The Diverse Excellencies of Jesus Christ
The American Theologian and Pastor, Jonathan Edwards (1703 -1758), once preached a sermon entitled “The Admirable Conjunction of Diverse Excellencies in Jesus Christ”. The sermon was based on Revelation 5:5-6, in which John depicts Jesus as a Lion and a Lamb. Edwards expounded the ways in which seeming opposites are to be found in Jesus Christ, his life and his ministry:
There is in Jesus Christ:
- infinite highness and infinite condescension
- infinite justice and infinite grace
- infinite glory and lowest humility
- infinite majesty and transcendent meekness
- the deepest reverence towards God and equality with God
- infinite worthiness of good, and the greatest patience under sufferings of evil
- an exceeding spirit of obedience, with supreme dominion over heaven and earth
- absolute sovereignty and perfect resignation
- self-sufficiency, and an entire trust and reliance on God. When we think about the cross, we see:
- Christ was in the greatest degree of his humiliation, and yet by that, above all other things, his divine glory appears.
- He never in any act gave so great a manifestation of love to God, and yet never so manifested his love to those that were enemies to God, as in that act.
- Christ never so eminently appeared for divine justice, and yet never suffered so much from divine justice, as when he offered up himself a sacrifice for our sins.
- Christ’s holiness never so illustriously shone forth as it did in his last sufferings, and yet he never was to such a degree treated as guilty.
- He never was so dealt with, as unworthy, as in his last sufferings, and yet it is chiefly on account of them that he is accounted worthy.
- Christ in his last sufferings suffered most extremely from those towards whom he was then manifesting his greatest act of love.
- It was in Christ’s last sufferings, above all, that he was delivered up to the power of his enemies; and yet by these, above all, he obtained victory over his enemies.
Edwards makes the point that there are so many attributes and characteristics that are seemingly diametrically opposed to each other and yet are to be found in Christ who is fully God and fully Man, the Majestic Lion and the Gentle Lamb, that it would appear to be inconceivable that they might be compatible in the same person. Such is the glory of Jesus.
Jesus is unique; his saving work is unique. Nevertheless, flowing from his person and work, out of union and communion with him, something of his boldness and grace ought to be displayed in the lives of his people.
We need to contend for the gospel of Jesus Christ in the Church of England today with the Lion-like courage and Lamb-like gentleness. There is a need for courage to overcome our cowardice and instinctive preference for a quiet life. There is a need for Christ-like graciousness in how we contend for gospel truth. We are called to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us, and to speak boldly the Word of God to a nation that rejects it and in a Church that is in danger of abandoning it.
To do so we need to walk in vital, close communion with Jesus Christ, the Lion and the Lamb:
“There is only one thing that has helped me overcome these fears and it is zeal for the gospel and it is zeal for the gospel and its effects in the world. When I am living out the gospel – and the gospel is living in me with power – my fears shrink to Lilliputian size. If we walk with Jesus, we will begin to take on both His Lamb-like gentleness and His Lion-like courage.”
Excerpted from Gospel-Driven Anglicanism, Mark Pickles, pages 118-119, 2017.