The Seedbed of Big-God Preaching

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In December, 1744, Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon foreshadowing The End for Which God Created the World, which he completed eleven years later, three years before he died. It’s title was “Approaching the End of God’s Grand Design.”

It is the kind of sermon that draws me back again and again to Edwards to rescue me from the spiritual strangle hold of small things. It’s this kind of seeing that makes the seedbed of Big-God Theology and Big-God Preaching. You can read it here. If there was ever a day we needed Big-God Preaching it is now.

He states the Doctrine: There is a time coming when God's grand design in all his various works and dispensations from age to age will be completed and his end fully obtained.

Then he asks: “What is this one great design that God has in view in all his works and dispensations?”

And answers: “’Tis to present to his Son a spouse3 in perfect glory from amongst sinful, miserable mankind, blessing all that comply with his will in this matter and destroying all his enemies that oppose it, and so to communicate and glorify himself2 through Jesus Christ1, God-man.”

That is a very carefully crafted sentence. He explains it piece by piece. The following comments correspond to the superscript numbers above.

1. “. . . through Jesus Christ” — “The one grand medium by which God glorifies himself in all is Jesus Christ, God-man.” “God's design in all the works {of creation} is to glorify his Son, and through him to glorify himself.”

2. “. . . to communicate and glorify himself”—“God's end in the creation of the world consists in these two things, viz. to communicate himself and to glorify himself.

God created the world to communicate himself, not to receive anything. But such was the infinite goodness of God that it was his will to communicate himself, to communicate of his own glory and happiness; and he made the world to glorify himself. . . .

These two things ought [not] to be separated when we speak of God's end in the creation of the world. . . . Indeed, God's communicating himself and glorifying {himself} ought not to be looked upon as though they were two distinct ends, but as what together makes one last end, as glorifying God and enjoying {God} make one chief end of man. For God glorifies himself in communicating himself, and he communicates himself in glorifying himself.

3. “. . . to present to his Son a spouse” — The principal means by which God glorifies his Son in the world that is created is by providing him a spouse, to be presented [to] him in perfect union, in perfect purity, beauty and glory.

The way in which the eternal Son of God is glorified in the creation is by communicating himself to the creatures, not by receiving anything from the creatures. . . . And because it was a spouse to communicate his goodness to that he desired, therefore that she might be one fit not to give but receive good, one was pitched upon that was remarkably empty and poor in herself, not of the highest order of creatures, but mankind. . . fallen, miserable, helpless: a state wherein his emptiness and need of goodness did more remarkably appear.

And because the design was that Christ should communicate goodness, therefore such an one was chosen that needed that Christ should suffer, and it was the will of Christ to suffer because suffering is the greatest expression of goodness and manifestation of kindness.

The great design was that Christ in this way should procure or obtain this his spouse, bring her to come to him, present her to himself and make her perfectly beautiful, perfectly and unspeakably happy. . . . And this is the way that God the Father intended to glorify his Son.

I read this sermon for my own soul on the Lord’s Day just past. What a gift. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for opening the eyes of Jonathan Edwards. Thank you for expanding his heart to sense your greatness where most of us pass by unmoved. Thank you for preserving so much of his seeing and savoring for us. And thank you for leading me again and again back to this soul-expanding spring of life.