Glory to God in the highest - The design of God, in the incarnation, was to manifest the hidden glories of his nature, and to reconcile men to each other and to himself. The angels therefore declare that this incarnation shall manifest and promote the glory of God, εν ὑψιστοις not only in the highest heavens, among the highest orders of beings, but in the highest and most exalted degrees. For in this astonishing display of God's mercy, attributes of the Divine nature which had not been and could not be known in any other way should be now exhibited in the fullness of their glory, that even the angels should have fresh objects to contemplate, and new glories to exult in. These things the angels desire to look into, 1 Peter 1:12, and they desire it because they feel they are thus interested in it. The incarnation of Jesus Christ is an infinite and eternal benefit. Heaven and earth both partake of the fruits of it, and through it angels and men become one family, Ephesians 3:15.
Peace, good will toward men - Men are in a state of hostility with Heaven and with each other. The carnal mind is enmity against God. He who sins wars against his Maker; and
"Foe to God was ne'er true friend to man."
When men become reconciled to God, through the death of his Son, they love one another. They have peace with God; peace in their own consciences; and peace with their neighbors: good will dwells among them, speaks in them, and works by them. Well might this state of salvation be represented under the notion of the kingdom of God, a counterpart of eternal felicity. See on Matthew 3:2; (note).
Glory to God - Praise be to God, or honor be to God. That is, the praise of redeeming man is due to God. The plan of redemption will bring glory to God, and is designed to express his glory. This it does by evincing his love to people, his mercy, his condescension, and his regard to the honor of his law and the stability of his own government. It is the highest expression of his love and mercy. Nowhere, so far as we can see, could his glory be more strikingly exhibited than in giving his only-begotten Son to die for people.
In the highest - This is capable of several meanings:
1.In the highest “strains,” or in the highest possible manner.
2.“Among” the highest that is, among the angels of God; indicating that “they” felt a deep interest in this work, and were called on to praise God for the redemption of man.
3.In the highest heavens - indicating that the praise of redemption should not be confined to the “earth,” but should spread throughout the universe.
4.The words “God in the highest” may be equivalent to “the Most High God,” and be the same as saying, “Let the most high God be praised for his love and mercy to people.”
Which of these meanings is the true one it is difficult to determine; but in this they all agree, that high praise is to be given to God for his love in redeeming people. O that not only “angels,” but “men,” would join universally in this song of praise!
On earth peace - That is, the gospel will bring peace. The Saviour was predicted as the Prince of peace, Isaiah 9:6. The world is at war with God; sinners are at enmity against their Maker and against each other. There is no peace to the wicked. But Jesus came to make peace; and this he did,
1. By reconciling the world to God by His atonement.
2. By bringing the sinner to a state of peace with his Maker; inducing him to lay down the weapons of rebellion and to submit his soul to God, thus giving him the peace which passeth all understanding.
3. By diffusing in the heart universal good-will to people - “disposing,” people to lay aside their differences, to love one another, to seek each other‘s welfare, and to banish envy, malice, pride, lust, passion, and covetousness - in all ages the most fruitful causes of difference among people. And,
4. By diffusing the principles of universal peace among nations. If the gospel of Jesus should universally prevail, there would be an end of war. In the days of the millennium there will be universal peace; all the causes of war will have ceased; people will love each other and do justly; all nations will be brought under the influence of the gospel. O how should each one toil and pray that the great object of the gospel should be universally accomplished, and the world be filled with peace!
Good will toward men - The gift of the Saviour is an expression of good-will or love to people, and therefore God is to be praised. The work of redemption is uniformly represented as the fruit of the love of God, John 3:16; Ephesians 5:2; 1 John 4:10; Revelation 1:5. No words can express the greatness of that love. It can only be measured by the “misery, helplessness,” and “danger” of man; by the extent of his sufferings here and in the world of woe if he had not been saved; by the condescension, sufferings, and death of Jesus; and by the eternal honor and happiness to which he will raise his people. All these are beyond our full comprehension. Yet how little does man feel it! and how many turn away from the highest love of God, and treat the expression of that love with contempt! Surely, if God so loved us “first,” we ought also to love him, 1 John 4:19.
God has given us His holy precepts, because He loves mankind. To shield us from the results of transgression, He reveals the principles of righteousness. The law is an expression of the thought of God; when received in Christ, it becomes our thought. It lifts us above the power of natural desires and tendencies, above temptations that lead to sin. God desires us to be happy, and He gave us the precepts of the law that in obeying them we might have joy. When at Jesus’ birth the angels sang,— “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14), they were declaring the principles of the law which He had come to magnify and make honorable. DA 308.1
When the law was proclaimed from Sinai, God made known to men the holiness of His character, that by contrast they might see the sinfulness of their own. The law was given to convict them of sin, and reveal their need of a Saviour. It would do this as its principles were applied to the heart by the Holy Spirit. This work it is still to do. In the life of Christ the principles of the law are made plain; and as the Holy Spirit of God touches the heart, as the light of Christ reveals to men their need of His cleansing blood and His justifying righteousness, the law is still an agent in bringing us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” Psalm 19:7. DA 308.2
“Till heaven and earth pass,” said Jesus, “one jot or one tittle shall in nowise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” The sun shining in the heavens, the solid earth upon which you dwell, are God's witnesses that His law is changeless and eternal. Though they may pass away, the divine precepts shall endure. “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.” Luke 16:17. The system of types that pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God was to be abolished at His death; but the precepts of the Decalogue are as immutable as the throne of God. DA 308.3
Since “the law of the Lord is perfect,” every variation from it must be evil. Those who disobey the commandments of God, and teach others to do so, are condemned by Christ. The Saviour's life of obedience maintained the claims of the law; it proved that the law could be kept in humanity, and showed the excellence of character that obedience would develop. All who obey as He did are likewise declaring that the law is “holy, and just, and good.” Romans 7:12. On the other hand, all who break God's commandments are sustaining Satan's claim that the law is unjust, and cannot be obeyed. Thus they second the deceptions of the great adversary, and cast dishonor upon God. They are the children of the wicked one, who was the first rebel against God's law. To admit them into heaven would again bring in the elements of discord and rebellion, and imperil the well-being of the universe. No man who willfully disregards one principle of the law shall enter the kingdom of heaven. DA 308.4Read in context »
When the angels should witness the agony and humiliation of their Lord, they would be filled with grief and indignation and would wish to deliver Him from His murderers; but they were not to interpose in order to prevent anything which they should behold. It was a part of the plan of redemption that Christ should suffer the scorn and abuse of wicked men, and He consented to all this when He became the Redeemer of man. PP 65.1
Christ assured the angels that by His death He would ransom many, and would destroy him who had the power of death. He would recover the kingdom which man had lost by transgression, and the redeemed were to inherit it with Him, and dwell therein forever. Sin and sinners would be blotted out, nevermore to disturb the peace of heaven or earth. He bade the angelic host to be in accord with the plan that His Father had accepted, and rejoice that, through His death, fallen man could be reconciled to God. PP 65.2
Then joy, inexpressible joy, filled heaven. The glory and blessedness of a world redeemed, outmeasured even the anguish and sacrifice of the Prince of life. Through the celestial courts echoed the first strains of that song which was to ring out above the hills of Bethlehem—“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14. With a deeper gladness now than in the rapture of the new creation, “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” Job 38:7. PP 65.3Read in context »
God and Christ knew from the beginning, of the apostasy of Satan and of the fall of Adam through the deceptive power of the apostate. The plan of salvation was designed to redeem the fallen race, to give them another trial. Christ was appointed to the office of Mediator from the creation of God, set up from everlasting to be our substitute and surety. Before the world was made, it was arranged that the divinity of Christ should be enshrouded in humanity. “A body,” said Christ, “hast thou prepared me” (Hebrews 10:5). But He did not come in human form until the fullness of time had expired. Then He came to our world, a babe in Bethlehem. 1SM 250.1
No one born into the world, not even the most gifted of God's children, has ever been accorded such demonstration of joy as greeted the Babe born in Bethlehem. Angels of God sang His praises over the hills and plains of Bethlehem. “Glory to God in the highest,” they sang, “and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). O that today the human family could recognize this song! The declaration then made, the note then struck, the tune then started, will swell and extend to the end of time, and resound to the ends of the earth. It is glory to God, it is peace on earth, good will to men. When the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings, the song then started in the hills of Bethlehem will be reechoed by the voice of a great multitude, as the voice of many waters, saying, “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth” (Revelation 19:6). 1SM 250.2Read in context »
The angels from heaven did not come to the school of the prophets and sing their anthems over the temple or synagogues, but they went to the men who were humble enough to receive the message. They sang the glad tidings of a Saviour over Bethlehem's plains, while the great men, the rulers, and honorable men were left in darkness, because they were perfectly satisfied with their position and felt no need of a piety greater than that which they possessed.... TDG 319.5Read in context »