A Drink from Brooks: The Bud of Grace and the Bloom of Glory

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“Though no man shall be rewarded for his works, yet God will at last measure out happiness and blessedness to his people according to their service, faithfulness, diligence, and work in this world, Rom. 2:5–7. Grace is glory in the bud, and glory is grace at the full; glory is nothing else but a bright constellation of graces; happiness nothing but the quintessence of holiness. Grace and glory differ non specie, sed gradu, in degree, not in kind, as the learned speak. Grace and glory differ very little; the one is the seed, the other is the flower; grace is glory militant, and glory is grace triumphant, and a man may as well plead for equal degrees of grace in this world, as he may plead for equal degrees of glory in the other world. Surly the more grace here, there more glory hereafter.” —Thomas Brooks, Apples of Gold

Writ Large (Galatians 6:11–18)

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“See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:11–14).

“My Paul, what large handwriting you have!”

“The better to…?”

What is Paul hankering to draw the Galatians attention to? Some hypothesize that these “large letters” relate to Paul’s comment in 4:14–15 concerning the Galatians out of sympathy plucking their eyes out for him. They speculate that Paul had poor eyesight. Some will even surmise that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was a “thorn” in the eye. But I take the eye-plucking to be metaphorical and believe there is a clearer and more satisfying answer. To see it, let’s look at a couple of other instances where Paul expressly takes up the pen in his letters.

“I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you” (1 Corinthians 16:21–23).

“I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you” (Colossians 4:18).

In both instances, these are the last sentences of their respective letters. Why does Paul explain to his audience that he is writing the concluding blessing of his own letter? Near the end of Paul’s letter to the Romans we read, “I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord” (Romans 16:22). Paul, like many in his day, wrote his letter using an amanuensis, a secretary. He dictated his letters, but then to authenticate them as genuine apostolic Pauline, he penned the closing benediction himself. Paul explains this in the conclusion of 2 Thessalonians.

“I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all” (2 Thessalonians 3:17–18).

Once again, these are the last sentences of that letter. Normally, Paul picks up the pen near the very end of his letter and simply to authenticate them. Here, Paul picks up the pen much earlier and draws attention to the LARGENESS of his letters. Why? Because the bold and italics function were broken on his secretary’s quill. Because this whole letter is a howler, and Paul means to grab yet another octave and more volume. Paul does not whisper, “Far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He shouts it!

The cross of Christ isn’t alternative fine print to the Christian life, it is the essential banner writ large over all of it.

Where’s Your Glory? (Exodus 38)

He made the basin of bronze and its stand of bronze, from the mirrors of the ministering women who ministered in the entrance of the tent of meeting (Exodus 38:8 ESV).

Who were these women? How did they serve? This was clearly something that was perpetuated (1 Samuel 2:22), so what was it? I have no clue. It is easier to tell you what they didn’t do than what they did. We know that they were not priests, but there are endless other ministries they could’ve performed. There are roles and ministries that only men should do, notably that of elder or priest. There are also roles that only women should do, notably the high and honorable roles disparaged by our culture known as wife and mother. Also, there are many ministries that both can do. Complementarianism does not make less of women. It glories in men being men, women being women, and both being made in the image of God. In John Piper’s little book, What’s the Difference?, he lists 80 kinds of ministry open to women.

But all this is beside the point I want to make. The emphasis here is not that these women served, but that the women who served gave their polished bronze mirrors for the construction of the basin.

Imagine you’re a slave. You’ve had very little and feel worn for your hard service. You see the Egyptian women with their mirrors, concerned with their beauty. They’re silk and you’re burlap. But, because of Yahweh’s victory, Israel now has the mirrors, along with jewelry and fine fabrics. What do you expect them to do with them?

These women, specifically these women who serve at the tent, give up their mirrors. Egypt no longer cared to see herself for her glory was destroyed. Israel didn’t need to see herself for her glory was another. By giving up their mirrors and serving at the tabernacle, these women are saying they’d rather behold God’s glory than their own.

I have little doubt these were among the most beautiful women of Israel because of what they did.

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening (1 Peter 3:1–6 ESV).

Scriptures like there are only as hard to embrace as mirrors are hard to let go of. If you find these words hard, ask yourself, “Where’s my glory?” The example laid down for you by these women isn’t to be less beautiful, but more beautiful. Bask in Jesus’ light and you will radiate. Peter gives Sarah as an example here, a woman who was praised for her beauty.

Douglas Wilson once debated an atheist from Beverly Hills. One thing he accused the Christian faith of being was misogynistic, yet, at dinner one evening, he turned to one of Douglas’ friends and commented that he had never seen so many beautiful women as they had in their community. How is this so? Because Jesus’ beauty treatment for His bride is unsurpassed. Because Jesus commands husbands to love their wives into beauty, just as He does the church. Enthralled with His beauty, we need not be concerned for our own.

Why Delay Checkmate? (Exodus 6:28–7:13)

God isn’t going to do a quick job with the Egyptians; He’s going to take it slow. The point isn’t merely rescue, but renown (Exodus 7:5). God doesn’t just win the game, He shows off, and humiliates His foes. God could’ve had checkmate on the first move, but takes out every other piece before He takes the queen, and leaves the king standing to behold it all.

In all the signs, including the staff being turned into a serpent and swallowing the other serpents, God is mocking their gods. Picture King Tut. Between his head is a uraeus, a cobra with a raised hood. This was part of the headdress of the Pharaohs, a symbol of power and authority, likely associated with the goddess Wadjet, oen of the protectors of Pharaoh and Egypt. One ancient text says of Pharaoh, “His gods are over him; his uraeus serpents are over his head.” A later Egyptian relief says of Pharaoh Shoshenq “Thy war-mace, it struck down thy foes… they serpent-crest was mighty among them.”

Pharaoh asks for proof (Exodus 7:9). Is there a real and legitimate authority behind Moses and Aaron’s talk of Yahweh? The staff, a symbol of God’s authority and power, is thrown to the ground and becomes a serpent. The magician-priests of Egypt do the same, but they are swallowed. The message is clear. Imagine a sorcerer-king came from another nation to the U.S. with demands and as proof of his smaller and “primitive” nation’s superiority, he unleashed an eagle that swallowed all the bald eagles in the States. Something like that is happening. God is not just demonstrating His power, He is shaming their’s. God is shaming their glory.

When God redeems His people He does so in style with glory. His aim isn’t just rescue, but renown. He shames His enemies.

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. —Colossians 2:13–15

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. —Psalm 8:1–2

He shames, for His glory in His people’s redemption.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” —1 Corinthians 1:18–31

Why intentionally delay checkmate? Glory!

Matthew 17:1-13 & No Gory, No Glory

We want the figure of a god, without the diet and exercise. When it comes to our salvation, to being godlike, we want to do it on our own, and we don’t want to do that much. We want glory, with none of the pain. We are spiritually health conscious in a way, but we want a quick, easy, and cheap fix. Gives us a pill, give us a surgery. What we will not do is really sweat or really work. We will not sacrifice our diet of sin. The diet of religion is both lazy and sinful seeking less than perfection. It is lazy because it seeks less than perfection. It is sinful because it seeks less than perfection. Its seeks to enjoy sin with minimal consequence. It does not truly seek to be holy as God is holy.

Physically, in our age of dieting, many try to delude themselves. Its funny how many articles are written as if it is some secret that diet and exercise are the key to health. There is only one way for health to get deep into your bones. It takes work. Our spiritual health likewise involves work. Paul tells us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).” But be careful. Our salvation is something we work out, it is not something we work for. No drug we manufacture can bring about our salvation, and all our work, even our best work is also futile. We’re not simply spiritually flabby. We’re dead. We couldn’t sweat enough “good,” we couldn’t bleed enough “payment” even if we wanted to. Any sweat is already only our due, and all our blood is the debt we already owe. We need unequaled and unobligated sweat and blood.

Our salvation is no sweat-less labor; no bloodless surgery. A laparoscopic procedure won’t suffice. Flesh must be rent wide open. Blood must be spilt. To give the dead life, The Life must die. Then, and only then, do our eating habits change, for we have an appetite for the Bread of life. Then, and only then, do our work habits change, for we love to do good works unto God’s glory through the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because of the fall there is only one way to glory, and that is through the gory. For us to go up, God must descend, further down than any.

The transfiguration is framed by a lot of cross talk (Matthew 16:21-28; 17:9, 12, 22-23). Jesus tells the disciples not to tell anyone this vision until after He is resurrected. The glory light they have seen will only be properly understood when illuminated by a dark cross. The transfiguration is not so much a flashback to Jesus’ eternal glory, as it is a flash-forward to his resurrection glory, and the cross comes first. No gory, no glory. He takes our part, that we may take His.

“And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” -Philippians 2:8-11