If we think of the Scriptures as a revelation given to us from God who cannot lie, and if we have them as He gave them to us, we cannot give harbourage to the notion that the smallest untruth can be found therein—or any statement which, taken in its connection, would be calculated to leave a false impression upon the mind of the reader. Were it possible that an honest seeker after light could be deceived by them—were it possible that they could lead the soul who trusted them as the truth of God into darkness and error, they would prove themselves to be but the corrupt production of the fallen mind of man, and valueless as a guide to the knowledge of God. They would bear witness against themselves as not the offspring of One who cannot lie, but of one who was both a liar and a murderer.
And if we think of them as written to the poor and the illiterate and not to the wealthy, the wise, and prudent, we shall not expect them to be full of dark sayings and mysterious theories, couched in great swelling words, to be understood by none but clever and educated minds. The gospel is preached to the poor, and as far as that which relates to the universal testimony of the grace of God is concerned, nothing could be more simple. True, the deep things of God can only be known by those who have the Spirit, but that is not because they are very learned, nor because they require colossal intellects to grasp their meaning, but because they relate to things which lie outside the circle in which the natural mind of man exercises itself.
The Scriptures are the only light we have with regard to the knowledge of God, and we must either take them as they are, or reject them altogether. They speak of all the relationships in which man is placed, whether in Adam or in Christ, and dilate upon the responsibilities connected with these relationships in such a way that nothing is overlooked, disregarded, or epitomized; and whether we understand the things of which they speak, or whether we do not, the language in which they are set before us cannot be held to be bewildering nor capable of double meaning. In them the trumpet gives no uncertain sound, and there, without a jar, from pipe and harp breaks forth the glorious music of eternal truth (1 Cor. 14:7-8).
As far as it as necessary, and indeed as far as it is possible for us to know the One in whom we live and move and have our being, we have Him placed before us in the written Word. If He is not learned there, where can He be learned? Not in the material universe, not in providence, not in the state of this world, for everywhere we turn we are confronted with contradictions, and had we nothing else than these we should be compelled to dwell in darkness and uncertainty. The world is now almost six thousand years old, and though it has made immense progress in the knowledge of the resources of nature, it has made none in the knowledge of God; indeed, it knows less about Him today than it did in its infancy (Rom. 1:21-25).
The history of every testimony committed to man has always been down-grade. The Antediluvian, Noachic, Judaic, and Christian dispensations tell the same tale. Departure from the living God, corruption of His truth, darkness and chaos, followed by the intervention of God in judgment, mark each successive dealing of God with men. Nor will any future dispensation be otherwise. Everything will prosper in the hands of Christ, and during His reign there will be no failure in the government of the world, for everything undertaken by Him will be fulfilled to the glory and praise of God but that reign, however beneficent it may be, will not change the hearts of men, for at the close it will be seen that nothing but a leader is necessary to rouse the whole earth into revolt against the authority of the Lord.
There is an innate aversion in the human mind to everything that is of God; though, of course, this solemn fact is known only to those in whom the grace of God has wrought. The truth has been persecuted since the world began, and against Christ, who was the embodiment of that truth, the powers of darkness stirred up, and brought into evidence, that aversion in a way hitherto unknown. From the beginning He was God’s testimony, and therefore has He ever been the object of attack. His atoning work, His miraculous birth, His spotless nature, His real manhood, His Deity, His resurrection are openly denied in that which professes His name, and Christendom is at present fast drifting back into heathen darkness. And it is on this account I seek to draw attention to the answer furnished by Scripture to the question at the head of this paper—“Is Jesus God?”
Apart altogether from the answer given by Scripture to this momentous question, one can very easily understand that were one person both God and Man, such an One would be, by the very nature of His being, beyond the understanding of the creature. Indeed, God Himself, apart from incarnation, is beyond our understanding, for the creature never can perfectly comprehend the Creator. It is our privilege and joy to know Him in His nature, so that we can say God is Love (1 John 4:16), and this is the highest knowledge the creature can possess. But as to essential Deity, it is beyond the ken of man. He dwells in light unapproachable, whom no man has seen, nor is able to see (1Tim. 6:16). We know Him in the way in which it has pleased Him to declare Himself, and that is in His infinite love; but in His essential being, and in the mystery of His wondrous existence, we know nothing, can know nothing, and need to know nothing. What He has in His grace caused us to know fills our cup of happiness to overflowing.
But what must be the mystery of incarnate God? One truly Man, born of a woman, advancing in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men (Luke 2:52); omniscient (John 2:24-25; Luke 11:17; John 16:30), yet limited in knowledge (Mark 13:32); the Upholder of the universe (Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3), yet in weakness here (John 4:6); Creator (John 1:3; Heb. 1:10), yet taking a place in creation (Col. 1:15). How could such contradictory attributes be reconciled by the finite mind of man, or by the mind of any creature, whoever he may be? If there is such a Person, He is beyond the comprehension of the creature.
But this is just what the Scriptures assert as regards Jesus, “No one knoweth the Son, but the Father” (Matt. 11:27). And though the reference to this text may be ridiculed as but a refuge for an unreasonable dogma, it is nevertheless the teaching of Scripture, and the only conclusion that a reasonable mind can come to regarding such a Person. I doubt very much the capability of the mind of the creature to understand such a mystery, and certainly it is not said to be revealed. The Father is said to be declared, and that in the very passage which tells us that no one knoweth the Son, “Neither knoweth any one the Father save the Son, and be to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.” We are never said not to know the Father, for this knowledge is the portion of even the babes in Christ (1 John 2:13); but though we may come to the full knowledge of the Son of God, so far as He has been revealed (Eph. 4:13), there are mysteries about His person which are impossible for us to know; hence we have, “No one knoweth the Son, but the Father.”
Indeed, were this statement absent from the page of inspiration, our reason would compel us to admit what it asserts, and of ourselves we would come to the conclusion that such a Person was unknowable by the creature. Seeming contradictions, which are matters of revelation, we can well believe, but not one of them can we understand. Indeed, it is little that we do know perfectly, possibly nothing at all, for our knowledge of the very simplest things is very limited. But if we know that every question that was between us and a holy and righteous God has been gone into and settled to His satisfaction, and that we have been brought into new and eternal relationships with God in Him who bore the judgment which rested upon us on account of our sins, and if that love of God which was declared in His death has been shed abroad in our hearts, and if we know the Father, and are able to take account of ourselves as the children of God, and confidently look for the coming of Christ to take us to the home He has prepared for us in the Father’s house, we shall be very happy; we shall also be very thankful for the revelation He has so graciously given to us, and we shall be careful to approach that revelation with the reverence that springs from the knowledge of the holy character of that love that has made known to us everything that is for our good, and who has also given to us the Holy Spirit, in order that we may be able to enter into the deep things of God, so far as they are revealed.
That Jesus was a Man every true Christian will confess—a real Man—as truly a Man as was Adam or any of his race. A Man with spirit, soul, and body. A Man so like every other man in Juda that, as He sat by the well of Sychar, the woman who came to draw water took Him to be an ordinary Jew, resting from His journey, and waiting upon some one to come and draw a little water to quench His thirst, but “Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee,” marks Him off as very different from all other men, as does also “that holy Thing” (Luke 1:35), and Him “who knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21). Still, that “there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus; who gave Himself a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:5), settles the question of His manhood both in humiliation and also glory.
Personality is a word that has been pressed into this controversy which had been much better left in the dictionary, as it is not found in Scripture. Some speak of Him as “in person Man, but Divine;” others, as “in person God, but in condition Man.” I doubt very much if either of these have any definite thought before their minds. The Scriptures tell us that that Person was God, and that that Person was Man. As to “human personality,” “Divine personality,” and “Dual personality,” it is just the restless, fallen mind of man exercising itself in things beyond its comprehension. What I find in Scripture is that one Person is both God and Man. And that this is no baseless dogma of mine I trust I shall be able, by the grace of God, to show from Scripture.
Nothing could be more plainly stated than the fact of the existence of Jesus previous to incarnation He says, “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world” (John 16:28); again, “The glory which I had with Thee before the world was;” and “Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world” (chap. 17:5, 24); also, “Before Abraham was, I am” (chap. 8:58); again in chapter 6:38, “I came down from heaven;” also verse 62, “What and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before?” I might quote many other scriptures on the same subject, but any one of these is quite sufficient to prove the existence of Jesus before He was born into this world.
Now what was He before He became Man? What say the Scriptures as to this? In Philippians 2 the Holy Spirit of God carries us back to the point of departure, when He began that journey of humiliation which ended in the death of the cross. And what was He before He took the initial step upon that downward path? He was “in the form of God.” Now, no one who was not God could be in the form of God, for the only other form we know of is that of a servant. A servant should have no will of his own; all his actions proceed from the will of another. But God acts from Himself, from His own will, without reference to another. Authority, dominion, and might belong to Him. The form of God is incompatible with that of a servant; indeed, the word here is bondslave. Hence, when in the form of God, the act of emptying Himself and taking the form of a servant is viewed as proceeding from Himself: He “emptied Himself, taking a bondsman’s form.” It could not be otherwise, for He was under no other authority or obligation. This is not true of any creature, for the most exalted creature is by the very fact of his creation a servant, and nothing but a servant. But the moment this glorious Person takes upon Himself the form of a servant obedience characterizes His every act, “He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” While in the form of God His every action must proceed from His own will; He could be neither influenced nor controlled by anything external to Himself; but when He became a servant everything is changed. His acts are as consistent with the form of a servant as they were with the form of God. For a creature to leave his first estate is to apostatize, but this the Son did, for to no one was He responsible.
But this emptying of Himself was not in any way the renunciation of Godhead, which could not be, but the giving up of the whole position that appertained to Godhead, and the becoming a servant to the Godhead for the Godhead’s glory. This was not done by the Father, who remains in His eternal status and position unchanged. It is true of the Son only, who came to do the Father’s will, and who did it at all cost to Himself. Tested to the very uttermost, His obedience was perfect. He took a servant’s form, in order that He might do the will of God; and He did that will so perfectly that, in the judgment of God, no other place than the highest in the universe would be an adequate answer to the work which He accomplished. And this place He has as Man and the Servant of the Godhead.
John also, in the first chapter of his Gospel, carries us back before incarnation, right into eternity itself, that we may behold One who had no beginning, the Word who in the beginning was, and was with God, and was God. And God, of course, He must be if He had no beginning. Next, “All things were made by Him.” Then we have, “The Word was made flesh.” Then John the Baptist’s testimony is, “He that comes after me is preferred before me: for He was before me.” He declares the Father, and baptizes with the Holy Ghost. In chapter 2 He turns the water into wine, and thus manifests forth His glory; speaks of raising up the temple of His body when men have destroyed it; and knows what is in man. Chapter 3: He “came down from heaven.” Chapter 4: He is omniscient—tells the woman of Samaria all that ever she did. Chapter 5: He “makes Himself equal with God,” and must be honoured even as the Father is honoured. But I need not go over more passages from this Gospel.
In Colossians we have the same statement made as in John 1. He is the Creator of all things, visible and invisible, and in 1 John 5:20 He “is the true God, and eternal life.”
But I will come to His Name. His name is Jesus, which means Jehovah the Saviour. And the reason He has been given this name is because “He shall save His people [Jehovah’s people] from their sins.” He is the object of angelic worship (Heb. 1). He is addressed as God by God upon the throne. He is the Creator, “Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of Thine hands: they shall perish; but Thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail.”
Need I quote more scripture? Surely not. The Word of God presents Him as a Man, a true, real Man, begotten of God, born of the Virgin, Son of God as begotten in time, and Servant to the Godhead. But the same Word of God presents Him as God over all, Eternal, in the form of God, acting from Himself without respect to any other authority, the Creator, Preserver, eternal Son with the eternal Father. Neither His Godhead nor His Manhood shall ever be given up. From the standpoint of the creature’s finite mind innumerable mysteries and apparent contradictions connect themselves with His Person: for “no man knoweth the Son, but the Father.” But the believing, subject soul knows very well that in connection with such a Person apparent contradictions must exist, and he is prepared for them: for indeed His person is just like His love, it surpasses knowledge.