Secret Service Theologian




No one who accepts the Scriptures as divine is entitled to deny that in His personal ministry the Lord Jesus laid claim to Deity. And the crucifixion is a public proof that He did in fact assert this claim. For we are told expressly that the reason why the Jews plotted His death was "because He not only brake the Sabbath, but also called God His own Father, making Himself equal with God." His claim to be "Lord even of the Sabbath" was in itself an assertion of equality with the God of Sinai. And as regards His declaring Himself to be the Son of God, the question is - not what these words might convey to English readers to-day, but what He Himself intended His hearers to understand by them.
And this He made unequivocally clear. The charge brought against Him was one from which, if false, any godly Israelite would have recoiled with horror. But instead of repelling it He accepted it in a way which even common men could understand. For He immediately asserted such absolute unity with God that the Father was responsible for His every act, including, of course, the miracle which they had denounced as a violation of the divine law. He next claimed absolute equality with God as "the author and giver of life "- the supreme prerogative of Deity. And, lastly, He asserted His exclusive right to the equally divine prerogative of judgment.'
My object in recapitulating this now and here is to seize upon the words which follow, for they are words which may well cause searching of heart to the Christian in these days of ours. The reason why all judgment has been committed to Him is, He declared, "in order that all may honour the Son even as they honour the Father." And to make this still more emphatic He added, "He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which sent Him." (Footnote - In English this might mean no more than honouring the Son in addition to honouring the Father. But the words used by the Lord imply rendering to the Son the same honour as is rendered to the Father. He uses it eight times in chap. xvii. (verses 2, 11, 14, 16, 18, 21, 22, 23) and it always implies "even as," "In the same way as.")
Men of the world think of Him only as the great Buddha who once lived and died on earth. They know nothing of the living Lord who now reigns in Heaven. It seems natural to them, therefore, to speak of Him as "a man of the name of Jesus Christ," or, with still more distressing freedom, as simply "Jesus." But how is it that real Christians, who profess to honour Him "even as they honour the Father," habitually offend in the same way? It is to be hoped that with very many the fault is due to mere thoughtlessness or ignorance; and if these pages should lead any such to clear themselves from this reproach, they will not have been written in vain.
"Sanctify Christ in your hearts as Lord" is an exhortation we need to remember. And if He be enshrined in the heart as Lord, the confession of the lip will be a matter of course. This confession, indeed, is at once a characteristic and a proof of discipleship; for "no one can say 'Lord Jesus' but by the Holy Spirit." Any lips, of course, could frame the words; but it is a fact of extraordinary interest that the unspiritual never do say "Lord Jesus." They may call Him "Jesus," or "Jesus Christ," or use some such term as "our Saviour"; but "the Lord Jesus "- never! (Footnote - This appears both from the Gospel narrative and from the Lord's express commendation of the practice: "Ye call Me Master and Lord, and ye say well"(John xiii. 13)
In New Testament times the disciple thus declared himself by the way in which he named his Lord. It was not that he followed a set rule, but that he obeyed a spiritual instinct. And so it ought to be with us. In the social sphere it is not by rule, but by an instinct of courtesy, that we address other people, and speak of them, in a becoming manner; and in this sphere our spiritual instincts would be a still more unerring guide if they were not deadened and depraved by the baneful influences which prevail around us.
It is recorded in the Acts that "certain of the strolling Jews, exorcists, took upon them to name over them that had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, "I adjure thee by Jesus, whom Paul preacheth." Mark the words. To the disciples He was "the Lord Jesus," but to the vagabond Jews He was "Jesus." And Christendom follows the example, not of the disciples, but of the vagabond Jews!
But it is said, " Why should we not call Him 'Jesus'? Is He not thus named hundreds of times in the Gospels?" Strange it is that people who contend vehemently for the inspiration of Scripture should thus give proof that they have no faith in it. For if it means anything, it implies a divine authorship of the sacred books, controlling the authorship of the human writers.
If "The Letters of Queen Victoria" had been published anonymously, the mode in which they name the members of the Royal Family would in itself indicate the Queen as the writer. And the manner in which the "Son of His love" is named in the evangelistic records is one of the many incidental proofs that the Gospels are indeed "the Word of God." What makes this so specially significant is the fact that while in the main narrative the Lord is always "Jesus," yet in every instance where the narrative introduces words spoken by the disciples as such, whether addressed to Him or to others about Him, a title of reverence is used.
The case of the disciples with whom He went to Emmaus on the day of the resurrection may seem to be an exception, but it is a most significant one. They had hoped that "it was He who should redeem Israel," but their hope had been shattered by the crucifixion. And now that He was dead, He was no longer "the Lord," but merely "Jesus of Nazareth." (Footnote - During His life the Jews called Him "Jesus of Nazareth" merely as a distinctive name, and thus it was that Cleopas used it. But after His death it became a name of reproach-the name of the false Messiah who had been crucified as a blasphemer. And it is with this signification, as equivalent to" the despised and rejected of men," that it was used by the Apostles in Acts ii. 22, x. 38, and xxvi. 9, and by the Lord Himself to Paul (Acti xxii. 8).)
It is idle to discuss this with any who seek excuses for refusing to render to Him the homage which He claims from His people. But the devout will recognise that in this matter they should be guided by the Lord's own teaching, and by the example of those who received the teaching from His own lips. And here we are not left in doubt. His words, "Ye call me 'Master' and 'Lord,' and ye say well," give proof of their invariable practice, and of His unqualified approval of it; and surely this should be enough for us. In this matter the testimony of the Epistles is of extraordinary interest. For while in the Gospels the Lord is named narratively as "Jesus" some six hundred times, the simple name occurs only twenty-two times in the whole range of the Epistles. And it never once occurs by way of narrative mention: there is always a special reason for its use. If the relative dates of the New Testament books were different, a plausible explanation of this might be attempted. But in view of the facts it must be an insoluble enigma to those who deny the inspiration of the Scriptures.
An illustrative instance will explain what is meant by the narrative use of the Lord's human name. The Evangelists record that at the Last Supper "Jesus took bread"; but in the Epistle to the Corinthians we read "The Lord Jesus took bread." In all the Apostle Paul's Epistles, indeed, there are only eight passages in which the Lord is named as "Jesus"; and in each of these there is either a special emphasis or a doctrinal significance in the use of the name of His humiliation.
This appears in a very striking way in the only two passages in which "the simple name" occurs in all his six later Epistles, written in his Roman prisons. In Ephesians the Apostle writes: "Ye did not so learn Christ; if so be that ye heard Him and were taught in Him, even as truth is in Jesus." Here the "Jesus" is emphatic; for the exhortation relates to the practical life of the Christian, which ought to be governed by the teaching of Christ as the truth was manifested in the example of His own life on earth in the time of His humiliation. (Footnote - "The use of the simple name of Jesus is rare in the Epistles." "Wherever it occurs it will be found to be distinctive or emphatic." The modern familiar use of the simple name 'Jesus' has little authority in Apostolic usage." A misreading of this verse has given rise to the popular phrase, "the truth as it is in Jesus," meaning thereby evangelical doctrine. In Scriptural language that would be called "the truth of Christ." And it is not doctrine, but practice, that is here indicated.)
And in writing to the Philippians, he presents in striking contrast the Lord's humiliation on earth and His exaltation to the place of supreme glory and power in heaven. And it was because He humbled Himself that God exalted Him thus, and "gave Him the name that is above every name." Surely we cannot err in connecting this with His glory as exalted "above every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come." What can that name be but the great name of Jehovah?
But it is "in the name of Jesus" that every knee shall bow. What can this mean but that it is as the man of Nazareth and Calvary that He will command the worship of every being in the universe, while all shall unite to own that He is Lord? The name of His humiliation is thus placed in marked antithesis to that of His glory; and the passage should teach us, not to call Him "Jesus," but to confess that He is LORD. (Footnote - The passages here cited are given on p.99 ante. I would urge that, as the name of His glory is conferred on Him because He humbled Himself, it cannot be the name of His humiliation. And if the Apostle meant thereby the name of "Jehovah," he used the only word which the Greek language supplied to express it. Alford's exegesis amounts to this, that because He humbled Himself to become Jesus, God gave Him that same name with a new dignity attached to it. This seems to me to fritter away the meaning of the passage, and to ignore the force of the (Greek) in verse 10. I need not say that bowing at the name is not its teaching.)When reading those Epistles which were definitely addressed to Hebrew Christians, it is specially important to keep in mind the place which the Messianic title held with the Jew. If in 1 Peter, for instance, we read "Messiah," or "the Christ," in every place where "Christ" is used, and "Jesus the Messiah" wherever "Jesus Christ" occurs, the unfamiliar terms will, in some measure, bring to our minds what the words conveyed to Jewish ears. For I would take sides with those who refuse to believe that "Christ" is ever used merely as a proper name. With the Jew it was a sacred title of great solemnity; and it is hard to believe that a Hebrew Christian could have come to regard it in any other light.
The Epistles of Peter give striking proof that the terminology of the Epistles in this respect was influenced by the proclivities of those to whom they were addressed. In his first Epistle for example, which was written expressly for Israelites, the Lord is named twelve times as "Christ," and eight times as "Jesus Christ"; for with the Israelite the Messianic title would carry its own solemn and sacred significance. But to Gentiles "Christ" might seem to be a proper name, and "Jesus Christ" merely a double name (like Simon Peter); and therefore, in his second Epistle, which was not addressed exclusively to Hebrews, he never once names Him by the simple title of "Christ," and only once as "Jesus Christ." In his opening salutation he describes himself as "the bond-servant of Jesus Christ "- it seems to have been a regular apostolic formula - but in the very same sentence he goes on to designate Him as "our God and Saviour Jesus Christ," and again as "Jesus our Lord." Three times we have "our Lord Jesus Christ," and three times "our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
If these were the words merely of a converted Jew they would be overwhelming proof of a belief in the Deity of Christ. For it is indeed "Gentile ignorance" to suppose that a devout Jew could use such language of any created being, however exalted. But they are the words of an inspired Apostle; and to reject such testimony is to undermine the authority of Holy Scripture.
Upon the main subject of this chapter I would make a parting appeal. Tendencies are just now declaring themselves in political and social life, which cause forebodings in the minds of thoughtful men. But these are of little moment in comparison with the development of evils, as subtle as they are grave, in the religious sphere. The lists seem to be preparing for the great predicted struggle of the latter days between the apostasy of avowed infidelity and the apostasy which flaunts the name of Christ upon its banners. The one pays homage to "the historic Jesus," who is prirnus inter pares, the best and greatest of mankind. The other worships a mythical "Jesus" who takes rank with a mythical "mother of God." Both alike are opposed to Christ. For the truth that He is "God over all, blessed for ever," which the one openly rejects, the other implicitly undermines. And these evils seem to be daily gathering volume and force. Their influence is clearly manifest in our religious literature; and it is more and more corrupting the faith of Christians of every class and school.
It would seem to me, therefore, that even if we could find a Scriptural warrant - and I can find none - for liberty to name the Lord of Glory with the easy familiarity so common in these evil days, we should do well to forego that liberty, and to give proof by our very words, in season and out of season, that we are of the number of those who own Him as Lord, and who honour Him "even as they honour the Father." The confession of Him thus as Lord is the very essence of the gospel "For if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thine heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved."' But "the god of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them. The gospel of a "Jesus" who is the image of man is his chief device to delude his votaries to-day. But "we preach Christ Jesus as LORD," the Apostle immediately adds; and this the devil cannot tolerate, for it impugns "the lie" of which he is the father - the lie that he himself is the true "firstborn," to whom the sovereignty of the world by right belongs.
'I make bold to read John viii. 44 literally. "When he speaks the lie, he speaks of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of iv." And so also in 2 Thess. ii. 11. For "the lie," see Luke iv. 5, 6.
Chapter eleven

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