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§ 2. The Scriptural Facts concerning the Person of Christ.
The facts which the Bible teaches concerning the person of Christ are, first, that He was truly man, i.e., He had a perfect or complete human nature. Hence everything that can be predicated of man (that is, of man as man, and not of man as fallen) can be predicated of Christ. Secondly, He was truly God, or had a perfect divine nature. Hence everything that can be predicated of God can be predicated of Christ. Thirdly, He was one person. The same person, self, or Ego, who said, “I thirst,” said, “Before Abraham was, I am.” This is the whole doctrine of the incarnation as it lies in the Scriptures and in the faith of the Church.
Proof of the Doctrine.
The proof of this doctrine includes three distinct classes of passages of Scripture, or may be presented in three different forms. First, the proof of the several elements of the doctrine separately. Secondly, the current language of the Scriptures which speak of Christ, from beginning to end, sometimes as man and sometimes as God; and combine the two modes of statement, or pass from 381the one to the other as naturally and as easily as they do where speaking of man as mortal and immortal, or as corporeal and as spiritual. Thirdly, there are certain passages of Scripture in which the doctrine of the incarnation is formally presented and dogmatically asserted.
First Argument, all the Elements of the Doctrine separately taught.
First, the Scriptures teach that Christ was truly man, or had a complete human nature. That is, He had a true body and a rational soul.
Christ had a True Body.
By a true body is meant a material body, composed of flesh and blood, in everything essential like the bodies of ordinary men. It was not a phantasm, or mere semblance of a body. Nor was it fashioned out of any heavenly or ethereal substance. This is plain because He was born of a woman. He was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary, nourished of her substance so as to be consubstantial with her. His body increased in stature, passing through the ordinary process of development from infancy to manhood. It was subject to all the affections of a human body. It was subject to pain, pleasure, hunger, thirst, fatigue, suffering, and death. It could be seen, felt, and handled. The Scriptures declare it to have been flesh and blood. “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same.” (Hebrews ii. 14.) Our Lord said to his terrified disciples, “A spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” (Luke xxiv. 39.) He was predicted in the Old Testament as the seed of the woman; the seed of Abraham; the Son of David. He was declared to be a man; a man of sorrows; the man Christ Jesus; and He called Himself the Son of Man. This designation occurs some eighty times in the Gospel. Nothing, therefore, is revealed concerning Christ more distinctly than that He had a true body.
Christ had a Rational Soul.
It is no less plain that He had a rational soul. He thought, reasoned, and felt; was joyful and sorrowful; He increased in wisdom; He was ignorant of the time when the day of judgment should come. He must, therefore, have had a finite human intelligence. These two elements, a true body and a rational soul, constitute a perfect or complete human nature, which is thus proved to have entered into the composition of Christ’s person.382
Christ is truly God.
Secondly, the Scriptures, with equal clearness, declare that Christ was truly God. This has been already proved at length. All divine names and titles are applied to Him. He is called God, the mighty God, the great God, God over all; Jehovah; Lord; the Lord of lords and the King of kings. All divine attributes are ascribed to Him. He is declared to be omnipresent, omniscient, almighty, and immutable, the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is set forth as the creator and upholder and ruler of the universe. All things were created by Him and for Him; and by Him all things consist. He is the object of worship to all intelligent creatures, even the highest; all the angels (i.e., all creatures between man and God) are commanded to prostrate themselves before Him. He is the object of all the religious sentiments; of reverence, love, faith, and devotion. To Him men and angels are responsible for their character and conduct. He required that men should honour Him as they honoured the Father; that they should exercise the same faith in Him that they do in God. He declares that He and the Father are one; that those who had seen Him had seen the Father also. He calls all men unto him; promises to forgive their sins; to send them the Holy Spirit; to give them rest and peace; to raise them up at the last day; and to give them eternal life. God is not more, and cannot promise more, or do more than Christ is said to be, to promise, and to do. He has, therefore, been the Christian’s God from the beginning, in all ages and in all places.
Christ One Person.
Thirdly, He was, nevertheless, although perfect man and perfect God, but one person. There is, in the first place, the absence of all evidence of a twofold personality in Christ. The Scriptures reveal the Father, Son, and Spirit as distinct persons in the Godhead, because they use the personal pronouns in reference to each other. The Father says Thou to the Son, and the Son says Thou to the Father. The Father says to the Son, “I will give thee; and the Son says, “Lo, I come to do thy will.” Moreover the one is objective to the other. The Father loves and sends the Son; the Son loves and obeys the Father. The same is true of the Spirit. There is nothing analogous to this in the case of Christ. The one nature is never distinguished from the other as a distinct person. The Son of God never addresses the Son of Man as a different person from Himself. The Scriptures reveal but one 383Christ. In the second place, besides this negative proof, the Bible affords all the evidence of the individual personality of our Lord that the case admits of. He always says I, me, mine. He is always addressed as Thou, thee, thine. He is always spoken of as He, his, him. It was the same person to whom it was said, “Thou art not yet fifty years old;” and “Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of thine hands.” The individual personality of Christ is set forth as clearly and as variously as that of any other personage of whose history the Scriptures give us the record. In teaching that Christ had a perfect human and a perfect divine nature, and is one person, the Bible teaches the whole doctrine of the incarnation as it has entered into the faith of the Church from the beginning.
Second Argument, from the Current Representations of Scripture.
The current language of Scripture concerning Christ proves that He was at once divine and human. In the Old Testament, He is set forth as the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Judah anti the family of David; as to be born of a virgin in the town of Bethlehem; as a man of sorrows; as meek and lowly; as bearing the chastisement of our sins, and pouring out his soul unto death. He is everywhere represented as a man. At the same time He is everywhere represented as God; He is called the Son of God, Immanuel, the Mighty God, Jehovah our righteousness; and He is spoken of as from everlasting; as enthroned in heaven and receiving the adoration of angels.
In the New Testament, the same mode of representation is continued. Our Lord, in speaking of Himself, and the Apostles when speaking of Him, uniformly speak of Him as a man. The New Testament gives his genealogy to prove that He was of the house and lineage of David. It records his birth, life, and death. It calls Him the Son of Man, the man Christ Jesus. But with like uniformity our Lord assumes, and the Apostles attribute to Him a divine nature. He declares Himself to be the Son of God, existing from eternity, having all power in heaven and in earth, entitled to all the reverence, love, and obedience due to God. The Apostles worship Him; they call Him the great God and Saviour; they acknowledge their dependence upon Him and responsibility to Him; and they look to Him for pardon, sanctification, and eternal life. These conflicting representations, this constant setting forth the same person as man and also as God, admits of no solution but in 384the doctrine of the incarnation. This is the key to the whole Bible. If this doctrine be denied all is confusion and contradiction. If it be admitted all is light, harmony, and power. Christ is both God and man, in two distinct natures, and one person forever. This is the great mystery of Godliness. God manifest in the flesh is the distinguishing doctrine of the religion of the Bible, without which it is a cold and lifeless corpse.
Third Argument, from Particular Passages of Scriptures.
Although, as appears from what has already been said, the doctrine of the incarnation does not rest on isolated proof-texts, but upon the broad basis of the whole revelation of God concerning the person and work of his Son, yet there are some passages in which this doctrine is so clearly stated in all its elements, that they cannot be properly overlooked in treating of this subject.
To this class of passages belongs, —
1. The first chapter of John, verses 1-14. It is here taught concerning the Logos, (1.) That He existed in eternity. (2.) That He was in intimate relation to God. (3.) That He was God. (4.) That He was the Creator of all things. (5.) In Him was life. Having life in himself, He is the source of life to all that live. That is, He is the source of natural, of intellectual, and of spiritual life. (6.) And, therefore, He is the true light; that is, the fountain of all knowledge and all holiness. (7.) He came into the world, and the world although made by Him, did not recognize Him. (8.) He came to his own people, and even they did not receive Him. (9.) He became flesh, i.e., He assumed our nature, so that He dwelt among us as a man. (10.) And, says the Apostle, we saw his glory, a glory which revealed Him to be the only begotten of the Father. It is here taught that a truly divine person, the eternal Word, the Creator of the world, became man, dwelt among men, and revealed Himself to those who had eyes to see, as the eternal Son of God. Here is the whole doctrine of the incarnation, taught in the most explicit terms.
2. A second passage to the same effect is found in 1 John i. 1-3. It is there taught that what was in the beginning, what was with God, what was eternal, what was essentially life, appeared on earth, so as to be seen, heard, looked upon, and handled. Here, again, a divine, invisible, eternal person, is said to have assumed our nature, a real body and a rational soul. He could be seen and touched as well as heard. This is the main idea of this epistle. The incarnation is declared to be the characteristic and essential 385doctrine of the gospel. “Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”
3. In Romans i. 2-5, the Apostle says that the gospel concerns the Son of God, who is our Lord Jesus Christ, who, as to his human nature, κατὰ σάρκα, is the Son of David, but as to his divine nature, κατὰ πνεῦμα, is the Son of God. Here also the two natures and one person of the Redeemer are clearly asserted. The parallel passage to this is Romans ix. 5, where Christ is said κατὰ σάρκα to be descended from the fathers, but at the same time to be God over all and blessed forever. The same person is declared to be the supreme God and a child of Abraham, a member of the Hebrew nation by natural descent.
4. In 1 Timothy iii. 16, we are taught that God was “manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” In this passage the reading is indeed doubtful. The common text which has Θεός has the support of almost all the cursive, and of some of the uncial manuscripts, of several of the versions, and of many of the Greek fathers. But whether we read Θεός or ὁς, the meaning is substantially the same. Two things are plain: first, that all the predicates in this verse belong to one subject; and secondly, that that subject is Christ. He, his person, is the great mystery of Godliness. He was manifested in the flesh (i.e., in our nature); He, as thus manifested, the Theanthropos, was justified, i.e., proved to be just, i.e., to be what He claimed to be (namely, the Son of God), by the Spirit, either by the divine nature or majesty dwelling in Him, or by the Holy Ghost, whose office it is to take the things of Christ and reveal them unto us. He, this incarnate God, was seen, i.e., recognized and served by angels; preached among the Gentiles as the Son of God and Saviour of men; believed upon as such; and finally received up into glory. All that the Church teaches concerning the person of Christ, is here taught by the Apostle.
5. No passage, however, is more full and explicit on this subject than Philippians ii. 6-11. Of one and the same subject or person, it is here taught, (1.) That He was God, or existed in the form of God. The form of a thing is the mode in which it reveals itself; and that is determined by its nature. It is not necessary to assume that μορφή has here, as it appears to have in some other cases, the 386sense of φύσις; the latter is implied in the former. No one can appear, or exist in view of others in the form of God, i.e., manifesting all divine perfections, who is not God. (2.) Hence it is asserted that the person spoken of was equal to God. (3.) He became a man like other men, and assumed the form of a servant, i.e., appeared among men as a servant. (4.) He submitted to die upon the cross. (5.) He has been exalted above all created beings, and invested with universal and absolute authority. Christ, therefore, of whom this passage treats, has a divine nature, and a human nature, and is one person.
6. In Hebrews ii. 14, the same doctrine concerning the person of Christ is clearly taught. In the first chapter of that Epistle the Son is declared to be the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of his substance (i.e., of what the Father is). By Him the worlds were made. He upholds all things by the word of his power. He is higher than the angels, i.e., than all intelligent creatures. They are bound to worship Him. They are addressed as mere instruments; but the Son as God. He made the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth. He is eternal and immutable. He is associated with God in glory and dominion. He, the person of whom all this is said in the first chapter, in the second chapter is declared to be a man. In Him was fulfilled as the sacred writer in the eighth Psalm had taught concerning the universal dominion assigned to man. Men are declared to be his brethren, because He and they are of one nature. As they are partakers of flesh and blood, He also took part in the same, in order that He might die, and by death redeem his people from all the evils of sin.
Nothing can be plainer than that the Scriptures do teach that Christ is truly God, that He is truly man, and that He is one person. They assert of Him whatever may be said of God, and everything that can be said of a sinless man. They enter into no explanations. They assume it as a certain fact that Christ is God and man in one person, just as they assume that a man is a soul and body in one person.
Here the subject might be left. All the ends of the spiritual life of the believer, are answered by this simple statement of the doctrine concerning Christ’s person as it is presented in the Scriptures. False explanations, however, create the necessity for a correct one. Errorists in all ages have so explained the facts recorded concerning Christ, as either to deny the truth concerning his divine nature, or the integrity of his human nature, or the unity of his 387person. Hence the Church has been constrained to teach what the Bible doctrine involves: first, as to the nature of the union of the two natures in Christ; and secondly, as to the consequences of that union.
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