The Deity of Christ
For one who is in possession of the New Testament, it scarcely needs to quote a text to prove the deity of Christ. It is only will that can fail to find it there; though it would be another thing entirely to say that there are no difficulties in the comprehension of it. Of course there are difficulties. That a babe born in Bethlehem, growing in wisdom and stature in the carpenter's house in Nazareth, should be at the same time the God of all men, this is a difficulty which no one thinks of denying. The Old Testament states it, however, and draws attention to it twice over, for the wonder of it, in words that were written, as every Jew is clear, long before the day of Christ. So Isaiah 9:6: "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Father of eternity, the Prince of peace." And again, Micah 5:2: "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall He come forth to Me who is to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."
Mystery it surely is, but no less clear that the fact is affirmed, and affirmed of One to whom from the beginning, as the "Seed of the woman," the generations of men looked forward, — to whom, since He came, the generations have looked back; and He the unique Man in human history! The marvelous explanation suits well the marvel of fact, while it concentrates every faculty of the soul upon it. He who made the world, from whom it had slipped away, has entered it again, in strange guise indeed, but so as to show the most tender interest in it. When we know Who it is, the self-abasement, the child-speech of the Eternal, learning the conditions of creaturehood, but so far removed from paradise: what a revelation is in this obscurity He has assumed!
Himself has come after us! who, after all, so likely as He? Shall we measure Him by the height of His throne — and then He is far from us indeed; or by the depths of a divine nature, which has planted even in man (capable of being seen in him still, spite of his ruin) the capacity of a self-sacrificing love, which can only be the dim reflection of his Maker?
Can it be another than He — a creature — to whom He has left it to win our hearts away from Himself by the glory of so great a work achieved for us? No, impossible! And when we realize this work, not as provincial merely, as done for a mere corner of creation, but as under the eyes of angelic principalities and powers, "that He might show in the ages to come, the exceeding riches of His grace, in His kindness to us," — how impossible for it to be any other than Himself who should do this! — for it to be no manifestation of God at all, but of some creature merely; God, in His central glory of being, yet unknown!"All things were created by Him and for Him" (Col. 1:6) is said of Christ; and such sayings are almost more positive affirmations of His Godhead than the most direct statements could be. How impossible to imagine a mere creature centre for the universe to revolve about! or even an inferior God! Go back to the account of creation, and how naturally it reads now of Him who is God and with God, as the gospel of John declares Him, "Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness." Or again, look forward in thought to where we are carried in that prophecy of Isaiah with which we began, by that title of His, not "the everlasting Father," as the text of the common version has it, but as the Hebrew and the margin of the Revised, "the Father of eternity:" the One who having made all things at the beginning, shall give them at the last their final shape.
Thus we realize that at the Centre of the universe there is not merely a Power that controls and holds it together which is again true of Him "in whom all things consist" (Col. 1:17), — but a Heart: perfectly told out as the moral Power which is manifested now as the "Beloved" of "Love" Itself. Here in the Incarnation and Atonement it is told out to us. There could be no other. It is no satellite which has become a sun, but the diffusive Sun itself, — yea, the Sun of all suns.
Think of One who could say of Himself that He was the "Light of the world," — excluding all other! Light — self-witnessing, as light is: so that rejection of it could only be on the part of men who "loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." And this light was not merely that of His sayings, a message that He brought, a revelation which was committed to Him, though there was that also: but He was Himself the Light, as He says, in the exactest possible way defining this, — "As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the world" (John 9:5).
His sayings would, indeed, live after He was gone; the revelation He made remain for other days. None the less, it would be night for the world when He was gone out of it. Nothing could replace the Sun. Of course, there are little "lights" enough — torchlights, bon-fires, here and there a calcium light: but no one of these could be confounded with the sun. Even the moon shines by its light, and nature itself bears witness which we do well to listen to, that the light of the world must be a light outside the world; nothing bred of it is competent for its illumination.
"God is light:" and here is One who claims to be in the world so absolutely that, that if a disciple express still a desire to have the Father shown to him, He can rebuke him with "Have I been so long time with you, and hast thou not known Me, Philip? he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?" (John 14:9).
Nothing could be more absolute in statement that as to God Himself, morally, there was none else to see, — there was no one back of Him, who was "the brightness" — or, as in the Revised Version, "the effulgence of (the Father's) glory, the exact image of His Person" (Heb. 1:3), "the Image of the invisible God" (Col 1:15).
He is thus the Revealer, or (according to the title which John alone gives to Him,) the "Word of God." The opening of his gospel, which is that in which the divine glory of Christ is the peculiar theme, presents Him in this character. "In the beginning" — when anything that had beginning began, — the Word (not began, but) was. Revelation began with creation: the work must necessarily in some sort bear witness of the Worker; but this is not enough to say here; for the Personal Word, there at the very beginning of creation, speaks of design on God's part that He should be known. He must intend, therefore, to have those to whom He can speak; and the Word of God is thus the Creator: "By Him were all things made; and without Him was not anything made that was made." Creation is, in scarcely a figure, the actual speech of the Word of God.
"The Word was with God" — a distinct Person; "and the Word was God" — a divine Person; and "the same was in the beginning with God" — always personally distinct, as always in communion with the Father.
It is too little remembered — to some seems to be unknown — that the Word was the Creator. The so-called Apostles' Creed ascribes creation solely to the Father. Scripture says of the Father, "of whom are all things," and of the Lord Jesus Christ "by whom" (1 Cor. 8:6). Paul in Colossians, as already quoted, declares of Christ that "all things were created by Him and for Him" (1:16). John may enable us to understand better this last expression. As the Word, the Revealer, we can see that He has special relation to what He has made; so that when we find that it is He, the "Word," who is "become flesh," this coming into His own creation, with all the wonder of it, has a divine suitability; and we, "created for Him," are thus to have the whole heart of God declared to us, and to be brought nigh in accordance with the eternal counsels of love, in which all the Persons of the Godhead have their part.
We pass on to John's epistle, and we find Him there before us as the "Word of life," where the same idea of revelation attaches to it: "for the Life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested unto us." This is thoroughly in keeping with the character of the epistle, but we have not yet reached to this.
And once again, in the book of Revelation, Christ is presented to us as the Word of God, where He is still manifesting God as ever, but in judgment. Here as Rider upon the white horse, the sword of judgment proceeds out of His mouth.
For us how blessed to realize in this title of the Son of God, the divine purpose, from eternity, of revelation, and that we were given of the Father to the Son, from the beginning of creation according to this purpose — "created for Him." The Lord's words in His prayer to the Father for those given to Him out of the world, though seeming to have a narrower scope, only show us the same purpose in progress, now defining itself in view of human sin and its fatal consequences. To those given to Him He manifests the Father's name, and communicates the Father's words. One who had his place with them had dropped out; but he was a "son of perdition."
There is no need to entangle ourselves with the questions that arose early in the Church with regard to the doctrine of the Word or Logos. Scripture is transparently clear with regard to it; and upon such subjects not a ray of light is to be got elsewhere.
Being, then, such as we see, we do not wonder that He claims to be the self-existent One, as in His words to the Jews: "Before Abraham was I AM" (John 8:58). This is the incommunicable name of Deity, by which He revealed Himself to Moses and to Israel: "I AM hath sent me to you" (Ex. 3:14). Being always the Word, the Revealer, this older voice was, of course, His own. He is thus the Abiding, the Unchangeable, the Eternal. Jehovah is but the synonym of this; and so the glory of Jehovah, which Isaiah saw in his day, is declared to be His glory: "these things said Esaias when he saw His glory, and spake of Him" (John 12:40, 41 with Isa. 6:9, 10). The Old Testament thus, as well as the New, is full of His Presence; only that now He has taken that tabernacle of flesh to display His glory in, in which all His purpose to be near us, all His delights with the sons of men, have fully come out. He is now truly Immanuel, "God with us;" and the blessedness of that for us will fill eternity.
That He should claim equal honor with the Father Himself is in this way clearly intelligible, as it of itself also declares fully who He is: "that all men should honor the Son even as they honor the Father" (John 5:23) is the most emphatic assertion of equality; which Thomas' "my Lord and my God" (John 20:28) yields Him, with full recognition on his part of the truth of his too tardy faith.