The Person of the Christ
by G.J. Stewart
“The Person of the Christ”
“The Person of the Christ” is the paramount subject of Scripture. It is the rock foundation and the top stone. It is the “all and in all.” Take away the Person of the Christ and you have no truth at all, for all truth, standing as it does in relation to God, can only be known in the light of the Person of “the Christ.” The above scripture speaks of Him in two ways; first, as the Man Christ Jesus, and then, as the Son of the living God.
The chapter brings out first the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. They had before them the greatest sign that God had ever given to man, viz. “Immanuel, God with us.” God had said to King Ahaz of old, “Ask thee a sign either in the depth, or in the height above,” but he would not have the sign, nor be brought into the presence of God. He said, “I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord.” would not have been tempting God to have asked a sign, seeing He had told him to do so; but he would not come near to God. Then God said He would give him the sign, despite the fact of the King’s refusal “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel,” which is, being interpreted, “God with us” (Isa. 7:11-14). And there He stands now—the God-given sign in the presence of these Pharisees, and yet they ask of Him, “Give us a sign from heaven.” Did they really want a sign? No. It was a subterfuge of their unbelief; they, while recognizing in Him undeniable power, were indifferent as to its source and who He was who manifested it. It was in view of that that when He came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” The surmises about Him were various, and all good, so far as mere human opinion went. They recognized in Him a man of power and grace, but they had not divine intelligence to fix who He was, as to the glory of His person. They did not know that everything hung upon the glory of that Man, not on the phenomena of what He did, but on the secret of who He was. The disciples replied to Him, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elias, and others Jeremias or one of the prophets.” Then He said, “Whom say ye that I am?” Peter answers, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Now, first Jesus was the Christ, that is to say He was THE MESSIAH. Peter and all His disciples recognized that. He came as “the minister of the circumcision for the truth of God to confirm the promises made to the fathers” (Rom. 15:8). They had recognized that He had come, as the fulfiller both of promise and of prophecy; but that was only a part of His glory. Jesus, the Son of Man, was the Messiah, a Jewish title, but He was more than that, He was the Son of God, divine.
He had been recognized as Son of God before this chapter 3:17. In many places where the expression “Son of God” is used it means as born on earth, the Son, of the 2nd Psalm: “Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee.” Kings and rulers shall yet own Him thus, whom they rejected when He was here, for as Messiah, Son of God, He introduces the Kingdom; and so Nathanael owns Him, the Son of God, and the King of Israel (John 1:49). Martha, too, recognized Him as the Christ, the Son of God (John 11:27).
Here Peter confesses Him to be “the Christ, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD”: that is God, in contrast to dead idols, is the source of life and power.
Christ, the Son of the living God, is the declared vessel of life and power on earth. Who can overcome that? No one! The Son of the living God is superhuman, divine. On this rock would be established the royal hopes of Israel, in the glory of a kingdom without end (Isa. 26:16; Luke 1:33), while on it also He would build His church, against which the gates of hades would not prevail.
Another thing is this: Peter knew it, not from any superior intelligence in himself, but by the revelation of the Father. “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee.”
Now, flesh and blood means here everything that goes to constitute a man—body, soul, spirit, mind, conscience, heart—everything. Nothing in man could discover that Christ was the Son of the living God. The knowledge of it did not come from that source. Peter spoke from another source altogether. That source was “My Father, which is in heaven.”
If any of us has been able to take up Peter’s confession, and say, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” it is the outcome of the Father’s work in our souls, a revelation from the Father to us. God, the Father, is revealing His Son thus unquestionably. Where should we be if He were not? Is He doing it all through the present time? Yes! That is the subject of the revelation of God to every soul thus confessing Jesus. Do you “thus confess him”? Then it is the Father’s grace that has revealed it to you.
Again, “And I say, I also, unto thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.”
That rock is Christ, the substance of Peter’s confession. Christ is the Rock foundation—the Son of the living God. He said, “I will build.” He was not then building it. He did not begin to build until He had gone down into death, and rising again, had proved that the gates of hades (that is, the power of the grave) had no power over Him. The gates of hades could not prevail against the Son of the living God. Upon that rock the church is built, and hades has no more power over it than over the Builder. It is His building; He is the builder of it.
Many a time the enemy had thought to get the upper hand, and never did he seem more likely to succeed than when Christ was in the grave, with a great stone at the mouth of it, sealed with the Emperor’s seal, and with a Roman guard to guard it. But what were man’s precautions against the power of God?
A mighty angel came down, caring nothing for the Emperor’s seal (which it was death to break) and rolled away the stone, not, indeed, to let Christ out. No, but to let His disciples in to see He was not there. Not even our sins could keep Him in the grave. He rose at the moment appointed. The great stone was rolled away, and the disciples could go in to find the grave was empty, and that great fact was the text of their testimony henceforth. The Emperor’s seal was broken! The guard of the Empire fell back and became as dead men! He that sat in the heavens laughed. Jehovah had them in derision (Ps. 2). Christ was risen, hades’ gates could not detain Him.
Turn to Romans 1:2-3, and there we have it the other way. The argument here is not from Jesus, the Man, to the Son of God, but from the Son of God to the Man Jesus. It is beautiful to see how the Spirit of God approaches this magnificent subject. The gospel of God is concerning His Son. The intervening words are parenthetic. Let me read it to you as it should be: “The gospel of God concerning His Son come (rather, become; cf. John 1:14) of the seed of David according to (the) flesh and marked out Son of God with power according to (the) Spirit of holiness by resurrection of (the) dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Here he begins with God’s Son. The gospel is about God’s Son. Mark, He was God’s Son from eternity—what follows shows that. He became of the Seed of David according to the flesh. Here, God’s Son became Man. He was David’s Son according to the flesh; that is, He was the Messiah, the One who should establish the Kingdom. He was very Man in flesh! Now flesh here is equivalent to flesh and blood. In Hebrews 2, as also in Matthew 16, He was a true, real man; spirit, soul, and body; but as such He was Son of God, divine as well as human.
Now notice the two expressions, “according to flesh” and “according to Spirit.” There is no article! You have them thrown into antithesis in other scriptures also. In Timothy 3:16 we have: “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in flesh, justified in Spirit.” Again in 1 Peter 3:8, “He was put to death in flesh, but quickened (made alive) in Spirit.” In each case “in flesh” and “in Spirit” are characteristic. The Spirit of holiness, that is what characterized Him in His province here on earth so that death had no power over Him; contrariwise He had complete power over death, both as regards Himself and others. Accordingly He was marked out Son of God in power, by resurrection of (the) dead.
The fact that He raised the widow’s son from death at the gate of the city of Nain, and the daughter of the ruler of the Synagogue; that He stood at the grave of Lazarus and said, “Lazarus, come forth,” when he that was dead four days came forth; but above all, His own resurrection declared Him with power to be Son of God by resurrection, Jesus Christ our Lord. Blessed be His name! Paul, arguing as to the gospel of God and that which brings out God’s heart, tells us that He was the Son of God first; made of the seed of David according to the flesh—the Messiah; declared on earth to be Son of God according to the Spirit of holiness; and with power by resurrection from the dead, culminating in His own resurrection, the Son of God in resurrection. That was Jesus Christ our Lord.
John 1:18 tells us He was the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father. This does not mean simply that He was in the bosom of the Father then, it is a participle, not a time tense—who has this character that He is in the bosom of the Father, now come down to declare Him. The only begotten Son declares the Father.
Another scripture in this same chapter, John 1, shows us that He knew all that was in Nathanael’s heart, and He knows all that is in our hearts also. Blessed man! Blessed God! That is the One we have to do with.
A WORD OF WARNING
“Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son” (See 1 John 2:22-25)
There you have a word of warning about this very truth. There are those who deny that He is the Christ. If any man deny that Jesus is the Christ, he is a liar. That was the Jewish form of opposition to the truth. Then there is one coming who will deny the Father and the Son, that is, the relationship of the Father and the Son in the Godhead revealed in Jesus. That is “the antichrist.”
He says also: “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father, but he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.” Deny that He is the Son, and you have not the Father, for if there were no Son to send into the world, there was no Father to send Him. If you acknowledge the Son, you have the Father also.
Then the Apostle says, “Let that abide in you which ye have heard from the beginning.” What is that? The true Deity and the true humanity of Jesus Christ. If that abides in you ye shall abide in the Son and in the Father, and with this is connected the subjective knowledge of eternal life known in the soul of him who abides in this truth.
1 John 4:1-6 shows there are wicked spirits, false prophets gone out into the world who deny “Jesus Christ come in flesh,” i.e., they deny the person of Jesus, who He is. They deny that He who was here in flesh was truly a divine person—they deny the Godhead of Jesus. “The mystery of godliness is a great one.” The first man is under judgment and a new Man is come. It is not possible to say of Him, He was a man apart from Godhead, or that He was God apart from manhood. The two things go together in Him henceforth. He took upon Him the body prepared for Him, and Godhead and manhood were inseparably united in that blessed Person. This is the mystery of godliness, which no man can fully comprehend (Matt. 11:27). Let none inquire: How?
One other verse: “Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of the Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of the Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son (2 John 9). “The Christ,” now, compasses the Man Christ Jesus, and the Son of the Father; so that, if a man does not abide in the doctrine of the Christ, he hath not God, doesn’t know anything truly about God at all. But if he does abide in the doctrine of the Christ, he has both the Father and the Son. Just a word about whosoever transgresseth, that is, whosoever goeth beyond. If a man goes beyond a certain thing, he transgresseth. What does he go beyond here? The Word of God about Christ. He does as the Gnostics did. They said Christianity was a very good thing initiatively, but it wanted to be developed by the mind of man, in order to make a good system of it. That is going beyond. What is it going beyond? The Word of God. Beware! The next two verses put it upon our consciences to see if our hearts are in allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ. “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God-speed, for he that biddeth him God-speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”
The Man Christ Jesus.
“For God is One, and the Mediator between God and man One (the) Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:5-6, N.Tr.).
God is One, that is how it reads. A wonderfully blessed truth. The Jew was called out in order to maintain this truth. And the Lord gave emphasis to it when He quoted from Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord” (Mark 1:29). This was for Israel, but to us also “there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him.” That then is the eternal truth which is to be maintained everywhere, and at all times.
But there is something else: the Mediator between God and men is one.
Only one Mediator between God and men, One who can arrange matters between God and men. Then by inference He who can do this is both God and Man; for He must be God to know what God’s claims are, to plumb the profound depths of the divine nature, and to measure the greatness of His justice. He could have nothing to say to God unless He were God. No creature dare raise his head and stand up before God in such a matter as this. The One who fulfils this mission is God the Son. Men of the twentieth century are crying out for another Christ, as they did of old, and they will get one. But not God’s Christ. The Christ that they will welcome and follow is the antichrist, whose doom they shall share.
The Mediator between God and men must be Man also if He is going to mediate for men. He must be equal with man as with God, not in the condition into which man had fallen, or He would need a mediator on His own behalf, but He must be true Man. The Mediator is not the Messiah of the Jews only, for not the Jews alone are in question now, but the Gentiles also, for when the one God is fully revealed, He is shown to be a Saviour-God, willing that all should come to the knowledge of the truth. It is God and men, and this Mediator must be God on the one hand, and Man on the other. The Mediator is the Man Christ Jesus. He is the Son in the Godhead, seated upon the throne of God, and no creature ever sat there. But what joy to us who believe to know that He is Man as truly as He is God. One who came down to taste of death in full judgment, not to insist upon the terrors of the law being driven home to man and man cast into hell, but who came in love to bear his iniquities and be delivered for his offences in order to deliver him from hell. He spent a life of lowliness here in order to instruct men in what God was; invested even here with all the faithful mercies of David. This was seen in that merciful holiness which recognized the claim that the creature had upon a God of love. The leper said “Lord, if Thou wilt Thou canst make me clean.” He said, Thou hast a claim upon Me, “I will, be thou clean.” And the Syrophenician, when she cried unto Him, was not refused. He recognized the claim of the fallen creature upon a God of infinite love. This was the Man Christ Jesus. But something more was necessary before He could be the Mediator between God and men. What is that? He must be Surety too. You get that worked out in Hebrews. He is not only the Mediator but the Surety of the new Covenant. The Surety is the One upon whom all pains and penalties fail, and so here, “The Man Christ Jesus gave Himself a ransom for all.” As Surety, He paid the full penalty. He gave Himself a ransom. He redeemed us from the power of death. He went down into death and rose again from the dead, the ransom for all, to be testified in due time. Then, are all men saved? No, but the testimony goes out to all men and Paul was teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. The Son without diminishing the glory of His person, has taken up true Manhood into indissoluble unity with Himself.
Just another scripture: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood (and here the term is really blood and flesh) He also Himself likewise took part of the same (Heb. 2:14). Who was it that took part in blood and flesh? It was the Person described in the previous chapter: the eternal Logos, the Son of God. Because the children inherited blood and flesh, He also Himself took part in it. He did not inherit it. He was born of a woman, but He was that holy thing that was born of a woman, and although what He took was blood and flesh and all that it involves, yet it was not in the condition in which we inherit it. Flesh and blood may be in one of three conditions. It may be innocent, sinful, or holy. Adam was created innocent; as fallen he begat a son in his own likeness, sinful. It is this condition that we have all inherited, but the condition in which Christ took blood and flesh upon Him was holy. As the Angel announced to Mary, “The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest overshadow thee, wherefore the holy thing also which shall be born shall be called Son of God” (Luke 1:35, N.T.). Hebrews 2:17 tells us, “Therefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren.” When Jesus took upon Him blood and flesh, He took upon Him spirit, soul, and body. Without them He is not perfect Man. But more than that, it was He who was from eternity who did this, for He said, “Lo, I come, a body hast Thou prepared Me,” and He took that body. His perfection as Man was an absolute necessity for the accomplishment of God’s purpose.
Another expression in chapter 4:17 is this: “He was tempted in all things like unto His brethren, sin apart.” There was no sin in His temptations, but there were temptations for every part of the man—temptations for the spirit, soul, and body, otherwise He was not tempted in all things as we are. It may be that the term “blood and flesh” is in order to show the reality of His Manhood, to put emphasis upon the fact that by His blood He redeemed His people. In Leviticus 17:11 it says: “The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” The soul is the seat of responsibility and personality. Isaiah 53:10-12 also says, “when Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin . . . He shall see of the travail of His soul”; and “He. . . poured out His soul unto death.”
Now beware of denials! All truth is denied by the great enemy of God and man; but nothing has been so minutely dissected, and point by point denied, as the doctrine of the Christ. If you deny His Godhead, you have no Christ. The Arians did that. Nor have you any Christ if you deny His Sonship. Nor if you deny His eternal Being as the Logos. Neither if you deny that He had a real body, as the Gnostics did. They said He could not have taken upon Him a material body, because matter is evil; it was only an apparition. The Monophysites said that He had not a true human soul, that the Deity superseded the human soul; He was a man with body and spirit, but the Godhead formed the soul. But it is reserved for our day for some to deny that the Lord Jesus Christ had a true human spirit, saying in effect that the Deity superseded His human spirit. But all these are attacks upon the glory of the Person of Christ, the truth as to whom we must hold inviolate and in its entirety. If you deny His true human body, soul, or spirit, or the impeccability of His human nature, you have no Christ. See how necessary it is to accept and hold to all the truth about the Person of the Christ, not as mere dogma, but as that upon which all our blessing and the glory of God depends.
The doctrine of the Christ is not a simple thing to flesh and blood, though simple to those who have faith. Jesus Christ has come in flesh, the Son of God, the Man Christ Jesus, the One divine Person in whom is Godhead and Manhood. One or two scriptures will serve to illustrate. “What and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before.” Let us not say, “Oh, He was not there before.” That Person was there. “No man hath ascended up into heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven.” The incomprehensible mystery of His Person is here. Again, “The bread of God is He which came down from heaven to give life to the world.” “Great is the mystery of godliness.” The man who wants, by his human intelligence, to discover the how of the matter, is not a man of faith at all. What you learn by intelligence, you don’t know by faith; but, “By faith we understand!”
May God grant that our hearts may bow and adore before the glory of the blessed Person of the Christ of God.