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Ephesians 1:15-23

 

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (ESV)

Blazing the Trail

The Ascension of our Lord

29 May 2014

In ancient times, false teachers loved to call into question the full divinity of the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord, by pointing to the reception of divine glory by the exalted Son. Jesus tells His disciples that "all glory in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Mt 28:18) at His ascension. False teachers concluded that since Jesus was receiving a divine attribute, such as glory, He couldn't be fully and completely God. The theory is that one does not receive what he already has. If Jesus received glory from the heavenly Father, that means that He didn't have it previously. Several things are problems with this view. First, it is not unheard of for a person who has everything to graciously receive a gift of something he has plenty of. For example, if my children would buy me another neck tie, even though I think I have enough neck ties already, I wouldn't be much of a father if I rejected the gift of a new necktie. So it is for God's Son, if He already has the fullness of divine glory and honor, it would not be appropriate to reject a gift of glory from His Father.

 

Second, He received divine honor and glory according to His human nature. Of course, the assumed human nature of Christ is the same as our own, only without sin, and so it lacks the fullness of divine honor and glory. That nature can receive the fullness of that glory. It does so at His ascension, when He leads captivity captive and fills all things, making full use of His divine glory and power, which He had hidden from our sight under His humiliation during His earthly ministry. Now what was hidden has been made plain. His human nature then receives divine honor and glory by reason of the personal union, by which the divine and human natures in Christ are united in one person. The human nature in the person of the God-man receives honor and glory in the sense that that glory is now fully used and seen at his ascension and enthronement at the right hand of His heavenly Father.

 

Third, He received divine honor and glory for our sakes. When His human nature received all the divine honor glory that was attributable to the person who is God, Christ then foreshadows our own glorification. The human nature which He bears and bears into heaven assures our own exaltation to the heavenly home that the Lord Himself has gone visibly into heaven to prepare for us. Just as precedents are important in human law (stare decisis), so also God's gracious will sets precedents. The ascension of our Lord is just such a precedent. Imagine when you die, if you were to stand before the divine tribunal to plead your case for entry to heaven. What would your case consist of? Your good works, pious intentions, holy follow through, etc.? Not hardly! Pleading of that sort would be fatal. No, you can argue from precedent. "Dear heavenly Father, You have long ago seen to the salvation my human flesh by admitting to heaven and indeed enthroning at your right hand my flesh in the person of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Why should you let me into heaven? Because you have long ago enthroned my flesh there in Christ." You would be duly admitted for Christ's sake, because He ascends for us, blazing the trail for us.

 

John Cassian

 

"It is asked, 'Who gave such glory to Christ?' You name glory in order to degrade Him. For by the assertion that the Lord was endowed with glory when He received it (Mt 28:18) you blasphemously imply that He stood in need of it. For your perverse notion suggests that the generosity of the giver shows the need of the receiver. O miserable impiety of yours! Where is that which God Himself once foretold of the Lord Jesus Christ ascending into heaven? Saying: 'Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in' (Ps 24:7). And when He (after the fashion of divine utterances) had made answer to Himself as if in the character of an inquirer: 'Who is the King of glory?' at once He adds: 'The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle!' (Ps 24:8) showing under the figure of a battle fought, the victory of the Lord in His triumph. Then when, to complete the exposition of it, He had repeated the words of the utterance quoted above, He showed by the following conclusion the majesty of the Lord as He entered heaven, saying 'The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory.' He says this to show the fact of His taking a body does not interfere with the glory of His mighty divinity, He taught that the same Person was Lord of hosts and King of heavenly glory, whom He had previously proclaimed victor in the battle below. Go now and say that the glory was given to the Lord, when both prophecy has said that He was the King of glory, and He Himself also has testified of Himself: 'When the Son of man comes in His glory' (Mt 25:31). Refute it, if you can, and contradict this, namely, that whereas He testifies that He has glory of His own, you say that He has received another's. Although we maintain that He has His own glory, in such a way that we do not deny that His very property of glory is common to Him with the Father and the Holy Spirit. For whatever God possesses belongs to the Godhead: and the kingdom of glory belongs to the Son of God in such a way that it is not kept back from belonging to the entire Godhead."


John Cassian, Seven Books on the Incarnation, 7.23
 

Collect for the Ascension of our Lord

Almighty God, as Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, ascended into the heavens, so may we also ascend in heart and mind and continually dwell there with Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 

For Alex Deluca, who has undergone an emergency appendectomy, that Jesus, the physician of body and soul, would grant him a full recovery

 

For those who are experiencing heavy rainfall, that the Lord who stood the waters up at the Red Sea would protect those who stand under the threat of flooding and allow them to walk through on dry ground

 

For those who are despairing of their own righteousness, that they would hear of Christ's righteousness from a friend or neighbor, and have their hearts set at peace

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Resurrection (1515)

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