John Owen on Christ the Sanctuary

“It is of [Christ’s incarnation] that that great promise concerning him is given to the church. ‘He will be as a sanctuary’ (namely to all believers as Peter tells us, 1 Pet. 2:7-8), ‘but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence.’ To whom? To those who ‘stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed’ (Is. 8:14; 1 Pet. 2:8).

Christ is a sanctuary, a sure refuge to all that put their trust in him. And what would a troubled man fleeing to a safe place be looking for? He would look for all his needs to be met, to be delivered from all his fears, to be protected from all dangers. Such is the Lord Christ to all sin-distressed souls.

Christ is a refuge to us in all our spiritual sorrows and troubles (Heb. 6:18). Are you burdened with a sense of sin? Are you weighed down under the oppression of any spiritual enemy? Do we, as a result of any of these things, ‘walk in darkness and have no light’? One look at the glory of Christ will strengthen and comfort us.
When we go to someone for help, two questions arise.

The first is, Is the person to whom we are going for help willing to help us, and secondly, Is he able to help us? We need to know that Christ is both willing and able to help us and to meet all our needs.
We may well ask, What will Christ not do for us? He who emptied and humbled himself, who came down from the infinite height of his glory to take our finite nature into union with his infinite nature, will he not meet all our needs and answer according to his infinite wisdom all out prayers for help? Will he not do all that is necessary for us to be eternally saved? Will he not be a sanctuary for us?

We have no reason to fear his ability and power, for in becoming man he lost nothing of his power as the Almighty God, nor of his infinite wisdom and glorious grace. He could still do all that he could do as God from eternity. So Christ is indeed most willing and able to help us. And if we do not see his glory in this, it is because we have no faith in us….

So I exhort you to spend much time meditating on the glory of Christ in his humiliation. Unless we are diligent in this, it is impossible to keep our faith steadily fixed on Christ or be ready for self-denial and taking up our cross, for the humbling of Christ is the chief motive for this duty (Philz 2:5-8). And no man denies himself rightly, who does not consider the self-denial of the Son of God. For what are the things of which we are to deny ourselves? Is it not our goods, our rights and freedoms, our relations and our lives? They are perishing things from which, whether we like it or not, death will separate us. But the glory of Christ is for ever. Believers will never be separated from it. So if you find yourself at any time unwilling to part with this world, then lift up your eyes and by faith behold the glory of Christ who ‘made himself of no reputation’.”

Law, R. J. K. “The Glory of Christ Humbling Himself.” The Glory of Christ. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1994. 47-49. Print.


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