Simple Christian Truths.

V.

The Person of Christ.

The truth concerning the person of Christ lies at the foundation of Christianity. Apart from what He was, even His death on the cross would not have made atonement for sin. It is necessary, therefore, to be clear on this subject, being as it is a component part of the Christian faith. On this account the apostle John wrote, "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine" (the doctrine of the Christ; i.e. the true teaching concerning Him), "receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds." (2 John 10, 11.) Such an one while claiming to be a teacher must not be regarded even as a Christian. The truth involved is both fundamental and vital, so that neutrality concerning it would amount to identification with those who rejected it. Another remark is needful. Our Lord Himself said, "No man knoweth the Son, but the Father." (Matthew 11:27.) By this we are to understand that no one can grasp the mystery of His being, of the union in Himself of the divine and human natures. Acquainted with Him we can be, for He has also said, "I know my sheep, and am known of mine, as the Father knows me and I know the Father."* There is thus no limit to the possible intimate knowledge of Christ Himself; but together with this, it must never be forgotten that none but the Father comprehends the Son, the mystery of His being who, when down here, was God manifest in the flesh. It savours therefore both of presumption and profanity to seek to penetrate into that which is absolutely concealed from all human eyes. The attempt has often been made, as church history abundantly testifies; but those who have made it, left to their own imaginings, have always fallen into dangerous errors, and become the blind instruments of Satan to scatter the people of God, while those who listened to or read their unholy speculations were often drawn into the vortex of doubt and infidelity. What is revealed may be pointed out for reception with adoration, but to proceed one step beyond is to forsake the light of revelation for the darkness of unhallowed reasonings.

*This is now generally admitted to be the right translation.

There are three scriptures which in a very special way bring before us the glory of the person of our blessed Lord; they are John 1, Col. 1, and Hebrews 1. We may then, first of all, look at these in the order named. The very first verse of John's gospel brings Him in all His divine majesty before our souls - "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." And then it is added, "The same was in the beginning with God." Doubtless this precise title - if title it be - is used in relation to errors current in the apostle's day. Into these we need not enter, for the term is simple, and means, as has been said, that He is, and is the expression of the whole mind that subsists in God. Let the reader reverently ponder this statement; for what does it imply? Nothing less than that He is divine, for He who was the expression of the whole mind of God could not be other than Himself God. No created intelligence, however exalted, could by any possibility be the complete display of the divine mind. Prophets and apostles were often used, though they did not always understand the messages they had received, to communicate parts of God's mind, but none but the eternal Word could be its perfect expression. The saying of the old writer is strictly true - That only God could comprehend God.

The first verse, as often pointed out, asserts three things of the Word - that He is eternal in His existence - He was in the beginning; distinct as to His person - He was with God; and He is divine as to His nature - He was God. That the words "In the beginning" reach back into eternity is plain from verse 3, for the Creator of all things ("and without Him was not anything made that was made," whether angels, principalities, or powers, as well as men) necessarily was eternally existent. Creation indeed was the first expression of God, and that, as we here learn, was by Him who was the Word. In Him also was life, and the life was the light of men. (Compare Psalm 36:9.) Of whom could this be said but of one who was Himself absolutely divine?

Passing now to verse 14 we read: "The Word became" (not was made) "flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." We may read in connection with this, "No one hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." (v. 18.) We have thus brought before us the mystery of the incarnation - the Word became flesh. He who was with God, and who was God, became man, and tabernacled amongst men in a human body. But though His essential glory was thus shrouded from the natural eye, there were those who, with their eyes opened by the Holy Spirit, beheld His glory - not simply His moral glory, but His divine glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father. Thus down here as Man He was the perfect expression of God - the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him. Creation was an unfolding, a display or revelation of God (see Romans 1:19, 20); but the Word become flesh was the revelation of the Father, as He said to the Jews, "If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also" (John 8:19), and to Philip, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." (John 14:9.) What then do we learn from these statements, but that He whom we know as the Lord Jesus Christ was the eternal and divine Word, that He was God, that He was the Creator of all things, and that He stepped forth into time and became flesh, a Man amongst men, "very God and very Man"? And this, we repeat, is one of the essential truths of Christianity.

We will now turn to Col. 1. The apostle tells of how the Father "hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light . . . delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son" (literally, the Son of His love); and then, after adding that it is in Him (in Him who is the Son of His love) "we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins," he proceeds to describe His glories. First, He is the image of the invisible God. If the reader will look at Genesis 1, he will see that man was made in the image and likeness of God; and this indicates a twofold distinction. Man was made in the image of God; our blessed Lord was that image. Secondly, man was made in God's likeness; but it would be derogatory to the Godhead of the Son to say that He was the likeness of God. Being Himself God, He could not be the likeness, but, as manifested in time, He was the image of God. Man was made in the image of God, for he represented God in the first creation. When Christ came, He, as the image of God, not only represented Him, but was in Himself the perfect presentation of God. Truly read, therefore, this one brief statement is the assertion of His divine claims. He was also the Firstborn of every creature, or rather the Firstborn of all creation. Let us borrow the words of another as to this: "He is then the image of the invisible God, and, when He takes His place in it, the Firstborn of all creation. The reason of this is worthy of our attention - simple, yet marvellous. He created it. It was in the person of the Son that God acted when by His power He created all things, whether in the heaven or in the earth, visible and invisible. All that is great and exalted is but the work of His hand; all has been created by Him (the Son), and for Him. Thus, when He takes possession of it, He takes it as His inheritance by right. Wonderful truth, that He who has redeemed us, who made Himself man . . . is the Creator! But such is the truth." And then, that there might be no misconception as to the glory of His person, we read, "And He is before all things" - before the existence of a single thing, when the self-existent One, God Himself, dwelt (if we may venture the words) in the solitude of His own blissful being. "And by Him all things consist;" called into existence by His creative word, they are dependent still for continuance upon His power. And be it remembered that these things are revealed, not to be explained, but to be received, and to be received that our hearts may be filled with adoration as we think of the essential glory and majesty of Him who came into this scene as man, and humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

In the epistle to the Hebrews we shall also find, if in connection with another line of truth, the glories of the person of Christ unveiled. God, says the writer of this epistle, hath in these last days spoken to us by the Son; and he adds immediately, "Whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds." So that we have in these few lines a very trinity of glories - Son of God, Heir of all things, and Creator. "All the vast system of this universe, those unknown worlds that trace their paths in the vast regions of space in divine order to manifest the glory of a Creator-God, are the work of His hand who has spoken to us, of the divine Christ. In Him has shone forth the glory of God. He is the perfect impress of His being. We see God in Him in all that He said, in all that He did, in His person. Moreover, by the word of His power He upholds all that exists. He is then the Creator; God is revealed in His person." But who, we may ask, is this glorious Being? It is no other than He who was crucified through weakness, Jesus of Nazareth, as He was known amongst men, the Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, as depicted by the prophet; for as soon as we are told that He upholdeth all things by the word of His power, it is added, that it is He who made by Himself purification of sins, and has thereon sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. This identifies Him at once with the Christ who died on the cross, and who rose again on the third day, and is now at the right hand of God.

There is, however, still more in the chapter. He is the Son of God as born into this world, spoken of as such in the words, "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee." As the First-begotten, when introduced into this scene, "all the angels of God" are commanded to worship Him. He is addressed even as God: "Unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom." Once more He is pointed out as the Creator; and finally, His position is given at the right hand of God until His enemies are made His footstool. It is glory upon glory which is here unfolded, and all alike centring in and radiating from the Son, in whom, in these last days, God has spoken, and who not only became flesh and tabernacled amongst men, but was also, as we learn from John's gospel, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.

But it is not only in such scriptures as these that the character of the person of Christ is revealed. Every page of the gospels tells that He was the God-man. If, on the one hand, He was a homeless stranger, a weary Man sitting on Samaria's well; if He hungered in the desert, slept in the boat; if He groaned, wept tears of sorrow and sympathy; on the other hand, He wrought miracles, cleansed lepers, opened blind eyes, raised the dead to life, asserted His power over the winds and the waves, controlled the movements of the fish of the sea; in a word, He declared by His mighty acts that if a man He was also God. Hence He said to Philip, "Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake." (John 14:11.) And again, "If I had not done among them the works which none other man" (rather, no other one) "did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father." (John 15:24.) And the testimony which He gave by His words and by His works during His sojourn here was confirmed and sealed by His resurrection from among the dead, for He was "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." (Romans 1:4.)

There is even yet another line of truth pointing - unmistakably pointing - to the same conclusion. He received and approved the confession of Peter, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," and traced it to a special revelation from His Father in heaven. His disciples and others fell at His feet, and in their measure, and according to their light, rendered to Him what only belonged to God. Nay, He claimed from His own what could only be properly given to God. They were to follow Him, love and serve Him; and on His part He engaged to give them rest, peace, and eternal life; promised to return to receive them unto Himself, that where He should be, after His departure, they should be also. Take the one instance of the thief on the cross. In his penitence and faith he turned to the One who was crucified by his side, and said, "Lord, remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom." The answer was, "Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:42, 43.) That He was man was proved by the fact of His crucifixion, and these blessed words which He spake to the malefactor demonstrate no less clearly that He was also God.

And such is the professed faith of Christendom, and nothing less can be received as Christian faith. This must be ever insisted upon with uncompromising fidelity, and especially now, when there are not wanting signs of a rising wave of socinianism, which threatens to spread throughout the land, and which; as it is the result of increasing rationalism, is also the sure precursor of wide-spread infidelity, and, it may be, apostasy. The enemy is very subtle. He will even commend Christ as man, if he may but thereby raise doubts as to His Godhead; and for this purpose he chooses rather to use as his instruments professed Christian teachers than open adversaries. We need therefore, as not ignorant of his devices, to be on our guard, and to cling to the precious truth with ever-increasing tenacity, that the Christ, who as concerning the flesh was born of the seed of David, is over all, God blessed for ever. (Rom. 1:4; Rom. 9:5.) And it is also written, "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God." (1 John 4:15.)

"Thou art the everlasting Word,
The Father's only Son;
God manifest, God seen and heard,
The heaven's beloved One.
Worthy, O Lamb of God, art Thou,
That every knee to Thee should bow."
E. D.