The Deity of Christ and What Constitutes Christianity

 •  17 min. read  •  grade level: 8
In the first place, there are the direct passages- John 1:11In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1) The Word was with God and was God. This is in every way a striking passage: when everything began He was, that is, had no beginning, was God, as indeed it must be, yet was a distinct personality; He was with God, and always such, was so in the beginning, that He created everything.
Subsequently we find the Word made flesh. The effort to weaken the force of the word God here by the absence of the article is perfectly futile, unless in reciprocal propositions the predicate never has the article.
We find in Heb. 1 the same truths. He the Messiah, for of Him he speaks, the Son, is God, is worshipped by angels in the beginning, laid the foundations of the earth, and is the same in Hebrew, Psa. 102, utta Hu, Thou art the existing One, the Being, where the testimony is so much the stronger by comparison with verse 12, where Christ in humiliation addresses Jehovah.
In John 8 we find, before Abraham was I AM, in contrast with His age as man, which the Jews perfectly understood, and would have killed Him for blasphemy.
Col. 1:1616For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: (Colossians 1:16), All things were created by Him and for Him, where it is unquestionable Christ is spoken of, the true force of verse 19 being all the fullness (πλήρωμα) was pleased to dwell in Him, and spoken of Him as man living upon earth, and accomplished in fact in Col. 2:99For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. (Colossians 2:9), "in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily."
John 10, "I and my Father are one."
His name is called Jesus- Jehoshua, that is, Jehovah the Savior, for He shall save His people- who and whose people in connection with explanation of such a name? Christ is the Jehovah of the Old Testament. Thus John 12, Isaiah saw His glory and spoke of Him, quoting Isa. 6, whose glory was seen there? Jehovah of hosts.
So John the Baptist's ministry was preparing the way of Jehovah, Matt. 3:33For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. (Matthew 3:3), quoting Isa. 40, Mal. 3:11Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:1), "I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me, and Jehovah, whom ye seek, shall come." (Compare Mark 1:4242And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed. (Mark 1:42).) If the judgment to come on the earth is referred to difference of interpretation as to this, or the passing on from Christ's first coming to His second, does not affect the question of the Person who comes, He who first came will come again.
The more we compare passages as to this, the more we shall see this identification, and that it is not forcing one or two texts, but the doctrine of scripture woven into its whole texture. Jehovah is Israel's righteousness, but Christ is made our righteousness. The Lord (Jehovah) our God shall come, and all His saints with thee (see Zech. 14:55And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. (Zechariah 14:5)), and Jehovah said a goodly price that I was prized at of them, and I took the thirty pieces of silver, &c. (Zech. 11, 14) Then shall Jehovah go forth... and His feet shall stand in that day on the Mount of Olives. So as to Redeemer, Jehovah alone is their Redeemer. In Isa. 63 this Redeemer is clearly Christ. So in Isa. 50, Thus saith Jehovah, wherefore when I came was there no man? and then He goes on and asserts His unenfeebled divine power, yet He continues, Jehovah Elohim hath given me the tongue of the learned, and the sufferings of Christ are then spoken of.
In Psa. 2 the kings of the earth are called to trust in the Son- the Christ, yet a curse is pronounced on trusting in man, or in any one but Jehovah. See Rev. 22, He who comes quickly is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the first and the last. (I do not quote Rev. 1:1111Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. (Revelation 1:11), as it is probably not genuine, nor verse 8, because its application to Christ may be questioned, although I have no doubt of it.)
Many of the passages in which God and the Lord Jesus are mentioned with one article, in Greek may possibly unite them, only in the subject matter of the sentence. Hence, although I think they prove a great deal as to the identification of God and the Lord Jesus, I do not quote them as simply proving, in an absolute way, the divinity of Christ. But the force of the passages in Titus is apparent, " Waiting for the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ." It is unquestionably Christ who appears, as it is now in the face of Jesus Christ, that we see the glory of the Lord.
This unity of God and Christ is manifest throughout John's writings, "I and my Father are one." We are in Him that is true- that is in His Son, "He is the true God and eternal life." Take again such an example- for it is only an example- "And now little children abide in him, that when he shall appear we may have confidence and not be ashamed before him at his coming." If we know that He is righteous we know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him. "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God, therefore the world knoweth us not because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." Now, who will say to whom this applies, Christ, or God? It is impossible to distinguish them. What characterizes all the writings of John in the language of Christ is One who has the place and title of perfect equality, yet now being a Man takes nothing, never glorifies Himself, but receives all from His Father, as in John 17.
In them we have God over all blessed forever, which I doubt not, for my part, is the only true sense; and other passages I do not quote, as they are matters of criticism. Indeed, I have only cited such as suggest themselves to my memory. So Thomas- " My Lord and my God."
But there is another class of texts, which to the mind, sensible of what is due to God, evidently show who He is. Grace coming from Him as is found everywhere "Out of his fullness have we all received and grace for grace." Christ is all. His love passes knowledge. Christ is to dwell in my heart by faith. If Christ be to me what the scripture says He is to be to me and be not God, He must exclude God altogether. The very fact that Christ made Himself of no reputation when in the form of God, is again a moral proof of His divine nature. Every creature was bound to keep its first estate; He who was high and sovereign could, in grace, come down and take another nature.
Everything confirms this. He does not merely work miracles and cast out devils, but sends others out and gives them authority over all devils. When He says, "destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up," who was dwelling in the temple? This kind of proof shines forth in every page of the gospels, and to the mind whose eye is open to see, affords a proof more powerful even than individual texts stating it in the letters, as I speak of the letters. Let me add the remark, that when it is said the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him bodily, it is not a vague word, as we speak, of what is divine.
The Greek has a distinct word for these two things; for the vague thought it is θειότης, used in Rom. 1; and θεότης, used in Col. 2. Where the leper says, Lord, if thou wilt thou canst, and He says I will, be- who can so speak (it)? The proofs that He is a Man must not be cited against it. We hold to this as anxiously as any one—His being God is only of special value to us because He is Man- a true very Man, though a sinless One. God with us and then we in Him before God. One who took flesh and blood that He might die, and partook of flesh and blood because the children were partakers of it, a dependent, obedient Man who, though He had life in Himself, lived by every word that proceeded out of the mouth of God.
When I am called to believe in Jesus Christ come in flesh, which Christians are, they hold He is a man; but why insist on this?- if He was simply a man, how else could man come? Not an angel, for an angel must not leave its estate, and He did not take up angels- words which have no sense if He had been one, and was taking up the cause of others as such. When He says, "the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father," and that He is in the Father, and the Father in Him, the last might be said of a man, perhaps; the former impossible as a mere man, or of any but a divine Person. So, when He says, "None hath ascended up to heaven," that is to state what is there- "save he that came down from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven;" and if all men are to honor the Son even as they honor the Father, it cannot be that He is a mere man, or not have the nature which has to be honored.
Jehovah has sworn that every knee shall bow to Him, and every tongue give an account of himself to God, but it is at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow. Hence, though the Son quickens whom He will, as the Father, yet the Father judges no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son as they honor Him. There is no God but Jehovah- I know not any, as says the prophet; but we have seen by multiplied examples that Christ is Jehovah.
That as Son He has taken a place subject to the Father as Man, every Christian believes; receives the glory He once had with the Father before the world was, every one who bows to scripture joyfully accepts, for He is a Man forever, in that sense a servant, but He who is the servant can say, I and my Father are one, and I am in the Father, and he who has seen Him has seen the Father also.
Compare the description of the Ancient of Days and chapter 1 of Revelation, and see if the Ancient of Days, who receives the Son of man in Dan. 7, be not the Son of man in Rev. 1, and in Dan. 7 too; from verse 22 of the chapter the Ancient of Days comes. Hence we have the blessed and only Potentate, King of kings, and Lord of lords- then the appearing of Christ; but in Revelation He who comes on the white horse has on His vesture and on His thigh, King of kings, and Lord of lords. You see, the more scripture is gone through, the more comes to light that He is the true God and Eternal Life.
I know not that I need multiply passages, after these I have quoted. What you will remark is, that it is not a question of expressions as to which criticism may be exercised, but the doctrine and system of scripture. It is Christianity as it is given to us in scripture, I take up Christianity as the truth, and that is Christianity. A religion is what it professes itself to be, and that is what Christianity professes itself to be- the revelation of God, and eternal life in the Person of Christ.
It professes another truth, that is, atonement, or expiation of sin. It does not teach a goodness of God which can bear with any sin, but maintains the perfect holiness of God, and the putting away of sin, but it does it in a way which equally maintains infinite and perfect love. Man instinctively felt the need of expiation. This is publicly known in heathenism; but there it was very much the dread of a god who had passions like ourselves, and men might justly say, tantӕne animis cӕlestibus irӕ? Judaism, as revealed of God, maintained this thought, but it began by a deliverance of the people, and witnessed a God not revealed, but who gave commandments, ordained sacrifices, which kept up the thought that sin would in nowise be allowed; but it was the "forbearance of God" in view of a work to be accomplished, the way into the holiest not yet having been made manifest, nor peace given to man's conscience, though it was relieved through sacrifice when occasion called for it; Christ appears in the end of the world to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself; was once offered to bear the sins of many, and give a perfect conscience, without diminishing—nay, in maintaining in the highest way holiness in the judgment of sin in the conscience, according to the majesty of God; and withal giving the perfect sense of unbounded love, in that God did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us. The love that gave Christ, Christ gave Himself in a love that is divine, and passes knowledge.
The foolish question has been asked, What righteousness is there in an innocent being suffering for the guilty? It is a foolish question. There is no righteousness in my paying my friend's debts. It is kindness, love, but it meets the righteous claim of his creditor. The claims of a holy God are maintained- intolerance of evil, and that is of the last importance for the conscience and heart of man; it gives him the knowledge of what God is in holiness. There is no true love without it. Indifference to good and evil, so that the evil-doer is let pass with his evil, is not love, and the dissociation of right and wrong by God's authority, the highest possible evil. Now good and evil are elevated to the standard of it in God's nature. We walk in the light, as God is in the light, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses from all sin. The glory of God is maintained, and the heart of man placed in association with the perfectness of that nature, and in peace with the perfect knowledge of His love, and that is the highest blessing, the highest good. Diminish the holiness, diminish the love, I have not God, I have not my soul formed into communion with Him. Take away the character of judgment or righteousness exercised, as regards evil, and you obliterate the authority of God, the creation, place, and responsibility of man.
This part of the truth, again, enters into the whole texture of scripture, from Abel to the allusions to it in Rev. I shall merely quote a sufficient number of passages to show that Christianity must be given up, as taught by Christ and His apostles, if expiation be. I do not quote the Old Testament; expiatory sacrifices are, beyond all question, its doctrine, and prophetic testimony is clear that "He was wounded for our transgressions, the chastisement of our peace laid upon him, and that with his stripes we are healed; that he made his soul a sacrifice for sin, and that he bare our iniquities." Isa. 53
When I turn to the New Testament, I find Christ stating that He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Matt. 20:2828Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28).) The Lord's supper- the standing institution of Christianity- is the sign of His blood shed for many for the remission of sins. John the Baptist points Him out as the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:2020And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. (John 1:20).) Paul tells us that God hath set Him forth as a propitiation, through faith in His blood (Rom. 3:2525Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; (Romans 3:25)); Peter, that we are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Peter 1:18,1918Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: (1 Peter 1:18‑19)); John, that He is the propitiation for our sins and the whole world (2 John 2:22And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. (John 2:2)); Peter, again, that He bare our sins in His own body on the tree. (1 Peter 2:2424Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. (1 Peter 2:24).) The Hebrews enlarges on it fully as a doctrine, He must offer for sins. (Heb. 9) He offers one sacrifice for sins, and then sits down. (Heb. 10) We have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. (Eph. 1:77In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; (Ephesians 1:7).) We are justified by His blood. (Rom. 5:99Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. (Romans 5:9).) Without shedding of blood is no remission. (Heb. 9:2222And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. (Hebrews 9:22).) He gave Himself for our sins. (Gal. 1:44Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: (Galatians 1:4).) It is when He had made the purification of our sins that He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens. (Heb. 1:33Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; (Hebrews 1:3).) Cleansing, justification, forgiveness, peace, redemption, are all attributed to His blood. He bore our sins, gave Himself for our sins, makes propitiation for the world, is delivered for our offenses.
As I have said, it is a doctrine interwoven with all scripture, forms one of the bases of Christianity, is the sole ground of remission- and there is none without shedding blood- and that by which Christ has made peace. (Col. 1:2020And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. (Colossians 1:20).) The thought that He was sealing merely His doctrines by His death is utterly groundless, it is never stated as its force in scripture, expiation is constantly; and if it was a mere testimony- perfect as He was in it- it does not serve for one, for the testimony would be that the most faithful of men was forsaken of God. What testimony would that be? Take out expiation, and scripture becomes impossible to understand; introduce it, and all is plain.
I have not written a treatise, but simply recalled what must present itself to every unprejudiced reader of scripture, as memory furnished it, and what the soul convinced of sin cannot do without. If Christ be not God, I do not know Him, have not met Him, nor know what He is. No man can by searching find it out. If Christ has not offered Himself as a sacrifice for sin, then I had neither peace of conscience, according to the holiness of God, but pass lightly over the guilt of sin, remaining at a distance from God, nor do I know God's love, who so loved as not to spare His own Son. There is no true knowledge of sin without it, no true knowledge of God. J. N. D.
JESUS, Thou glorious Son of God,
Our Life eternal and our Lord,
Gladly we gaze upon Thy face,
Its beauty and its glory trace.
When in ruin, chaos, sin,
By darkness and by gloom hemmed in,
Thy voice we heard, the living Word,
And now we live to Thee, our Lord.
What led Thee, Lord, so great, so holy,
To take that place, made sin, so lowly?
Oh, 'twas that we might be with Thee,
From sin and all defilement free.
'Twas love, 'twas love, that led Thee there,
That we in righteousness might share
Thy Father's love- be heirs with
Thee, Joint heirs through all eternity.
While gather'd to Thy name, Lord, here,
Thyself our hearts and minds cloth cheer;
And naught amongst the things of time,
Can gladden hearts by grace made Thine.
Jesus, Thou glorious Son of God,
Our portion now, our sure reward;
All that we need we find in Thee,
And ever Thou our all wilt be.
We praise Thee, and shall ever praise,
As on Thy glorious face we gaze:
Grace and glory there we see,
And gazing are transform'd to Thee.