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LESSON 2.

CONCERNING JESUS CHRIST

No question is of more importance to us than that which our Lord asked His disciples: "what think ye of Christ? Whose Son is He?". (Matthew 22:42.)

To this the teachings of The New church give the forthright answer - He is God incarnate. His Humanity is "the Son", His Divinity is "the Father", "the Holy Spirit" is the spirit of Truth and Love proceeding from the Father in His Divine Humanity. The New Church, therefore, teaches that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit in One Divine Person - the Lord Jesus Christ.

Before you dismiss this teaching as being "what the church has always believed", let us remind ourselves of the statements of the Athanasian Creed, which is the accepted statement of orthodoxy concerning God. It says, "There is one person of the Father, another person of the Son and another of the Holy Spirit. and yet there are not three Gods but one God".

God, then, is said to be three Divine Persons, each God and Lord, and each having different functions, who together constitute one God. The New Chureb, on the other hand teaches that God exists as One single Person only and that the One God is the Lord Jesus Christ. True or false, you will allow that is not what the churches of Christendom either believe or leach.

On what, then, does the teaching of The New Church rely for this interpretation? The answer is that it relies upon (1) the testimony of the Sacred Scriptures, and (2) upon enlightened reason.

(1) Testimony of the Scriptures.

(A) THE OLD TESTAMENT.

That which characterises the teaching of the Old Testament concerning God is its severely strict monotheism.
"Hear, 0 Israel, the Lord our God is One Lord." (Deut. 6:4.)

"I am the Lord thy God ,.. Thou shalt have no other gods before me," (Exodus 20:2, 3.)

"Is there a God beside me? Yea, there is no God, I know not any." (Isaiah 44: 8.)

These passages may truly be taken as typical of the uniform teaching of the Old Testament, and in this connection, it is worthy of note that the Old Testament has apparently no knowledge of anyone known as "The Son of God" or of anyone known as "The Holy Ghost". The only God known to the Old Testament is He whom the Jews knew as "Jehovah".

That name is a composite of the three tenses of the Hebrew verb 'to be', and means literally, "He Who IS. He Who WAS, He Who SHALL BE" - the Infinite, Eternal, Divine Being.

It is true that the Old Testament is full of promises concerning the future coming of the Messiah but if you will carefully examine any or all of such promises, you will find that the promised Messiah is none other than Jehovah God Himself. Take a look at one of the best known of these, the one contained in Isaiah:

"Unto us a child is born; unto us a Son is given . . . and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God. the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6.)
Notice that "the child born, the Son given" is called "the mighty God, the Father of Eternity", "The child born, the Son given" was the Messiah, and the Messiah was the Lord Jesus Christ.

Again, look at the following passages:

"I am Jehovah, that is my name, and my glory will I not give to another." Isaiah 42:8.)

"Look unto Me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God and there is none else; . . a just God and a Saviour. there is none beside Me." (Isaiah 45.22. 21~)

"So He was their Saviour: ... in His love and in His pity He redeemed them." (Isaiah 63:8.9.)

From every book of the Old Testament, the theme concerning God is the same. He is One God. He is our Father. He is our Redeemer and Saviour.

(B) THE NEW TESTAMENT.

Here, we find Jesus repeatng and re-emphasising the ancient Truth, in reply to the question - "which is the first commandment in the Law?". To this question, Jesus replied, "The first of all the commandments is, Hear, 0 Israel, the Lord our God is One God." (Mark 12:29.)

Now, Jesus did not deny His Deity at any time. He accepted the homage of Thomas, "My Lord and my God." (John 20:28.) The Jewish rulers unwittingly spoke truth when they said, "For a good work we stone Thee not, but for blasphemy; because that Thou, being a man, makest Thyself God." (John 10: 33.)

Again, Jesus claimed to be God by asserting His Power to forgive sins "Who can forgive sins but God only?" (Mark 2:7.) Who, indeed? Yet, He Who clainied and exercised that power had Himself reiteratcd the first of all the Comandments - "The Lord our God is One Lord".

In the book of Revelation, Jesus, risen and glorified, appeared to the Apostle John in Patmos, and thus announced Himself: -

"I am He that liveth and was dead and behold, I am alive for evermore. Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death

I am Alpha and Omega. the beginning and the ending, . . . which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty." (Rev. 1:18, 8.)

Notice especially that same assertion of Eternal Self-existence as is meant by the name Jehovah - Who is and was and is to come. Notice further the emphatic - "I am . . the Almighty".

Without a doubt, the New Testament identifies Jesus with God, and finds thereby no inconsistency with the emphatic monotheism of the Old Testament. Both Testaments declare quite definitely the same truth - namely, that God is One, undivided, Divine Being. known to the Old Testament Jews as Jehovah, and to the New Testament Jewish followers as the Lord Jesus Christ. Even the name 'Jesus' is the Greek form of the Hebrew Je-hoshua and means Jehovah-Saviour.

But, by now, you will be impatiently asking why, if Jesus and the Father are one and the same Being - why and to whom did He pray? If Jesus was Almighty God, did God die on the Cross? Why did He speak of 'My Father and your Father', or 'My God and your God'? Why did He say that He would send from His Father the Holy Spirit? Why did He commission His disciples to baptize 'into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit'?

These are fair questions and will be as fairly considered and answered.

(2) The Testimony of Reason

All Christians are agreed that, in some sense, Jesus was God. For them, not less than for The New Church, the problem arises - how could God become man? How, in short, could the Infinite God become incarnate? That He was "the Word made flesh" all Christian believers are agreed. The Problem is, whether He was the One God made flesh Or God as the second Person in the Trinity, how was He "made flesh"?

THE VIRGIN BIRTH

The answer is that He did so by means of virgin birth. But the answer needs to be further explained.

We shall begin by noting the teaching of The New Church that God is not an impersonal force or principle, but that He is a Person Who is Divinely Human, in Whose "image and likeness" we are made.

That means that every quality in us which makes us human first exists infinitely in God our Creator. Now, the distinctive qualifies which mark us off from all other created beings are rationality, freedom or self-determination, and other-regarding love. If God did not possess these qualities, then we could not, in any way, be in His image and likeness. Put otherwise, God is Infinite Love, Infinite Wisdom and Infinite Power. He is, indeed, the Divine, Infinite Man. That is why the Word of God always speaks of Him by personal names, such as Father, Saviour. and uses personal pronouns "I".

It is noteworthy that in the Gospel through John, the prologue (John I) does not say of the Word (or Wisdom) which "was God" and "with God" and "without Whom nothing was made" - that He was made man. It says that He "was made flesh", God could always become man in visible form and as we understand man to be, because He was always man, and is the Divine Man, Swedenborg puts it in philosophic language. that 'God Who is Man in first principles, became also Man in ultimates'.

It is useful to bear in mind that no one of us was created by our parents. God alone is the Creator. Our parents merely provide, by their Divinely ordered joint action, the physical and mental basis for the reception of life from God. In this mutual action, the soul of the new human being proceeds from the father and this is clothed upon by a body formed within the womb of the mother. Of course, from both parents, certain mental or spiritual qualities are contributed.

Now, if God was to become incarnate, that is, take a body of flesh, the human agency of a mother must be involved. If, however, God Himself was to be the soul of that body, then an earthly father must be dispensed with.

According to the teaching of the Gospels, this was precisely what occurred. When it was announced to Mary that she should bear a son whose name should be called Jesus, she remonstrated in the words, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?". The answer was made, "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee, Therefore also that Holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God". (Luke 1: 34, 35.)

Here, then, is the rational explanation of the incarnation of God. Here, too, we learn that the human nature and body derived from the virgin mother was what is called "the Son of God", while the Soul or Being of that Human nature was the Father. As Jesus Himself was later to say, "The Father that dwelleth in Me He doeth the works", and again. "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father" (John 1410, 9) "I and my Father are one" (John 10: 30)

There was, then, in the person of Jesus Christ, an infirm human nature which is rightly named "the Son of God". And there was the very soul or Being of that human nature, the Divine, unmediated life which was called "the Father". Thus the Divine and the Human existed simultaneously in the one person of the Lord Jesus Christ. As He truly said, "I and My Father are One. He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father".

The humanity derived from the virgin mother was grievously tempted through its hereditary inclinations to evil. Every temptation was conquered, the Lord was 'without sin'. But that was not all. The evil conquered made a way for the inflowing of corresponding Divine good and so by stages, the infirmities of the Mary-humanity were replaced by the Divine Human. The final temptation which the Lord endured was the passion of the Cross, and His conquest of it was indicated in His cry, "It is finished". (John 19:30.) With the death of the material body. everything derived from Mary was for ever put off. The Lord rose from the dead in a Divine-substantial body.

The Process thus briefly described is called the Glorification, and, by it, the Human of the Lord became wholly Divine and possessed of "all power in heaven and on earth". (Matthew 28. 18.)

It was the infirm human which prayed to the Father within Himself and that felt the infirmities of the flesh, experienced the sense of being utterly forsaken and cried "My God . . . why hast Thou forsaken Me?". (Matt, 27:46.) But Jesus no more prayed to another person than did the Psalmist when he addressed his own soul in the words, "Why art thou cast down, 0 my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me?". (Psalm 42: 5.) The prayers of our Lord were self-communings, they were the appeal of a human nature like our own to the Divine Power which was the Father within Him, the same Power which did so many mighty works, raised Lazarus from the dead and raised Himself from the dead. Had he not already declared of His life that "No man taketh it from Me . . . I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again". (John 10:18.)

One question remains to be answered. Did not the Lord's command to His disciples to baptize "into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28: 19) clearly teach that there are three Persons in the Godhead?

The answer is No. Observe first, that the word 'name' is in the singular number. If the reference bad been to three persons, the plural number was required.

Secondly, turn to the Acts of the Apostles and you will find that they always baptizad converts into the name of Jesus Christ. The reason is not far to seek. Jesus Christ is the NAME of the Father, the Son and tire Holy Spirit, than which "there is none other name whereby we must be saved". (Acts 4:12.)

This, then, is the answer of New-Church teaching to the question. "What think ye of Christ; whose Son is He?". (Matthew 22:42.) He is God in His own Divine Humanity. The Trinity called Father (the Divine Itself), Son (the Divine Humanity) and Holy Spirit (the Divine Power and Influence). exists in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ Who is "Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending ... which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty." (Revelation 1:8.)

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