The Two-Fold Titles of Christ.
by Thomas Baird
I. THE DUAL TITLES OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.
THE FIRST AND THE LAST.
GOD has been graciously pleased to dignify Christ with very many precious and highly suggestive names, and every such name is expressive of some distinctive attribute or prerogative of His nature, character, wisdom, power, or glory. But it is to His dual names that we crave your attention and interest in this and succeeding papers. There are seven such significant dual titles recorded in the Sacred Writings, and these we propose to review in consecutive order.
This majestic title—or its equivalent—is seven times used in Holy Scripture, and is applied interchangeably both to God and to Christ. Nothing can more clearly and conclusively establish Christ's equality with God, both in deity, dignity, and eternity. This awe-inspiring title is to be understood and accepted as an irrefutable affirmation of absolute Godhead. Past, present, and eternal infinitude of might and majesty are all comprehended in its magnificent embrace. There are variations of it in Revelation i., such as, "Alpha and Omega"—"The Beginning and the End," but the meaning is always one, and the purpose ever the same. Thus would God display the proper deity, high dignity, and eternal continuity of His beloved Son in terms of complete equality with Himself.
The careful reader of Scripture will have noticed that this title is confined to the books of Isaiah and Revelation. Three times in the former (xli. 4; xliv. 6; xlviii. 12). Four times in the latter (i. 8, 11, 17; xxii. 13). It is the prerogative of the Godhead alone, and expresses the same truth as, "I AM THAT I AM" (Exod. iii. 14). "I continue to be, and will be what I continue to be and will be" (Newberry Margin). The ever was, the ever is, the ever will be. No created intelligence, however holy and exalted, would ever dare to arrogate or appropriate such a superlative title to itself, nor presume to confer it upon another. From everlasting to everlasting, God is God. From everlasting to everlasting, Christ is God. His Son-ship has inherently within itself all the exalted dignities of Godhead, and all the enduring elements of eternity. He was the beginning, and began the beginning (John i. 1-4). He is the end, and will end up the end. All this has been beautifully expressed for us by a spiritually minded believer of a former generation: "The First and the Last. The First, before any, Creation; the Last, in final retribution. The First, because before Him there was no God; the Last, because after Him there can never be another. The First, because by Me are all things; the Last, because to Me are all things. By Me as the Beginning; to Me as unto the End. The First, because I am the cause of the beginning. The End, because I am the end of the end."
"I am the First, I am the Last,
Time centres all in Me;
The Mighty God which was and is,
And evermore shall be."
II. THE DUAL TITLES OF THE SON OF GOD.
THE ROOT AND OFFSPRING OF DAVID.
IN our last meditation on the dual titles of Christ we dwelt particularly upon His title as "The First and the Last," and sought to demonstrate therefrom the eternity of His divine nature and character, and all that in fullest terms of complete equality with God. Under the present title of "Root and Offspring" we propose to demonstrate equally clearly and conclusively the duality of His nature, and will endeavour to prove that Christ as the "Root of David" was David's absolute God and Creator, while as the "Offspring of David", He was David's personal Son and Seed by lineal descent. Rotherham's helpful translation reads thus: "I am the Root and Race of David." Every sincere Christian ought to subscribe heartily and intelligently to the duality of Christ's nature and person. In the profound words of the ancient and inimitable creed we say Christ was "God of the substance of His Father begotten before the worlds, and Man of the substance of His mother born into the world." Christ was all God, and always God. There never was a time when Christ was not God (John i. 1-3). He became Man (John i. 14). He was not always Man. We never read of Him taking "the form of God"; that He always had. But we do read of Him taking "the form of a Servant" (Phil ii. 6, 7). But even when He did condescend to assume human form, His absolute Godhead remained unimpaired, unchanged, unchallenged. His Deity was not converted into flesh, but His immaculate humanity was mysteriously incorporated into His eternal Godhead. In the words of the aforementioned creed, "Christ became Man not by the conversion of His Godhead into flesh, but by taking His Manhood into God." At this point we will now adduce a sevenfold evidence of the duality of His nature and person.
DEITY. . . . . . . HUMANITY.
1. The Root ... and the offspring of ... David. Rev. xxii. 16.
2. Our Lord ... sprang out of Judah. Heb. vii. 14.
3. The Word ... was made Flash. John i. 14.
4. God was manifest in the ... Flesh. 1 Tim. iii. 16.
5. The mighty God. ... The Child born. Isa. ix. 6.
6. The everlasting Father (or Father of the everlasting age. The Son given. Isa. ix. 6.
7. The Son of God with power … The seed of David. Rom. i. 3, 4.
We grant at once that the truth revealed in this wondrous title is entirely contrary to all human thought, human nature, human law, and even human reason, but that which is so utterly obscure and inconceivable to human reason is supremely luminous and reasonable to faith. No earthly parent can beget a child, and at some future time become a child again. No human being can possibly be the parent and the child. The parent is the parent, and the child is the child, having separate entity of being. No tree in nature can be the root and the branch in the same tree at the same time. Root is root, and branch is branch. It is invariably so in nature. But when we come to handle divine things, and consider Christ as the "Root and Offspring of David," we must be prepared to see the natural order of things completely reversed and eclipsed. As God, Christ was David's root, the root out of which He sprang. As Man, Christ was David's shoot, the rod out of the stem of Jesse. In His Godhead, Christ was David's divine Progenitor; in His Manhood, Christ was David's human Progeny. Astounding and reason-baffling mystery! It was on this very subject that Christ so effectually silenced the cavilling Pharisees in the days of His flesh. "What think ye of Christ? Whose Son is He? The Son of David! How then doth David in Spirit call Him Lord? If David then call Him Lord, how is He his Son?" (Matt. xxii. 41-45). Christ was both David's Lord and Son. He was David's Lord because He was God; He was David's Son because He was Man. Profound and inscrutable mystery!
III. THE TWO-FOLD TITLES OF CHRIST.
PRINCE AND SAVIOUR.
HERE we are confronted with a two-fold title, combined with a two-fold office, and accompanied with a two-fold gift, and all these titles, offices, and gifts associated with the exaltation of Christ to God's right hand (Acts v. 31). Here we are introduced to Christ first of all as a Prince. Three times over in the Bible, do we find Him thus designated—Prince of Life (Acts iii. 15), Prince of Peace (Isa. ix. 6), Prince of Kings (Rev. 1. 5).
Secondly He is presented to us in the character of a Saviour. How sweetly suggestive this most precious of all names is! How it thrilled the hearts of those simple shepherds on Bethlehem's plains ages ago, and how it still thrills the hearts of thousands of saved beings to-day! This title is interchangeably applied to God and to Christ. The title Prince, seems to stand in close association with the giving of repentance. "To give repentance." How instructive! As a Prince, He dispenses repentance, and with what prince-like liberality too! Repentance is not a thing that man can work up. It is rather a blessing which Christ sends down. God commands repentance (Acts xvii. 30), Christ gives it (Acts v. 31), and the goodness of God leads to it (Rom. ii. 4). Repentance is no mere human sentiment of sorrow. It is rather a strong, deep, God-given conviction of the overwhelming sinfulness and the destructive deceitfulness of sin.
Likewise, the title Saviour seems to be connected with the "remission of sins." What a boon remission is! All debt remitted. All sin cancelled. All transgression forgiven. Repentance and remission stand together. God has placed them so. Just as night and day are inseparably linked together, so the dark night of conviction and repentance is followed by the bright day of faith and remission. Just as darkness and light constitute one day, so these two diverse conditions produce one case of genuine conversion. To attempt a separation between repentance and remission is to accomplish the destruction of both. "What God hath joined together let not man put asunder."
IV. THE TWO-FOLD TITLES OF CHRIST.
THE APOSTLE AND HIGH PRIEST.
THIS dual title and office is vastly and distinctly different from anything we have hitherto considered. Each title and office has its own peculiar position and importance; but when we discover that each, name is named upon Christ, and that both offices are perfectly united and as perfectly sustained in His one matchless person; it is high time we were in an attitude of reverent, spiritual worship. As Apostle, Christ speaks to us from God; as High Priest, He speaks for us to God. Moses and Aaron shared like offices between them in a former dispensation. Moses was God's apostle to Israel. Every communication from God to the nation came through him. Aaron was God's High Priest for Israel, and every sacrifice had to be presented to God through him. But although these two worthy men had only one title to bear, and one office each to fulfil, alas! alas! How very many sad imperfections and irregularities were manifested in their service. Christ claims both titles, and discharges both offices to the entire satisfaction of God who appointed Him. There is an inexpressible dignity and majesty associated with this two-fold title, and it might tend to deeper edification, if we took it apart, and meditated upon each name and office separately.
I. APOSTLE. Only once in all scripture is Christ thus designated (Heb. iii. 1). God sent Him into the world on a mission with a message. As God's Apostle, Christ speaks to the world on God's behalf. Other prophets had spoken at sundry times and in divers manners, but at last God spoke through His Son (Heb. i. 1, 2). "But last of all, He sent unto them His Son" (Matt. xxi. 37). We must not only admit the doctrine of progressive revelation in the message of God, but we must also assent to the doctrine of progressive dignity in the Messenger. Much was revealed before Christ came—much more was disclosed while He was here. Of Him, as the Apostle of God, it was said, "Never man spake like this Man." They who saw Christ, saw the Father, and they who heard Christ, heard the Father.
II. HIGH PRIEST. Seven separate times over in the Epistle to the Hebrews is Christ dignified with the title of "High Priest." Once is He called a "Great High Priest" (iv. 14), and once a "Merciful and a Faithful High Priest" (ii. 17); so if we place these four words in bold letters by themselves, we obtain a grander conception of Christ's person and power.
I. A HIGH PRIEST.
II. A GREAT PRIEST.
III. A MERCIFUL PRIEST.
IV. A FAITHFUL PRIEST.
In the holy of holies, in the heaven of heavens, He now appears, exercising His priestly functions on behalf of all His people. Other priests were not suffered to continue by reason of death, but Christ's priesthood is eternal. Oh, to consider and know Him better as God's Apostle speaking consciously to our hearts, and to prize Him more highly as our Great High Priest continuously bearing our names in His heart before God.
V. THE TWO-FOLD TITLES OF CHRIST.
OUR SHEPHERD AND BISHOP.
THIS unique dual title occurs in 1 Peter ii. 25, and in its combined form suggests to our minds provision and supervision. Although we are all fairly familiar with the Shepherd aspect of this dual name, the Bishop phase of it is not so frequently employed. In fact this is the only place in Scripture where Christ is designated the "Bishop of the Soul."
Under the name and character of Shepherd, He is continuously before us in Scripture, and conspicuously so in John x., where the laying down of the life of the Good Shepherd is the Spirit's great theme. We are there initiated into three mysterious phases of His death. It is expressly declared there to be:
I. VOLUNTARY. I lay it down of Myself." It is afterwards stated to be:
II. SUBSTITUTIONARY. "I lay down My life for the sheep." It is also declared to be:
III. TEMPORARY. "I lay it down, that I may take it again." Temporary in its duration, but eternal in its effect. Thus He stands before us revealed by God as the GOOD Shepherd—good in death. As the GREAT Shepherd—great in resurrection. As the CHIEF Shepherd—chief in glory.
Now consider Him as Bishop. Although the title is only once employed, that does not imply unimportance. There is no special word used here in the original Greek, as we might have expected, but just the usual word (Episkopos) employed elsewhere to describe the ordinary bishops in the assembly. These bishops, however, were exhorted to blamelessness in life and doctrine, but Christ required no such exhortation, for He ever was and is a blameless Bishop (1 Tim. iii. 2). The bishopric of ordinary bishops was confined to the locality where they lived and laboured, but the bishopric of Christ extends to all the flock of God in every part of the habitable earth.
In conclusion may we not humbly implore God to grant us a deeper experimental knowledge of Christ in this two-fold capacity of Shepherd and Bishop? God gives us credit for having returned to Christ as our Shepherd and Bishop. May we not be thus actually credited with that which is not practically and experimentally true? The Shepherd suggests provision; the Bishop supposes supervision. May we all know more of the supervision, i.e., the oversight of Christ, our great heavenly Bishop.
VI. THE TWO-FOLD TITLES OF CHRIST.
AUTHOR AND FINISHER.
MUCH diversity of judgment exists concerning the exact exposition and application of this beautiful dual title. Translators have variously translated it, and expositors have diversely explained it. Suffice it to say that it is never safe to divorce any portion of Scripture from its immediate context, or to tear any gem of truth from its original, divine setting.
Perhaps it may seem axiomatic to some to say that the eleventh of Hebrews comes before the twelfth of Hebrews, but we say it nevertheless, for the purpose of affirming that there is a high, moral, and sequential connection between the chapters and the persons specified in the chapters.
In chapter xi., we get grains of the fine gold of faith, but, alas! alas! with what a sad admixture of the alloy of flesh and earth. As in the mineral world, men dig deep and crush with rigour, thousands of tons of rock to obtain as many ounces of gold, so in Hebrew xi. God sifts out grains of faith's fine gold out of the lives and labours of the patriarchs and prophets.
But in chapter xii., Christ is presented to us as one huge, whole, perfect nugget of the most choice fine gold of faith, without the slightest admixture of earthy alloy or impurity. Noah had his shameless drunkenness. Abraham exhibited the most restless impatience. Sarah had her incredulous laugh. Isaac displayed the most amazing equivocation. Jacob manifested astonishing cupidity. Moses spake unadvisedly with his lips. Rahab prevaricated. Gideon set up his Ephod. Barak evinced much cowardice. Samson was overthrown of lust. Jephthah uttered rash vows. David was guilty of adultery and murder. Samuel mismanaged his family. And so all through the list, we note some breakdown, some deflection, if not the total eclipse and collapse of faith. But no such flaw or failure was found in Him Who is called the "Author and Finisher of Faith" (Heb. xii. 2).
"I will put my trust in Him" (Heb. ii. 13) was Christ's attitude toward God during the whole of His earthly course. He was the Author and Finisher of the only perfect life of faith that ever was lived in this faithless world. In the lives of the patriarchs and prophets, we see gleams of faith flashing forth fitfully betimes, scintillating athwart the darkness of doubt and distrust, but in Christ Jesus, we have the full-orbed light of faith undimmed, unshadowed, uninterrupted from cradle to cross.
'Tis He Who is thus set before us by God. 'Tis to Him, we are to look as laying aside every weight and the sin that doth so easily "beset us;" we gird our loins for the heavenly race, and, with unfaltering step and unwearying faith, we neither look back nor turn aside until we reach the heavenly goal. Our Forerunner has gone before us (Heb. vi. 20), leaving us an example that we should follow in His steps (1 Pet. ii. 21).
VII. THE TWO-FOLD TITLES OF CHRIST
MASTER AND LORD.
THE last dual title in the present series is "Master and Lord" (John xiii. 13). The disciples called the Lord by this two-fold name, and He said they did well in so doing, and almost immediately and most significantly, He added, "for so I am." Then follows a most remarkable inversion of the title from "Master and Lord" to "Lord and Master," and the change is not without the deepest significance to every thinking mind. "Lord" puts Him in the place of supreme authority, and "Master" ascribes to Him the complete power of control. If Christ be not first known and acknowledged as absolute Lord, then He is not likely to be submitted to and obeyed as paramount Master.
There never was a day when the absolute and supreme Lordship, and the undisputed Masterhood of Christ, required to be more earnestly and affectionately urged upon the people of God. Our day is one of inexpensive and ill-considered profession. Converts are counted by the thousands. People have only to shake hands with some popular evangelist and they are reckoned amongst the redeemed. "Lord, Lord," echoes and re-echoes emptily throughout the long chambers of Christendom. Ejaculations of lip-love resound on every hand. Expressions of lip-loyalty abound, but in the midst of all this realm of profession, stands the sorrowful Son of God with a look of the most inexpressible grief upon His face, saying, "Why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke vi. 46).
Lip-profession without heart subjection is the most solemn and hollow mockery. Protestations of outward loyalty without inward obedience are the most detestable hypocrisy. Add to this the solemn fact that the Lordship of Christ will be confessed by professors in eternity, and that Christ Himself will publicly repudiate any knowledge of them or their profession! Moreover, Judas called Christ "Master," and kissed Him as well, while treachery was burning in his traitorous heart like an unquenchable fire.
There be many to-day who boast of being in the direct line of apostolic succession, but few would care to claim apostolic succession to Judas. Every carnal professor of religion without reality is in the line of Iscariot. As in Paul's day, he was not a Jew who was one outwardly, but who was one inwardly; so in our day; he is not a Christian who is one outwardly, but he is a Christian who is one inwardly (Rom. ii. 28, 29). May God give us to know and show the power of inward Christianity by our unreserved subjection to Christ as our supreme Lord and only Master (Matt, xxiii. 10).