During His time in this world, Christ kept a veil over His glory as the Son of God. Yet there were always rays of that divine glory shining forth for those who had eyes to see them. Never, in all the time of His humiliation, were these rays so bright and clear as on the mount of transfiguration. There “His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light”. It was a special indication that the Person with whom Moses and Elijah were engaged in holy conversation was no mere man; He was divine. Here there was a manifestation of the glory that was His as the Son of God before ever the world was brought into existence. Here too there was the voice from heaven: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him” (Matt 17:5). God the Father was giving full authority to the words of the divine Person who had come in our nature to be the Saviour of the world.
The fact of Christs divinity has often been denied, but the testimony of Scripture is decisive. In concluding his survey of the New Testament evidence, Charles Hodge refers to Peter “as an eyewitness of [Christs] divine majesty when he was with Him in the holy mount. Lord and Saviour equivalent in the lips of the Jew, to Jehovah Saviour is his common designation of Christ. True religion, according to this Apostle, consists in the knowledge of Christ as the Son of God, to whom, therefore, he ascribes eternal glory.” Equally, those who refuse to accept the divinity of Christ are without true religion.
The Apostle John, also writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, makes clear the divinity of Christ even at the very beginning of his Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3). John was making clear that the One who was the subject of his Gospel was divine; He “was God”. Yet He “was with God”. John would have us know that there is more than one Person in the Godhead. And the Word, who “was with God”, was Creator of all things. Creation is divine activity; only One who is God can bring anything out of nothing. But, in that beginning of creation, the Word already existed. He was from all eternity.
But who is the Word? Let John give the answer: “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The Word is Jesus of Nazareth, whom John and the other Disciples followed on earth for over three years. They recognised what most others refused to accept: the divine glory of their Saviour. And, for the rest of their lives, through good report and through evil report, they bore consistent testimony to that glory: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life . . . that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:1,3). They devoted the rest of their lives to making known the glad tidings of salvation through this glorious Person: “God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:11).
Hodge explains the significance of the miracles: “It was His name, or faith in Him, as Peter taught the people, which effected the instantaneous healing of the lame man. Christ never referred this miraculous power to any source out of Himself; He claimed it as His own prerogative; and He conferred the power upon others. He said of Himself that He had power to lay down His life and power to take it again, that He had life in Himself and could give life to as many as He pleased. I will give you, He said to His disciples, power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the adversary. Every miracle of Christ, therefore, was a visible manifestation of His divinity. When He healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind, restored the lame, raised the dead, fed thousands with a few loaves of bread, and calmed the raging of the sea, it was by a word, by the effortless exercise of His will. He thus manifested forth His glory, giving a demonstration to those who had eyes to see, that He was God in fashion as a man. He therefore appealed directly to His works, Though ye believe not Me, believe the works; that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in Me, and I in Him. If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not (John 10:38,37). If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin, but now have they both seen and hated both Me and My Father (John 15:24).”
There is a telling point in one of Jesus discussions with the Jews, when He “answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work”. The narrative goes on: “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:17,18). They refused to believe that Jesus was the Son of God, but they could see perfectly clearly what He meant. When Jesus was referring to God as His Father, He was referring to Himself, not as some vaguely divine person which is what the Jehovahs Witnesses, for instance, teach but as One who was fully equal with the Father.
What is more, He was the Son of God from all eternity; He did not become the divine Son at His incarnation. He speaks of Himself in Proverbs 8 as the eternally begotten of the Father: “Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: while as yet He had not made the earth” (vv 25,26). Before time began, there was perfect communion between the three Persons of the Trinity. So the Son of God declares of His communion with the Father: “Then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him: and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him” (Prov 8:30). But even then He was delighting in those who had been given to him in the everlasting covenant. He was “rejoicing in the habitable part of His earth;” He says, “and My delights were with the sons of men” (Prov 8:31). Accordingly, He who in the fulness of time was born of the Virgin Mary, was from all eternity the Son of God. W S Plumer quotes Galatians 4: 4: “God sent forth His Son . . . “, and comments, “He did not become the Son of God by coming or by being sent but, being the Son of God, He was sent and is come”. He came for mans redemption.
Charles Hodge expands on this theme: “The doctrine of redemption is the distinguishing doctrine of the Bible. The person and work of the Redeemer is therefore the great theme of the sacred writers. From the nature of the work which He was to accomplish, it was necessary that He should be at once God and man. He must participate in the nature of those whom He came to redeem, and have power to subdue all evil, and dignity to give value to His obedience and sufferings. From the beginning to the end, therefore, of the sacred volume, from Genesis to Revelation, a God-man Redeemer is held up as the object of supreme reverence, love and confidence to the perishing children of men.”
Christ is the Son of God. He is the appointed Saviour, in whom we are to trust for the salvation of our souls. He is to be worshipped in the way that He has appointed. He has not appointed, for instance, any special celebration of His birth. It has been pointed out that the increasing observance of Christmas has gone along with the decreasing observance of the Sabbath which was set apart in Scripture to commemorate His resurrection. Those who have recognised His divinity in time, and have begun to worship Him in sincerity and in truth, will worship Him for ever in the perfection of heaven. There they will unceasingly cry to His praise: “Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (Rev 1:5,6).