TheologicalStudies.org.uk


God Became Man

Alan M. Stibbs, M.A.


This monograph was originally published in London by The Tyndale Press in 1957.

[p.3]

INTRODUCTION

The distinctive truth of Christianity concerns the Person and the work of Jesus Christ. For instance, not only Christians but Jews and Moslems also acknowledge one supreme God; they revere the patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament; but they do not believe, as Christians do, that Jesus is God Himself become Man, and become Man to save men.

It has been characteristic of Christians from the first to seek to define, and to be ready to confess, this distinctive faith concerning Jesus. The first preachers of the Christian gospel were concerned to proclaim, and to persuade men to acknowledge, who Jesus was and what He had done for men. So Jesus was heralded as God's Christ, as the exalted Lord, as Himself sharing the throne and the worship of God. From God and His Christ all blessings flow; to God and His Christ all praise should be directed. Not only because of His earthly life and ministry, but more particularly because of His death and resurrection, Jesus was also heralded as able to save men, to give them repentance, remission of sins and eternal life.

Subsequently these convictions found brief concise expression in çredal statements, which, with the passing of the years, were increasingly elaborated in order explicitly to express these two fundamental essentials of the Christian faith - who Jesus is, and what especially He has done. (See, for instance, the Nicene Creed and Article II of the XXXIX Articles.)

Such credal statements are, in the first place, deliberately and directly based on the New Testament Scriptures. For, from the days of the primitive Church, Christians have also believed that God has by His Spirit inspired understanding and prophetic utterance of these truths for the enlightenment and profit of His people; and that such divinely inspired insight and verbal declaration are uniquely to be found in the New Testament. It is, therefore, a continuous duty of Christians, a task renewed with each fresh generation, to satisfy themselves first, that they properly understand the scriptural witness to these distinctive Christian truths; and, second, that credal statements of them in current use are wholly in harmony therewith.

[p.4]

In this sphere of right understanding the contribution of the scriptural witness is twofold. It first provides us with a record of the unique historical events connected with Jesus. It then adds significant indication both of the unique character of Jesus Himself, and of the divinely ordered purpose and consequence of His earthly career.

In this same sphere of right understanding each fresh age or generation - indeed each fresh individual student of the New Testament - is challenged by acquaintance with these things to come to a proper appreciation of their value. Rather than accept at once in faith the guidance of divinely inspired scriptural revelation, many prefer to be guided in their approach by their own powers of judgment, and particularly by the prevailing standards and criteria both of philosophy and of natural science.

It is important, therefore, if we would hold fast to the Christian faith, and not be persuaded to accept instead prevailing theories and philosophies essentially contrary to Christianity, that we should not be ignorant of present-day emphases in these two realms of scientific theory and philosophic speculation. We need rather so to understand their governing principles as to see clearly their relation to, and their harmony or inconsistency with, revealed Christian truth.

The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, 'O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: which some professing have erred concerning the faith' (1 Tim. vi. 20, 21). The aged apostle thus warned a young Christian worker against the presumptuous claim to know, a claim attractively but unjustifiably made in the name of some prevailing theory or philosophy not really worthy of credence; a claim which, once adopted, was bound to involve any who held it, and became held by it, in departure from the Christian faith.

There is still need of similar warning. For in the scholarly world prevailing theories are often treated as if they were fully established truths. In consequence individuals so accept them as to allow their whole outlook to be governed by them. This can create fatal prejudice against the Christian faith. Individuals may thus be tempted to prefer empty human speculation to substantial divine revelation; and may thus be made to lose their bearings as Christian believers, and to wander far from the truth.

[p.5]

It is our intention in this monograph to consider some particular dangers of this kind. For they are dangers of which all who would hold fast to revealed truth concerning the Person and work of God incarnate need deliberately to beware.

[p.6]

I

HOW GOD BECAME MAN

CHRISTIAN TRUTH AND THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD

We live in an age in which the increasing use of the scientific method of investigation and research has led to many fresh discoveries of far-reaching significance. By the unprejudiced, fearless, diligent and persevering use of this method man has reached in many directions a better understanding of the workings of nature. So men have progressed in ability to harness and use the workings of nature to further their own desires, and to serve their own ends.

The startling successes so obviously achieved by the use of this scientific method have understandably given rise to the idea that every field of knowledge ought to be subjected to this same method of investigation. So, for instance, instead of taking biblical history and biblical doctrines for granted, as true and trustworthy, after the manner of former generations, many have felt that their study of them would only be impartial and properly rewarded, if they started with no a priori assumptions, and sought to discover that explanation which is demanded by the observable evidence itself. Particularly has there been a desire to submit to this kind of scientific enquiry anything in the Bible records which past generations of Christians have commonly treated as supernatural and miraculous. May it not be true, it is asked, that we are now in a position to discover that what has hitherto been regarded as miraculous, and due to special divine intervention, may be better understood and explained as due to the normal operation of some so-called law or manner of nature's working, a working which may be expected always to occur, once certain conditions are fulfilled?

Such a suggestion, reasonable enough as it is, immediately faces us with a crucial issue. We are here bound to recognize that the Bible asserts, and that Christians have always believed, that the outstanding events of Bible history were brought about only by a special supernatural intervention of God. Such events,

[p.7]

therefore, if that is so, can be properly studied by the scientific method, only if this unique qualifying condition is fully recognized. To rule out, as some would, the occurrence of the unique event as impossible, because it does not conform to the normal workings of nature, is to refuse to heed the very evidence of divine intervention which the unique features offer.

The Bible records of the birth of Jesus provide an illustration of this kind of crux. The scientific approach understandably makes an enquirer assert that, if a normal birth took place of a human mother, that is from the womb of a woman, there must have been a human father responsible for the procreation of the child, and the initiation of the woman's pregnancy. We are, too, bound to admit that, in all ordinary circumstances, such reasoning would be compelling and conclusive. No one would wish to argue against it.

But here the scriptural records bear witness to an abnormal, supernatural occurrence. This woman, we are told, became pregnant without sexual intercourse with a man, by the action of God the Spirit.

The issue now becomes one of faith or unbelief. Such a unique event, the more so because it happened so long ago, is beyond the reach of scientific confirmation. No similar event is now observable. No similar event can be experimentally reproduced. Either we let the measure of our scientific understanding shut out the possibility of such an occurrence from our minds; or else we become believers in the testifying word, and in the corresponding unique work, of an extraordinary divine agent, God the Spirit. This means, let us notice, that the scientific method cannot here help us to find the truth; and it may even keep some from embracing it. For here the condition of understanding is faith - faith in God, in His unique work and in His inspired word. So, at least, Christians are persuaded.

A much more important crux of the same kind is presented to us by the biblical records of the resurrection of Jesus. For this was no normal natural event like His birth of a human mother. Scientific investigation can lead only to the incontestable general conclusion that resurrections of the dead do not occur. Nor indeed, if a group of highly qualified present-day scientists could have examined the dead body of Jesus between the crucifixion and the resurrection, would they have been able to discover any evidence or indication of the impending transformation.

[p.8]

The resurrection of Jesus was due to the unique supernatural intervention of God the Spirit.

Jesus Himself was thus declared with power to be the Son of God. The event of resurrection itself was not normal to all dead sinful men, but uniquely appropriate to the one divine and sinless Man. It thus demands by its unique character, and for its fuller appreciation, faith in His unique person as God become Man.

The place of such doctrinal presupposition is significantly admitted by a modern critical scholar, who rejects the historicity of the empty tomb. In The Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (1907) Dr. Kirsopp Lake makes this observation: 'The historical evidence is such that it can be fairly interpreted consistently with either of the two doctrinal positions ... but it does not support either. The story of the empty tomb must be fought out on doctrinal, not on historical or critical grounds' (p. 253). Commenting on this Archbishop Ramsey has written, 'These words of Lake are of the utmost significance. The author of the most scientific treatment of the historical problem that has been written, in this and perhaps in any language, admits that a decision cannot be made without recourse to religious presupposition."[1]

Here, therefore, whether one is personally prepared to accept it or not, it must be openly acknowledged that from the standpoint of Christian faith, an important presupposition of further profitable investigation is complete acceptance of the age-long Christian confidence that Jesus is God manifest in the flesh. Only those who allow themselves to be guided by this conviction will rightly interpret the evidence.

Here, too, so the present writer is at least himself persuaded, one must also recognize the complementary importance of faith in the scriptural records, as themselves similarly produced by a special divine providence in history. For our knowledge of the unique events of the earthly life of God incarnate, and our understanding of their true character and significance, are dependent entirely on these Scriptures. This very fact makes it the more reasonable to believe that they have been specially given by inspiration of God to provide men of every age with this double enrichment. Certainly unless the authority of the

[p.9]

Scriptures is thus accepted, it is impossible by any independent use of the scientific method to discover truths which Christians know only by revelation. For this is a realm in which repeatedly there is no general law, but only the unique particular instance, which is sui generis and a law unto itself. This, too, is not exclusively a realm in which we only accept conclusions logically induced, but rather one in which we believe in order that we may understand. Let us then pursue this study in this faith.


SOME KENOTIC THEORIES

Modern scientific investigation is particularly interested in discovering how nature works. It is therefore to be expected that this interest would lead students in the field of Christian evidence to seek to discern and to define how the incarnation worked, or what happened to God when He became Man.

Here there has been, to begin with, a sincere desire to do full justice to both sides of the truth; first, to acknowledge the Person who became Man as truly and essentially God, and then to recognize that He became genuinely and experimentally Man, that is, that He lived a true and real human life on earth and in history as a man among men.

It has then been understandably argued that a real experience of human life would not have been possible for God the Son unless He laid aside His distinctively divine attributes, such as omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence, and lived wholly within the limits of finite human capacity. So, for instance, radical distinction has been drawn between the divine self-consciousness of the Pre-existent and Eternal Word and the human self-consciousness of Jesus of Nazareth. Also, because in Philippians ii. 7 (R.V.) Paul speaks of Christ having 'emptied himself' in order thus to become man, this action of His has come to be described technically as His 'kenosis' or 'emptying', and hypothetical attempts to define the measure of His consequent limitations are often referred to as 'kenotic theories'.

Such theorizing has, however, been carried too far in one direction by many, and has become both scientifically one-sided and theologically unbalanced; so at least the present writer believes, and is concerned to demonstrate.

For in such theorizing it has been freely and frequently suggested that, as Man, the incarnate Son of God was so completely

[p.10]

limited to the human awareness normal to His earthly contemporaries that He necessarily shared in their wholly uncritical and erroneous views. In consequence, so many have been prepared to think, some of His references to the Old Testament can be discounted as purely limited, human, first-century opinion, which was on some points mistaken, and to which the conclusions of scholarly modern Old Testament criticism are much to be preferred.

Here interest in our Lord's human knowledge as limited, and, as it is supposed, sometimes erroneous, clearly ceases to be purely and impartially scientific; for it is in measure stimulated by the desire thus to justify questionable modern critical theories concerning the Old Testament Scriptures.

Not only so; in addition such theories concerning the limited and unreliable character of our Lord's human knowledge directly undermine the sanction of His authority as the Christian's supreme reason for believing in the Old Testament as the God-given word. So Professor R. V. G. Tasker has written:

It is not surprising that the extension of the 'kenotic' theory of the incarnation to our Lord's attitude to the Old Testament has led to a growing disinclination on the part of the Liberal-Catholics and Liberal-Protestants alike to use the Old Testament in preaching and in worship.[2]

On the other side, Professor Tasker also declares in the same context that in his view this theory of our Lord's uncertain knowledge of the origin and nature of the Old Testament is virtually irreconcilable with the way in which

our Lord grounded His personal claims, His sense of a special vocation … and the validity of much of His teaching on the belief that the Old Testament was not only a true self-revelation of His Father, but the incontrovertible expression of His Father's will for Himself, His Son. Here, if anywhere, we should expect our Lord to speak with divine authority and absolute truth. Indeed, if He could be mistaken on matters which He regarded as of the strictest relevance to His own person and ministry, it is difficult to see exactly how or why He either can or should be trusted anywhere else.[3]

In other words, much more is at stake here than a right scientific understanding of the limits of our Lord's human knowledge. For a mere theory or supposition is used, and unquestionably has been used, to undermine faith in the divine authority both of our Lord's own words and of the Old Testament Scriptures.

[p.11]

It is, therefore, of very great importance also to discern that such theories do not do full justice to our Lord's continuing Deity. They are theologically unbalanced. For they suggest, in effect, that in order to become a true man Jesus temporarily ceased to be God, or at least to act and function as such. But such an idea is theologically untenable, as able modern scholars have fully recognized.

For instance, Archbishop William Temple asked:

What was happening to the rest of the universe during the period of our Lord's earthly life? ... To say that the Creative Word was so self-emptied as to have no being except in the Infant Jesus, is to assert that for a certain period the history of the world was let loose from the control of the Creative Word.[4]

Developing further the statement of what he declared to be 'insuperable objections' to the idea of divine self-emptying found in kenotic theories, Professor D. M. Baillie wrote:

Instead of giving us a doctrine of Incarnation in which Jesus Christ is both God and man, the Kenotic Theory appears to me to give us a story of a temporary theophany in which He who formerly was God changed Himself temporarily into man.... For ... He has divested Himself of the distinctively divine attributes; which would imply, if language means anything, that in becoming human He ceased to be divine.[5]

Professor D. M. Baillie also went on to declare:

The presupposition of the theory is that the distinctive divine attributes (of omniscience, etc.) and the distinctive human attributes (of finitude) cannot be united simultaneously in one life, that is why the Incarnation is explained as a kenosis. ... Thus, on the kenotic theory ... He is God and Man, not simultaneously in a hypostatic union, but successively - first divine, then human, then God again. But that... seems to leave no room at all for the traditional catholic doctrine of the permanence of the manhood of Christ.[6]

Full justice can, therefore, be done both to our Lord's full Deity and to His true humanity, only by recognizing that when, as Man, He acquired a finite mode of consciousness, in which His knowledge and power and other perfections were limited to human measure, He also retained simultaneously, as God, an infinite mode of consciousness in which He knew all things and exercised all power.

First, it is important in our thinking to keep these two modes of consciousness properly separate and distinct. On this point

[p.12]

Charles Harris has significantly written:

These two modes, however close their union and intimate their interpenetration, as being modes of a single personality, must have remained distinct. For had the infinite mode at any time been merged in the finite, God would have been practically annihilated; and if, on the other hand, the finite mood had ever been merged in the infinite, the manhood of Jesus would have entirely ceased to exist, and the Incarnation would have been reduced to a Theophany.[7]

Next, it is equally important to recognize that, since the two natures of Deity and Manhood were truly united in the one Person, these two modes of consciousness must have been continuously and actively related. Admittedly this is to our finite minds very difficult to grasp. We cannot immediately see how such opposites as knowledge and ignorance can coexist in one person without contradiction. But it is surely of Christian faith to confess that their coexistence is an essential part of the truth and of the unique wonder of the incarnation.

When we try further to appreciate how two such apparently contradictory conditions may actively coexist in a single personality it is possible, for what it is worth, as Charles Harris indicates, to obtain some suggestive help to our thinking from inferior human analogies. For instance, while his conscious mind is otherwise engaged, a person's subconscious mind (without his conscious knowledge) may think out a problem of which it has previously been made aware; so that, when he returns later to his mental task, the solution of the problem instantly appears. Similarly, after being hypnotized, a person, who returns to normal control, may be said to be 'ignorant' of things experienced or learnt while in the hypnotic state. 'Nevertheless,' writes Charles Harris,

the knowledge is truly in his mind, and shows itself in unmistakable ways, especially by causing him to perform or to refrain from performing actions, which, but for the possession of this knowledge, he would not have performed or refrained from performing. What is still more extraordinary, a sensitive hypnotic subject may be made both to see and not to see the same object at the same moment. For example, he may be told not to see a lamp-post, whereupon he becomes (in the ordinary sense) quite unable to see it. Nevertheless he does see it, because he avoids it, and cannot be induced by any possible device to precipitate himself against it.[8]

[p.13]

In the unique case of God incarnate, therefore, we may at least reasonably suppose that our Lord's divine knowledge, while still personally possessed by Him as God, was deliberately kept below the threshold of His human consciousness, but could be drawn upon as and when His Father gave to Him to know, as Man, what eternally He knew as God. (See Jn. viii. 47, xiv. 10, 24.) Also, it is surely reasonable to assert, as J. Stafford Wright has done, that:

The unity of His divine-human Person would prevent Him from teaching error, but unless His Father told Him to communicate a certain teaching, His consciousness would remain ignorant of it; such was the case with the date of His Second Coming (Mark xiii. 32).[9]

Charles Harris has expressed the same general conclusion when he wrote:

There is no contradiction, either logical or practical, in supposing (as orthodoxy does) that the finite or human consciousness of the Redeemer was compassed about by an infinite ocean of divine consciousness, belonging to the same personality, into which it could only partly penetrate, but by which it was nevertheless so completely guided and illuminated that the result was, for the Incarnate Life, not indeed omniscience (a thing impossible for a finite nature), but certainly real infallibility in matters of faith and morals.[10]

Nor do we see the need for the possible allowance of so-called unimportant error, which may be taken by some to be implied by this writer's limiting phrase - 'in matters of faith and morals.' It seems rather to us not only possible but proper to confess with equal conviction - and real infallibility in all other matters too.

All this means that because Jesus was God as well as Man, He had still, as God, infinite resources of knowledge and power, on which He could have drawn, had He wished, in a way completely impossible to other men. Some of the temptations which beset Him, wrongly to draw upon such powers (e.g. Mt. iv. 3, 4, xxvi. 50-54), are only meaningful if this was true. What is significant for the understanding of His humanity and its genuine reality is the awareness that Jesus generally and deliberately refused to draw upon such supernatural resources, not available to other men. For He took upon Himself as man 'the form of a servant'; 'he humbled himself and became obedient.' (See Phil. ii. 7, 8.) So He who could say as God,

[p.14]

'I and my Father are one' (Jn. x. 30), became able to say as Man, 'My Father is greater than I' (Jn. xiv. 28). He thus entered fully into a true human experience within normal and natural human limits and conditions.

But we must also recognize the uniqueness of His humanity as well as its full similarity to our own. He was, for instance, as a man, both in nature and practice, wholly 'without sin' (Heb. iv. 15). He was filled or possessed by God the Spirit without measure or restraint. (See Jn. iii. 34). He enjoyed full and unhindered intercourse with God as His heavenly Father. Just as prophets and apostles in the discharge of special God-given missions were at times allowed to share in the exercise of special divine knowledge and power, so Jesus, as the continuous life-long prophet and the perfect ideal apostle, was allowed of God in the fulfilment of His unique mission, and in the expression in human living of His unique Person, to draw uniquely upon that divine knowledge and power which were already His own as God; but wholly in submission to His Father's pleasure and appointment, and only as His Father granted such privilege to Him. So the authority of His divine Person, and the accompanying authority of both God the Father and God the Spirit, found full expression in the life of Jesus in both word and deed, without the genuine reality of His human experience being destroyed or violated.

[p.15]

II

WHY GOD BECAME MAN

SOME PHILOSOPHICAL SPECULATIONS

In this so-called scientific age interest and enquiry are particularly directed towards the study of how things work. Students are eager to discover more of the laws of nature, to understand more fully the processes of nature's working. There is a complementary study which is much larger in its embrace, a study in which thinkers seek not so much to identify immediate natural causes and explanations of process as to discern more fundamental governing causes of all existence and possible interpretations of its ultimate purpose and intended or inevitable end.

Just as natural scientists produce theories concerning the way in which nature works, so philosophers speculate and produce their systems of thought in the attempt to explain the first cause and the final meaning of all that is. One object of such philosophizing is to provide men with a way of looking at life as a whole in relation to which they may come to a better understanding of the place and purpose of life's manifold phases and experiences.

Here it is important to recognize clearly that there are two radically different ways for professing Christians to go to work in seeking to understand truth. On the one hand, we may accept the revelation of God's will and ways, which is afforded in the inspired and canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as our governing authority, and let that settle first what we believe, and then how in consequence we act. This is the orthodox, and, particularly since the Reformation, the protestant and evangelical way to proceed. This is why works of systematic theology are produced in an attempt to appreciate revealed truth as a whole, and to understand in relation to it the place and full significance of the different parts.

On the other hand, one may begin independently of Scripture, by accepting as axiomatic some philosophical principle, which is then allowed to guide and to govern one's evaluation of the significance of the manifold details of evidence, which demand

[p.16]

interpretation and systematization, if one's understanding is ever to acquire the desirable characteristic of coherent wholeness. What is more, the details of evidence thus interpreted and systematized may still be predominantly, if not exclusively, scriptural. The result is that those, who build up a system of thinking of this kind, can understandably claim to be genuinely biblical, and thus to be furthering the proper appreciation of essential Christianity. They can argue with some plausibility that those who become learners in such a school will obtain a wholeness of view and a full-orbed theology usually not possessed by those who make tremendous appeal to the final authority of isolated scriptural statements, but have, so it is suggested, no corresponding, satisfying philosophy of Christian faith and life as a whole.

Let us in illustration of this, and in further pursuit of our specific interest in this monograph, turn our attention once again to the great confession of the Christian faith that God became Man.

Let us notice first, how possible it is to approach this central event of biblical and Christian revelation, that is, the incarnation of the Son of God, from the standpoint of an independent philosophical interest. It is possible thus to seek to postulate why God became Man, and what was the ultimate objective in view, or the chief result which it was intended would follow. Indeed, not only is such philosophizing possible, it has frequently been done, and is still being done by Christian thinkers, who make some governing philosophical idea fundamental, and then seek to interpret the evidence accordingly.

What this present writer is concerned to demonstrate is that in the process of such philosophizing such thinkers, able and attractive as their systematization may be, sometimes depart from a proper balanced understanding of what the Scriptures reveal. Their complete acceptance of their governing philosophical idea makes them blind to parts of the scriptural witness which radically deny or seriously qualify it. They select and emphasize scriptural statements which can be made to fit into their own scheme of thought. In some cases they ultimately tend in principle to expose themselves to the condemnation of rejecting the plain word of God in order that they may hold fast to their own philosophy.

[p.17]

For instance, Archbishop William Temple and Professor O. C. Quick both objected to the 'kenosis' idea that in the incarnation God 'emptied Himself' and so virtually ceased to be God. But they did so not so much on scriptural as on philosophical grounds. They postulated that the essence of God Himself is self-realization through self-sacrifice, or living through dying; that is, Love. So God is to be thought of as realizing Himself through giving Himself, through becoming, as it were, less than God. The incarnate Word is therefore truly God just because He is truly human. Far from emptying Himself in order to become incarnate, in the incarnation God took a decisive step towards His own self-realization.

Now such ideas, however philosophically attractive, and in measure theologically sound, also have tendencies which are unscriptural and theologically dangerous. For they suggest that God Himself is not eternally perfect, but needs participation in humanity for His own self-completion. The one safeguard against such wrong thinking is to submit to Scripture as the authoritative rule of faith, to let thought be genuinely governed by divine revelation rather than by human speculation. Otherwise the wisest and most devout of scholars may ultimately mislead us.

More recent Anglo-Catholic thinkers have struck a different emphasis in their contemplation of the incarnation and its purpose. They have become interested not so much in what happened to God when He became Man, as in what happened to humanity when it was thus united to God the Son. So, for instance, E. L. Mascall and L. S. Thornton have interpreted the significance of the incarnation in terms of human elevation and fulfilment. In Christ, so they suggest, through its union with God, human nature is supernaturalized or taken up into a higher metaphysical perfection.

There is, particularly in the thought of L. S. Thornton, an attempt to combine orthodox doctrine with the philosophy of organism. In the universe man is the highest organism of an ascending series. Yet he shares the unfinished character of the cosmic series as a whole, and needs for his complete fulfilment to be taken up organically into a higher principle of unity. These unfulfilled aspirations of humanity are satisfied only through the incarnation, in which human nature becomes the organ of that higher divine organism, which is Christ, Not only so; by such

[p.18]

participation in elevation and higher fuffilment human nature does not become less human but rather more completely human. It thereby fulfils its own law of being. To be specific, what is needed to complete humanity is perfect filial response. This exists, to begin with, only in the divine Son, and is achieved by the organic creation only when it is taken up into His activity.

Redemption is then seen as an extension of these effects to us. Men may now share in the achievement of the incarnation through incorporation into Christ's human nature. This means a genuine metaphysical re-creation, an ontological change in contrast, so it is asserted, to the 'protestant' idea of atonement as a 'legal fiction', which leaves man essentially what he was.

The Church provides, according to these thinkers, the sphere of participation. It is the extension of the new divine-human organism started in Christ. Men are saved or enter into fulness of life by incorporation into this organism of incarnation. This means that the Church is the 'place' where reconciliation with God occurs, the 'sphere' into which individuals enter in order to share in the divine life. Protestants, we are told, are prevented from thus believing in a real ontological coherence of the Church and the humanity of Christ by their doctrine of justification.

The Cross does not procure this new life. It is rather, on the one hand, 'a necessary passage through which the Incarnation must go to reach us,'[11] and, on the other hand, the crowning expression of the governing principle of the incarnation, namely, obedient self-sacrifice. The Church, by being baptized into its spirit, and into participation in its self-sacrificing offering, gives the incarnation not only extension but also true and necessary completion.

Christ's humanity is thus manifested under different forms or modes - through His earthly body, His glorified body, His body the Church and the eucharistic body. So the Church is metaphysically identical with the incarnate Lord. 'They are all,' says E. L. Mascall, 'objective forms of expression of the manhood of the one Lord.'[12] (The present writer has tried to help

[p.19]

his mind to grasp this strange idea by rather distant analogy that steam, water and ice are different modes of the same distinctive combination of hydrogen and oxygen.) Christ thus continues to offer Himself now in the humanity we share with Him. The eucharist is its externalization in ritual form. The Church form of the incarnation thus finds in the eucharist the supreme occasion of the expression of its governing life-principle of self-sacrifice. In the eucharist 'offerers and offered are one, since both are modes of the body of Christ. When believers perform the eucharistic rite, they offer themselves in offering the elements. Further, Christ offers Himself as the believers offer the eucharistic sacrifice, since it is His humanity which the believers offer in offering themselves and the sacrifice.'[13] The eucharist is thus a making present in time of what is true in eternity.

Let us now seek to offer a critical appreciation of such philosophizing in the light of the plain biblical witness. First, we may say in general that these views, which we have mentioned, are in places all hard to reconcile fully with the proper orthodox insistence upon the manner of the incarnation and the necessary distinction between the two natures in Christ of both Deity and Humanity. Also, they are all based upon unscriptural assumptions as to the purpose of the incarnation.

For instance, the Bible witness indicates unmistakably that what man needs is moral redemption, not metaphysical completion. For 'the Biblical doctrine of creation leaves us with an unavoidable impression that man created in the image of God was a completed being.' 'Man ... did not need an Incarnation of God in order to fulfil his vocation of total worship.'[14] This cancels out the prevailing premiss of some of these writers as to the purpose of the incarnation - that it was required by the nature of creation and would have occurred even had not sin entered man's life. Also, according to the Bible, man's relation to God has been disrupted by the fall. So 'man's need of the Incarnation was religious, not metaphysical, ... a need of reconciliation not of elevation, of mediation not of metaphysical completion.'[15]

In contrast to this scriptural emphasis we have in these modern Anglo-Catholic views consummation for man through the incarnation rather than salvation through atonement. So there has

[p.20]

been (to quote William Temple) 'the development of a theology of the Incarnation rather than a theology of Redemption.' So Mary and the virgin birth become more fundamental and decisive than Calvary and the atoning sacrifice. 'The re-birth is a privilege granted by Christ as a result of His incarnation.'[16]

The act by which God makes a man a Christian is 'incorporation into the human nature of Christ, an incorporation by which the very life of the Man Christ Jesus is communicated to us and we are re-created in him.'[17]

Also, evolutionary and optimistic humanistic ideas underlie some of these suggestions. Jesus Christ is represented as the crown and climax of all earlier development. The incarnation is not the divine remedy for evil but the fulfilment of the goodness of creation. There is a 'gospel' but it is Pelagian. It shows man not how to pass out of the sinner's death into the life of new creation in Christ risen from the dead, but how to become his true self by offering himself to die in and with and for Christ.. We are encouraged to think of ourselves as incorporated into the human nature of the incarnate Son rather than into His death and resurrection. Existing things are supplemented and consummated, instead of old things having to pass away. Such views mean flattery of human nature as it is. Such views also mean flattery of the Church, as itself the sphere of salvation and the body in which Christ is now incarnate. The sacrifice of the Cross becomes an example or supreme expression of the principle or pattern of the incarnate life now manifested in the Church, and indeed of the eternal activity of the divine Son. This is in complete contrast to the scriptural emphasis upon the once-for-all and finished character of the incarnate Son's personal offering of His human body to put away sin. For 'this he did once for all,' says the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews, 'when he offered up himself.'[18]

So, while such views offer man fulfilment in Christ, fulfilment is offered to the natural man as he is. The incarnation is rationalized by taking it out of its biblical setting of creation, sin and redemption, and putting it within a semi-speculative

[p.21]

setting of man's metaphysical incompletion.[19] Such an understanding of Christianity adds the practice of religion to what we already are, and suggests that we can thus offer ourselves to God. It offers flattering philosophical idealism externalized in fascinating mystical ritual. It tends to give more prominence to participation in elaborate detached ceremonial rites than to proper concentration on walking in newness of life, in that daily obedience which is for us as Christians our proper worship or reasonable service.

[p.22]

III

WHAT SCRIPTURE TEACHES

Over against scientific theorization and philosophic speculation Christian believers set, and are prepared to given priority to, divine revelation. Also, as we have confessed already, it has from the first been an age-long Christian confidence that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments have been specially 'given by inspiration of God' in order to provide us with an adequate knowledge of the unique events of such divine revelation, and with a proper insight into their divinely intended significance. To quote one testimony from the New Testament itself - St. John the evangelist writes, 'And he that hath seen hath borne witness, and his witness is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye also may believe.'[20] Here John declares that his record is 'true' in a twofold way; on the one hand, as a trustworthy account by an eyewitness of events which actually happened; and, on the other hand, as a perfect or 'ideal' interpretation of their divine meaning. Here he also declares that the purpose of such a record is to lead its readers and students, not to an understanding of all the answers to possible scientific or philosophic problems, but to personal saving and life-giving faith in the Person and work of Jesus, whom he desires his readers to acknowledge, and to confide in, as the Christ, the Son of God. Let us then seek thus to appreciate Christian truth, by the aid of the scriptural witness, and praying for the help of the illuminating Spirit.


THE FULL DEITY OF JESUS

The New Testament is explicit and unmistakable in its witness that the Person, who appeared in history as Jesus of Nazareth, was none other than God Himself. He was One who shared essential unity and eternal fellowship with God the Father as the only-begotten Son. In His own absolute being, as the Word, He was eternally God with God; and it is none other than He,

[p.23]

'the true God,' or genuine Deity, who was from the beginning with the Father, of whom John writes, 'we have heard, … we have seen with our eyes, ... we have looked upon, and our hands have handled.' Also, as incarnate, He 'is' (not 'was'), says John, still in the most intimate communion with God - 'in the bosom of the Father.'[21]

Over against influences of thought, both Jewish and Gentile, which tended to suggest that Jesus was only one of many mediating agencies between God and men - whether angels or emanations - the New Testament writers outspokenly assert that He is no mere higher creature or demi-god, but Himself one hundred per cent deity come down to earth as man. He is 'the image of the invisible God',[22] 'the effulgence of his glory, and the very image' (or 'impress') 'of his substance,'[23] what the Nicene Creed describes as 'very God of very God', that is, ' genuine Deity out from genuine Deity,' sharing in full measure as the only-begotten God the Son the nature or substance of God the Father.

The New Testament writers also assert that God the Son, or the Word, is the original agent, the present sustainer, the ultimate heir, and so the sovereign Lord, of the created universe. 'All things were made through him.' Nor is there any exception at all to this general truth. For, apart from Him was not one single thing made that has been made; so St. John writes.[24] Or the writer to the Hebrews declares that it was through His Son that God made the worlds.[25] Similarly St. Paul says 'in him were all things created'; and so He is 'the firstborn' or heir 'of all creation.'[26] Nor is He Himself a creature. For 'before' the 'all things' of the created order came into being, He eternally.'[27] Or, as John the Baptist put it, 'for he was' - 'before me.'[28] So, in contrast to the Asian dogma, which made Him the chief of God's creatures, there never was a time when He was not.

Nor is God the Son only the originating cause of the created universe. He is also its present sustaining cause. He is continually 'upholding all things by the word of his power.'[29] Nor can this activity temporarily have ceased during the period of

[p.24]

His human life on earth. For 'in him all things consist' or 'hold together'.[30] Were He to cease to be, or to cease thus to operate, the whole creation would fall to pieces.

In the third place, God the Son is the predestined heir of all things. The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews significantly mentions this first ('whom he appointed heir of all things') before he refers to His work in making and upholding the created order.[31] This means that, before the universe was created, this was the predetermined purpose of God Himself that God the Son should possess it as His inheritance. Similarly Paul refers to the good pleasure of God's purpose in the fulness of times to 'sum up all things in Christ'[32]; for 'all things were created' not only 'by him', but also 'for him'.[33] So the Son of the Father's love is the indispensable and all-sufficient key to the universe. It is impossible to suppose that He ceased to be this during the days of His flesh.

When, therefore, He, God the Son, became Man, He brought in His Person into humanity nothing less than the fulness - the one hundred per cent - of Deity. Such is the explicit testimony of the New Testament writers. Our Lord Jesus Christ, say James and Peter, John and Paul, is 'the glory' or the visible manifested outshining of Jehovah Himself.[34] What He was eternally as God the Son, He still was historically during His life on earth as Man, - that is, the dwelling-place of the 'pleroma' or fulness of Deity. Far from being deprived of some of His Deity when He became Man, it was 'the good pleasure of the Father' - in direct connection with the discharge on earth 'in the body of his flesh' of His reconciling work - ' that in him should all the fulness dwell.'[35]

In contrast to Gnostic ideas that only some greatly impoverished expression of Deity could have any dealings with this material and evil world, Paul explicitly declares of the incarnate Son that 'in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.'[36] Also, in this immediate context, and in this very connection, Paul warns his readers, 'Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.'[37] Such a warning

[p.25]

may still have pertinent present-day application. Just as some first-century Christians needed to beware of Gnostic theories, so some twentieth-century Christians may need to beware of so-called kenotic theories.

Similarly Paul writes to the Corinthians, not only that 'God reconciled us to himself through Christ', but also that 'God … was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.'[38] So Jesus is without qualification to be acknowledged and worshipped as Himself God.

Further confirmation of this is provided by the testimony and worship of the angels at the time of His human birth. For instance, not only did the angel tell Joseph, 'Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife; for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.' He also said, 'And thou shalt call his name Jesus for he shall save his people from their sins.'[39]) The implication of these words is very remarkable indeed. For the people Jesus was to save were Jehovah's people. Yet the angel did not say of Jesus, as would have been said of any other deliverer, like the Old Testament Joshua, He shall save Jehovah's people. Instead the angel said, and said most emphatically, He shall save His own people. In other words, Jesus is none other than Jehovah Himself come to save His own people. This implied meaning the evangelist clearly recognizes and explicitly underlines by immediately referring to the prophecy of the child to be born of a virgin, whose name was to be called Emmanuel, 'which', he says, 'being interpreted is, God with us.'[40]

Consequently in Jesus nothing less than the character and the authority of God Himself were fully manifested. Of this manifestation Jesus Himself was personally conscious. To it, at times, He bore direct testimony. When Philip said unto Him, 'Lord, shew us the Father,' Jesus answered, 'He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.'[41]) When the scribes reasoned in their hearts, accusing Jesus of blasphemy for claiming to forgive sin, because none can forgive sin but God only, Jesus answered their thoughts by demonstrating that this exclusively divine authority to forgive sin was now present here on earth in His Person as the Son of man.[42] Jesus claims, therefore, to be acknowledged

[p.26]

as the Man from heaven, as God become Man, who thus brings into the midst of humanity the full presence and power of Deity. So, while prophets of old gave supreme sanction to their words by saying 'Thus saith the Lord ',[43] Jesus gave supreme sanction to what He said simply by saying, 'Verily, verily, I say unto you.'[44] So, when He speaks, His words, just because He is their author, have in themselves divine sanction. When, therefore, for instance, He declares of Psalm cx that 'David himself' spoke its words 'in the Holy Spirit',[45] that is for true believers in His Person sufficient evidence concerning its authorship.

Similarly there were occasions when in significant language Jesus openly claimed Himself to be the eternal I AM - Jehovah God. 'Before Abraham was,' He said, 'I am.'[46] And 'except ye believe that I am, ye shall die in your sins.'[47] Thus to confess Jesus to be Himself God, the Son of God, one who fully shares the divine nature and prerogatives, is therefore the crowning and the only complete Christian confession of His Person. To this truth the apostolic writers of the New Testament bear emphatic witness. So, writes John the evangelist, 'The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth…. No man hath seen God at any time; God only begotten, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.'[48] Thus he declares that Jesus Messiah is the complete consummation of the revelation of God in history, because He is Himself 'Son'[49] or 'God only begotten', and as such the very declaration or exegesis of God Himself. No one, therefore, can know the true God who denies the Deity of Jesus. This is the Christian faith. 'Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that confesseth the Son hath the Father also.'[50]


THE TRUE HUMANITY OF JESUS

The Gospel records of the New Testament make abundantly plain that their chief character, Jesus of Nazareth, was a real man, an actual figure of earthly history. This truth is not open

[p.27]

to doubt or to serious question. From the standpoint of the ordinary reader who comes to these records with no preconceived ideas, no so-called religious prejudices, the claim that is difficult to believe is not the claim that Jesus was a man, but rather the claim that this Man was God incarnate. For His appearance on the field of history is not just an abnormal passing theophany. He is not merely a man in superficial appearance only. Nor is He some superhuman spirit temporarily possessing a man other than Himself in order thus to manifest His presence in human deeds and human words. He is clearly Himself completely and naturally Man.

So we read, and there is no reason to doubt, that He was conceived in the womb of a woman, who gave birth to Him as His human mother. He began His earthly life as a dependent infant, needing to be carried and cared for by others. He passed through the stages of normal human growth and development. So Luke records, 'the child grew'[51]; and 'Jesus increased in wisdom and stature' (or 'age').[52] He knew what it was to be weary, to sleep, and to rise early. He experienced hunger, thirst and temptation. He felt pleasure, anger and grief, even unto tears. He needed continually to seek God in prayer. Under extreme mental and spiritual stress His body was overcome with excess of sweat. At the end He died and was buried.

For the mind that is eager to know how things work - an interest so dominant in the present age of great scientific discovery - the problem is not to understand how Jesus functioned as a man; for that seems normal enough. The problem is rather to understand how He could still be functioning as God. Surely to make such a genuine human experience possible, He must have completely abandoned His supernatural divine powers? This is the problem which kenotic theories understandably attempt to answer.

Here Christian reverence, humility and faith prefer to recognize a mystery, which the enquiring human mind cannot thus scientifically penetrate and analyse. Just because it is unique, it is beyond logical definition. It cannot be classified or compared with similar phenomena; for there are none. It is sui generis. Also, because it is from above, a supernatural divine achievement, it is beyond the grasp of man's finite comprehension. Before

[p.28]

this mystery, the superior scientific investigator, looking down on evidence which he is determined to analyse and explain, is forced to become a submissive worshipper, looking up in awe and reverence to acknowledge a mystery far bigger than his mind can grasp, - but an unmistakable fact none the less.

Here, at any rate, men must choose between submissive faith and self-confident conceit. Here men must confess a mystery beyond the grasp of the human mind, or still hold fast to the fancy that the human mind is bigger than this mystery and well able accurately to theorize about it. Here all who would thus bring Jesus under their criticism must ultimately find themselves brought under His judgment. We sometimes do well not to forget that Jesus Himself said, 'For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.'[53]

On this subject of the incarnation of God the Son the New Testament writers do offer some light to those. who are minded thus to be taught of God. When God the Son became Man, it involved a new and special subordination of His Person to God the Father; with the result that He who could say eternally as God, 'I and the Father are one,'[54] could now say on earth as Man, 'the Father is greater than I.'[55] He who, as God the Son, was equal with God the Father, and one with Him in substance or Godhead, in order to become true Man, like other men, took upon Himself the position of a slave or bond-servant in relation to God the Father. He humbled Himself in order to become as Man in all things both dependent upon His Father's giving and obedient to His Father's guiding. This is how, as Paul says, He 'emptied himself'.[56] This is what His 'kenosis' meant.

As Man, the things He had to give were still the things of God, for He Himself was God, the One from above. But He did not, and could not, as Man give to men, or indeed use for Himself, all that was still His as God. He thus gave or used only as the Father allowed Him so to do. This complete dependence upon His Father's giving and guiding He personally recognized as Man, by continually seeking God the Father in prayer, thus to gain fresh light and strength. This complete dependence upon His Father's giving and guiding He openly acknowledged in explicit testimony concerning His own speech and behaviour.

[p.29]

Let us quote some of His statements. 'I can of myself do nothing: as I hear, I judge.'[57] 'As my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.'[58] 'I speak the things which I have seen with my Father.'[59] 'The Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment what I should say, and what I should speak.'[60] 'The things therefore which I speak, even as the Father hath said unto me, so I speak.'[61]

This means, therefore, that, on the one hand, He lived a genuine human life within divinely controlled limits. But it means also, on the other hand, that what He did do and say as Man had the perfection, authority and infallibility of His own divine Person, and of the direct divine giving of His heavenly Father. Indeed He Himself said that if we dissociate ourselves from what He said, if we are ashamed of Him and of His words, He will disown us as His when He comes in His glory.[62]

Finally, while Jesus was unquestionably a real Man, it is important to recognize His radical difference from other men - just because other men are all sinners. For Jesus did not partake of the sinfulness of the human race. He 'did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.'[63] Such is the testimony of an eyewitness of long and detailed experience. Consequently Jesus never repented of sin. While He taught all other men to pray for forgiveness, He never asked forgiveness for Himself. In Jesus, therefore, we see revealed not only full Deity but also perfect humanity. But this perfection of humanity is not man with some age-long deficiency now for the first time made good through the indwelling of Deity. It is rather man as the Creator originally made him and meant him to be, prior to the defilement and depravity due to Adam's fall into sin.


JESUS BORN TO DIE

The assumption by God the Son of our humanity was not by itself alone the answer to man's need. There were first a conflict to be faced, and a price to be paid, before men could be saved. God the Son became Man in order to face this conflict, and pay this price, as Man for men. This is the explicit, reiterated, unmistakable teaching of the New Testament writers.

[p.30]

It is therefore a mistake and a misdirection of faith to look to the incarnation by itself as God's provision for man's need. God incarnate had also and first to die. Jesus as the Saviour of sinners does not share with us men the sinless humanity of which He partook, when He was born of the virgin Mary. He cannot extend and repeat in us the 'incarnation' which was realized in His human life, because our human nature is already defiled, and so defiled that salvation can be achieved only if this old nature is brought to an end in judgment and death, and a new man raised up in us. What, therefore, Jesus shares with men is the redemption He wrought by His death, and the new humanity which was raised up in Him at His resurrection.

We need, therefore, to recognize that the incarnation of God the Son found its purpose and its intended fulfilment in His death. The chief thing that was true of the Son of man was that He must suffer. In the eternal purpose of God He became Man with the cross plainly in view. His advent was related not to a naturally deficient humanity needing completion, but to an unnaturally defiled and an eternally doomed humanity needing redemption. He came not to raise the quality of man's present life by, so to speak, a 'blood transfusion' from His perfect human nature. He came to rescue men from the bondage and the penalty of the evil which had so successfully invaded their lives. This He could do not by 'blood transfusion' but only by 'blood-shedding'; that is, not by sharing with men the flesh and blood of His human nature, but only by sacrificing them in death for men's redemption.

So Jesus said of Himself that 'the Son of man came ... to give his life a ransom for many.'[64] He knew that He had 'a baptism to be baptized with'[65] in order to secure for men the benefit which outward water baptism pledged, namely, remission of sins. Consequently all who are in true faith baptized into Christ are baptized not into a share in His human nature, but into a share in His death and resurrection.[66]

What is more, because of His own sinless character as man Jesus had personally no need or liability to die. He could have gone to the glory of the life beyond by translation. But had He so departed from this world, as He had every right to do, at the time of His transfiguration, His incarnation would have afforded

[p.31]

no salvation for His fellow-men. He knew, and His conversation with Moses and Elijah at the time of His transfiguration explicitly confessed, that, if God's people were to be saved, He must accomplish for them an 'exodus'[67] at Jerusalem. So, from that point onwards, He set His face with fresh concentration of purpose to go to Jerusalem to die.[68] He was fully persuaded that thus and only thus would He fulfil His mission and be fully glorified as the Son of man.[69]

This truth might be confirmed at length by reference to many statements in the New Testament epistles. Let us quote from one passage only. In Hebrews ii. 5-18 we are told that the 'glory and honour' divinely intended for man are now enjoyed by the human 'Jesus'. 'We see Jesus ... crowned with glory and honour.' Not only so; He was thus made perfect as 'the Captain of their salvation'. God's purpose is through His sufferings to bring the 'many' as 'sons unto glory'. To achieve this end God the Son not only became Man, He tasted death. Indeed, He was born as man with this death in view. He was, says this writer, 'made for a little while lower than the angels, … that by the grace of God he should taste death for every man' (R.V. and mg.). And again, since those whom He purposed to save were 'sharers in flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner partook of the same; that through death he might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage' (R.V.).

We cannot, therefore, properly appreciate the divine purpose of the incarnation unless we recognize that Jesus was born of Mary in order to die for sinners. Consequently our theology of the incarnation will only be properly related both to the mind of God and to the needs of men, if it finds its climax and completion - indeed its supreme raison d'être - in our theology of redemption.

If, therefore, it is appropriate - as some do when they say the Nicene Creed - to kneel in wonder and worship at the contemplation of the divine condescension in the incarnation, surely they ought, when they go on to speak of His suffering and death, also to go on to fall prostrate on their faces in excess

[p.32]

of wonder that God incarnate should deliberately stoop to such a depth of shame to save us sinners.


JESUS THE FIRSTBORN OF THE NEW CREATION

If Jesus in His death was the Representative Man bearing in other men's stead the penalty of their sin, then the place to look to see whether this sacrifice has achieved its intended purpose is on its farther side. Did God accept what Jesus had done as sufficient to put away sin? Was Jesus as Man then given by God any reward or consequent benefits which He can now share with men? To these questions the answer of the New Testament writers is overwhelmingly, 'Yes.' For, at the very moment when Jesus died, the symbolic temple veil, which shut sinful men out from God's presence, was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. And on the third day the human body of Jesus was raised and glorified. So the atoning work, which God the Son became Man to do, was clearly finished, accepted, and rewarded; and the benefits are for us men to share. This is the heart of the Christian gospel of salvation.

This means, on the one hand, that there is no longer need or place for any further offering for sin. Christ has already' obtained eternal redemption for us.'[70] It is, therefore, nothing less than a denial of His finished work, and of God's own indications of its sufficiency, as well as an improper human presumption, for men to suggest, however devoutly, that the Church can and ought to continue and to complete Christ's atoning sacrifice.

This means, also, on the other hand, that the new creation, in which we sinners may share, is not found in the manger at Bethlehem, in Jesus born of Mary, but at the empty tomb, and in Jesus risen from the dead. For God 'hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.'[71] We are not commissioned as preachers of the gospel to tell men that because God the Son was born of Mary, there is fulness of life for all who share in His humanity. It is rather part of faithful and exclusive gospel witness to declare that, if Christ be not raised from the dead, our faith is vain, and we are yet in our sins.[72] It is as 'the firstborn from the dead'[73] - not

[p.33]

as the newborn infant in the manger - that Christ is divinely predestined to be 'the firstborn among many brethren.'[74] This is 'the image' to which we, who thus belong to Christ as His brethren, are 'to be conformed.' The life, which He now offers to share with those who believe in Him, is not the flesh-and-blood life of His days on earth, but His risen life as the glorified Man[75] and He does this by His Spirit, which can quicken us as He quickened Him, when He raised Him from the dead.[76] So Paul writes, 'The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.'[77]

The first Adam, we are told, 'begat a son in his own likeness, after his image.'[78] This son was born of his father's flesh and blood. But brethren of Christ, who are predestinated to be conformed to His image, are born not of Christ's flesh and blood, but of His Spirit. In this new order, as Jesus Himself explicitly taught, 'It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing.'[79] There is a sense, of course, in which Christian believers, particularly in their use of the Lord's supper, do still 'eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood'[80]; for it is of the very essence of saving faith to acknowledge that we owe these benefits, which the risen and living Christ makes ours by His Spirit, to the death which He once suffered in His earthly flesh and blood. They are ours to enjoy solely as consequences of His passion. But that does not mean that we partake physically of the actual flesh and blood of His earthly human nature, with which the unforgettable work of our redemption was once for all decisively wrought. Rather such graphic language and symbolism are used to keep us ever mindful of His one finished sacrifice, as the source from which all our present blessings flow.[81]

Also, this new life, which we thus enjoy in the risen and glorified Christ, is the life of the coming age, which lies in its fulness beyond our present life of flesh and blood. This new life will only be fully enjoyed by Christ's people when they are glorified bodily at His second advent. Here and now this new life can be entered into and expressed only, so the New Testament

[p.34]

teaches, if we appreciate and respond to the significance of our justification. We must by faith begin to reckon as true of ourselves, what God already reckons to be true of us in Christ, namely, that we are dead to sin and free to live unto Him; so that we may here and now live accordingly, presenting ourselves unto God, to live unto Him.[82] The truth of our justification, therefore, far from preventing us from enjoying vital participation in the life of Christ, itself points the road to its realized enjoyment by the responsive believer.


LEAVING US AN EXAMPLE

Since some assert that Christ is still continuing His sacrifice, and that Christians, particularly in the Eucharist, are called to share, as members of His Body, the Church, in Christ's present offering of Himself to God, it is important to recognize clearly that what is taught by the New Testament writers is that Christ's sacrifice for sin on the cross was unique, and was then and there brought to a successful completion. What His people are called to do is not to share in its continuance, but to learn from it in principle the pattern for their own discipleship.

When Christ suffered for us, He also left us an example that we should follow in His steps.[83] We are challenged in the New Testament to enter into the spirit of Christ's self-sacrificing devotion both to the will of God and to the service of men. Jesus Himself repeatedly taught His disciples that He expected them to follow Him, and to find a pattern for their own discipleship and devotion in the path He trod of obedience to His Father's will, and of willing, patient, self-denying submission to reproach and suffering, and ultimately to a cross of shame.[84]

So Peter, for instance, in his First Epistle shows by repeated statement how fully he came to accept teaching which at its first hearing was so unacceptable. It is he who explains to believers in Christ, who were exposed to suffering for their faith, that such suffering is in this world part of our Christian calling.[85] Only by being willing to suffer in the flesh can we, on the one hand, have done with sin, and, on the other hand, be faithful to Christ.[86]

[p.35]

So Christians may expect, and ought to desire, to know something of the fellowship of Christ's sufferings. We may in spirit and in principle, like James and John, expect in some measure to drink His cup and to be baptized with His baptism[87] - in other words, to share His lot of rejection and pain, sorrow and woe, in this world. By such devotion to Him, even, if need be, unto death, we ought as 'martyrs' or faithful witnesses to be prepared to prove our loyalty and to give our testimony to our divine Saviour. Indeed, it is those who most share in such suffering and self sacrifice in this life, who will be the best able and the most qualified to share in Christ's glory in the coming day of its full manifestation.[88]

But it is also of even greater importance to make plain that such suffering and self-sacrifice for Christ, and with Christ, are no part of that atoning sacrifice by which the sin of man has been borne and put away. For this Christ did for His people once for all, when He offered up Himself.[89] Such offering of our lives in sacrificial devotion to God ought not therefore to be associated with what is done with the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper. It is wrong to suppose that we ourselves and these sacramental elements may both be offered together to God as an expression of Christ's sacrifice of His body. For in the Supper the bread and wine are not to be offered to God. They are given by the Lord to His people to be eaten and drunk. Also, they speak, not of Christ's present offering of either His heavenly or His mystical body, but of the one past offering on the cross of the flesh and blood of His earthly body, by which our redemption has been fully and finally procured. So, we ought, first of all, to use our partaking of the bread and wine to express outwardly and symbolically our appropriation by faith of the benefits procured for us by Christ's passion. It is such appropriation that is intended to be described by using the vivid metaphorical language of 'eating His flesh and drinking His blood.'

It is, however, possible, on the other hand, once we have first thus acknowledged afresh our complete dependence for every blessing on Christ's one sacrifice of the cross, also to use the

[p.36]

act of partaking of the bread and wine to express our willingness and our determination to be openly associated with Christ crucified, and to share any suffering or shame in which this may involve us. So we may in responsive consecration in this second sense 'drink His cup', desiring thereby to pledge ourselves, whatever the cost, to follow His steps, and to be faithful unto death.


CONCLUSION

The distinctive truth of Christianity concerns the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Christians believe that Jesus is God Himself become Man, and become Man to save mankind. So we wrote at the beginning. So we reiterate at the end.

This monograph will not have been written in vain if it serves to make some who read it aware that we can only hold fast to this distinctive Christian faith, and enjoy its saving and eternal benefits, if in the light of the scriptural revelation, and in opposition to much modern theorization and speculation, which are indulged in in the name of Christian theology, we accept with no compromising qualifications the full Deity of Jesus, and acknowledge without evasive speculation the atoning purpose and the finished character of His sacrificial death.

Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?[90]

Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.[91]


References

[1] A.M. Ramsey, The Resurrection of Christ, Geoffrey Bles, 1946, p. 52.

[2] Our Lord's Use of the Old Testament, 1953, p. 19.

[3] Op. cit., p.19.

[4] Christus Veritas, pp.143 ff.

[5] God was in Christ, p.96.

[6] Op. cit., p.97.

[7] Pro Fide, 4th edition, 1930, p. 584.

[8] Op. cit., pp. 588-590.

[9] The Life of Faith, Nov. 3, 1955, p. 749f.

[10] Op. cit., pp. 590, 591.

[11] Lewis B. Smedes, The Incarnation: Trends in Modern Anglican Thought, p. 82. This valuable critical thesis by an American research student was published at Kampen, Holland in 1953 by J. H. Kok.

[12] E. L. Mascall, The Church of God, p. 17. Cf. Christ, the Christian and the Church, p. iii; L. S. Thornton, Revelation and the Modern World, p. 127.

[13] Smedes, op.cit., p. 115.

[14] Ibid., p. 136f.

[15] Ibid., p. 137f.

[16] L. S. Thornton, The Common Life in the Body of Christ, p. 211.

[17] E. L. Mascall, Christ, the Christian and the Church, p. 77.

[18] Heb. vii. 27, R.V.; cf. Heb. ix. 11, 25, 26, x. 10, 14. See A. M. Stibbs, The Finished Work of Christ, Tyndale Press.

[19] Lewis B. Smedes, op. cit., p. 145.

[20] Jn. xix. 35, R.V.; cf. xx. 30, 31.

[21] See Jn. i. 1, 2, 18 ; I Jn. i. 1, 2, v. 20.

[22] Col. i. 15.

[23] Heb. i. 3, R.V.

[24] See Jn. i. 3 ; cf. verse 10.

[25] Heb. i. 2 ; cf. verses 10-12.

[26] Col. 1. 15, 16.

[27] Col. i. 17.

[28] Jn. i. 30.

[29] Heb. i. 3.

[30] Col. i. 17, R.V. and mg.

[31] Heb. i. 2, 3.

[32] See Eph. i. 9, 10.

[33] Col. i. 16.

[34] See Jas. ii. 1; 1 Pet. iv. 14; Jn. i. 14; 1 Cor. ii. 8; 2 Cor. iii. 18, iv, 6.

[35] Col. i. 19-22, R.V.

[36] Col. ii. 9.

[37] Col. ii. 8.

[38] 2 Cor. v. 18, 19.

[39] Mt. i. 20, 21.

[40] Mt. i. 22, 23.

[41] Jn. xiv. 8, 9.

[42] See Mk. ii. 5-12.

[43] See Amos. i. 3, 6, 9, 11, 13, etc.

[44] See Jn. iii. 3, 5, etc.; cf. Mt. v. 18, 20, 22, 28, 32, 34, 39, 44.

[45] Mk. xii. 36, R.V.

[46] Jn. viii. 58.

[47] Jn. viii. 24, R.V. and mg.

[48] Jn. i. 14, 18, R.V. and mg.

[49] 1 jn. ii. 23, R.V.

[50] Cf. Heb. i. 1, 2.

[51] Lk. ii. 40.

[52] Lk. ii. 52, R.V. and mg.

[53] See Jn. ix. 39-41.

[54] Jn. x. 30, R.V.

[55] Jn. xiv. 28, R.V.

[56] Phil. ii. 7, R.V.; see verses 5-8.

[57] Jn. v. 30, R.V.

[58] Jn. viii. 28.

[59] Jn. viii. 38.

[60] Jn. xii. 49.

[61] Jn. xii. 50, R.V.

[62] See Mk. viii. 38.

[63] 1 Pet. ii. 22.

[64] Mk. x. 45.

[65] Lk. xii. 50.

[66] See Rom. vi. 3-8.

[67] Lk. ix. 28-31.

[68] Lk. ix. 51.

[69] Jn. Xii. 23, 24.

[70] Heb. ix. 12.

[71] 1 Pet. i. 3.

[72] See 1 Cor. xv. 17.

[73] Col. i. 18 ; Rev. i. 5, R.V.

[74] Rom. viii. 29, 30.

[75] See Rom. v. 10; vi. 4, 5, 8, 23.

[76] Rom. viii. 9-11.

[77] 1 Cor. xv. 45.

[78] Gn. v. 3.

[79] Jn. vi. 63.

[80] Jn. vi. 53, see verses 47-58.

[81] See A. M. Stibbs, The Meaning of the Word 'Blood' in Scripture.Tyndale Press, 2nd edition, 1954.

[82] See Rom. vi. 11-13.

[83] See 1 Pet. ii. 21.

[84] See e.g. Mk. viii. 3l-38.

[85] See 1 Pet. ii. 20, 21; iii. 14-17; iv. 12-16.

[86] 1 Pet, iv, 1, 2, 19.

[87] Mk. x. 35-40.

[88] See Rom. viii. 18; 2 Cor. iv. 10, 11, 17; 2 Tim. ii. 12; 1 Pet. iv. 13.

[89] See Heb. vii. 27.

[90] 1 Jn. v. 5.

[91] 1 Tim. i. 15, R.V.

Prepared for the web in February 2005 by Robert I. Bradshaw. Reproduced by kind permission of the copyright holder.


Support this siteAdvert: All Nations Christian College