By John Owen
"Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most Mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty." -- Ps. xlv. 3. 
In the 2d verse we have a description of the person of Christ, and of the ground of God's blessing and accepting of him in his work, the psalm having a double design; -- first, To show the glory of Christ in his kingly office; secondly, To show the mutual love that is between Christ and his church.
This 3d verse sets forth his entering upon the first part of his work, and is spoken by the way of encouragement unto Christ, in the name of God the Father, to undertake his office, and to go through with it. "Gird thy sword," saith he, "upon thy thigh, O most Mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty."
There are three things in the words:-- I. The work that is proposed unto Jesus Christ, or rather his preparation for his work: "Gird thy sword upon thy thigh." II. The manner how he should go through this work: "With thy glory and thy majesty." And (that which I shall particularly enlarge on) III. The appellation that is here given to Christ; which is, "Most Mighty." He is most mighty in the execution of his office which he is exalted unto:--
I. We have Christ's preparation for his work: "Gird thy sword on thy thigh." Consider two things:-- 1. What is the sword of Christ. 2. What is meant by girding this sword upon his thigh.
1. The sword of Christ is the word of God; so it is called, "The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God," Eph. vi. 17. The Spirit being the great immediate agent whereby Christ administers his kingdom, that which is the sword of the Spirit is the sword of Christ: and therefore, where Christ is described in his kingdom, it is said that "he hath a sword proceeding out of his mouth," Rev. i. 16; which, in another place, is called "The rod of his month," Isa. xi. 4. It is the word of God, the great instrument of Christ in managing of his kingdom, that is called here his sword.
2. Concerning this it is said, "Gird thy sword upon thy thigh." The girding of the sword upon the thigh, is the putting of it into readiness for use. When David was going up against Nabal, he said unto his men, 1 Sam. xxv. 13, "Gird ye on every man his sword." Wherefore Christ's girding his sword upon his thigh, is the disposing of the word into the ordinances of the gospel, where it may be ready for use. It hath respect unto the time when he ascended on high, and sent forth his word for the setting up of his kingdom. Then he put his word in readiness to effect the great designs of his love and grace, when "he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers," Eph. iv. 11. He furnished men with gifts and abilities to dispense this word unto the ends of his kingdom.
II. The manner of going through his work is, "With thy glory and thy majesty." The glory and majesty of Christ are his power and authority. And so it is prophesied of, as an encouragement unto the Lord Christ, that he should clothe his word with power and authority for the ends of setting up his kingdom, -- the edification of his church and the preservation of it in the world.
These things I speak in a general way; I shall now more particularly address myself, --
III. To the appellation that is here given unto Christ, -- "O most Mighty, G+uiB+uW+πR+, from G+uoB+aR+, one that prevails in every thing he takes in hand.
Observe from hence, that the Lord Jesus Christ, as king of the church, is endowed with a mighty power for the accomplishing of all the designs and ends of this rule and kingdom. It is said of him, Ps. lxxxix. 19, God hath "laid help upon one that is mighty." It is spoken there primarily of David, "I have found David my servant." But what could poor David do? one taken from the sheepfold. It was not a laying help, therefore, upon David that was mighty, absolutely speaking; but a putting strength into him. But David was a type of Christ; and to him must the passage be referred; -- he is the mighty One. Also Isaiah, Isa. lxiii. 1, describing of Christ in his kingdom, saith, "It is I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.' " And again, in Ps. xxiv. 7, etc., there is a description of his ascension into heaven; the gates and everlasting doors being lifted up, that he, the King of glory, may enter in. The question being asked, "Who is this King of glory?" saith he, "The Lord, strong and mighty." It is a property everywhere ascribed unto Jesus Christ, that he is mighty.
Here we may inquire, -- 1. Whence Christ is thus mighty for the execution of his kingly office? and, 2. To what ends he doth put forth this might and power?
1. Whence is Christ thus mighty? Christ is mighty upon two accounts:--
(1.) From the omnipotent power of his divine nature; which is the principle of his mighty operations in the union of his person. So the prophet declares, Isa. ix. 6, "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given." And how shall he be called? "Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God;" -- "This child that is born unto us, this son that is given unto us, his name shall be (that is, he really is), -- The mighty God." Why so? Because of the union of the divine nature with the human in the same person; whereby the same person becomes a child born, and also the mighty God.
(2.) He is mighty, from the authority and power that was communicated and given unto him by the Father, as mediator, for the accomplishing of his whole work. Two things concur to make one legally mighty to proper ends; -- first, strength and power; secondly, authority. Where there is strength and power and no authority, it is force; and where there is authority, but no strength or power, that authority will be void. Christ had strength and power as the mighty God; and he hath authority too, as all power is communicated to him by God the Father; as may be seen in Matt. xxviii. 18; Eph. i. 20-22, and many other places.
But it will be objected, "If Christ be the mighty God by nature, how comes it to pass that he should have power and authority given unto him? God hath given unto him might and dominion, far above all principalities," etc.
I answer, -- Christ, as his power is given to him, is considered not absolutely as God, nor absolutely as man; but as God-man, Mediator, -- one that mediates between God and man: and so his power to erect his kingdom is given him of his Father.
2. The second inquiry is, -- Unto what ends doth the Lord Jesus put forth this mighty power wherewith he is endowed? I answer, -- To these five ends:-- (1.) Unto the erecting of his kingdom or church in the world; (2.) To the preservation of it; (3.) To the subduing of his enemies; (4.) To the raising of the dead; (5.) In the judging of all flesh, and distributing of eternal rewards and punishments: all which are acts of mighty power.
(1.) Jesus Christ puts forth this mighty power in erecting and building of his church. In Matt. xvi. 18, our Lord saith, "I will build my church;" and the apostle, in Heb. iii. 3, 4, shows that it was an act of divine power to build this church of God: "He that built all things is God." No one could build a church in all ages, but God himself. And if we were able to take a view how Jesus Christ first built his church in the world, we should learn not to distrust his power in any thing he had afterward to do. There was a combination of hell and of all the power of the world, against the interest of Christ and the gospel. The concurring suffrage of mankind, wise and unwise, learned and unlearned, Jew and Greek, influenced by their interest, by all that was dear unto them, set themselves in a combination against Christ's building of his kingdom. He employed against all this force a few poor men, unlearned, unskillful; and gives into their hands only the sword of the Spirit, -- the word of God; furnishes them only with gifts and abilities for the dispensing of the word: which was "his girding of his sword upon his thigh." He set these poor men to work; and clothing them with his glory and majesty, they make havoc in the devil's kingdom, and destroy it by degrees, until they root it out of the earth. It was, then, an act of mighty power in Christ, to build his kingdom and church.
(2.) Christ puts forth this mighty power in the preserving of his church, being so founded and built on him. It is that which he expresses, Isa. xxvii. 3, "I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day."
The church being built, is not able to stand of itself; for unto the end of time the gates of hell and the power of the world shall be engaged against it. But saith he, "I will keep it, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.' " There is a carnal church in the world, or a worldly church; and how is that kept? By force, -- laws and power of men who have wrapt up their secular interest in the preserving of it; and they will fight for their kingdom. On the contrary, the Lord Jesus Christ hath a spiritual church, of them that believe in him. They also are preserved; and by what means? By a secret emanation of mighty power from Jesus Christ. There hath not been any age in the world since the ascension of Christ, but there hath been an emanation, or putting forth of this mighty power of Christ in preserving of this church. He preserved a people under the whole apostasy of Antichrist. Had there been none left on the earth to fear him, and believe in him, all the promises of God to him had come to an end. But he did secretly, by his mighty power, preserve a people to himself in the midst of all the defection of Antichrist. And he doth so at this day, in the midst of the new defection made to Antichrist: for, in former days, the world fell off to Antichrist by superstition and idolatry; they are now falling off to him by profaneness and atheism: yet Jesus Christ, by his mighty power under both, or by a secret exertion of his power, preserves his church through all, and carries them as safe through the new opposition as he did through the old.
(3.) He puts forth his power for the subduing and conquering of his and his church's enemies.
What enemies has Christ? what enemies has the church? As many as there are devils in hell, and men and women in the world that are of the seed of the serpent. But I may reduce all the enmity to the interest of Christ upon earth to these four heads:-- [1.] Satan; [2.] The world; [3.] Sin; [4.] Death. Christ is most mighty in conquering all these enemies:--
[1.] He puts forth his mighty power in conquering of Satan. This was the first word that was spoken of him in the world, in Gen. iii. 15, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." The first discovery God made to his creatures concerning the incarnation of his Son was in this, -- that he would destroy Satan; and so the Holy Ghost tells us he hath done, Col. ii. 15, "He spoiled principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in his cross." These words, "He spoiled principalities and powers," are an exposition of the former promise in Genesis, that "the seed of the woman" (Jesus Christ) "should bruise the serpent's head." How should he do it? Why, in spoiling principalities and powers, and triumphing over them openly in his cross. So he saith, in Heb. ii. 14, "That through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." He did not destroy him as to his being, but as to his power and authority. Hence, first, The devil hath a limited power only remaining, such as shall never prejudice the eternal interest of the church; and, secondly, He is reserved unto eternal destruction by this mighty power of Christ.
[2.] The second enemy of Christ is the world; and that may be considered either in the men of it or in the power of it:--
In the men of it. The Lord Christ puts forth his mighty power to deal with and subdue all the men of the world that rise up in opposition against him. Whatever success they may seem to have, they are all made his footstool: "Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel," Ps. ii. 9. And you have him twice or thrice described in the Revelation as going forth in his mighty power for the subduing of all his adversaries. See Rev. xix. 11-21.
And this must be; for he shall subdue all the authority in the world, -- not only the persons of men, but all the power and all the authority which is set up against him, or exercised against his interest. 1 Cor. xv. 24, 25, "When he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet." There is a suspension of the issue of all things until Christ hath thus put down all that opposeth him and his interest. But there is an expectation in heaven, and in earth, in the whole creation: all are waiting, as if one single person, for the putting forth this mighty power of Christ for the subduing of all unto him; for the end will not be till then. Whatever we endure, we must be contented with it; whatsoever we suffer, the end must not be till all his enemies be made his footstool, and there be nothing to stand up against him who is most mighty.
[3.] Sin in his people is another enemy of Christ. Sin, as it is in men by nature, is that which gives life and efficacy to all the enmity that is acted against him; and, as it remains even in believers themselves, it doth act a great emnity against Christ. How come we, then, to be freed from it? how comes it to be subdued? The apostle, in Rom. vii., gives an account of the great contest and conflict that believers have with the remainder of sin in them, that makes them cry out for deliverance from it, verses 24, 25. It is a sudden breaking forth of the apostle there, when he was describing the law of sin; for he cries out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?" etc. But he as suddenly takes up, "I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord;" -- "Through the power of Christ this enemy, sin, shall be subdued." Therefore, chap. vi. 14, it is said, "Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace;" -- "If you come under grace, or under the rule of Christ, sin shall not have dominion over you." What is the reason of it? where is the consequence of the argument? Because sin is one great enemy of Christ, and he will certainly conquer it.
[4.] Death is another enemy. It is the last enemy, 1 Cor. xv. 25, 26, "He must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." And, in verse 54, he tell us that "death is swallowed up in victory;" a conquest is obtained over it. It is the last enemy, because, until the consummation of all things, we shall be subject to its power; but that shall also come under the feet of Christ, when we shall die no more.
This is the third end wherefore Christ puts forth this mighty or exceeding greatness of his power, -- namely, for the subduing of his enemies.
(4.) The fourth end for which Christ puts forth the greatness of his power is, for the raising up all his church from the dead, Phil. iii. 20, 21, "Our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself." The mighty power of Christ reaches thus far, that the dead shall be raised thereby. Yes, our vile body shall, -- the body of our humiliation; that is, the body as it is fallen into corruption, into a vile estate, though it come to worms and dust, yet he shall revive it by the exceeding greatness of his power. He shall raise the bodies of his people. The privilege of believers in that day will be, that they shall be first raised, and they shall be peculiarly raised by the power of Christ as mediator. Their bodies shall be raised in conformity to his glorious body, when others shall be raised after them by the mere divine power of Christ, and raised with all their own vileness upon them.
(5.) And lastly, to mention no more; -- the mighty power of Christ is put forth in judging of all the world, and distributing to them rewards of bliss or woe that shall abide to all eternity, Matt. xxv. 31-46.
Thus you see why the Holy Ghost, by the psalmist, calls Christ here the Mighty One, -- one that will mightily prevail in every thing. It is because of his divine power, -- he is the mighty God. Because of his mediatorial authority there is committed unto him all power in heaven and in earth. He doth put forth this power for the erecting of his church, for its preservation, for the subduing of his enemies, in the raising of the dead, and distributing rewards and punishments.
 This sermon was preached at Stadham, June 21, 1674.