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THE CONFESSION OF FAITH ARTICLE III.
OF JESUS CHRIST.
We believe in Jesus Christ; that he is very God and man; that he became incarnate by the power of the Holy Ghost and was born of the Virgin Mary; that he is the Savior and Mediator of the whole human race, if they with full faith accept the grace proffered in Jesus; that this Jesus suffered and died on the cross for us, was buried, rose again on the third day, ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God, to intercede for us; and that he will come again at the last day to judge the living and the dead.
THIS article contains a number of very important doctrines, and should be studied with great care. We have, first, the divinity of Christ; second, the humanity of Christ; third, free grace; fourth, atonement; fifth, the resurrection and ascension of Christ; sixth, Christ our Mediator; seventh, the second coming of Christ; eighth, a future general judgment. The two last will be more fully considered under Article XIII.
THE DIVINITY OF CHRIST.
"We believe in Jesus Christ; that he is very God." This is the uniform belief of all orthodox denominations. The Nicene Creed of A.D. 381 expresses it thus: "God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God." To reject the divinity of Christ is to remove the chief corner stone from the foundation upon which rests the whole superstructure of Christianity. In this article of our Confession this doctrine is affirmed. Do the sacred Scriptures sustain this affirmation?
1. He is represented as having an existence before he was born of the Virgin Mary. John 17:5: "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.”
John 8:58: "Before Abraham was, I am." John 3:13: "He that came down from heaven." John 1:1: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." These and other similar passages teach that Jesus Christ is no creature; that he is no part of creation. He "was in the beginning with God," and "all things were made by him." "Therefore, Jesus, who was before all things, and who made all things, must necessarily be the ETERNAL GOD."
2. The titles ascribed to Christ prove his divinity. In Isaiah 40:3 he is called Jehovah. In Isaiah 9:6 he is called "The mighty God, The everlasting Father." In John 1:1 he is called God -"the Word was God" In Romans 9:5 he is called "over all, God." In I. John 5:20 he is called "the true God." In Revelation 1:8 he is called the "Alpha and Omega, . . the Almighty." There is but one being in the universe entitled to these names, and that one being is God. In these Scriptures they are ascribed to Jesus Christ; therefore Jesus Christ is truly and properly God. Any other conclusion would be a reflection upon the inspiration and integrity of the sacred writers.
3. Attributes ascribed to Christ. We should keep in mind this one great truth: there is but one God, one everlasting Father. Everything in the Bible must be made to harmonize with this central truth. There are attributes or perfections which belong to this one God alone. Now, if these are ascribed to Jesus Christ by divine authority, then Jesus Christ must be God-"very God." Eternity (John 8:58; 17:5; Revelation 1:8). Immutability (Hebrews 1:12; 13:8). Omnipresence (Matthew 18:20; 28: 20). Omnipotence (Matthew 28:18). Omniscience (I. Corinthians 1:24; John 16:30). If the sacred writers intended to teach the divinity of Christ, they could hardly have done so in any more explicit manner; but if they did not intend to teach that doctrine, they were certainly very unfortunate in ascribing attributes to him which they must have known belong only to God.
4. Works ascribed to Christ. If the works ascribed to Christ are such as belong only to God, then Jesus Christ must be God. Creation (John 1: 1-3, 10). Under Article II. we showed, from the plain declaration of scripture, that "God created the heaven and the earth"; but John says that Jesus did it. So Paul says (Colossians 1:16 and Ephesians 3:9). If Jesus created all things, then he must be God. Preservation (Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3). Pardon (Matthew 9:6; Colossians 3: 13). Judgment (Romans 14: 10, 11; II. Timothy 4:1). The works herein ascribed to Jesus Christ are also ascribed to God, thereby teaching that Jesus Christ is God two distinct, but not separate, persons; one indivisible spiritual essence. The Father is God, and the Son is God.
5. Honors ascribed to Christ. To worship any being in the universe but God is idolatry. Jesus said to Satan, "Get thee hence. . . . Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve" (Matthew 4: 10). The angel that appeared to John in Patmos bade him "worship God" (Revelation 19:10). All Christians concede that God, the eternal Father, is the proper object of worship. This is clearly taught in both the Old and New Testaments. Do the Scriptures teach that Jesus Christ is a proper object of worship? "And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him" (Matthew 8:2). "Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him" (Matthew 14:33). "And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him" (Matthew 28:9). "And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy (Luke 24:52). "And let all the angels of God worship him" (Hebrews 1:6). "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive. power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing" (Revelation 5: 12). These and other similar passages teach that Jesus Christ is the object of worship, both by men and angels. If he is not God, then men and angels are idolators.
6. Equality with the Father. Herein is a mystery. God is a spirit, and we cannot comprehend spirit; neither can we comprehend the mode of the divine existence. Jesus Christ is equal with the Father, of the same essence, and yet a distinct person from the Father. He is "the brightness of his [the Father's] glory, and the express image of his person" (Hebrews 1:3). "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God" (Philippians 2:6). "Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God" (John 5:18). "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Colossians 2:9). Our Lord claimed equality with the Father, and the apostles ascribed this honor to him. No created being in heaven or in the earth is equal with the Father, for the creature must forever remain inferior to the Creator. From the plain teaching of the Holy Scriptures we can arrive at but one conclusion, which is that Jesus Christ is truly and properly God.
THE HUMANITY OF CHRIST.
"He is very God and man." "He became incarnate by the power of the Holy Ghost and was born of the Virgin Mary." Dr. Barrow, who is authority on creeds, says: "Born of her. Being born doth not barely denote his nativity, but includes his whole human generation." The Apostles' Creed says he "was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary." The Nicene Creed says he "was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man." He was called the son of David and the seed of Abraham (Matthew 22:42; Romans 1:3; Genesis 22:18). He is declared to be a man (I. Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 3:3; 10: 12). In his life on earth he exhibited all the usual phenomena of a true human being. He grew; was hungry, thirsty; he ate, drank, was weary, slept, wept, suffered, and died,- all of which prove that he was truly and properly man. He was "God manifest in the flesh." "It behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merci
ful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people" (Hebrews 2:17). He was God and man. He could not be an adequate mediator between God and man, if he did not possess both natures -the human and the divine. While we rejoice in the divinity of our Savior, we may also rejoice in his humanity; for if he had not taken upon himself our nature, he could not have died in our stead.
"He is the Savior and Mediator of the whole human race, if they, with full faith, accept the grace proffered in Jesus." By "free grace" is meant "free favor; unmerited kindness"; the "vouchsafement of spiritual blessings to the guilty and the unworthy, through our Lord Jesus Christ." This is a most comforting doctrine, and should draw from every heart the most sincere gratitude, that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man (Hebrews 2:9). The Scriptures abundantly teach that Jesus died for all. He "gave himself a ransom for all" (I. Timothy 2:6; see also Romans 5:1; 8:32). What a message to a lost and ruined world! "Whosoever will, may come and be saved." "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." This is the doctrine taught in this article of the Confession, and always held sacred by the Church.
"Jesus suffered and died on the cross for us." The Hebrew word which is translated "atonement" signifies to cover, or a covering. In theology, the atonement is understood to mean that Jesus Christ was made a sinoffering as a proper substitute for us; that he died for (or instead of) us. First in order, it will be proper to consider whether or not it was necessary that an atonement should be made. In some way or another the dignity, honor, and purity of the moral government must be maintained. God is holy; the law is holy; but man is guilty. The penalty attached to the law is death - death temporal, spiritual, and eternal. How can God be just and pardon the guilty? is a far-reaching question. The