The Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ
Robert F. Wall
The Scriptures Affirm It
The Scriptures call Him God
The Scriptures clearly affirm the Deity of the Lord Jesus in that again and again in the Bible He is called God. Several well known verses can be quoted in relation to His incarnation: "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His Name Emmanuel; which being interpreted is, God with us" (Matt. 1:23). "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:1, 14). "And, without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit" (1 Tim. 3:16). Yet, while we see that Scripture is not silent as to who it was that came into the world, He is presented to us as God in every position which He has and will take as man, not only before the cross, but also after it. To Him in resurrection Thomas could say, "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28). The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, contemplating His glory in heaven, quotes from Psalms 104 and 45: "And of the angels He saith, Who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever." In connection with His second coming we are "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13). In relation to His reigning Isaiah 9:6 tells us: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God."
The Scriptures call Him the Mighty God
While these verses instruct us as to the Deity of the Lord Jesus, do they not also fill our hearts with wonder and praise? The Name of God referred to in Matthew 1:23 is "El"-Emmanuel. This Name of God first occurs in Genesis 14:19 and in Mr. Darby's translation there is a footnote to that verse which reads, "El itself means, The Mighty." In the quotation from Isaiah 9 verse 6 given above we see that this is how El is translated there: "The Mighty God." As we read on in Matthew's Gospel and see "the young child," do we not wonder at the astonishing grace of the Son of God, that He should deign to take up our cause, become flesh and dwell amongst men?
The Scriptures call Him Jehovah
There is a Name of God in the Scriptures that is never used of any but God, and that is the Name Jehovah.1 In Malachi 3:1 Jehovah speaks: "Behold, I will send My messenger, and he shall prepare
1 According to Morrish's New and Concise Bible Dictionary, this Name is derived from havah, 'to exist,' and may be expanded into 'Who is, Who was, and is to come.' God thus reveals Himself in time as the ever-existing One: that is, in Himself eternally, He is always the same. This is also emphasised in the Name 'the Same.'
the way before Me." The Lord Jesus quoted this verse and made it clear that the messenger was John the Baptist. But He also changed the quotation in a way that showed that He Himself is Jehovah: "But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written, Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, which shall prepare Thy way before Thee" (Matt. 11:9-10; Luke 7:26-27).
There is another passage in John 12 which also shows that the Jehovah of the Old Testament is the Jesus of the New. "But though He had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on Him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw His glory, and spake of Him" (John 12:37-41). We know that it was the glory of Jehovah that Isaiah saw, yet here John the Evangelist says that this glory was the glory of the Lord Jesus and that it was about Him that Isaiah was speaking (Isa. 6:1-10).
In Hebrews chapter 1 the writer of that epistle attributes creation to the Son (verse 2) and lower down quotes Psalm 102:25: "And, Thou, Lord (Jehovah), in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of Thine hands." (Heb. 1:10). While the other passages referred to are quite clear, this third reference would lead the most simple believer to the conclusion that Jesus is Jehovah.
The Scriptures call Him "the Same"
One of the characteristics of Jehovah, of God, is that He does not change. In Malachi 3:6 we read, "For I am the Lord (Jehovah), I change not." In the Old Testament this unchanging character of Jehovah is presented under the Name "the Same.2" In Psalm 102 we read, "Of old hast Thou laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the work of Thy hands. They shall perish, but Thou shalt endure; yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a
2There is a helpful chain of references in the J. N. Darby translation, beginning at Deuteronomy 32:39. See also 2 Samuel 7:28, Nehemiah 9:6, 7, Psalm 44:4, Psalm 102:27 and Isaiah 41:4.
vesture shalt Thou change them, and they shall be changed: But Thou art the Same, and Thy years shall have no end" (verses 25-27). In Hebrews 1 these verses are quoted and shown to refer to the Lord Jesus (vv. 10-12). There is a further allusion to this Name later in the epistle where we read, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever" (Heb. 13:8).
The Scriptures call Him Adon
In putting to silence those who sought to "entangle Him in His talk" the Lord quoted Psalm 110:1: "While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose Son is He? They say unto Him, The Son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call Him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand, till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool?" (Matt. 22:41-44). The word translated Lord (bold) is "Adon." It is the same word that is translated Lord in Psalm 45:11, "He is thy Lord; and worship thou Him."3
The Scriptures show that He has the whole nature of God
There are other Scriptures that make it clear that the Lord Jesus has the Nature of God in all its fulness. In Philippians chapter 2 we read of Him "being in the form of God." In his Expository Dictionary of New Testament words Mr. W. E. Vine, quoting another, says of the word translated "form" that "it includes the whole nature and essence of Deity, and is inseparable from them..." In Hebrews 1:3 we read that He is the effulgence of God's glory and the expression of His substance. Some editions of Mr. Darby's translation have a footnote to the word substance: "Clearly 'substance,' 'essential being,' not 'person.' "
Because the Lord Jesus is God, because He has the Nature of God in all its fulness, He is able to manifest and represent God perfectly. For this reason we read that He "is the image of God" (2 Cor. 4:4), and "image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15).
In the previous part of this article we considered the very clear testimony of Scripture to the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. His Godhead glory, both before and after His incarnation, is asserted in the Bible in a manner that refutes all disputation. In this second part of the article we consider some of the Lord's own words which were a very clear claim to deity.
The Lord Jesus Claimed It
The Lord Jesus said He was the I am
The Name Jehovah is the Name under which God entered into relationship with men and especially with Israel (cf. Gen. 1 and 2. See also Ex. 6:3). Two of the most prominent men in the history of that nation were Abraham and Moses. Abraham was the root of promise and Moses was the mediator of the first covenant. The children of Israel naturally looked back to them with pride.
Abraham and Moses were both rather hesitant in their first responses to God's call. Abraham was hindered by natural relationships and Moses was initially a reluctant servant who voiced the difficulties which he foresaw (Acts 7:3-4; Ex. 3:10ff). Among the questions that Moses asked was this one, "Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is His name? What shall I say unto them?" The answer which he received is very well known: "And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you" (Ex. 2:14). The words "I AM" are a translation of one Hebrew word, "Ehyeh." This is derived from the same root as Jehovah and quite clearly emphasises the eternal nature and existence of the One who can so speak. It is an unmistakable assertion of deity.
John's Gospel chapter 8 opens and closes with references to the law of Moses and to Abraham respectively. Both sections, and indeed the chapter and Gospel as a whole, point unequivocally to the deity of Christ. In the first case it is a question of the authority of the law of Moses. The woman taken in adultery is arraigned before the Lord Jesus. If He gave sentence according to the law, where was the grace that came not to condemn the world, but to save it? (John 3:17). If the sentence of the law was not passed, where was the righteousness which it required? More particularly, what right had He to lift the sentence of the law? Was He greater than Moses? Indeed He was and He is. He is Himself the I AM, the eternal God, and as such He was the light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5). His first action was to stoop down and with His finger to write on the ground. This sets forth the fact that it was He who had given to Moses "two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God" (Ex. 31:18). The Lord Jesus was Jehovah the lawgiver. Yet though this was so, He said to the Pharisees, "Him that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her," and again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground. His writing was now the writing of grace (John 1:17). The law, in itself holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good, could effect nothing for our redemption and salvation. It was never intended that it should. Its work was to speak to the conscience and to break down the soul, to show that sin is exceeding sinful. Now the Lawgiver was acting on wholly different principles. He had come in grace to manifest God, and to meet the need which He as the light had shown to exist. Those that followed Him would not walk in darkness like the Pharisees, but would have the light of the divine life which was in Him.
In the later part of the chapter it was the Jews rather than the Pharisees who disputed with Him (vv. 31, 48, 52, 57). At the heart of the dispute was their claim to be the children of Abraham. They were his natural descendants but spiritually speaking they were the children of their father the devil (vv. 37, 39, 44). This was manifested in the murderous hatred they showed towards the Lord Jesus (vv. 37, 40, 44, 59). As the confrontation moved towards its climax He said, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day: and he saw it, and was glad" (v. 56). His final words made His meaning unmistakable, "Before Abraham was, I am" (v. 58). The Jews had asked, "Art Thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? And the prophets are dead: whom makest Thou Thyself?" (v. 53). He was the God of glory who appeared unto their father Abraham (Acts 7:2). He was the Jehovah to whom Abraham reared up his altar between Bethel and Ai (Gen. 12:8). He was the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth, to whom Abraham lifted up his hand (Gen. 14:22). He was the Lord (Adonai) Jehovah, with whom Abraham communed and to whom he submitted (Gen. 15:2, 8). He was the Almighty God who said to Abraham, "walk before Me, and be thou perfect" (Gen. 17:1). He was the God who tried Abraham, requiring that he offer up his only son as a burnt offering (Gen. 22:1-2). He was the Angel of Jehovah who stayed Abraham's hand when he was about to do that very thing. "Whom makest Thou Thyself?" asked the Jews. Well we know that "He made Himself of no reputation" (Phil. 2:7). "He humbled Himself" (Phil. 2:8). He "became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phil. 2:8). This very chapter in John's Gospel tells us of it. "Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am." (v. 28).
The Lord Jesus said He was the Son of God
Jehovah is the prominent Name of God in the Old Testament. Under this Name, God only revealed Himself partially. "And He said, I will make all My goodness pass before thy face, and I will proclaim the name of Jehovah before thee; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy. And He said, Thou canst not see My face; for Man shall not see Me, and live" (Ex. 33:19-20, J.N.D. Trans.). In the New Testament the prominent Name of God is Father (1 Cor. 8:6). Under this Name God has revealed Himself fully and finally. John's Gospel begins with the declaration of this fact: "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him" (John 1:18). It is essentially this revelation which the eternal Word communicates to us (John 1:1-2, 14).
Four times in John 8 the Lord Jesus speaks of "My word" (vv. 31, 37, 43, and 51). He used the same Greek word (logos) as is used for Word in John 1:1, 14. In other words, He set forth in His ministry what He presented in His Person-the revelation of the Father. This is put very clearly in John 8:25: "They said therefore to Him, Who art Thou? And Jesus said to them, Altogether that which I also say to you" (J.N.D. Trans.). Mr Darby has a footnote to "Altogether" which reads, " 'In the principle and universality of what I am;' i.e., His speech presented Himself, being the truth."
The relationship between a human son and father obviously has a beginning. The human son has no existence prior to his conception and the relationship cannot possibly begin before then. This is not at all the thought in connection with the Son (the Lord Jesus) and His Father. It is clear from passages such as John 5:1-18 that the claim of the Lord Jesus to Sonship was a claim to deity. We are told that, hearing His words, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work," the Jews "sought the more to kill Him," just as their response to His later words, "Before Abraham was, I am," was to take "up stones to cast at Him" (John 5:17-18; 8:58-59). Verse 18 of John 5 not only explains why the Jews reacted in that way, but confirms that their understanding of the meaning of His words was correct: "Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him because He had not only broken the Sabbath but had said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God." It is the Holy Spirit who, through John, gives us this commentary on the Lord's words. Such commentary is not peculiar to this place, but a recurring feature of John's Gospel. For other examples see John 2:21; 7:39; 11:13; 12:33; 21:19, 23. The references in John 11:13 and 21:23 are of particular interest in this context: "Howbeit Jesus spake of his (Lazarus') death; but they thought that He had spoken of taking of rest in sleep" (11:13). "Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" (21:23). The misunderstanding of the Lord's words is carefully noted, and the real meaning of them is set forth. In John 5:18 the thoughts of the Jews are not corrected because they had rightly understood the Lord's meaning.
The Lord Jesus said He and His Father are one
In chapter 10 of John's Gospel the Lord says, "I and My Father are one," and once more the Jews "took up stones to stone Him." They knew very well what the Lord was claming. "Many good works have I shewed you from My Father; for which of those works do ye stone Me? The Jews answered Him, saying, For a good work we stone Thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that Thou, being a man, makest Thyself God" (John 10:32-33). The Lord's statement was a clear affirmation of His deity. Not only was He one with the Father in purpose, but one with Him in essence and being. In this the Son and the Father were inseparable: they were one. This was the issue when the Lord Jesus appeared in their council. Adjured by the High Priest to say whether He was the Christ, the Son of the Blessed, His plain response was, "I am" (Mark 14:62. cf. Matt. 26:64; Luke 22:70). As the consequence of His statement He was again accused of blasphemy and condemned to death (Matt. 26:65-66; Mark 14:63-64). Likewise, when He was before Pilate the Jews said, "We have a law, and by our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God" (John 19:7).
In the section we are considering in John 10 the Lord Jesus goes on to speak of Himself as the Sent One of the Father. "Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If He called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of Him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?" (John 10:34-36). The Lord Jesus quoted Psalm 82 verse 6: "I have said, Ye are gods." The word for "gods" in this verse is Elohim, and in the Psalm, as elsewhere, it is used of those who were set to judge in Israel (Psa. 82:6; Ex. 21:6; 22:8, 9, 28). They were God's representatives, responsible to judge for the Lord, in His fear, and to bring the revelation which God had given in His Word to bear on the various cases brought before them (2 Chron. 19:6-7. cf. Isa. 41:23). It is not difficult to see why the Lord Jesus referred to this Scripture in the context of John 10.
The Lord Jesus was in this world as God's representative and He represented the Father perfectly. This He could do because, as we have considered already, He was one with the Father. To Philip He could say, "he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9). It was expressly for this purpose that He was sanctified and sent into the world. He was with the Father from all eternity but as the Sent One He came out from with the Father and came into the world (John 16:28. See the J.N.D. footnote).
The Lord Jesus Showed that He is God
In the previous parts of this article we considered the testimony of Scripture to the deity of the Lord Jesus and some of His own words which were a very clear claim to deity. In this third part we shall consider some of the ways in which the Lord Jesus showed that He is God. Because of the volume of material that could be drawn upon from the Gospels we will limit ourselves to a few of the passages which show His omniscience, omnipotence or omnipresence. These are attributes of deity, and they were attributes manifested by the Lord Jesus when He was here in this world.
(a) His omniscience
The Lord Jesus was "all-knowing." At the end of John 2 we read of some who "believed in His name, when they saw the miracles which He did" (John 2:23). The Scripture goes on to say, "But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for He knew what was in man." An impression had been made on their minds but the work went no deeper. The impression would soon pass away and their last state would be worse than the first. In view of this we find that in the very next chapter (John 3) the Lord emphasised the need of new birth. To Nicodemus the Lord's miracles bore their divinely intended character of signs (John 2:11 etc., J.N.D. Trans.). They led him to seek the Lord Jesus (John 3:2; cf. 6:26). Coming to Him by night he was presented with things which as the teacher of Israel he ought to have known (3:10, J.N.D. Trans.). The Lord's next words present the greatest possible contrast with this ignorance: "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that We do know, and testify that We have seen; and ye receive not Our witness." It is the knowledge and language of deity: the Father in the Son speaking by the Holy Spirit. The leaders of the nation (ye receive not our witness) refused this divine testimony, though Nicodemus evidently did receive it, even though he was "one of themselves" (See John 7:50, J.N.D. Trans.; 19:39).
The Scripture says in connection with the healing of the man with the withered hand in Luke 6, and when the Lord cast out a demon and the Pharisees attributed His power to Beelzebub, that He "knew their thoughts" (Luke 6:8; Matt. 12:25). Not only so, but "He was grieved at the hardness of their hearts" (Mark 2:5; cp. Matt. 12:34). He is the One of whom Job could say, "I know that Thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from Thee" (Job 42:2). The mercy and grace that could meet their need, but which shut out their religious pretension, was insufferable to them. Instead of receiving Him they sought how they might destroy Him (Matt. 12:14; Mark 3:6; 11:18; Luke 19:47). How often they attempted to take Him, but could not do so till the appointed hour came (John 7:30; 7:32; 10:39; 11:57). When it did come, Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, delivered Him up (Matt. 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11; Luke 22:3-6).
We read that the Lord Jesus knew ". from the beginning" who it was that would betray Him (John 6:64; 13:11). What a burden this was to His heart. "Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?" (John 6:70). Yet, though He had this knowledge, it was not till the treachery of Judas was about to be manifested that He spoke to the disciples about it. Their faith would be shaken that one of them could do such a thing and before speaking of His own deep trouble, He first provided for them: "I speak not of you all. I know those whom I have chosen; but that the scripture might be fulfilled, He that eats bread with Me has lifted up his heal against Me. I tell you [it] now before it happens, that when it happens, ye may believe that I am [He]. Having said these things, Jesus was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, Verily, verily, I say to you, that one of you shall deliver Me up" (John 13:18-19, 21, J.N.D. Trans). Is this not the most marvellous grace? He thinks first of the consequences for them, before speaking of the consequences for Himself.
The Lord Jesus went forth from Gethsemane "knowing all things that should come upon Him" (John 18:4). He knew every detail of what He was to suffer, at the hands of the Jews, at the hands of Herod and his men of war, at the hands of Pilate and his soldiers, upon the cross in the first three hours and as forsaken and bearing God's judgment in the second three hours. He was to be "crucified through weakness" (2 Cor. 13:4) but in John 18 we particularly notice His deity. "Jesus therefore, knowing all things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, Whom seek ye? They answered Him, Jesus the Nazaræan. Jesus says to them, I am [He]. And Judas also, who delivered Him up, stood with them. When therefore He said to them, I am [He], they went away backward and fell to the ground." (John 18:4-6, J.N.D. Trans.). He is the I AM. The force that came to take Him was impotent in His presence. His last act while at liberty was to heal Malchus of the wound inflicted by Peter. Having done this He submitted to their will, for while Judas delivered Him into the hands of men, He had come to deliver Himself up to God for us (Matt. 17:22; Mark 9:31; Luke 9:44; Eph. 5:2, 25, J.N.D. Trans.).
At the beginning of John 13 we read that "Jesus knew that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father." (John 13:1). He was returning to the One from whom He had come, the One who had sent Him (John 16:28; 5:23, 38; 7:18). In due course His own would be with Him in the Father's house forever, but it was His desire that they might have part (communion) with Him even while left in this world (John 14:2-3; 13:8). This is only possible if they are clean. How can the necessary cleansing be brought about? John 13 tells us: "Jesus knowing. that He was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside His garments; and took a towel, and girdeth Himself." The Father is God, whose holiness is intrinsic and absolute, and the blood of Christ was shed to meet the claims of that holiness for the believer. If we are defiled in the way we do not require a second application of the blood, but as feeling and confessing what has come in to break communion, we need the cleansing of water. This signifies the testimony of the Word of God to the all-sufficient work of Christ, by which the consciousness of defilement is removed (1 John 1:7-9; John 13:8). Remarkably, we are told in this context that Jesus knew that the "Father had given all things into His hands." (John 13:3). Knowing this, He took the dirty feet of the disciples into those hands and washed them, in order to illustrate His present spiritual service. How great is His love and grace!
The Lord Jesus Showed that He is God
Another attribute of deity is omnipotence-to be all-powerful. The Lord Jesus often exercised His divine power to meet the needs of those who came to Him, but never did so to alleviate His own sorrow and suffering. Moreover, the putting forth of His divine power was often accompanied by tender expressions of His compassionate mercy. On the one hand there was that which manifested His true deity, and on the other that which manifested His real humanity. A hymn-writer has expressed this in the following words:
His glory-not only God's Son,
In manhood He had His full part;
And the union of both joined in one,
Forms the fountain of love in His heart.
(R. Hawker, 1753-1827)
Very early in His ministry the Lord Jesus healed a leper of his leprosy (Matt. 8:2-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-16). This was something which only God could do, as the well-known case of Naaman in the Old Testament shows. The king of Syria had sent him with a letter to the king of Israel, asking the king of Israel to cure him. When the king of Israel read the letter he said, "Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy?" (2 Kings 5:7). The king was utterly confounded by the request made to him, but Elisha, the prophet, was shown what to do by God. Elisha sent his messenger and told Naaman, "Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean" (2 Kings 5:10). The record of these events in Scripture shows us how careful Elisha was that all the glory for what took place should be Jehovah's. He had no personal contact with Naaman prior to his being healed, and afterwards refused the presents that were offered (2 Kings 5:9-10, 15-16). Naaman's response to this refusal was that intended by the prophet: "And Naaman said, Shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules' burden of earth? for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the LORD" (2 Kings 5:17). His response was to be to the God who had cleansed him, rather than to God's servant. In contrast with this spirit, Gehazi pursued Naaman and sought the gifts which Elisha had declined. When he returned to Elisha the solemn sentence was pronounced upon him, "The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow" (2 Kings 5:27).
In the case before us in the synoptic Gospels the leper knew very well that only God could meet his case. Coming to the Lord Jesus he acknowledged His glory in this respect: "And behold, there came a leper and worshipped Him." (Matt. 8:2). By this action he owned the deity of the Lord Jesus, and then spoke of His ability to heal him: "Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean." The faith of the leper was not wanting in this respect, but he did lack confidence as to the Lord's gracious disposition towards him. How wonderfully the Lord answered his petition and that in a manner that cast out all fear! "And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean" (Mark 1:41). His "I will" was sufficient of itself to accomplish the cleansing but there was in addition the touch of His perfect love and grace. Such is the heart of the Lord Jesus. Having been cleansed the man was told to show himself to the priest, and to offer for his cleansing those things which Moses had commanded for a testimony to them (see Lev. 14:1-32). In this way the incontrovertible evidence of who was in their midst would be set before them.
Leprosy is a type of sin in the flesh-of fallen human nature. It renders us unclean and unfit for the presence of God. This nature was dealt with in the cross of Christ. "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh" (Rom. 8:3). Knowing what has thus been accomplished, reckoning in the light of it and yielding ourselves to God, we shall find practical deliverance from the tyranny of this fallen nature (Rom. 6).
The Lord Jesus has dealt with sin in the flesh and also with the sins of believers-the root and fruit of sin. All sins are primarily against God, whoever else may be affected by them. This is shown very clearly in the case of David, in the matter of Bathsheba and Uriah. The wickedness of David was brought home to his conscience by Nathan: "Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in His sight? Thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon" (2 Sam. 12:9). The words of the prophet led David to confess what he had done and Psalm 51 is the record of that confession (see the heading of the Psalm). In verse 4 we read the remarkable words, "Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight." All sins being primarily against God it follows that only God can give eternal forgiveness for them.
It is precisely this point which is brought out in the case of the paralytic man who was brought to the Lord Jesus. Faith overcame every difficulty, even breaking up the roof so as to gain access to the Saviour. Luke gives us additional information about who was present in the house on that occasion: "And it came to pass on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judæa, and Jerusalem: and the power1 of the Lord was present to heal them" (Luke 5:17). Seeing the faith of the paralytic man and of the four who had brought him, the Lord Jesus said to the paralytic: "Child,2 thy sins are forgiven [thee]" (Matt. 9:2, J.N.D. Trans.). These words at once aroused the indignation of the scribes and the Pharisees. "Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (Luke 5:21). How right they were in the latter conclusion, and how wrong in the former! It was Jehovah who was there in their midst! David had written concerning Him: "Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases." (Psa. 103:2-3). "And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts! For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith He to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. And he arose, and
1 dunamiz, from which the English word "dynamite" is derived.
2 The person who was healed was a man (Luke 5:18), but in Matthew and Mark the Lord uses a term of relationship to address him: "Child" (Matt. 9:2; Mark 2:5). This term of relationship proves the personal faith of the man that was healed.
departed to his house" (Matt. 9:4-7). In dealing with the physical disability, the manifestation of the underlying spiritual need, the Lord demonstrated his ability to meet the spiritual need itself. On what basis could He righteously do so? On one basis only-that of His work upon the cross. In this section He speaks of Himself as the Son of man (Matt. 9:6). This is a name He assumes as having no place on earth, not even in Israel (Matt. 8:20). Rejected and crucified by men because of His faithfulness to God, He was forsaken and judged by God because of the place He took in His love for men. "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree." (1 Peter 2:24). "For Christ. hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18).
What ought to be our response to such love? In Luke 7 we read of a woman "which was a sinner." The Lord Jesus said to Simon the Pharisee concerning her, "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven." and to the woman herself He said directly, "Thy sins are forgiven" (Luke 7:47-48). We might have thought she would not dare to enter the house of the Pharisee, but the Lord Jesus was there. He was so attractive to her that the anticipation of their criticism, if it came into her mind at all, could not keep her away. She came to Him with tears of repentance so profuse that she washed His feet with them, and wiped His feet with her (evidently long) hair. She kissed His feet and anointed them with ointment of myrrh (Luke 7:38, J.N.D. Trans.). The Lord Jesus had become the object of her love and she loved Him much (Luke 7:47). This was His assessment. Are these not important lessons for us? How He values our response! There may be hindrances, but if we really love Him shall we not overcome them? If He is our object we shall be kept in peace and be led on in faith. "And they that sat at meat with Him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And He said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace" (Luke 7:49-50).
The Lord Jesus also manifested His omnipotence by giving life to the dead. This is a very clear attribute of deity, for only God can give life. Even Pharoah's "magicians" were brought to the point where they had to admit that this was so. They were able to imitate the first two plagues which the Lord brought upon Egypt, turning the waters of Egypt to blood and bringing the plague of frogs up out of those waters, but in the case of the third plague their enchantments failed. "And the LORD said unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy rod, and smite the dust of the land, that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt. And they did so: for Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod, and smote the dust of the earth, and it became lice. And the magicians did so with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not. Then the magicians said unto Pharoah, This is the finger of God." (Ex. 8:16-19).
In the Gospels we have detailed accounts of the Lord Jesus raising three persons from among the dead. They were, respectively, a girl aged twelve (Matt. 9:18-19, 23-26; Mark 5:21-24, 35-43; Luke 8:40-56), a young man (Luke 7:11-17), and Lazarus (John 11:1-45).
Like the leper whose case we have already considered, Jairus worshipped the Lord Jesus when he approached Him: ". behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped Him." (Matt. 9:18). Jairus sought something which only God could grant and knowing this, he made his request to the Lord Jesus. Luke tells us that "he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying" (Luke 8:42). Mark adds that she was "at the point of death" (Mark 5:23). Matthew, who alone speaks of Jairus worshipping, goes further: "My daughter is even now dead; but come and lay Thy hand upon her, and she shall live." He believed and his faith was sustained by the Lord's own words, even when one came from his house and said, "Thy daughter is dead; trouble not the Master" (Luke 8:49; Mark. 5:35). The Lord Jesus went with him, and entering into the house told the mourners, "Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth." He knew that hers was the sleep of the redeemed, not the death of the lost, and as in the case of Lazarus later, He came to wake her out of that sleep. The unbelieving scorners were excluded, while the father and mother and Peter, James and John remained to witness the miracle. The Lord Jesus took the damsel by the hand, and by His word alone restored her life to her. Luke tells us that He "called, saying, Maid, arise. And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway" (cf. James 2:26).
The raising of Jairus' daughter was a private matter, with only her parents and three chosen disciples present. The raising of the young man in Luke 7 was, in contrast, a very public matter. The Lord Jesus went into the city of Nain, "and many of His disciples went with Him, and much people" (Luke 7:11). As He came to the city gate, the funeral procession passed through it: "behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her" (Luke 7:12). As in the case of Jairus, words of comfort were first spoken-words addressed to faith-before the words of irresistible divine power were uttered. He had compassion on the bereaved mother, "and said unto her, Weep not." Then, touching the bier, He stopped the procession. His mighty words went forth, "Young man, I say unto thee, Arise (Darby gives here, "Youth, I say to thee, Wake up"). And he that was dead sat up. And began to speak."
The raising of Jairus' daughter and the widow of Nain's son took place in cities of Galilee, but the raising of Lazarus took place in Bethany which was "nigh unto Jerusalem" (John 11:18). The Lord Jesus had been refused in Jerusalem in His words (John 8), in His works (John 9), and in His Person (John 10), but the Father gave one final testimony to His beloved Son (John 11:41b-42). Lazarus' sickness was allowed to take its course, and it was not until two days after Mary and Martha had sent to Him that the Lord Jesus went into Judæa again (John 11:3-7). Lazarus had died, but He went to awake him out of sleep-to call him forth from the grave. This was "for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby" (John 11:4. cf. Rom. 1:4). It gave proof of the fact that the Lord Jesus is God. This is the emphasis in John's Gospel, and here John shows us that it was in the power of His own person that the Lord Jesus raised the dead. His words to Martha make this very clear: "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die" (John 11:25-26). This divine, life-giving power being His-power that He was about to put forth-was He untouched by the sorrow of Mary and Martha? The verses which follow show How deeply affected He was, and that in a way that could only be true of God incarnate. "When Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying unto Him, Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled" (John 11:32-33). The Darby translation renders the word "groaned" as "deeply troubled" and adds a footnote which reads in part, "It was the feeling produced by the deep pain caused by seeing the power of death over the human spirit. There was so far indignation that there was deep antagonism to the power of evil and Satan in death." The Lord knew the deep sorrow of the two sisters but His own sorrow was deeper still, for He alone knew what death was and as Man felt everything perfectly. In this context we read the wonderful words, "Jesus wept" (John 11:35). Coming to the grave, again groaning in Himself, He commanded that the stone should be taken away. Martha protested that Lazarus had been dead for four days already, and that the corruption of his body had begun. He answered again with words that tell us of His glory: "Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God" (John 11:39-40). Then, having prayed, He cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth." They were life-giving words, words of power that death could not resist: "And he that was dead came forth." (John 11:43-44).
What was the response of the leaders in Jerusalem to this miracle? "From that day forth they took counsel together for to put Him to death" (John 11:53). Even Lazarus became the object of their hatred: "But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus" (John 12:10-11). Plot as they might, they could only accomplish "the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23). That counsel was "that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad" (John 11:49-52). No one could take His life from Him, but He would lay it down of Himself. "I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." This was His Father's commandment. (John 10:17-18).
A third attribute of deity is omnipresence-to be all-present or present everywhere at the same time. The Gospels show that the Lord Jesus possessed this characteristic as well as the attributes of omniscience and omnipotence.
Nathanael was "of Cana in Galilee" and it was there at a marriage feast that the Lord Jesus turned water of purification into wine (John 21:2; 2:1-11). This miracle looks on to the day when the remnant of Israel will be brought into the blessing and joy of the millennial kingdom under their Messiah. "Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken: neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate; but thou shalt be called Hephzi-bah (meaning, "My delight is in her"), and thy land Beulah (meaning, "Married"): for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married. For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee" (Isa. 62:4-5). "And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call Me Ishi (meaning, "my husband") and shalt call Me no more Baali (meaning, "my Lord." Hosea 2:16).
At the end of John's Gospel chapter 1 Nathanael shows us the character of the remnant which will be brought into this blessing. On the ground of what they are according to the flesh there is only prejudice against Jesus of Nazareth: "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46). Nevertheless, when the Lord Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, He "saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" (John 1:47). Jacob was a crooked man, always seeking to gain by craft what it was God's purpose to give him by grace. In other words, he was a man full of guile. But at the end of God's ways with him the prominent features of Jacob's character were self-judgment, spiritual understanding and worship (Gen. 47:9; 48:8-20; 49:33). The remnant of Israel will be brought to the same end. The divine chastening which they experience will purify them practically, and at the same time manifest their integrity, for in all their trouble they will cling to Jehovah. They will pass through the time of "Jacob's trouble," and afterwards they will "serve the LORD their God, and David their King, whom I will raise up unto them" (Jer. 30:7, 9).
Nathanael was struck by the fact that the Lord Jesus already knew him. He could not understand how this could be, for they had never met before. He therefore asked, "Whence knowest Thou me?" The answer of the Lord Jesus had a profound effect upon him, and we should enquire why this was so: "Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. Nathanael answered and saith unto Him, Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel" (John 1:48-49).
There is a striking parallel with David's experience in Psalm 139. David speaks there of the omniscience (vv. 1-6), and omnipresence (vv. 7-13) of Jehovah. The psalm is not just an exposition of these facts but the expression of David's spiritual exercises as these realities dawned on his soul. All his ways and words and thoughts were known to Jehovah and he felt himself searched out by His presence. If he was troubled by this how could he run away or flee from Jehovah? "Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me." In Nathanael's case there was even more than this for it was the Lord Jesus, the incarnate Word, who manifested these attributes. Being omniscient, He knew Nathanael's heart and so could speak of his guileless character. Being omnipresent, He was there under the fig tree and had seen Nathanael when perhaps he had been entirely alone. What a tremendous impression these revelations made upon Nathanael! Psalm 2 speaks first of Jehovah's King, "Yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of Zion" (v. 6), and next of Jehovah's Son, "I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto Me, Thou are My Son: this day have I begotten Thee" (v. 7). Here Nathanael speaks of the Sonship of Christ before His Kingship. He realised on the one hand that Jesus is Jehovah, and on the other that the personal dignity and glory of the Lord Jesus as Son is greater than all the offices that He fills and lends lustre to them.
"Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? Thou shalt see greater things than these. And He saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man" (vv. 45-51). The godly remnant, delivered by the judgment which falls upon the wicked (Psalm 1), will be brought into blessing when Messiah exercises His earthly rights (Psalm 2). But the reign of the Son of man will involve wider blessing: "What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the Son of man, that Thou visitest Him? For Thou hast made Him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned Him with glory and honour. Thou madest Him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands: Thou hast put all things under His feet" (Psalm 8:4-6). Made "a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death," the Lord Jesus was nevertheless the object of their service when here on earth (Heb. 2:9; Psa. 91:11-12). They were, for example, His attendants in the wilderness after His temptation, and in Gethsemane "there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him" (Matt. 4:11; Luke 22:43). These were not public matters, for in the crises that He faced He was always alone and apart even from the disciples. When made sin upon the cross He was even forsaken by God. But on the basis of the work He accomplished there the Godhead will "reconcile all things to itself. whether the things on the earth or the things in the heavens" (Col. 2:20, J.N.D. Trans.). When He appears in glory the link between heaven and earth will be restored (Hosea 2:21-22). The remnant of Israel, then at the centre of God's administration on the earth, will look up and see the Son of man in heaven. Furthermore, they will see those creatures who so filled them with awe, and which so often in the history of the nation formed a link between the nation and heaven, "ascending and descending upon the Son of man."
In John's Gospel chapter 3 there is further testimony to the deity and omnipresence of the Lord Jesus: "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that We do know, and testify that We have seen; and ye receive not Our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven" (vv. 11-13). The Lord Jesus had been speaking of the necessity of new birth, but Nicodemus, "the teacher of Israel," did not know what the Lord meant (vv. 3-10. See J.N.D. Trans.). He should have understood that this new birth, and the moral change which results from it, is necessary before Israel can enter into the earthly blessing appointed for the nation (Ezek. 36). But if there was ignorance in relation to something as basic as this, something essential even for earthly blessing, how could the Lord Jesus speak freely about the heavenly things which filled His heart and that He had come from the Father to make known? He knew all things, just as the Father and the Holy Spirit knew them. He had come down from heaven and could speak of what was in heaven. And in virtue of the glory of His person He would return to heaven again. Indeed, at that very moment when He was speaking on earth He was "the Son of man which is in heaven." He is God and as such He is present everywhere at the same time. The incarnation did not change this. We can distinguish in Him the attributes of deity and the characteristics of humanity, for both deity and humanity are united in His person and this is emphasised here. The Son of man and the Son of God are the same person. Mark 13 verse 32 makes the same emphasis on the other side: "But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father."
In Matthew 18 verses 15-20 the Lord Jesus spoke about the time when the assembly which He was going to build would actually exist on earth (see Matt. 16:18). Personal difficulties between brethren would arise and the Lord gives instructions about how this situation is to be dealt with. The matter is to be taken up with the brother concerned, by the brother who has been sinned against. There is the possibility that things may be put right and that a normal and happy relationship may once again be enjoyed. Such an outcome would mean there is no need for anyone else to know anything about it. If his brother will not hear him then he is to take one or two others that everything may be established "in the mouth of two or three witnesses" (Matt. 18:16). It is possible that his conscience will be reached by this means, even though it has apparently not been reached in the first instance. If he will still not hear, then they in turn are to bring the matter before the whole assembly. In all these successive steps the objective is to gain the brother, and no other motives are to be at work. If he will not hear the assembly then nothing more can be done to rouse his conscience and to repair the broken relationship. The brother who has been sinned against is to regard the offender "as an heathen man and a publican." This is the more solemn because what is bound on earth by the assembly is bound in heaven. God ratifies the decision of the assembly in the matter. Nevertheless, the possibility of recovery remains. For if these things are eventually brought home to the conscience, so that the brother is truly repentant and broken down in the sense of his sin and self-will, then restoration will follow. In such a case the assembly may loose on earth what it has formerly bound on earth, and God will recognise their act.
This introduces a most important point. The ratification in heaven of assembly decisions made on earth is conditional. In arriving at its decision the assembly is to be marked by real dependence upon the Lord as expressed in the seeking of His help through prayer. The assembly is certainly not able in itself to address such difficulties. In this connection the Lord Jesus says, "For where two or three are gathered together in (or unto) My name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20). This statement is capable of wider application but we do well to consider it in its immediate context.
The Lord Jesus has gone back to heaven but when He comes again Christians will be taken to be with Him. This is what is commonly called the rapture. The believers at Thessalonica were suffering persecution and their distress was greatly increased because they thought the terrible day of the Lord had come (2 Thess 2:2, J.N.D. Trans.). The apostle met their mistake by beseeching them "by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him" (2 Thess. 2:1). In other words, Paul was saying that because the rapture will precede the day of the Lord, the Thessalonian believers (and all other Christians) will already have been caught away from the earth before the day of the Lord comes (1 Thess. 4:13-5:11). However, at the present time the Lord Jesus is in heaven and we are on earth. Until He comes we cannot literally gather together unto Him, but we can gather together unto His Name. His Name sets forth everything that He is and in this connection we may think particularly of His deity, His eternal Sonship and His sinless, holy humanity. Where an assembly is gathered together unto His Name we have the Lord's own words that, "There am I in the midst of them." This involves more than His omnipresence, though if He were not omnipresent it would not be possible, for many may be gathered together unto His Name in different places at the same time. But gathering together in faith with regard to all that He is, seeking only His honour and will, even if only two or three, He will be in the midst to guide and help the assembly. His presence is assured, and the deep and solemn sense of it, but this supposes that He alone is looked to, and that His honour is the paramount consideration in the hearts and minds of those gathered together.
As we consider these things are our hearts not searched out and laid bare before the Lord? Are we not made to feel our own unfaithfulness and lack of love for Him? If we are, may He give us grace to confess it and henceforth to rely on His resources and not our own. As we do so we shall prove His help and richest blessing.