The Peculiar Mark of Majesty, Part 2

Easter Sunday

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. 2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. 3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? 5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, 7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. 9 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

What does Psalm 8 have to do with the resurrection of Jesus? The answer is: When verse 6 says, “You [God] have given him [man] dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,” it leads us to the truth that all who belong to Jesus Christ will one day rule with him over creation, and that Christ brings us to that position by becoming man, and by dying for our sins and rising from the dead triumphant over all God’s enemies.

Psalm 8, Man’s Dominion, and the God-Man

Or to put it another way, when you look at God’s creation today in its fallen condition—filled with diseases and natural disasters of every kind, not to mention the evils of man against man, and finally death everywhere coming to every person—verse 6 simply sounds naïve. “You [God] have given him [man] dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet.” That is so far from being true now in this fallen age, one wonders, “David, what are you talking about?” Or: “When are you talking about?” Either you don’t have eyes in your head, or you are talking about some future time. If man had dominion now over the creation, the way God means for him to have dominion, there would be no disease or disaster or death. It looks more like cancer and depression and Alzheimer’s and malaria and AIDS and global warming have dominion over man, not vice versa.

Therefore, Paul quotes this very verse—Psalm 8:6—in 1 Corinthians 15, the longest chapter in the Bible about the resurrection. And the connection is: Man will one day have dominion over all creation, but before that happens the Son of God must become Man—the representative Man, the Man who does what the first man, and all men, failed to do, so that in him all who belong to him, all who trust him, might share in what he does—lives a perfect life, dies because of sin, rises from the dead, and rules all creation to display the majesty of God.

That’s what we want to see and understand. So let’s start with Psalm 8 and review what we saw last week and then look at the connection in 1 Corinthians 15.

Psalm 8 and Triumphal Entry

The main point of the psalm is clear from the first and last verses. Verse 1: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” Verse 9: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” God’s name—“I am who I am,” my absolute rule—is majestic everywhere. And that is as it should be. That’s the main point.

But verses 3-8 add something crucial to the main point. This majesty of God’s name is the more majestic because God defeats his foes with the weakness of children, and he rules his world with the weakness of men. Verse 2: “Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.” God will silence his foes with what comes out of the mouths of infants. Verse 4: “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet . . . [verse 6:] You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet.” So the point of verses 3-8 is that the majesty of God is more majestic because he triumphs over his foes with the lowliness of children and he rules his world with the lowliness of man.

That was the mark of majesty that Jesus wore when he entered Jerusalem that last week of his life and quoted this psalm about the praise of children (Matthew 21:16). Jesus embodied in himself God’s strength magnified in human weakness. God’s victory achieved through childlike lowliness. God’s rule over the world established through humble servanthood. But it’s this last phrase that we have not yet seen: God’s rule over the world established through humble servanthood. God’s rule of creation through mere man. That is the point of Easter and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

Before we see how the Bible teaches this, let’s make sure we have the big picture of God’s purposes in view from Psalm 8. Six brief observations to sum up the big picture.

Six Big-Picture Observations

1. God is absolute. That is, he has no rivals. That’s the point of his name Lord in verses 1 and 9. Yahweh: I am who I am (Exodus 3:14). He always was. He is. And he always will be. Therefore, all things depend on him, and he depends on no one and nothing.

2. God is majestic in all the earth. And he means to be. This is the point of verses 1 and 9. These are not only statements of fact. They are also acclamations. When someone says, “How majestic is your name!” the name is being praised, not just described. The point of this psalm is not just that God is majestic, but that he should be known and praised as majestic. That is why he has created the earth and why he put people with minds and hearts on it—to know and praise his majesty. This is our great joy—to see and savor God’s majesty—and his great honor.

3. God has enemies. Verse 2, right in the middle of the verse: “because of your foes.” The foes of God are those who rebel against his majesty. They do not see him as majestic, and they do not want to praise him as majestic. They get far more pleasure out of getting praise for themselves than giving praise to God. The world has been ruined because of these enemies. And for the world to return to its proper purpose, these enemies will have to be dealt with.

4. God’s intention is to defeat these enemies with the voice of children and to give the dominion of his creation to men who are not his enemies. That is what we have seen in verses 2 and 6.

5. The reason God defeats his enemies with the voice of children is to give joy to the weak who love his majesty and to make plain to all that the majesty of this triumphant power is God’s and the joy of sharing in it belongs to the children.

6. The reason God shares his dominion over creation with human beings is to give joy to the kind of human beings who do not rejoice in usurping God’s prerogatives but who rejoice in making God’s majesty their supreme treasure.

The Main Point of Psalm 8

The main point of the Psalm 8 and the main point of history is “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” And the reason children and people in general in this psalm are so prominent is that God loves to share the joy that he has in his own majesty. God’s majesty is magnified when human beings—old and young—are satisfied to glory in it rather than to grab it.

So what we are left with when this psalm is over is a victory over God’s foes that is not yet complete, and a dominion for man over creation that is not yet realized. Therefore, the psalm is prophetic. It is pointing to a time yet to a come and a work of God yet to be done that will defeat his enemies and bring all of creation under the dominion of human beings who treasure his majesty above everything.

We saw last week on Palm Sunday that Jesus quotes Psalm 8 in a way that helps us see that the time was at hand, and the work of God to subdue his enemies and give dominion to his people was about to be done in Jesus’ own work. Now let’s go to 1 Corinthians 15 and see how Jesus’ spokesman, the apostle Paul, describes the fulfillment of this psalm in the resurrection and reign of Jesus and his people.

First Corinthians 15 and the Gospel

The chapter begins with the heart of the Christian gospel. Verses 3-4: “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” What this makes plain is that God sent Jesus Christ into the world to save his enemies—the ones we saw in Psalm 8:2 who do not exult in his majesty, but love themselves to be made much of. God offers them a way to be forgiven, namely, by putting his Son in their place to bear their sin.

So no one who hears this gospel of Christ dying for sinners should feel hopeless, as though all their sins make them God’s enemy forever. God has made a way for reconciliation. First Corinthians 15:2 makes clear that anyone who believes in Christ—who holds fast to him as their only hope—will be forgiven. It says, “By [this gospel] you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.” The word Paul preaches is “Christ died for our sins . . . and was raised on the third day.” If you will believe that and hold fast to Christ—cleave to him and embrace him and cherish him—as your only hope, then you will be forgiven from all the ways you have dishonored the majesty of God.

First Corinthians 15 and the Resurrection

That’s the way the chapter starts. But mainly this chapter is about the resurrection of Jesus and its implications for us. And its implications are relevant for us at every level. Two of the most basic levels are whether Jesus’ death really does obtain forgiveness for us and whether it really obtains eternal life for us. In other words, Paul says that the resurrection of Christ is absolutely essential to establish these two effects of his death.

Look at verses 17-18, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” In other words, the death of Christ to save us from our sins and from perishing would not work if Christ stayed dead. So the resurrection is essential for his death to have any of its saving effects—our sins are forgiven and we will not perish because Christ died for us—and this dying work is only valid because God declared it to be so by raising Jesus from the dead. So our forgiveness and our eternal life hang on the resurrection of Jesus.

Now what about the dominion over creation that Psalm 8 said was God’s purpose for his people? What does the resurrection of Jesus have to do with that? Remember Psalm 8:6 said, “You [God] have given him [man] dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet.” How does the resurrection of Jesus relate to that?

The Relationship Between the Resurrection and the Reign of Psalm 8

We can see it in four steps.

1. The Risen God-Man Assumes Dominion

Christ at his resurrection assumes dominion over all things as Man—the God-man. In verse 27a, Paul quotes Psalm 8:6 and applies it Jesus: “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” Psalm 8:6b says, “You have put all things under his feet.” So when Jesus was raised from the dead, he took his place as Man over all things. He rules all things.

2. The Risen God-Man Is a Representative

He does this as the head or the representative of all those who belong to him. Look at verses 21-22, “As by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” Adam represented all those who were in him. Christ represents all those who were in him. He is the second man, the representative man.

See this again in verses 45 and 47. Verse 45: “Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” First Adam . . . last Adam. Verse 47: “The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.” Amazing phrase for Jesus: the “second man.”

The point is that just as Adam was the head and representative of those who were in him (all of us) and brought sin and ruin on the human race and the creation, so Christ is the head and representative of those who are in him and brings them forgiven and restored as a new humanity into his reign over the creation.

3. The Risen God-Man Represents Those Who Are His

The ones that Christ makes alive and brings with him from the grave and into dominion over the creation are “those who belong to him.” Look again at the connection between verses 22 and 23: “As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. [Who are the “all”?] But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.”

In other words, two thousand years ago when Christ rose from the dead, it was like the first part of a harvest. The rest of the harvest happens at the second coming of Christ which could be very soon. And who will that harvest be that rises from the dead to reign with Christ? Verse 23b says: “Then at his coming those who belong to him.”

Who belongs to Christ? Romans 8:9 says, “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” So having the Spirit of Christ is the mark of belonging to Christ now. And Galatians 3:2 makes clear that we receive this Spirit of Christ by faith in Christ—not by things we do, but by trusting in the one who died for us and rose again. “Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” So, “those how belong to him” are those who put their faith in him. If you want to be among the number of those who belong to Christ at his coming, and who will be raised to reign with him and have dominion with him over the creation, trust him now.

4. The Risen God-Man and Those Who Are His Keep the Mark of Divine Majesty Forever

Finally, notice that Paul makes something clear about the dominion of this new humanity over creation. And in doing this, he reaffirms the main point of Psalm 8 and the main point of history and of the universe. He makes clear that human dominion over creation serves to magnify the supremacy of the majesty of God. Look at verses 27-28 to see how Paul says this.

Verse 27: “‘God has put all things in subjection under his feet.’” That’s the quote from Psalm 8:6. Now Paul interprets. “But when it says, ‘all things are put in subjection,’ it is plain that he [God] is excepted who put all things in subjection under him.” In other words, God the Father himself is not subjected to man, not even to the God-man.” Instead Man—the God-man Jesus Christ—and all who are his and who are reigning with him joyfully magnify the supreme majesty of God the Father. Verse 28: “When all things are subjected to him [that is, to God the Son, Jesus Christ], then the Son himself will also be subjected to him [the Father] who put all things in subjection under him, that God [that is, God the Father] may be all in all.”

In other words, the mark of divine majesty remains uniquely on the Son forever. He is humble and submissive and obedient to his Father. And in this, he is not less than God but all the more majestic.

And we who belong to him, we now bear this mark of divine majesty as well, not that we are God, but like God—bearing the image of God. We reign with Christ in all humility and find our everlasting joy not in usurping the majesty of God but in saying with all creation: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name—not ours—in all the earth.”

This is what you were made for. And if you will receive Christ as your redeeming king you will belong to him and reign with him and have dominion with him over all creation forever.

©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in its entirety or in unaltered excerpts, as long as you do not charge a fee. For Internet posting, please use only unaltered excerpts (not the content in its entirety) and provide a hyperlink to this page. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Desiring God.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org