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§ 3. Particular Passages which Teach the Divinity of Christ.
A. The Writings of St. John.
John i. 1-14. Why the higher nature of Christ is called ὁ λόγος and why John used that designation, are different questions. As the word λόγος does not occur in Scripture in the sense of reason, it should be taken in its ordinary meaning. The question why the Son is called “The Word” may be answered by saying that the term expresses both his nature and his office. The word is that which reveals. The Son is the εἰκών and ἀπαύγασμα of God, and therefore his word. It is his office to make God known to his creatures. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him. The Son, therefore, as the revealer of God, is the Word. The reason why John selected this designation of the divine nature of Christ, is not so easy to determine. It may indeed be said that there is ground for the use of the term in the usage of the Old Testament and of the Jews who were contemporaries with the Apostle. In the Hebrew Scriptures the manifested Jehovah is called the Word of God, and to Him individual subsistence and divine perfections are ascribed. (Ps. xxxiii. 6; cxix. 89; Is. xl. 8; Ps. cvii. 20; cxlvii. 18.) This is more frequently done in the apocryphal books and in the Targums. It was not therefore an unusual or unknown term introduced by the Apostle John. Still as he only, of the New Testament writers, thus employs the word, there must have been some special reason for his doing so. That reason may have been to counteract the erroneous views concerning the nature of God and his Word, which had begun to prevail, and which had some support from the doctrines of Philo and other Alexandrian Jews. It is, however, of less importance to determine why John calls the Son λόγος, than to ascertain what he teaches concerning Him. He does teach (1.) That He is eternal. He was in the beginning; i.e., was before the creation; before the foundation of the world; before the world was. Compare Prov. viii. 23; John xvii. 5, 24; Eph. i. 4. These are all Scriptural forms of expressing the idea of eternity. The Word then was (ἦν), He did not begin to be but already was. The ἦν of ver. 1 stands opposed to ἐγένετο ver. 14. “He was the Word, and became flesh.” (2.) The eternal Word existed in intimate union with God. “The Word was with God;” as Wisdom is said to have been with Him in the beginning. (Prov. viii. 30; John i. 18.) (3.) He was God. The word θεός clearly the predicate, as it is without the article (compare John iv. 24, πνεῦμα ὁ θεός, God is a Spirit), and because λόγος is the subject in the whole context. That θεός is neither to be taken for θεῖος, nor rendered a God, is plain from what is immediately said of the λόγος in the following verses, and from the analogy of Scripture, which proves that the λόγος is θεός the highest sense of the word. In this connection ὁ θεὸς ἦν ὸ λόγος would be equivalent to saying, “The Son is the Father.” Θεός without the article occurs frequently in the New Testament when it refers to the supreme God. (4.) The λόγος is the creator of all things. All things were made by Him. δι᾽ αὐτοῦ. The διὰ. here does not necessarily express subordinate instrumentality. All things are said to be διὰ θεοῦ as well as ἐκ θεοῦ. The Father operates through the Son and the Son through the Spirit. All that the preposition indicates is subordination as to the mode of operation, which is elsewhere taught in relation to the persons of the Trinity. That all creatures owe their being to the Word, is made the more prominent by saying, “Without him was not anything made that was made;” πᾶν ὁ γέγονεν is through Him. He therefore cannot be a creature. He was not only before all creatures, but everything created was by Him caused to be. (5.) The λόγος is self-existent. He is underived. “In him was life.” This is true only of God. The Godhead subsisting in the Father, Word, and Spirit, alone is self-existent, having life in itself. (6.) The life of the Word “is the light of men.” Having life in Himself, the Word is the source of life in all that lives, and especially of the intellectual and spiritual life of man; and therefore He is said to be the light of men; i.e., the source of intellectual life and knowledge in all their forms. (7.) The λόγος, as the true or real light, shineth in darkness (ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ = ἐν τοῖς ἐσκοτισμένοις) in the midst of a world alienated from God. The men of the world, the children of darkness, do not comprehend the light; they do not recognize the Word as God, the creator of all things, and the source of life and knowledge. To those who do thus recognize Him, He gives power to become the sons of God, that is, He raises them to the dignity and blessedness of God’s children. (8.) This Word became flesh that is, became a man. This use of the word flesh is explained by such passages as 1 Tim. iii. 16; Heb. ii. 14; Rom. viii. 3, in connection with Luke i. 35; Gal. iv. 4; Phil. ii. 7. As to the glory of the incarnate λόγος, the Apostle says of himself and of his fellow disciples, “We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father”; such as could belong to none other than to Him who is the eternal Son of God, consubstantial with the Father.
Other Passages in St. John’s Gospel.
This introduction, which thus unmistakably sets forth the divine nature of Christ, is the key-note of John’s Gospel, and of all his other writings. His main object is to convince men that Jesus is God manifest in the flesh, and that the acknowledgment of Him as such is necessary to salvation. This Apostle was, therefore, in the early Church called the Θεολόγος, because he taught so clearly and earnestly that the λόγος is God. In verse 18 of this chapter he says that the Son alone has the knowledge of God, and is the source of that knowledge to others. He showed Nathanael that He knew his character, being the searcher of hearts. In his discourse with Nicedemus, He spoke with divine authority; revealing the things of heaven, because He came from heaven and was even then in heaven. His coming into the world was the highest evidence of divine love, and the salvation of all men depends on faith in Him; that is, on their believing that He is what He declared Himself to be, and trusting Him and obeying Him accordingly. When the Jews censured Him for healing a lame man on the Sabbath, He defended Himself by saying that God worked on the Sabbath; that He and the Father were one; that He did whatever God did; that He could give life to whom He willed; that all judgment was committed to Him, and that He was entitled to the same honour as the Father. In the sixth chapter He sets Himself forth as the source of life, first under the figure of bread, and then under that of a sacrifice. In the eighth chapter He declares Himself to be the light of the world. “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” He alone could give true freedom, freedom from the condemnation and power of sin. He had been the only Saviour from the beginning as He was the object of faith to Abraham, who saw his day, and rejoiced, for he says, “Before Abraham was I am,” thereby asserting not only his preexistence, but his eternity, as He declares himself to be the “I am,” that is, the self-existing and immutable Jehovah.
In chapter x., under the character of a shepherd, He represents Himself as the head of all God’s people, whose voice they hear, whose steps they follow, and in whose care they trust. For them He lays down his life, and takes it again. To them He gives eternal life, and their salvation is certain, for no one is able to pluck them out of his hands; and He and the Father are one. The eleventh chapter contains the history of the resurrection of Lazarus, on which it maybe remarked, (1.) That his disciples had full confidence that Christ could deliver from death whom He pleased. (2.) That He claims to be the resurrection and the life. To all that believe on Him He is the source of spiritual life to the soul, and of a resurrection to the body. (3.) In illustration and proof of his divine power, He called Lazarus from the grave.
Our Lord’s Last Discourse.
The discourse recorded in the 14th, 15th, and 16th, and the prayer recorded in the 17th chapter, are the words of God to men. No created being could speak as Christ here speaks. He begins by exhorting his disciples to have the same faith in Him which they had in God. He went to prepare heaven for them, and would return and take them to Himself. The knowledge of Him is the knowledge of God. He who had seen Him had seen the Father also; for He and the Father are one. He promised to send them the Holy Ghost to abide with them permanently; and that He would manifest Himself to them as God manifests Himself to the saints, revealing to them his glory and love, and making them sensible of his presence. He would continue to be to his Church the source of life; union with Him is as necessary as the union of a branch to the vine. The Holy Spirit sent by Him would reveal the things of Christ, rendering the Apostles infallible as teachers, and giving divine illumination to all believers. It was necessary that He should leave them in order to send the Spirit, who would convince the world of the sin of not believing Him to be all He claimed to be; of the righteousness of his assumption to be the Son of God and Saviour of the world, of which his going to the Father (i.e. resurrection) was the decisive proof; and also of the certainty of a future judgment, inasmuch as the prince of this world was already judged. The Spirit was to glorify Christ, i.e., to reveal Him as possessing all divine perfections, for whatsoever the Father hath the Son hath likewise. His intercessory prayer could proceed from the lips of none but a divine person. He speaks as one who had power over all flesh, and who could give eternal life to all whom God the Father had given Him. Eternal life consists in the knowledge of God, and of Him whom God had sent. He prays that He, clothed in our nature, might be glorified with the glory which He had before the foundation of the world; that his people might be sanctified; that they might be one by his dwelling in them, and that they might be made partakers of his glory.
He was condemned by the Jews for claiming to be the Son of God, and by Pilate for claiming to be a king. When He was crucified the heavens were darkened, the earth trembled, the dead arose, and the vail of the temple was rent. By his resurrection his claim to be the Son of God and Saviour of men was authenticated. Thomas, not being present at the first interview between Christ and his disciples, doubted the fact of his resurrection; but when he saw Him he was fully convinced, and owned Him as his Lord and God. (John xx. 28.) That ὁ κύριός μου καὶ ὁ θεός μου is an address to Christ, and not an exclamation, is evident, (1.) From the words ἀπεκρίθη καὶ εἶπεν, he responded and said, which would be out of place before an exclamation. They introduce a reply to what Christ had said. Thomas answered that he was fully satisfied and firmly convinced that Christ was Lord and God. The word εἰπεῖν never means to exclaim. (2.) Such an exclamation would be abhorrent to a Jew, who had even a superstitious reverence for the name of God, especially for the name Jehovah, and ὁ κύριος ὁ θεός is equivalent to יְהוָה אֶלהִים. (3.) The repetition of the pronoun μοῦ also requires the passage to be considered as an address to Christ.
The Epistles of St. John.
In his epistles the Apostle John presents the divinity of Christ with equal prominence. The great design of those epistles was to establish the faith of believers in the midst of the errors which had begun to prevail. The chief of those errors was denial, in some form, of the incarnation of the Son of God. Hence the Apostle not only insists so strenuously on the acknowledgment that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh, but makes that the one great fundamental doctrine of the gospel. “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” He begins his epistles by reminding his readers that the Apostles had enjoyed the clearest possible evidence that the Λόγος τῆς ζωῆς (He who has life and gives life) was manifest in the flesh. They had seen, looked upon, and handled Him. John gave believers this assurance in order that they might have fellowship with God and with his Son Jesus Christ. Many had already apostatized and denied the doctrine of the incarnation. To deny that doctrine, however, was to deny God; for whosoever denies the Son, rejects the Father also. He exhorts them, therefore, to abide in the Son as the only means of abiding in God and attaining eternal life. The tests by which they were to try those who professed to be inspired teachers, were, (1.) Whether they acknowledged the doctrine of the incarnation, i.e., of the true divinity and humanity of Christ. (iv. 2, 3, 15.) (2.) Conformity of doctrine with the teachings of the Apostles. (3.) Love to God, founded on his redeeming love to us, and love to the brethren, springing from this love to God. In chapter v. he tells his readers that the great truth to be believed is that Jesus is the Son of God. This is the faith which overcomes the world. This great truth is established by the testimony of God, both external and internal, for he that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself; he that believeth not this testimony makes God a liar, because he believeth not the record which God has given of his Son. In Him is eternal life, so that he that hath the Son, hath life. He closes his epistle by saying: “We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true (i.e., that we may know the true God); and we are in Him that is true (i.e., the true God), even in his Son Jesus Christ. This (i.e., this person Jesus Christ) is the true God and eternal life.” That this passage is to be referred to Christ, is plain. (1.) Because He is the subject of discourse in the context, and throughout the epistle. The great design of the Apostle is to tell us who and what Christ is. (2.) In the immediately preceding clauses he had called Him the true, “we are in Him that is true,” even in Jesus Christ. “The true” and “the true God,” are used as convertible expressions. (3.) Christ is repeatedly called “eternal life,” by this Apostle, and “eternal life” is said to be in Him, which language is not used of God as such, nor of the Father. (4.) Χριστός is the natural antecedent of οὗτος, not only because the nearest, but because it is the prominent subject. (5.) This has been the received interpretation in the Church, at least since the Arian controversy; and the objections urged against it are mainly theological, rather than exegetical. It is to be remarked that Christ is here called not merely θεός but ὁ θεός, as in John xx. 28.
The Book of Revelation is one continued hymn of praise to Christ, setting forth the glory of his person and the triumph of his kingdom; representing Him as the ground of confidence to his people, and the object of worship to all the inhabitants of heaven. He is declared to be the ruler of the kings of the earth. He has made us kings and priests unto God. He is the First and the Last, language never used but of God, and true of Him alone. Compare Is. xliv. 6. In the epistles to the seven churches, Christ assumes the titles and prerogatives of God. He calls Himself, He who holds the seven stars in his right hand; the First and the Last; He who has the sharp sword and eyes of fire, from which nothing can be hid. He has the seven spirits. He is the Holy and the True. He has the keys of David; He opens and no man shuts, and shuts and no man opens; his decision on the destiny of men admits of no appeal. He is the supreme arbiter; the faithful and true witness; the ἀρχὴ τῆς κτίσεως τοῦ θεοῦ, the principle, i.e., both the head and source, of the whole creation. He reproves the churches for their sins, or praises them for their fidelity, as their moral ruler against whom sin is committed and to whom obedience is rendered. He threatens punishments and promises blessings which God alone can inflict or bestow. In chapter v. the Apostle represents all the inhabitants of heaven as prostrate at the feet of Christ, ascribing blessings and honour and glory and power to Him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb forever and ever. The New Jerusalem is the seat of his kingdom. He is its light, glory, and blessedness. He again and again declares himself to be the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last (i.e., the immutable and eternal), the Beginning and the End, for whose second coming the whole Church is in earnest expectation.
B. The Epistles of St. Paul.
In the epistles of Paul, the same exalted exhibition is made of the person and work of Christ. In the Epistle to the Romans, Christ is declared to be the Son of God, the object of faith, the judge of the world, the God of providence, the giver of the Holy Spirit, and what in the Old Testament is said of Jehovah, the Apostle applies to Christ. In chapter ix. 5, He is expressly declared to be “over all, God blessed forever.” The text here is beyond dispute. The only method to avoid the force of the passage is by changing the punctuation. Erasmus, who has been followed by many modern interpreters, placed a full stop after κατὰ σάρκα, or after πάντων. In the former case the passage would read, “Of whom is Christ concerning the flesh. The God who is over all be blessed forever;” in the latter, “Of whom Christ came concerning the flesh, who is above all,” i.e., higher than the patriarchs. It is frankly admitted by the advocates of these interpretations that the reason for adopting them is to avoid making the Apostle assert that Christ is God over all. As they do not admit that doctrine, they are unwilling to admit that the Apostle teaches it. It was universally referred to Christ in the ancient Church, by all the Reformers, by all the older theologians, and by almost all of the modern interpreters who believe in the divinity of Christ. This uniformity of assent is itself a decisive proof that the common interpretation is the natural one. We are bound to take every passage of Scripture in its obvious and natural sense, unless the plainer declarations of the Word of God show that a less obvious meaning must be the true one. That the common interpretation of this passage is correct is plain, —
1. Because Christ is the subject of discourse; God is not mentioned in the context. The Apostle is mentioning the distinguishing blessings of the Jewish nation. To them were given the law, the glory, the covenant, and the promises, and above all, from them “as concerning the flesh (i.e., as far as his humanity is concerned), Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever.” Here everything is natural and to the point. It shows how preeminent was the distinction of the Jews that from them the Messiah, God manifest in the flesh, should be born. Compared to this all the other prerogatives of their nation sink into insignificance.
2. The words κατὰ σάρκα demand an antithesis. There would be no reason for saying that Christ, as far as He was a man, was descended from the Jews, if He was not more than man, and if there were not a sense in which He was not descended from them. As in Rom. i. 3, 4, it is said that κατὰ σάρκα He was the Son of David, but κατὰ πνεῦμα the Son of God; so here it is said, that κατὰ σάρκα He was descended from the patriarchs, but that in his higher nature He is God over all, blessed forever.
3. The usage of the language demands the common interpretation. In all exclamations and benedictions, in distinction from mere narration, the predicate uniformly stands before the subject, if the copula εἶναι omitted. This usage is strictly observed in the Septuagint, in the Apocrypha, and in the New Testament. We therefore always read in such doxologies εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεός, and never ὁ θεὸς εὐλογητός. In the Hebrew Scriptures, בָרוּךְ occurs forty times in doxologies and formulas of praise before the subject. It is always “Blessed be God,” and never “God be blessed.” In the Septuagint, Psalm lxviii. 20 (19), κύριος ὁ θεὸς εὐλογητός is the only apparent exception to this rule. And there the Hebrew adheres to the common form, and the Greek version is a rhetorical paraphrase of the original. The Hebrew is simply בָרוּךְ אֲדׁנָי אֲדֹנָי for which the LXX. have, Κύριος ὁ θεὸς εὐλογητός, cὐλογητὸς κύριος. Every consideration, therefore, is in favour of the interpretation which has been accepted by the Church as giving the true meaning of this passage. Christ is God over all, blessed forever.
The Epistles to the Corinthians.
In the Epistles to the Corinthians, Christ is represented, (1.) As the proper object of religious homage. All believers are represented as his worshippers. (1 Cor. i. 2.) (2.) As the source of spiritual life. (1 Cor. i. 4-9, 30, 31.) (3.) As the Lord of all Christians and the Lord of glory. (1 Cor. ii. 8.) (4.) As creator of the universe (1 Cor. viii. 6), δἰ οὗ τὰ πάντα. (5.) As the Jehovah of the Old Testament, who led the Israelites through the wilderness. (1 Cor. x. 1-13.) (6.) As the giver of spiritual gifts. (1 Cor. xii.) (7.) As the Lord from heaven to whom the universe (τὰ πάντα) is subject. (1 Cor. xv. 25.) (8.) A life-giving Spirit (πνεῦμα ζωοποιοῦν), i.e., a Spirit having life in Himself. and a source of life to others. (1 Cor. xv. 45.) (9.) The proper object of supreme love, whom not to love, justly subjects the soul to eternal death. (1 Cor. xvi. 22.) (10.) The object of prayer (1 Cor. xvi. 23), from whom grace is to be sought. (11.) He gives success in preaching the gospel, causing his ministers to triumph. (2 Cor. ii. 14.) (12.) The vision of his glory transforms the soul into his likeness. (2 Cor. iii. 17, 18.) (13.) In his face is the glory of God, to which those only are blind who are lost. (2 Cor. iv. 3-6.) (14.) His presence, or being with Him, constitutes the believers heaven. (2 Cor. v. 1-8.) (15.) Before his judgment-seat all men are to be arraigned. (2 Cor. v. 10.) (16.) His love is the highest motive to action. (2 Cor. v. 14.)
(1.) Paul says that he was an Apostle not by the will of man, but by Jesus Christ. (i. 1.) (2.) The conversion of the soul is effected by the knowledge of Christ as the Son of God. (ii. 16.) (3.) Spiritual life is maintained by faith of which Christ is the object. (ii. 20, 21.) (4.) Christ lives in us, as God is said to dwell in his people. (ii. 20.) (5.) He was the object of Abraham’s faith. (iii. 6-9.) (6.) He was Abraham’s seed in whom all nations are blessed. (iii. 16.) (7.) By faith in Him we become the sons of God. (iii. 26.) (8.) The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Christ. (iv. 6.) (9.) His will is our law. (vi. 2.) (10.) His grace or favour the source of all good. (vi. 18.)
(1.) In Christ and under Him all the objects of God’s redeeming love are to be united in one harmonious whole. (i. 10.) (2.) In Him we have eternal life, or are made the heirs of God. (i. 11-14.) (3.) He is exalted above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, i.e., above all rational creatures. (i. 21.) (4.) In Him we are quickened, or raised from the death of sin, made partakers of spiritual life, and exalted to heaven. (ii. 1-6.) (5.) In iii. 9, God is said to have created all things by Jesus Christ. (The text, however, in that passage is somewhat doubtful.) (6.) He fills the universe. (i. 23, and iv. 10.) (7.) He is the head of the Church, from whom it derives its life. (iv. 16.) (8.) He sanctifies the Church. (v. 26.) (9.) The discharge of all social duties is enforced by the consideration of the authority of Christ. We are to serve men as doing service to Him. (vi. 1-9.)
In Philippians, besides the usual recognition of Christ as the source and giver of grace and peace, which comprehend all spiritual blessings, and the acknowledgment of Him as the end of our being (i. 21, 22), we have in ii. 6-11 the clearest declaration of the divinity of Christ. It is said, (1.) That He “was (or existed, ὑπάρχων) in the form of God,” i.e., was God both as to nature and manifestation. He could not be the one without being the other. The word μορφή may mean either the mode of manifestation, that which appears, as when it is said “the king of heaven appeared on earth ἐν μορφῇ ἀνθρώπου;” or the nature or essence (φύσις or οὐσία) itself. The latter view is adopted by most of the fathers. The former, however, is more in accordance with the common usage of the word, and with the immediate context. He who existed in the form of God, took upon Him the form of a servant (μορφήν δούλου), i.e., the real condition of a servant. (2.) He is declared to be equal with God. The ἶσα εἶναι θεῷ he did not, consider as an ἁρπαγμόν, i.e., an act of robbery, or an unjust assumption. He was fully entitled to claim equality with God. (3.) This truly divine person assumed the fashion of a man, which is explained by saying He was found “in the likeness of men.” He appeared in form, carriage, language, mode of thinking, speaking, feeling, and acting, like other men. He was not purus putus homo, a mere man, but “God incarnate,” God manifest in the flesh. (4.) This divine person, clothed in man’s nature, humbled Himself even unto death, even to the death of the cross. (5.) Therefore He (not God, or the divine nature in Christ, but the Theanthropos), is exalted above every name that is named, “that at the name of Jesus (i.e., the name of the Theanthropos, as it is He as a divine person clothed in the nature of man, who is the object of worship), every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth.” This is an exhaustive amplification. It includes the whole rational creation, from the highest archangel to the weakest saint; all, all that have life acknowledge Christ to be what God alone can be, their supreme and absolute Lord. It is because Christ is and has done what is represented, that the Apostle says, in the following chapter, that He counted all things as nothing for the knowledge of Christ, and that his only desire was to be found in Him and clothed in his righteousness. This divine Redeemer is to come again, and “shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself. (iii. 21.)
Colossians i. 15-20, is expressly designed to set forth the true Godhead of Christ in opposition to the errors springing from the emanation theory, which had already begun to prevail in the churches of Asia Minor. This passage sets forth the relation of Christ, first to God, and secondly to the universe, and thirdly to the Church. Here, as in so many other places of Scripture, the predicates of the Λόγος ἀσαρκος and of the Λόγος ἔνσαρκος, are mingled together. As in Heb. i. 2, 3, the Son is said to have created all things, and to be the brightness of the Father’s glory, and also to have made purification for sin; so here part of what is said belongs to the Logos as existing from eternity, and part belongs to Him as clothed in our nature. It was the Λόγος ἀσαρκος who is declared to be the image of the invisible God and creator of all things; and it is the Λόγος ἔνσαρκος who is declared to be the head of the Church. The relation of Christ to God, in this passage is expressed, (1.) By the words just quoted, “He is the image of the invisible God.” He is so related to God that He reveals what God is, so that those who see Him, see God, those who know Him, know God, and those who hear Him, hear God. He is the brightness of God’s glory, and his express image. (2.) His relation to God is also expressed by saying that He is begotten from eternity, or the only begotten Son. The words πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως are indeed variously explained. By Socinians they are made to mean that He was the head of the new dispensation; by Arians that He was the first created of all rational creatures; by many orthodox interpreters trwto, tokoj is taken in its secondary sense, of head or chief. They therefore understand the Apostle to say that Christ is the ruler or head over the whole creation. All these interpretations, however, are inconsistent with the proper meaning of the words, with the context, and with the analogy of Scripture. Πρωτότοκος means born before. What Christ is said to have been born before, is expressed by πάσης κτίσεως. He was born (or begotten) before any or every creature, i.e., before creation, or from eternity. All the arguments adduced in a preceding chapter in proof of the eternal generation of the Son, are arguments in favour of this interpretation. Besides, the Arian interpretation is inconsistent with the meaning of the words. That interpretation assumes that the genitive πάσης κτίσεως is to be taken partitively so that Christ is said to be a part of the creation, the first of creatures, as He is said to be the first of those who rose from the dead, when He is called προτότοκος τῶν νεκρῶν. But πᾶσα κτίσις does not mean the whole creation, as indicating the class or category to which Christ belongs, but every creature, as indicating a relation or comparison; Christ is the first begotten as to every creature, i.e., begotten before any creature (i.e., eternally, according to the constant usage of Scripture, for what is before creation is eternal.) Besides, the connection requires this interpretation. The Apostle proves that Christ is the image of the invisible God, and the προτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως by an argument which proves that He cannot be a creature; and therefore the birth of which he speaks must be before time. Secondly, the relation of Christ to the universe is expressed in this passage by saying, (1.) That He is the Creator of all things. This is amplified, as the all things are declared to include all that are in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, rational and irrational, however exalted, even thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers; that is, the whole hierarchy of the spiritual world. (2.) He is not only the author but the end of the creation, for all things were not only created by Him, but for Him. (3.) He upholds all things; by Him all things consist, i.e., are preserved in being, life, and order. Thirdly, Christ is the head of the Church, the source of life and grace to all its members. For in Him “all fulness,” the plenitude of divine blessings dwells. In chapter ii. 3, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (i.e., all knowledge or omniscience) are said to dwell in Christ; and in ii. 9, that He is filled with “the fulness of the Godhead.” This is very different from the πλήρωμα mentioned in i. 19, where the Apostle is speaking of what Beza calls “cumulatissima omnium divinarum rerum copia, ex qua, tanquam inexhausto fonte, omnes gratiæ in corpus pro cujusque membri modulo deriventur;”504504In loc. edit. Geneva, 1565, p. 423. but here the reference is to the divine being, nature, or essence itself, τὸ πλήρωμα τῆς θεότητος. The word θεότης is abstract of θεός as θειότης is of θεῖος; the former means Godhead, that which makes God, God; the latter means divinity, that which renders divine. The entire plenitude of the divine essence (not a mere emanation of that essence as the rising sect of the Gnostics taught), dwells (κατοικεῖ permanently abides, it is no transient manifestation) in Him bodily, σωματικῶς, invested with a body. The Godhead in its fulness is incarnate in Christ. He is therefore, not merely θεός but ὁ θεός in the highest sense. More than Paul says cannot be said.
The Pastoral Epistles
ln Paul’s pastoral epistles to Timothy and Titus, besides the ordinary recognition of the divinity of Christ found in almost every page of the New Testament, there are four passages in which, at least according to the common text and the most natural interpretation, he is directly called God. Even 1 Tim. i. 1, κατ᾽ ἐπιταγὴν Θεοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν και Κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, may be naturally rendered, “according to the command of God our Saviour, even our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is in accordance with the parallel passages in Titus i. 3, “according to the commandment of God our Saviour;” and Titus ii. 13, “of the great God our Saviour Jesus Christ.” In this latter passage there is no reason, as Winer and De Wette acknowledge, for questioning that Christ is called the great God, except what they regard as the Christology of the New Testament. They do not admit that Christ is the great God according to the doctrine of Paul, and therefore they are unwilling to admit that this passage contains that declaration. But if, as we have seen, and as the whole Church believes, not only Paul but all the Apostles and prophets, abundantly teach that the Messiah is truly God as well as truly man, there is no force in this objection. Violence must be done to the ordinary rules of language if τοῦ μεγάλου θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος are not referred to the same subject; inasmuch as θεοῦ has the article and σωτῆρος is without it. The fair meaning of the words is, “The Great God who is our Saviour Jesus Christ.” This interpretation is also demanded, (1.) By the context. Jesus Christ is the subject of discourse. Of Him it is said that He is the great God our Saviour, who gave Himself for us. (2.) Because the ἐπιφανεία, appearance (here in reference to the second advent), is repeatedly used in the New Testament of Christ, but never of God as such, or of God the Father. See 2 Tim. i. 10; 2 Thess. ii. 8; 1 Tim. vi. 14; 2 Tim. iv. 1, 8. (3.) The position of the words σωτῆρος ἡμῶν before Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. If “God” and “Saviour” referred to different persons the natural order of the words would be, “The appearance of the great God and Jesus Christ our Saviour;” and not as it is, “The appearance of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” Great God and Saviour obviously belong to the same person in 1 Tim. i. 1. “The command of God our Saviour,” and in Titus i. 3, “God our Saviour;” and in this place (Tit. ii. 13) that God and Saviour is declared to be Jesus Christ.
The most important passage, however, in these pastoral epistles, is 1 Tim. iii. 16. With regard to that passage it may be remarked, (1.) That it admits of two interpretations. According to the ones the Church is declared to be the pillar and ground of truth, according to the other, the pillar and ground of truth is the great mystery of godliness. The latter is greatly to be preferred as equally consistent with the grammatical structure of the passage, and as far more in harmony with the analogy of Scripture. The pillar and ground of truth, the great fundamental doctrine of the Gospel, is often elsewhere declared to be the doctrine of the manifestation of God in the flesh. On this doctrine all our hopes of salvation rest. (2.) Whatever reading be adopted, whether θεός, ὁς, or ὁ, all of which appear in different manuscripts, the passage must refer to Christ. He it was who was manifest in the flesh, justified by the Spirit, and received up into glory. (3.) Whatever reading be adopted, the passage assumes or asserts the divinity of our Lord. With the apostolic writers, the doctrine of the incarnation is expressed by saying, that the λόγος “became flesh” (John i. 14); or, “Christ is come in the flesh” (1 John iv. 2); or, “He who is the brightness of Gods glory “took part of flesh and blood” (Heb. ii. 14); or, He that was “equal with God” was “found in fashion as a man.” (Phil. ii. 8.) The same truth, therefore, is expressed, whether we say, “God was manifest in the flesh;” or, “He who was manifest in the flesh;” or, that “the mystery of godliness was manifest in the flesh.” (4.) The external authorities are so divided that the most competent editors and critics differ as to what is the original text. For θεός we find the great body of the cursive Greek manuscripts and almost all the Greek Fathers. The authority of the Codex Alexandrinus is claimed on both sides. The question there is, whether the letter is Θ or Ο; some say they see distinct traces of the line in the Theta, others say they do not. For ὁς C, F, G, of the uncial manuscripts, only two of the cursive manuscripts, and the Coptic and Sahidic versions, are quoted. To this must be added the testimony of the very ancient manuscript recently discovered by Tischendorf the text of which has been published under his auspices at St. Petersburg. For ὁ the uncial manuscript D, the Latin Vulgate and the Latin Fathers are the witnesses. In view of this state of the question, Wetstein, Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Tregelles, among the editors, decide for ὁς. Mill, Matthies, as well as the older editors Erasmus, Beza, the Complutensian, and the later ones, as Knapp and Hahn, retain θεός.505505Dr. Henderson has ably vindicated the reading θεός in his Critical Examination of the Various Readings in 1 Tim. iii. 16. (5.) The internal evidence, so far as the perspicuity of the passage and the analogy of Scripture are concerned, are decidedly in favour of the common text. There is something remarkable in the passage; it is brought in apparently as a quotation from a hymn, as some think, or from a confession of faith, as others suppose, at least, as a familiar formula in which the leading truths concerning the manifestation of Christ are concisely stated. (1.) He is God. (2.) He was manifest in the flesh, or became man. (3.) He was justified, i.e., his claims to be regarded as God manifest in the flesh were proved to be just, by the Spirit (i.e., either by the Holy Ghost, or by the πνεῦμα or divine nature revealing itself in Him. Comp. John i. 14). (4.) He was seen of angels. They recognized and served Him. (5.) He was preached unto the Gentiles, as He came to be the Saviour of all men, and not of the Jews only. (6.) He was believed upon as God and Saviour; and (7.) He was received up into glory, where He now lives, reigns, and intercedes.
Epistle to the Hebrews.
The doctrines of the Bible are generally stated with authority; announced as facts to be received on the testimony of God. It is seldom that the sacred writers undertake to prove what they teach. The first chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews is an exception to this general rule. The divinity of Christ is here formally proved. As the design of the Apostle was to persuade the Hebrew Christians to adhere to the gospel, and to guard them from the fatal sin of apostatizing to Judaism, he sets before them the immeasurable superiority of the gospel to the Mosaic economy. The first point of that superiority, and that on which all the others depend, is the superior dignity of Christ as a divine person, to Moses and all the prophets. To set forth that superiority, he first asserts that Christ, the Son of God, is the possessor of all things; that through Him God made the world; that He is the brightness of God’s glory, the express image of his nature, upholding all things by the word of his power; and that because He has by Himself made purification for sin, He is now, as the Theanthropos, set down at the right hand of the majesty on high. The true divinity of Christ being thus asserted, the Apostle proceeds to prove that this is the doctrine of the Scriptures. (1.) Because He is in the Bible called the Son of God, a title which cannot be given in its true sense to any creature. Christ, therefore, is higher than the angels; and as the word angels in the Bible includes all intelligent creatures higher than man, Christ is higher than all creatures, and therefore cannot Himself be a creature. He belongs to a different category of being. (2.) All angels (i.e., all the higher intelligences) are commanded to worship Him (i.e., to prostrate themselves before Him). (3.) While the angels are addressed as mere instruments by which God effects his purposes, the Son is addressed as God. “Thy throne O God is for ever and ever.” (4.) He laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of his hands. (5.) They are mutable, but He is immutable and eternal. (6.) He is associated with God in glory and dominion. On this great truth, thus established, the Apostle grounds all the duties and doctrines which he urges on the faith and obedience of his readers. It is on this ground that there is no escape for those who reject the salvation which He has provided. (ii. 1-5.) It is on this ground also that He has a dominion never granted to angels, all things being made subject to Him. (ii. 5-10.) As it was a divine person, the eternal Son of God, who assumed our nature, and became a high priest for us, his sacrifice is efficacious, and need not be repeated; and He is a perpetual priest, higher than the heavens, who can save to the uttermost all who come unto God by Him. This Saviour is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever. Faith in Him will enable us to overcome the world, as faith in the promises concerning Christ enabled the ancient worthies to witness a good confession under the greatest trials and sufferings.
The other Sacred Writers of the New Testament.
The same testimony to the divinity of our Lord is borne by the Apostles James and Peter. The former calls Him the Lord of glory, the latter in his First Epistle represents Him as the proper object of supreme love. Faith in Him secures salvation. His spirit dwelt in the ancient prophets. He is the foundation of the Church. (ii. 6.) Having suffered the just for the unjust to bring us unto God, He is now exalted at the right hand of God, the whole universe of intelligent creatures being subject to Him. (iii. 18.) In his Second Epistle he speaks of the knowledge of Christ as the source of grace and peace (i. 2.), and of holiness (ver. 8). At death believers enter into his everlasting kingdom (ver. 11). Peter was an eyewitness of his divine majesty when he was with Him in the holy mount. Lord and Saviour, equivalent in the lips of a Jew, to Jehovah Saviour, is his common designation of Christ. True religion, according to this Apostle, consists in the knowledge of Christ as the Son of God, to whom, therefore, he ascribes eternal glory.
Imperfect and unsatisfactory as this survey necessarily is, it is enough to prove not only that the Scriptures teach the divinity of Christ, but that Christianity as a religion consists in the love, worship, and service of the Lord Jesus, whose creatures we are, and to whom we belong by the still dearer relation of those whom He hath purchased with his own precious blood.
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