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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
J. M. Pendleton
From Christian Doctrines: A Compendium of Theology, 1878
If the argument presented in the foregoing chapter is conclusive in favor of the doctrine of the Trinity, the Deity of Christ must be admitted. That is, if Christ is the second person of the Godhead, he is divine, the same in essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit, to whom he is by a blessed necessity equal in power and glory. This being the case, some suppose that a special discussion of Christ's Deity is needless. This is a very plausible opinion, to which I should yield if the subject was not of transcendent importance. Being fully satisfied, however, that the supreme divinity of the Lord Jesus is the basis of the system of Christianity, and that without this basis the system has no saving value, I deem it proper to assign to the Deity of Christ a distinct prominence.
Before adducing proofs that Christ is God, I wish to present a few considerations to prepare the way for these proofs, and to induce a higher appreciation of them:
1. Christ both in the Old Testament and the New is represented as acting the part of Substitute for those he came to save. We therefore read, "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed…The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isa. 53: 5, 6) "Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Matt. 20:28.) "The good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." (John 10:11) "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." (Gal. 3:13)
These are but a specimen of the passages which teach that Christ took the place of those whom he saves, and died in their stead. I might refer to other passages from which we learn that we are forgiven and saved for Jesus' sake, but it is not necessary It will be conceded that the gospel teaches that sinners are saved because Jesus has done and suffered something for them. As to the specific nature of what he did and suffered, I do not now inquire. I only assume that he was the Substitute of those who are saved by him, and that they are saved through his mediation.
2. If Christ is not divine, he could not have taken the place of sinners, so as to make atonement for their sins. One creature cannot, in the government of God, take the place of another. An angel cannot act in the room of a man. Why? Because all that an angel can do is on his own personal account due to God. This is the universal law of creatureship. It asserts its claims in all worlds, and will assert them forever. Now, suppose Christ to have been a created being. Take the Arian view, first espoused in the fourth century. Arius conceded that Christ was the most exalted of beings, next to God, but he said also, "There was a time when the Son was not." Thus he refused to accord to the Son the attribute of eternity, and there cannot be Deity without eternity of existence.
If we suppose, for argument's sake, the doctrine of Arius to be true, and that Christ, however highly exalted in the scale of being, is not God, but a creature, then it follows that he was personally bound to serve God the Creator. His creatureship must have imposed on him personal obligations, rendering it impossible for him to act in the room of others. Creatureship and substitution are not consistent with each other. They cannot stand together. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy strength.'' (Mark 12:30), is the law which extends its jurisdiction over the whole realm of creatureship.
If all the creature's strength is to be exerted in the love and service of God on account of the creature's personal relation to the Creator, then there is no remaining strength to be used in any other way or for any other purpose. If Jesus was merely a created being, he must, like other creatures, act for himself alone. It is plain, therefore, that if Christ is not divine, he could not have taken the place of sinners, so as to die for them and make atonement for their sins.
3. If Christ as a created being could have taken the place of sinners, suffering in their stead, there would not have been saving merit in his sufferings. We speak of the different orders of rational creatures, but they are substantially one. As compared with God, their diversity as to each other disappears. If one creature fails to meet his obligations to God, how can another creature atone for the failure by satisfying the law which has been violated? There must be merit to satisfy the claims of God's law. But where is merit to be found in anything a creature can do?
When creatures have done all required of them, Jesus teaches them to say, "We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do." Luke 17:10. On the supposition that Christ, as a mere creature, died for sinners, what saving merit could there be in his blood? When creatures deserved perdition, could the death of a creature effect their salvation? The law of God can recognize merit in that only which does honor to its preceptive and penal claims. Nothing that a creature can do or suffer can confer this honor. There is an absence of merit, and there can be no merit unless it is found in a Being in whom the divine element supplies it.
In view of these considerations it is perfectly clear that Christ, unless divine, could have done nothing in the matter of human salvation. It would not have been possible for him to act in the room of others; and had it been possible, he could not have saved them. There is absolutely no hope for any sinner of Adam's race unless the Word who in the beginning was with God was God. (John 1:1) This eternal Word, the second person in the Trinity, being above law, free from the obligations of creatureship, was at his own disposal, and could, if so inclined, place himself under a law enacted for the government of creatures.
This, the advocates of Christ's Deity believe, he has done, and that the fact is recorded in these words: "God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law." (Gal. 4:4, 5) Obeying the precepts of the law in his life and suffering its penalty in his death, the divine nature in the twofold constitution of his person imparted infinite worth to his obedience and sufferings. The law was magnified and made honorable, while a way was opened for the consistent exercise of mercy in the salvation of the guilty. This was done if Christ was divine, but on no other supposition. We may now proceed to consider in order some of the more prominent proofs of Christ's Deity. They are such as these:
I. DIVINE NAMES ARE GIVEN TO HIM. Before establishing this by direct quotations from the New Testament, I will name some passages in the Old Testament which without doubt refer to God in the supreme sense of the term, and are by the New Testament writers applied to Christ. In Ps. 45:6 it is written, "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre." In Heb. 1:8 we read, "But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom."
It is worthy of special notice that these words, as used in the Epistle to the Hebrews, are found in the midst of an argument to prove the pre-eminent dignity of Christ by showing his superiority to angels. It would be difficult to explain why the inspired writer wished to prove Christ's superiority to angels if he did not intend to teach his equality with God. It is indisputable that the Father in addressing the Son applies to him the term God: "Thy throne, O God."
Isaiah in the sixth chapter of his prophecy records a wonderful vision, in which he saw the Lord "high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple." He saw the six-winged seraphim, and heard them cry with reverential awe, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory." (Isa. 6:3) No one will deny that the Lord Jehovah of hosts is the Supreme God. But in the twelfth chapter of the Gospel of John we are referred to this vision of the prophet; and the evangelist, with Christ as the theme of his discourse, says, "These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory and spake of him." (John 12:41) Nothing is plainer than that Isaiah, in seeing the glory of the Lord of hosts, saw the glory of Christ; and why? Because Christ is Jehovah of Hosts.
We have in Isaiah 40:3 these words: "The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God." John the Baptist said of himself, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias." (John 1:23) As the harbinger of Christ, John the Baptist was his messenger, as we learn from Mal. 3:1; Mark 1:2, 3, and came to prepare his way. In the Old Testament the way of the Lord is the way of Jehovah, and in the New Testament the way of the Lord is the way of Jesus. The conclusion is irresistible that the Jehovah of the Old Testament is the Jehovah-Jesus of the New Testament.
I now proceed to quote from the New Testament a number of passages which obviously teach the Deity of Christ. It is natural to refer first to John 1:1, 2: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, And the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God." That by “the Word” is meant the Being who became incarnate. We are taught in the fourteenth verse of the same chapter: "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us."
The words "In the beginning" no doubt mean what they do in Gen. 1:1. The reference is to the period at which "God created the heaven and the earth." The Word was then with him, and as God existed before he performed the work of creation, and as the Word was with him, it follows that the Word existed before creation, which is equivalent to eternity of being. Jesus, therefore, in one place refers to the glory which he had with the Father before the world was. John 17:5. "The Word was God" is the declaration to which special attention should be called, and which deserves the strongest emphasis. What could be more unequivocal? How could testimony in favor of Christ's Deity be more positive?
The language of Thomas in John 20:28 deserves consideration. This apostle had expressed his incredulity in terms unreasonably strong, but when Jesus presented infallible proofs of his resurrection Thomas said, "My Lord and my God!" I am aware that some who deny Christ's divinity insist that the words of Thomas are those of exclamatory surprise, and do not attribute Lordship and Deity to Christ. To adopt this view it would be necessary to believe that the apostle expressed his surprise in a very irreverent, not to say blasphemous, manner. Whatever surprise Thomas felt, his words were declarative of his faith in Christ as his Lord and his God, and the avowal of his faith was pleasing to Christ. It is manifest that Jesus did not disclaim the titles that Thomas gave him, but recognized their propriety. He is, then, Lord and God.
In the ninth chapter of Romans, Paul refers to the advantages enjoyed by the Israelites, "of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever." (v. 5) The words "as concerning the flesh," though they almost seem to have been thrown in incidentally, are very significant. They teach the descent of Christ, how he came, as to his human nature, but the language which follows shows him to be divine, for he "is over all, God blessed for ever." It can only be said of a Divine Being that he is over all, and it is therefore perfectly natural that the term God should be applied to him "who is over all."
It is evident, then, whichever view we take, that there was a manifestation in the flesh and the manifestation of a being. Mr. Spurgeon, in his sermon on this verse entitled "The Hexapla of Mystery," has placed the matter in controversy in so clear a light that anyone can understand it. He says:
"There is very little occasion for fighting about this matter, for if the text does not say ‘God was manifest in the flesh,’ who does it say was manifest in the flesh? Either a man, or an angel, or a devil. Does it tell us that a man was manifest in the flesh? Assuredly that cannot be its teaching, for every man is manifest in the flesh, and there is no sense whatever in making such a statement concerning any mere man, and then calling it a mystery. Was it an angel, then? But what angel was ever manifest in the flesh? And if he were, would it be at all a mystery that he should be ‘seen of angels’? Is it a wonder for an angel to see an angel? Can it be that the devil was manifest in the flesh?
“If so, he has been ‘received up into glory,' which, let us hope, is not the case. Well, if it was neither a man, nor an angel, nor a devil, who was manifest in the flesh, surely he must have been God; and so, if the word be not there, the sense must be there, or else nonsense. We believe that if criticism should grind the text in a mill, it would get out of it no more and no less than the sense expressed by our grand old version: God himself was manifest in the flesh."
To this striking interpretation of Mr. Spurgeon not a word needs to be added, and every objection will assail it in vain.
I refer to one passage more in which Christ is called God: "And we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life." (I John 5:20) Here Christ is not only designated God, but the true God. As there can be but one true God, the epithet true, in its application to Christ, makes him one in essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit, while it lays the axe at the root of polytheism and shows all idol gods to be vanity. The phrase "eternal life" claims attention.
If full force is given to the article in the original, we must read, "This is the true God, and the eternal life." In this case there would be a repetition of the idea in chapter 1:2: "For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us." Here eternity of life or being is ascribed to Christ, and he must be God.
Or if we take the words as we have them, without the force of the article—"This is the true God, and eternal life"—then we must understand the beloved disciple to teach, by a figure of speech, that Christ is the Author of eternal life. If so, he is divine, for God alone can give eternal life to creatures. The argument from the ascription of divine names to Christ in favor of his Deity is by no means exhausted, but I pursue it no further. The Scriptures call him God, and he is God.
II. DIVINE ATTRIBUTES BELONG TO CHRIST. The preceding argument derives its power from the fact that names which in the highest sense are applied to God are also applied to Christ. The force of the present argument will be seen in Christ's possession of attributes unquestionably divine. I shall not attempt to give an exhaustive catalogue of these attributes, but merely name the following conspicuous ones:
1. Eternity. That the Word, who in the beginning was with God, had an eternal existence is proved by the following Scripture: "But thou, Bethlehem-Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." (Mic. 5:2) That this language refers to Christ is manifest from (Matt. 2:6)
It will be observed that while the "ruler in Israel" was to come out of Bethlehem—that is, be born there—it is said that his “goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." While the passage contains a clear intimation of the two-fold constitution of the person of the Messiah, it is here quoted to show that he who was born in Bethlehem had existed from eternity: "His goings forth had been from everlasting." When it is said in Psalm 90:2, "From everlasting to everlasting thou art God," it is universally understood that God has existed from eternity. Why, then, do not the words "from everlasting," when applied to the Lord Jesus, mean the same thing? They must have the same meaning.
I refer to one other passage in proof of the eternity of Christ's existence. It is found in John 17:5, and has been mentioned in another connection: "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self; with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." The words "before the world was" are identical in import with "before the foundation of the world," as in Eph. 1:4. Bringing the world into existence is referred to as one of the creative acts of divine power, and there is no intimation that it was subsequent to any other creative act.
Between the remotest depths of eternity and the creation of the world there is no epoch from which to date, and therefore whatever was before the foundation of the world was eternal. "Glory before the world was" must have been eternal glory, and as the glory of a being implies his existence, his eternal glory implies his eternal existence. That Christ existed "before the world was" is a strong argument for his eternity; and if the possession of unbeginning existence is not proof of Deity, there is no proof of anything.
2. Omniscience. To know all things is a divine prerogative. It is God who "searches all hearts and understands all the imaginations of the thoughts." (I Chron. 28:9) He is referred to in Acts 15:8 as "knowing the hearts"—literally, "the heart-knower;" and in I John 3:20 he is said to "know all things." If these things are true of God and also of Christ, it follows that Christ is God. Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest, that I love thee." (John21:17)
And if in Acts 1:24 the term Lord, as in most places in the New Testament, refers to Christ, he is designated "heart-knower." However this may be, we know that it is he who in Rev. 2:23 says, "And all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts." Probably the strongest proof of Christ's omniscience is to be found in his own words in Matt. 1:27: "No man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son." A literal translation requires the substitution of one for man—no one, any one. It is not only said that man does not possess the knowledge referred to, but that no one, in any class of rational beings, possesses it. The knowledge is peculiarly divine, and as Christ is in possession of it in common with the Father, the Deity of the Son is as undeniable as that of the Father.
3. Omnipresence. In the chapter on the attributes of God it was shown in the light of Ps. 139:7-12 and other Scriptures that God is everywhere. Omnipresence is obviously a divine perfection. If, then, this perfection belongs to Christ, his Deity is unquestionable. What did he himself say in his conversation with Nicodemus?—"No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is it heaven." John 3:13. Here we are plainly taught that he who came down from heaven was in heaven. The only explanation is that while his bodily presence was on earth, his essential presence was in heaven. Christ also said, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.'' (Matt. 18:20)
It is quite observable that Jesus does not refer to large numbers of his disciples, but to two or three met in his name. However numerous and however widely separated these little companies may be, the Saviour's presence is with them all. If it is said that his gracious presence is specially meant, I grant it, but his gracious presence wherever two or three meet is possible only because he is omnipresent. For the same reason his words are true: "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." (Matt. 28:20) His presence everywhere is of necessity implied. The omnipresence of Christ is proof of his Deity.
4. Omnipotence. If omniscience and omnipresence are divine attributes, it is certain that omnipotence must be classed among the perfections of God. If, therefore, it can be shown that Christ possesses almighty power, there will be another argument in support of his divinity. It is manifest that in the exercise of power he claimed equality with God the Father. Referring to the Father, he said, "For what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise."(John 5:9)Prophecy spoke of him as "the mighty God." (Isa. 9:6) Even while on earth, in the days of his humiliation, his superhuman power was recognized. Winds and waves obeyed him, disease loosed its grasp at his bidding, while death and the grave were in haste at his word to yield up their prey. So great and so beneficent is the power of Christ, that Paul considered it a special favor for this power to rest on him, and he rejoiced in his ability to do all things through Christ strengthening him. Surely Christ is almighty, and he is therefore divine.
5. Immutability. When God says, "I am the Lord, I change not" (Mal. 3:6), the form of expression denotes that his unchangeableness is proof of his divinity. This being the case, it must be admitted that, if Christ is immutable, he is God. In Heb. 1:10-12, Christ seems evidently referred to as the Maker of the heavens and the earth, which are to perish and be changed, but it is said, "Thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail." In the last chapter of the same Epistle we have the words, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." (v. 8) Changes belong to things and creatures. Immutability belongs to God alone, and Jesus Christ is invariably the same, because he is God.
Thus does the Deity of Christ appear from the ascription of divine attributes to him:
III. CHRIST IS REPRESENTED AS PERFORMING DIVINE WORKS. No physical act displays omnipotence more strikingly than creation. The production of something out of nothing is everywhere in the Scriptures considered the exclusive work of God. I concede, therefore, that if Christ has not exerted creative power, one of the strongest, if not the strongest, proofs of his Deity is wanting. But what say the Scriptures?—"All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made." (John 1:3) I do not see how the universal and the particular can be more fully expressed than in this verse. "All things were made by him"—this is the universal; "without him was not anything [literally, one thing] made"—this is the particular. There is nothing that rises above "all things and there is nothing that falls below the "one thing." Every created object is embraced in this inspired account of creation, and the omnipotent work is ascribed to Christ.
We have similar language in Col. 1:6: "For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him." Here, too, the existence of all things is ascribed to the creative power of Christ. The statement of the apostle is so positive and so forcible that all words of paraphrase would weaken it. I therefore leave it without comment. Nor shall I quote other Scriptures to prove that the work of creation is attributed to Christ. The two passages now before the reader are amply sufficient. Who but a Divine Being has created all things? Christ is therefore God.
The work of preservation is also the work of Christ. Of him it is said, "And he is before all things, and by him all things consist." (Col. 1:17). Being before all things, he existed prior to the creation of all things by his power, and since their creation he has preserved them by the same power. "All things consist"—that is, they stand together, are kept in place—by him who made them. They would fall to pieces, there would be disintegration if Christ were not Conserver as well as Creator. In Heb. 1:3 are these words: "Upholding all things by the word of his power." Here the kindred idea of sustaining is presented. The imagery employed supposes the universe to rest on the word of Christ's power, and he is infinitely able to uphold the "all things" he has created. Does not his work of providence prove his Deity?
The resurrection of the dead will be a glorious display of the power of God. No sane mind can suppose that anything but omnipotence can reanimate the dust of the countless millions in the empire of the grave. Indeed, some in apostolic times seem to have thought it "incredible that God should raise the dead." Certainly, no one supposed that any being but God could perform such a work. There is, however, a special ascription of this work to Christ. He says himself: "The hour is coming in the which all that are in the grave shall hear his voice, and shall come forth." (John 5:28, 29).
What amazing power will this be, accompanying the voice of the Son of God, and causing all the dead to hear that voice! They will do more: "They will come forth." These are the words of "the faithful and true Witness.” Paul says of Christ, "Who 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." (Phil. 3:21) This passage refers to the resurrection of the saints, and teaches three things: that the vile body—literally, the body of our humiliation—is to be changed; that it is to be conformed to the glorious body of Christ; and that this is to be done by the power of Christ—a power so great that in its exercise he is able to subdue all things. It is needless to quote further to show that Jesus will raise the dead.
Now, I ask if divine works—creation, preservation, and the resurrection of the dead—are not ascribed to Christ, and do they not prove his Deity? But there is other proof:
IV. CHRIST IS THE OBJECT OF WORSHIP. What is worship? When our translation of the Bible was made the term was used in two senses: in the lower sense of the word it meant civil respect and deference, as in Luke 14:10: "Then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee." The term in this sense is now obsolete, but it is used in its highest scriptural sense to denote adoration paid to God because he is God. We have the authority of Jesus himself on this point. In repelling one of Satan's temptations he said. "For it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." Matt. 4:10. Here we are taught that worship belongs exclusively to God.
If, then, it can be shown that, according to the Scriptures, Jesus Christ is the object of worship, the doctrine of his Deity will be established. In John 5:23 it is written, "That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father." No one will deny that supreme honor is claimed for the Father, and equal honor is claimed for the Son. This honor surely implies worship. The first Christians were designated as those who called on the name of the Lord. Paul wrote, "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours." (I Cor. 1:2)
To call upon the name of the Lord is to invoke his name, and this implies prayer, whatever else it may imply. Prayer is an act of worship. Nor is this all. Calling on the name of the Lord is inseparably connected with salvation. "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Rom. 10:13) It is here taken for granted that the Lord has power to save. I need not say that it requires the power of God to save. The Lord Jesus must be God. Not only did the first Christians call upon the name of the Lord in their worship and service during life, but in death they invoked his name and committed their departing spirits into his hands.
Of the latter truth, Stephen is the most conspicuous illustration: "And they stoned Stephen, calling upon and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." (Acts 7:59) This is the correct translation. There is no word in the Greek text corresponding to God, and there is no pause between the calling upon and the saying. The Redeemer was invoked, and the words of invocation were, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." This was the first Christian martyr. With eternity just before him he called on his Lord, commending to him the spirit struggling to escape from the murdered body. Did Stephen labor under a mistake in believing that Jesus, because divine, was able to receive his disembodied spirit? Strange time to make a mistake when he saw the glory of God shining brighter than ten thousand suns! There was no mistake. The dying martyr recognized the Deity of his Lord.
In Heb. 1:6 it is said, "And let all the angels of God worship him." This is the command of the eternal Father—a command implying the divinity of the Son and the equality of his claims to angelic adoration. If the Lord Jesus is worshipped by saints and angels, is not this a conclusive proof of his Deity? Saints on earth worship him, and saints in heaven sing a new song, saying, "Thou art worthy…for thou wast slain and halt redeemed us to God by thy blood." (Rev. 5:9) John heard this exalted song, and then he heard the angels, "and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing." (Rev. 5:12)
It will be observed that while the angels make no reference to personal redemption, as do the saints, they fully recognize the worthiness of the Lamb slain. Christ is worshipped by saints and angels, on earth and in heaven. He accepts the worship. Peter was utterly unwilling to receive worship from Cornelius, but raised him up from his prostrate position, "Saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man." (Acts 10:26) Paul and Barnabas "rent their clothes" at the very intimation that sacrifices were to be offered to them. (Acts 14:14, 18)
When John was so impressed by the glory of the angel who made known to him the wonderful things which he saw that he fell down to worship, mistaking the angel for the Lord of angels, the heavenly messenger rebuked him, saying, "See thou do it not…worship God." (Rev. 12:9) Thus we see that apostles on earth would not receive worship, nor would angels in heaven. But Jesus accepted worship on earth and in heaven. Why? Because he knew himself to be the proper object of adoration. This he could not know without a consciousness of Deity. Christ is God.
In closing, it is proper to notice a strange declaration, sometimes made by those who deny the supreme divinity of Christ. It is in substance this: “That, though Jesus is not God, he is the best man the world ever saw.” Nothing can be further from the truth than such a statement. The alternative is not that Jesus is God or the best of men. No! The alternative is that Jesus is God or the worst of men. If he was not God, he was such an impostor, such a blasphemer, as the world never saw.
He claimed for himself divine honors and divine worship. He said, "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." (Matt. 10:37); "If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."(Luke 14:26) It is proper to say that in the latter passage the word "hate" means to love less, and the spirit of both passages is that love to Christ must be superior to that exercised in any of the relations of life.
Think of it. Here is a man—if Jesus is only a man—who requires the husband to love him more than he does his wife, and the wife to love him more than she does her husband; who requires parents and children to love him more than they love one another, and who requires everybody to love him more than life itself! On the supposition that Jesus is a mere man, there is no language that can define the presumption that presents such claims.
He gives orders that in baptism his name shall be used between that of the Father and of the Holy Spirit; that his death shall be commemorated till the end of the world; that repentance and remission of sins shall be preached through him; and says that he will come in the clouds of heaven on the last day, raise the dead, judge the world, welcome the righteous into the kingdom of glory, consign the wicked to eternal perdition, and will then be the light and the joy of the New Jerusalem. Imagine prophet or apostle as asserting such claims and saying such things: Would not the presumption and the blasphemy be intolerable? They are just as intolerable in the case of Jesus Christ if he is not divine.
I present these views to show how absurd it is to deny the Deity of Christ and insist that the world never saw so good a man. No, he is the worst of men if nothing more than man. But he is God. This is the glory of the system of Christianity, that its Author is divine. His Deity is essential to the value of his atoning sacrifice—essential to his ability to save. In view of the proofs of his divinity presented in this chapter, every Christian may say with Thomas, "My Lord and my God!" and with Paul, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day" (II Tim. 1:12) and in the dying hour the words of Stephen may well come into the heart and find expression through the quivering lips: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." (Acts 7:59)