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§ 2. General Characteristics of the New Testament Teaching concerning Christ.
A. The Sense in which Christ is called Lord.
The first argument from the New Testament in proof of the divinity of Christ, is derived from the fact that He is everywhere called Lord; the Lord; our Lord. It is admitted that the Greek word κύριος means owner, and one who has the authority of an owner, whether of men or things. The Lord of a vineyard is the owner of the vineyard, and the Lord of slaves is the owner of slaves. It is also admitted that the word is used with all the latitude of the Latin word Dominus, or the English Master or Mister. It is applied as a title of respect, not only to magistrates and princes, but to those who are not invested with any official authority. It is, therefore, not merely the fact that Jesus is called Lord, that proves that He is also God; but that He is called Lord in such a sense and in such a way as is consistent with no other hypothesis. In the first place, Christ is called Lord in the New Testament with the same constancy and with the same preeminence that Jehovah is called Lord in the Old Testament. This was the word which all the readers, whether of the Hebrew or Greek Scriptures, under the old economy were accustomed to use to express their relation to God. They recognized Him as their owner, as their Supreme Sovereign, and as their protector. He was in that sense their Lord. The Lord is on our side. The Lord be with you. The Lord He is God. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. Thou Lord art good. Thou Lord art most high forever. O Lord, there is none like unto thee. I will praise the Lord. Have mercy upon me, O Lord. O Lord, thou art my God. The religious ear of the people was educated in the use 496of this language from their infancy. The Lord was their God. They worshipped and praised Him, and invoked his aid in calling him Lord. The same feelings of reverence, adoration, and love, the same sense of dependence and desire of protection are expressed throughout the New Testament in calling Jesus Lord. Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. Lord, save me. Joy of thy Lord. Lord, when saw we thee a hungered? He that judgeth me is the Lord. If the Lord will. To be present with the Lord. Them that call on the Lord. Which the Lord shall give me in the last day. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour.
Jesus Christ, therefore, is Lord to Christians in the same sense that Jehovah was Lord to the Hebrews. The usage referred to is altogether peculiar; no man — not Moses, nor Abraham, nor David, nor any of the prophets or Apostles, is ever thus prevailingly addressed or invoked as Lord. We have but one Lord; and Jesus Christ is Lord. This is an argument which addresses itself to the inward experience, rather than to the mere understanding. Every believer knows in what sense he calls Jesus Lord; and he knows that in thus recognizing Him as his owner, as his absolute sovereign, to whom the allegiance of his soul, and not merely of his outward life, is due; and as his protector and Saviour, he is in communion with the Apostles and martyrs. He knows that it is from the New Testament he has been taught to worship Christ in calling him Lord.
But in the second place, Jesus Christ is not only thus called Lord by way of eminence, but He is declared to be the Lord of lords; to be the Lord of glory; the Lord of all; the Lord of the living and the dead; the Lord of all who are in heaven and on earth, and under the earth. All creatures, from the highest to the lowest, must bow the knee to Him, and acknowledge his absolute dominion. He is in such a sense Lord as that no man can truly call Him Lord but by the Holy Ghost. If his Lordship were merely the supremacy which one creature can exercise over other creatures, there would be no necessity for a divine illumination to enable us to recognize his authority. But if He is Lord in the absolute sense in which God alone is Lord; if He has a right in us, and an authority over us, which belong only to our Maker and Redeemer, then it is necessary that the Holy Spirit should so reveal to us the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, as to lead us to prostrate ourselves before Him as our Lord and our God.
In the third place, Christ is called Lord, when that word is used 497for the incommunicable divine names and titles Jehovah and Adonai. It is well known that the Jews from an early period had a superstitious reverence, which prevented their pronouncing the word Jehovah. They therefore, in their Hebrew Scriptures, gave it the vowel points belonging to the word Adonai, and so pronounced it whenever they read the sacred volume. When they translated their Scriptures into Greek, they uniformly substituted κύριος, which answers to Adon, for Jehovah. In like manner, under the influence of the LXX., the Latin Christians in their version used Dominus; and constrained by the same wide spread and long-continued usage, the English translators have, as a general thing, put Lord (in small capitals) where the Hebrew has Jehovah. In very many cases we find passages applied to Christ as the Messiah, in which He is called Lord, when Lord should be Jehovah or Adonai. In Luke i. 76, it is said of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, that he should go before the face of the Lord; but in Malachi iii. 1, of which this passage declares the fulfilment, the person speaking is Jehovah. The day of Christ, in the New Testament, is called “the day of the Lord;” in the Old Testament it is called “the day of Jehovah, the great day.” יוֹם יְהוָה הָגָּדוֹל. Romans x. 13, quotes Joel ii. 32, which speaks of Jehovah, and applies it to Christ, saying, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Rom xiv. 10, 11, quotes Isaiah xlv. 23, “We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord (Jehovah), every knee shall bow to me,” etc. This is common throughout the New Testament, and therefore Christ is there set forth as Lord in the same sense in which the Supreme God is Lord. The meaning of the word as applied to Christ being thus established, it shows how constant and familiar is the recognition of his divinity by the sacred writers. They acknowledge Him to be God every time they call Him Lord.
B. Christ presented as the Object of our Religious Affections.
Another general feature of the New Testament, intimately connected with the one just mentioned, and consequent upon it, is, that Christ is everywhere recognized as the proper object of all the religious affections. As He is our Lord, in the sense of being our absolute proprietor, our maker, preserver, and redeemer, and our sovereign, having the right to do with us as seems good in his sight, we are called upon to make Him the supreme object of our love, his will the highest rule of duty, and his glory the great end of our 498being. We are to exercise the same faith and confidence in Him that we do in God; yield Him the same obedience, devotion, and homage. We find, therefore, that such is the case from the beginning to the end of the New Testament writings. Christ is the God of the Apostles and early Christians, in the sense that He is the object of all their religious affections. They regarded Him as the person to whom they specially belonged; to whom they were responsible for their moral conduct; to whom they had to account for their sins; for the use of their time and talents; who was ever present with them, dwelling in them, controlling their inward, as well as their outward life; whose love was the animating principle of their being; in whom they rejoiced as their present joy and as their everlasting portion. This recognition of their relation to Christ as their God, is constant and pervading, so that the evidence of it cannot be gathered up and stated in a polemic or didactic form. But every reader of the New Testament to whom Christ is a mere creature, however exalted, must feel himself to be out of communion with the Apostles and apostolic Christians, who vowed themselves and were universally recognized by others as being worshippers of Christ. They knew that they were to stand before his judgment seat; that every act, thought, and word of theirs, and of every man who shall ever live, was to lie open to his omniscient eye; and that on his decision the destiny of every human soul was to depend. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, they persuaded men. They enforced every moral duty, not merely on the grounds of moral obligation, but by considerations drawn from the relation of the soul to Christ. Children are to obey their parents, wives their husbands, servants their masters, not as pleasing men, but as doing the will of Christ. True religion in their view consists not in the love or reverence of God, merely as the infinite Spirit, the creator and preserver of all things, but in the knowledge and love of Christ. Whoever believes that Jesus is the Son of God, i.e., whoever believes that Jesus of Nazareth is God manifested in the flesh, and loves and obeys Him as such, is declared to be born of God. Any one who denies that truth, is declared to be antichrist, denying both the Father and the Son, for the denial of the one is the denial of the other. The same truth is expressed by another Apostle, who says, “If our gospel be hid it is hid to them that are lost, in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest they should see the glory of God as it shines in the face of Jesus Christ.” They are lost, according to this Apostle, who do not see, as well as believe, Jesus to be God dwelling 499in the flesh. Hence such effects are ascribed to the knowledge of Christ, and to faith in Him; such hopes are entertained of the glory and blessedness of being with Him, as would be impossible or irrational if Christ were not the true God. He is our life. He that hath the Son hath life. He that believes on Him shall live forever. It is not we that live, but Christ that liveth in us. Our life is hid with Christ in God. We are complete in Him, wanting nothing. Though we have not seen Him, yet believing in Him, we rejoice in Him with joy unspeakable. It is because Christ is God, because He is possessed of all divine perfections, and because He loved us and gave Himself for us, and hath redeemed us and made us kings and priests unto God, that the Spirit of God says, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maranatha.” The denial of the divinity of the Son of God, the refusal to receive, love, trust, worship, and serve Him as such, is the ground of the hopeless condemnation of all who hear and reject the gospel. And to the justice of this condemnation all rational creatures, holy and unholy, justified or condemned, will say, Amen. The divinity of Christ is too plain a fact, and too momentous a truth, to be innocently rejected. Those are saved who truly believe it, and those are already lost who have not eyes to see it. He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him. It is the doctrine of the New Testament, therefore, that the spiritual apprehension and the sincere recognition of the Godhead of the Redeemer constitutes the life of the soul. It is in its own nature eternal life; and the absence or want of this faith and knowledge is spiritual and eternal death. Christ is our life; and therefore he that hath not the Son hath not life.
C. The Relations which Christ bears to hi. People and to the World.
As the relation which believers consciously bear to Christ is that we can sustain to God only, so the relation which he assumes to us, which He claims as belonging to him in virtue of his nature as well as of his work, is that which God only can sustain to rational creatures.
His Authority as a Teacher.
This is plain as to the authority He assumes as a teacher both of truth and duty. Everything which He declared to be true, all 500Christians have ever felt bound to believe, without examination and all that He commanded them to do or to avoid, they have ever regarded as binding the conscience. His authority is the ultimate and highest ground of faith and moral obligation. As the infinite and absolute reason dwelt in Him bodily, his words were the words of God. He declared himself to be the Truth, and therefore to question what He said was to reject the truth; to disobey Him was to disobey the truth. He was announced as the Λόγος, the personal and manifested Reason, which was and is the light of the world, — the source of all reason and of all knowledge to rational creatures. Hence He spake as never man spake. He taught with authority. He did not do as Moses and the prophets did, speak in the name of God, and say, Thus saith the Lord, referring to an authority out of themselves. But He spoke in his own name, and the Apostles in the name of Christ. He was the ultimate authority. He uniformly places Himself in the relation of God to his people. Ye shall be saved “if ye do whatsoever I command you.” He that heareth me heareth God. I and the Father are one; He in me and I in Him. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall never pass away. Moses said unto you thus and so, but I say unto you. He did not deny the divine mission of Moses, but He assumed the right to modify or repeal the laws which God had given to his people under the old economy. The whole of revealed truth in the Old as well as in the New Testament is referred to Him as its source. For the ancient prophets taught nothing but what “the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify,” which is equivalent to saying that they spake “as they were moved by the Holy Ghost;” or “that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” And the Apostles presented themselves simply as witnesses of what Christ had taught. Paul declared that he received all his knowledge “by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” And in his Epistle to the Corinthians he expresses the same truth by saying negatively, that his knowledge was not derived from human reason (the spirit that is in men), but from the Spirit of God. Nothing is more obvious to the reader of the New Testament than this divine authority as a teacher everywhere claimed by Christ and for Him. To disbelieve Him is to disbelieve God; and to disobey Him is to disobey God. This is entirely different from the authority claimed by the prophets and Apostles. They assumed nothing for themselves. Paul disclaimed all authority over the faith of God’s people, except on the ground of the proof which he gave that it was “Christ speaking in” him. (2 Cor. xiii. 3.)501
His Control over all Creatures.
The divine authority of Christ is manifest in the control which He claimed over all his people and over all creatures. All power was and is in his hands. His ministers are under his direction; He sends one here and another there. All Paul’s labors and journeyings were performed under his continued guidance. This is but an illustration of the universal and absolute control which He constantly exercises over the whole universe. The angels in heaven are his messengers, and the course of human history, as well as the circumstances of every individual man, is determined by Him. So also is the eternal destiny of all men in his hands. I will reward every man, He says, according to his works. (Matt. xvi. 27, and Rev. xxii. 12.) “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matt. vii. 22, 23.) In the last day, at the “time of harvest, I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matt. xiii. 30.) And in ver. 41, “The Son of Man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” The king in that day will say, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was a hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:” for “inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not unto me.” It is the attitude, therefore, in which men stand to Christ (provided they have heard his name), which is to determine their destiny in the last day. Sinning against Christ, denying or rejecting Him, is denying or rejecting God. Our Lord therefore uniformly places Himself in the relation of God to the souls of men, claiming the same authority over them, the same right to decide their destiny, and representing all sin as committed against Himself. Thus also He says, that it were better for a man to have a millstone hung about his neck and he cast into the midst of the sea, than to offend one of the little ones who believe on Him. “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of Man also confess before the angels of God: but he that denieth me before men, shall be denied before the angels of God.” (Luke xii. 8, 9.) “He that loveth 502father or mother . . . . son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Such supreme love is due to God alone, and Christ in claiming this love from us, places Himself before us as God.
D. The Nature of his Promises.
The same is plain from the nature of his promises. Christ promises to his people blessings which none but God has either the right or the power to bestow. He promises to forgive sin. It is intuitively certain that God only can forgive sin; He is our moral governor; it is against Him that all sin is committed, and He only has the right to remit its penalty. When therefore Christ says to the soul, Thy sins are forgiven, He exercises a divine prerogative. Even the Man of Sin, who sitteth in the temple of God and exalteth himself above all that is called God, claims no more than the judicial authority of deciding when the conditions of pardon at the bar of God have been fulfilled. He assumes, in relation to the divine law, the relation which a human judge sustains to the law of the land. A judge does not acquit or condemn on his own authority. The authority is in the state or sovereign power. The judge merely determines whether the grounds of condemnation are present or not. But as the sovereign against whom sin is committed, Christ has the right to pardon or to punish. Again, He promises the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist announced his approach as one who was to baptize the people with fire and with the Holy Ghost. And accordingly it is recorded that He did send down on his disciples, especially on the day of Pentecost, power from on high. It had been predicted that God would pour out his Spirit on all flesh; and that prophecy the Apostle Peter teaches was fulfilled when Christ, exalted at the right hand of God, shed forth his gifts on his waiting disciples. In his farewell discourse to the Apostles, He said, I will send you another Comforter, even the Spirit of truth, who shall abide with you forever. All the sanctifying influences, as well as all the gifts of teaching and of miracles which the Church has ever enjoyed, come from the Lord Jesus Christ. He gives the Spirit to every one severally as He will. “Unto every one of us, says Paul, “is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” (Eph. iv. 7.) He promises to hear and answer the prayers of his people in all ages and in all parts of the world. “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, I will do it.” “Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” “Lo I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” He thus promises his continued presence to his disciples 503wherever they may be. He also promises to all who believe on Him, eternal life. He has power to quicken or to give life to as many as He will. “My sheep follow me, and I give unto them eternal life.” “I will raise them up at the last day.” “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life.” “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” “A crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me in that day.” “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” “Ye believe in God, believe also in me.” “I go to prepare a place for you.” “I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” It is obvious that the infinite God himself can neither promise nor give anything greater or higher than Christ gives his people. To Him they are taught to look as the source of all blessings, the giver of every good and every perfect gift. There is no more comprehensive prayer in the New Testament than that with which Paul closes his Epistle to the Galatians: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” His favour is our life, which it could not be if He were not our God.
E. His Control over Nature.
A fourth general feature of the New Testament teaching concerning Christ, relates to the control attributed to Him over the external world. The laws of nature are ordained by God. They can be changed or suspended by Him alone. A miracle, therefore, or any event which involves such change or suspension, is an evidence of the immediate operation of divine power. The efficient agent, therefore, in working a miracle, must possess divine power. When Moses, the prophets, or the Apostles wrought miracles, they expressly disclaimed the idea that it was by their own efficiency. Why look ye on us, says the Apostle Peter, as though by our own power we had made this man whole? When Moses divided the Red Sea, the efficiency by which that effect was produced was no more in him than in the rod with which he smote the waters. Christ, however, wrought miracles by his own inherent power; and it was to his efficiency the Apostles attributed the miracles wrought through them. It was his name, or faith in Him, as Peter taught the people, which effected the instantaneous healing of the lame man. Christ never referred this miraculous power to any source out of Himself; He claimed it as his own prerogative; and 504He conferred the power upon others. He said of Himself that He had power to lay down his life and power to take it again; that He had life in Himself and could give life to as many as He pleased; I will give you, He said to his disciples, power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the adversary. Every miracle of Christ, therefore, was a visible manifestation of his divinity. When He healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind, restored the lame, raised the dead, fed thousands with a few loaves of bread, and calmed the raging of the sea, it was by a word, by the effortless exercise of his will. He thus manifested forth his glory, giving ocular demonstration to those who had eyes to see, that He was God in fashion as a man. He therefore appealed directly to his works, “Though ye believe not me, believe the works; that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in Him.” “If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.” (John x. 37, 38.) “If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.” (John xv. 24.)
It is only a small part of the evidence of the divinity of our Lord that can thus be gathered up from the general teaching of the New Testament. It is important to bear in mind that faith in this doctrine rests not on this or that passage, or on this or that mode of representation, but upon the whole revelation of God concerning his Son. The divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ is wrought into the texture of the Scriptures, and is everywhere asserted or assumed. There are, however, many passages in which the doctrine is so clearly presented, that they should not be passed by in any formal discussion of this subject.
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