Essential Christian Beliefs

By Stephen Solomon White

Chapter 3


The Person of Christ

(1) The imprisoned God. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:1,14).

What did it mean for the Eternal Word to become flesh and dwell among us? How are the divine and the human natures united in the one person? It meant that the Eternal Word was to be limited or imprisoned. We can describe the incarnate Word as the imprisoned God. At first, His infinite awareness was limited to the small awareness of Mary's tiny babe.

The active self-consciousness of the Son of God had to express itself through the instrument of the passive self-consciousness of human nature at the level of infancy. When we assert that He had to, we mean that He could not escape doing this if He did what He chose to do. It was not something which was forced upon Him arbitrarily, but rather something which lay inevitably in His pathway as Redeemer; and this He wanted to be above everything else.

This limitation of the Eternal Word is a definite teaching of the New Testament. In the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of John, Christ beseeches the Father to restore unto Him the glory which He, the Son, had with Him, the Father, before the world was (John 17:5). It is declared of Him that for our sakes He became poor -- that is, He gave up the full exercise or riches of His deity for our sakes (2 Corinthians 8:9). This same thought is set forth in Philippians 2:5-8: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Here there is a humiliation, an acceptance of a life which was less inclusive or more limited than that to which He had been accustomed. This does not mean that Jesus gave up His essential deity, but rather that He voluntarily subjected it to limitations of expression.

Let us study these limitations, or this imprisonment, more fully. The Eternal Word was imprisoned in a human body. Bodies limit even us. They circumscribe us because we have to give time to them which we would like to give to cultural and spiritual values. Bodies have to be-clothed, and fed, and rested. Further, nothing that we say or do fully or correctly expresses the self or spirit within us. Nevertheless, this is all that we have ever known. We have always had bodies. This undoubtedly prevents our limitations from being so real to us. With Christ it was different. Before the incarnation, He had no body. He enjoyed the full freedom of unhampered or pure spirit. How conscious He must have been of the inadequacy of the tiny baby's body in which He was at first housed! It is impossible for us to comprehend the situation as it must have been for Him. Another way of stating this condition is to think of it in terms of space. Body can be in only one place at a time. Jesus in His pre-existent life was omnipresent -- He knew nothing of spatial limitations. How different it must have been for Him to be caged up in a human body! The difference between airplane travel and ox-cart travel seems great indeed, but it does not even approach the difference between omnipresence and the spatial limitation involved in living in a body.

For the eternal Word to be imprisoned in a human body would be like Paderewski trying to play his Minuet on a toy piano, or like Shakespeare attempting to put his immortal tragedies into words by means of the vocabulary of a five-year-old child, or Beethoven striving to compose his supreme symphonies in terms of the simple musical scores of the earliest types of music.

The Eternal Word was imprisoned in a human nature. His divine omnipotent will was linked with a human will. The great executives of history -- Napoleon, Bismarck, Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill have all been men of indomitable will. They have held unprecedented powers. The outstanding corporation executives would not compare with them in the might of their rule. Still, the corporation executives would find themselves hemmed in on all sides should they be forced to unite with and work through the impulses of a child. It would be still more difficult for any one of the leaders of the nations to express his dynamic will in connection with the means of expression possible to a child. But in the case of Christ, we have divine omnipotence, one who has created worlds, shackled by human impotence, from His babyhood to His maturity.

This limitation of the Second Person in the Trinity by His union with a human nature implies that omniscience must express itself in conjunction with the human intellect. The child speaks as a child and the adult as an adult. The gap between the normal child and the normal adult as to intellect is great indeed, and the gulf between the average adult and the genius is difficult to comprehend. Who am I with my ordinary intellect when placed beside the intellectual giants of the past and the present? Most of us cannot compare with Plato, Aristotle, Paul, Augustine, Luther, Einstein, Dewey, and Whitehead. These men have influenced the thought of the world. Some of them have written scores of books and hundreds of magazine articles. Beside them, we have pigmy intellects; and beside us, the mind of the child is crude and undeveloped. The distance between the intellect of the child and that of the genius, as great as it must be, is insignificant when compared with the mental continent which separates omniscience and the best human intellects. Jesus Christ faced this situation. When He became incarnate, His omniscience was united with finite intelligence, and because of this, was compelled usually to function within its narrow confines.

The limitation in the realm of the feelings and the emotions is just as great. Christ's heart is a harp of a thousand strings. His love is infinite. No wonder we sing of its matchless character:

"Such love, such wondrous love,

Such love, such wondrous love,

That God should love a sinner such as I,

How wonderful is love like this!"

Truly we can say with Charles Wesley:

"Love divine, all love excelling,
Joy of heav'n to earth come down!
Jesus thou art all compassion,
Pure, unbounded love Thou art."

Not only is the quantity of His love immeasurable but also its quality is supremely superior. The fineness and sensitiveness of its discriminations are beyond compare. How obtuse and dumb and inadequate and insensitive must have seemed the human love with which Christ's divine love united and through which it must have largely manifested itself!

The whole psychical life of the incarnate Christ had to be lived out under the experience of time. The eternal One, the great I Am, for whom there had been no past, present, or future, was now tied up with a narrow, human present. The One by whom centuries, and even ages or eras -multiplied centuries in length, had been grasped in one act of consciousness, was now subjected to a grasp of consciousness which could not go beyond a few seconds.

The Eternal Word was not only imprisoned in a human body and a human nature, but also in a sinful human environment. Who can fathom what this must have meant for the Son of God! Just the other day I heard a woman testify. She had been saved and God had bestowed the blessing of entire sanctification upon her. God had been good to her apart from these special blessings. She had lived a rather sheltered life until a short time before this testimony was given. In the course of this testimony, she told of her work in a factory. She had gone out and secured the job there in order to help support the family while her husband, who had been called to preach, was doing his best to prepare for this great work. In the factory, this woman had met sin as she had never had to before. She testified that she thought for a time that she could not stand it. Her whole soul revolted against it. How much more must the holy Son of God have revolted against the sin of this earthly environment into which He had come! There had never been any stain of sin upon Him, and He had come from an environment where there had been no sin. The hell of this sinful human environment must have severely tried His soul.

There was another handicap that Jesus faced in connection with this sinful human environment. Because of sin and sin's effects, men were so slow to understand. It seemed at times as if it were all but impossible for Him to get His message across. He taught constantly in terms of a spiritual kingdom, a kingdom which was to be set up in the hearts of men, but most of His followers continued to think in terms of a political kingdom with Him as king, and Jerusalem as the capital of the world. He waited until He was far along in His earthly career before breaking the news of His coming death. He no doubt hoped that they would understand, but they aid not. Peter said: "Be it far from thee, Lord" (Matthew 16:22). He talked to the Samaritan woman about the water of life, and she thought it was physical water that the Master meant. We might excuse her lack of spiritual understanding on the ground that she was not only a sinner of the deepest dye, but also an illiterate woman (John 4:1-42). But we find the same lack in Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews and a man who was undoubtedly very religious. Jesus brought the message of the new birth to him, but he failed to comprehend it. Nicodemus countered with the question: "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb and be born?" (John 3:1-13). On the night before the crucifixion, Jesus was giving His farewell address to His immediate followers. Surely they would respond to the truth then, He must have thought; but such was not the case. Listen to His conversation with Philip: "If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?" (John 14:7-9). How pained Jesus' heart must have been at such spiritual dumbness! And it must be remembered that it was manifested by those who had had the best possible opportunity. For months they had sat at the feet of the greatest teacher that ever lived. Jesus' task must have been akin to trying to teach a moron mathematics or logic or the doctrine of the Trinity.

Another limitation into which Jesus was thrust when He came down to earth to live is that of a disordered cosmic environment. Nature has its elements of disharmony -- earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and other catastrophes. These no doubt played some part in frustrating His plans.

These conditions -- the limitations of a human body, a human nature, a sinful human environment, a disordered cosmic environment -- which the Christ inevitably fell heir to when He became incarnate, not only hemmed in His deity in its expression here below, but also at least to some extent the free and easy fellowship which He had had with the other members of the Trinity. The Godhead did not completely escape the effects of the incarnation. Of course Jesus' full deity was always within His grasp. He could rise above this situation, this impoverishment in the manifestation of His divine nature, whenever He so desired. This He did for the sake of human beings, and here we can place His miracles; but He never did it for His own sake. To have done so would have meant finally that He would have rejected the incarnation. He could have called forth ten legions of angels and have beaten back the angry mob when it came to arrest Him, but He could not have done this and have achieved His great purpose -- redemption.

This brings us to a glorious thought. "For our sakes he became poor." The incarnation meant undoubtedly an imprisoned God, but for our sakes Jesus was willing to suffer it so. The cost of the incarnation to Jesus and the Godhead as a whole was incalculable, and yet it was all for you and for me. No wonder we sing, "All hail the power of Jesus' name."

(2) The released God. The incarnation, from the viewpoint of deity, was an imprisonment; but from our standpoint it was a release or revelation. In Jesus we had the supreme revelation of God. He was truly "God with us" (Matthew 1:23). Man had been so blinded by sin that he could not clearly read the character of God out of a nature that had also been marred by sin. He must have a revelation which would supplement nature's message. God in the flesh was God concrete, God that could be seen and touched. As "God with us" we had the all-power and the all-wisdom of God at work in our midst. Better still, we are confronted with the holiness of God in His perfect life and with the love of God in His great and ever-present compassion. His matchless teaching fitted into the supreme revelation and helped to make it complete. That the incarnation meant a released God is indicated by the fact that John declares that it was the Word that was made flesh. A word is a revelation; its business is to release thought. Likewise, the purpose of the incarnation was to release the thought or mind or personality of God to men. This word that was made flesh and dwelt among us was "full of grace and truth." And the Apostle John rightly says: "And we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father" (John 1:14). These statements clearly carry with them the thought of revelation. Further, John also gives us these words: "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him" (John 1:18). Thus the incarnate Word has declared or released God to us. Matthew joins with John in this thought in the memorable words recorded in the twenty-seventh verse of the eleventh chapter. These words read as follows: "All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him." Paul and all of the writers of the New Testament join in this chorus of voices which unite in declaring that Jesus Christ is the revelation of God. The eternal Word when He became incarnate released God or turned God loose in the world. Every argument for the deity of Jesus Christ as given earlier in the book substantiates the truth that the incarnation meant "God with us."

(3) The enriched God. Not only did Christ bring to us the imprisoned God and the released God, but He also brings to us an enriched God. The Son of God could not suffer and die as men suffer and die, but He who was the Son of God and the Son of man in one person could and did suffer and die. This union of deity and humanity opened up a new career to the eternal Word. He knew about human suffering and death by way of theory, before the incarnation, more fully than any human being; but He had no experiential knowledge of these realities. The incarnation placed Him within reach of such experiences.

Jesus Christ, as the Incarnate One, faced temptation as human beings face it, with the exception that there was no sin in His human nature. This made it possible for Him to be tempted in all points like as we are. Could the God-man have sinned? Of course He could have. Either this was the case or else His temptation was a farce. There can be no genuine temptation where there is no possibility of sin. A Christ who went through this earthly life without sin could not be of any inspiration to me if He failed to sin because He could not. He did not sin because He would not sin. He chose not to yield to temptation. In the realm of moral acts there are no musts or cannots; there are only wills or will nots.

That the Eternal Word was enriched by suffering and death, and by temptation is indicated by several texts in Hebrews. Christ was made perfect through suffering (Hebrews 2:10). He is able to succor the tempted because He has suffered through temptation (Hebrews 2:18). Again, we are to come boldly to the throne of grace in order to obtain mercy and help, because we have an High Priest which can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, since He has been tempted in all points like as we are (Hebrews 4:15, 16). What can these scriptures mean except that the Eternal Word has been enriched through suffering (including His death) and through temptation, in fact, through all of the limitations which have been His because of the incarnation? We do not know the value of this enrichment to God Himself, but we do know that it has been of great worth to Him in His relation to lost men.

(4) The released humanity. Thus far we have discussed the imprisoned God, the released God, and the enriched God. In doing this, we have considered the divine aspects of the Son of God in their relation to His incarnate existence on this earth. However, our discussion of the person of Jesus Christ would be incomplete without a word as to His released humanity. In the divine-human Christ we see humanity at its best, humanity unmarred by sin within or without. This released humanity gives us a living illustration of what humanity can become when freed from all sin. As such, it should stimulate all men to seek liberation from inherited sin and actual sinning. Thank God for the released humanity which Jesus Christ placed on exhibition!

The Work of Christ or the Atonement

(1) The death of Jesus Christ. Christ's death was not the death of a human hero, a mere martyrdom. It was the death of the God-man, a person who united in Himself the Son of God and the Son of man. As such, the death of Jesus Christ was unique, that is, it stood in a class by itself. We thank God for the Christian martyrs of all ages -- Stephen, Paul, Polycarp, Huss, and the men and women who, in more than one country today, are paying for their testimonies to Christ with their lives. They are a credit to the cause of Christ and an inspiration to all who follow the lowly Nazarene. Still, there is no saving power in their death. Only the death of Christ has saving efficacy. In the death of Him who was both the Lord of glory and the Son of man we have a significance which is not found elsewhere.

The scriptures which deal with the death of Jesus Christ may be classified as follows: (1) those which refer just to His death, (2) those which connect His death with our salvation, and (3) those which make at least some attempt to explain how His death makes our salvation possible.

(a) Those which refer just to His death. In the first class are the accounts of the death of Jesus. Each of the four Gospels gives a detailed record of the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. From a fourth to a third of the space included in each Gospel is used to set forth the events of Passion Week. Most of this space is given to the death of Christ or the events immediately leading up to it.

There are some other very significant passages which fall into this class. In Matthew 16:21 we have these words: "From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day." Peter rebuked Jesus for considering such an end, but the Master took issue with Peter in these words: "Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." This conversation between Christ and Peter took place immediately after the Great Confession (Matthew 16:13-20). Jesus had already been engaged in His public ministry for two or two and a half years, and now He begins a new era. Before, He himself had been silent about His coming death, but "from that time forth" He began to talk about it. Here Jesus sets forth the necessity for His death -- a necessity that grew only out of His determination to redeem man. However, He does not in this statement specifically connect His death with man's salvation.

In the seventeenth chapter of Matthew, there are more references to His coming death. The chapter opens with an account of the Transfiguration. Luke's record of this great event declares that Moses and Elijah spoke of Jesus' decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem (Luke 9:30,31). Following the story of the transfiguration in Matthew, Jesus refers to His coming suffering, and later in the same chapter He gives us these words: "And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, "The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: and they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again" (Matthew 17:22-23). There is no hint in these passages of the purpose of Christ's death. In other words, it is not connected definitely with our salvation.

(b) The death of Jesus Christ and our salvation. The second class of scriptures connect the death of Jesus with our salvation. There is an outstanding passage of this type found in both Matthew and Mark (Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45). Mark's record states it thus: "For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many." The implication is that Jesus is to give His life for us. His death is not only mentioned, but it is mentioned in connection with us and our need. Another reference within this group is found in each of the first three Gospels (Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22: 17-20). Matthew passes on to us the Master's words as follows: "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it, For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Thus Christ instituted what we call the Lord's Supper and in connection with the institution of this sacred observance, He declared the significance of His death for our salvation.

His blood was to be shed for the remission of our sins. Hebrews asserts that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins (Hebrews 9:22); and this means, finally, that there is no remission of sins without the shedding of Jesus' blood. John records these words from the mouth of Jesus: "I am the good shepherd: as the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep" (John 10:11, 15). The good shepherd is described as dying for the sheep.

The New Testament has many other passages which belong to this group. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness for those who had been stricken with a terrible disease, so Christ is lifted up for sinners (John 3:14,15). Jesus through the suffering of death tasted death for every man (Hebrews 2:9). He shared our flesh and blood in order "that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Hebrews 2:14). Christ died for the ungodly or for sinners (Romans 5:6,8). He was sent as an offering for sin (Romans 8:3). God delivered up His own Son for us all (Romans 8:32). Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (I Corinthians 15:3). He died and rose again for our sakes (II Corinthians 5:14, 15). Christ gave Himself for our sins (Galatians 1:4). He was offered to bear the sins of many (Hebrews 9:28). He bare our sins in His body upon the tree (I Peter 2:24). In the book of Revelation we are told of the innumerable multitude that "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Revelation 7:14). Christ "hath given himself up for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour" (Ephesians 5:2). John the Baptist saw Jesus coming and said: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

(c) How the death of Jesus Christ makes our salvation possible. Those scriptures which belong to the third class mentioned above give us some clue as to how Christ's death makes our salvation possible. It is one thing to state a fact -- and this is what the scriptures of the second class do -- while it is quite another thing to explain the fact. The New Testament has much to say about the fact of the atonement, but it does not deal often with the explanation of the fact. We all believe, if we are true Christians, that the blood of Jesus has provided salvation for us; but how many of us know why this is the case? Why was it necessary for Christ to die in order that we might be saved? What is it that the blood does that makes it possible for sinners to be saved? The answer to these questions must be found, to a large extent, in the writings of St. Paul. He is the great theologian of the New Testament

In Romans 3:24, 25 we read: "Being justified freely by this grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood. . ." Jesus is spoken of in this connection as having been set forth to be a propitiation. The term propitiation has been much discussed by the scholars; and there has been some difference of opinion as to its meaning. However, we agree with Dr. Curtis when he writes thus: "Whatever they do with the word, they are unable to destroy the idea of propitiation. As Professor Sanday says: 'The fundamental idea which underlies the word must be propitiation.' But deeply, what is meant by propitiation? Surely a propitiation is the means by which one is rendered propitious, or favorable, or open to plea. Inasmuch, therefore, as Saint Paul says that Christ was set forth, openly, in His blood, to be a propitiation, available by faith, the apostle's full thought, I am confident, is this: The death of Jesus Christ is the sacrificial means by which God is rendered propitious to one having faith." [13] This all indicates that there is something done to God by the shed blood of Jesus Christ which makes it possible for you and me to get saved, provided we meet certain conditions. The God-ward aspect of the atonement is here very evident.

The second passage in this group is also found in Romans. It reads as follows: "For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation" (Romans 5:10,11, R.V.). The crucial word in this passage is reconciliation, and it appears with the same meaning in Colossians 1:21,22 and II Corinthians 5:18,19. The great question as to this term is whether it refers to the reconciliation of God to the sinner or the reconciliation of the sinner to God. To state it in another way, the problem is whether the change involved in the reconciliation is in God or in man. We agree with those who hold that the change is at least primarily in God.

It is on the reconciliation of God to the sinner rather than the reconciliation of the sinner to God that we must place the main emphasis in connection with these passages. This can easily be seen to be the true interpretation if one will examine the passages carefully. The passage quoted states definitely that the reconciliation to God through the death of His Son took place while we were enemies. If it were accomplished while we were enemies, it could not have been a reconciliation of man to God. The reference in II Corinthians 5:18,19 tells us that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. This is practically the same thought as was set forth in connection with the term propitiation. There God is described as being made propitious or favorable to the sinner by the death of Christ. Here He is reconciled to the sinner by the sacrifice that Christ made. This does not mean that there is no reconciliation of man to God. There is a reconciliation of man to God, and it is based on and grows out of the reconciliation of God to man. The latter is the provision and the former comes about when the sinner avails himself of the provision which has been made.

The last and most important of the three passages is Romans 3:25 and 26, with special emphasis upon the twenty-sixth verse. "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." The death of Christ was to make salvation possible for you and me because it was a sufficient declaration of the righteousness or holiness of God. It so revealed the holiness of God that God could still be holy and yet be able to make holy any man who believes on Jesus Christ. (The terms just and justifier come from the same Greek root word from which the word righteousness comes. Thus, we do no violence to the truth if we translate all of them righteous or holy.) Herein lay the tremendous difficulty which demanded of God such infinite sacrifice or cost in order to be met. God's great problem was to save man and at the same time not imperil His own holiness, to find some way by means of which to save man and still be holy. God could not treat sin lightly and still maintain the integrity of His holy character. A true theory of the atonement must find in the death of Christ an expression of God's love for man which surpasses anything else in the universe, and at the same time it must manifest God's supreme hatred for sin or, in other words, His moral concern or holiness. However, this may seem to set one attribute over against another -- the attribute of love against the attribute of holiness. Because of this fact, let us state the same truth in another way: God's holiness or holy love demands of God that He do all that an infinite God can do in order to rescue man from the depths of sin. He cannot hesitate at any cost. On the other hand, God cannot provide salvation for man in any way that would take from or depreciate His holiness.

(2) The glory of the cross. We must be careful not to confuse the provision which has been made for man's salvation with his actual salvation. The provision which has been made is for all men. The atonement is universal. The New Testament has many scriptures which either state or imply its universality. On the other hand, man's salvation depends upon his acceptance of the provision which has been made through the death of Jesus Christ. Just as surely as the New Testament teaches the universality of the provision, it also teaches that some men will not accept the provision. We hold to the universality of the atonement, but not to the universality of salvation. There will be those who by virtue of their power of free choice will reject the offers of mercy which have been extended to them through the atonement. The atonement is something which the triune God has wrought out apart from the will of man, while salvation is something which God has to work out in conjunction with the will of man; and if the will of man fails to respond properly, God's purpose is thereby frustrated.

The death of Jesus Christ -- we have finished its discussion and yet how inadequately we have set forth its significance! It stands at the center of all Christian doctrine. It is the most terrible and yet the most meaningful event in all history. Of this event, Dr. Harold Paul Sloan writes thus: "Out on the bleak rock of Calvary, surrounded with human hate, the Eternal Son was about to yield Himself to the very extreme of tragedy. He was about to take up human death into His infinite experience. His eternal self-consciousness, by its utter identification with a creature's passive consciousness and its expanding memory, was to know the complete isolation and loneliness of the death. The Father lost His Son, the Son lost His Father! The Trinity suffers violence! The Godhead is bereaved!

"No thought my mind ever framed awes me as this. God, for moral judgment upon sin, and yet for love, accepts extreme tragedy. The incarnate Son dies as a man dies! The Eternal Father is shut away from fellowship with His Son -- is bereaved as a man is bereaved. Redemptive love fixes a scar upon the infinite consciousness that is as inerasable as the memory of God!

"In the Incarnation God made Himself forever different, Professor Curtis used to say. He added a human creaturehood to the glory of His tri-unity. Professor Lewis says the same thing more searchingly when he affirms that this side of Calvary God is structurally different, having subjected Himself not only to creaturehood, but to tragedy for man's sake.

"Yes, herein, indeed is love. Not that we loved; but that Christ loved -- that God loved! I have seen great human love. I knew intimately the love of a virtuous woman for her weak and faithless husband. I knew, too, afterward, the almost worshipping love of that weak man for his wife. I fellowshipped with the love of a father -- of a mother for a wayward son whose life had ended in tragedy without repentance. Every one of these experiences made me feel as if I should take off my shoes, as Moses at the burning bush.

"But these loves are only suggestions. There is only one love -- the love of the eternal God -- the love that was poured out upon sinful men all the way from Bethlehem to Calvary. Remember, God's thoughts are worlds and suns. Remember, the relationships of the universe are as absolute as mathematics -- the symbol of God's loving holiness. And this God in love accepts extreme cost for our sinful sakes.

"And the climax of the wonder is that He was loving us even when we were cursing Him. We poured our small hate upon Him even as His yielded omnipotence hung in seeming helplessness upon our cross. Yet even then He was loving us." [14]

No wonder Professor Curtis penned these words as to the death of Christ: "It must be made such a finality in awful self-sacrifice that no Christian man, and no saint in all eternity, can ever think of it without suffering." [15]


13 Curtis, O. A., The Christian Faith, Eaton and Mains, 1905, p. 302. Used by permission of Abingdon-Cokesbury Press.

14 Sloan, H. P., The Christian Advocate, N.Y., Vol. 114, No. 13. Used by permission.

15 Curtis, O. A., The Christian Faith, Eaton and Mains, 1905, p. 324. Used by permission of Abingdon-Cokesbury Press.