The way in which the Godhead of the Son shines throughout the whole Canon of Scripture is very wonderful indeed, awaking in the heart the most holy and powerful spiritual emotions, and calling forth worship of the most exalted character. I do not refer to the direct statements of His Godhead which are made by the Holy Spirit, though they are innumerable, nor to His mighty works, which unquestionably bear witness to His Deity, but to the glorious light that shines out in the way in which He did those works, in His words, in His relations and ways with men, and in His relations with the Father.
In the Old Testament the Creator is said to be Jehovah, the everlasting God (Isa. 40:28), and in the New Testament the Creator is said to be the Word (John 1) which became flesh; the Son of the Father’s love (Col. 1); the Messiah (Heb. 1). The Christ of the New Testament is Jehovah of the Old.
And as to His works, what a multitude of miracles stormed the heights of man’s unbelief, and swarmed over the strongholds of antagonism to the light of God, putting to silence the miserable cavilling of the leaders of the people, and demonstrating that nothing but cursed prejudice against all that was good and of God kept them from falling at His feet in the acknowledgment that God had in Him visited His people.
And how different these works were done from the way in which the prophets of old performed miracles, or the way in which His apostles after the descent of the Spirit gave evidence of supernatural powers. With all these there was mingled with the putting forth of the power of God the evidences of their own weakness. See the struggle of Elisha with the night of death for the bringing back of the son of the Shunnamite, and the prayer of Peter in the case of Tabitha (2 Ki. 4; Acts 9). With the Lord there was none of this apparent weakness. As in the putting forth of His creative power, so in the deliverance of His creature from the consequences of sin, “He spake, and it was done” (Ps. 33:9).
A prophet when addressing the people must say, “Thus says the Lord”; but Jesus says: “Verily, verily, I say unto you,” and declares that the one who believes on Him has everlasting life, and that the one that saw Him saw the Father.
A prophet could carry a message of forgiveness from God to one who had sinned, but Jesus forgives the sinner (Luke 7:48), and if they challenge His ability to forgive sins, and declare that only God has this prerogative, He demands of them which is easier, to forgive sins or to heal bodily infirmities, and sends the palsied man away to his own house carrying his bed (Mark 2).
Nothing of the infirmities of the creature characterizes the words or works of the Son of God. That He was here as the sent One of the Father is just what He Himself declares (John 8.42), and that the words that He spoke were the Father’s words, and the works that He did were the Father’s works, and that His path was marked by obedience and dependence is what He constantly affirms; but when speaking or working, the power does not appear to come from any source external to Himself. It was the Father that dwelt in Him did the works; and to one who desires to see the Father He says “He that has seen me has seen the Father” (John 16). Only in one instance of miracle working do we hear Him invoking the Father, and that was on account of those that stood by, that they might believe that He was the sent One of the Father (John 11:41-42).
In all His works His divine glory is manifest, but it is not only in them that this comes to light. It is not in special occasions that His Godhead is most brightly displayed, but just in the even tenor of His wondrous pathway through this world. Perhaps in His humiliation and His perfect obedience to His Father it shines most clearly, and in the Father’s appreciation of His whole earthly history.
That obedience to the will of God characterizes every activity of the elect angels cannot in the face of Psalm 102 be called in question; they have no will contrary to the will of God. I suppose the angels whom He charged with folly (Job 4:18) were fallen angels.
But in their obedience there is no merit, nor could there be, however perfect this obedience might be, for the whole life of the creature must be devoted to the service of his Creator. What God makes He makes for a definite purpose, and it must serve the purpose for which it was created. If it does not it is not only absolutely useless, but a very real danger if unfettered and at large in the universe. The slightest departure from the position in which it was created is evidence of a will opposed to its Maker, and compels its Maker to take up the attitude of Judge toward it. No second chance can be given, for one act of rebellion, or the working of will, proves the sinner to have been inoculated with iniquity, and his whole system to have been corrupted.
But let me repeat what I have already said, there is no merit in the obedience of the creature, however perfect that obedience might be. Our Lord says to His disciples, “When ye shall have done all these things that are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do (Luke 17:10). No merit attached itself to anything that they did; they could do no work of supererogation, nothing that could be passed over to help an unhappy delinquent. What God demands from the creature is no more than the creature owes, and this involves his absolute surrender to the will of his Creator.
But with our Lord it was very different. He was under no obligation to a power higher than Himself. I speak of Him as in the form of God, and before He took the form of a servant. He was Despot, not slave. When He took the form of a servant it was a voluntary act. He became in the likeness of men for the glory of the Godhead, in order that eternal counsel might be fulfilled, and in love to the rebel race of mankind.
This gives a peculiar character to His obedience, and makes every thought, word, and action of His meritorious. He took the place of a servant, and never left that place all the time He was here upon earth; but while this was so He never ceased to be Master. He could not give up Godhead, but He could, and did, give up the status and outward form of it. In order that the counsels of God might have their glorious fulfilment He put Himself under subjection to the Father, so that He could say that He was not here of Himself, but was sent of the Father. And having taken the place of a servant He was perfect in that place, and confined Himself to that place, even though the maintenance of it led Him to the death of the cross.
But just because of this there was merit in every thought, word, and action of His, from His lowly birth until He gave up the ghost on a cross of shame. The apostle Paul says; He “loved me, and gave Himself for me,” and He “loved the church, and gave Himself for it.” His death on the cross is just as truly the manifestation of His own love for those for whom He gave Himself, as it is the manifestation of the love of God. His was a freewill humiliation and a freewill offering.
Had He not been God I fail to see what merit would have been in anything that He did. It would only have been the carrying out of His creature obligations, and in the end there must of necessity have been the confession of His unprofitableness. But this is far from the truth, for we find Him claiming glory on the ground that He had glorified the Father, and finished the work given Him to do (John 17). His work entitles Him to the highest place in the universe, whereas the work of the creature, however well done, would entitle him to nothing. Had Adam remained forever in his innocent state, what would it have entitled him to? No other position than the one in which he was placed by his Creator at the first! But our Lord is by His work entitled to the exalted position in which the righteous Father has placed Him.
It may just come up into the reader’s mind that believers are viewed as receiving rewards in the day when they shall be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ, and this fact would seem to go to prove that some merit attached to their service to God. But though it is perfectly true that the results of the service rendered to Christ will receive His commendation and will be rewarded, it is only after all in grace that such rewards can be granted to anyone; for the responsibility of the believer is to walk as Christ walked (1 John 2:6), and to the height of that standard no saint of God has ever attained; and if he had he could claim nothing, for he would have done nothing but his duty.
With regard to our Lord it is all so different; His title to the dignity that has been conferred upon Him is owned by God, who has “highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-10).
And not only is His title to the glory owned by God, but, as I have already said, He could claim it, and does. He has a right to all the honour that has been conferred upon Him, and all the honour that is given to the Father must be given to Him also, and soon this will be acknowledged by the whole creation, and every creature in the universe will be heard saying, “Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever and ever” (Rev. 5).
What lustre the knowledge of this throws upon His every act of obedience down here in this world! How voluntary was His down-stooping! How deep was His humiliation! How infinitely perfect was his devotedness to His Father’s name and honour! How complete His obedience to the Father’s will! And all self-imposed! He says, “That the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave me commandment even so I do”, and, “Having loved His own that were in the world, He loved them unto the end” (John 1:14). How infinitely above all our thought He is! How inscrutable the mystery of His Person! How worthy of our eternal adoration and worship!