying to accomplish that was worth all of that suffering? 

 

Well, we find that Paul answers that very question in Colossians chapter 1, the text that will be our focus for these several messages on discipleship. In Colossians 1:29, Paul writes, “For this purposealso I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.” Don’t you just love when Scripture does that? You ask, “Why does Paul labor and strive like this?” And then you run into a sentence that says, “For thispurpose I labor and strive.” And when we back up to verse 28, we find out that the “this purpose” for which Paul labors and strives in all his ministry endeavors is discipleship. If you’re there in your Bibles, follow along with me as I read Colossians 1:28–29. “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so thatwe may present every man complete in Christ. For thispurposealso I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.”

 

This is Paul’s philosophy of ministry. This is what his ministry is abou.t. This is his purpose. This is the animating principle behind all his endurance in ministry even in the midst of the sorest and most burdensome afflictions. He wants to see everyChristian made complete in Christ—to be brought to perfect maturity and complete conformity to the image of Christ.

 

Now, you may be saying, “But what does all this about the Apostle Paul have to do with me? I’m not an apostle. I’m not called to be a missionary to the known world like Paul was. I’m not even in full-time vocational ministry! I’m just a layman—just a member of my church, raising my kids, and trying to be faithful to Jesus.” Well, we’ve said it several times through 2 Corinthians: no matter who you are or how you make a living, if you’re a Christian, you have been called to ministry. If you are a partakerof the New Covenant in Christ, you are a ministerof that New Covenant (2 Cor 3:6) If you have been reconciledto God through Christ, then you have been called to the ministryof reconciliation on behalf of those who stand yet in enmity against Him (2 Cor 5:18). You are all called to ministry! 

 

And therefore, your philosophy of ministry—your understanding of what ministry is and how it is to be accomplished—ought to be the same as Paul’s philosophy of ministry. He is the servant of Christ par excellence. And there is perhaps no other text where Paul so explicitly identifies his philosophy of ministry than in these two pregnant and power-packed verses at the end of Colossians chapter 1. 

 

These verses show us that Paul’s philosophy of ministry revolves around discipleship—around the goal of presenting every Christian complete in Christ. And so, again, as I pondered how I might best capture what Scripture says about discipleship in the local church, I decided to dive deeply into these two verses, and, through them, into the rest of the Scriptures, and to wring out as much truth and instruction and blessing as the Lord enables us to get. And in these two verses, we find five elements of Christian discipleship—five elements of Christian discipleship that will equip us to faithfully engage in the work of the Lord’s Great Commission to make disciples of all the nations. 

 

And I’ll give you those five elements up front, so you know where we’re going. In Colossians 1:28–29, we find (1) the schemeof discipleship, (2) the substanceof discipleship, (3) the scopeof discipleship, (4) the strainof discipleship, and (5) the strengthof discipleship. The scheme, the substance, the scope, the strain, and the strength. And I trust the Lord will help us as we work through these. But this morning, we’re only going to get through first one and a half.

 

I. The Scheme of Discipleship (v. 28c–29a)

 

So let’s jump in. The firstelement of discipleship that we find in this text is one I’ve already introduced a bit. And that is, number one, thescheme of discipleship. You could also call it the goalof discipleship, or the purposeof discipleship, or the aimof discipleship, but none of those words start with S like the rest of my outline, so I chose scheme.And we see this, specifically, in the last part of verse 28 into the first part of verse 29. Look with me again: “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so thatwe may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor . . . .” This note of purpose is absolutely clear: “so that,” “for this purpose.” Presenting every man complete in Christ was the driving purpose in all of Paul’s ministerial labors.

 

But what exactly does it mean to be “complete in Christ”? Is there something incomplete about our salvation? Aren’t we complete in Christ from the moment we’re united to Him by faith? Don’t we lay hold of every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ the moment we are in Christ? Well, it’s true that every spiritual blessing is comprehended in Christ, and that the moment that we are united to Him, everything that is His becomes rightfully ours as well. So Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:30, “By His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.” The moment we are placed into Christ Jesus, all of those blessings become ours by divine right. 

 

But we come to actually possess those blessings in different ways. When we turn from sin and trust in Christ, He becomes our righteousness in justification—not by actually making us righteous, but by declaringus righteous on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ. Immediately upon conversion, we possess justifying righteousness perfectly and completely. But the way He becomes our sanctification is a bit different. We are not perfectly or completely sanctified all at once at conversion. No, God has ordained that our sanctification be a process, progressing through stages of ongoing transformation throughout our Christian life. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says we’re being transformed into the image of Christ “fromglory toglory,” or, “from one degree of glory to another.” We make progress over time, which will finally culminate in perfect sanctification only when we see Christ face to face (cf. 1 John 3:2). And so it’s in that sense that we are “incomplete.” Our sanctificationis incomplete. We are not yet perfect.

 

And that’s how some of the English versions translate the Greek word teleios in Colossians 1:28. As I read to you, the NAS says, “complete.” The ESV has “mature”—“that we may present everyone maturein Christ.” The New King James and the NIV have: “that we may present every man perfectin Christ.” And so there’s a question as to how we understand this. Is this maturity, which is attainable in this life, or is it perfection, which is only attainable in the next? 

 

Well, on the one hand, Scripture uses this word to speak of one who is “wholly devoted” to the Lord. In 1 Kings 8:61, as Solomon’s blesses the congregation of Israel at the dedication of the temple, he exhorts them, “Let your heart therefore be wholly devoted to Yahweh our God, to walk in His statutes and to keep His commandments.” And in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, our word teleiosis the word translated as “wholly devoted.” Elsewhere in the Old Testament, teleiosspeaks of blamelessness and blemishlessness. In Genesis 6:9, Noah is called teleios—blameless in his time as he walked with God. In 1 Corinthians 2:6, Paul says he speaks wisdom “among those who are mature.” And so there are several contexts where the word is used to speak of something that does seem to be attainable in this life.

 

But then there are several other contexts that indicateteleiosrefers to the genuine perfection that will only be attained when Christ returns to gather His church to Himself. For one thing, it’s the word used in Matthew 5:48, where Jesus says, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Further, though the word isn’t used, the same concept is at play in 1 Thessalonians 3:13, where Paul says that Christ will “establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the comingof our Lord Jesus with all His saints.” And again in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Paul prays, “Nowmay the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the comingof our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

 

And this understanding of completeness, or perfection, in Colossians 1:28 is only strengthened when you consider the connection to verse 22. There, Paul speaks of the reconciliation Christ accomplished on the cross, as well as the ultimate end of that reconciliation. He says, “He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach.” You see, Christ hasn’t saved us so He could leave us in the state that we were already in! He’s justified us so that He can sanctify us! And the purpose for which the Lord has reconciled His people is the very same purpose for which Paul labors in ministry: that all the Lord’s people would be presented before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—that every man would be presented complete in Christ. 

 

This goal of complete sanctification is never attainedin this life, but it is most certainly pursuedin this life. Paul says that very thing of his own fight for holiness in Philippians 3:12. He says, “Not that I have already obtained itor have already become perfect,”—Paul says, “I’m not teleios!” And if there was ever anyone we could ever expect to be the kind of “complete” that you attain beforeglorification, it’d be the Apostle Paul! But he says, “I haven’t obtained that.” “But I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” And then he repeats himself: “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” This was all-consuming in Paul’s life. He knew he would never be perfected before he went to heaven. But that thought didn’t at all hinder him from the most aggressive pursuit of completeness in Christ.

 

This is sanctification. This is what Paul is after. This is what he spoke about in Romans 8:29: “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.” Sanctification is becoming increasingly conformed to the image of Christ. It is increasing likeness to Christ. 2 Corinthians 3:18 summarizes sanctification as well. It says, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” Beholding the glory of the Lord Jesus, we are transformed into that same glorious image, from one degree of glory to the next. And Paul relentlessly pursued this transformation into the image of Christ.

 

And not only does he press after it in his own life, he aches for it in the lives of Christ’s people. He tells the Ephesians that this is why Christ has given them the gifts of the Spirit. Ephesians 4:12: “For the equipping of the saints for the work of [ministry], to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man,”—there’s teleiosagain—“to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” This is what we’re all after in the church! And then in Galatians 4:19, he tells those believers, “I am in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!” Do you see how this consumed him? Paul wasn’t content to get “decisions for Christ” and move on to his next evangelistic campaign! He wasn’t satisfied with making mere converts! The passion of his life was to see those who had been brought to faith in Christ strengthened in their faith in Christ! To see them brought to maturity! To see them grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, 2 Peter 3:18! This wasn’t, “Oh, you believed. You’re in. I’m on to the next project.” No! His heart pulsed for the sanctification and complete maturity of Christ’s Bride!

 

And dear people, I ask you: Does yourheart beat with Paul’s heart? Do you long for the sanctification of the church? Do you know anything of the anguish of childbirth because you long to see Christ fully formed in your brothers and sisters? Do you know anything of that daily pressure of intense concern that feels the pain of spiritual weakness in the body of Christ as your own weakness? Even in just the next few sentences in Colossians, starting in chapter 2 verse 1, Paul says, “For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf! Until you attain to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge!” 

 

Friends, do you know anything of that great struggle? Do you devote your time to investing in the Bride of Christ, to training her, to equipping her, to strengthening her to battle temptation, to put off sin and press on in practical righteousness? If so, you’ll have a passion for discipleship—for coming alongside one another and helping each other “come after” and “follow”Jesus better, helping each other become more faithful followers of Jesus, committed to obeying all that Christ has commanded us. 

 

That is precisely what Christ has called us to as ministers of the New Covenant—as servants of His Church, as members of His Church, as elders of His Church. “For thispurpose we labor and strive, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.” 

 

II. The Substance of Discipleship (v. 28a)

 

So how does Paul do that? We’ve seen that the schemeof discipleship is the sanctification and maturity of the church—to present every man perfect in Christ. And we’ve seen how that mission has totally consumed Paul’s life and ministry. But how did Paul go about pursuing this great passion of his life? What did he do to ensure that every Christian would be constantly growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ, becoming increasingly conformed to Christlikeness? 

 

We find the answer to that question in verse 28, bringing us to the second element of Christian discipleshipthat we find in this text. We’ve seen first, the scheme, and now we come, number two, to the substanceof discipleship. Look with me again at verse 28: “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.” What do we do so that we may present every man complete in Christ? We proclaim Him! We preach Christ! 

 

There is a seemingly infinite number of facets, and tasks, and responsibilities in the ministry of the church. There is the Sunday gathering; the administration of the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper; the corporate worship of God’s people praising Him in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. There’s the faithful, consecutive expository preaching of the Scriptures so that the Lord of the Church might be heard in His church through the preaching of His Word. There’s the ministry of prayer, as we serve one another by bringing each other’s needs before the Lord. There’s the ministry of counseling one another, sharpening one another. There’s Sunday school and Bible study and Children’s ministry and youth groups. There’s evangelism. There’s all the logistics and administration: what’s being printed in the bulletin, who’s making announcements, who’s hosting the next fellowship time, who’s bringing what to the potluck. On top of all that, there are even legal matters to consider that we barely ever think about—church bylaws, articles of incorporation, property regulations. The responsibilities of the church are seemingly endless! 

 

But amidst all of those, Paul boils down the essence of his ministry to this one thing. And it is, “We proclaim Him!” And we shouldn’t be surprised by this. When Paul wanted to summarize for the Corinthians the essence of his message, the very Gospel that he preached, he encapsulated it by saying in 1 Corinthians 1:23, “We preach Christ crucified.” In Philippians chapter 1, he speaks of rival preachers in Rome who aim to cause him distress in his imprisonment. And his response in Philippians 1:18 is: “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.” The very bottom and foundation of his joy is in the proclamation of Christ!

 

Friends, in all the activity of our ministry—in all the activity of our life in the body of Christ, in all our efforts to present every man complete in Christ—the very sum and substance of that ministry of discipleship is: “We proclaim Him.” Most fundamentally, that is what discipleship is. People do a lot of things to horrifically complicate discipleship. There’s got to be a certain small group, and a certain number of meetings per week, a certain Christian classic or contemporary best-seller you’re reading, and a certain number of accountability questions asked and answered. Friends, all of those things have their place, but when Paul sums up the entirety of his multi-faceted ministry of laboring for the sanctification of the saints so that he can present every one of them perfect in Christ, the sine qua non, the irreducible minimum, the thing you must retain though you lose everything else is: “We proclaim Him!” The very substanceof Christian discipleship is: “We preach Christ!” 

 

Do you recognize what an astoundingly radical statement that is? to say that the way this supernatural sanctification process works—the way that the hearts of sinners are supernaturally transformed so that they hate sin more and more and love righteousness more and more—the way you help someone become a more faithful follower of Jesus, ever-increasingly conformed into His image—is to proclaim Christ to them? That the mere proclamation of the person and work of Christ to someone actually makes them more holy? How gloriousmust Christ be if the proclamation of His person and work changes the heart of sinful man! 

 

Once again: 2 Corinthians 3:18: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory.” Beholdingthe glory of the Lord, we are transformedinto that same image of glory. The mere sightof Christ—spiritually, with the eyes of the heart—supernaturally causes us to increase in holiness! Why? Because Jesus is so delightful, so beautiful, so satisfying, that the sight of the glory of His character causes us to admire Him, to be satisfied by Him! And because He then becomes our treasure, we don’t go seeking satisfaction in lesser, sinful pleasures! The glory of Christ captures our affections and causes us to love what He loves, and to hate what He hates. Then, our renewed affections—our new loves and desires—inform and excite our will. We want to do what we love, and we want to get away from what we hate. And then, when our wills are thus properly informed by sanctified affections, we do what we want—we joyfully obey all that Christ commanded us.

 

And so the question is: Where is the glory of the person and work of Christ displayed? Answer: In the Scriptures. In the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God wherein God has revealed His Son to us. Wherein His character is proclaimed to us. Do you remember the scene in Exodus 33, where Moses cried out for the Lord to show him His glory? How does God respond? Not only by passing by Moses in a cloud of radiant glory. But by passing by and proclaimingthe glory of His character. Exodus 34:6 says, “Then Yahweh passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘Yahweh, Yahweh God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guiltyunpunished.’” You see, there is an intimate relationship between God’s glory and God’s Word. His Word is a vehicle for revealing the beauty and glory of His character. And so if we want to see the transforming glory of Jesus put on display, we must go to the Scriptures where His person and work is infallibly proclaimed. The sanctifying glory of the Living Word is mediated through sanctifying power of the writtenWord.

 

And so Paul says, The heart and soul of my ministry—the means by which I aim to accomplish the great purpose of my ministry, to present every man perfect in Christ—the very substanceof discipleship is “We proclaim Him.” At the very heartof all the discipleship that takes place in our church—whether discipleship from the pulpit, or discipleship in the Bible study, or discipleship in the one-on-one counseling session, or discipleship in a conversation at the fishing hole or at the coffee shop or in the kitchen—the heart of all discipleship is the proclamation of Christ to one another! Because it’s as we proclaim the person and work of Christ from the Scriptures that His glory is revealed to our brothers and sisters. And it’s as we behold the glory of the Lord with the eyes of faith that we are transformed, sanctified, built up, matured, into that same image of Christlikeness. 

 

And so in the time that we have left this morning, I just want to celebrate the glories of the person and work of Christ with you, giving examples of the kinds of topics that ought to occupy your conversation as you engage in discipleship.

 

We proclaim Him who is God the Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, eternal God of very God. In John 1:14, we learn that the Word became flesh. But in the beginning, verse 1, “In the beginning wasthe Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word wasGod.” From before the beginning of time, the Word was. The Word was existing. Jesus did not come into existence at His incarnation. No, He wasin the beginning with God, verse 2. He was withGod, which shows that He was distinct from God the Father; if you’re withsomeone you are not that someone. But not only was the Word withGod—that is, with God the Father—the Word wasGod Himself! This Christ is the eternal Son, the One who from all eternity was fully subsisting in the divine nature. He is the image of the invisible God, Colossians 1:15—the very radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, Hebrews 1:3. And so He is the possessor of all the attributes and prerogatives of God. All of the fullness of Godhood dwells in Him no less than in the Father or the Holy Spirit!

 

We proclaim Him who is the Creatorof all things. Colossians 1:16: “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.” And He is the Sustainerof all creation. Colossians 1:17: “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Hebrews 1:3: “He upholds all things by the word of His power.” As its Creator, He is therefore the ownerof all creation. Deuteronomy 10:14 says, “Behold, to Yahweh your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it.” In Job 41:11, the Triune God says, “Who has given to Me that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine.”

 

We proclaim Him who is the eternally glorious One. Christ speaks in John 17:5 of “the glory which [He] had with [the Father] before the world was.” 1 Corinthians 2:8 calls Him “the Lordof glory.” And Isaiah chapter 6 gives us a glimpse of what it meant for the Son to exist in heavenly glory. It’s that famous scene of the call of Isaiah where He sees “the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple,” and where the angels are exclaiming, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory!” Well in John 12, John quotes this passage and says in John 12:41, “These things Isaiah said because he saw Hisglory, and he spoke of Him,” which in the context refers to Jesus. You see, it is He, the Son, who is the exalted Lord that Isaiah saw seated on the throne of heaven! It is the train of the Son’s robe that fills the heavenly temple! And it is to the glory of Hisname—no less than the Father’s name, no less than the Spirit’s name, for it is one name!—it is to thatname that the bright, burning seraphim along with the rest of the angels of heaven sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy!” 

 

We proclaim Him who, though being rich, yet for your sake became poor—who, though He was eternally existing in the nature and essence and glory of God, emptied Himself by taking on a human nature in His incarnation. The infinite, eternal, self-existent, self-sufficient, almighty God takes upon Himself the nature of finite, temporal, dependent, mortal humanity. And He does so without shedding His divine nature. The immutable God became what He wasn’t, while never ceasing to be what He was. The uncreated Creator assumed a created human nature, and was born of a woman. The Sustainer of the universe was Himself being sustained in the womb of a teenager. The infinite God was clothed in finite humanity. The eternal stepped into time. The omnipresent One who fills all space, whom the highest heaven cannot contain, confined Himself to the single space of Mary’s womb, and then the cattle’s trough, and then Calvary’s cross, and then Joseph’s grave. The immutable One—who is perfect, and so couldn’t change either for the better or for the worse—nevertheless increased in stature. The omniscient One—the one in whom is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge—increasedin wisdom, Luke 2:52, and learnedobedience through sufferings, Hebrews 5:8. The omnipotent One, who commanded the winds and the waves with a word, knew what it was to grow weary from a day’s journey. The eternal God who neither slumbers nor sleeps slept in a boat on the lake.

 

In the incarnation, the infinite God and the finite man are united together in One magnificent Person: the God-Man, Jesus Christ. The eternal majestyof God wedded to the frailty and indignity of humanity! Two natures, “without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ.” We proclaim Him who is Himself the miracle of all miracles! 

 

And we proclaim Him who is not only the God-Man, but the Mediatorbetween God and Man—God become Man in order to fulfill the law man broke, and to pay the penalty of man’s sin. Romans 5:19: “For as through the disobedience of the one [Adam] the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One [ Christ] the many will be made righteous.” Matthew 3:15: Jesus says He has come “to fulfill all righteousness” on behalf of sinners. Jesus came to live the life that you and I were commanded to live, but which we failed to live. Hisperfect record of human obedience is then imputed to us through faith, and becomes the ground upon which the Holy God can declare guilty sinners righteous!

 

But not only did we need a record of righteousness credited to our account. We also needed the penalty for our sins to be paid. And so the One who could say, “I am the truth,” John 14:6, was slandered, accused of bearing false witness, and betrayed by His friends. The One who clothes the grass of the field and lilies of the valley was stripped bare. The One who healed the sick with a touch has His back torn open by the scourges of sinful men. The brow that should have borne the crown of heaven was pierced by thorns. The One who upheld the universe is collapsedunder the weight of His own crossbar, and needs help to carry His cross to Golgotha. 

 

In the majesty of Heaven, to look upon Him would have been to look upon the epitome of allbeauty. But Isaiah, who told us in chapter 6 of the angelic worship He received in heaven, tells us in chapter 53 that on earth He had “no statelyform or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men.” And the beautiful one—the one fairer than the fairest of ten thousand!—{disgusted} “like one from whom men hide their faceHe was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” The worshiped became the despised. The Master became the slave. The eternally blesséd One became the man of sorrows. 

 

The fountain of all divine blessingsbecame a cursefor us, under the wrath of God. The unmixed holy fury of God the Father breaks over the head of His beloved Son, in whom He is well-pleased, as Christ bears the sins of His people as our substitute, and cries out in words that exhaust the depths of mystery, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” The Author of life died. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” “He bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us . . . in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” We proclaim Him!

 

And we proclaim Him who not only perished under the wrath of God for our sin, but who was raisedfrom the dead on the third day in victory, eternally triumphant over sin and death! And we proclaim Him who ascendedto the right hand of the Father in glory, and is now seatedat His right hand, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come (Eph 1:21), where He ever lives to make intercessionfor His people before the Father, able to save to the uttermostthose who draw near to God through Him (Heb 7:25)!

 

We proclaim Him who is coming quickly, who in a short time will return from Heaven to gather His church to Himself, to unleash judgment on a wicked and rebellious world, to set up His kingdom upon the earth in which He will rule the world in righteousness, to cast all the enemies of righteousness into the eternal lake of fire, and to finally re-create the world into a New Heaven and a New Earth, where He will dwell forever with His redeemed and purified Bride in glory, love, and joy. Dear friends, this is the Christ we preach! We proclaimHim

 

Conclusion

 

He is the substanceof the Christian ministry of discipleship, the ministry whose purpose and goal is to present every Christian complete in Him. No matter what you do for discipleship—however it may be that you go about achieving that goal of presenting every man perfect—it all must boil down to the proclamation of the glorious person and work of Christ one to another! It all must boil down to weproclaimHim.

 

But before we can proclaim Him, we must trust in Him. Before we can disciple others, we must become disciples ourselves. We must “come after” and “follow” Jesus in saving faith. If you’re here this morning and you don’t know this glorious Christ that we proclaim, if He is not your Master and Lord, if you are not His disciple, if you have no saving interest in the work of salvation that the eternal God became Man to accomplish, dear friend, turn from your sins and come to Him today, for He stands ready to receive all who would lay hold of Him through faith alone. Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If anyone wishes to come after Me”—that is, if anyone wishes to come to Me for salvation and be My disciple—“he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” Dear sinner, lay down your claims to being lord of your own life! That’s the surest way to loseyour life! But lay your life down at the foot of Christ’s cross, and follow Him in a life of repentant faith, of obedience to God and of service to His people, and in losing your life you will find that you’ve saved it.