As He is our Lord, in the sense of being our absolute proprietor, our maker, preserver, and redeemer, and our sovereign, having the right to do with us as seems good in His sight, we are called upon to make Him the supreme object of our love, His will the highest rule of duty, and His glory the great end of our being. We are to exercise the same faith and confidence in Him that we do in God; yield Him the same obedience, devotion and homage.
We find, therefore, that such is the case from the beginning to the end of the New Testament writings. Christ is the God of the Apostles and early Christians in the sense that He is the object of all their religious affections. They regarded Him as the person to whom they specially belonged; to whom they were responsible for their moral conduct; to whom they had to account for their sins, for the use of their time and talents; who was ever present with them, dwelling in them, controlling their inward, as well as their outward life; whose love was the animating principle of their being; in whom they rejoiced as their present joy and as their everlasting portion. . . .
But every reader of the New Testament to whom Christ is a mere creature, however exalted, must feel himself to be out of communion with the Apostles and apostolic Christians, who avowed themselves, and were universally recognized by others, as being the worshippers of Christ. They knew that they were to stand before His judgement seat; that every act, thought and word of theirs, and of every man who shall ever live, was to lie open to His omniscient eye; and that on His decision the destiny of every human soul was to depend. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, they persuaded men. They enforced every moral duty, not merely on the grounds of moral obligation, but by considerations drawn from the relation of the soul to Christ. Children are to obey their parents, wives their husbands, servants their masters, not as pleasing men, but as doing the will of Christ.
True religion in their view consists not in the love or reverence of God, merely as the infinite spirit, the creator and preserver of all things, but in the knowledge and love of Christ. Whoever believes that Jesus is the Son of God – that is, whoever believes that Jesus of Nazareth is God manifested in the flesh, and loves and obeys Him as such – is declared to be born of God. Anyone who denies that truth is declared to be antichrist, denying both the Father and the Son, for the denial of the one is the denial of the other.
The same truth is expressed by another Apostle, who says, “If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost, in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not,” lest they should see the glory of God as it shines in the face of Jesus Christ. They are lost, according to this Apostle, who do not see, as well as believe, Jesus to be God dwelling in the flesh. Hence such effects are ascribed to the knowledge of Christ, and to faith in Him – such hopes are entertained of the glory and blessedness of being with Him – as would be impossible or irrational if Christ were not the true God. He is our life. He that hath the Son hath life. He that believes on Him shall live for ever. It is not we that live, but Christ that lives in us. Our life is hid with Christ in God. We are complete in Him, wanting nothing. Though we have not seen Him, yet believing in Him, we rejoice in Him with joy unspeakable.
It is because Christ is God, because He is possessed of all divine perfections, and because He loved us and gave Himself for us, and hath redeemed us and made us kings and priests unto God, that the Spirit of God says, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maranatha”. The denial of the divinity of the Son of God, the refusal to receive, love, trust, worship and serve Him as such, is the ground of the hopeless condemnation of all who hear and reject the gospel. And to the justice of this condemnation all rational creatures, holy and unholy, justified or condemned, will say, Amen. The divinity of Christ is too plain a fact, and too momentous a truth, to be innocently rejected. Those are saved who truly believe it, and those are already lost who have not eyes to see it. “He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” It is the doctrine of the New Testament, therefore, that the spiritual apprehension and the sincere recognition of the Godhead of the Redeemer constitutes the life of the soul. It is in its own nature eternal life, and the absence or want of this faith and knowledge is spiritual and eternal death. Christ is our life; and therefore he that hath not the Son hath not life.
1. Reprinted from Hodge’s Systematic Theology, vol 1, pages 497-9.