The crucial question of Christianity centers in the claim that Jesus of Nazareth, a man born on this earth almost two thousand years ago, who grew up as any other person, was both God and man. One can imagine the startling effect on others of the claim by a young man in His early thirties that He was the second member of the Godhead.
The observation that Jesus was a man born as we are creates no controversy. But the statement that this man was God, the eternal Son of God in human flesh, is altogether different. For this makes Jesus different from any other man who ever entered our world.
For many the Incarnation is the most profound mystery in the created universe. That God the Creator should Himself condescend to become a creature and imprison Himself within matter He created is an event that defeats logical analysis and rational explanation. But God in Jesus did become flesh, a complete human being. This is the greatest miracle of all time and eternity. it cannot be fully comprehended. It can only be received in grateful adoration.
The most fundamental affirmation of the Christian faith is that the most complete revelation of God to sinful man is personal, found in one particular life, that of Jesus Christ. The importance of this is seen in the fact that there is no way to get rid of the Incarnation without getting rid of Christianity. In the Incarnation the very God of heaven invades our world in disguise. If one does not believe in the Incarnation, then it is impossible to understand what the Christian faith stands for. If there was no Incarnation, then we on this planet are isolated in the universe.
Meaning of the Incarnation
The Incarnation means the indissoluble union of the human and the divine. A pre-existing divine Person, the eternal Son of God, took flesh, thus adding to His eternal and divine nature, a human nature. The word incarnation means "to take on flesh," "to clothe with flesh." The Son of God took on, or clothed Himself with, flesh in the literal sense of the term. "So the Word became flesh; he came to dwell among us" (John 1:14, N.E.B.). This union of the divine and the human resulted in two natures in one person, Jesus Christ. Hence the term used of Jesusthe God-man.
The Incarnation is not the case of a man being deified. We do not use terms such as incarnation when speaking of an ordinary birth. We do not. speak of children "becoming flesh." Something miraculous happened to One already existing from all eternity. He already was a complete personality on the divine side.
The apostle John wrote that the divine Logos, the word he uses at the beginning of his Gospel in reference to the Creator, was none other than the person Jesus.
Jesus Christ created this world. He is the starting point of all things. John declares that "the Word was God." The Greek word logos is translated "word," referring to the creative power of God.
"In the beginning." The term refers back to the first chapter of Genesis. When was that? That was when Christ, the living Word, created the world. "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. . . . For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast" (Ps. 33:6-9).
Nine times in the first chapter of Genesis the phrase "God said" is used to describe the power and activity of Christ when He created our world. The phrase refers to that power that issues forth when God speaks. "Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed," said the centurion when he besought Christ to heal his sick servant.
Jesus Christ was in existence at the birth of Creation. He existed when time commenced. There was a time when He was not flesh; but there never was a time when He was not God. He always was. "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58). The attribute eternity belongs to Him. He, the author of the Christian faith, is the author of the universe. The founder of the Christian church is He who "laid the foundations of the earth" "and meted out heaven with the span."
That same creative power is to be exercised in our lives as God speaks to us in Christ and through His Word. He is the God "who commanded the light to shine out of darkness," who " hath shined in our heart, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Con 4:6).
Jesus did not bring His human nature with Him from heaven. He was born of a woman as all men are. He took humanity with all the human conditions. voluntarily descended from heaven and 'took our human nature without ceasing to be God. He is still God while becoming man. He is God who became man.
He lived His life on the earth for more than thirty-three years, was crucified and resurrected from the dead. He ascended to heaven, where He was before, taking back with Him His human nature. He reigns in heaven upon the throne of God as the God-man. we have a man on the throne of God for all eternity.
So John recorded of Christ's pre-existence with God the Father,
This makes Christ absolutely unique among men. There is an essential difference between Him and all other men from His very conception and birth. All other men who come into this world are born of two earthly parents. Jesus came down from an eternal pre-existence in heaven to be born of a woman. Thus His coming into our world is unparalleled. The Gospels record this miracle in human history, which occurred almost two thousand years ago, calmly. In reading of it we tend to lose sight of the stupendous significance of God's "unspeakable gift" of His Son to our world. The second person of the Godhead was the very same individual as seen in the man Jesus.
Our need to know God, to be forgiven, redeemed, and reconciled could be met only by a divine act of this magnitude.
Fully God and Fully Man
The substance of our faith lies in what Jesus Christ was and what He did, and not merely in what He taught. It is impossible to reduce Christianity to a system of morality. In Jesus we have a historical union of man and God. Many incidents in the life of Jesus prove Him to be both human and divine.
Jesus was born physically in the same way that all men are. This proves Him to be fully human. "And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger" (Luke 2:7). At the same time, the angelic announcement concerning that birth as the coming of the Messiah, Christ the Lord, proves Him to be divine. "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" (verses 11-14).
In healing the impotent man by the pool of Bethesda, Jesus incurred the wrath of the Jews because He performed a miracle on the Sabbath day and declared His oneness and equality with the Father (John 5:16). "But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. 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" (verses 17, 18). In this crucial passage of Scripture, Christ affirmed His divinity. The Jews recognized Jesus as a man, born a Jew. Obviously, they had no argument with Him on this point. But they were not prepared to go any further. Consequently, they were angry and sought to kill Him because He claimed the prerogatives of God. They rightly understood His words.
Jesus lived in Nazareth for some thirty years. "Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?" (Matt. 13:55, 56; Mark 6:3). For years previous to His public ministry Jesus worked in the carpenter shop with Joseph, His legal father. He had grown up among the Jews of Nazareth. All these facts bear witness to His being fully human, and fully divine.
At the beginning of His ministry Jesus went to the River Jordan to be baptized of John. By submitting to water baptism He again affirmed His humanity. Yet as He came up out of the water "the heaven was opened and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased" (Luke 3:21, 22). This divine manifestation witnessed to the deity of Jesus.
In His conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well our Lord's humanity was revealed by His being weary and thirsty, as we all are at times. At the same time He affirmed His divinity to the woman by claiming to be the Messiah. "I know that the Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come , he will tell us all things," she said. Jesus replied, "I that speak unto thee am he" (John 4:25, 26).
At a certain time in His ministry news came to Jesus that Lazarus had died. Three days later He arrived at the grave with His disciples. Lazarus' sisters, Mary and Martha, were there. "Jesus wept" (John 1:35) because He was human, revealing His human nature. Then He commanded them to take away the stone to the sepulcher and commanded the dead man to come forth. And Lazarus came forth, brought back to life. This incident revealed again that Jesus Christ was both human and divine.
A man sick of the palsy was brought to Jesus. His friends let him down through the roof of the house into the presence of Christ. When Jesus saw their faith He said unto the man, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee." Some people who were present asked, "Who can forgive sins but God only?" (Mark 2:7; Luke 7:49). To prove to the doubters that He could forgive sin, Jesus healed the invalid, thus showing that He was divine.
Jesus also claimed to be the judge of all men. "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son" (John 5:22). Only God can discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. Only God can pronounce a final and righteous verdict; determine the destiny of all men. It is incredible that Jesus would have made such claims had He any doubt as to His divinity.
There were occasions on earth when men fell down and worshiped Him. Jesus healed the man born blind and the next day said to Him, "Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" The man answered and said: "Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him" (chap. 9:35-38).
Jesus was crucified and died. His friends embalmed Him with spices and laid Him in a rock tomb. This proves He was human. On the third day the tomb was rent open. Many bodies of the saints who slept were resurrected along with Christ Himself. He came forth from the grave by the life that was in Himself. This also proves Him to be both human and divine.
The issue involved in these statements is crucial. For once these teachings of Scripture are accepted, this belief concerning Jesus, His nature, character, origin, and person decides our destiny and our future. This requires more than intellectual knowledge about Christ. Faith and commitment are needed. Our privilege and duty is to worship, love, and obey Him.
If Jesus is only a man, what faith and trust can we have in Him as our Saviour and Lord? What redemptive power is there to His life and death? What atoning virtue is there to His shed blood? What meaning and help is there to His priestly work of intercession at the right hand of God in heaven? What hope for salvation and reconciliation to God can come from a mere man?
The Purpose of the Incarnation
1. The Spiritual Crisis of the Incarnation
The Incarnation was because only God could meet the universal situation caused by the rebellion of Satan and man. The necessity for the Incarnation lay in God's moral character. The God of the Bible is the God of absolute righteousness. There is a necessary reaction of God as a moral being against the sinfulness of those who rebel against Him. Consequently, the divine purpose of the Incarnation meets the moral and spiritual crisis of the universe. God is seen in all His character of love and righteousness, visible to all. God's right to rule is conclusively decided once and for all.
The universe is not held together by iron chains of law, but by mutual love and trust between God the Father and all His creaturesHis sons and daughters in the world. The need of all created intelligences is a God who can be absolutely trusted and loved. And God desires to be universally loved and trusted.
The coming of the Son of God is the most uncompromising act of God to save. But that act was carried out on the basis of righteousness and love. In this light, the clear knowledge of God's character will ultimately guarantee the eternal security of the universe. The eternal future belongs to God, not to Satan and his followers.
2. The Revelation of God the Father
"No one has ever seen God; but God's only Son, he who is nearest to the Father's heart, he has made him known" (John 1:18, N.E.B.). Our God is in the heavens, inhabiting eternity, unlimited in power and righteous love. Not until the Incarnation did He make an external revelation of Himself and His character. He willed to be known as He really is in answer to all Satan's charges and accusations.
The best revelation we know is that in which we can see and understand God. All that is attractive in grace and beautiful in character in the Father is revealed in Jesus Christ that sinful creatures might have a knowledge of God attained in no other way. So a false conception of the Son will lead to a f alse conception of God's character.
The destiny of the universe and all God's creatures goes by way of Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Jerusalem. In His birth at Bethlehem, God Himself came to make common cause with us against Satan. By that act He moved to win the universe back to Himself. Through the Incarnation He has changed the course of the world and forever bound the universe to Himself.
Jesus knew that one sin anywhere in the universe not borne by Himself and unconquered, was more than God could endure and still remain as sovereign Lord. That the Incarnation guarantees an eternal and triumphant consummation to the great controversy between Christ and Satan is no romantic illusion. Thus we are led to exclaim, with our Lord:
After Christ thus exalts the Father, He immediately continues:
With these words He committed Himself to honor the Father and reveal the majesty of His Father's character.
Such is the nature of Christ's commitment to obey the will of the Father at any cost to Himself. Such allegiance constitutes the supreme test for all of God's creatures endowed with intelligence and free will akin to ours.
The importance of Christ's taking human nature is seen in His obedience to the absolute and sovereign will of God. He knew that He could commit His entire life into the hands of the Father in sure hope of certain victory over Satan, sin, and death.
In Christ we see the experiential knowledge of total trust in the Father. The Son does nothing by independent action. His perfect obedience is rooted in the sure knowledge of the Father's character. Absolute trust between the Father and the Son is mutual. Christ, who knew God the Father from the inside, is the righteous love of God in action. "For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9).
Upon what ground would we believe that God is love if Jesus had not come to earth? Christ gave us the love of the Father. In Christ the righteous love of God has survived the attacks of His enemies, the superficiality of His friends, and all the difficult experiences of life.
Christ's revelation of the Father tells us we have a personal God who is not neutral. All members of the Godhead have taken sides with us for our redemption from sin and death. We are saved to the uttermost by God's love.
3. The Vindication of God
Through him [Christ] God chose to reconcile the whole universe to himself" (Col. 1:20, N.E.B.).
No wisdom of man can justify God in face of the rebellion of Satan and sinners. Created beings can settle nothing relative to the sin problem. God alone can justify Himself before created intelligences. Christ came to remove every doubt about the Father.
The magnitude of the tragic nature of sin began to be seen when Satan conspired to destroy faith in God, to usurp the throne of God. "How art thou fallen from heaven, 0 Lucifer. . . . For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: . . . I will be like the most High" (Isa. 14:12-14). Lucifer refused to be subject to the Father, so there was war in heaven. This rebellion put God Himself in jeopardy before the universe. Over against the glorious character of God stood the rebellion of Satan. This rebellion set in motion a potentially infinite evil, for, once begun, sin cannot be undone by created beings. It produces unending consequences for the universe unless God's sovereign rule comes to be universally acknowledged.
Ultimate victory over those who rebel against God does not depend upon the use of force, otherwise God should have eradicated it at the start. If God could not destroy Satan and his angels in the beginning because the loyal angels would not understand, it follows that He would not do so until they did understand. Only the revelation of God's character in and through the Son can prove the Father to be worthy of the allegiance of His creatures.
Sin as rebellion is not adequately dealt with by punishment for punishment leaves the rebel unchanged in attitude. Punishment is not calculated to win the loyalty of the universe, to heal the alienation between God and man. The redemptive purpose of God in Christ is the divine answer to the whole sin problem. The incarnate Son removes all alienation from God.
By the Incarnation sin and rebellion stand exposed without any possible excuse. In it Christ broke the power of Satan and disproved without the possibility of refutation all the charges made by Satan.
Thus the incarnation of Christ vindicated the Father, and His life and work publicly exposed and condemned before the universe the whole sinful order.
The royal authority of God is not yet fully established. Satan still lives and operates. There are many spirits in rebellion against God's sovereign will who have not acknowledged the righteousness of the Father. But these are to be finally conquered and destroyed. Ultimately God's dominion will prevail from world to world, from galaxy to galaxy.
Christ stands at the very center of the discord, seeking to bring all God's creatures into oneness with the Father. In Him we see the uniting power of love, by which the rule of God is established. Under Him the scattered sheep of earth who are truly of His fold are being gathered together into one united flock. Christ is the all-inclusive head of the race. "I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me" (John 17:23). Thus Christ is the universal Saviour. As Son of man He is kinsman of all created beings. He makes every true child of God to glow with the love of God. He fills all in all.
The Son of God is seated with the Father on the throne of heaven. He is gaining supreme control over all. He will reign until He has settled every dispute, removed every enmity and sin; until the Father's authority is fully acknowledged and established.
4. The Incarnation and the Atonement
The Son of God became man for the purpose of our redemption. "Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me" (Heb. '10:5).
One reason for Christ's taking our mortal flesh was that He might offer Himself a sacrifice for sin. Had He remained in His pre-existent state there was no way for Him to die. But He came to die. So at His coming Christ is pictured as calling upon God to give Him the body He needed for His work of redemption.
A divine judgment on sin was necessary. The Son of God took upon Himself humanity in order to bear God's judgment on sin. The nature of Christ's death on the cross is that judgment. Sin must be dealt with in the personal realm where sin occurred.
In this scripture the writer emphasizes the fact that, because man is mortal, Christ took upon Himself our mortal flesh. Because He came to redeem us, Christ put Himself in our position. Because He sought to change those with enmity against God into friends of God, He assumed our nature. He became flesh and blood to ransom those who were in bondage to sin, death, and Satan. Satan held the dominion of sin and death over all men. Through His death Christ destroyed the rule of Satan, of sin, and of death.
Christ's humanity is real. If His solidarity with His brethren of flesh and blood is to be real, He also must be a genuine partaker of the same flesh and blood.
Sinners can come to God with confidence only if their sin has been dealt with. . . . The purpose of His incarnation was that through His death He might 'make propitiation for the sins of the people. ' "Ibid., p. 53.
Redemption cannot be done by a universal decree from Heaven. Jesus Christ must confront Satan and defeat the prince of this world in the arena of human temptation and suffering.
There is no salvation in the life example of Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth, if that is all there is. Jesus Christ did not come into the world simply to say something, but to do something, "to save sinners." He came to redeem men from sin and death. Jesus Christ must not be reduced to a subject for merely rational thinking. There is a difference between what men may think of God and what God has revealed of Himself in Christ. We must distinguish between what we bring as preconceived ideas to our study about God and what we find in Christ. Since there are going to be different opinions and interpretations of Christ's teachings, we must stay by the main question: Has God come to our world in Jesus Christ to save us? If He has, then appeals to men's thinking and arguments are in vain.
To argue about our beliefs concerning God takes us from the heart of the matter. It fails to deal with the basic issue of the Incarnation: God in truth came to us in Christ to save us from our sins. Rightly understood, the incarnation of Jesus Christ is not a problem for our faith. It is both the glory of God and the glory of man. Because none other than the Son of God died for us, man must be worth dying for in the eyes of God and the universe.
Isaiah prophesied of the ministry of Jesus:
God could not give us a Saviour by delegating the work of redemption to an angel. He could not place the destiny of our race in the hands of a created being from another world. Only the God who created us could redeem us. Only the compassionate love of God, who invested us with eternal value, can ultimately perfect our state and restore us to a new heaven and a new earth.
Every scheme invented and tried by human beings for the rehabilitation of sinful man is in conflict with God's effort to save him by Jesus Christ. The incarnation of the Son of God places before the world the greatest alternative ever conceived: Redemption and eternal life by Jesus Christ, or none at all.
Christ alone has revealed unimpaired what God is really like and what He has done to redeem us. And every child of the human race is invited to become a child of God through the redemption wrought by Him. There is no surer sign of the true God to those who have eyes to see than thisthat on the cross we have come face to face with God, who loves and saves us to the uttermost. Here we reach the summit of all our hopes. There can be no worthy desire beyond this, for through the revelation of God in Christ all life's best hopes and desires are realized.
5. Christ, the Second Adam
"The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit" (I Cor. 15:45). "Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come" (Rom. 5:14).
There are two Adams revealed in the Bible. The apostle Paul weighs the importance of the two in relation to the human race. Certain truths are asserted about them both.
By the creative act of God the first Adam came into being and became the father of the human race. At the Incarnation, by the creative act of the Holy Spirit, the Son of God became the second Adam. Paul distinguishes between the universal reign of sin and death that followed from Adam's fall, and the reign of grace and righteousness that proceeds from the life and death of the second Adam. Both Adam and Christ stand, as it were, at the head of the race. The first Adam is the natural, the physical, head; Christ, the second Adam, is the spiritual head. The destiny of all men is involved with both Adams.
The entire race shared in the results of the first Adam's disobedience and separation from God. All men by virtue of their solidarity with the first Adam start life "without God," in alienation from God (Eph. 2:12).
Romans 5:12-21 clearly states that to Jesus Christ the second Adam, was entrusted the responsibility to succeed where the first Adam failed. In this passage Paul gives a series of contrasts that speak to this point. From the first Adam come condemnation, from the second come justification; from the first come sin and death, from Christ come righteousness and life; from the one comes disobedience, and obedience from the other; the reign of sin from the first Adam and the reign of grace from the second Adam.
In stating the contrasts Paul emphasizes the "much more" we receive from Jesus Christ.
In Christ, the second Adam, we who are Christians experience a new and victorious solidarity. Christ's relation to us is so close and real that it turns the tide of sin, disobedience, and death. Therefore, we must not take sin and death for granted as something that naturally belongs to us in this life. God has put His beloved Son, the second Adam, in place of the first.
Christ reverses the reign of sin and makes possible for Christians the reign of grace and righteousness. This reversal brings a new, divine life style from beyond ourselves and our ability to achieve. Christ takes the initiative in our lives. His gift of life and righteousness transcends all of the effects of sin through time from the fall of the first Adam until the end of the world. "'I have come that men may have life, and may have it in all its fullness"' (John 10:10, N.E.B.).
In the second Adam is revealed the true man. Anything less than what we see in Jesus Christ is abnormal and unnatural. All sin, disobedience, and unrighteousness have no rightful place in us. They are a perversion of man as God intends him to be.
Jesus Christ, as He lived His life on earth, is the normal man. The first Adam never reached the fullness of the image for which he was created. The second Adam lived in complete harmony with God, His heavenly Father.
With Christ as the new head of the race we who are His followers must choose to go Christ's way. The second Adam requires that we accept His headship and lordship. We are to respond with a total commitment of our lives to Him. We must not accept what we have acquired from the first Adam as the natural life.
For us as sinners, everything depends upon the change in lordship. As a result of the first Adam's fall into sin we acquire physical, mental, and spiritual degeneracy that has separated us from God. From the second Adam we experience the saving, transforming life and power of God. This is the gif t of God to us.
The real men in the world are those in whom the life of Christ pulsates. Without this life men are never what God intended. Unless we take our stand within the lordship of the second Adam, the new head of the race, there can be no eternal life, no righteousness, no restoration to the image of God.
There is a world of difference between the best that the first Adam in us can achieve and what we may have in and by the second Adam. The difference between them is decisive. It is possible to dwell on the moral greatness of men without Christ and assume that this is good enough for their standing with God . This is a basic issue. Adam failed, and so did all his descendants. Christ succeeded. That makes all the difference for life here and in the hereafter.
6. Jesus Christ, the Incarnate judge
"For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son. . . . And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man" (John 5:22-27).
In this passage of Scripture the fact that Jesus Christ was the incarnate Son of man is given as the reason why He will be our judge. God the Father has not given the judgment into Christ's hands because He is the Son of God, but because He is the Son of man. In the hands of the God-man the judgment of all men will have much greater significance.
The "end" referred to here is that time when all the cases of men and the issues of the great controversy will have been decided. Not until then will Christ deliver up the kingdom unto the Father. This terminates the special rule of Christ as Redeemer and judge.
The position of the Father and the Son in the controversy is made clear in the text quoted. Whatever authority the Son of man has, He has derived from the Father to carry out the redemptive program ordained before the foundation of the world, to accomplish the establishment and the reign of the kingdom of God, and to vindicate God Himself.
The work of redeeming and judging those who live on the earth is an essential aspect of the incarnate Christ. Jesus is the Son of man by virtue of His human nature. Therefore He is eminently qualified to be the "One mediator between God and man" (I Tim. 2:5).
The fact that the Son of God became man, qualifies Him to be our Redeemer and our judge. What other Person within the Godhead has a more understanding mind and heart in judging men than He? Those whom Christ justifies at last, all men on earth will ultimately justify also. And all will ultimately agree with Christ regarding those whom He condemns at last.
Christ took upon Himself our nature. This removes any argument men might otherwise have that there was a difference between His view of life and theirs. The charge that God is a hard taskmaster, demanding the impossible of men, can receive no hearing or consideration before the Son of man. Who can claim excuses for all the pride, the selfishness, and the sins of their lives before Jesus Christ, who "made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:7)? Who can refute the decisions and judgments of Jesus Christ the judge, who refused all the kingdoms of the world offered to Him by Satan in the wilderness, and who for our sakes steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem and to death? Who can give the excuse that his temptations are hard for flesh and blood to endure in face of the man Christ Jesus, who was tempted beyond that which any man could bear? Before the Son of man all the defenses of the ungodly will be utterly broken down.
Who will dare to say to this Jesus, that He does not understand all they had to face in this world or that they were pressed beyond all that human strength could possibly endure? For He "was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings" (Heb. 2:9, 10).
In the parable of the talents Jesus illustrated the account we must give to Him at the judgment? The "wicked and slothful servant" charged his lord, "I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed" (Matt. 25:24). The servant tried to excuse himself by attacking his lord's character. But he was left without excuse. Any complaints men seek to make against Christ can only aggravate the offense.
The picture we have of God and His relation to us is fully revealed in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Many believe that God's judgment of men can be classed as hard; that when the time comes for judgment, God will invest Himself with an aspect of severity while divesting Himself of love and mercy. The tendency of this concept is to make people afraid of God.
Granted that we must not be indifferent about our standing with God. But Christ reveals in His person and His dealings with sinners that God is no despot who continually and eternally demands His pound of flesh. Misunderstandings as to the day of judgment derive from the misunderstandings of God's character and His loving purpose for all who live on the earth.
So God the Father has turned all judgment over to the Son of man. And Jesus, that Son of man, the judge of all men, is one of us. He belongs to us. He is our Redeemer, Friend, and Advocate. "Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world" (I John 4:17).
In judging His children Jesus manifests the righteous character and loving attitude of God toward us. In Christ we, as true Christians, are safe. For the judgment will appear an hour to be desired because of the beauty of His love and the glory of the Son of man.
This fact dispels all fears of standing before the judgment seat of God. "And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming" (I John 2:28). At that day we who are fully His wi1l recall all that He has been to us while on earth, everlasting mercy and forgiveness for all our sins. To those who live within love and trust in Christ our Judge, there can be no fear for that great day. We will not stand in jeopardy when the books are opened and the judge rises to pronounce sentence. The Lord is our refuge and our strength.
Who will proclaim us eternally justified and saved? We are sure that Christ will. He is the supreme revelation of divine goodness and truth. Who will restore us at last to our sinless state? Who will answer our cry to live with Him and all the angelic hosts in a perfect universe ? Who but the One who carried a cross, who prayed for His enemies, and who will create a new earth wherein dwells righteousness? Who alone can make the universe free from sin and death but the Son of man?
The supreme demand is for a righteous judgment, the vindication of right, and the condemnation of wrong. Christians are absolutely sure that God, our Saviour and Redeemer, will keep faith with all those who have committed their lives and destinies to Him.
We wait calmly and confidently for the final vindication. Believing as we do in the living God who became flesh, who came searching for His lost children, we will not interpret the judgment in terms of fear. Trust in His love and righteousness will work our purification, forever establish our allegiance, and capture our hearts for all eternity.