Sunday, February 1, 2015

A godly face radiates His glory

In Adult Bible Study we are going through Acts. I am also listening to John MacArthur preach through Acts. When reading the part where Stephen was dragged in front of the Sanhedrin and about to answer charges of blasphemy, we read the following:

And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel. (Acts 6:15)

As is the way with the Spirit, he got my attention to focus on the part that said ‘the face of an angel.’



I envisioned Stephen's face full of serene glory, bright and shining. It reminded me of the verse when Moses had been with God and Moses' face shone so brightly the people were scared and urged Moses to cover it with a veil. (Exodus 34:30, 35, cf. 2 Corinthians 3:13).

Other incidences of a person’s face shining with glory were also in the New Testament, this time it was Jesus-

There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. (Matthew 17:2)

Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. (Luke 9:29)

Moses, Stephen, Jesus, faces shining with glory. I want that. I want that because when someone sees me I want them to see Jesus. I don’t want them to see my face, but a serenely joyful face, so different from the faces in the crowd. I want people to notice something different about me. The something different, of course, is Jesus.

But how? Moses was with God Himself on Mt Sinai. That was a unique occurrence. Jesus is, well, Jesus, and though He was fully man He was also fully God. So X that off the list. Stephen was filled with the spirit at a moment when supernatural ability was promised God’s people. (Matthew 10:19-20).

Still…if the Spirit’s ministry is to point people to Jesus I want Jesus to be evident in me. I know the fruit the Spirit grows will do that.

But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, 8how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? (2 Corinthians 3:7-8)

What else will do that? I found an answer in Ecclesiastes 8:1

Who is like the wise?
And who knows the interpretation of a thing?
A man’s wisdom makes his face shine,
and the hardness of his face is changed.

Wisdom. The kind of wisdom that emanates and makes a face soften. Here is what the Jamieson-Fausset Commentary explains about the Ecclesiastes verse:
Praise of true wisdom continued (Ec 7:11, &c.). “Who” is to be accounted “equal to the wise man?… Who (like him) knoweth the interpretation” of God’s providences (for example, Ec 7:8, 13, 14), and God’s word (for example, see on Ec 7:29; Pr 1:6)?

face to shine—(Ec 7:14; Ac 6:15). A sunny countenance, the reflection of a tranquil conscience and serene mind. Communion with God gives it (Ex 34:29, 30).
The Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible says of the Ecclesiastes verse,
Wisdom: It beautifies a man in the eyes of his friends: It makes his face to shine, as Moses’s did when he came down from the mount; it puts honour upon a man and a lustre on his whole conversation, makes him to be regarded and taken notice of, and gains him respect (as Job 29:7, etc.); it makes him lovely and amiable, and the darling and blessing of his country. The strength of his face, the sourness and severity of his countenance (so some understand the last clause), shall be changed by it into that which is sweet and obliging. Even those whose natural temper is rough and morose by wisdom are strangely altered; they become mild and gentle, and learn to look pleasant.

The way to softening our countenance is wisdom. We absorb wisdom from above by holding close communion with Christ. We read His word, the best - and only – wisdom. Prayer is close communion with Christ, an intimate privilege that delivers wisdom because in prayer we contemplate Him. Proclaiming His truths, as Stephen did, will increase our wisdom because if what comes out of us defiles us, alternately His truths enliven us with His glory. (Mark 7:20, James 3:6).

NH Old Man of the Mountains,
a granite face. Source
To understand this as a full truth we look at its opposite. If wisdom of God softens our face and makes it serenely radiant, a man with no Godly wisdom will have a hard face. The ultimate example of this is the antichrist. We read in Daniel 8, one of the antichrist’s qualities is that he has a hard face.

And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. (Daniel 8:23 KJV)

Friends, the gentle disciplines of reading the bible, prayer, and proclaiming His truth will transform us, and it’s not only the mind that is transformed (Romans 12:2) but when the mind is drenched with wisdom, truth, Jesus, it will alter our very countenance.

The upshot is, close communion with God will alter our face.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18).

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

Behold His glory and it will shine upon you today, reflecting back to a dark world that needs to see it.





3 comments :

  1. This was really good. I appreciated the Matthew Henry Commentary: "Wisdom...It puts honor upon a man and a lustre upon his whole conversation." What great descriptive language. I was reflecting on how I have noticed these qualities in other people but maybe we radiate Him when we are unaware, like how Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone. Melissa

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    1. A wise comment Melissa. You've got me thinking. Thank you.

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  2. Elizabeth, wow, this is just a fabulous post! I think you're right, believers' faces do radiate Christ, especially when we are drenched in the word and prayer. I also think not only our faces, but our eyes and thus our whole body:

    Luke 11
    34 "The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness. 35 "Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness. 36 "If therefore your whole body is full of light, with no dark part in it, it will be wholly illumined, as when the lamp illumines you with its rays."

    Again, this was a simply excellent post, well done!

    -Carolyn

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