To prove that a God of infinite goodness is not the author of this world in its present state requires no elaborate argumentation, nor does it make any demand upon the least ratiocinative ability. It is everywhere, and in everything, abundantly manifest that a beneficent Creator would not voluntarily give His unoffending creature, whom He has endowed with intelligence, affections, sensitivity, accountability to Himself and to his fellows, into the darkness, the distress, the sufferings, the sorrows, the woes that are the portion of the whole human family.
There must be some terrible reason for the state of things we find in this world—the pestilences, the horrors of war, the hatred, the murders, the corruption, the fear of death, the silence of heaven, the shrinking from the grave to which all are hastening, and the dread of something after—these evils cry out against our attributing to a benevolent Creator the invention or origination of such a woeful state of things.
Yet even on this earth we have indications, many and varied, that it is a beneficent Creator who watches over the history of the earth’s generations and teeming multitudes. The sunshine warms and comforts our bodies, and between its kindly influence and the rain from heaven the hearts of men are filled with food and gladness. The seasons come round in their appointed courses, and fulfil their several functions of mercy. Under the night-cloud man lies down to rest, and his weary frame becomes thus refreshed and ready to answer to the demands of another day. And all this bears testimony to the goodness of God, and is given that men might feel after Him, and find Him; for He is not far from any one of us: for in Him we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17).
Thank God for His Word, the revelation He has given us concerning Himself. Where would we be without it? Would we be able without it to pick out of all His ways with us the witnesses of His faithful and generous care for our welfare, and, in spite of the innumerable evils that afflict our souls, to encourage our hearts in such a sense of His desire for our welfare that we would put out the hand of faith in the midst of the surrounding gloom, that it might lay hold upon His?
No: we require this precious revelation of Himself which He in His infinite love has given us, that by it we may be made wise to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:15-17). And how beautifully this revelation sets before us the great thoughts of God, and how all His purposes, even before the beginning of His works, centred upon man. Man whom we supposed He had neglected, and to whose sorrows He was indifferent, is supreme in the eternal thoughts of God.
But for almost six thousand years men have groaned under the oppression of the enemy, and as far as any public display of power is concerned it is all in the hands of the enemy, and deliverance seems as far off as it was at the beginning. Man is still under death, still dominated by sin and the devil. Through what mighty man is the deliverance of the oppressed to be effected?
We are, blessed be God, left in no doubt as to this. Almost the first words that fell upon the ears of our fallen parents from which they could derive any hope were those that were spoken to the serpent that deceived them: the Seed of the woman was to bruise his head. Adam could effect nothing. His own deliverance, as well as the deliverance of any of his posterity, depended upon the Seed of the woman. Not Adam, but the Son of Man is the One whom God has made strong for Himself (Ps. 80:17).
He is to be supreme in the universe of God. Everything is to be put under His feet. The only exception to this is God Himself. He is to be pre-eminent in every department of the universe, for this is the decree of God from all eternity. Around Him all the thoughts of God centre. He is the object of all prophetic scripture. The prominent men in past dispensations were only figures of Him, shadows of the Man that filled the vision of God.
When the Psalmist looked up into the heavens and contemplated the work of God’s fingers, the moon and the stars which He had ordained, the littleness of man came before him, and he wondered that God took such account of him. But if the littleness of man filled the vision of the Psalmist so that he was forced to exclaim, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” it was Christ that filled the vision of the Spirit: not Adam, but the Seed of the woman, the Son of Man, the object of divine counsel, and He saw everything put under His feet; and though this is not manifestly so yet, the same Spirit fixes our attention upon the Man in heaven, who is crowned with glory and honour, having tasted death for everything. If we see not yet all things put under man, we see the Man under whom everything is to be put, and we see Him in the highest place in glory.
We find a most interesting reference to Him in the eighth of Proverbs. There, speaking as Wisdom, He says, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old . . . : then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him: and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him; rejoicing in the habitable part of His earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.”
Now when we come to the truth regarding the greatness of the Son of Man we find that He is the Creator Himself: all things were made by Him (John 1; Col. 1; Heb. 1). And yet He is viewed here as “by” the Creator, when He made the heavens and the earth. The reason of this, I have no doubt, is that He is there viewed solely as the Man of God’s counsels, and that He was the object or purpose with regard to creation; and everything was made with regard to its being taken over by this Son of Man who gave direction to the whole character of the work. “As one brought up with Him” is translated in the Revised Version, “A master workman” (v. 30), and it has also been translated, “His artificer.” The meaning, I am persuaded, is that everything was created in view of Christ taking it under control as Man on the ground of redemption.
For we must keep in mind, as I have said, that He is Creator, and that He made the universe and all that is in it for Himself (Col. 1:16); and when it became necessary for the glory of God, and for the fulfilment of divine counsel, that He should take the place of Leader of the salvation of the many sons that God was bringing to glory, and when it was necessary for the exigencies of that glory that redemption should be wrought, He tasted death for everything, “For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” Therefore the One who created everything has tasted death for everything, that everything might be placed on the ground of redemption to the glory of God.
His sufferings were first of all for the glory of God; that in the creation where God was so dishonoured through sin, sin might receive its judgment, and that when and where sin would receive its judgment God would be glorified, not only in every one of His attributes but in His very nature. In the second place, He suffered the suffering of death in order that the devil, who had the power of death, might be annulled, and that deliverance might be effected for those who, on account of the fear of death, had been all their lives subject to bondage. In the third place, He suffered to make propitiation for the sins of those who were to be His companions in the day of His glory. And in the fourth place, He suffered, being tempted, in order to be able to sympathize with our weaknesses, and to be able to succour us when we are tempted.
In the Old Testament, and in the New, by all the writers except Paul, the use of the title “The Christ” connects, as far as my memory serves me, the Saviour with the people of Israel. I know that the woman of Samaria connected the Christ with the world; but though this be true, the Lord had already told her that “salvation was of the Jews,” and the salvation of the world really depends upon Jehovah’s resumption of relationship with His earthly people. To this great truth the prophets bear abundant testimony, and so also does the Apostle of the Gentiles in Romans 9:12-15.
But under the title of “Son of Man” He is not viewed in connection with any special family upon earth. It is a title that speaks of universal headship and blessing. At the same time we must keep in mind that the application of this title to the Saviour and the order of things that are connected with it do not set aside, disarrange, or alter the conditions of blessing that are brought before us under the title of the Christ. It is simply that the title Son of Man extends the field of vision to the utmost limits of the universe, including all that is brought before us in the titles “Son of Abraham,” “Son of David,” “King of Israel,” “The Christ,” or any other.
In the Gospels, rejected by the Jews, He will not allow Himself to be called the Christ, but tells His disciples that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the priests and elders of the people; and be delivered to the Gentiles, who would expose Him to every indignity, and in the end put Him to death. To Nicodemus He testifies that—“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the SON OF MAN be lifted up,” not for the sake of Israel only, but that “WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH ON HIM should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The title Son of Man carries with it universal power and blessing.
But not only must the Son of Man come under the suffering of death, but He it is who breaks the power of death, for since by man came death, by Man came also the resurrection of those that are dead (1 Cor. 15:21). If man in the person of Adam brought in death, the Son of Man has broken its power and brought about resurrection in the power of God.
But the first to be raised is Himself: He is Firstborn from the dead (Col. 1:18), and God has set Him far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come: and has put all things under His feet, and given Him to be head over all things to the church which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all (Eph. 1:20-23).
And all that are His who have passed away from earth shall be raised in His likeness, for He is the pattern of the redeemed family. He will raise His sleeping saints in glory, and change the living along with them into His own image: for we shall bear the image of the heavenly Man.
And because He is Son of Man all judgment is committed to Him; and the hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth: they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5). He has authority everywhere. And He has a right to this authoritative position in the universe: first, because He created it, second, because He redeemed it; third, because for the glory of God He was humiliated in the sight of it.
What a multitude of varied glories cluster around this title of Son of Man—the Man of divine counsel, the Architect of all creation, the Creator Himself, the Seed of the woman, the Son of Abraham, the Son of David, the Man whom Jehovah has made strong for Himself, the Destroyer of the power of death, the Resurrection and the Life, the Bread that came down from heaven and which gives life to the world, the One who shall bruise the head of the devil, the Judge of living and dead, Lord of angels, Lord of living, Lord of dead, Lord of all, the One under whose headship everything in the universe shall be gathered together—yet obedient to death, and that the death of the cross; made sin, a curse, the song of the drunkard, a worm and no man; mocked, derided, buffeted, abused; His face marred more than any other man’s, His form more than the sons of men; groaning, sighing, weeping in a world of sin and rebellion against God, despised for His grace, hated for His love, martyred for the truth; He drank the vinegar and gall of human ingratitude, and the bitter chalice of divine judgment against sin; rejected by the Jews, crucified by the Romans, betrayed by a friend, denied by a disciple, abandoned by His followers, forsaken by God. Whose sorrow ever equalled the sorrow of this Son of Man?
But shall not the glory be equal to the sorrow? Yea, God has highly exalted Him, and has given Him a name that is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of heavenly, earthly, and infernal things, and that every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father (Phil. 2:9-l1). Every one must honour the Son as the Father is honoured (John 5:23). Well may we prostrate ourselves in His presence and rejoice as we confess Him:
“Fairer than all the earth-born race,
Perfect in comeliness Thou art,
Replenished are Thy lips with grace,
And full of love Thy tender heart
God ever blest we bow the knee,
And own all fullness dwells in Thee.”