"And thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins."--MATT. 1: 21.
What think you of the Christ? whose son is he? The Jews answered: The son of David. Jesus replied: How, then, does David in spirit call him Lord, saying, Jehovah said to my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, till I put thy enemies under thy feet? The Scripture makes it evident that the Christ is the son of David. The answer to the question, that he is David's son, was and is correct. But this first question led to the second, to which the Jews gave no answer. The son of David, according to Scripture, should sit at the right hand of Jehovah till his enemies were put beneath his feet.
We are to suppose that the Jews either would answer this second question, and could not, or that they could, and would not. The Scriptures furnished the answer. The writer, Matthew, says: "No one was able to answer him a word." This inability of theirs did not proceed from ignorance; for the Scripture had said that David's son should be the Son of God: "I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son." The Christ, as Son of God, would have a right to sit at the right hand of Jehovah. It is probable that the Jews understood this, and their inability to answer the question arose, not from ignorance, but from a consciousness that an answer would have entangled them in a snare from which they would not have been able to escape.
Jesus is the son of David, and Son of God. As such he is son of two kings--one, the king of earth; the other, king of the heavens. The Scripture had made many promises to David and to David's son. His throne and his kingdom were to be of endless duration. To the Jews there was something fearful in the answer to this second question. Jesus had been called the son of David, and while they were willing to acknowledge that the Christ was the son of David, they were not willing to answer a question which they saw would lead to an acknowledgement that Jesus the Nazarene was that person, who should possess endless as well as universal dominion.
The words "Sit thou at my right hand, till I put thy enemies under thy feet," involve the overthrow of all who are not friends of Jesus. Hence an answer to the question, "What think you of the Christ?" involves the eternal destiny of every man. If the question be answered as Scripture requires, and become, when answered, the guide of life, then it is well for him that answers it. But if an answer be given which Scripture does not justify, and the answer become the guide of life, then the answerer becomes the enemy who shall be put beneath the feet of the Christ.
It not unfrequently happens that men surround themselves with necessity which leads them to perdition. Jesus, on another occasion, put a question to the Jews which they could not answer: "The immersion of John, whence was it? from heaven or from men? But they reasoned among themselves, and said, If we reply, From heaven, he will say to us, Why, then, did you not believe him? But if we reply, From men, we fear the multitude; for all regard John as a prophet. And they answered and said to Jesus, We know not."
How easy for men to involve themselves in such a necessity. We set up our gods in our own hearts; we determine to worship them; we see that an answer to certain questions will involve us in inconsistency; we can not endure to contradict our own theories, and for fear of the reproach that others may cast against us, we determine to follow our delusions, and perish in them. Each man that holds an error ties a millstone about his neck, that will drown him in the depths of the sea. Men's opinions are the millstones that they fondly tie about their necks; and these opinions are the cause of their ruin. The traditions of the Jews, their fondness for their rites, their love of the favor of men proved their destruction.
There are many Christs. As many as are the opinions of men, so many Christs are there. But there is but one Christ--the Christ of history. He it is of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write. He it is who is written of by the holy apostles. He, and he alone, is the Christ. Jesus the Nazarene, the son of the virgin, is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Whatever has been written of him must be received as true. Our reason, our intellectual nature, our spirit, our mind, whatever is within us, require of us to accept as true the testimonies which have been preserved to us from the days of the apostles. I desire life. Jesus gives eternal life. I die. Jesus will destroy death. I am a sinner. Jesus died for our sins. I wish to be just before God. Jesus rose again for our justification. There is not a wish in my whole nature which is not fully satisfied in Jesus of Nazareth. To the testimonies, then, concerning Him. What say they?
Let us ignore all creeds and formulas of faith as made and published by men. Rise we, at once, to the pure fountain of eternal truth. "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a son and they shall call his name Immanuel, which, when translated, is, God with us." This is Matthew's THESIS. His testimony sustains his thesis. Note well his words. Immanuel is God with us. That being conceived by the virgin of the Holy Spirit, is God with us. Here let skepticism lay her hand on her mouth, and dare not utter one word of dissent. Was deceit found in Jesus's mouth? Did Herod find in him any thing worthy of death? Did the Jews find any witness that could testify to aught that he did amiss? For what crime did he suffer death? Was it a crime to acknowledge himself the Son of God? For this he suffered, not for aught that he had done amiss. Then there was in him no sin. Judas, who betrayed him, testified to his innocence. He was in life pure and spotless. Surely, then, he is God with us. Though in flesh, he was not of flesh. Though in form as man, he was not of man. Hence his sinlessness. Being sinless, he is God with us.
Let this be our first proof of the true Godhead of Jesus. The manner and the matter of his speech shall be our second proof. "You have heard that it was said to the ancients, You shall not kill; and whoever shall kill, shall be liable to the sentence of the judges. But I say to you, Whoever is angry with his brother, shall be liable to the sentence of the judges."
The words, "I say to you," so often repeated in this discourse, exhibit a consciousness of authority to make law which no other human being ever possessed. Indeed, the multitudes felt this peculiarity of manner, for they were astonished at his teaching; for he taught as having authority, and not as the scribes.
Hear him again: "I am the light of the world; he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." And again: "For the Father judges no one, but has given all judicial authority to the Son; that all may honor the Son, as they honor the Father." Language such as this needs no comment. It is the utterance of one who knows what he says, conscious of what he is.
When he had risen from the dead, he gave to his apostles the last commission in these words: "Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations, immersing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." This commission is based on a fact stated in the preceding words: "All authority in heaven and on earth is given to me." Note well the words "All authority." We can conceive of authority legislative, authority judicial, authority executive, no more. In his person is centered all this. What, then, is the argument to be drawn from this? Evidently that he is God; for none other than God can make law for all in heaven and on earth; none other than one possessed of all knowledge and wisdom can judge all; and none other than God can execute the laws after judgment has been given. Look through the vast array of beings intellectual in heaven and on earth. For all these law must be made. To their condition the laws must be adapted. In judging them, mercy and justice must combine. Their varied conditions, the unnumbered circumstances that govern their actions, must all be considered. Who is sufficient for this but one who has all knowledge, and all wisdom, and all justice?"
"The Father judges no one." Well may we rejoice in this saying. One will judge who has been in the flesh, tempted in all points as we are; consequently, knowing, from his own experience, what it is to be in the flesh, what it is to be tried, and, therefore, knowing how to judge of the actions of men.
Between man and the Infinite One called the Father there was a gulf of infinite breadth and depth. Look abroad to the heavens; behold their immeasurable vastness! How could man approach, come near to, such a being? We feel overwhelmed by the unsearchable greatness of God. But turn, now, and look at Jesus. He is Immanuel, God with us. In him God comes near us; God ceases to be at an immeasurable distance. The incomprehensible grandeur and unsearchable greatness of God, now clad in flesh, are not such as to overawe our souls, and make us shrink within ourselves, terrified, alarmed, and awe-struck. No; through Jesus we draw nearer to God, for he has come very near to us. That measureless gulf has been filled with the presence of Immanuel, God with us. He is our lawgiver and our judge. In him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. Yet he is the MAN Christ Jesus. Dear to every Christian is the truth that such a one has all judicial authority committed to him.
The Apostle Paul tells us that Jesus is the heir of all things. If he is the heir of all things, then he has the knowledge of all things, and the wisdom with which to govern all things. What man would give to a son an estate, knowing that he had not understanding sufficient to enable him to manage it with prudence? The wisdom of the heir of all things should be such as to enable him to control all things. Who, then, but God can know all things, manage all things, and control all things, so as to cause them to work together for good for those who love him? Messiah is God over all things, forever blessed. We are also told that he is head over all things to the Church.
There is good reason why he is the heir of all things. He created all things. Let us hear an apostle: "For by him were all things created, things in heaven and things in earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or lordships, or principalities, or authorities; all things have been created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist." Note well this language. He is before all things, and by him all things consist. Evident, then, is it that he who was before all things, and by whom all things consist, is not a creation. And, further, he who created all things has a right to all things, and is, consequently, the heir of all things.
But there is another argument connected with this. The apostle adds: "For it pleased the Father that all his fullness should dwell in him." If, then, all the fullness of the Father dwells in him, how can he be not equal to the Father? He did not think it an act of robbery to be equal with God. The Jews understood that the Son of God was equal with God. The Apostle John tells us that the Jews sought the more to kill him because he had not only broken the Sabbath, but also said that God was his own Father, making himself equal with God.
It is argued, however, that he himself says, "My Father is greater than I." Yes, and it is true, too, that he was made a little lower than the angels. There is a vast difference between the nature of a being and the position of a being. As a Son, he was less than the Father. But when did he become a Son? When he was born of the virgin. As a man on earth, he was less than the Father. As such, made subject to death, he was a little lower than the angels. The relation of son to a father supposes the one greater than the other; but let the relation be no longer considered, and the one is equal with the other. Whatever the father is, the son is. Is David the father of the Christ? Then the Christ is flesh. Flesh is equal to flesh. Flesh can not be less than flesh. So the Christ, being the Son of God, is equal to God. God can not be less than God. In other words, the divine nature can not be less than the divine nature. The to Theion is the to Theion. Theotes is Theotes. It can not be less. The Christ is Theanthropos, God-Man. As God, he is fully so; as man, he is fully so. In the Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead, Theotes, bodily. It is evident that the less can not contain the greater. But the Christ has all the fullness of the Theotes in himself. Hence, apodictically, equal to God.
The apostle of the Gentiles, in his letter to the Romans, says of the Christ, that he was made or born of the posterity of David, according to the flesh, but declared to be the Son of God with power, according to his holy spiritual nature, by his resurrection from the dead. The learned may differ somewhat in their understanding of this passage. But one thing is evident and beyond dispute, that there is a contrast--his sonship according to the flesh, and his sonship according to the opposite nature. As the son of David, he was flesh, and consequently weak; as Son of God, he was possessed of a holy spiritual nature, and consequently had dunamis, power. To this state of weakness he refers when he says, "My Father is greater than I."
I will not here press into service that passage found in 1 Tim. iii: 16, because I am satisfied that the reading in the common Greek text can not be supported. Instead of reading, "God was manifested in flesh," I shall read, according to Tischendorf, "He who was manifested in flesh, was justified in spirit, seen by angels," etc. It is a question, then, well to be considered, Who is he that was manifested in flesh? When this question is duly considered, we shall arrive at a conclusion as safe as though we should retain the common reading. It is evident that some one was manifested in flesh. He who was manifested in flesh was more than flesh.
The apostle John will give us an answer to the question, Who was this? "And the WORD became flesh, and tabernacled among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father,) full of grace and of truth." The WORD, Logos, Wisdom, was made flesh, and hence manifested in flesh. It is worthy of remark that Jesus, on two occasions, uses the term Wisdom when speaking of himself. "For this reason also the Wisdom of God said," (Luke xi: 49.) "For this reason, behold, I send you prophets," etc., (Matt. xxiii: 34.) "Yet Wisdom is justified by her children," (Matt. xi: 19.) In these places the term Wisdom seems to stand for the Messiah. Of the first quoted, there can be no doubt, for in the parallel place in Matthew we find him using the pronoun I. That which is by him called Wisdom is by John called The Logos, the WORD. Let us approach the first of John, and weigh the contents of his first verse.
"In the beginning was the WORD, and the WORD was with God, and the WORD was God."
This beginning can be no other than that mentioned by Moses; "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth;" for the apostle goes further, and says, "He was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him, and without him not one thing was made that exists." Let the reader compare Prov. viii, in which Wisdom is represented as being with God in the beginning.
Let it be well noted that creation is attributed to the Logos or WORD: "By him all things were made." "He was in the beginning with God." "The Word was God." I will not permit myself to attempt to explain what human language can not explain. I call attention to the facts stated. That being, who is here called the Logos, was with God, and active in creation. Jesus, in his prayer recorded by this apostle, says: "Glorify me with thyself with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." He did exist, then, before the world existed. He began the creation. He was before all things. He is not, then, as the Nicene Creed says, "God of God," but he was God. In the simplest, broadest, only sense, he is God; for to him is creation attributed. No one can create but God.
Here we might make an end of our argument; but as the testimony is not exhausted, let the argument be continued. The Apostle Paul applies the following words, quoted from Psalm 102, to the Messiah: "And thou, Lord, in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou remainest: and they all shall grow old as a garment; and as a mantle thou shalt fold them up, and they shall be changed; but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail."
In Micah, v: 2, we find the birth of Jesus foretold: "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be small among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall he come forth to me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."
Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Yet his goings forth had been from old, from everlasting. Does this language require comment? Can it be made more full, more comprehensive, by aught that we can say? Let it stand as found in the holy Scripture, fully testifying to the eternal duration of that being who was once in flesh. We have made it evident from Scripture that Jesus is the Theanthropos--the God-Man. We have given answer to this question, What think you of the Christ? Be it known that this is our answer, that this is what we have to say of the Christ. Ignoring all creeds and confessions of faith as made by men, we come to the oracles of the living God, and decide this question on which hangs the destiny of the human race. Jesus the Nazarene is Immanuel, God with us; in the true sense, God; and in the true sense, Man.
He must have been such as we have found him described in Scripture, otherwise he could not be a Savior. He came to save man from sin, and he must meet and overpower all the adversaries of man. Satan is the prince of the hosts of darkness, the author of all evil, the murderer of the family of Adam. Jesus must meet him and subdue him. Jesus is the head over all the hosts of light, directing them by his wisdom in his great conflict with the powers of darkness. It requires infinite wisdom so to control these powers of light as to finally gain the victory over the enemies of God and of man. Behold, then, one who wears our nature, sitting at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty on high, clothed with all authority in heaven and on earth, and this for the purpose of bringing honor and glory to the sons of God. As man, he sympathizes with us in all our sufferings, feels our sorrows, intercedes for us; as God, he will put under his feet every enemy that stands opposed to our honor, our glory, our life, and our incorruptibility. What, then, shall we say of him in conclusion?
We will say that which God has said: "Let all the angels of God worship him." He whom all the angels of God worship, is worthy of the worship of all the sons of men. "And I saw, and heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands. And they said, with a loud voice: Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing. And every creature that is in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, even all that are in them, I heard saying: To him that sits on the throne, and to the Lamb be blessing, and honor, and glory, and strength, from age to age."
What argument shall we draw from universal worship? All the angels of God, and all created beings unite in giving to Jesus the Nazarene the homage of their hearts. In the midst of this universal homage, can there be found a mortal, a being who calls himself a man, that refuses that honor and glory and blessing which are due to the Lamb? If there is one, then all the angels of God will unite in saying, Let such a one be put among the enemies of Jesus beneath his feet.
"Behold, he comes with clouds, and every eye shall see him, and those also who pierced him." He comes again, even as he ascended into heaven. He was despised and rejected by men; he was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. Yet he comes to be glorified on earth. A kingdom is in reservation for him, that all peoples, nations, and languages may serve him. He comes as the Son of Man, to visit the sons of men, to give reward to all that have faithfully served him. To those who look for him he will appear the second time, without a sin-offering, for salvation. But to those who have corrupted his holy religion, who have disregarded his saints, who have despised his little ones, he will appear in flaming fire for destruction. He will come in the glory of his Father and of the holy angels, and he will reward every one as his work shall be.
Blessed Redeemer, come quickly. Thy saints are weary, they mourn thy absence, they long for thy coming. Again we say, Blessed Redeemer, come quickly.