THE distinctions between deity absolute and relative abound in the
Scriptures of truth. Along with the impressive likeness are emphatic contrasts. Some of
these are essential to the manifestation of the likenesses. A Mediator Who is invisible
and inaudible could not mediate. He must be the opposite of His God in these necessary
concomitants of absolute Deity. The Supreme knows no deity above Him. The Son continually
acknowledges that He has a God. The glory of Christ was to do the will of Another. What is
more splendid, in all His words, than the great renunciation, "Not My will, but
Thine?" Could His God have said the same? Quite the opposite. God's will must be
carried out and Christ's ignored.
The deity of God is the fundamental of
fundamentals. It underlies all truth and is lacking in all error. Departure from it is the
first phase of human depravity. Knowing God, men do not glorify or thank Him as God
(Rom.1:21). This is the source of all mental and moral degradation. This fundamental
failing is not confined to unbelievers. It vitiates much theology and darkens the minds of
many saints. It is not merely the belief in a deity--few sane intelligences deny that
there is a God. Nevertheless few, if any, of mankind fully acknowledge all that is implied
in glorifying God as God, in recognizing the absolute deity of the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ.
|The God and Father of our Lord Jesus
Deity is established by relationship. One Who has a God is not the
Deity. He Who, in the absolute sense, gives, is God. He who receives is not.
No one can give God anything that is not already His. We receive everything from Him. Paul
announced this basic truth to the Ephesian philosophers. "Neither is He, requiring
anything, being attended by human hands, Himself giving to all life and breath and
all" (Acts 17:25). He is the Sender. He is not sent. He is Supreme. He is not
Subject. His will is invincible. He does not yield to the will of another. It is in these
relative attitudes that absolute Deity reveals itself in the Scriptures. Theological
omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience are not used in the Word to prove His deity.
They are philosophical rather than theological. They ignore Christ, hence are an affront
to God's method of revelation.
The truth regarding the relation of Christ to
God has been practically blotted out by the theory of the trinity. There has been much
searching for passages to support this preconceived relation, but little investigation of
the Scriptures as to their actual testimony. A very simple method will help us to get the
facts. We will consider the contrasts between Christ and God in their relation to one
another and to the universe. We will find that all is out of God, but through
Christ. We will discover that God's will is supreme, and Christ conforms His to it. We
will see that God alone has inherent power, and Christ derives it from Him.
OUR LORD HAS A GOD
God has no God. He is the
Supreme. His deity would be destroyed should He acknowledge a superior. No one who has a
God is absolute Deity. The Son is God in a restricted, relative sense. His orphan cry,
"My God, My God, why didst Thou abandon Me?" (Matt.27:46) could never have come
from the God and Father He implored. The Supreme cannot appeal to a higher Power. He could
not be left helpless to His enemies by another. He could not suffer the death that
followed this heartbroken cry, for He is the life of all that lives. On Golgotha we see
God and His Christ in keenest contrast.
Absolute Deity cannot acknowledge or appeal to
another God. Yet this is the crowning glory of Christ. He has a God. God Himself has no
more splendid title than "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." To be
the God of Christ is His greatest glory. To be known as the Father of His Son is the
deepest desire of His heart. In His intercourse with His disciples our Lord continually
referred to God as Another, not Himself. But He not only established a relationship
between God and His disciples, and associated Himself with them in it, but specifically
spoke of One Who was His Arbiter, Whom He invoked in prayer, Whom He acclaimed in
thanksgiving. We need not be surprised that a glimpse of this relationship should be
seldom given. Rather we should be astonished that the veil was ever lifted, so that we may
enter into the intimacies of the fellowship between the Father and His Beloved.
It is striking to note that the contrast
between Christ and God was sharpest at the two crises in His ministry, when His work,
seems to have failed. After His rejection by Capernaum He relieves His feelings by
retiring into the divine intention. He recognized that His apparent failure was only a
phase of God's success. So He acclaims His Father Lord of heaven and earth, because He had
hid the message from the wise and intelligent. Apparently, they were working at
cross purposes. Christ was revealing. God was concealing. How marvelous to see Christ
thanking the Father for His failure! He was willing to fail if it delighted the Deity. Had
He been the Deity, He could not have failed.
The fullest display of Christ's dependence on
His God and Father is found in His prayer for the disciples (John 17). He takes a place
utterly impossible to Deity in submitting Himself and all His work to His Father. He does
not for a moment assume the place of equality. His authority is a gift (17:2). All whom He
saves are given Him (17:2). He is carrying out a commission (17:3). He does not glorify
Himself, but God (17:4). He does a work, not His own (17:4), and so on, to the end. It is
by no means the consultation of two gods "equal in power and glory." It is the
humble, dependent petition of a Son and a Servant to One Who is surpassingly supreme.
SOURCE AND CHANNEL
That great rubric which authoritatively reveals the status of God the
Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, defines their relation to the universe by means of two
connectives. All is out of God. All is through our Lord (1 Cor.8:6). The
contrast here is sharp and clear. It is the key to the part played by Christ in the course
of the eons. Nothing originates out of Him or consummates into Him, though
He is the Origin and the Consummation. All comes through Him, from the beginning to
the end. He is the Channel, not the Source or the Object of all things. It is a proof of
divine inspiration that the Scriptures always maintain this point. It is true of Christ in
all of His assumptions.
Our common version, however, in such a matter
as this, proves that it is not inspired. In the first chapter of John's account, we read
that "All things were made by Him" (3), and again, " the world was
made by Him" (10). In both cases it should be through. The Logos, or
Word, of God was the means of making all, not the efficient first Cause of all.
Christ is never set forth as the absolute Source. Such a role is absolutely destructive of
His mission as Mediator. It is heresy against the Highest. It has led to the dogmatic
confusion which clouds Christian theology. It has turned it into a superstition, to be
accepted at the expense of sense and sanity.
Peter, in addressing his fellow Israelites on the day of Pentecost,
averred that the powers and miracles and signs wrought during Messiah's ministry, were
performed by God through Christ (Acts 2:22), just as later miracles and signs came
to pass through the apostles (Acts 2:43). God will judge the hidden things of
humanity through Jesus Christ (Rom.2:16). Reconciliation is wrought by God through
His Son (Rom.5:10, 11; 2 Cor.5:18; Col.1:20).
We need hardly insist that salvation is through
Christ. God Himself is our Saviour. He spared not His Son. He wrought redemption through
His Beloved. The same is true of creation, though the Authorized Version always changes through
to by. Paul tells us in Ephesians (3:9) that God created the universe through
Christ. He elaborates this conception in Colossians (1:16). Still further light is thrown
upon His mediacy in Hebrews (1:2) where He is presented as the channel through
which the eons are made, so that time as well as matter and force are brought into the
world through Him.
NOT MY WILL
God is operating the universe
in accord with the counsel of His will (Eph.1:11). We are not told of this until He
reveals the mystery of Christ, that He is to head up the universe in the final eon. Apart
from that revelation it is well nigh incredible. It is only as we believe the promise,
that He will bring the present chaos to an end and subject all to the rule of His
Anointed, that we can entertain the thought that the present confusion is working out His
purpose. There is so much that seems utterly and incurably opposed to God's will that we
are inclined rather to think that the universe is being operated by Satan in opposition to
It is of prime importance that we do not miss the force of the word counsel. The
world is not in line with God's will. It is in accord with the counsel
of His will. In the wisdom of God He uses the opposition to His revealed will to work out
His hidden intention. The forces of evil are contrary to His will, nevertheless they are
bringing about the end He has in view. Men imagine that they can defy God. The worst crime
they ever committed against Him was the crucifixion of Christ. That certainly was contrary
to His will! But it was according to His definite counsel. Instead of hindering the
progress of His purpose it helped it as no other act has ever done. So with all other
opposition to God's will. He will conform it to His counsel, and use it to attain His
Let us note that Christ is active only on the
positive side of God's purpose. His acts conform to God's revealed will. Satan and all the
influences flowing from him furnish the negative side. They fulfill God's counsel by
withstanding His will. Christ does it only by conforming fully to it. Hence, in that
future eon of the eons, Satan is banished and Christ is crowned the Head of all creation.
Then God's will and the counsel of His will will no longer be distinct. His purpose will
no longer require opposition for its fulfillment. Under the beneficent rule of God's Son,
evil will no longer be essential to His revelation. His will will then be done.
It is essential to our present inquiry to see
that Christ is not actively associated with God's underlying intention. He knows of it,
but He does not plan it or put it into practice. One incident in His ministry will make
this clear. When the cities in which most of His powerful deeds had been done did not
repent, He is not disappointed, but worships God, saying, "I am acclaiming to Thee,
Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hidest these things from the wise and
intelligent, and Thou dost reveal them to minors. Yea, Father, seeing that thus it became
a delight in front of Thee!" (Matt.11:25). Our Lord did not hide His words from the
people. He was in God's will in making them known. While He reveals, God conceals. They
work counter to one another. Christ does not change His methods to conform with God's
operations. He acquiesces and worships, but continues to act according to God's revealed
will, not the operation of His counsel or intention. In this matter Christ is active on
only one side of God's operations.
One of the most astonishing and enlightening
facts concerning Christ is the utter abnegation of His will. The only human being Who
could be trusted to act in accord with His own volition utterly renounced the right to do
so. He never carried out His own will. It is true that He was almost always in complete
harmony with God's will, so that there was no clash. But even so, the will originated in
God, not in Himself.
Throughout His earthly ministry our Lord never proposed that His will should be
followed. It was His mission to fulfill the will of Another. When entering into the world,
He said, "Lo! I am arriving...to do Thy will, O God!" (Heb.10:7). This is one of
His most gracious glories. Let us not rob Him of it, by making Him identical with the
Deity in this regard. If we do He will vanish. The Christ of God cannot be conceived with
a will of equal force with the Father. Yet, of all the distinctive attributes of Deity,
what is more conclusive than an adamantine will? If there is any "essence" which
constitutes deity, it must be largely composed of determination.
"Not My will, but Thine" is the
illuminating flash which reveals the relation existing between the will of Christ and His
God. It is in contrast to the ignorant arrogance of stupid men who cry "I want what I
want when I want it!" Christ recognized the fact that there is room for only one
supreme will in a universe which is operated according to the counsel of God's will
(Eph.1: 11). He insists that His own will is not supreme. When He finds Himself out of
line with the will of God, He bows to it. In that one act He makes His position clear. As
the divine Executive and Representative, His will coincided with the Deity, but, when
called upon to suffer as the Saviour, He had to subordinate His own will to the will of
|God Cannot Say "Not My Will"
The possession of a will is not an exclusive attribute of deity. Probably
all of God's sentient creatures are possessed of some degree of volition. But none of them
can carry out their wills except in the measure in which these agree with God's intention.
God's will is absolute and ultimately triumphant. It never subordinates itself to another.
He who aligns his will with the divine purpose is Godlike, but not God. The very fact that
he yields to Another is proof positive that his will is not sovereign.
The conclusive proof that Christ did not
arrogate to Himself the direction of affairs, even in His own ministry, is found in His
repeated assurances that He did not follow His own volition. "I am not seeking My own
will" (John 5:30), he told the Jews who questioned His Messiahship. The Anointed is
not in Himself the deity Who decides the course of history. He is the One Who carries out
the decrees of Him Whose will is supreme. Again He protests to them, "I have
descended from heaven, not that I should be doing My will..." (John 6:38).
That He had a will of His own, independent of
God's, is evident from the texts already quoted. But it was always so thoroughly in
harmony with His Father's, that they were practically one in operation. The time came,
however, when the will of the Son did not coincide with the will of His Father. In view of
the supreme suffering of the cross, His soul shrank back, and His will could not
acquiesce. Hence His bitter cry, "Father, if it is Thy intention, carry aside this
cup from Me" (Luke 22: 42). He did not want the awful agonies that lay within the
path which God had prepared for His feet. He recoiled in terror at the dark shadow which
should separate Him from fellowship with God. He was outside the will of His Father.
One of them must yield.
It is at this crisis that we see most clearly
the wide gulf between God's will and His. God could not say, "Not My will." Had
He yielded, all of His plans would have failed. The whole purpose of creation would have
miscarried. The Sacrifice must be offered, or sin would dethrone the Deity. The hopes of a
universe depended at this point on the inflexibility of God's will. And the expectation of
all creation likewise depended on the pliability of the will of Christ. It is just as
necessary that the Son should yield as that the Father should be adamant. The glory of God
is His resistless determination. The glory of the Son his subjection.
How few of us know the mighty import of that
self-effacing cry: "Not My will, but Thine!" At all times, this is the glory of
Christ. Before His incarnation, during His earthly life, in resurrection glory, in His
final subjection at the consummation, He always yields to the will of Another. Is this the
proper function of absolute Deity? It cannot be. Moreover, when, once in His career, He
finds Himself athwart the will of God, does He assert His will, as a real God would do? He
does not. The only time that He desired to act independently of God, He submerged His
will, and preferred His Father's.
GIVER AND RECEIVER
God and Christ are related to
each other as Giver and Receiver. God gave Him the actual words He spoke, the very spirit
with which He uttered them, the disciples which they won, His power and His throne and His
glory. All are gifts to Him from God. Absolute Deity cannot receive gifts such as these,
for He is Himself the Owner and Source of all. Giving to God is only a form. We can only
return or acknowledge what is already His. Christ, however, can receive. That is His
proper glory, in relation to God.
|God Gives, Christ Receives
The declarations which fell from the lips of Christ seemed as spontaneous as though
they sprang from His own mind even as they issued from His mouth. Yet they were inspired
in a superior sense. When others spoke, the record of their words is usually
inspired. But in His case the words themselves are God's gift to Him, and through Him to
His disciples. He did not formulate a philosophy of life and pass it on to His followers.
He had a divine outlook, and spoke as no other man ever spoke, because His words were a
gift from above. He said, "the declarations which Thou hast given Me I have given
them" (John 17:8). Again, "I have given them Thy word" (John 17:14).
He received all of His disciples as a gift from
God. He did not claim to win them by His own powers of persuasion. Indeed, He had not
expectation that any would follow Him unless His Father had given them to Him (John 6:37).
Being the gift of the Father, they were not dependent on His own protection alone, but on
His Father's (John 10:29). His intercessory prayer, in the seventeenth chapter of John, is
full of references to those whom the Father had given Him. They receive eonian life (John
17:2). He manifests God's name to them (verse 6). They are still the Father's (verse 9).
He will keep them (verse 11). Christ had guarded them (verse 12). They shall behold His
glory (verse 24). Judas was not one of them, for He lost none of them (John 18:9).
Judgment is given to the Son. It is not
His inherent right. That belongs to absolute Deity. It is delegated to the Christ because
of His humanity (John 5:22,26,27). All governmental authority is His as a gift also
(Matt.28:18; John 17:2). The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David (Luke
1:32). All the glories which are His now and in the future come to Him from the Father's
hand (John 17:22,24; 1 Peter 1:21). All this marks Him as the great Recipient. God
is lavish in His presents to His Son. It does not dim His glory in the least degree to
"give" God His true place as the great Giver.
|Christ is Subject, God is Supreme
The prayer He taught His disciples transferred to them His own attitude
toward God's will (Matt.6:10; Luke 11:2). He did not pray the Father for help to carry out
His own will. The disciples, likewise, are to have no will of their own, but to submit to
God's will and seek its fulfillment. Our Lord never sought to put His own will on His
disciples. He required obedience to Himself only as authority was given to Him. He
came, not in His own name, but in the name of His God and Father. It is His function to
efface Himself, so that, eventually, all will be directly subject to God's will, without
It will be objected that we must distinguish
between the pre-incarnate Christ and His earthly career, as well as His present and future
glories. It is usually insisted that His kenosis, or emptying, will explain His
subjection while on the earth. The question can be settled very simply and satisfactorily
by determining His final relation to God after the eons are past. Will He then regain His
full place in the "trinity" and leave the place of subjection for the
sovereignty of Deity? Quite the opposite is true. Little as is revealed of that glorious
consummation, His final place in the universe is clearly and definitely stated. The Son
also will be subject to God, along with the rest of the universe (1 Cor.15:28).
Subjection is the highest, the ultimate
glory of the Son of God. During the last two eons He will exercise power and authority, so
that myriads will be subordinate to Him. He will be the Sovereign of the universe. He will
subject all of God's creatures to Him. In doing this He acts like God, He uses the power
and prerogatives of God. While He does it He is called God. But when He has accomplished
it, He does not return to a state of absolute Deity, as the trinitarian theory must
insist, but He resigns the very functions which pertain to Deity. He voluntarily abdicates
His throne. He relinquishes His authority over creation, and takes a place subordinate.
It has been suggested that this subjection
applies only to His mediatorial work. But the fact is that His work as Mediator is
finished at that time. He is neither King nor Priest. He is not even Prophet. All of His
mediatorial offices have been fulfilled. They vanish at the consummation, because their
object has been accomplished. The subjection is strictly personal. He is not called
Christ, but the Son. The Son Himself also shall be subject. He has subjected
all else to God, and He joins the company of subjects in order that God may be All in all.
He is the One Who, added to the rest of the universe, makes subjection to God universal.
THE SENDER AND THE SENT
The Deity sends, but is not sent. His Son is sent, and never sends His
Father. This relationship is basic. It is not a temporary mediatorial arrangement. It
exists throughout the course of revelation. These functions are never reversed. The Deity
is always the Sender, and the Son is always the Sent One. This is an essential or
fundamental relationship which illuminates and reflects the glories of each. The Deity
would not be such if He were sent. Christ would be naught if He were not sent by God.
We cannot conceive of absolute Deity being
sent. Who is there to send Him? Who has the right to tell Him to go from one place to
another? Who has the wisdom to decide His location for Him? And how can He obey, seeing
that He is present everywhere? The moment that He acknowledges a Sender He abdicates His
throne in favor of a superior. One of the verily, verilies of our Lord insists that a
slave is not greater than his lord, neither an apostle greater than He Who sends Him (John
13:16). The one sent is always subordinate to the one who sends him. There may be a mutual
agreement among equals, but their equality vanishes when one goes hence in obedience to
orders given by the other.
|The Son does not Send God
The Son came to do the will of Him Who sent Him (John 6: 38,39,40). It was His
very food (John 4:34). He made it the basis of His appeal to the people. He told them
"I can do nothing of Myself. According as I am hearing am I judging; and My
judgment is just, seeing that I am not seeking My own will, but the will of Him Who sends
Me" (John 5:30). The Absolute Deity cannot be sent by another. He goes where
He goes, without let or hindrance, if, indeed, we may speak of Him in this way, for He is
present everywhere. He sends, but is not sent. He commissions, but cannot be commissioned,
for there is no one who has authority to delegate Him. In relation to the Deity, Christ is
not the Sender, but the Sent.
The discourse of our Lord to the Jews, when
they asked for a sign, reiterates His reliance on the will of God Who sent Him. He
told them, "I have descended from heaven, not that I should be doing My will, but the
will of Him Who sends Me. Now this is the will of Him Who sends Me, that
everyone whom He has given to Me, of these I should be losing none, but shall be raising
him in the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who is beholding the
Son and is believing into Him may have eonian life, and I shall be raising him in the last
day" (John 6:38-40). His own will was entirely eclipsed in all that He did. He was
occupied entirely with the will of God.
The word "essence" is often used in
reasoning about the so-called "Godhead." The word "essential" is far
clearer. We have been considering several of these essentials, and, in every case, the
Supreme Deity possesses them and our Lord Jesus Christ does not. Hence He is not "one
in essence" with the Deity. He has a God, Whom He serves and worships. He is the
Channel, but not the Source. He has a will, but is subject to a higher. He is a Recipient
from One above Him. He is sent and commissioned by a Superior. None of these is compatible
with Deity. The Supreme has no God, worships none, Sources all, is subject to no other
will, gives and sends, but cannot be commissioned, because He is Supreme, and there
is no God above Him.
The fact that our Saviour adores and acclaims Another, that He is not the first Cause,
that He is subject to God's will, that He receives all from His Father and that He is
empowered with authority by Him, does not dim His glory by a single beam, for these are
His glories. He is not God's rival, but His Revealer. He is not His master, but our
Mediator. God's glory is in self-revelation. Christ's glory lies in self-abnegation. After
all His mediatorial work is finished, then the Son will be subject, not supreme. The
furthest reach of faith's telescope finds Him first, not in eclipsing the Deity, or in
sharing His sovereignty, but in such subjection as will make God All in all.