SIR ROBERT ANDERSON
Secret Service Theologian
THE GOSPEL AND
THE GODHOOD OF GOD.
It is matter for reflection whether the want of such a
word as "Godhood" has not helped to let the thought it signifies die out.
Whether men believe it or not, Jehovah is GOD. This is a fact absolute and certain. But is He my God? The Psalmist could say, "0 God, Thou art my God!" Does this mean no more than that He was God? He was the God of Israel; but if any one imagines that He was the God of Pharaoh, or of the Philistines, or of the kings of Canaan, he must have strange ideas of what it is to have a God. Because He was the God of Israel, He destroyed the power of Pharaoh in order to deliver them. If the sea barred their way, He made a highway through it. If they hungered, the heaven rained bread; if they thirsted, the rock gave forth water in the midst of the desert And the tribes of the wilderness and the nations of the land, as they heard that battle-shout from the puny armies of Israel, "The Lord of Hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge" could have taught the Christians of today what it means to have Jehovah for our God. God was not their God, but He was the God of Israel.
And can any thoughtful man look abroad upon the world, and imagine for a moment that God is a God to creation now? "The whole creation groans." The children of Israel groaned in Egyptian bondage, but when, their deliverance complete, they stood around their glorious king in their glorious city, it was no longer a groan that rose to heaven, but shouts of praise and the worship of full hearts. And when God becomes once again a God to all His creatures, their groans will no more be heard. The creation shall then be " delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God." Then "shall the Lord rejoice in His works," and from His opened hand the desire of every living thing shall be satisfied. Men delight to speak of the Fatherhood of God, (see App.) because they think it gives them claims on Him. And doubtless they who are indeed His children have real claims upon God in virtue of the tie. Though even here there is need to remember that a relationship cannot be wholly on one side: "If I am a Father, where is mine honour?" God may well demand. But what is usually meant by the Fatherhood of God is really His Godhood. And if God was the God of Israel there were mutual obligations involved in the relationship. And so it must ever be. But men speak as though the fact of their being His creatures gave them claims on God, while they utterly forget that sin is a repudiation of His claims on them - a denial of the very relationship on which they insist so strongly when their own interests are concerned.
Moreover, as we have seen, by the rejection of Christ man forfeits every claim of every kind on God; while, in.the gospel, the grace of God presents Christ as the fulfilment of every blessing which a loving God can bestow. God has far different thoughts toward the "Canaanite" and the "Philistine" of today than were expressed by the sword of Israel. It is not that the human heart is changed, still less the heart of God; but that the work of Christ has enabled God to assume a new attitude toward men. "In Christ He was reconciling the world unto Himself"; "The God of our Lord Jesus Christ" can now become a God to all, because, I repeat once more, RECONCILIATION is accomplished.
But if men reject Christ, and refuse the reconciliation, how can there possibly be mercy for them? In past dispensations mans sin and failure have always drawn out some better thing from Gods great goodness and wisdom and power; but, now, the climax has been reached. His best gift has been given; His masterwork has been achieved; heaven is flung wide open, and sinful men are called to fellowship with Christ in His glory. Divine love and grace are now exhausted, and the only possible alternative and sequel is VENGEANCE. If men insist on defying God and maintaining the place of adversaries, there can be nothing for them but "judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries."
By Godhood then I mean the relationship existing between God and His creatures in virtue of His Godhead. That relationship was outraged and set aside by sin, and even the lower creation shared the blight which fell upon our world because of it. But "by the blood of the cross" God has reconciled all things to Himself. The enjoyment .of this benefit is postponed for "the creation until the "manifestation of the sons of God," a and it will be lost for ever by impenitent men. But the reconciliation is a fact and a truth for the believer, here and now, and he has access to it, and ought to be in the joy of it. But the Godhood of God toward the believer is. true only to faith. The Christian's God is "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ," for even such a one as He had a God; and yet the Lord Jesus knew what it was to be in want. The universe was His creature, and by a word He could make bread for starving thousands,. or crown the provision for a feast with richest wine; but when it was Himself who hungered or was athirst, He looked up and trusted in His God. He had a God, and yet He had not where to lay His head. And as it was with the Leader of Faith, so has it been, with the sons of Faith in every age. In the 11th chapter of Hebrews we read of some "who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens." But we read of others who, none the less through faith, "were tortured, not accepting deliverance," and of others again who "had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented." And to these it is that the divine epitaph belongs, "Of whom the world was not worthy."
The faith that bears and suffers, is greater than the faith that triumphs. How many there are who, through ignorance of this mystery of faith, have made shipwreck of their hopes, and are sunk under trial and disappointment. Faith must be prepared for a refusal. Faith trusts for safety, but never fails when perils come. Faith looks, for food and shelter, but never falters when "hunger, and thirst, and cold, and nakedness" become its portion. The faith that cries with the Psalmist, "At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto Thee," is truer and greater than the faith that could bid the sun stand still upon Gibeon; and the sufferings of Paul denote a higher faith than the mightiest acts of Elijah. "In deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods; once was I stoned; thrice I suffered shipwreck; a night and a day I have been in the deep. . . . In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness;"
"A night and a day have I been in the deep!" Paul - the beloved child and saint of God, the faithful and honoured servant, the chosen vessel to bear His name before the world, the foremost of the apostles - clinging to some frail plank upon the wild lone sea hour after hour for a whole sun's round; in hunger, and thirst, and cold; the sport of every wave; lost to earth, and seemingly unknown to heaven; and yet he had a God who could have delivered him by a word! And though deliverance came not, he kept his heart and eye fixed upon unseen realities, and reckoned the present sufferings unworthy to be compared with the coming glory.
Even in the midst of sorrow and trial, happiness is the Christian's lot. Happiness: not the flippant gaiety of a careless heart (for if, even in the world, such happiness is contemptible - the uncoveted monopoly of fools - how utterly unworthy is it of those who have been called to fellowship with the sufferings of Christ!) but happiness in the truer and deeper sense in which alone the Scripture speaks of it. The highest type of existence is not the butterfly, but "The Man of Sorrows " - He of the marred visage and the melted heart.
Such then is the Christian's happiness. Through all circumstances, and in spite of them, he is a prosperous man, a blessed man. He may indeed have care and trial and sorrow; but his is the God who, while He could leave His child to be a solitary and outcast wanderer, with no pillow but a stone, and no companion but a staff, could yet turn that stone into a memorial pillar of thanksgiving and. praise, and make that loneliness the very gate of heaven! "Happy is he that has the God of Jacob for his help! ". "Happy the people whose God is Jehovah! "
Safe in Jehovah's keeping,
Led by His glorious arm,
God is Himself my refuge,
A present help from harm.
Fears may at times distress me,
Griefs may my soul annoy;
God is my strength and portion,
God my exceeding joy.
Safe in Jehovah's keeping,
Safe in temptation's hour,
Safe in the midst of perils,
Kept by Almighty power.
Safe when the tempest rages,
Safe though the night be long;
E'en when my sky is darkest,
God is my strength and song.
Sure is Jehovah's promise,
Nought can my hope assail;
Here is my soul's sure anchor.
Entered within the veil.
Blest in His love eternal,
What can I want beside!
Safe through the blood that cleanseth
Safe in the Christ that died.
NOTE I - P. 50. MIRACLES.
THE subject of miracles, and of "evidences" in general, is
too large to treat of here; but yet the reference I have made to them compels
me to add a few remarks.
1st. The mere fact of miracles is no proof of divine intervention. A miracle is such an interference with the course of nature as is beyond our own power. Any creature, - therefore, entirely superior to us can perform what we deem a miracle. The miracles worked by Satan in the temptation of our Lord (Luke iv. 5) are far more wonderful (I do not say "greater ") than all the miracles of all the apostles combined; and Scripture testifies that the devil will again exert miraculous power on earth.
2nd. Miracles are never appealed to in Scripture as ". an evidence," save in connection with a preceding revelation tct which they are referred. The gospel of Christ was not "the beginning of the oracles of God" ; it was another chapter in a long-continued revelation. But it had a two-fold aspect. He came to a people whose every hope, for earth and heaven centred in a Messiah promised to their fathers, and He came, moreover, to a world that was ruined and lost. His mission, therefore, had a two-fold character and purpose. He was the Messiah to the Jew; He was the bread of God to give life to the world. It was with the former that the miracles had specially to do The knowledge of His higher mission and character was not an inference from miracles. It was the subject of a special revelation to John the Baptist, and through him to those who afterwards became the first disciples of the Lord (John 1. 3334). These all belonged to the little company spoken of in Luke ii. 38 as waiting for the redemption of Israel. They followed Him because they were already God's people, and yet even these needed a word from God to enable them to know Him.
3rd. If this be so, we shall expect to find that it was to Jews that the testimony was based on miracles, and that when the kingdom gospel, or special national testimony, ceased, miracles became of secondary importance. Both these points are plain upon the face of Scripture. As soon as the Sanhedrin decreed the destruction of Christ, He sought to keep His miracles secret (Matt. Xii. 14 - 16). He could not be face to face with need and refuse to meet it, but He no longer wished the fame of His power to go forth. And when, after His final rejection, the gospel became a purely spiritual testimony, miracles were never appealed to in confirmation of it. The national testimony which the apostles had been sent forth to render at the first was based on miracles (Matt. x. 7, 8). The gospel of Pentecost was a living power, independent of all extrinsic proof; it was itself the means of the conversion of 3000 souls (Acts ii. 41). "To the Jew first," is characteristic of the Acts, and of the transitional period the book embraces. After the conversion of Cornelius, the public testimony was no longer confined to the Jew, but the Jew retained the right to priority in the offer of grace (see ex. gr. Acts xiii. 46). The miracles therefore continued, though without their former prominence. And when Paul went forth preaching to Gentiles, miracles seem to have been divorced from his testimony. His miracle at Lystra was in response to the faith of the man who was the subject of it (Acts xiv, 9) and the effect it had upon those who witnessed it was that, they owned the apostles as gods, as was natural with heathens, and prepared to sacrifice to them. So was it also at Melita (Acts xxviii. 6).
That miraculous power existed in Gentile Churches the 12th chapter of 1st Corinthians establishes; but the question is, Did the gospel which produced those Churches appeal to miracles to confirm it? Can any one read the first four chapters of that very Epistle, and retain a doubt as to the answer? The great question here involved resolves itself, sooner or later, into this: When God speaks to man's heart through the gospel, does He speak in such wise that the word carries with it the certainty that it is from Him? To say that God cannot do this is to deny that He is supreme; and to deny a Supreme Being is sheer Atheism. To say that He does not is to remove the truth of revelation out of the region of certainty altogether. For the genuineness of miracles must, of course, depend on evidence; and if, as Paley declares, the reality of a revelation must be proved by miracles, it is only by weighing evidences that we can determine what is revealed; and that form of proof can never, in such matters, reach higher than probability; indeed, no accurate or astute thinker has ever claimed more for it. The degree of conviction thus attainable is, doubtless, an overwhelming condemnation of the infidel, but it is a poor substitute for the faith of the Christian. According to Paley, the value of the Christian revelation is determined by the miracles. According to Scripture, the value of the miracles was determined by the revelation. it was not that miracles were wrought. but that the miracles of the ministry were precisely what Isaiah prophesied the Messiah would accomplish. The whole system is false, and must drive simple-minded folk to Rome; for the many are quite incapable of reasoning out Christianity from evidences, and, if that be our only foundation, they must trust the Church. With what a sense of relief we turn to a word like this, "I thank Thee, 0 Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." I have dealt with this subject in The Silence 0f God, Chapters III., IV.. and V.
NOTE 11.P. i6g.
Matt. vi. g." Hallowed be Thy name" (and Luke xi. 2).
Matt. xxiii. 17, 19.The temple that sanctifieth the gold: the altar that sanctifieth the gift.
John x. 36.Say ye of Him whom the Father hath sanctified.
John xvii. i7, 19.Sanctify them through Thy truth. For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
Acts xx. 32..Inheritance among all them that are sanctified (and xxvi. i8).
Rom. xv. x6.That the offenng up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.
iCor. i. 2.Sanctified in Christ Jesus.
i Cor. vi. xi.But ye are sanctified. . . by the Spirit of our God.
i Cor. vii. 14.The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband.
Eph. v. 26.That He might sanctify it (the Church). iThess. v. 23.God of peace sanctify you wholly.
i Tim. iv. (Every creature) is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer.
2 Tim. ii. 21.A vessel sanctified and meet for the Master's use.
Heb. ii. riHe that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified. Heb. ix. 13.If blood . .. sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh.
Heb. x. 10.By which will we are sanctified.
Heb. x. 14.flath perfected them that are sanctified. Beb. x. 29.Blood . . . wherewith he was sanctified.
Heb. Xiii. 12.That He might sancti/y the people.
i Pet. iii. 15.Sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord (R.V.). Jude i.To them that are sanctified by God the Father (the Revised reading is beloved in God the Father).
Rev. xxii. ir.Let him be holy still (literally, let him be sanctified still).
Rom. vi. 19.Yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.
Rom. vi. 22.Ye have your fruit unto holiness.
i Cor. i. 30.Christ is made unto us . . . sanctification.
1 Thess. iv. 3.This is the will of God, even your sanctifica tion, that ye should abstain from fornication.
1 Thess. iv. 4.Possess his vessel in sanctification.
1Thess. iv. 7.God hath not called us to uncleanness, but to holiness.
2 Thess. 12 13.Salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.
i Tim. ii. 15.Saved in childbearing if they continue in holiness.
Heb. xii. 14.Follow. . . holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
iPet. i. 2.Elect . . . through sanctification of the Spirit unto, etc.
NOTE IV.P. 197.
THE FATHERHOOD OF GOD.
The figment of the universal Fatherhood of God is one of the most popular of heresies. With those who hold that man is the product of evolution the claim is obviously fanciful. Nor is it much better in the case of those who accept the truth of Scripture. For we are not the children of Adam as he came from the hand of God, but the remote descendants of the sinful and fallen outcast of Eden. And were it not that in the sphere of religion people seem to take leave not only of their Bibles but of their brains, they would recognise that this cannot constitute us children of God in the Scriptural sense.
True it is that in order to expose the error and folly of thinking "that the Godhead is like unto gold or silver or stone, graven by art and man's device," the Apostle Paul when addressing a heathen audience adopted the words of a heathen poet," For we are also His offspring" (Acts xvii. 28, 29). But no doctrine of sonship can be based on this. The word here used (genos) is one of wide significance ; and the argument founded upon it would be equally valid if the lower creation were intended.
Heb. ii i4 is also appealed to in support of this figment. But the words of verse x6 are explicit :" He taketh hold of the seed of Abraham." "We must not here understand mankind, as some have done," is Dean Alford's obvious comment. The "children" of verse 14 are not the seed of Adam but "the seed of Abraham"; that is, the children of faith. We become children of God, not by descent from Adam, but by faith in Christ. The teaching of Scripture here is definite and clear: "As many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become children of God, even to them that believe in His name, which were born . . . of God" (John i. 12, 13). This is the test. The relationship depends on birth. "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John iii. 3).
Most certain it is, therefore, that he cannot be a child of God. Still more terribly explicit were the Lord's words to the religious leaders who rejected Him. Said He: "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father it is your will to do" (John viii. 44) This heresy teaches that we are by nature children of God: the Scripture declares that we are" by nature children of wrath" (Eph. ii. 3).
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