The Spirit of the Word


    In the last paper we endeavored to "See Jesus" in his pre-existence, his incarnation, sacrifice and death, and loneliness; in this article we will consider


     Theologians are apt to lay great stress upon the divinity of Christ; but it seems to me more important that we should comprehend his humanity. That the wonderful, sinless Jesus was divine, I can easily believe, but was he human? was he like man? and if so, how? and in what respect? and to what extent? The orthodox doctrine, that Christ the Son is absolutely God the Father; in the language of the creeds, "the very unoriginated God," is not only absurd, self-contradictory and unscriptural, but it is confusing, misleading and discouraging to the soul seeking after God. If Christ was absolutely God then how is He my pattern? how is his victory any encouragement to me? He was God, the Almighty, absolute controller of all forces; it was impossible for him to sin and he knew it, therefore his trial was no trial at all, and his triumph no encouragement to fallen man, since the circumstances of the two are in no way similar; man is the almost helpless football of the evil forces around him; if Christ was God then he was the master of all forces, and of course could be overcome by none; hence his moral success is no more encouraging to the sinner, than is the business success of a man who starts out with millions of dollars to begin with; it would be an encouragement to the poor tradesman who begins with nothing. If Jesus Christ did not begin as low down as I am, then the fact that he made his way out of this horrible pit of corruption and death is no help to me; what I want to know most, as a member of the fallen race is, not how near Christ comes to God, hut how near he comes to man. I want to know, of course, if he can reach up to God, but I want to know still more if he can reach down to me; in short, I want to know if he was man, "a brother born for adversity," a child born as well as a Son given.

     From the considerations presented in the last paper, it is plainly apparent that Christ's trial was no farce; that to the Lord Jesus it was a terrible reality, fraught with uncertainty and fear, just as our trial is to us; these considerations of themselves would show how thoroughly Christ was human, how fully, he entered into all the experiences of fallen man. We have also seen that in  his incarnation, though there was the co-operation of God's creative power,  yet Christ was human, "made of a woman," (Gal. 4:4), generated and brought into the world like every other human being.  We have seen also that the life of Christ was one of suffering, deprivation and loneliness; he was truly a "man of sorrow s and acquainted with grief," and in this respect again he was like fallen man. But now let us notice further, step by step his nature and life, according to scripture,  that we may note how in every particular and detail he was indeed the "Son of man."

     We may be sure, from many and the plainest scriptures, that Christ was really human, especially from Heb. 2:14-18. "Forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood he himself likewise took part of the same; wherefore it behooved him [i.e. he was obliged] in all things to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people; for in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted."

     Now in order to be like his brethren in all things he began his earth-life lower down than Adam; the latter was created a son of God, an adult human being, with a sinless nature.  Christ began his life a helpless babe, Son of fallen man as well as Son of God, with a sinful nature. Some perhaps will demur to the statement that Christ had a sinful nature; but such certainly is the positive teaching of Scripture. He was "made sin;" (2 Cor. 5:21) he was not a sinner, on the contrary he "knew no sin," he was holy, harmless, undefiled;" how then was he made sin? By taking upon himself man's fallen nature, in no other way could he have been made sin; and this is still further confirmed by the fact that he was "made of woman;" "who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one." (Job 14:4). Furthermore he was "in all points tempted like as we," how could he have thus been tempted if he had not had a sinful nature? He was obliged to be made like his brethren in all things; surely he would not have been like his brethren at all if he had a sinless nature. Similar language is used of Christ as of the sons of fallen Adam. "Adam begat a son in his own likeness," (Gen. 5:3), the likeness of sinful man. So Christ "was made in the likeness of men." (Phil. 2:7). Now see all this exemplified in his life. The evangelist speaks of his childhood just as you might speak of the childhood of any human being. "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." His reputed father was poor, ( compare Lu. 2:24 with Lev. 12:8) a laboring man; Jesus was subject to him, no doubt laboring with him, thus knowing the experience of the great army of earth's toilers. There was of course something about him remarkable and extraordinary, different from other boys; he was "filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him;" (Lu. 2:40) and yet there was nothing in this to prevent him from entering fully into all the experiences of the infancy, childhood and youth of human kind.

     Thus also in Christ's ministry we find the human element, rather than the divine, most prominent.  In referring to himself, Christ almost always styles himself the Son of man; four times he calls himself the Son of God; eighty times he takes to himself the name, Son of man. He was weak and feeble like every mortal.  "I can of mine own self do nothing," says Christ; (see John 5:19,30; 8:28) was ever any one weaker than that? But perhaps some one says, "did not Christ perform wonderful miracles? did he not cure all manner of diseases, cast out devils, command the elements, walk on the water, and raise the dead? were these the works of a poor, weak man?" No, these were the works of God; not Christ's works at all, but the works of God, the Father. He empowered Christ; it was through God's power alone that Christ performed his mighty works. God could empower you or I to do the same things, if he pleased, and some will have this power ultimately even to do greater things than Christ did. (See John 14:12) . This position may seem strange and very erroneous to some who have not heretofore thought of this matter; I know that the common idea is that Christ performed his miracles by his own power; for instance in a little theological work that now lies before me, (which the ministers of a certain so called "evangelical" denomination are required to study), I read, "As man Christ weeps over the grave of Lazarus, as God he raises him from the dead. As man he himself suffers and dies; as God he raises his own body from the grave." Now I do not hesitate to affirm that nothing could be more unscriptural than this; in fact it is just the opposite of the truth. Christ did nothing by his own power, "the Son can do nothing of himself," and we are told repeatedly that God raised Christ from the dead "by his own power." (1 Cor. 6:14).  Jesus never claimed to perform miracles, or to do any work in his own name or by his own powers, on the contrary he expressly disclaims it.  He did his mighty works "by the spirit of God" (Matt. 12:28) or "by the finger of God" (Lu. 11:20), i.e., in plain language, by the power of God. (Compare Ex. 8:19). The works that he did were not his own works; (John 9:4). The words he uttered were not his own words: (John 3:34; 14:10; 17:8). "It is my meat and drink," he said, "to do my Father's will and to finish His work;" again he says "The Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works." Jesus always attributed his works to God; for instance, when he cured the demoniac he says to him, "Return to thine own house and shew how great things [not I, but] God hath done unto thee; and the man went his way and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him.'' Jesus knew that it was God dwelling in him that did the work, and he thus speaks; the cured man knew nothing of God, but saw only Christ as the instrument of his salvation.  All this is positive. Christ in himself was a weak, feeble man; what he did was by the power of God, just as God might empower any one to do a mighty work; thus, for instance, Paul speaks, "I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I but the grace of God that was with me," (1 Cor. 15:10); so Christ, with equal truth, might have said the same; Christ's very life was dependent upon God.  I showed in the last paper that Jesus was in a condition of death while here in the flesh; the only life he had was "of God," as he himself said, "I live by the Father." (John 6:57).  In this respect also he was "like unto his brethren," who while in this bondage of corruption have no life in themselves, but are "dead," possessing only the "life hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3).

     Now notice how this view that, everything in Christ's career was of God, is still further confirmed. Out of many passages that might be cited I will only refer to two. Acts 2:22; "Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you as ye yourselves also know."  God did the miracles, wonders and signs, by Christ.  Again, see Acts 10:38-42. ''God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the holy spirit and with power; who went about doing good, and healing all that were possessed of the devil, for God was with him;  and we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they slew and hanged on a tree. Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead; and he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the judge of quick and dead."  Notice how, in this passage, everything is attributed to God. It was He, that anointed Jesus, who was able to do mighty deeds, because "God was with him"; God raised him up from the dead, and chose the witnesses of his resurrection and God has ordained him to be judge.  Here as everywhere else, we see that, "All things are of God": this was as true in relation to Jesus as to any other human being.  Jesus was as truly "God's workmanship" (Eph. 2:10) , as any other human being. He was "the beginning of the creation of God" (Rev. 3:14), "the first born of every creature"; (Col. 1:15), God was his Creator, God, and Father, just as he is our Creator, God and Father.  See 1 Pet. 4:19; John 20:17.  God brought him into the world, (Heb. 1:6); his whole life and work was God-wrought, as we have seen; so his passion and crucifixion, (Acts 2:23; 4:27,28), his resurrection, exaltation, and priesthood (Acts 2:24; Phil. 2:9; Heb. 6:20), his return to judge and reign and deliver the "whole creation;" (Acts 17:31; Rom. 2:16; Psa. 2:8; Dan.7:13,14; Rom. 8:19-20) is all of God, all of God; and this is very wonderful and precious, and shows how fully Christ was identified with the race; how thoroughly he was human. He began on the same plane, and passed through the same process; "made perfect through suffering," that fallen man must pass through in order to reach perfection.  So thoroughly was he human that he was under the curse (Gal. 3:13), and had to be redeemed like the rest of mankind; see Heb. 9:11,12. "But Christ being come, . . . neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption."  The addition of the words, for us at the end of this passage in the common version, is another illustration of the "tinkering" process by which the translators, it would seem, sought to help out the meaning; but those words obscure the sense; Christ had first to obtain redemption for himself, before he could redeem others. God must first redeem him, by "saving him out of death" (Heb. 5:7, new version*, margin) , before he could redeem us.  "All things are of God." He is the great original Redeemer, redeeming Jesus, the world's Redeemer, that Jesus might redeem the world; hence, prophetically Jesus is represented as recognizing this fact when the Psalmist makes him say, as we know he did at least partly say, "Into thine hand I commit my spirit; thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth." (Psa. 31:5; compare Luke 23:46).  And now we can answer another question that may be asked. If Christ began even lower than Adam, and was a poor, weak man with a fallen nature, how did he come off victorious in his trial, when Adam, though he seemed to have had a better opportunity, failed so utterly? The answer to this question is again, "All things are of God:" Why did Adam fail? because it was God's  plan that he should fail (1-2-25). Why did Christ succeed? Because it was God's plan that he should succeed. "The grace of God , was upon him." God "made known to him the ways of life." (Acts 2:28).  Take your Bible and turn to Isa. 42:1-12; read the whole passage carefully, comparing it with Matt. 12:18-21, and see how thoroughly Christ's success was of God. God says by the prophet, "Behold my servant whom I uphold. I have put my spirit [power] upon him; he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles; he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail." Why? Because, "I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people for a light of the gentiles." What for? "To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house;" and then Jehovah adds, thus taking all this upon himself, "I am the Lord, that is my name; and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images."  Could language frame anything more positive to show that "God worketh all things after the counsel of his own will?" (Eph. 1:11). And that too in the career of his "only begotten Son," as much as in the life of any human being.  As we have seen, his birth, trials, sufferings and death were of God, so also his mighty works; victory, exaltation and glory.  "It pleased the Lord to bruise him, he hath put him to grief," (Isa. 53:10), "it [also] pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell," "he hath highly exalted him." (Col. 1:19; Phil. 2:9).  Verily, "all things are of God."

     Jesus had to pass through a process of growth, instruction and perfecting, just as man must, in order to reach the "image of God." "He grew in wisdom and in favor with God and man." There were some things he did not know, (Mark 13:32) and he had to be instructed; among the rest he "learned obedience by the things which he suffered;" (Heb. 5:8) he had to pass through a training process "that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people;" (Heb. 2:17) and finally he was "perfected through suffering," (Heb. 2:10) "and being made perfect he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him." (Heb. 5:9).

     Christ's final sufferings and death were those of a human being. He suffered as a martyr, just as other martyrs have suffered before and since, i.e., so far as the giving up of his natural life was concerned.  I noticed in the last paper that the life Jesus laid down and took up again, according to John 10:17,18, was not his natural, but his pre-existent, divine life. His natural life was "taken" from him ( see Acts 8:33) just as the natural life has again and again been taken from other martyrs. He died voluntarily to be sure, and yet he was "put to death;'' (1 Pet. 3:18) Paul says "he was crucified through weakness." (2 Cor. 13:5).  All this shows what a weak, feeble, human being Christ was in himself, though empowered of the Father to perform wonderful miracles; just as we are weak in ourselves, though "mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds."  Christ's resurrection, we have seen, was of God, and it is also plain that he was raised as a man, a man still even after he had been "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead;" (Rom. 1:4) not now the "man of sorrows," with "marred visage," corruptible flesh, and fallen nature, but the restored, perfected man, "made perfect  through suffering;" and yet he was still a man with flesh and bones, (Luke 24:29) eating and drinking with his disciples, (Acts 10:4) and living in familiar intercourse with them for forty days. Then he ascended and was seated at God's right hand, still a man (Lu. 22:69, Acts 7:56) and one day he will come again, "this same Jesus," (Acts 1:11) that was with them during that forty days, "the man Christ Jesus," as it is written, "The Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he shall reward every man according to his works." Thus in his entire career Christ is most throughly identified in every particular and detail with fallen man; he is emphatically our "Forerunner," having passed over, step by step, the same path that every son and daughter of the human race must tread to reach the likeness of God.

     As God makes one to "differ" from another, (1 Cor. 4:7) so He, and He alone, made Jesus to differ from all the rest of his creation, not in his earthly condition, for in that respect he was "made like his brethren in all things." nor does he differ in his perfected state, for we too shall be "made partakers of the divine nature," (2 Pet. 1:4) but God hath made him to differ in priority and rank, for "He is before all things and in him all things hold together," (Col. 1:17, new version, margin) "He is the head over all things," "the beginning, the first born, from the dead, that all things he might have the pre-eminence." Therefore "unto the Son God saith, Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity, therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows."**(Heb. 1:8,9).  Thus does it appear that the pre-eminent Son, is as much "of God," as are the "many sons;" all are "His workmanship," as it is written, "Of God are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption." (1 Cor. 1:30).  "O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counselor? For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory unto the ages. Amen."

     Is not all this most grand and precious?  How encouraging and reassuring to every member of the race!  In your struggle with trials, temptations and sins you may walk the same path as the Master.  He was weak like you. "In the days of his flesh" he knew, as we do, what it was to "pray and supplicate with strong crying and tears," to realize himself in a "horrible pit" of corruption and death, and to be oppressed with "fear" and anxiety lest he should never escape therefrom; (Heb. 5:7-9) he has known, as every believer must know, what it is to endure, to fight, to weep, to pray, to suffer and toil, to agonize and plead as he did in the garden, in short, "to enter into the kingdom of heaven through much tribulation."  Furthermore, he was on the same plain that we are, he had to contend with the same things that we do, he had no more strength than we have, he depended on the same almighty Being that we may, bore the same reproach and shame that we must, and all "for the joy that was set before him" in bringing many sons unto glory," just as Moses "chose to suffer affliction with the people of God" in order to lead them out of bondage, "because he had respect unto the recompense of the reward." Thus Christ's triumph is a pledge of our victory; his Father is our Father, His God is our God; (John 20:17) his resources are all ours, "as he is so are we in the world," Christ had no advantage over us; the same God who alone delivered him, "making known to him the ways of life," "saving him out of death,'' "holding his hand and keeping him," has promised to deliver the whole creation from the bondage of corruption. (Rom. 8:21). "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself;" "He was the first born of every creature." He is the pattern man of God's finished creation, and the pledge and promise, under God's hand and seal (John 6:27) of the final exaltation of man  to dominion over "all things;" (Heb. 2:5-11), "For as in Adam all die so in Christ shall all be made alive;" "As by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation, so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." "Therefore let no man glory in man ["but he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" (1 Cor. 1:31)] for all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are yours; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's" and thus, blessed be the dear Father of all! we come again to the same conclusion, "All things are of God;" "We are His workmanship;" "He maketh all things," (Isa. 44:24) from Christ, "the Beginning of the creation of God," to the last one delivered from the bondage of corruption.  "Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the Lord, the first, and with the last,'' (Isa. 41:4), "that God may be all in all."

     In the next paper we will consider the subject of Christ's divinity.

i.e. New Version; refers to The English Revised Version of 1881-1885 (RSV)
**The part of this passage that is not quoted will be noticed in the next paper, in connection with the subject of the divinity of Christ.