THE GODHEAD OF JESUS
By D. M. PANTON.
OF all our Lords questions the most soul-revealing, the most critically essential to the Christian Creed, of all questions the one which most lays bare the questioned soul, and is the eternal touchstone between the regenerate and the unregenerate, is the question He puts concerning His own identity. For He puts it thus: Who do men say that I the Son of man I am the Son of man; I am not asking for information: I am probing the souls of men to lay bare their most secret composition, and their eternal destiny am? (Matt. 16: 13). Most remarkably, also, Jesus does not ask - What do men say that I am? what do they say about My character, My conduct, My influence? He asks a question infinitely more challenging and critical Who do men say that I am? from what world? out of what birth? In the whole range of possible catechism of the souls of men, no question more infallibly forces a decisive soul-confession: underneath all creed, underneath all ritual, underneath all fellowship, underneath all destiny lies this soul-cleaving query of Christ.
Now the answers of the world, as recorded by the disciples, reveal a truth that startles beyond all expression. The judgment of His contemporaries put our Lord on a pedestal the sublimity of which, among men, could not be higher. Some say, JOHN THE BAPTIST; because such miracles as our Lord did (they thought) could only be a product of resurrection therefore do these powers work in Him (Matt. 14: 2); some, EL1JAH; for all Israel was expecting, and rightly expecting, the Prophet who had never died; and others, JEREMIAH; who was looked for as a forerunner of the Messiah, and who (tradition said) would rediscover the Ark which he was supposed to have hidden on Mount Nebo; or ONE OF THE PROPHETS; reincarnate, or else risen from the dead. Now if we put together this answer, and the men who made it, the revelation is astounding. So gracious, so holy, so miraculous (said those who knew Him best, and who watched Him closest) is Jesus, that He can only come from the ranks of Gods supreme Prophets: yet these were the men who murdered Him. They found it difficult - such was the beauty of His character and the miracle of His life - to find men noble enough with whom to identify Him; they knew of none such in their own generation: yet so completely did this answer betray no life, it laid bare souls so absolutely dead, that they who thus praised Jesus became guilty, as identical souls are equally capable to-day, of the blackest sin even Hell can commit - Deicide. The answer that Christ revealed God, as the worlds supreme prophets have done, in difference of degree, but with no distinction of kind, is the answer of His murderers.*
[* Modernism says: If we believe that every human soul reveals, reproduces, incarnates God to some extent; if we believe that in the great ethical teachers of mankind, the great religious personalities, God is more fully revealed than in other men; ... then it becomes possible to believe that in one Man, the self-revelation of God has been signal, supreme, unique. - DR. H. RASHDALL, Jesus, Human and Divine, p. 20. On the contrary, Scripture reveals a Christ, not unique in degree, but uniqne in kind.]
Our Lord again puts the vital question: But who say ye - for another mans faith can no more save me than his unbelief can damn me that I am? The remarkable dilemma in which the Apostles were put, exactly as we are, and as every human soul is, to whom this Divine challenge comes, is now forced home by the Lord Himself upon every human soul. Jesus had so drawn out the judgment of the world upon Himself that the Apostles fully realize - as we do - that the weight of the worlds authority is against them; they fully realize that they must either advance infinitely beyond the world in their estimate of Christ, or else go back into the world, and share both its estimate and its doom;* and they fully realize that the two estimates do not differ in degree, but in kind. More remarkable still, our Lord Himself was put in exactly the same dilemma. Jesus knew that what He had to say about Himself would cost Him His life; He knew it would grievously stumble the world for all time; He knew - none better - that every idle word, every untrue word, the soul must report to God; He knew also that if this word were untrue, it is not only untrue, but blasphemy: nevertheless He never shrinks from His tremendous assertions, He never falters, He never withdraws: He spoke and he died. For it is certain that His death arose over His identity. Art Thou the Christ, Caiaphas asked, the Son of the Blessed? (Mark 14: 61). So long as the issue was one of false accusation, Jesus is silent; but the moment a great truth hangs in the balances, on which the worlds destiny turns, He speaks. I AM. And the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, Ye have heard the blasphemy, and they all condemned Him to be worthy of death.
[* English Modernism says: The Continental Modernist movement has passed with extraordinary rapidity from criticism to scepticism, and from membership in the Roman Church to a position in which it is outside every Christian Communion.‑ (H. D. A. MAJOR, Hibbert journal, January, 1922.)]
What worlds on worlds hung in the balances, waiting for the answer of the Apostles! As Peter spoke for the Church of Christ all down the ages, so he would have been .silent for the Church of all time: no Church would ever have existed had the sample believer now failed. And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the CHRIST, the SON OF THE LIVING GOD; not, we say Thou art - that is opinion; but, Thou art - that is conviction.* This is exactly the answer which the world has never given, and never will give: it is the watershed which divides the Church from the world: it is the whole Christian Creed packed into a single sentence, as in the acorn is the oak: it is an answer which, ultimately cost Peter his life, and every martyr since. For here is a most remarkable phenomenon. The Church of God, consisting of millions of regenerate souls all down the ages, gives, and has always given, only one answer Peters; all the rest of the world, with a babel of response, has never been able to give a unanimous reply: if Jesus is not the Son of God, there ought to be no difficulty in deciding Who and What He is: why is it thus impossible for the world to catalogue Him? Because they do not know Who He is. The worlds estimate never soars higher than the table-land of a mighty Prophet: the Churchs estimate never falls below the regions of Deity. And the ethical issues involved are enormous beyond calculation. Dr. Horton, a man once said to him, I cannot believe that a man who died eighteen hundred years ago could put away my sin. Nor can I, Dr. Horton replied: but I can and do believe that the Son of God did. Who is the Son of Man? Jesus asks; the Son of God, the Apostles reply: for of the humanity there is no dispute; and of the Deity there can be no debate. No shoulders but Immanuels could bear the sin-load of an entire world.**
[* It is certain from the judgment of Calaphas, and from the sentence of the Sanhedrim (Mark 14: 61), that in the eyes of the Jews this utterance placed our Lord in Deity. Tuou MAKEST THY SELF GOD (John 10: 33). To the Jew it was blasphemy: to the world it is superstition to the Christian it is life.
** Modernism says: For St. Paul, who seems to have believed in an ideal man or Messiah, stored away in the heavens, to be manifested in due season on earth, the conception [of pre-existence] was a natural, almost unconscious, inference from his belief that Jesus was Messiah. Those categories have no obvious relevance to knowledge and thought to-day.‑ (DR. BETHUNE-BAKER, Modern Churchman, September, 1921.)]
We now reach our Lords own decision. This is the only creed that has ever been submitted to Christ in person: what then is His judgment of it? On the worlds estimate, flattering though it was, He utters never a word: all beatitude, all regeneration, all revelation He instantly lodges in the answer which the world has never given, and which the Church has never abandoned.* BLESSED art thou - not merely an expression of praise, but an assurance of deliverance from the Curse Simon bar Jonah - Son of the Dove, regenerate soul for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven. So transcendently is the Christian confession truth that (our Lord says) no human brain conceived it, no human logic inferred it, no human tongue taught it, but only God can reveal it. The revelation is overwhelming. It brings us all to the foot of the Cross. No brilliance of intellect, no penetration of science, no ripeness of scholarship, will ever show us who Christ is, but only God Himself. The Son of God, immediately He is confessed, as immediately confesses the sons of God; the saving creed instantly brings to light, for the first time in the Bible, that wonderful word, the Church. The Church sprang from the mouth of our Lord the moment the Divine Creed had left the mouth of Peter. Thou art Peter - a living stone, a splinter of the Rock, a sample of the whole spiritual Temple which, like the Temple of old, will rise on rock; and on this Rock I will build - for the Church is no scattered multitude of isolated souls, but a compacted body of limbs alive, living stones shaped and adjusted and mortared into one another, and into Christ; it is an organism, not an organisation, resting on the God-man, and as immortal and imperishable as the Rock on which it rests MY CHURCH. The Lord reveals exactly what the Church is in a lightning flash: the Bar-Jonas - irrespective of name or group - in all ages and of, all ranks, unsevered by race or class or blood - are the holy, catholic, apostolic Church of Christ. For no sooner does the soul discover Christ than Christ discovers the soul: on the confession, Thou art CHRIST, follows, like lightning, Thou art PETER. Jesus renames when He recreates; for the character unstable as water Christ can change into granite. So critically important is this answer that our Lord singles it out as the one test of all beatitude; blessedness consists, not in birth, or rank, or wealth, or learhing, or culture, or genius, but in knowing who Christ is: for whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ IS BORN OF GOD (1 John 5: 1) ; and whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God,** GOD DWELLETH IN HIM, AND HE IN GOD (1 John 4: 15). The moment the saving confession escapes our lips, Christ wakes in our soul; the new man springs from the grave of his old life; and out of the fisherman leaps the Apostle.
[* Modernism says: The Unitarians ought to find an honoured place within the Catholic Church of the future.‑ (Mr. H. D. A. MAJOR, Hibbert journal, January, 1922).
says: The saving faith, which is central in
But a still more golden dawn lies beyond. Have the gates of death been revealed unto thee? or hast thou seen the gates of the shadow of death? (Job 38: 17). The Apostles have long gone down into that yawning abyss, the engulfing place of the countless millions, never satisfied, never full; may not the Church itself finally perish, all engulfed, and all imprisoned beyond release? Upon this rock, Jesus answers, I will build My Church AND THE GATES OF HADES - either engulfing or imprisoning SHALL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST IT. Empires rot and die; the Church, never: she attends the funeral of her every enemy, for she constantly springs afresh from the regenerating hand of God; and beyond the shadows, she will be where none is missing, as imperishable for ever as she is imperishable now. The Rock that rose out of death shall lift the entire Church built upon that Rock. Are you sinking? a clergyman once asked beside a sick-bed. Getting no reply, he stooped closer, and said again, Are you sinking? Gathering all her strength, as she gazed intently into his face, the dying saint lifted herself, and said: Sir, did you ever hear of a saint of God sinking through a rock? No, I am not sinking; I am on THE ROCK.
THE SELF-REVELATION OF CHRIST.
The Apostles once, unconsciously, put exactly the question critically adapted to force a self-revelation of Christ. Philip said: Lord, show us the Father - in some splendid vision; as the Seventy saw God on Sinai; or Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up and it sufficeth us: grant us the Beatific Vision: show us God. It was a tremendously critical demand. Philip showed a magnificent faith - a faith perhaps as great as was ever expressed; his faith flutters up into the clouds (Luther); he believed that Christ could create the beatific vision, and show God; it is doubtful if any more marvellous power was ever ascribed to Christ. Yet the Lord turns on him with the startling reply: Have I been so long time with you, and dost thou not KNOW ME, Philip? It is possible to have a transcendent estimate of Jesus Christ, and yet not really to know Him at all. It is possible to believe that our Lord could create a Sinai scene, or draw a veil from the heart of Heaven and the face of God, and yet not to know Who He is.
But our Lords direct answer, as distinct from His mournful question, when pondered, is inexpressibly more startling. Philip, asks Him to show them GOD; Jesus rebukes him for ignorance of HIMSELF: that is, what Philip asked revealed his ignorance of what he saw. So our Lord goes on to say it in amazing words. He that hath seen ME HATI1 SEEN the Father: how sayest thou, Show us the Father? No such utterance has ever fallen from the lips of the sublimest prophet or the boldest apostle. The tenses express the truth with great subtlety. Show us the Father - by a single and sudden act: He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father - in a constant and permanent vision. See therefore the tremendous truth. Our highest faith in Christ, if it fall short of seeing God in Him - God manifest in the flesh - is ignorance: to seek God outside Christ, and beyond Christ, and not in Christ, is not to know Christ at all - Who is the effulgence of His glory, and the VERY IMAGE of His substance (Heb. 1: 3). Had there been two Gods, or had Christ not been God, the Son could have been seen without seeing the Father; but, O Philip, you think to see another God - or a God you have never seen - when lo! no man hath seen God at any time, but the Only-begotten Son - many MSS. read, the Only-begotten God which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him (John 1: 18). The Son came to show the Father, and has shown God. If a man asks to be shown a gold coin, and is shown a silver coin, he has seen no gold; so one nature cannot be shown by another nature: Philip asked for a physical sight of God; and Jesus gives the astounding answer, - You have had it.
But it was our Lords enemies who put to Him the most direct question, and suddenly confronted Him with a charge of self-deification. WHOM MAKEST THOU THYSELF? said the startled Jews: hast Thou - who hast not lived half a century seen Abraham - eighteen centuries ago? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you - a momentous revelation depending on His word alone; for the Lord is about to claim, with a double Amen, the Ineffable Name: these critical passages are crowded with verily, verily, for the Lords habitual intensity grows to white heat as the crucial point of His Deity is approached Before Abraham was - was born, began to be, was brought into being, ever existed at all I Am, not I was. Ponder what this answer means. Before Abraham - that carries us as far as angel, or demiurge, or subordinate god: I AM, to the Jew the Ineffable Name, is the awful confession of self-existing Godhead, and presents us with pure Deity. For our Lord sets up a double contrast with Abraham; - a contrast in respect both of His duration and the mode of His existence: Abraham was, I Am - My mode of being is as different as the born and the never-born; before Abraham, for I exceed Abrahams age, not by half a century, nor by eighteen centuries, but by infinite durations of years. What an answer!
Now to the listening Jews there could be no possible
misunderstanding of what Jesus meant.
When God Himself had been
challenged with the same question, He gave the same answer. Jehovah said to Moses: I Am that
I Am: thus shalt thou say unto
the children of
Thus our Lord, in response to the direct challenge, Whom makest Thou Thyself? gives one of His rare self-revelations of pure Godhead. If He is I Am, then He is uncreated, self-existent, eternal, and unchangeable; and if He is uncreated, self-existent, eternal, and unchangeable, He is God. Jesus was not yet fifty: the Son was unbeginning and unending: the two natures were in one Person. If any one says: Jesus only means that before Abraham He existed in the counsel of God, the answer is obvious, - so did Abraham himself; and that would have required the verb I was, not I Am. The statement is not that He came into existence before Abraham - that would have been Before Abraham was, I was - but that He never came into existence at all; and this was exactly what had been predicted. Thou Bethlehem-Ephrathah, out of thee shall One come forth, whose goings forth are from of old, FROM EVERLASTING (Mic. 5: 2). We wonder at the tardy steps of Christ; but what are millenniums to Him? the same yesterday - in untold ages backward which no human mind has ever penetrated; - to-day - in our intensely happy experience of Him; and for ever - for ages on ages beyond the solemn portals of the grave, I Am.
The Lord, on another occasion, exactly elucidates what He means. No one shall snatch them out of My hand; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Fathers hand: I AND THE FATHER ARE ONE (John 10: 28). Equality of power leads our Lord at once to identity of substance. The grasp of God, the grasp of Christ, are both includable, impregnable, indissoluble: why? Because almightiness of power can only spring from almightiness of nature; and the identical omnipotence (our Lord says) arises from the same substance, from an identical Godhead. Our Lords words, while they disclose an overwhelming self-consciousness, are also most carefully guarded. I and the Father - two distinct personalities - are - a plural of persons one - not (masculine) one Person, but (neuter) one thing; one essence, one substance, one Godhead: a sharp distinction of persons, but an absolute identity of nature. The Fathers personality, and the Sons personality, both omnipotent, are merged and mixed in ore essence and entity. All that is in God self-sufficingness, eternity, omnipotence, stainlessness - is in Christ; not as though there were two independent Gods, but shared in indivisible Godhead. No created being could thus merge himself in the Godhead in a common plural we are - without either blasphemy or insanity: He can, of whom Jehovah says, The Man that is my FELLOW (Zech. 13: 7). The Jews, instantly understanding, seized once again the stones of blasphemy. So accurately did the keen ear of the monotheistic Jew, speaking our Lords language and listening to Him daily, catch the true meaning of His words the Jews sought to kill Him, because He made Himself EQUAL WITH - on a par with, on a level with GOD (John 5: 18) - that the murder which was three times attempted (John 5: 17; 8: 58; 10: 30) and at last accomplished (Mark 14: 61), rested solely on the charge of self-deification.
So now we come to the core and peculiar kernel of the Christian Faith. It is exceedingly remarkable that our Lord never said - using these words I am God; nor could He, for it is not the Christian revelation: the emptying of heaven of Deity when He descended is Swedenborgianism, a deadly foe of Gods truth. Swedenborg said - Christ is God, and there is no other Person in the Deity: our Lord carefully guarded against such an error by constantly stressing that He is THE SON; in position, though not in power or Godhead, subordinate. Christians are as deeply opposed as any Jew to a doctrine of three Gods. Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God, the Lord is ONE (Mark 12: 29). So the Sons subordination to the Father He Himself brings out startlingly in one utterance. As the Father hath life in Himself, even SO GAVE HE - the Aorist proves Jesus to be speaking of something which is His eternally as Son of God (Govett) to the Son also to have life in Himself (John 5: 26). The Father is life, the Son is life; but the Son has life from the Father, not the Father from the Son: the Father, as the ancients said, is the Fount of Deity; and the Blessed Trinity is an exquisite revelation of grace, in that the Son, though co-equal in nature (John 10: 30) and dignity (John 5: 23) chooses to be subordinate to the Father, even as the Spirit to the Father and the Son. So the Lord says: The Father is greater than I (John 14:. 28); greater, - not in essence, nor in time, nor dignity, nor worship, nor virtue; but greater in Position : for, as Man, Jesus is lower even than the Angels; and as the Eternal Son He derives from the Father, not the Father from the Son. So the plurality of persons, in a tenderness of relationship utterly ineffable and incomprehensible, proves - and nothing else could - that God is love; for love is non-existent save as a relationship of Persons. Ours is a glorious and holy Mystery, before which the Angels veil their faces, and in knowing which lies the sole salvation of the race.
So our Lord, when first charged with self-deification, responds in perhaps the profoundest chapter in the Bible on His Godhead. Verily, verily, I say unto you - for it is a matter of pure revelation, at which we could arrive in no other way What things soever the Father doeth, these - not similar works, but these the Son doeth in like manner - identically; for the Father showeth Him ALL THINGS that Himself doeth (John 5: 19). Now ponder what this means. To creations utmost bound, in the Godheads most distant and most secret operations and counsels, the Son knows what the Godhead is doing; knows, not by communication, but by consciousness; He knows what the Father does, and therefore all that the Father does the Father showeth Him ALL THINGS that Himself doeth: therefore His mind must be co-extensive with the mind of God, and His knowledge must be as vast as omniscience.* But the statement is profounder still. Far more startling than that He knows all that the Godhead does, He does it all; what things soever the Father doeth, these THE SON ALSO DOETH in like manner; with the same authority and wisdom, with the same energy and effect: that is, He is not only master of all the secrets of God, but wielder of all the processes of God: all creations, all laws, all forces, all powers, He handles with a mastery as irresistible and as omnipotent. And the reason He Himself gives of this is overwhelming. The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father doing: cannot - not through imperfection of power; not merely through equality of holiness; but because of identity of nature. He cannot do otherwise. So stupendous an assertion was never equalled or transcended by mortal lips.
[* So our Lord asserts omnipresence of Himself even after the Incarnation, and while He was still on carth: No man hath ascended into heaven, but he that descended out of heaven, even the Son of man, which is in heaven (John 3: 13).]
After creation and providence, among the works peculiar to Godhead, comes judgment; and Jesus says: The Father hath given ALL JUDGMENT unto the Son; that - in order that all - all angels, all humanity, all creation may honour the Son, EVEN AS they honour the Father. The Lord Jesus says that God has made Him the Universal judge. The assertion involves things unimaginable, that are required in a universal judge. A personal knowledge of the untold myriads of mankind, multiplied by all the ages of human history; a minute acquaintance with the infinite variety of their circumstances, their opportunities, their characters; a faultless insight into secret motives and passions that never rose to the eye of man; a perfect mastery of the Law of God, by which to judge the worlds, with the scales held in perfect equipoise, by One who has to be a Judge of judges; the awful sentences involved, of everlasting joy or everlasting fire, with no court of appeal above Him, and no cases reserved: behold, the Lord! He hath given all judgment - the judgment of the Church, the judgment of the nations, the judgment of the vast hordes of the wicked at the Great White Throne - to the Son. The Son has life in Himself because He is God, and so gives life to dead souls: He is entrusted with all judgment, because He is man; that men may know that they have a judge of infinite compassion. As we have been redeemed by one in our own nature, so we are judged by one of ourselves. And the objective in Gods mind is momentous:- in order that all - by beholding Jesus on the Great White Throne may honour the Son, even as - with equality of worship, of awe, of trust, of love, of adoring service they honour the Father. This unveils our Lord beyond the utmost level of prophet, or reincarnation, or archangel, or subordinate or rival God. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, AND THE WORD WAS GOD (John 1: 1).
So we arrive at the vastest display of the pure, sheer power of Godhead, in a prerogative peculiarly Gods. Jesus says: Marvel not at this; withhold your belief if you will, but something is coming at which it will be impossible for you to withhold your wonder: for the hour cometh in which all that are in the tombs shall hear His voice - the voice of the Son of God and shall COME FORTH. The original death sentence was an act of God, which only God can rescind; and while God has raised through an Elijah or a Paul, Jesus says that He Himself has the personal right to raise: for as the Father hath life in Himself - that is, can revoke the death sentence without reference to another even so He gave - in a dateless gift to the Son to have life IN HIMSELF - that is, life independent, absolute, and imparted where and when he chooses. Even more wonderful, not only can He empty a tomb, but can give a Paul or a Peter power to do it cleanse the lepers, raise the dead (Matt. 10: 8). So the emptying of all tombs is the act of the Son: the resurrection of the world lies in the voice of Jesus, and the life of the universe is carried in His bosom. I AM RESURRECTION AND LIFE (John 11: 25). So also (in a meaning which may be included in the words) spiritual resurrection, a prerogative peculiar to God, is exercised by Christ. For as the Father raiseth the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son - on an equality of right and power quickeneth whom He will. The Lord Jesus stood the sole living Man among a world of the dead, the Giver of life and no soul of man is beyond His regenerating power; for He quickeneth WHOM HE WILL. in an unlimited, unconditioned perfection of vitalizing power.*
[* Modernism says: There is no sort of evidence that Jesus ever thought of Himself as God in any sense. (Dr. Bethune-Baker) Jesus Himself did not claim to be the Son of God [except] in the sense in which all human beings are sons of God (Mr. H. W. A. Major). So Tolstoy (sometimes mistaken for a Christian) says: According to the Church, Jesus taught that He was the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God, and that He came into the world to atone by His death for Adams sin. Those, however, who have read the Gospels know that Jesus taught nothing of the sort. Do these men ever read the Gospels? do they even read them?]
The Lord proved His Godhead in the very moment of
its supreme rejection. The Jews
themselves put the meaning of our Lords words beyond all possible doubt. They took up stones
- marble fragments of the Temple still in building; stones, ever the weapon of
a mob therefore - that is, on the ground of blasphemy to
cast at Him; for it is the blackest unbelief that always forced from
our Lord His sublimest self-revelations. The Levitical command (Lev. 24: 16) justified
them, not in lynch law, but in a judicially administered capital punishment, if
it was blasphemy. How inexpressibly
solemn that this was the way our Lords plain statement of His Godhead was met:
if, He being the preacher, the truth encountered such a reception, what are we
mortals to expect? Stones of Gods
[* The elimination, on no manuscript pretext whatsoever, of all utterances of our Lord hostile to our own theory concerning Him or of a whole Gospel, because too crowded with the supernatural, is childish where it is not wicked. The Christian Faith is a natural and unforced interpretation of the documents, and of all the documents; and if one group of inquirers is to do whatever it chooses, on psychological grounds, with the documents which are the common basis of the inquiry, and to put only selected passages into the witness box, serious people are hardly likely to waste their time in an inquiry so conducted.]
THE GREATNESS OF JESUS.
So our Lord, in contact with historical characters, draws comparisons which, if untrue, are more than megalomania - they are undisguised insanity.
(1) Abraham loomed up incomparably the greatest
figure on the horizon of
(2) Art thou greater - again Jesus is challenged than our father Jacob? (John 4: 12). Jacob, the wrestler with the Jehovah-Angel, was a prince with God - what a title! Jesus answers:- If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water. Jacob dug the well, and gave the earthly water: Jesus says He gives water straight from the hand of God to the lips of the soul. How much greater therefore? As much greater as the living water is than the earthly, so much greater is the Giver of the one than the giver of the other.
(3) Solomon, in outward splendour, was incomparably
the greatest of
(4) Perhaps no greater miracle (apart from the Flood) stands forth in the Old Testament than Jonahs descent into Sheol (Jonah 2: 2), - a man who literally came back from the [a region descriptive of the confines of the] dead. Is Jesus greater than Jonah? He answers:- Behold, a greater than Jonah is here (Matt. 12: 41). Jonah came up from the [region of the] dead, but he was not dead: Jesus was dead, yet mastered death. How much greater therefore? As much greater as resurrection is than natural life.
(5) One spot of earth alone held the local
manifestation of God; one Holy of holies enshrined the Deity; one sacred
[* The Holy Spirit continues the comparison into the heavenly world. Rank over rank rise the hierarchies of Heaven, - thrones, dominions, principalities, powers. Is Jesus greater there? By so much better than the angels, as He hath inherited a more excellent name than they. For of the angels He saith, Who maketh His angels - angels are made winds, and His ministers a flame of fire: but of the Son He saith, Thy Throne, O GOD - uncreate, eternal - is for ever and ever (Heb. 1: 4). How much greater therefore? As much greater as the Creator is than the creature, so much greater is Christ than all the thrones, and dominions, and principalities, and powers that encircle the throne of God.]
THE KENOSIS. [KNOWLEDGE]
Bolder and bolder grow the
voices, inside the
The Spirit first reveals the original Cbrist. Who, being originally - when He was with God before the foundation of the world in the FORM of God - the pomp, the majesty, the blinding, slaying blaze of Deity. Once our Lord appeared to His disciples in another form (Mark 16: 12), and so unrecognized: He shifted the form, but not the person. His Ego, His essential entity, in an antemundane existence, pre-dated the Incarnation by a dateless eternity; and He was in the form of God - lived inside the Godhead, so that He expressed the Godhead visibly in the Apostles words elsewhere - He was the effulgence of His glory, and the very image of His substance (Heb. 1: 3). He lived in the Godhead not as a thought, nor as a principle, but as a Person. No one ever has been, or could be, in the form of God who was not true God: none could support the Form of God that was not the Person of God. The form, properly, is the outline or shape of an object; yet, obviously, it presupposes the possession of the substance: as no one can cast a mans shadow without being a man, so Christ gave the image, the impress, the form of God, because He was God.
The Apostle now reveals the secret motion in the heart of Christ at the moment of His resolve to become man, a revelation made nowhere else in the Bible. He counted it - by a deliberate decision of humility not a prize - not a thing to be tenaciously grasped; not a glory to be jealously retained (Govett) to be on an equality with God; to share in all the pomp and circumstance of Deity. It was not (be it observed) the Godhead He determined to renounce, but equality with the Godhead: to change His nature was an impossibility; but He could, and did, change His form. Now this again reveals what our Lord was. For a man not to grasp at equality with God would not be humility, but merely the absence of an impiety amounting to insanity; much less could any man surrender equality with the Godhead. Our Lord divested Himself of the robes of Deity that He might become God - still God - manifest in the flesh. Now the whole significance of the passage lies solely in the enormousness of the renunciation, and so completely overthrows the Modernist. Christ is not an apex man, a God-ward ascending manhood, a closing evolution, a final flower of the race: He is not an ascent, but a descent - not an ascent of manhood, but a descent of Godhead: and therefore the humility He displayed - the distance between equality with the Godhead and a scaffold - is of a character that transcends all human thought. Paul was familiar with the vast hierarchy of angels, rank over rank; but to him they are always servants, created by Christ: none renounced, as Christ did, the form of Godhead: or could span the immeasurable gulf between the Creator and the creature. So in teaching humility our Lord was not a mere index finger: He did not say - This is the way, but I am the way.
So now we arrive at the critical passage - the
disrobing of the Lord. But emptied Himself: emptied Himself, not of His plenitude, but of His
altitude; not of the Divine prerogatives, but of their exercise: He laid aside
the inconceivable dignity of the Godhead. For what happened? When our Lord appeared among men, He appeared,
not as God in His glory, but as a man clothed in flesh: the Godhead was
obscured by the manhood: He concealed and disguised the splendour in human
abasement. The Immortal became mortal;
the Almighty hung a helpless infant on His mothers breast; the Maker of worlds
became houseless and homeless; the Creator of Gehenna bared His back to the
smiters; the Omnipotent became a corpse. Yet it is most startling to observe that our
Lord could re-assume the form which He had
laid aside at any moment that He
chose. Instead of forcing conviction about His Godhead by its glorious
manifestation at all times, He allowed the truth to dawn quietly by the Perfect
Man revealing occasional, but unmistakable, flashes of Deity. The fed five thousand; Lazarus summoned from
the tomb; the trodden water; the band in
For the Lord became, not a creature, but a servant: taking the form of a servant, or slave. Pauls second and studied use of the word form conclusively proves us true in our understanding of the first. Our Lord laid aside the form of God, and took up the form of a servant: both forms stand for the essence in each case - He was God, and He became a servant; each shape had its corresponding substance: that is, He was as really God as He was really man: but as surely as the form of a servant was only temporarily assumed - for our Lord is a slave no more - so surely the form of God was only temporarily laid aside, and has now been re-assumed, where to Him every knee shall bow. How really our Lord filled the place of a slave! A slave could hold no property; he could be bought and sold; and Jesus was actually sold for a slaves price (Ex. 21: 32). So the two parallel forms reveal to us completely what the Holy Spirit means. As to be in the form of a servant implies that He was a servant, so to be in the form of God implies that He was God: and while He took the one taking the form of a servant He was the other being in the form of God: Godhead is His by right; manhood is His by a voluntary act of unsurpassed humility. And what makes the humility so inconceivably vast is the everlastingness of the act. He was found in fashion as a man - which could only be said of one originally not a man; and He is found in that fashion to-day and for ever.
So Pauls great counter-truth to all error is summed up in one master-phrase:- the MYSTERY of the God and Christ (Govett) - just as he says elsewhere, the Christ and God (Eph. 5: 5); or, as in the Revised the mystery of God, even Christ (Col. 2: 2). It would seem that the Colossian error was a doubt of the Godhead of Jesus and of the manhood of the Christ: so Paul uses the extraordinary phrase, the mystery of the God and Christ;for Jesus was God, while yet the Christ was man - that is, in one Person was combined the mystery of God and man - as human as Divine, and as Divine as human. So awesome, so unfathomable, so utterly without precedent or parallel is the Person of Christ - the Word Incarnate - that it is the mystery of God from the Eternal Ages: a secret, it is true, now revealed; yet, in its utter incomprehensibility, still beyond our utmost reach. Only omniscience can grasp omniscience: the God-man is a mystery which will never be fathomed.
So first the Apostle deals with the unlimited knowledge of Christ. In whom - in which nature is not stated, but in the God-man, somehow, somewhere: the knowledge of all things must be in the Author of all things are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden; there, but in a hidden manner, boundless, yet concealed: not some wealth of wisdom and knowledge ; nor great wealth but ALL the treasures of wisdom and kowledge: they constitute the unsearchable - the boundless, the incomprehensible - riches of Christ. For omniscience is one of the essential attributes of the Godhead; and our Lord, in becoming man, could not cease to be God. But this all-embracing treasury, this omniscience, is a hidden wisdom: that is, a superficial glance at Christ will not reveal it: the Godhead is so concealed in the human as to escape the detection of the world altogether. Not only is our Lord hidden in the heavens; not only is the spiritual vision of the holiest saint too imperfect to perceive all the treasures; but Godhead veiled in flesh possesses, without displaying, a Divinity purposely concealed. We pick up only golden nuggets on a field beneath which are unworked mines that no mortal experience will ever exhaust or even explore.
Next, Paul reveals the critical danger of all ages, and supremely of our own. This I say - I have so emphasized the perfect omniscience of Christ that no one may delude you - talk so as to talk you over (Eadie) with persuasiveness of speech - plausible reasoning and specious rhetoric. Paul never makes light of error: he knows that the subtle seducer is more dangerous than the bloody persecutor; that the Theosophist is more dangerous than the Bolshevist. So he continues:- Take heed lest there shall be anyone that maketh spoil of you - carries you off bodily as booty, kidnapped body and soul - through his philosophy - not through his immorality or blasphemy: a pure-living heresiarch is as much more dangerous as an Arius is more dangerous than a Nero and vain deceit - a philosophy which is a delusion after the tradition of men - uninspired solutions of world-problems handed down from Godless generations after the rudiments of the world - that world which, by wisdom, has never known God and not after Christ. The corrupt ingenuity of man can make a plausible case out of anything; but their fine phrases, their large promises, their plausible sophistries are wholly delusive, because they lead away from the only real wisdom, which is Christ, the incarnate Mystery of God. Error appropriates lovely names:- liberal, modern, non-obscurantist; it boasts of philosophy, scholarship, evolution: nevertheless, if out of Christ, these plausibilities are but the death-lights of wreckers.
So now Paul, confronted with subtle and deadly error, and keenly alive to the fact that it is life or death to the Christian Faith, bursts into one of the stupendous utterances of the Bible. For - since they are cutting the live nerve of the Christian Faith, I say in Him - and nowhere else; in Him, and in no one else; in the (according to them) fallible, mistaken, blundering Christ dwelleth - has its fixed abode (Lightfoot), never to remove, never to depart ALL THE FULNESS OF THE GODHEAD; not the grace, or the influences, but the Godhead itself; and no fragment of Deity, but the whole unbounded, unexcepted essence and attributes of Deity. Therefore Christ is no partial or approximate or temporary manifestation of God: His incarnation is not something transient, to be displaced by some later evolution: Christ is wholly filled with the whole of God for ever. The Pleroma or fulness of the Godhead may mean the Father, Son, and [Holy] Spirit - the entire essence of the Godhead assuming to itself, as a habitation, the flesh of Jesus;* and it must mean all essentials and attributes of Deity self-existence, omnipresence, omnipotence, omniscience, immutability, eternity, infallibility, sovereignty, perfection. Deduct a single quality of God from Christ, and the pleroma is gone, much more all the pleroma; and the worship of Him is idolatry. That all the fulness dwells in Christ excludes all others from possession of the Godhead: ALL the fulness is IN Him: so out of Him God can never be found: the Pleroma of Deity abides for ever in Christ. It is as though God said - Look at my Beloved Son; I am just such. When you see Him, you see Me. No other likeness of Me is a true likeness. We are one for ever. He that hath seen Me, as Jesus says, hath seen the Father (John 14: 9).
[* For the whole fulness was pleased to dwell in Him (Col. 1: 19) - the pleasure of a Person, or Persons: so the Holy Spirit took up His permanent abode on Jesus without measure (John 3: 34); and the Father so dwelt in the Son (John 14: 11) that Jesus could say that he who had seen the One had seen the Other - bodily. Hence the title of this pamphlet - the Godhead of Jesus.]
But far the most wonderful - and for us far the most vital - revelation yet remains:- in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead BODILY: not exactly in a body, for Deity is not confined to space; nor as in a body, which might throw doubt on the reality of our Lords physique; but body-wise, bodily - in the once mortal, but now glorified, body of Jesus:‑ so that when we worship Christ, we do not worship a second God. The fulness of the Godhead was always in the Son, but not until the Incarnation did it dwell in Him bodily: then the Godhead assumed a bodily form: it abode, and abides, in the Lords humanity; neither consuming it, nor deifying it: so that Man is not a mere man, indwelt and sanctified, but God manifest in flesh. God is in believers, but they are not God; God is in Christ bodily - so that every gesture, every action, every word of the Man Jesus, is a gesture, an action, a word of Deity. Now the consequences on current controversies are enormous. For if the assumption of manhood involved ignorances and blunders and collapsed prophecies when our Lord was on earth, it must equally do so now: for as bodily as the Godhead now dwells in Jesus, so bodily it dwelt in Him then, for God was in the FLESH: therefore, our Lord now - if to be human necessarily means to blunder - is no more authoritative in heaven than when He misquoted Jonah, gave wrong authorships to the Pentateuch and the Psalms, or uttered impossible prophecies. If, because human, His words were not immune from error and falsehood then, neither are they so now, since He is as human as He was: He is unreliable for eternity.* And we are all personally involved in the ruin. For in Him - as a consequence of His fulness ye are made full: His pleroma in our plerosis: everything, for us, depends on what Christ is: for of His fulness we all received, and grace for grace (John 1: 16). He who robs Christ of His glory, robs me of my salvation; by just as much as His dignity is lowered, and His fulness diminished, and His powers impoverished - by just so much is our foundation loosened, our sanctity sapped, and our salvation imperilled and lost. If the Saviour is not Divine, the Sacrifice is inadequate and therefore worthless, and there are in us no throbbings of immortal life. The fallibility of Jesus is the epitaph of Christianity.
[* Whether the Saviours ignorance of the Advent date (Mark 13: 32) is a self-emptiedness confined to His manhood; or was an act of deliberate self-limitation in His whole consciousness; or was a pre-resurrection experience only; or is one of the mysterious but frequent exceptions (each unique in its occurrence) whereby the Almighty keeps all rules in His own power:- one fact is sure and vital - on what the Lord does not know, He is silent: for Him ever to assert as facts what are not facts, or what He did not know to be facts, is a moral (not an intellectual) lapse destructive of all Deity. He whom God sent speaketh the WORDS of GOD: for He giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him (John 3: 34).]
THE GODHEAD OF CHRIST.
The evidence for the Godhead of our Lord is so colossal, so overwhelming; it is so subtle, and all-pervading; it is so interlocked and inter-related with all other revealed truth; it is so absolutely fundamental to everything Christian that the mind staggers back from the attempt to state it. Nevertheless in one chapter of the Bible we move on a shining tableland from which eternities open before and after, where we behold the Beacon-light of all the Ages:‑
I saw Thee in the eternal years
In glory all alone,
Ere round Thine uncreated fires
Created light had shone.
The first chapter of Hebrews opens with an enormous statement concerning our Lord:- Who being the effulgence - the outburst of His glory, and the very image of His substance - the precipitate of Deity and upholding all things by the word of His power (Heb. 1: 3). Christ was God manifest long before He was God manifest in the flesh: He appeared as the Jehovah Angel (for example) millenniums before a little Babe of flesh and blood lay in the manger. Jesus was always the image of the invisible God (Col. 1: 15) - that is, from all eternity He imaged forth that in God which is invisible. All the invisible holiness that is in God, is also in Christ; all the invisible love that is in God, is also in Christ; all the invisible power that is in God, is also in Christ: so here it is Christ who is the nexus between the invisible power and the visible creation; upholding all things by the word of His power - by the dynamic of His utterance; or, as Paul puts it elsewhere, in Him all things consist (Col. 1: 17) - hold together, cohere. That the sun rises morning after morning only happens because Jesus is: but for the word of Christ, which binds creation in cohesive and continuous life, all things would fly back into their native nothingness: it is the act of creation (one had almost said) indefinitely prolonged. Operative, visible Deity is displayed to the creature in the Son alone.
We pass now to a statement too stupendous for conception. Who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire; but of the Son He saith - for He wishes all worlds to know the fact Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever : that is, the Son is God, not by appointment, or by achievement, but by nature; not a created god, nor a god by office or function, but Deity absolute. It is overwhelming. God directly addresses the Son as God: the throne on which He sits is Gods; it is a throne for ever and ever - never established, for it never was not; the Enthroned One is Himself God: Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever. Moreover, the Incarnation has heightened the wonder without diminishing the Deity. For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 2: 9): for it was the good pleasure [of the Godhead] that in Him should all the fulness dwell (Col. 1: 19); not a single cluster of Divine attributes; not a lovely handful of Divine glories; not a fragment of Deity, but the whole. And it is bodily: the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in Jesus, not in an invisible shape, or as an unseen spirit, or as an atmosphere, or as a second person behind the first; but personally and bodily, so that, when we shall see Christ physically, we shall see God: he that bath seen me hath seen - with his physical eyes the Father (John 14: 9). The whole fulness of the Godhead dwelt in Jesus bodily, so that, while strictly and perfectly human, that Body carried an infinity which was able to bear the guilt of an entire world: under the all-but-infinitude of human sin lay the absolute Infinitude of Deity. In the beginning was the Word - an eternal Christ; and the Word was with God - a co-equal Christ; and the Word was God (John 1: 1) - a Divine Christ. Ever-blessed Trinity! It is rashness to search into it; it is piety to believe it: it is life eternal to know it (Bernard).
Now we pass to our Lord functioning as God at the moment that eternity passes into time. And of the Son He saith, And Thou, Lord - the Father is still addressing the Son in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Thy hands: He made the worlds. Time was when there were no materials lying about out of which a universe could be made; nor any angels, to call in to assist at creation, as they assisted at the giving of the Law (Gal. 3: 19): but the worlds have been framed by the Word of God eight times the word God said is used in the creative narrative, and the numerics of Jesus is 888 so that what is seen hath not been made out of things which do appear (Heb. 11: 3). In Him, Paul says elsewhere, were ALL THINGS created: things visible - all oceans, all continents, all nations, thousands of millions of stars; and things invisible - stars whose light is too faint to imprint itself on a photographic negative, comets that have never come within the radius of the most powerful telescope; Hades, with its invisible millions; whether thrones - the crowned royalties of heaven or dominions - the nobility amongst the angels or Principalities - the angelic satraps of nations or powes - the unseen wielders of earthquake and lightning: all things have been created through Him, and unto Him, and in Him all things consist (Col. 1: 16). Is it any wonder that in the olden days, when the words of the Creed were uttered, God became man, the bowed assemblies fell on their faces and worshipped?
All closes on one of the sublimest passages in all literature, giving a crowning glory to the Divine Christ. They all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture - frayed and worn by age and use - shalt Thou fold them up - Christ created, Christ annihilates- and they shall be changed; but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail. The seeds of decay are embedded deep in the entire creation; whole suns have disappeared from the heavens even since man first knew the skies; for God made the worlds strictly terminable: motion means friction, and friction means wear, decay, dissipation, extinction, death. THOU shalt fold them up: creation and annihilation are but two aspects of one power; and both reside in Christ. They shalt perish; but Thou remainest. The compound word. remainest, implies remaining through - outriding cataclysm and chaos through the wreck of worlds, and the blazing of constellations, the immutable, imperishable Christ abides. Thou remainest - here is the imperishability of the surviving Christ; Thou art the same - here is the immutability of the constant Christ; Thy years shall not fail, shall have no completion, and know no end - here is the eternity of the everlasting Christ. FROM EVERLASTING TO EVERLASTING THOU ART GOD (Ps. 90: 2).
All, finally, is summed in one pregnant utterance: - Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to-day, yea and forever (Heb. 13: 8); for His head and His hair [are] white as white wool, white as snow (Rev. 1: 14). Ours is no new Jesus: it is the Ancient of Days. Ours is the Jesus who created Spurgeon, and called out Luther, and raised up Augustine; the Jesus on whose breast John lay; the Jesus whose face looked out of the cloud on the Egyptian dark; the Jesus who called Enoch upwards in the worlds dawn; the Jesus who walked with Adam in the cool of the day; the Jesus who flung the mountains into their sockets, and the stars into their orbits; the Jesus who, in a dateless eternity, had glory with God before the world was: ours is the hoary Christ. But it is more beautiful even than that. The Lord remains unalterable: He is the same yesterday and to-day exactly as of old, to-day He stands still at a blind mans cry; He still watches the fall of a widows mite; His arms still enfold a lifted child; His heart still sobs at Mary and Marthas grave: the exaltation to the Throne has not changed by an iota the tenderness of His heart, or the sweetness of His smile. And it is, I think, still more beautiful even than that. The same yesterday - the Jesus of history to-day - the Jesus of experience and for ever - the Jesus of eternity: that is, our Lords sameness is consistent with an infinite unfolding of new preciousness and new powers, in new creations and fresh worlds. Intimately personal is one of the best of all reasons for worshipping Him. A backwoods preacher was asked by his board of examiners How would you prove the Divinity of Jesus Christ? He replied, What? They repeated the question How would you prove the Divinity of Jesus Christ? He paused, and then suddenly exclaimed Why, He saved me! Overwhelming and triumphant reply! The Son quickeneth whom He will (John 5: 21); and if He has quickened me, He is the Everlasting Son. It is our supreme personal reason for all eternity for our adoration of the Lamb.
THE APOCALYPSE OF THF LORD.
The Nineteenth Chapter of the Apocalypse holds aloft, like a blazing star, the one, far-off divine event, to which the whole creation moves; and the scene opens with a burst of joy such as creation has never known. The multitude of the redeemed in heaven first break into a Hallelujah, and, with the pulse of an over-throbbing heart, cry Hallelujah again; then the priestly heads of the angelic hierarchies, appearing now for the last time ere they vacate their thrones to Christ and His saints, shout Hallelujah; and once more, gathered into a rolling chorus of angels and men, like the roar of a cataract or a sudden roll of deep-throated thunder, all creation pours itself in a final Hallelujah! It has been beautifully supposed that the word Hallelujah, like the word Amen, is a word dropt on earth from the language of the angels: here alone, and for the first time, it is used in the New Testament, for no irrepressible burst of joy could dawn before: it now bursts forth four times, for it is a cry of joy from the entire creation. The first word, Mr. Spurgeon says, I uttered after my regeneration was Hallelujah: the first word in the Regeneration, when the Son of Man approaches the throne of His glory, is Hallelujah.
Heavens Bride, the
So now arrives at last the
burst of apocalypse for which earth has waited so long. And I saw the heaven opened - not a door in heaven (Rev. 4: 1), but Heaven
itself flung wide, for Heaven itself to come to earth and behold a white horse, and He that sat thereon, blood-wrapt
with the crimson spirted from the
Winepress. Four names now describe the
Indescribable. (1) FAITHFUL AND TRUE. The past has proved the
correctness of this name of Jesus: His prophecies come to pass; His promises
are made good; His precepts are perfect; His word is always the last word. It is remarkable that as He appeared to
We close on one name which is conspicuously absent from all the judgment scenes, and never uttered in the prophecies of the Apocalypse, but which, shrined for ever in our redeemed hearts, holds all the secret of our joy in His coming. God has poured His whole heart in a single word:‑ Thou shalt call His name JESUS; for He shall save His people from their sins (Matt. 1: 21). There is awe in the name of God; there is eternity in the name of Jehovah; there is infinity in the name of the Son of God; there is incarnation in the name of Immanuel; there is stainlessness in the name of the Holy One of God; there is omniscience in the name of the Logos; there is unction in the name of Christ; there is mastery in the name of the Lord; there is a sob in the name of the Son of Man; there is pity in the name of the Mediator; there is Gehenna in the name of the Lamb; there is absolution in the name of the High Priest; there is succour in the name of the Advocate; there is heaven in the name of the Paraclete; there is wedlock in the name of the Bridegroom; there is empire in the name of the King of kings and Lord of lords: but, although all these titles are heaped upon our Lord, there is none other name given under heaven whereby men must be saved but the name of JESUS.
Jesus! Jesus! let us ever say it
Softly to ourselves as some sweet spell;
Jesus! Jesus! troubled spirit, lay it
On thy heart, and it will make thee well.
Many names are dear, but His is dearer,
How it grows more dear as life goes on!
Many friends are near, but He is nearer,
Always what we want, and all our own.