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Grace Notes

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"FOR GLORY AND FOR BEAUTY"
by Philip Owen

          You are probably somewhat familiar with the elaborate costume that God ordered Aaron, the high priest, to wear when he “enter[ed] the tent of meeting” or when he “approach[ed] the altar to minister in the holy place” (see Ex. 28:43). God explained that those garments that He instructed Moses to have made for Aaron, were intended “for glory and for beauty” (Ex. 28:2b). “That’s understandable,” we might respond. “After all, Aaron typified our great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. We would expect him to be arrayed in glorious and beautiful garments.” But wait. Thirty-eight verses later in the same chapter, we learn that Aaron’s sons, also priests, though arrayed in different and less magnificent garments, were instructed, when serving in the tabernacle, to don their vestments “for glory and for beauty” (v. 40).

            What’s the point? Just this: the Apostle John reveals that the One “who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood . . . has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father” (Rev. 1:5b, 6a). Like the sons of Aaron who shared some of the duties of the priesthood along with their father and in so doing were adorned “for glory and for beauty,” so the New Testament church is a body consisting of believer-priests who are to minister for the Lord and must be adorned “for glory and for beauty.”

            But unlike Aaron and his sons, our adornment does not consist of well-tailored clothing. We get an inkling of what God intends in Peter’s words addressed to wives. He explains that they are to manifest “chaste and respectful behavior” (I Pet. 3:2b). Furthermore, he instructs, “Your adornment must not be merely external . . . but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God” (vv. 3, 4).

            In other words, the glory and beauty displayed by believer-priests is not external but internal. The hymnwriter has captured the significance of this truth in the words, “Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.” Yes, God intends believers to be clothed “for glory and for beauty”; the righteousness of Christ is to be manifested in us.

            Though in all other ways they looked like ordinary men, Aaron and his sons when clothed in their priestly garb were immediately identifiable as priests of God. Just so, though believers are ordinary men and women in every respect, we are instructed by Paul to “put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Eph. 4:24). Paul is not suggesting that we play “dress up” like little children donning ill-fitting clothes belonging to their parents, or that we put on a façade that covers up the real us. Instead, he is suggesting that we “sink down” into the new nature that God gave us when we were saved, to submit to the Word of God, to yield to the character of Christ and allow His nature to shine through. “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” is how Paul expresses the same truth (Rom. 13:14). It entails a conscious choice, a deliberate action. I must say, “I will live out the character of Christ rather than yield to my own fallen, sinful nature.”

            The apparel that believers wear is to be the character of Christ, so distinguished by holiness and righteousness that its glory and beauty are immediately perceptible (though not necessarily understood by the world). Furthermore, it is to be of such a nature that an unbeliever will not be merely impressed that we are nice but will be provoked to ask, or at least to consider, why we are different. And believers will recognize that they have seen the Lord in us. In fact, it is the glory and beauty of the Lord Jesus that we are to manifest.

            What a wonderful privilege. I have seen some very ordinary looking believers who so reflected the nature of their Savior that they exuded a spiritual radiance that profoundly transformed them. Do others see the glory and beauty of Christ in you?

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