The old chorus said, “God’s Word is like a…mirror ourselves to see.” James tells us that it is possible for us to look into that mirror, “the perfect law of liberty,” and to either change our ways, or leave things as they are.
If any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a mirror: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed (Jas. 1:23-25).
To what is he referring?
God’s law reveals, not only His commandments for us, but also His character. As we look into His law, our shortcomings are revealed to us in the light of what He has commanded and in view of His perfections. “Be ye holy as I am holy” is His command to us as well as the various commandments dealing with our worship of Him alone and our relationships with others.
Too often our role models are taken from a secular society whose values are diametrically opposed to God’s standards. The Bible is filled with accounts of men and women who lived lives pleasing to God: our Lord Jesus, David, Hannah, Paul, Timothy, Epaphroditus, and Barnabas, to name only a few. Often one particular aspect of their life is also identified for us to imitate. Only when we spend time in God’s Word meditating on those that He approves of, and seeking to pattern our lives after them, will we also be found walking as He would have us.
We read of the men and women of faith in Hebrews 11, and learn that these are the ones that God is pleased with, and as we are surrounded by this witness, we understand that He wants us to live as they did.
We read the account of Saul, and are warned that obedience is what counts. We read of Diotrephes and seek to avoid the sin of wanting to have the preeminence. We read of Lot and understand something of what it means to make the wrong choices. We read of Peter, and weep with him as he denied his Lord. Even some of the obscure passages that tell of the failures of men and women who only briefly come onto the pages of Scripture can serve as warnings to us.
A MIRROR TO SEE CHRIST
However, this mirror does something far better than merely showing us ourselves. More importantly it shows us our Lord Jesus, and as we study what it shows us about Him, we are transformed into that same image.
But we all, with open face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18).
There are at least four ways in which we can see our Lord Jesus in the Scriptures: in the historical record of the four Gospels and the first chapter of Acts; in the teaching of the NT Epistles; in the typology of the OT; and in the prophetic passages of both the Old and New Testaments.
THE HISTORICAL RECORD
As we read and meditate on the Gospels we come face to face with One who excels in every way. Our Lord Jesus is the One whose words and deeds never conflict with the perfections of His person. It is important that we not only study the Gospels with this in mind, but that we also meditate on them. It is important that we allow His glories, in every aspect of His person, to overwhelm us, and to cultivate in us a greater love for, and devotion to, Him.
In the Gospels we see the beauty of the Scripture in giving a fourfold view of our Lord Jesus. We must not come with a question in our minds as to whether or not differences in the records constitute contradiction. Each of the Gospel writers brings us a different faithful view of the same blessed person. Indeed, we could have a thousand views, but God in His wisdom has given us four. As we look at the various other witnesses to our Lord, in the Old and New Testaments, this fourfold aspect takes on a special significance (the four living creatures in Ezekiel and Revelation, for example).
THE NEW TESTAMENT EPISTLES
Three of the epistles are known as Christological in that they focus on three aspects of the person of our Lord Jesus. They were written at a time when the deity of our Lord was under attack, and Paul gives us three views of our Lord, focusing on His headship, His relationship to His people, and His humiliation. In each of the three epistles, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, there is much teaching directed to our day to day living, but it is important to keep in mind that in each case it flows from the doctrinal teaching of the first part of the epistle. This would reinforce what Paul tells us (2 Cor. 3:18) that it is as we gaze upon Him that we are changed.
It is not only in the Christological epistles that we learn of our Lord. When we come to those epistles that focus on our salvation, we learn there of what He has done, and the depths of His love. The epistle to the Romans is primarily concerned with the truths of the Gospel, and how God’s righteousness is consistently displayed in it, and yet we pause when we come to passages like that found in Romans 8 where “the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” is dealt with.
The Epistle to the Hebrews focuses on our Lord Jesus, God’s Son, who is superior in every way: to the angelic beings, to Moses, to Aaron; as regards the covenants, the sanctuary, the sacrifices, and the promises. We learn of His faithfulness, that He is without sin, that He is the fulfillment of all the OT pictures, and that it is through Him that we have access to the very throne of God.
Also, the writers of the epistles sometimes use titles for our Lord Jesus that can also be helpful. One example would be Peter’s statement about “the chief Shepherd.” As we think about these various titles, they help us come to know our Lord better.
Turning back to the OT we are brought to the subject of typology. Typology has sometimes suffered from too little attention, and sometimes from too much. We tend to go to extremes in matters like this, and sometimes lose sight of what the Lord wishes to teach us. A type could be described as “a divinely-purposed historical person, object, or event which prefigures a NT person or doctrine.” An example of a type would be the smitten rock in the wilderness. Paul refers to it in 1 Corinthians 10:4. We could learn from this picture in the OT that Christ was smitten for us, that He was only smitten once, and that the life-giving water flowed as a result of this smiting.
The types of the OT are a beautiful source of teaching regarding the person and work of our Lord Jesus. Who of us would not benefit from a study of Passover, the journey of the children of Israel from Egypt to Canaan, the Tabernacle and its furniture, the Feasts of the Lord, and other such things that help us learn more about Him?
PROPHETIC PASSAGES IN THE SCRIPTURES
The prophetic books of the OT are in two groups, the larger ones, and the smaller ones. Seventeen books, written over a long period of time, giving us glimpses into what God has in store for His people. In doing so, they reveal much about the One who was, is, and will be the center of His plans: our Lord Jesus.
We learn of His eternal nature (Micah 5:2), that He is very God (Isa. 9:6), and many other things concerning His person. Who is not moved as they read Isaiah 53, and read of the One who is “the Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief”? In Zechariah we read of the One who was pierced and is also the One who bears the glory and the crowns. Daniel tells us of His authority and rule in the end times.
The last book in our Bibles is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” and we see Him in all His glory as the One who has conquered death, and who has the right to take the scroll, and who will put down all His enemies.
In Psalm 73 Asaph tells us that it was when he came in the sanctuary that he understood the important things in life. Would to God we also would spend time in the sanctuary of His presence, with His Word open before us, to learn more of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. Then we will know what it is to be changed into His image, from glory to glory through the ministry of “the Lord the Spirit.”