Christ Himself the Theme
by Inglis Fleming
In reading the Holy Scriptures we may find difficulty in discovering the object of some of the sixty-six parts which form the whole. Let us remember the words of our Lord Jesus, when risen from the dead, and being with His disciples. “Beginning at Moses and all the prophets He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” “All things must be fulfilled,” He said, “which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, CONCERNING ME” (Luke 24:27, 44).
From these words of our Lord we learn that HE, HIMSELF, is the theme of the Word of God. All centres in Him. Let us look then for Christ in the various sections of the Holy writings, in dependence upon the Spirit of God who has indited them for our learning and comfort. As we do this we shall find that Christ is prominent throughout their pages, and that HE is the key to unlock for us the thoughts of God, in all the centuries and dispensations.
Speaking in a general way let me suggest that He is seen,
In PICTURE from Genesis to Esther;
In POETRY from Job to Canticles;
In PROPHECY from Isaiah to Malachi;
In PERSON from Matthew to John;
In PREACHING in the Book of The Acts;
In PRE-EMINENCE in the Epistles;
In POWER in the Book of the Revelation.
Space forbids our giving more than a reference here and there in each section to the wonderful subject. Firstly, then, let us think of Christ IN PICTURE. Beginning with the first man, Adam, we find “a figure of HIM that was to come,” of HIM who is “the Second Man,” “the Last Adam.” All of Adam the first man’s race take character from him when fallen, they are conceived in sin and shapen in iniquity (see Psalm 51:5).
All who are Christ’s—“His own”—take character from Him, the Second Man. There is no other federal Head to follow. Either “in Adam” or “in Christ” is the designation of each one today. “As is Adam the earthy one, such are they also that are earthy ones. And as is (Christ) the Heavenly One such are they also that are heavenly ones.” And as we by nature have borne the image of the earthy one, Adam, so in our new nature as born of God shall we who believe bear the image of the heavenly One, Christ. Glorious the prospect of the latter company!
As lord of creation, Adam bestowed names on all the beasts of the field and fowls of the air. Then in his “deep sleep” Eve was formed of him, to be for him and with him. So Christ is Lord of all, Head of the wide creation, and Head of the church, which is viewed as of Him through His death, for Him and His pleasure now, and with Him soon in His glory for ever.
Abel pictures Christ in His sacrifice as he dies in connection with his offering of the firstlings of his flock. In that offering with the fat thereof (the fat speaking of the hidden energy and perfections of Christ fully displayed at the cross), we may read as it were on a signpost, “To Christ and Calvary.” Faith in Abel answered to the revelation God had given. With Cain it was otherwise. He chose his own way of coming to God and to his offering God had not respect.
Noah presents Christ from another standpoint. He saves those connected with him—his household—and is set up in the position of Governor. In this responsibility he failed to govern himself. In Christ there is no failure (all is perfection there). On the contrary He restored that which He took not away (Ps. 69).
Isaac and Joseph bring our Lord before us as in death and resurrection, and in Joseph’s case as coming forth to be Lord of all.
Then in all the sacrifices under the law, Christ is to be seen in suffering and devotedness, while in the historical books in David and Solomon and others His coming reign and glory is chiefly in view.
He is prominent IN POETRY. Psalms 1, 2, 8, 16, 22, 69, 102 and others present Him vividly before us. His sufferings and the glories to follow being detailed with clearness.
In Proverbs 8 as Wisdom personified, He declares how He delights before His Father, and how His delights are with the sons of men. This led Cowper to sing:
“And couldst Thou be delighted
With creatures such as we,
Who, when we saw Thee, slighted,
And nailed Thee to the tree?
And mystery divine—
The voice that speaks in thunder
Says, ‘Sinner, thou art Mine’.”
In the Canticles He is presented before us as the Bridegroom joying in His Bride and she in Him, who is “the chiefest among ten thousand. . . altogether lovely.” We look for the hour when He will say, “Arise, my love, my fair one and come away.” The marriage of the Lamb lies ahead.
This thought leads us to think of Him IN PROPHECY. In this He is ever in prospect. The prophets “testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory (the glories) that should follow.” In their writings the Holy Spirit dwells upon His being rejected at His first advent and upon His reign at His second advent.
The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy (Rev. 19:10). He is its centre and its circumference.
“To Him,” cries Peter, in the house of Cornelius, “give all the prophets witness.” And, in his epistle, he tells of the prophets searching their own writings to discover, if possible, what “the Spirit of Christ which was in them” signified therein. They were instructed that it was not for themselves that they wrote, but for us, and we know that Christ was their theme.
Honoured indeed are we to live in these days when Christ has come, has suffered, is risen and gone into heaven, but soon is coming again. We stand now between His past sufferings, in the time of His rejection, and His future coming honours in His crowning day and glory. (In our turn we are privileged to testify of Him.)
In wonderful detail that which concerns Him is prophesied of in their writings depicting His pathway of devotedness to God and deliverance for man. Then His rejection by Israel is foretold. Chapter 53 of “Isaiah’s wild measure,” giving it in great detail—the sword awoke against the Shepherd, against the Man who is Jehovah’s fellow (Zech. 13:7).
Finally in glowing words the millennial reign of Christ is depicted and the glorious promise that the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9). Then shall He, the King, reign in righteousness, there shall be one Lord and His name one “for He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high” (Isa 11, 12, 32, 52).
Coming to the New Testament our Lord is seen in the Gospels IN PERSON. His presence and pathway in the world are delineated. The four evangelists form a quartet in sounding aloud His praise. They present Him in varying glories.
As the Messiah, in royal dignity, in Matthew.
As the Minister, in constant service, in Mark.
As the Man in saving grace, in Luke.
As in Majesty, the Eternal Son revealing His Father, in John
The full story of His comeliness in going can never be told. But what is written is “written that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing” we “might have life through His name” (John 20:31). Enough is brought before us in the Gospel pages to fill and to thrill our hearts, and to form us in our goings, for He has left us an example to “follow His steps” (1 Pet. 2:21).
Sufficient facts are presented to give a necessary delineation of our Lord and Master and to be the strengthening food of our souls in the days of our pilgrimage. But may it not be that in the glory, “the hidden manna” (Rev. 2:17) may embrace much that was the food of God, His delight, over and above what we need for our “life and godliness” now. Be that as it may, He is all that we need in our wilderness journeyings and will be enough for our complete contemplation in the “Father’s house on high.”
The voice of the Father was heard at our Lord’s baptism at the beginning of His earthly ministry; and, when on “the holy mount,” at its close. “This is My Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” expressed His unqualified delight in His Son. In these expressions of His delight the Father calls us who believe to have communion with Him in thinking His thoughts after Him concerning the Son of His love. And is it not for this that He has spread before us, by the Holy Spirit, the table of truth, saying, “Eat, O My friends; drink, yea drink abundantly, O beloved” (S. of Sol. 5:1).
In the Book of the Acts our risen Lord is the Subject IN PREACHING. “The preaching of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 16:25) might be placed as a subsidiary title to the book. He is the Beginning and the End in the proclamation of the glad tidings. Peter preaches Him on the day of Pentecost and before the Council in Jerusalem. So Stephen in his masterly apology, Philip in Samaria and on Gaza’s desert way, Paul in Damascus, in Jerusalem, in Antioch, in Philippi, in Athens and everywhere in his faithful ministry. One and all of the servants of God have their tongues loosed and, as the pens of ready writers declare, “the things touching the King.”
And in varying lights He is brought before the gaze of faith.
As “Lord and Christ” He is announced to the astonished men of Israel. They are told that all power is in the hand of the once-despised Jesus of Nazareth, and that He can give repentance and the remission of sins. Fullest authority was His for blessing now and for judgment before long. The Holy Spirit had come from Christ in glory and wonderful works were wrought. The result of that testimony was that three thousand were added to the assembly.
To the Samaritans Philip preached Christ, and many believed and were blessed. Then to the Ethiopian treasurer of Candace, the queen, Philip announced Jesus as the fulfilment of Isaiah 53. The sweet story was received in the love of it and the Ethiopian went on his way rejoicing.
Saul of Tarsus upon His conversion straightway proclaimed that Jesus was “the Son of God.” His Godhead glory was emphasized though His moral beauties and official position were not overlooked.
Throughout the book Christ Himself is shown to be the subject, of the preaching. And so it should be today with all who proclaim the gospel of the grace of God. That gospel is “concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Forgiveness, justification, peace and blessings innumerable are all wrapped up in Him and His atoning work. HE must be proclaimed as the Sun and Centre of all. There is a danger of preaching various blessings instead of presenting the Blesser Himself.
The epistles present Him IN PRE-EMINENCE. He was a humbled Christ. He is a glorified Christ now. No longer is He upon the cross of shame. His work there is completed. God has been glorified in the highest there and has now glorified Him at His own right hand.
The Epistle to the Hebrews which has been termed “The book of the opened heavens,” is occupied especially with the pre-eminence of Christ. Four times over He is spoken of as at the right hand of God (1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2). Universal dominion is His. We see not yet all things put under Him, but it will be effected in due time. Already “we see Jesus . . . crowned with glory and honour.” And yet a little while and He, the coming One, will come and “His own” with Him then will see all heaven and earth honouring Him.
In all things He has the pre-eminence. All glories are His. He is “the Image of the Invisible God.” He is Creator of all things. They were “created by Him and for Him.” “He is before all things.”
“By Him all things consist.” “He is the Head of the body, the church.” He is “the Firstborn from the dead.”
All the fullness of the Godhead dwelt and dwells in Him. The peace of God’s throne is made by His blood. All things in heaven and in earth are to be reconciled by Him. Believers are reconciled and soon to be presented “holy and unblameable and unreproveable” in God’s sight (Col. 1:15-22). These are some of His pre-eminent glories. But “Christ is ALL.”
We who rejoice in His pre-eminence in glory should give Him the pre-eminence in our lives day by day, making everything subject to Him.
In the Book of the Revelation Christ is seen coming IN POWER. “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him” (1:7). “Behold, I come quickly and My reward is with Me.” “Surely, I come quickly” (22:7, 12, 20). These and other passages tell of His sure, swift, speedy return.
As Kings of kings and Lord of lords He will put down all opposing rule and authority. For “He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet.”
In majestic, awe-inspiring words His coming in glory is depicted. “I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns; and He had a name written, that no man knew, but He, Himself. And He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God. And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (19:11-16).
In the day of His power and glory we shall be with Him as we read, “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:4). But now during the time of His rejection we are called to be loyal and true to Him.