“Things Which Are Surely Believed Among Us”
The phrase, “Things which are most surely believed among us” is to be interpreted in no sectarian sense. “Food for the Flock” does not foster sectarianism. The phrase has been extracted from Luke 1:1, and, in using it as a caption for a series of articles touching our Faith, we wish to imply that those responsible for the production of the magazine unreservedly believe all that is contained in “the Scriptures of Truth,” and they write for that large body of Christians who share their like faith. All over the world, and at all times, God has those who like Paul say, “I believe God.”
Seeing that our beliefs are based on Holy Scripture, it follows that we should first consider the nature of those Scriptures, in order to satisfy ourselves that our faith is well-founded. Our fourth paper, therefore, will relate to …
The Deity of Christ
In our previous papers we have observed that the Lord Jesus Christ is One Person in the Godhead, and therefore His deity is assumed. But seeing that this is denied by many, even by those who make a profession of Christianity, it is important that we should devote a chapter to it. “Some said, He is a good man; others said, Nay, but He deceiveth the people” (John 7:12). Which of these is right? The reader may be surprised when we reply, neither. Most certainly He did not deceive the people: He was ‘the truth.’ Nor was He merely a ‘good man,’ for, if He were that and no more, we can only reply that no good man would ever make the claims for himself which He made. Unless those claims were true, then, far from being a good man, He did deceive some people, if not all the people. If one admits that He was a good man then one must also admit that all He said about Himself was true.
The writer was once approached by a Mohammedan who said that if it could be proved that Jesus was the Son of God, he would there and then bow down and worship Him. Unhappily, nothing that was said appeared to convince him, but it will, perhaps, be helpful to the reader if we recite something of what was then said.
Of the Messiah it was foreshadowed that He would be “the branch of the Lord,” as well as “the fruit of the earth”—and Jesus claimed to be that Messiah. He was the “Son given” as well as the “child born.” “His goings forth had been from of old,” from eternity. It is not only in these and like statements that the Deity and eternal being of the Lord Jesus is prophetically affirmed, but it is implied in such verses as Psalm 110:1. “The Lord said unto My Lord.” Touching this the Lord Jesus asked the Pharisees “What think ye of Christ? whose son is He?” To which they replied “The Son of David,” and the Lord retorted, “If David then called Him Lord, how is He his son?” The Deity of Jesus was wrapped up in that Davidic Psalm.
For those who unquestioningly believe in the Deity of the Lord Jesus, the Old Testament abounds in confirmatory statements, but those who deny this do not regard such statements as proving the case. Space forbids that we should enumerate them here, but the reader would be well repaid by searching for himself and seeing that this is so. In the grey mists of unfulfilled prophecy it is little wonder that even the godly were perplexed: the belief in two Servants of the Lord, one humbled and rejected and another glorified and powerful was shared by them, and the confusion was only cleared up when “Jesus of Nazareth” had been raised from the dead, and He Himself gave the true explanation that the prophecies were all fulfilled or to be fulfilled in the One Person, and that suffering must precede glory.
It is in the New Testament that we are given indisputable evidence and categorical affirmations of the Deity of the Lord Jesus. We will list a few of the passages: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” It is little wonder that Satan has stirred up man to deny this, and to do so by alleging that this verse has not been correctly translated. Some have translated the anarthrous word “Theos” by “a God,” whilst others have given it the sense of “the God.” The true force of the phrase is that all that characterizes God characterized the Word, and though there was distinction of personality there was always and also equality of being. One of the latest translations of the New Testament gives, “What God was, the Word was,”
Again, “The Only Begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” He stands ‘unique’ as the only begotten. The word ‘begotten’ does not connote commencement of being as we shall see later. The verb ‘is’ is timeless—He always was and for ever unceasingly will be in the bosom of the Father. The words ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ do not imply seniority or juniority as they do among men, but equality of nature and all that pertains thereto. No one less than God could declare what God is. These opening words of John’s Gospel are fundamental and their importance cannot be over-rated. When all things began to be, the Word was then: He was a distinct Person in the Godhead wherein all relationships were harmonious and equal. “The same was in the beginning with God,” which is to say that this position of equality in the Godhead and distinctness of personality were not originated at some point of time but were, like the Person, eternal.
These are statements made by the inspired writer, John. But he records also the claims made by the Lord Himself. The reader should closely examine the whole of John 5, noting carefully what led up to and flowed from the remark of Jesus, “My Father worketh hitherto and I work.” The Jews rightly deduced from this that He “made Himself equal with God.” Had their deduction been false or over-stated our Lord would have been prompt to have corrected them and not, for a moment, to have allowed them to indulge such wrong conclusions. But on the contrary, He virtually said “And that is exactly what I am.” I am equal in operation: in life-giving: in honour: in utterance; and in self-existence. Lest it be supposed that He is making claims for Himself without confirmatory witnesses, He cites as witnesses John, His own works, the Father Himself, the Scriptures, and, in particular, Moses.
On another occasion He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was I am.” Observe carefully the preamble to this statement. It was not a rash remark, but was a solemnly averred claim to eternal being, equality with Jehovah, whose name was declared to be “I am that I am.” He broke the man-made rules of grammar in order to make this fact plain.
Again, “I and My Father are one” — one substance, indivisible. It is not sufficient to say that they are one in purpose, or power, or anything else, for the statement admits of no limitation whatsoever — they are One in everything. Here by six words the Lord Jesus makes the clearest possible claim to Deity and equality: the words are unambiguous. They are not of doubtful interpretation.
When addressing His Father in prayer, He speaks of “the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.” Is this anything less than an awareness of Deity? Could a mere created being have so spoken? As a matter of fact, the very recorder of these words tells us earlier in his Gospel, “All things were made by Him and without Him was not one thing made that was made.” If, therefore, ‘all things’ had their origin by Him, it follows that He must have been prior to all and excluded from all.
The Gospel of John is well-known to contain many records of the usage by the Lord Jesus of the words “I am.” This is not the place to write of them, save to call attention to the effect that it had upon those who came to arrest Him in the Garden of Gethemane: “They went backward and fell to the ground.” This was creature facing the Creator, this was creature defying the Creator. What could be expected but powerlessness on their part, though in marvellous grace He gave Himself up to them.
John records seven sign miracles, and he tells us his purpose in making this selection was that his readers “might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” Miracles, of course, per se, do not prove Deity, for Moses and Elijah and others wrought them, both before and during the life of the Lord Jesus on earth. But this selection was unusual, for they were wrought by personal and not delegated authority, and showed His power over nature, disease, sin and death. One evangelist records how that prior to working a miracle of healing, He forgave the sins of the palsied man. “Who can forgive sins but God only?” They were right, but He was God and this they did not know.
Yet they did know this much, that “He made Himself the Son of God,” which they regarded as blasphemy. By the law of Leviticus 24:16 they thought He should have been put to death. But was their charge right? He did not make Himself the Son of God; He was that. To “make one’s self” something is self-exaltation, and this was farther from Him than are the poles: quite the contrary was the case. Yet it was because of this they crucified Him. His resurrection from the dead, however, proved that His claim was a true one; “He was declared to be the Son of God with power” by it. God vindicated Him.
This is one of the things “most surely believed among us.” We know how important it is, not merely in relation to His own glory, (and that cannot be over-rated) but for our own welfare, for “If ye believe not that I Am, ye shall die in your sins.” Our eternal security depends upon our faith in the Son of God.
Everywhere one turns in the New Testament this truth is either stated or implied. It, and the humanity of Christ, are as warp and woof, and neither can be separated from the other without doing irreparable damage to the whole. We must be content merely to cite a few remarks from the epistles touching this matter.
Paul speaks of the Lord Jesus as “being originally in the form of God.” The insertion of the word “originally” is merely to bring out the sense of what Paul wrote: it must not be assumed that at some later time He ceased to be in the form of God. He did not substitute the form of God for the form of a servant, but rather conjoined the later form to the former. He did not cease to be God when He became man no more than, when risen and glorified, did He cease to be man. “In Him dwelleth (now that He is in Heaven) all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” The word used is that which denotes Godhead in its fulness, and not mere divinity, which is a word of like appearance used by Paul elsewhere. Godhead has to do with essence: divinity with quality.
Other words are used of Him. “He is the image of the invisible God” which means He exactly represents, fully and perfectly, all that God in His unseeable essence, is. He is “the effulgence of His glory and the express image of His substance.” As sunbeam is inseparable from the sun, and as the impression on the wax corresponds exactly and precisely to the seal which made it, so, eternally, there is exact correspondence with, perfect representation of, and full manifestation of all that the Father is. The timeless participle forbids us limiting this to the days of His flesh.
It is unthinkable that the things stated regarding the Lord Jesus could be true, were He not God. How could One fully reveal all that God is, were He not His equal? “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father,” He said. How could one not God be before all things, and be the instrument whereby they all came into existence? How could one not truly God be “head over all things” which He is said now to be?
When on earth, “God was in Christ.” He was “Immanuel” (God with us). His being here is accounted for by the fact that the Father “sent” the Son: that the Son “came”: that He was “manifested,” all of which and like verbs imply a prior being, a thing true of none other of the human race.
James calls the Lord Jesus “the glory” an allusion, perhaps, to the Shekinah glory dwelling between the cherubim. The passage is variously translated, but this would seem to be its sense.
This paper could be almost indefinitely extended for no matter where we turn in our New Testament, we find the doctrine of the Deity of Christ either affirmed or assumed. A Saviour who if not verily God is, as another has said, a bridge broken at one end. No one but God manifest in flesh could be utterly sinless, both in nature and deed, for it must not be overlooked that it was because of His Deity that He could not sin, as well as that He was not able to sin.
If He be not God, we ought not to worship Him, yet Christians throughout all ages have gladly done so: they find it impossible not to do so. They are aware that He is the destined Judge of all, and for ever bless Him that, at the cost of His life on earth, He redeemed us from the curse that sin had brought upon us. “Unto Him that loveth us, and hath loosed us from our sins in His own blood, be glory and dominion forever and ever, Amen.”