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7. Christ's Exaltation

'Wherefore God also has highly exalted him, and given him a name above every name, &c.' Phil 2:2.

We have before spoken of Christ's humiliation; we shall now speak of his exaltation. Before you saw the Sun of Righteousness in the eclipse; now you shall see it coming out of the eclipse, and shining in its full glory. ‘Wherefore God has highly exalted him;' super exaltavit, Ambrose. ‘Above all exaltation.'


A: In his rising from the dead, his ascending into heaven, and his sitting at the right hand of God the Father, &c.

In what sense has God exalted Christ?

Not in respect of his Godhead, for that cannot be exalted higher than it is: as in his humiliation, the Godhead was not lower; so in his exaltation, the Godhead is not higher: but Christ is exalted as Mediator, his human nature is exalted.

How many ways is Christ exalted?

Five ways. God has exalted Christ, 1: In his titles. 2. In his office. 3: In his ascension. 4: In his session at God's right-hand. 5: In constituting him judge of the world.

I. God has exalted Christ in his titles.

[1] He is exalted to be a Lord. Acts 19:17. ‘The name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.' He is a Lord in respect of his sovereignty; he is Lord over angels and men. ‘All power is given to him.' Matt 28:18. Christ has three keys in his hand, the key of the grave, to open the graves of men at the resurrection; the key of heaven, to open the kingdom of heaven to whom he will; the key of hell, to lock up the damned in that fiery prison. Rev 1:18.

To this Lord all knees must bow. ‘That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.' Phil 2:20. Name is here put for person; to that holy thing Jesus, to the sceptre of that divine person, every knee shall bow. Bowing is put for subjection. All must be subdued to him as sons or captives, submit to him as to the Lord or Judge. ‘Kiss the Son' with a kiss of love and loyalty. Psa 2:12. We must not only cast ourselves into Christ's arms to be saved by him, but we must cast ourselves at his feet to serve him.

[2] Christ is exalted to be a prince. ‘There shall stand up Michael the great prince.' Dan 12:2: Some think it was a created angel, but it was Angelus Foederis, Christ the angel of the covenant. He is a great prince. ‘The prince of the kings of the earth.' Rev 1:1. They hold their crowns by immediate tenure from him; his throne is above the stars, he has angels and arch angels for his attendants. Thus he is exalted in his titles of honour.

II. God has exalted Christ in his office. He has honoured him to be Salvator mundi, the Saviour of the world. ‘Him has God exalted with his right hand, to be a prince and a Saviour.' Acts 5:51. It was a great honour to Moses to be a temporal saviour; but what is it to be the Saviour of souls? Christ is called the horn of salvation. Luke 1:19. He saves from sin, Matt 1:1I; from wrath, I Thess 1:10. To save is a flower belonging only to his crown. ‘Neither is there salvation in any other.' Acts 4:12. What an honour is this to Christ! How did it make heaven ring with the praises of the saints! They sing hallelujahs to Christ their Saviour. ‘They sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book and open the seals; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood.' Rev 5:5.

III. God has exalted Christ in his ascension; for if he be ascended, then he is exalted. Augustine says, ‘Some, as the Hermians, were of opinion that Christ's body ascended into the orb and circle of the sun.' But the Scripture plainly says he ascended into heaven. Luke 24:4I and Eph 4:40. ‘Far above all heavens;' therefore above the firmament. He is ascended into the highest part of the empyrean heaven, which Paul calls the third heaven. Concerning Christ's ascension, two things may be observed:

[1] The manner of his ascension. When Christ ascended he blessed his disciples. ‘He lifted up his hands, and blessed them, and while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.' Luke 24:40, 51. He did not leave them houses and lands, but he left them his blessing.

He ascended as a conqueror, in a way of triumph. ‘Thou hast led captivity captive,' &c. Psa 68:18. He triumphed over sin, hell, and death; and his triumph is a believer's triumph. He has conquered sin and hell for every believer.

[2] The fruit of Christ's ascension. His ascension to heaven causes the descension of the Holy Spirit into our hearts. ‘When he ascended up on high, he gave gifts to men.' Eph 4:4. Having ascended up in the clouds, as his triumphant chariot, he gives the gift of his Spirit to us; as a king at his coronation bestows gifts liberally on his favourites.

IV. God has exalted Christ in his session at God's right hand. ‘After the Lord had spoken to them, he was received up into heaven, and sat upon the right hand of God.' Mark 16:19. ‘He raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand, far above all principality and power, and every name that is named.' Eph 1:10.

What is meant by Christ sitting at God's right hand?

God really has no right-hand or left; for being a Spirit, he is void of all bodily parts; but it is a metaphor taken from the manner of kings, who were wont to advance their favourites next to their own persons, and set them at their right hand. Solomon caused a seat to be set for the queen his mother, and placed her at his right hand. I Kings 2:19. So for Christ to sit at the right hand of God, is to be in the next place to God the Father in dignity and honour. The human nature of Christ, being personally united to the divine, is now set down on a royal throne in heaven, and adored even by angels.

By virtue of the personal union of Christ's human nature with the divine, there is a communication of all that glory from the Deity of Christ of which his human nature is capable. Not that the manhood of Christ is advanced to an equality with the Godhead, but the divine nature being joined with the human, the human nature is wonderfully glorified, though not deified. Christ as mediator is filled with all majesty and honour, beyond the comprehension of the highest order of angels. In his humiliation he descended so low, that it was not fit to go lower; and in his exaltation he ascended so high that it is not possible to go higher. In his resurrection he was exalted above the grave, in his ascension he was exalted above the airy and starry heavens, in his sitting at God's right hand he was exalted far above the highest heavens, ‘Far above all heavens.' Eph 4:10.

V. God has exalted Christ in constituting him judge of the whole world. ‘The Father has committed all judgement to the Son.' John 5:52. At the day of judgement Christ shall be exalted supereminently. ‘He shall come in the glory of his Father.' Mark 8:88. He shall wear the same embroidered robes of majesty as the Father; and he shall come with all his holy angels. Matt 25:51. He who was led to the bar with a band of soldiers, shall be attended to the bench with a guard of angels. Christ shall judge his judges, he shall judge Pilate that condemned him; kings must leave their thrones and come to his bar. And this is the highest court of judicature, from whence is no appeal.

Use one: Of information. (1.) See the different state of Christ on earth and in heaven. Oh how is the scene altered! When he was on earth, he lay in a manger; now he sits on a throne. Then he was hated and scorned of men; now he is adored by angels. Then his name was reproached; now, ‘God has given him a name above every name.' Phil 2:2. Then he came in the form of a servant, and as a servant, stood with his bason and towel, and washed his disciples' feet; John 13:3, 5; now he is clad in his princes' robes, and the kings of the earth cast their crowns before him. On earth he was a man of sorrows; now he is anointed with the oil of gladness. On earth was his crucifixion; now his coronation. Then his Father frowned upon him in desertion; now he has set him at his right hand. Before, he seemed to have no form or beauty in him; Isa 53:3; now he is in the brightness of his Father's glory. Heb 1:1. Oh what a change is here! ‘Him has God highly exalted.'

(2.) Was Christ first humbled and then exalted? Hence learn ‘the way to true honour is humility.' ‘He that humbleth himself shall be exalted.' Luke 14:11: The world looks upon humility as that which will make contemptible, but it is the ready way to honour; the way to rise is to fall; the way to ascend is to descend. Humility exalts us in the esteem of men, and it exalts us to a higher throne in heaven. ‘Whosoever shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.' Matt 18:8. He shall have a greater degree of glory in it.

(3.) Christ first suffered, and then was exalted. See here, that sufferings must go before glory. Many desire to be glorified with Christ, but they are not content to suffer for him. ‘If we suffer with him, we shall reign with him.' 2 Tim 2:12. The wicked first reign and then suffer; the godly first suffer, and then reign. There is no way to Constantinople, but through the strait; no way to heaven, but through sufferings; no way to the crown, but by the cross. Jerusalem above is a pleasant city, streets of gold, gates of pearl; but we must travel through a dirty road to it, through many reproaches and sufferings. Acts 14:42. We must enter into glory as Christ did; who first suffered shame and death, and then was exalted to sit at God's right hand.

Use two: Of comfort. (1.) Christ, being so highly exalted, has ennobled our nature, crowned it with glory, and lifted it above angels and archangels. Though, as man, he was made a little lower than the angels, Heb 2:2, yet as the human nature is united to the divine, and is at God's right hand, so the human nature is above the angels. If God has so dignified our nature, what a shame is it that we should debase it! God has exalted the human nature above the angels, and the drunkard debases the human nature below the beasts.

(2.) Christ being exalted at God's right hand, the key of government is laid upon his shoulders; he governs all the affairs of the world for his own glory. Do you think that when Christ is so highly advanced, and has all power in heaven and earth in his hand, he will not take care of his elect, and turn the most astonishing providences to the good of his church? In a clock, the wheels move cross one to another, but all make the clock strike; so Christ being at his Father's right hand, will make the most cross providences tend to the salvation of his church.

(3.) Christ being at God's right hand, we may be assured he has now finished the work of man's redemption. ‘This man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God.' Heb 10:12. If Christ had not fully expiated sin, and satisfied God's law, he had not sat down at God's right hand, but had still lain in the grave; but now he is exalted to glory; which is an evident token that he has done and suffered all that was required of him, for working out our redemption.

(4.) Though Jesus Christ is so highly exalted in glory, yet he is not forgetful of us on earth. Some, when raised to places of honour, forget their friends; as the chief butler, when restored to his place at court, forgot poor Joseph in prison; but it is not so with Christ; though exalted to such glory in heaven, he is not unmindful of his saints on earth. Our high priest has all the names and wants of his people written upon his breast-plate. Art thou tempted? Though Christ be in glory, he knows how to pity and succour thee. ‘We have not an high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.' Heb 4:45. Dost thou mourn for sin? Christ, though in a glorified state, hears thy sighs, and bottles thy tears.

(5.) Christ being exalted at God's right hand is for the comfort of believers, that they may one day be exalted to that place of glory where he is. Christ's exaltation is our exaltation. He has prayed for this. ‘Father, I will that all those, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.' John 17:74. And he is said to go before to prepare a place, for believers. John 14:4. Christ is called the head, and the church is called the body. Eph 1:12, 23. The head being exalted to honour, the body mystic shall be exalted too. As sure as Christ is exalted far above all heavens, so sure will he instate believers in all that glory with which his human nature is adorned. John 17:72. As he here puts his grace upon the saints, so shortly will he put his glory upon them. This is comfort for the poorest Christian. Perhaps thou hast scarce a house to put thy head in, yet thou mayest look up to heaven, and say, There is my house, there is my country; I have already taken possession of heaven in my head, Christ; he sits there, and it will not be long before I shall sit there with him; he is upon the throne of glory, and I have his word for it, I shall sit upon the throne with him. Rev 3:3I.

Use three: Of exhortation. Has God highly exalted Christ? Let us labour to exalt him. Let us exalt, (1.) His person. (2.) His truths.

(1.) Let us exalt Christ in our hearts; believe, adore and love him. We cannot lift him up higher in heaven, but we may in our hearts. Let us exalt him in our lips; let us praise him. Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost, our tongues must be the organs in these temples. By praising and commending Christ, we exalt him in the esteem of others. Let us exalt him in our lives, by living holy lives: vera religio haec, sine macula vivere luctant [This is true religion, when men strive to live blameless lives]. Not all the doxologies and prayers in the world so exalt Christ as a holy life. It makes Christ renowned, and lifts him up indeed, when his followers walk worthy of him.

(2.) Let us exalt Christ's truths. Bucholcerus, in his Chronology, reports of the nobles of Polonia, that whenever the gospel is read, they lay their hands upon their swords, intimating by that, they are ready to maintain the gospel with the hazard of their lives. Let us exalt Christ's truths; maintain the truths of Christ against error; maintain the doctrine of free grace against merit; the Deity of Christ against Socinianism.

Truth is the most orient pearl in Christ's crown. Let us contend for the truth, as one would for a large sum of money, that it should not be wrested out of his hand. Christ takes it to be exalting him when we exalt his truths, wherein his glory is concerned.

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