Christ and His Righteousness
Part 1 of 3
In the first verse of the third chapter of Hebrews we have an exhortation which comprehends all the injunctions given to the Christian. It is this: Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus. To do this as the Bible enjoins, to consider Christ continually and intelligently, just as He is, will transform one into a perfect Christian, for by beholding we become changed.
Ministers of the gospel have an inspired warrant for keeping the theme, Christ, continually before the people and directing the attention of the people to Him alone. Paul said to the Corinthians, I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2), and there is no reason to suppose that his preaching to the Corinthians was different in any respect from his preaching elsewhere. Indeed, he tells us that when God revealed His Son in him, it was that he might preach Him among the heathen (Gal. 1:15, 16), and his joy was that to him grace had been given to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. Eph. 3:8.
But the fact that the apostles made Christ the burden of all their preaching is not our sole warrant for magnifying Him. His name is the only name under heaven given among men whereby we can be saved. Acts 4:12. Christ Himself declared that no man can come unto the Father but by Him. John 14:6. To Nicodemus He said, And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:14, 15.
This lifting up of Jesus, while it has primary reference to His crucifixion, embraces more than the mere historical fact; it means that Christ must be lifted up by all who believe in Him, as the crucified Redeemer, whose grace and glory are sufficient to supply the world’s greatest need; it means that He should be lifted up in all His exceeding loveliness and power as God with us, that His Divine attractiveness may thus draw all unto Him. See John 12:32.
The exhortation to consider Jesus and also the reason therefore, are given in Heb. 12:1-3: Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. It is only by constantly and prayerfully considering Jesus as He is revealed in the Bible that we can keep from becoming weary in well-doing and from fainting by the way.
Again, we should consider Jesus because in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Col. 2:3. Whoever lacks wisdom is directed to ask of God, who gives to all men liberally and upbraids not, and the promise is that it shall be given him, but the desired wisdom can be obtained only in Christ. The wisdom which does not proceed from Christ and which does not as a consequence lead to Him is only foolishness, for God, as the Source of all things, is the Author of wisdom; ignorance of God is the worst sort of foolishness (see Rom. 1:21, 22) and all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in Christ, so that he who has only the wisdom of this world knows, in reality, nothing. And since all power in heaven and in earth is given to Christ, the apostle Paul declares Christ to be the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Cor. 1:24.
There is one text, however, which briefly sums up all that Christ is to man and gives the most comprehensive reason for considering Him. It is this: But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. 1 Cor. 1:30. We are ignorant, wicked lost. Christ is to us wisdom, righteousness, redemption. What a range! From ignorance and sin to righteousness and redemption. Man’s highest aspiration or need cannot reach outside the bounds of what Christ is to us and what He alone is to us. Sufficient reason this why the eyes of all should be fixed upon Him.
How Shall We Consider Christ?
But how should we consider Christ? Just as He has revealed Himself to the world, according to the witness which He bore concerning Himself. In that marvelous discourse recorded in the fifth chapter of John, Jesus said, For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom He will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son; that all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father which hath sent Him. Verses 21-23.
To Christ is committed the highest prerogative, that of judging. He must receive the same honor that is due to God and for the reason that He is God. The beloved disciple bears this witness, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1. That this Divine Word is none other than Jesus Christ is shown by verse 14: And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth.
The Word was in the beginning. The mind of man cannot grasp the ages that are spanned in this phrase. It is not given to men to know when or how the Son was begotten; but we know that he was the Divine Word, not simply before He came to this earth to die, but even before the world was created. Just before His crucifixion He prayed, And now, O Father, glorify thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was. John 17:5. And more than seven hundred years before His first advent, His coming was thus foretold by the word of inspiration: But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from the days of eternity. Micah 5:2, margin. We know that Christ proceeded forth and came from God (John 8:42), but it was so far back in the ages of eternity as to be far beyond the grasp of the mind of man.
Is Christ God?
In many places in the Bible Christ is called God. The Psalmist says, The mighty God, even the Lord [Jehovah], hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined. Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence; a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about Him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people. Gather My saints together unto Me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice. And the heavens shall declare His righteousness; for God is judge Himself. Ps. 50:1-6.
That this passage has reference to Christ may be known 1) by the fact already learned, that all judgment is committed to the Son, and 2) by the fact that it is at the second coming of Christ that He sends His angels to gather together His elect from the four winds. Matt. 24:31. Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence. No. For when the Lord Himself descends from heaven, it will be with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God. 1 Thess. 4:16. This shout will be the voice of the Son of God, which will be heard by all that are in their graves and which will cause them to come forth. John 5:28, 29. With the living righteous they will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, ever more to be with Him, and this will constitute our gathering together unto Him. 2 Thess. 2:1. Compare Ps. 50:5; Matt. 24:31, and 1 Thess. 4:16.
A fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about Him for when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, it will be in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thess. 1:8. So we know that Ps. 50:1-6 is a vivid description of the second coming of Christ for the salvation of His people. When He comes it will be as the mighty God. Compare Habakkuk 3.
This is one of His rightful titles. Long before Christ’s first advent, the prophet Isaiah spoke these words of comfort to Israel, 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, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Isa. 9:6.
These are not simply the words of Isaiah; they are the words of the Spirit of God. God has, in direct address to the Son, called Him by the same title. In Ps. 45:6 we read these words, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever; the scepter of Thy kingdom is a right scepter. The casual reader might take this to be simply the Psalmist’s ascription of praise to God, but when we turn to the New Testament, we find that it is much more. We find that God the Father is the speaker and that He is addressing the Son, calling Him God. See Heb. 1:1- 8.
This name was not given to Christ in consequence of some great achievement, but it is His by right of inheritance. Speaking of the power and greatness of Christ, the writer to the Hebrews says that He is made so much better than the angels, because He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. Heb. 1:4. A son always rightfully takes the name of the father; and Christ, as the only begotten Son of God, has rightfully the same name. A son, also, is, to a greater or less degree, a reproduction of the father; he has to some extent the features and personal characteristics of his father; not perfectly, because there is no perfect reproduction among mankind. But there is no imperfection in God, or in any of His works, and so Christ is the express image of the Father’s person. Heb. 1:3. As the Son of the self- existent God, He has by nature all the attributes of Deity.
It is true that there are many sons of God, but Christ is the only begotten Son of God, and therefore the Son of God in a sense in which no other being ever was or ever can be. The angels are sons of God, as was Adam (Job 38:7; Luke 3:38), by creation; Christians are the sons of God by adoption (Rom. 8:14, 15), but Christ is the Son of God by birth. The writer to the Hebrews further shows that the position of the Son of God is not one to which Christ has been elevated but that it is one which He has by right. He says that Moses was faithful in all the house of God, as a servant, but Christ as a Son over His own house. Heb. 3:6. And he also states that Christ is the Builder of the house. Verse 3. It is He that builds the temple of the Lord and bears the glory. Zech. 6:12, 13.
Christ Himself taught in the most emphatic manner that He is God. When the young man came and asked, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? Jesus, before replying to the direct question, said, Why callest thou Me good? There is none good but One, that is, God. Mark 10:17, 18. What did Jesus mean by these words? Did He mean to disclaim the epithet as applied to Himself? Did He mean to intimate that He was not absolutely good? Was it a modest depreciation of Himself? By no means, for Christ was absolutely good. To the Jews, who were continually watching to detect in Him some failing of which they might accuse Him, He boldly said, Which of you convinceth me of sin? John 8:46. In the whole Jewish nation not a man could be found who had ever seen Him do a thing or heard Him utter a word that had even the semblance of evil, and those who were determined to condemn Him could do it only by hiring false witnesses against Him. Peter says that He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth. 1 Peter 2:22. Paul says that He knew no sin. 2 Cor. 5:21. The Psalmist says, He is my Rock and there is no unrighteousness in Him. Ps. 92:15. And John says, Ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins, and in him is no sin. 1 John 3:5. Christ cannot deny Himself, therefore He could not say that He was not good. He is and was absolutely good, the perfection of goodness. And since there is none good but God, and Christ is good, it follows that Christ is God and that this is what He meant to teach the young man.
It was this that He taught the disciples. When Philip said to Jesus, Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us, Jesus said to him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? John 14:8, 9. This is as emphatic as when He said, I and my Father are one. John 10:30. So truly was Christ God, even when here among men, that when asked to exhibit the Father He could say, Behold Me. And this brings to mind the statement that when the Father brought the First-begotten into the world, He said, And let all the angels of God worship Him. Heb. 1:6. It was not simply when Christ was sharing the glory of the Father before the world was that He was entitled to homage, but when He came a Babe in Bethlehem, even then all the angels of God were commanded to adore Him.
The Jews did not misunderstand Christ’s teaching concerning Himself. When He declared that He was one with the Father, the Jews took up stones to stone Him, and when He asked them for which of His good works they sought to stone Him, they replied, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. John 10:33. If He had been what they regarded Him, a mere man, His words would indeed have been blasphemy, but He was God.
The object of Christ in coming to earth was to reveal God to men so that they might come to Him. Thus the apostle Paul says that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself (2 Cor. 5:19), and in John we read that the Word, which was God, was made flesh. John 1:1,14. In the same connection it is stated, No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him (or made Him known). John 1:18.
Note the expression, the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father. He has His abode there, and He is there as a part of the Godhead, as surely when on earth as when in heaven. The use of the present tense implies continued existence. It presents the same idea that is contained in the statement of Jesus to the Jews (John 8:58), Before Abraham was, I am. And this again shows His identity with the One who appeared to Moses in the burning bush, who declared His name to be I AM THAT I AM.
And, finally, we have the inspired words of the apostle Paul concerning Jesus Christ, that it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell. Col. 1:19. What this fullness is which dwells in Christ, we learn from the next chapter, where we are told that in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. Col. 2:9. This is most absolute and unequivocal testimony to the fact that Christ possesses by nature all the attributes of Divinity. The fact of the Divinity of Christ will also appear very distinctly as we proceed to consider:
Christ As Creator
Immediately following the oft-quoted text which says that Christ, the Word, is God, we read that all things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. John 1:3. Comment cannot make this statement any clearer than it is, therefore we pass to the words of Heb. 1:1-4, God…hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high; being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
Still more emphatic than this are the words of the apostle Paul to the Colosians. Speaking of Christ as the One through whom we have redemption, he describes Him as the One who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature; for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him; and he is before all things, and by him all things consist. Col. 1:15-17.
This wonderful text should be carefully studied and often contemplated. It leaves not a thing in the universe that Christ did not create. He made everything in heaven and everything on earth. He made everything that can be seen and everything that cannot be seen–the thrones and dominions and the principalities and the powers in heaven, all depend upon Him for existence. And as He is before all things and their Creator, so by him do all things consist or hold together. This is equivalent to what is said in Heb. 1:3, that He upholds all things by the word of His power. It was by a word that the heavens were made, and that same word holds them in their place and preserves them from destruction.
We cannot possibly omit in this connection Isa. 40:25, 26: To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number; he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth. Or, as the Jewish translation more forcibly renders it, from him, who is great in might, and strong in power, not one escapeth. That Christ is the Holy One who thus calls the host of heaven by name and holds them in their place is evident from other portions of the same chapter. He is the One before whom it was said, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. He is the One who comes with a strong hand, having His reward with Him; the One who, like a shepherd, feeds His flock, carrying the lambs in His bosom.
One more statement concerning Christ as Creator must suffice. It is the testimony of the Father Himself. In the first chapter of Hebrews, we read that God has spoken to us by His Son; that He said of Him, Let all the angels of God worship him that of the angels He saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire, but that He says to the Son, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Thy kingdom. And God says further, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of thine hands. Heb. 1:8-10. Here we find the Father addressing the Son as God, and saying to Him, Thou hast laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Thy hands. When the Father Himself gives this honor to the Son, what is man, that he should withhold it? With this we may well leave the direct testimony concerning the Divinity of Christ and the fact that He is the Creator of all things.
A word of caution may be necessary here. Let no one imagine that we would exalt Christ at the expense of the Father or would ignore the Father. That cannot be, for their interests are one. We honor the Father in honoring the Son. We are mindful of Paul’s words, that to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him (1 Cor. 8:6); just as we have already quoted, that it was by Him that God made the worlds. All things proceed ultimately from God, the Father; even Christ Himself proceeded and came forth from the Father, but it has pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell, and that He should be the direct, immediate Agent in every act of creation. Our object in this investigation is to set forth Christ’s rightful position of equality with the Father, in order that His power to redeem may be the better appreciated.
Is Christ a Created Being?
Before passing to some of the practical lessons that are to be learned from these truths, we must dwell for a few moments upon an opinion that is honestly held by many who would not for any consideration willingly dishonor Christ, but who, through that opinion, do actually deny His Divinity. It is the idea that Christ is a created being, who, through the good pleasure of God, was elevated to His present lofty position. No one who holds this view can possibly have any just conception of the exalted position which Christ really occupies.
The view in question is built upon a misconception of a single text, Rev. 3:14: And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God. This is wrongly interpreted to mean that Christ is the first being that God created–that God’s work of creation began with Him. But this view antagonizes the scripture which declares that Christ Himself created all things. To say that God began His work of creation by creating Christ is to leave Christ entirely out of the work of creation.
The word rendered beginning is arche, meaning, as well, head or chief. It occurs in the name of the Greek ruler, Archon, in archbishop and the word archangel. Take this last word. Christ is the archangel. See Jude 9; 1 Thess. 4:16; John 5:28, 29; Dan. 10:21. This does not mean that He is the first of the angels, for He is not an angel but is above them. Heb. 1:4. It means that He is the chief or prince of the angels, just as an archbishop is the head of the bishops. Christ is the commander of the angels. See Rev. 19:19-14. He created the angels. Col. 1:16. And so the statement that He is the beginning or head of the creation of God means that in Him creation had its beginning; that, as He Himself says, He is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Rev. 21:6; 22:13. He is the source whence all things have their origin.
Neither should we imagine that Christ is a creature, because Paul calls Him (Col. 1:15) The First-born of every creature for the very next verses show Him to be Creator and not a creature. For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created by Him, and for Him and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. Now if He created everything that was ever created and existed before all created things, it is evident that He Himself is not among created things. He is above all creation and not a part of it.
The Scriptures declare that Christ is the only begotten son of God. He is begotten, not created. As to when He was begotten, it is not for us to inquire, nor could our minds grasp it if we were told. The prophet Micah tells us all that we can know about it in these words, But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from the days of eternity. Micah 5:2, margin. There was a time when Christ proceeded forth and came from God, from the bosom of the Father (John 8:42; 1:18), but that time was so far back in the days of eternity that to finite comprehension it is practically without beginning.
But the point is that Christ is a begotten Son and not a created subject. He has by inheritance a more excellent name than the angels; He is a Son over His own house. Heb. 1:4; 3:6. And since He is the only- begotten son of God, He is of the very substance and nature of God and possesses by birth all the attributes of God, for the Father was pleased that His Son should be the express image of His Person, the brightness of His glory, and filled with all the fullness of the Godhead. So He has life in Himself. He possesses immortality in His own right and can confer immortality upon others. Life inheres in Him, so that it cannot be taken from Him, but having voluntarily laid it down, He can take it again. His words are these: Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. John 10:17, 18.
If anyone springs the old cavil, how Christ could be immortal and yet die, we have only to say that we do not know. We make no pretensions of fathoming infinity. We cannot understand how Christ could be God in the beginning, sharing equal glory with the Father before the world was and still be born a babe in Bethlehem. The mystery of the crucifixion and resurrection is but the mystery of the incarnation. We cannot understand how Christ could be God and still become man for our sake. We cannot understand how He could create the world from nothing, nor how He can raise the dead nor yet how it is that He works by His Spirit in our own hearts; yet we believe and know these things. It should be sufficient for us to accept as true those things which God has revealed without stumbling over things that the mind of an angel cannot fathom. So we delight in the infinite power and glory which the Scriptures declare belong to Christ, without worrying our finite minds in a vain attempt to explain the infinite.
Finally, we know the Divine unity of the Father and the Son from the fact that both have the same Spirit. Paul, after saying that they that are in the flesh cannot please God, continues: But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. Rom. 8:9. Here we find that the Holy Spirit is both the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ. Christ is in the bosom of the Father being by nature of the very substance of God and having life in Himself. He is properly called Jehovah, the self-existent One and is thus styled in Jer. 23:56, where it is said that the righteous Branch, who shall execute judgment and justice in the earth, shall be known by the name of Jehovah-tsidekenu–THE LORD, OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Let no one, therefore, who honors Christ at all, give Him less honor than He gives the Father, for this would be to dishonor the Father by just so much, but let all, with the angels in heaven, worship the Son, having no fear that they are worshiping and serving the creature instead of the Creator.
And now, while the matter of Christ’s Divinity is fresh in our minds, let us pause to consider the wonderful story of His humiliation.
God Manifest in the Flesh
And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. John 1:14.
No words could more plainly show that Christ was both God and man. Originally only Divine, He took upon Himself human nature and passed among men as only a common mortal, except at those times when His Divinity flashed through, as on the occasion of the cleansing of the temple or when His burning words of simple truth forced even His enemies to confess that never man spake like this man.
The humiliation which Christ voluntarily took upon Himself is best expressed by Paul to the Philippians. Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being originally in the form of God counted it not a thing to be grasped [that is, to be clung to] to be on an equality with God, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, becoming in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. Phil. 2:5-8, Revised Version, marginal reading.
The above rendering makes this text much more plain than it is in the common version. The idea is that, although Christ was in the form of God, being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His Person (Heb. 1:3), having all the attributes of God, being the Ruler of the universe, and the One whom all Heaven delighted to honor, He did not think that any of these things were to be desired, so long as men were lost and without strength. He could not enjoy His glory while man was an outcast, without hope. So He emptied Himself, divested Himself of all His riches and His glory, and took upon Himself the nature of man, in order that He might redeem him. And so we may reconcile Christ’s unity with the Father with the statement, My Father is greater than I.
It is impossible for us to understand how Christ could, as God, humble Himself to the death of the cross, and it is worse than useless for us to speculate about it. All we can do is to accept the facts as they are presented in the Bible. If the reader finds it difficult to harmonize some of the statements in the Bible concerning the nature of Christ, let him remember that it would be impossible to express it in terms that would enable finite minds to grasp it fully. Just as the grafting of the Gentiles into the stock of Israel is contrary to nature, so much of the Divine economy is a paradox to human understanding.
Other scriptures that we will quote bring closer to us the fact of the humanity of Christ and what it means for us. We have already read that the Word was made flesh, and now we will read what Paul says concerning the nature of that flesh: 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; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Rom. 8:3, 4.
A little thought will be sufficient to show anybody that if Christ took upon Himself the likeness of man in order that He might redeem man, it must have been sinful man that He was made like, for it is sinful man that He came to redeem. Death could have no power over a sinless man, as Adam was in Eden, and it could not have had any power over Christ, if the Lord had not laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Moreover, the fact that Christ took upon Himself the flesh, not of a sinless being, but of a sinful man, that is, that the flesh which He assumed had all the weaknesses and sinful tendencies to which fallen human nature is subject, is shown by the statement that He was made of the seed of David according to the flesh. David had all the passions of human nature. He says of himself, Behold I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Ps. 51:5.
The following statement in the book of Hebrews is very clear on this point:
For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham. [For verily not of angels doth He take hold, but He taketh hold of the seed of Abraham. Revised Version.] Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted. Heb. 2:16-18
If He was made in all things like unto His brethren, then He must have suffered all the infirmities and been subject to all the temptations of His brethren. Two more texts that put this matter very forcibly will be sufficient evidence on this point. We first quote 2 Cor. 5:21:
For He [God] hath made Him [Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.
This is much stronger than the statement that He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh. He was made to be sin. Here is the same mystery as that the son of God should die. The spotless Lamb of God, who knew no sin, was made to be sin. Sinless, yet not only counted as a sinner but actually taking upon Himself sinful nature. He was made to be sin in order that we might be made righteousness. So Paul says to the Galatians that God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. Gal. 4:4,5.
In that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted. For we have not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Heb. 2:18; 4:15, 16.
One more point and then we can learn the entire lesson that we should learn from the fact that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. How was it that Christ could be thus compassed with infirmity (Heb. 5:2) and still know no sin? Some may have thought, while reading thus far, that we were depreciating the character of Jesus by bringing Him down to the level of sinful man. On the contrary, we are simply exalting the Divine power of our blessed Saviour, who Himself voluntarily descended to the level of sinful man in order that He might exalt man to His own spotless purity, which He retained under the most adverse circumstances. His humanity only veiled His Divine nature, by which He was inseparably connected with the invisible God and which was more than able successfully to resist the weaknesses of the flesh. There was in His whole life a struggle. The flesh, moved upon by the enemy of all righteousness, would tend to sin, yet His Divine nature never for a moment harbored an evil desire nor did His Divine power for a moment waver. Having suffered in the flesh all that men can possibly suffer, He returned to the throne of the Father as spotless as when He left the courts of glory. When He lay in the tomb, under the power of death, it was impossible that he should be holden of it, because he knew no sin.
But someone will say, I don’t see any comfort in this for me. To be sure, I have an example, but I can’t follow it, for I haven’t the power that Christ had. He was God even while here on earth; I am but a man. Yes, but you may have the same power that He had if you want it. He was compassed with infirmity, yet He did no sin, because of the Divine power constantly dwelling within Him. Now listen to the inspired words of the apostle Paul and learn what it is our privilege to have:
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. Eph. 3:14-19.
Who could ask for more? Christ, in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, may dwell in our hearts so that we may be filled with all the fullness of God. What a wonderful promise! He is touched with the feeling of our infirmity. That is, having suffered all that sinful flesh is heir to, He knows all about it and so closely does He identify Himself with His children that whatever presses upon them makes a like impression upon Him and He knows how much Divine power is necessary to resist it, and if we but sincerely desire to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, He is able and anxious to give to us strength exceeding abundantly, above all that we ask or think. All the power which Christ had dwelling in Him by nature, we may have dwelling in us by grace, for He freely bestows it upon us.
Then let the weary, feeble, sin-oppressed souls take courage. Let them come boldly unto the throne of grace, where they are sure to find grace to help in time of need, because that need is felt by our Saviour in the very time of need. He is touched with the feeling of our infirmity. If it were simply that He suffered eighteen hundred years ago, we might fear that He had forgotten some of the infirmity, but no, the very temptation that presses you touches Him. His wounds are ever fresh, and He ever lives to make intercession for you.
What wonderful possibilities there are for the Christian! To what heights of holiness he may attain! No matter how much Satan may war against him, assaulting him where the flesh is weakest, he may abide under the shadow of the Almighty and be filled with the fullness of God’s strength. The One stronger than Satan may dwell in his heart continually and so, looking at Satan’s assaults as from a strong fortress, he may say, I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.
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