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The Exaltation of Christ.
EPHESIANS i. 19-23.
According to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in
Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power, and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come ; and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that Killech all in all.
In the preceding words, Saint Paul prays for the Ephesian believers, that, in the acknowledgment of the gospel of Christ, they might have the spirit of wisdom to understand the revelation given them or the preaching of the Apostles ; and that their intellectual eyes might be enlightened to know the ground and the terms of that hope to which they were called, the glorious riches of that inheritance which was provided for them, and the exceeding greatness of that power, which by raising them from the dead, should put them itu possession of the heavenly inheritance. To strengthen their faith in God's power and promise, and to aid their conceptions of the glory of this inheritance ; the Apostle refers them to the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus Christ, and to that dominion and dignity
which he now enjoys, as the reward of his sufferings in the flesh.
The several important steps of Christ's exaltation are contained in the words now read: These are his resurrection from the dead-his ascension to, and ses. sion at the right hand of God-his advancement, far above all principality and power, to supreme dominion over all things—and the glorious end of his dominion, even the benefit of the church which is his body, the fulness of him who filleth all in all.
I. The first step of Christ's exaltation was his resur. rection from the dead.
The plan which the wisdom of God laid for the re. demption of our fallen race, was the death of Jesus Christ; who, though a holy and divine person, made in the likeness of our sinful flesh, that by a sacri. fice for sin he might condemn sin in the flesh.” But the scheme of God's wisdom did not end with the death of the Redeemer. If he had remained under the power of death, our hopes must have died with him. His resurrection was necessary, that we might have a convincing proof of his divine character and missionof the truth of his gospel—of God's acceptance of the sacrifice offered and of the certainty of our own resurrection and future existence. God therefore took particular care to render this important event certain and indubitable.
Our divine Lord, during his ministry, often fore. told his own approaching death and the ressurrection which would speedily follow. He pointed out the exact time of his resurrection, and referred not only his disciples, but the unbelieving Jews to this humanly improbable event, as the grand and decisive proof of his heavenly authority.
Jesus Christ was crucified in the most public mana ner, and the reality of his death was made evident bea yond a possibility of doubt. He was buried in a new tomb, in which never man before was laid ; so that, if
any one rose from thence, he must be the person, The tomb was hewn out in a rock, so that there could be no secret conveyance of the body from thence by a subterraneous passage. To prevent a clandestine removal of the body, which the priests and Pharisees pretended to fear; a stone was rolled to the mouth of the grave, a seal was put upon it, and a party of sol. diers set to guard it. Notwithstanding these precautions, the tomb on the third day was found empty. The body was not there. That it could not be stolen away by the disciples, was evident from the precautions taken to prevent it, as well as from the circumstances of the disciples, who were then dispersed by fear. It must, therefore, have been raised by a miracle. And this the soldiers confessed. Early on the first day of the week, there was an earthquake ; an angel descend. ed in a glorious form, and in the presence of the guards, rolled away the stone, and sat upon it. The soldiers, affrighted at the vision, hastened into the city, and reported to the priests what they had seen. The priests, convinced of the fact, but unwilling it should be believed, bribed the soldiers to report an inconsistent story, that the body was stolen away while they were asleep. After his resurrection, he repeatedly appeared to, and conversed with those, who having intimately known him before, could not be deceived in his person ; and they uniformly testified to his resurrection, and persisted in their testimony to the death.
This miracle is an incontestible evidence of the truth of the Christian religion ; and particularly an evidence of the great doctrine of the resurrection of the body and a future life, and of the efficacy of Christ's blood to expiate the guilt of our sins.
The Apostle says, Christ was raised from the dead “ by. the working of God's mighty power.”
The Heathens “ thought it a thing incredible, that God should raise the dead." They did not conceive it pos.
sible, that a body once dead should be again restored to life. But they erred, not knowing the power of Gyd." To remove all doubts concerning the possibility of a resurrection, God has placed before us this plain, sensible fact ; and if we believe, that Jesus died and rose again, we must believe that the same mighty poner, which wrought in him, can also work in us to raise us from the dead. The same glorious Saviour, who taught the doctrine of the resurrection, has given a demonstration of it in his own resurrection, by which he became the first fruits of them who sleep.
We are begotten to a lively hope by the resurrec. tion of Christ from the dead. Believers united to him are represented as being already raised up in him. To express the certainty of the event the Apostle says, “ God hath quickened and raised us up with Christ.”
11. The next step of Christ's exaltation is bis asCension to heaven and session at God's right hand. “ God hath set him at his own right hand in heavenly places."
After Jesus had risen from the grave, and shewed himself alive to his disciples by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking to them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God he re. paired to Bethany, where he had commanded them to assemble ; and there, in the presence of more than five hundred brethren, he visibly rose into the air, blessing them as he departed from them, and was received into a cloud ; probably such a bright, resplendant cloud, as that which formerly rested on the tabernacle, and which appeared on the mount at the transfigura. tion ; and on this cloud he ascended out of their sight into the glorious heavens, where, it is said “ he sat down on the right hand of God.”
By this phrase the scriptures often express Christ's state in the world above. As God is a Spirit, he can have neither right hand nor left. Bodily parts are as. cribed to him figuratively, to denote those qualities,
which in us are exercised by the means of such corpo . real members. As the hand is the chief instrument of exerting strength, it is applied to God to signify his mighty power.
The right hand is among men the usual place of honor and respect ; and therefore de. notes, in our text, superior dignity. Sitting, in the case before us, intends not any posture of body, but the things implied in that posture. The prophet des. cribes a state of peace and security, by every man's sitting under his own vine. In allusion to this use o the metaphor, Christ is said to sit on God's right hand, to signify that he has cuased from his labors and sufferings, and entered into a state of repose and joy: Sitting also denotes continuance in the same place. Christ is therefore said to sit on God's right hand, ta signify that the heavens have received him, until the time of the restitution or completion of all things. It farther imports authority and power ; and is hence applied to Christ to express his iiominion over the natura al and moral world.
Christ is exalted to the right hand of God, not only as a ruler, but also as an intercessor.
6. He has enter. ed into the 1
holy place to appear in the presence of God for us." In the character of an advocate, he is de. ścribed as being on God's right hand to signify his nearness to God, and the prevalence of his intercession. " Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died ; yea rather, that is risen again ; who is even at the right hand of God; who also maketh intercescion for us.” But it is observable, that the scripture, when it speaks of Christ as interceding, or acting in behalf of believers, describes him, not as sitting, but as being, or standing on God's right hand, to signify his gracious attention to their exigencies and wants.
“ He is at the right hand of God, making intercession.” When Stephen called on Jesus to receive his spirit, he said, “ I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." Vol. III.