GOD, 3 [ISBE]
- III. The Idea of God in the New Testament.
1. Dependence on the Old Testament:
The whole of the New Testament presupposes and rests upon the Old Testament. Jesus Christ and His disciples inherited the idea of God revealed in the Old Testament, as it survived in the purer strata of Jewish religion. So much was it to them and their contemporaries a matter of course, that it never occurred to them to proclaim or enforce the idea of God. Nor did they consciously feel the need of amending or changing it. They sought to correct some fallacious deductions made by later Judaism, and, unconsciously, they dropped the cruder anthropomorphisms and limitations of the Old Testament idea. But their point of departure was always the higher teaching of the prophets and Psalms, and their conscious endeavor in presenting God to men was to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (Mt 5:17). All the worthier ideas concerning God evolved in the Old Testament reappear in the New Testament. He is One, supreme, living, personal and spiritual, holy, righteous and merciful. His power and knowledge are all-sufficient, and He is not limited in time or place. Nor can it be said that any distinctly new attributes are ascribed to God in the New Testament. Yet there is a difference. The conception and all its factors are placed in a new relation to man and the universe, whereby their meaning is transformed, enhanced and enriched. The last trace of particularism, with its tendency to Polytheism, disappears. God can no longer bear a proper name to associate Him with Israel, or to distinguish Him from other gods, for He is the God of all the earth, who is no respecter of persons or nations. Two new elements entered men's religious thought and gradually lifted its whole content to a new plane--Jesus Christ's experience and manifestation of the Divine Fatherhood, and the growing conviction of the church that Christ Himself was God and the full and final revelation of God.
2. Gentile Influence:
Gr thought may also have influenced New Testament thought, but in a comparatively insignificant and subordinate way. Its content was not taken over bodily as was that of Hebrew thought, and it did not influence the fountain head of New Testament ideas. It did not color the mind and teaching of Jesus Christ. It affected the form rather than matter of New Testament teaching. It appears in the clear-cut distinction between flesh and spirit, mind and body, which emerges in Paul's Epistles, and so it helped to define more accurately the spirituality of God. The idea of the Logos in John, and the kindred idea of Christ as the image of God in Paul and He, owe something to the influence of the Platonic and Stoic schools. As this is the constructive concept employed in the New Testament to define the religious significance of Christ and His essential relation to God, it modifies the idea of God itself, by introducing a distinction within the unity into its innermost meaning.
3. Absence of Theistic Proofs:
Philosophy never appears in the New Testament on its own account, but only as subservient to Christian experience. In the New Testament as in the Old Testament, the existence of God is taken for granted as the universal basis of all life and thought. Only in three passages of Paul's, addressed to heathen audiences, do we find anything approaching a natural theology, and these are concerned rather with defining the nature of God, than with proving His existence. When the people of Lystra would have worshipped Paul and Barnabas as heathen gods, the apostle protests that God is not like men, and bases His majesty upon His creatorship of all things (Acts 14:15). He urges the same argument at Athens, and appeals for its confirmation to the evidences of man's need of God which he had found in Athens itself (Acts 17:23-31). The same natural witness of the soul, face to face with the universe, is again in Romans made the ground of universal responsibility to God (Acts 1:18-21). No formal proof of God's existence is offered in the New Testament. Nor are the metaphysical attributes of God, His infinity, omnipotence and omniscience, as defined in systematic theology, at all set forth in the New Testament. The ground for these deductions is provided in the religious experience that finds God in Christ all-sufficient.
4. Fatherhood of God:
The fundamental and central idea about God in New Testament teaching is His Fatherhood, and it determines all that follows. In some sense the idea was not unknown to heathen religions. Greeks and Romans acknowledged Father Zeus or Jupiter as the creator and preserver of Nature, and as standing in some special relation to men. In the Old Testament the idea appears frequently, and has a richer content. Not only is God the creator and preserver of Israel, but He deals with her as a father with his child. "Like as a father pitieth his children, so Yahweh pitieth them that fear Him" (Ps 103:13; compare Dt 1:31; 6; Jer 3:4,19; 31:20; Isa 63:16; Hos 11:1; Mal 3:17). Even His chastisements are "as a man chasteneth his son" (Dt 8:5; Isa 64:8). The same idea is expressed under the figure of a mother's tender care (Isa 49:15; 66:13; Ps 27:10), and it is embedded in the covenant relation. But in the Old Testament the idea does not occupy the central and determinative position it has in New Testament, and it is always limited to Israel.
(1) In the Teaching of Jesus Christ:
God is preeminently the Father. It is his customary term for the Supreme Being, and it is noteworthy that Jesus' usage has never been quite naturalized. We still say "God" where Jesus would have said "the Father." He meant that the essential nature of God, and His relation to men, is best expressed by the attitude and relation of a father to his children; but God is Father in an infinitely higher and more perfect degree than any man. He is "good" and "perfect," the heavenly Father, in contrast with men, who, even as fathers, are evil (Mt 5:48; 7:11). What in them is an ideal imperfectly and intermittently realized, is in Him completely fulfilled. Christ thought not of the physical relation of origin and derivation, but of the personal relation of love and care which a father bestows upon his children. The former relation is indeed implied, for the Father is ever working in the world (Jn 5:17), and all things lie in His power (Lk 22:42). By His preserving power, the least as well as the greatest creature lives (Mt 6:26; 10:29). But it is not the fact of God's creative, preserving and governing power, so much as the manner of it, that Christ emphasizes. He is absolutely good in all His actions and relations (Mt 7:11; Mk 10:18). To Him men and beasts turn for all they need, and in Him they find safety, rest and peace (Mt 6:26,32; 7:11). His goodness goes forth spontaneously and alights upon all living things, even upon the unjust and His enemies (Mt 5:45). He rewards the obedient (Mt 6:1; 7:21), forgives the disobedient (Mt 6:14; compare 18:35) and restores the prodigal (Lk 15:11 ff). "Fatherhood is love, original and underived, anticipating and undeserved, forgiving and educating, communicating and drawing to his heart" (Beyschlag, New Testament Theology, I, 82). To the Father, therefore, should men pray for all good things (Mt 6:9), and He is the ideal of all perfection, to which they should seek to attain (Mt 5:48). Such is the general character of God as expressed in His Fatherhood, but it is realized in different ways by those who stand. to Him in different relations.
(a) Its Relation to Himself:
Jesus Christ knows the Father as no one else does, and is related to Him in a unique manner. The idea is central in His teaching, because the fact is fundamental in His experience. On His first personal appearance in history He declares that He must be about His Father's business (Lk 2:49), and at the last He commends His spirit into His Father's hands. Throughout His life, His filial consciousness is perfect and unbroken. "I and the Father are one" (Jn 10:30). As He knows the Father, so the Father knows and acknowledges Him. At the opening of His ministry, and again at its climax in the transfiguration, the Father bears witness to His perfect sonship (Mk 1:11; 9:7). It was a relation of mutual love and confidence, unalloyed and infinite. "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand" (Jn 3:35; 5:20). The Father sent the Son into the world, and entrusted Him with his message and power (Mt 11:27). He gave Him those who believed in Him, to receive His word (Jn 6:37,44,45; 17:6,8). He does the works and speaks the words of the Father who sent Him (Jn 5:36; 8:18,29; 14:24). His dependence upon the Father, and His trust in Him are equally complete (Jn 11:41; 12:27 f; 17). In this perfect union of Christ. with God, unclouded by sin, unbroken by infidelity, God first became for a human life on earth all that He could and would become. Christ's filial consciousness was in fact and experience the full and final revelation of God. "No one knoweth the Son, save the Father; neither doth any know the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal him" (Mt 11:27). Not only can we see in Christ what perfect sonship is, but in His filial consciousness the Father Himself is so completely reflected that we may know the perfect Father also. "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (Jn 14:9; compare 8:19). Nay, it is more than a reflection: so completely is the mind and will of Christ identified with that of the Father, that they interpenetrate, and the words and works of the Father shine out through Christ. "The words that I say unto you I speak not from myself: but the Father abiding in me doeth his works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me" (Jn 14:10,11). As the Father, so is the Son, for men to honor or to hate (Jn 5:23; 15:23). In the last day, when He comes to execute the judgment which the Father has entrusted to Him, He shall come in the glory of the Father (Mt 16:27; Mk 8:38; Lk 9:26). In all this Jesus is aware that His relation to the Father is unique. What in Him is original and realized, in others can only be an ideal to be gradually realized by His communication. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me" (Jn 14:6). He is, therefore, rightly called the "only begotten son" (Jn 3:16), and His contemporaries believed that He made Himself equal to God (Jn 5:18).
(b) To Believers:
Through Christ, His disciples and hearers, too, may know God as their Father. He speaks of "your Father," "your heavenly Father." To them as individuals, it means a personal relation; He is "thy Father" (Mt 6:4,18). Their whole conduct should be determined by the consciousness of the Father's intimate presence (Mt 6:1,4). To do His will is the ideal of life (Mt 7:21; 12:50). More explicitly, it is to act as He does, to love and forgive as He loves and forgives (Mt 5:45); and, finally, to be perfect as He is perfect (Mt 5:48). Thus do men become sons of their Father who is in heaven. Their peace and safety lay in their knowledge of His constant and all-sufficient care (Mt 6:26,32). The ultimate goal of men's relation to Christ is that through Him they should come to a relation with the Father like His relation both to the Father and to them, wherein Father, Son, and believers form a social unity (Jn 14:21; 17:23; compare 17:21).
(c) To All Men:
While God's fatherhood is thus realized and revealed, originally and fully in Christ, derivatively and partially in believers, it also has significance for all men. Every man is born a child of God and heir of His kingdom (Lk 18:16). During childhood, aIl men are objects of His fatherly love and care (Mt 18:10), and it is not His will that one of them should perish (Mt 18:14). Even if they become His enemies, He still bestows His beneficence upon the evil and the unjust (Mt 5:44,45; Lk 6:35). The prodigal son may become unworthy to be called a son, but the father always remains a father. Men may become so far unfaithful that in them the fatherhood is no longer manifest and that their inner spirits own not God, but the devil, as their father (Jn 8:42-44). So their filial relation to God may be broken, but His nature and attitude are not changed. He is the Father absolutely, and as Father is He perfect (Mt 5:48). The essential and universal Divine Fatherhood finds its eternal and continual object in the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father. As a relation with men, it is qualified by their attitude to God; while some by faithlessness make it of no avail, others by obedience become in the reality of their experience sons of their Father in heaven.
See CHILDREN OF GOD.
(2) In Apostolic Teaching:
In the apostolic teaching , although the Fatherhood of God is not so prominently or so abundantly exhibited as it was by Jesus Christ, it lies at the root of the whole system of salvation there presented. Paul's central doctrine of justification by faith is but the scholastic form of the parable of the Prodigal Son. John's one idea, that God is love, is but an abstract statement of His fatherhood. In complete accord with Christ's teaching, that only through Himself men know the Father and come to Him, the whole apostolic system of grace is mediated through Christ the Son of God, sent because "God so loved the world" (Jn 3:16), that through His death men might be reconciled to God (Rom 5:10; 8:3). He speaks to men through the Son who is the effulgence of His glory, and the very image of His substance (Heb 1:2,3). The central position assigned to Christ involves the central position of the Fatherhood.
As in the teaching of Jesus, so in that of the apostles, we distinguish three different relationships in which the fatherhood is realized in varying degrees:
(a) Father of Jesus Christ:
Primarily He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 15:6; 2 Cor 1:3). As such He is the source of every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Eph 1:3). Through Christ we have access unto the Father (Eph 2:18).
(b) Our Father:
He is, therefore, God our Father (Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:3). Believers are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:26). "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Rom 8:14). These receive the spirit of adoption whereby they cry, Abba, Father (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6). The figure of adoption has sometimes been understood as implying the denial of man's natural sonship and God's essential Fatherhood, but that would be pressing the figure beyond Paul's purpose.
(c) Universal Father:
The apostles' teaching, like Christ's, is that man in sin cannot possess the filial consciousness or know God as Father; but God, in His attitude to man, is always and essentially Father. In the sense of creaturehood and dependence, man in any condition is a son of God (Acts 17:28). And to speak of any other natural sonship which is not also morally realized is meaningless. From God's standpoint, man even in his sin is a possible son, in the personal and moral sense; and the whole process and power of his awakening to the realization of his sonship issues from the fatherly love of God, who sent His Son and gave the Spirit (Rom 5:5,8). He is "the Father" absolutely, "one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all. But unto each one of us was the grace given according to the measure of the gift of Christ" (Eph 4:6,7).
5. God is King:
After the Divine Fatherhood, the kingdom of God (Mark and Luke) or of heaven (Matthew) is the next ruling conception in the teaching of Jesus. As the doctrine of the Fatherhood sets forth the individual relation of men to God, that of the kingdom defines their collective and social condition, as determined by the rule of the Father.
(1) The Kingdom of God:
Christ adopted and transformed the Old Testament idea of Yahweh's rule into an inner and spiritual principle of His gospel, without, however, quite detaching it from the external and apocalyptic thought of His time. He adopts the Jewish idea in so far as it involves the enforcing of God's rule; and in the immediate future He anticipates such a reorganization of social conditions in the manifestation of God's reign over men and Nature, as will ultimately amount to a regeneration of all things in accordance with the will of God (Mk 9:1; 13:30; Mt 16:28; 19:28). But He eliminated the particularism and favoritism toward the Jews, as well as the non-moral, easy optimism as to their destiny in the kingdom, which obtained in contemporary thought. The blessings of the kingdom are moral and spiritual in their nature, and the conditions of entrance into it are moral too (Mt 8:11; 21:31,43; 23:37,38; Lk 13:29). They are humility, hunger and thirst after righteousness, and the love of mercy, purity and peace (Mt 5:3-10; 18:1,3; compare Mt 20:26-28; 25:34; 7:21; Jn 3:3; Lk 17:20,21). The king of such a kingdom is, therefore, righteous, loving and gracious toward all men; He governs by the inner communion of spirit with spirit and by the loving coordination of the will of His subjects with his own will.
(2) Its King:
But who is the king?
Generally in Mk and Lk, and sometimes in Matthew, it is called the kingdom of God. In several parables, the Father takes the place of king, and it is the Father that gives the kingdom (Lk 12:32). God the Father is therefore the King, and we are entitled to argue from Jesus' teaching concerning the kingdom to His idea of God. The will of God is the law of the kingdom, and the ideal of the kingdom is, therefore, the character of God.
But in some passages Christ reveals the consciousness of his own Kingship. He approves Peter's confession of his Messiahship, which involves Kingship (Mt 16:16). He speaks of a time in the immediate future when men shall see "the Son of man coming in his kingdom" (Mt 16:28). As judge of all men, He designates Himself king (Mt 25:34; Lk 19:38). He accepts the title king from Pilate (Mt 27:11,12; Mk 15:2; Lk 23:3; Jn 18:37), and claims a kingdom which is not of this world (Jn 18:36). His disciples look to Him for the restoration of the kingdom (Acts 1:6). His kingdom, like that of God, is inner, moral and spiritual.
(c) Their Relation:
But there can be only one moral kingdom, and only one supreme authority in the spiritual realm. The coordination of the two kingships must be found in their relation to the Fatherhood. The two ideas are not antithetical or even independent. They may have been separate and even opposed as Christ found them, but He used them as two points of apperception in the minds of His hearers, by which He communicated to them His one idea of God, as the Father who ruled a spiritual kingdom by love and righteousness, and ordered Nature and history to fulfill His purpose of grace. Men's prayer should be that the Father's kingdom may come (Mt 6:9,10). They enter the kingdom by doing the Father's will (Mt 7:21). It is their Father's good pleasure to give them the kingdom (Lk 12:32). The Fatherhood is primary, but it carries with it authority, government, law and order, care and provision, to set up and organize a kingdom reflecting a Father's love and expressing His will.
And as Christ is the revealer and mediator of the Fatherhood, He also is the messenger and bearer of the kingdom. In his person, preaching and works, the kingdom is present to men (Mt 4:17,23; 12:28), and as its king He claims men's allegiance and obedience (Mt 11:28,29). His sonship constitutes His relation to the kingdom. As son He obeys the Father, depends upon Him, represents Him to men, and is one with Him. And in virtue of this relation, He is the messenger of the kingdom and its principle, and at the same time He shares with the Father its authority and Kingship.
(3) Apostolic Teaching:
In the apostolic writings, the emphasis upon the elements of kingship, authority, law and righteousness is greater than in the gospels. The kingdom is related to God (Gal 21; Col 4:11; 1 Thess 2:12; 2 Thess 1:5), and to Christ (Col 1:13; 2 Tim 4:1,18; 2 Pet 1:11), and to both together (Eph 5:5; compare 1 Cor 15:24). The phrase "the kingdom of the Son of his love" sums up the idea of the joint kingship, based upon the relation of Father and Son.
6. Moral Attributes:
The nature and character of God are summed up in the twofold relation of Father and King in which He stands to men, and any abstract statements that may be made about Him, any attributes that may be ascribed to Him, are deductions from His royal Fatherhood.
That a father and king is a person needs not to be argued, and it is almost tautology to say that a person is a spirit. Christ relates directly the spirituality of God to His Fatherhood. "The true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth: for such doth the Father seek to be his worshippers. God is Spirit" (Jn 4:23,14 margin). Figurative expressions denoting the same truth are the Johannine phrases, `God is life' (1 Jn 5:20), and "God is light" (1 Jn 1:5).
Love is the most characteristic attribute of Fatherhood. It is the abstract term that most fully expresses the concrete character of God as Father. In John's theology, it is used to sum up all God's perfections in one general formula. God is love, and where no love is, there can be no knowledge of God and no realization of Him (1 Jn 4:8,16). With one exception (Lk 11:42), the phrase "the love of God" appears in the teaching of Jesus only as it is represented in the Fourth Gospel. There it expresses the bond of union and communion, issuing from God, that holds together the whole spiritual society, God, Christ and believers (Jn 10; 14:21). Christ's mission was that of revelation, rather than of interpretation, and what in person and act He represents before men as the living Father, the apostles describe as almighty and universal love. They saw and realized this love first in the Son, and especially in His sacrificial death. It is "the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 8:39). "God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom 5:8; compare Eph 2:4). Love was fully made known in Christ's death (1 Jn 3:16). The whole process of the incarnation and death of Christ was also a sacrifice of God's and the one supreme manifestation of His nature as love (1 Jn 4:9,10; compare Jn 3:16). The love of God is His fatherly relation to Christ extended to men through Christ. By the Father's love bestowed upon us, we are called children of God (1 Jn 3:1). Love is not only an emotion of tenderness and beneficence which bestows on men the greatest gifts, but a relation to God which constitutes their entire law of life. It imposes upon men the highest moral demands, and communicates to them the moral energy by which alone they can be met. It is law and grace combined. The love of God is perfected only in those who keep the word of Jesus Christ the Righteous (1 Jn 2:5). "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments" (1 Jn 5:3). It is manifested especially in brotherly love (1 Jn 4:12,20). It cannot dwell with worldliness (1 Jn 2:15) or callous selfishness (1 Jn 3:17). Man derives it from God as he is made the son of God, begotten of Him (1 Jn 4:7).
(3) Righteousness and Holiness:
Righteousness and holiness were familiar ideas to Jesus and His disciples, as elements in the Divine character. They were current in the thought of their time, and they stood foremost in the Old Testament conception. They were therefore adopted in their entirety in the New Testament, but they stand in a different context. They are coordinated with and even subordinated to, the idea of love. As kingship stands to fatherhood, so righteousness and holiness stand to love.
(a) Once we find the phrase "Holy Father" spoken by Jesus (Jn 17:11; compare 1 Pet 1:15,16). But generally the idea of holiness is associated with God in His activity through the Holy Spirit, which renews, enlightens, purifies and cleanses the lives of men. Every vestige of artificial, ceremonial, non-moral meaning disappears from the idea of holiness in the New Testament. The sense of separation remains only as separation from sin. So Christ as high priest is "holy, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners" (Heb 7:26). Where it dwells, no uncleanness must be (1 Cor 6:19). Holiness is not a legal or abstract morality, but a life made pure and noble by the love of God shed abroad in men's hearts (Rom 5:5). "The kingdom of God is .... righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom 14:17).
(b) Righteousness as a quality of character is practically identical with holiness in the New Testament. It is opposed to sin (Rom 6:13,10) and iniquity (2 Cor 6:14). It is coupled with goodness and truth as the fruit of the light (Eph 5:9; compare 1 Tim 6:11; 2 Tim 2:22). It implies a rule or standard of conduct, which in effect is one with the life of love and holiness. It is brought home to men by the conviction of the Holy Spirit (Jn 16:8). In its origin it is the righteousness of God (Mt 6:33; compare Jn 17:25). In Paul's theology, "the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ unto all them that believe" (Rom 3:22) is the act of God, out of free grace, declaring and treating the sinner as righteous, that he thereby may become righteous, even as "we love, because he first loved us" (1 Jn 4:19). The whole character of God, then, whether we call it love, holiness or righteousness, is revealed in His work of salvation, wherein He goes forth to men in love and mercy, that they may be made citizens of His kingdom, heirs of His righteousness, and participators in His love.
7. Metaphysical Attributes:
The abstract being of God and His metaphysical attributes are implied, but not defined, in the New Testament. His infinity, omnipotence and omniscience are not enunciated in terms, but they are postulated in the whole scheme of salvation which He is carrying to completion. He is Lord of heaven and earth (Mt 11:25). The forces of Nature are at His command (Mt 5:45; 6:30). He can answer every prayer and satisfy every need (Mt 7:7-12). All things are possible to Him (Mk 10:27; 14:36). He created all things (Eph 3:9). All earthly powers are derived from Him (Rom 13:1). By His power, He raised Christ from the dead and subjected to Him "all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion" in heaven and on earth (Eph 1:20,21; compare Mt 28:18). Every power and condition of existence are subordinated to the might of His love unto His saints (Rom 8:38,39). Neither time nor place can limit Him: He is the eternal God (Rom 16:26). His knowledge is as infinite as His power; He knows what the Son and the angels know not (Mk 13:32). He knows the hearts of men (Lk 16:15) and all their needs (Mt 6:8,32). His knowledge is especially manifested in His wisdom by which He works out His purpose of salvation, "the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Eph 3:10,11). The teaching of the New Testament implies that all perfections of power, condition and being cohere in God, and are revealed in His love. They are not developed or established on metaphysical grounds, but they flow out of His perfect fatherhood. Earthly fathers do what good they can for their children, but the Heavenly Father does all things for the best for His children--"to them that love God all things work together for good"--because He is restricted by no limits of power, will or wisdom (Mt 7:11; Rom 8:28).
8. The Unity of God:
It is both assumed through the New Testament and stated categorically that God is one (Mk 12:29; Rom 3:30; Eph 4:6). No truth had sunk more deeply into the Hebrew mind by this time than the unity of God.
(1) The Divinity of Christ:
Yet it is obvious from what has been written, that Jesus Christ claimed a power, authority and position so unique that they can only be adequately described by calling Him God; and the apostolic church both in worship and in doctrine accorded Him that honor. All that they knew of God as now fully and finally revealed was summed up in His person, "for in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col 2:9). If they did not call Him God, they recognized and named Him everything that God meant for them.
(2) The Holy Spirit:
Moreover, the Holy Spirit is a third term that represents a Divine person in the experience, thought and language of Christ and His disciples. In the Johannine account of Christ's teaching, it is probable that the Holy Spirit is identified with the risen Lord Himself (Jn 14:16,17; compare 14:18), and Paul seems also to identify them in at least one passage: "the Lord is the Spirit" (2 Cor 3:17). But in other places the three names are ranged side by side as representing three distinct persons (Mt 28:19; 2 Cor 13:14; Eph 4:4-6).
(3) The Church's Problem:
But how does the unity of God cohere with the Divine status of the Son and the distinct subsistence of the Holy Spirit? Jesus Christ affirmed a unity between Himself and the Father (Jn 10:30), a unity, too, which might be realized in a wider sphere, where the Father, the Son and believers should form one society (Jn 17:21,23), but He reveals no category which would construe the unity of the Godhead in a manifoldness of manifestation. The experience of the first Christians as a rule found Christ so entirely sufficient to all their religious needs, so filled with all the fullness of God, that the tremendous problem which had arisen for thought did not trouble them. Paul expresses his conception of the relation of Christ to God under the figure of the image. Christ "is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation" (Col 1:15; 2 Cor 4:4). Another writer employs a similar metaphor. Christ is "the effulgence of (God's) glory, and the very image of his substance" (Heb 1:3). But these figures do not carry us beyond the fact, abundantly evident elsewhere, that Christ in all things represented God because He participated in His being. In the prologue to the Fourth Gospel, the doctrine of the Word is developed for the same purpose. The eternal Reason of God who was ever with Him, and of Him, issues forth as revealed thought, or spoken word, in the person of Jesus Christ, who therefore is the eternal Word of God incarnate. So far and no farther the New Testament goes. Jesus Christ is God revealed; we know nothing of God, but that which is manifest in Him. His love, holiness, righteousness and purpose of grace, ordering and guiding all things to realize the ends of His fatherly love, all this we know in and through Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit takes of Christ's and declares it to men (Jn 16:14). The problems of the coordination of the One with the Three, of personality with the plurality of consciousness, of the Infinite with the finite, and of the Eternal God with the Word made flesh, were left over for the church to solve. The Holy Spirit was given to teach it all things and guide it into all the truth (Jn 16:13). "And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world" (Mt 28:20).
See JESUS CHRIST; HOLY SPIRIT; TRINITY.
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