The Will of Christ!
William Nicholson, 1862
"Father, I will those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world." John 17:24
"Never a man spoke like this man!" And never a man prayed like this man! What earnestness, pathos, propriety, and sublimity in his prayers — and especially in those which he offered just before his death!
It is most solemnly interesting to hear a man just about to step into eternity, in the calm exercise of his reason, fervently pray to God on the behalf of his survivors. What must have been the sensations of the disciples when they saw their Lord lift up his eyes to Heaven, and pour out this matchless prayer!
I. The Will of Christ on Behalf of His Disciples:"Father, I will those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory!"
This expression, though it commonly denotes command, is here only expressive of desire, and intimation, to the Father who hears the Son always. It was not the custom of the Savior to use language of command when addressing God. He was about to ascend the cross, and there, as the great High Priest of his people, to offer up the sacrifice of himself. He was about to ascend to Heaven as the Advocate of his people, and it is in reference to these important offices, that Christ intimates to his Father his will concerning his disciples.
"I am about to finish the work which you gave me to do; I am about to suffer and die for my lost sheep, and as you have promised that I am to see of the travail of my soul, Father, I will those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory!"
So let the Church ever regard Christ's constant intercession, as founded on the covenant engagements of the Father, and his own meritorious obedience and atonement, 1 John 2:1. The will of Christ cannot fail of being accomplished.
1. The will of Christ is a gracious will. The vast spiritual wealth and eternal glory which he bequeaths to his people, has been freely purchased. It is all of grace! Romans 6:23; 1 Peter 1:3. And it is also freely given. Isaiah 55:1; Revelation 22:17.
Sometimes wills are made in favor of people who have rendered good service to the testator, and which service demands payment at that solemn period remuneration. But man is a rebel, impure, and the subject of infinite demerit. He is worthy of nothing less than everlasting perdition. This will is therefore a gracious will. "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" Romans 11:35
2. This will is expressive of the Testator's infinite love and affection. Christ died for sinners — he died that they might have life, and have it more abundantly. What love was this! He is concerned for the preservation, sanctification, and union of his people on earth — and for their glorification in Heaven. It is the love . . .
of a master for his disciples,
of a shepherd for his sheep,
of a bridegroom for his bride.
He cannot live in Heaven without them! "Father, I will those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory!"
3. It is an impartial will. Some wills are partial. To one more is bequeathed, than to another. But all the penitent and the believing, have free access to all the blessings of salvation in time, and in eternity. "You are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:28. The believing peasant is as much interested in this will as the Christian monarch. The Gospel annihilates earthly distinctions.
4. This will refers to vast wealth to be enjoyed by the heirs of Christ. Not earthly wealth which is temporary, and corrupting — but spiritual wealth which is everlasting. What are gold and silver, houses and land — compared with this exceeding and eternal weight of glory? But this wealth will be considered in its proper place shortly.
5. It is a will that will certainly be executed. For the Testator has power to bequeath the blessings of the covenant. The inspired volume is the precious deed of conveyance, written out under his own immediate direction. Here, as in human wills, the legacies are specified, and the legatees are particularly described. Here, as in human wills, we have witnesses — the Father, Son, and Spirit. Here, as in human wills, the will of Christ is in force, for the Testator has died. Hebrews 9:16. "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall never pass away!"
II. The People for Whom this Will Was Hade:"Those whom you have given me."
These words apply to believers in every age of the world. All believers have an interest in Christ's gracious will; for these are given to Christ to realize all the sublime purposes of salvation. "I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours!" John 17:9
1. They are given to Christ according to the covenant of grace. That covenant respected the redemption of his people. It was stipulated that "he should see the travail of his soul, and be satisfied." Isaiah 53:10. He has ransomed them — they are his purchased people.
2. They have believed on him through the instrumentality of the preached Gospel, conjoined with the influence of the Holy Spirit, James 1:18. And they enjoy all the blessed fruits of faith in Christ. They are his disciples, his people, and joint-heirs with him; they are committed into his hands as the great Shepherd of the sheep, to be fed and guarded by him unto life eternal. "He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young!" Isaiah 40:11
3. They are given unto him as instruments to carry on his cause in the world, and to promote his glory. Some he makes apostles, ministers, teachers, etc. Ephesians 4:11.
These are the legatees of his will; and they are to dwell with him in Heaven, and to behold his glory.
III. The Purpose of Christ's Gracious Will:"Father, I will those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory!"
What a gracious will is this! How comprehensive its details!
How rich the inheritance which it bequeaths!
How substantial, satisfying, and durable the wealth given to the saints!
Talk not of the wills of the worldly rich, the noble, the honorable. Talk not of the wills of conquerors, or monarchs. They are all lighter than vanity when compared with the will of Christ the Prince of life, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.
You palaces, scepters, and crowns,
Your pride with disdain I survey;
Your pomps are but shadows and sounds,
And pass in a moment away!
The crown that my Savior bestows
Yon permanent sun shall outshine:
My joy everlastingly flows —
My God, my Redeemer, is mine!
The will of Christ refers,
1. To the place of happiness."Where I am." This, doubtless, refers to Heaven, the dwelling-place of the great King. There he sits at the right hand of God, angels, etc., being made subject unto him. It is there, that his divinity shines through the humanity with ineffable brightness, and there he is beheld in all the moral grandeur of the only begotten Son of God!
It is a Heaven of unspeakable grandeur. It is a house, in which there are many mansions. It is a building of God — it is a kingdom — it is an inheritance. The gates of the celestial city are pearls; its streets are pure gold; it has no need of the sun, Revelation 21:21, 23, 25. Of the glory and beauty of every other part of the universe, compared with the magnificence of Heaven, it may be truly said, that "even that which was made glorious, has no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excels."
It is a Heaven of perfect purity. The "Holy One of God" dwells there, and no sin can exist where he resides. It is the "habitation of his holiness." Revelation 21:27. O glorious Heaven, where sin will never enter to contaminate!
It is a Heaven of perfect happiness — of pure, boundless, and unmingled delight. Sin will be forever excluded; and as sin is the great source of every kind of misery, there will never be the least apprehension of the happiness of Heaven being interrupted.
It is the Heaven of immortality. The inhabitant will never say I am sick. Death will never depopulate that kingdom. Revelation 21:4.
In this glorious place, Jesus designs his people to dwell. There he lives and reigns. "Father, I will those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory!"
"Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will also write on him my new name!" Revelation 3:12
"To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne!" Revelation 3:21
The words imply,
2. Fellowship with Christ.They shall not only dwell in the place where Christ resides, but they shall be with him there! "That they may be with me."
To be with Christ is to be conformed to him — to bear his image. This stupendous change, he has himself effected. No others can be with him. An unregenerate sinner could not exist there. But believers have been washed in his blood, renewed by his Spirit, stamped with the image of God, and kept by his power unto salvation. And at the resurrection, their bodies shall be sublimated and glorified and united to their souls. Then they will "be like him, for they shall see him as he is!"
To be with Christ, implies that we shall be fully sensible of his presence, for this is principally intended by our being with a person. Unspeakable is the difference between impressions made on the mind through the medium of the senses, and by the simple exercise of faith. We readily admit the truth into our creed that Christ is spiritually present with us in this world; yet the soul can scarcely regard him but as an absent friend, whom death has wrapped in his dark foreboding mantle, and removed him from our view.
This imperfection will be remedied in a future world; the soul will perceive objects through a different medium, and receive the full impress which they are calculated to make, and O how delightful and transporting will those impressions be! What then will it be to see him as he is, and behold him face to face!
To be with Christ is to enjoy his special favor. He shall lead his people to living fountains of water, and shall wipe away all tears from their eyes! The tokens of his love cheer their hearts during the present conflict with sin, and animate them when depressed with suffering. Every devotional feeling, every victory gained over temptation, and all the aid afforded in the discharge of duty — are tokens here of the Savior's regard. Such manifestations are like a refreshing stream to the soul thirsting after God, and longing for the full fruition of his love.
Says the Christian: "Let me but live in your presence, O my Savior; whisper that I am yours — and afflictions shall be more welcome than all the prosperity that may gild the path of life, and dress in fair enchanting colors this vain and fascinating world. But, alas! how often is my soul covered with gloom and darkness!"
Well, in Heaven these tokens of Christ's favor will be indelible, subject to no delusion, to no decay. Enrapt with joy and wonder, we shall behold his countenance, beaming with smiles of love, and every action expressive of infinite benignity and condescension. O what light will he pour into the mind, what mysteries of time and eternity he will unravel, and what rapturous enjoyment he will create!
3. The special design of being with Christ:"That they may behold my glory!"
The glory of Christ is vast, and too great for the grasp of short-sighted man. The glory of God as seen in nature, the glorious skies, the rolling stars, and the dazzling sun, are overwhelming to the mind of man.
What then, must be the glory of our Immanuel in his state of heavenly exaltation! If that glory could be described to us by a winged seraph from before his throne, in the language of paradise, it would be too sublime to enter into a mortal ear. So the apostle said well, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived — what God has prepared for those who love him!" 1 Corinthians 2:9
The saints will behold:
(1.) His essential glory. He was infinitely glorious before he became incarnate. "And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began!" John 17:5. Occasionally some glimpses of this glory were given. Abraham saw Christ's day, and was filled with rapturous joy. Moses said, "I beseech you show me your glory," and he saw it. Isaiah saw his glory, when he had a vision in the temple of the Lord Almighty,
"I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: 'Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory!' At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke!" Isaiah 6:1-4
Christ's essential glory was occasionally manifested during his abode on the earth. "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth!" John 1:14 .
His glory was seen in his miracles. It was seen on the mount of transfiguration. Stephen and Paul saw it, and John in the isle of Patmos. Revelation 1:12, etc. His essential glory is described, John 10:30; Philippians 2:6; Hebrews 1:1-3, etc.
(2.) His glory as Mediator. He entered into this glory when he ascended (Luke 24:26), as the reward of his sufferings and death, Ephesians 1:20-23; Philippians 2:3, 9.
How different his state now, from his humiliation and ignominious sufferings on earth!
What an ecstasy of delight is felt when we have unbarred the dungeon of the prisoner, and burst the fetters of the slave! How great then, must have been the joy of Christ when his sufferings were crowned with everlasting victory!
See him when he ascended upon high. The heavenly powers crowd around his chariot; they mark his honorable scars. The crown of thorns is exchanged for the diadem of glory. The reed of derision is exchanged for the scepter of omnipotence. Scoffs and revilings are exchanged for the greetings of cherubim and seraphim.
All but his wounds are changed — all but the marks of laceration. These remain, and they show that he turned the weapon of Divine Justice upon himself.
Behold him upborne before the congregated hosts of Heaven. The divine kingdom is given him — a kingdom that shall never pass away!
This glory, believers shall behold, and behold it forever! They shall behold . . .
all the glory of his attributes,
the glory of his saving power in themselves and all the redeemed saints,
the glory of his governing wisdom and power,
the glory of rapturous praise from all the armies of the skies,
the glory of universal empire,
a glory which shall be augmenting forever!
To behold means to enjoy, to participate. How great the love of the great Shepherd, "Let my sheep participate in my glory! Let them be glorified together with me!"
1. Are we given to Christ?
2. See the safety of all those who believe in him. The heart of Christ is fully set on their happiness. "I will" — and who, and what can prevent it?
3. The will of Christ, and the prospect of glory it gives, will irradiate the valley of death!