All the fullness of God is found in this man Jesus. Full humanity and the fullness of deity. We marvel at his bigness and might and omni-relevance, and we melt at his grace and mercy and meekness, and all that comes together in one spectacular person.
Not only do books change lives, but paragraphs do. And not only paragraphs, but even single sentences. “Paragraphs find their way to us through books,” John Piper writes, “and they often gain their peculiar power because of the context they have in the book. But the point remains: One sentence or paragraph may lodge itself so powerfully in our mind that its effect is enormous when all else is forgotten.”
In fact, we might even take it a step further, to particular phrases. That’s my story. It’s been a loaded phrase, but a single phrase nonetheless, penned by Jonathan Edwards and printed in a book by Piper, that has proved life-changing: “admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies.”
As a sophomore in college (and with the help of some older students), I was becoming wise to the bigness and sovereignty of God, but I was still naïve about how it all related to Jesus. Help came when Piper published Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ.
At first, I read it too fast, and benefited little. But when I came back to it, and read each chapter devotionally (thirteen chapters plus the intro, so a reading a day for two weeks), it awakened in me a new love for and focus on Jesus.
The most transformative section of the book was chapter 3. The chapter begins like this, landing on the phrase from Edwards that lodged itself so powerfully in my mind:
A lion is admirable for its ferocious strength and imperial appearance. A lamb is admirable for its meekness and servant-like provision of wool for our clothing. But even more admirable is a lionlike lamb and a lamblike lion. What makes Christ glorious, as Jonathan Edwards observed over 250 years ago, is “an admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies.” (29)
No One Like Him
The life-changing phrase first appears in a sermon, “The Excellency of Christ,” preached under the banner of Revelation 5:5–6. Edwards says,
There is an admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies in Jesus Christ. The lion and the lamb, though very diverse kinds of creatures, yet have each their peculiar excellencies. The lion excels in strength, and in the majesty of his appearance and voice: the lamb excels in meekness and patience, besides the excellent nature of the creature as good for food, and yielding that which is fit for our clothing and being suitable to be offered in sacrifice to God. But we see that Christ is in the text compared to both, because the diverse excellencies of both wonderfully meet in him.
I was captured by the thought, and reality, that Jesus brings together in one person what no other men or angels — or even the Father or the Spirit — unite in one person. Lionlike strength and lamblike gentleness.
What I began to see for myself in those days is that Jesus isn’t just the means for humans to get right with the Father. Christ, the God-man, is also the great end. He is the fullest and deepest revelation of God to mankind. To see him is to see the Father. And the Father means for us to see, and savor, his Son as the great treasure of surpassing value, as the pearl of greatest price.