Who is our God? Chapter 16

When I wrote chapter 10 (The Humanity of the Lord), I was not acquainted with the writings of Professor F. Godet, the celebrated French Swiss commentator, upon the Kenosis, or self-emptying of the Lord. His views are to be found in his Commentary on John's Gospel, in a discussion upon the Logos or Word of chapter 1.

Godet was one of those illustrious "helps" whom God has built into His Church, and all that he has written is well worthy of deep consideration.

In his well-known commentary on Romans, he devoted quite a few pages to ch. 5:12, citing, out of honesty, the explanation given by Gess "In Adam death came upon all moral corruption, as a consequence of which all since have sinned individually." Godet himself did not think this is what Paul had in mind, but says, "In this way it would seem to us simpler to give to eph hO (upon which) the neuter sense: on which, in consequence of which, all have sinned. Only this meaning of eph hO would be, we fear, without precedent." This is quoted to illustrate his honesty, even when he could not see the standpoint of Gess.

Our aim must be to arrive at truth as closely as possible, without troubling about precedent. Both Godet and Gess came very close to the truth concerning Phil. 2 and the Lord's self-emptying, and in this case they certainly did not trouble about precedent, as they were pioneers.
Godet discusses the serious objection which arises from the impossibility of reconciling the pre-existence of Christ with His real humanity. If the Lord pre-existed, must that mean a difference of essence between Him and His brethren? How would it affect His character as the Son ot Mankind or His redemptive office?

Says Godet, "Undoubtedly the communion of the Son with the Father is not merely moral; He does not acquire His dignity of Sonship by His fidelity; it is, on the contrary, pre-supposed by everything He does and says; His fidelity maintains, but does not produce, this original relation; it is the unacquired condition of the consciousness which He has of Himself. But on the other hand, it must be owned that, as to the superior knowledge which Christ possessed, it could not be the continuation of a previous knowledge brought by Him from above; otherwise it would not have that progressive character limited to the task of the moment which we recognize in it, and which stamps it as a truly human knowledge. And as to the moral task of Jesus, it would no longer, on such a condition, have anything human in it; for where would be the moral struggle in the case of the Son if He still possessed that complete knowledge of the divine plan which He had eternally in the Father's presence?"

Godet then disposes of the critic who concluded that in John's Gospel there are two Christs placed in juxtaposition one truly human, as taught by Jesus Himself and the other three Gospels, the other Divine and pre-existent, that of John. In attempting to solve this difficulty, Godet admits that we come to "the most arduous problem of theology." But in order to solve it, he does not seek the reconciliation of Scripture with any orthodox teaching, but rather the harmony of Scripture with itself.

And it is just here that Godet shines. Instinctively.he follows the one path that honours God most. Implicit faith in God recognizes that His Word must be and is perfect, down to the smallest detail. In the fulness of God's Word we shall find the truth. If we wish to know just who the Lord Jesus Christ was, we must have all the evidence, not merely fragments. A friend who denied that the Lord was in any sense God, when pressed repeatedly to declare who was that Human Being who on occasion appeared in olden times to Adam, to Enoch, to Moses, to Abraham, and others, who recognized Him as Jehovah and worshipped Him, at last answered that the Person was "God the Father"! That very Being who, Paul tells us (1. Tim. 6:16), alone has immortality, inhabiting light inaccessible, whom not one of mankind perceives or can; be perceiving.

Godet then asks, whether Scripture, while clearly teaching the eternal existence of the Word, at the same time teaches the presence of the divine state and attributes in Jesus during His life on earth. He points out that the formula of John 1:14 is incompatible with such an idea. The expression "The Word becomes flesh" speaks certainly of a divine subject, but as reduced to the state of man, which does not at all suppose the two states, the divine and human, as co-existing in it. Such a notion is set aside by exegesis as well as by logic. The impoverishment of Christ (2. Cor. 8:9), His voluntary self-abasement (Phil. 2:6-7), equally imply His renunciation of the divine state at the moment when He entered upon human existence. the facts of the Gospel history are entirely at one with those apostolic declarations. Jesus no longer possesses on earth the attributes which constitute the divine state. Omniscience He has not, for He asks questions, and Himself declares His ignorance on one point (Mark 13:32). He possesses a pre-eminent prophetic vision (John 4:17, 18), but this vision is not omniscience. No more does He possess omnipotence, for He prays, and is heard; as to His miracles, it is the Father who works them in His favour (John 5:36; 11:42). He is equally destitute of omnipresence. His love even, perfect as it is, is not divine love. This is immutable. But who will assert that Jesus in His cradle loved as He did at the age of twelve, or at the age of twelve as He did on the Cross? Perfect relatively, at every given, moment, His love grew from day to day, both in regard to the intensity of His voluntary self-sacrifice, and as to the extent of the circle which it embraced. It was thus a truly human love. "The grace which is by one man, Jesus Christ," says Paul for this reason (Rom. 5:15). His holiness is also a human holiness, for it is realized every moment only at the cost of struggle, through' the renunciation of legitimate enjoyment and victory over the natural fear of pain (John 12:25, 27; 17:19a). It is so human that it is to pass over into us and become ours (ch. 17:19b). All those texts clearly prove that Jesus, while on the earth, did not possess the attributes which constitute the divine state, and hence He can terminate His earthly career by claiming back again the glory which He had before His incarnation (John 17:5).

"How is such a self-deprivation on the part of a Divine Being conceivable? It was necessary, first of all, that He should consent to lose for a time His self-consciousness as a divine subject. The memory of a divine life anterior to His earthly existence would have been incompatible with the state of a true child and a really human development. And in fact the Gospel texts nowhere ascribe to Jesus a self-consciousness as Logos before the time of His baptism. The word which He uttered at the age of twelve (Luke 2:49) simply expresses the feeling of an intimate relation to God and of a filial consecration to His service. With a moral fidelity like His, and in the permanent enjoyment of a communion with God which sin did not alter, the child could call God His Father in a purely religious sense, and apart from any consciousness of a divine pre-existence. The feeling of His redemptive mission must have been developed in His earliest years, especially through His experience of the continual contrast between His moral purity and the sin which He saw staining all those who surrounded Him, even the best, such as Mary and Joseph. The only healthy one in this caravan of sick with whom He was travelling, He must early have discovered His task as a healer of humanity, and have inwardly consecrated Himself thereto without any reserve. Besides, there is not a saying, not a deed in the gospel history, which ascribes to the infant Jesus the consciousness of His divine nature and of His previous existence. It is to the apocryphal gospels that we must go to seek this contra-natural and antihuman Jesus. According to the biblical account, the Logos, in becoming incarnate, did therefore really put off His consciousness ot His divine being, and of the state corresponding to it. This self-deprivation was the negative condition of the incarnation. Here are the positive conditions of the fact; it is enough to compare them with the well-known features of the Gospel history to judge whether they have been really fulfilled:—

1. Man was created in the image of God, as an intelligent, free, and responsible being. Such, therefore, was the limit of the abasement to which the divine subject stooped; for He must descend to the level of man, not beneath him. He lowered Himself to the state of a human personality, destined to work out His development under the conditions determined by man's destination to the divine likeness.2. The fundamental feature of God's image in man being aspiration Godwards, and receptivity for the divine, this characteristic must be predominant in the human development of this radically divine personality.3. The limits of our individuality impress a relative character on the receptivity for the divine belonging to each of us.But, in consequence of His miraculous birth, the Logos, while entering into humanity, reproduces not the type of a determinate hereditary individuality, but that of the race itself in its essence and generality. His receptivity for the divine, His religious and moral capacity, is thus not merely that of any individual man—it is that of the whole species which became concentrated in His person, as it had once been in the person of the father of the race. He will thus be able to receive from above not only what each individual, but what the whole of humanity, is fitted to receive and possess from God. And if this collective receptivity is absolute and infinite,—in a word, like its object,—the man who concentrates it in His person will intallibly attain to the power of saying, 'He that hath seen me hath seen the Father,' and to possess in Himself 'all the fulness of the Godhead' (John 14:9; Col. 2:9). 4. Finally, if humanity is eternally destined to share the divine state,—in other words, if the true man, in the divine idea, is the God-man,—the highest aspiration of the Logos in His human life must have been first to realize in Himself this participation of humanity in the divine state,—this is the meaning of recovering His glory,—and then to make all His brethren sharers of it by reproducing in them His glorified humanity. Such is the realization at the gift of us which the Father has made over to frim (John 17:2), the accomplishment of our eternal predestination (Rom. 8:29). On such conditions the enhance at a divine subject into the human state, and His development, do not appear to us to contain anything contradictory."

Godet then proceeds to attempt to mark out the phases of the terrestrial development of the Lord from this point of view, also the mode of His gradual restoration to the divine state. Here we enter into some of the deep things of God, factors which ought to form an integral part of the Gospel as proclaimed to-day, but of which we hear almost nothing. Here we reach the dynamic of the Gospel—the well-nigh incredible self-abasement and self-emptying by Christ Jesus of the features of Godhead, necessary for the accomplishment of the Atonement, followed by His attaining and maintaining on earth God's Righteous Standard (Rom, 5:18), leading to all humanity obtaining life declared righteous (Rom. 5:18), leading further to the Lord's mighty exaltation and worship by every knee and tongue in the universe (Phil. 2.:9-11).

It is not enough to proclaim Concilation. It is not enough to proclaim the Reconciliation of all. Once upon a time the doctrine of Eternal Punishment lay heavily upon many sinful souls, as it still does on some. What we must do is to press home to sinful men and women until they are shocked and horrified, how it was their wrongdoing and their indifference that obliged Christ Jesus to stoop to the depths at degradation and infamy, shame and ignomy, odium and obloquy, loneliness and forsakenness, until He felt Himself to be "a worm and no man" (Psalm 22:6), He, in whom now dwells all the fulness of the Deity bodily.

For these reasons I press the prime importance of Phil. 2:6-7, verses which prove the Unitarian to be totally at sea, because he has no real use for them, or for such a Saviour. Godet continues, "By the birth of such a being as a member of the race, as Son of Man, humanity becomes restored to its normal point of departure; it is fitted again to enter upon a development which has not been falsified by sin. Up to the age of thirty Jesus fulfils this task. By His perfect obedience and constant sacrifice of self He raises humanity in His person from innocence to holiness. He does not yet know Himselt; perhaps in the light of Scripture He begins dimly to forecast what He is in relation to God. But the distinct consciousness of His dignity as Logos would not be compatible with the reality of His human development and the accomplishment of the task assigned to this first period at His life. This task once fulfilled, the conditions of His existence change. A new work opens up to Him, and the consciousness at His dignity as the well-beloved Son, far from being incompatible with the work which He has still to carry out, becomes its indispensable basis.

"To testify of God as the Father, He must necessarily know Himself as the Son. The baptism is the decisive event which begins this new phase. Anticipating the aspirations and presentiments of the heart of Jesus, the Father says to Him: 'Thou art My Son.' Jesus knows Himself from that moment to be the absolute object of the divine love. Henceforward He will be able to say what He could not say before: 'Before Abraham came into being, I am.' This consciousness of His dignity as Son, the revelation of His eternal essence, thereward of His previous fidelity, the background of all His subsequent manifestations, is His possession; it accompanies Him everywhere from that hour. At the same time the heavens are opened to Him; His eye pierces into the luminous abyss of the divine plans. He there beholds at every moment all that is necessary for the accomplishment of His Messianic task (John 5:19, 20). He can speak now, for He can say: 'We testify what we have seen.' Finally, humanity becomes elevated in Him to spiritual life, the advent of which all, the earth demanded an organ like Him: the Holy Spirit descends upon Him; with the propagation of this higher life before Him, Christ feels Himself from this moment Master of all things, and starts on His career as the Messiah and Saviour of the world.

"Yet His baptism, while restoring to Jesus His consciousness of sonship, did not restore to Him His filial state, the divine form of God belonging to Him. There is an immense disproportion between what He knows Himself to be and what He is really. Therein there will be for Him the possibility of temptation; therein the work of patience. Master of all, He possesses nothing. No doubt He lays out on His work treasures of wisdom and power which are in God, but solely because His believing and filial heart is constantly appealing to the fatherly heart of God.

"It was by His ascension that His return to the divine state was accomplished, and that His position was at last raised to the level of the self-consciousness which He had from His baptism. From that time He was clothed with all the attributes of the divine state which He possessed before His incarnation; but He was clothed with them as the Son of Man. All the fulness of the Godhead henceforth dwells in Him, but humanly, and even as Paul says, BODILY (Col. 2:9). Ten days after His personal assumption into the divine glory, He begins to impart it to His church by the communication of the Spirit, who renders her capable of being one day made a partner in the divine state which He enjoys Himself. The Parousia will consummate the work thus begun. The first word of history: 'Ye shall be as gods,' will thus be the last. Living images of the Logos from our creation, we shall realize at the close of our development that type of divine human existence which we at present behold in Him."

Godet then states the true formula of the incarnation, as embodied in John's Gospel, thus: The Logos realized in Jesus, in the form of a human existence subject to the law of time and progress, that relation to God of perfect dependence and filial communion which He realized before His incarnation in the permanent form of divine life.

Godet next deals with the relation of the Logos to God prior to the incarnation, and finds that Paul, in 2. Cor. 8:9 and Phil. 2:6 expresses a conception of the pre-existence of Christ exactly similar to John's, and identical in substance with John's teaching, though using terms quite independent of those used by John. When Paul calls the pre-existent Christ the Image of the invisible God, he says the same as John does in designating Him the Word. These two expressions contain above all, the idea of an operation accomplished in the depths of the divine essence; God affirming, with an eternal affirmation, all that He thinks, wills, and loves, in a being who is the word of His thought, the reflection of His being, the object of His love, His Word, His Image, His Son. And this word is a living being, a person who—if we could apply to God an expression which is only appropriate to man—should be called His realized ideal. "Let us imagine an artist giving life to the masterpiece in which he has embodied all the fulness of his genius, and having power to enter into personal relation with it: such is the relation between God and the Word. This Word can only be divine; for the highest affirmation of God cannot be less than God Himself. He must be eternal; for an affirmation which belongs to the being of God cannot have had a beginning. This Word being God's absolute enunciation, His only saying, His primordial and sale utterance, in which are contained all His particular utterances, every subsequent word which will re-echo in time is primarily contained in Him, and will only be realized through Him; He is the creative word: "In Him all things consist" says Paul (Col. 1:17). In pronouncing the word, or, what comes to the same thing, in begetting the Son, God has expressed His whole being; and it is this Word who, in His turn, will call all beings out of nothingness. They will all be His free affirmation, as He Himself is that of God. By means of the universe, the Word displays in time the whole wealth of the divine treasures which God has eternally put within Him, Creation is the poem of the Word to the glory of the Father."

This notion of the Word as a creative principle is therefore of the greatest importance in its bearing on the conception of the universe, which is thus made to rest on a basis of absolute light which secures its final perfection.

As the Word become flesh, Christ Jesus is the absolute revelation and communication of God to humanity, eternity come down into time, all the treasures of God brought within the reach of faith. After this gift of the Father, there is nothing better to wait for.

For the help given by the godly Godet I am most grateful. It should enable us more easily to link up some of those deep but often hard to be understood passages, such as John 1:1-5, 14, 18; Phil. 2:5-8; Col. 1:16-20; Heb. 1:2-3; and Rev. 3:14; 19:13, shewing how precisely all Scripture harmonizes, and how marvellous is the scheme by which our God reveals Himself in His Son.

End of Chapter 16 (Alexander Thomson)

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Listing of Articles

Who is our God? Chapter 1
Who is our God? Chapter 2
Who is our God? Chapter 3
Who is our God? Chapter 4
Who is our God? Chapter 5
Who is our God? Chapter 6
Who is our God? Chapter 7
Who is our God? Chapter 8
Who is our God? Chapter 9
Who is our God? Chapter 10
Who is our God? Chapter 11
Who is our God? Chapter 12
Who is our God? Chapter 13
Who is our God? Chapter 14
Who is our God? Chapter 15
Who is our God? Chapter 16
Who is our God? Chapter 17
A Female Deity?
Acts 7:15 & 16
All Things
Amos 3:6
An Answer to the Challenge of Hell
Angels & Men One Species?
An Interesting New Version
Are You an Ambassador?
Are You a Pillar?
Are You a Witness for Jehovah?
Are You an Israelite? Chapter 1
Are You an Israelite? Chapter 2
Are You an Israelite? Chapters 3 & 4
A Special Resurrection?
Baptized for the Dead?
"Beloved" or "Loveable"?
Brotherly Love
Book Review
Colossians 1:23
Common or Unclean?
Common Sense
Did Paul Visit Spain?
Did the Lord give up His Flesh?
"Divine" Fire?
Doctoring the Holy Scriptures
Does God know Everything?
Does God will Everything?
Does your Spiritual Life seem Unreal?
Did God hate Esau?
Earth our Future Home?
Emphasis in the Scriptures
English more Archaic than Ancient Hebrew?
Ephesians 1:23
Erroneous Translations
Gleanings from A.T.
Heaven our Homeland
How is Christ God's "Word"?
How many were Crucified?
In the Christ All Shall Be Made Alive
Is Dust the Serpent's Food?
Is the Devil Impersonal?
Isaiah 26:14,19
James 4:5
Jehovah's Theocratic Organization
Jesus the Saviour
John 19:29
The Kingdom of the Hebrews
Leave it with God
Men or Mortals?
Misplaced Ingenuity
New Light on the Second Death
None Other Things
Objective Value of Prayer
Other or Different
Our Advocate
Paul's Chain
Paul the Sensitive
Paul versus James
Prevailing Prayer
Problems of Translation: I Cor. 7:21
Problems of Translation: II Cor. 3:18
Psalm 66:18
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
Rogues and Rascals
Rom 9 & 10: Human Freedom & Human Choice
Romans 9:14-24
Romans 9:30 to 10:21
II Corinthians 5:16
II Peter 3:10
Seven Wicked Spirits
Shall We See God?
Sir, We would see Jesus
Should we fear God?
The Bloody Husband
The Cherubim of Glory
The Corinthian Error
The Cunning Manager
The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah
The Designation of Jesus as "God"
The Disruption Fallacy
The Disruption Fallacy #2
The Eighth of Proverbs
The Eleven "Generations" of Genesis
The Elohim
The Ends of the Eons
The Eternal Saviour-Judge
The Eternity of Hell Torments
The First Christian Convention
The Four Gospels
The Gentiles in Ephesians
The Greek Definite Article
The Hardening of Pharoah's Heart
The Hebrew Conception of Time
The Hebrews Epistle
The Hebrew Terms Rendered 'For Ever'
The Hope of Israel
The Life of Prayer
The Lord Jesus Revealing the Heart of God
The Lord's Relatives
The Lordly Supper
The Meaning of Ta Panta
The Ministry of Women Parts 1 & 2
The Ministry of Women Parts 3 & 4
The "Penalty of Sin"
The Poor in Spirit
The Primeval Laws
The Primeval Laws #2
The Problem of Evil
The Quality of Divine Love
The Rich Man and Lazarus
The Serpent of Genesis 3
The Soul and the Spirit
The Talmud of the Jews Parts 1 & 2
The Talmud of the Jews Parts 3 & 4
The Translation of Acts 28:25
The Trial of the Lord
The Truth of the Bible
The Two Seeds
The Works of Henry Clay Mabie, D.D.
"Three Days and Three Nights"
Translator's Incentive
Truthfulness and Mercy
Try the Spirits
Unto Eternity and Further
We have all been Wrong
What did Peter do?
What does Olethros mean?
What Happened to Jephthah's Daughter?
What is Destruction?
What is the Flesh?
What is the Sin unto Death?
Whence "Eternity"?
Who are the Saints?
Who is Jehovah?
Who Shall Deliver Me?
Why Pray?
Why the "Lake" of Fire?
Will God Punish?
Will the Lord Come for Us?
Will the Man of Lawlessness be Killed?


The Differentiator Revisited 2009