The Person of Christ as Revealed in the Epistles of Paul

In the epistles of Paul, we find the most full and convincing testimony as to the Lord. In Romans He is of the seed of David according to the flesh, but declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of Holiness and the resurrection from the dead (1:4). In the ninth chapter the apostle uses even stronger language in speaking of Him, “Of whom as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever” (9:5). In First Corinthians He is associated with the Father in a way that suggests His humanity, Lordship and Deity: “To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things and we by Him” (8:6).

“Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). The riches which He had were those of divine glory; the poverty into which He came was that of His humiliation, even unto death. The passage strongly resembles the one in Philippians 2, the classic, we might say, of the humiliation. Here from “the form of God”, our blessed Lord in seven downward steps of self-emptying, reaches the death of the Cross, and by the glory of God, is elevated into the place of supremacy, in seven stages, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth and things under the earth”. Who is He who thus commands the adoration of the entire universe?

In Galatians our Lord is spoken of as the Son of God, revealed in Paul (1:16), sent forth by the Father, and yet “made of a woman” (4:4). Ephesians shows Him as the center of all God’s purposes: “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times, He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth” (1:10). In resurrection, He has been set over all things as Head to His Church, “the fulness of Him that filleth all in all” (1:23). “That He might fill all things” (4:10) - an amazing combination of human sufferings, divine power and omnipresence.

The special glory of the epistle to the Colossians is in the preeminence given to the person of Christ. He is “the image of the invisible God” (1:15), the expression of absolute deity; He is also “the Firstborn of every creature” (1:15), or of all creation, the Chief and Head over all that which He has brought into being. Notice the cluster of glories suggested by the various prepositions here used. “By (literally “in”) Him were all things created”; “by”, “for”, “before”; “By Him all things consist” (1:16,17). He is also the Firstborn from the dead and the Head of the Church (1:18). No wonder “all the fulness was pleased to dwell in Him” (1:19); no wonder also that the divine value and efficacy belongs to the work of reconciliation which He has accomplished 1:20,21). What words could be stronger than those used in the second chapter: “In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (2:9).

We will refer to but one passage from Paul’s pastoral epistles, 1 Timothy 3:16. The whole connection is striking and interesting. The apostle had been speaking of the order which becomes the house of God, and how Timothy should conduct himself in that which is the Church of the living God. God has an established order for His Church, the place where His honor dwelleth. Never more than today has there been the need to know the importance of that order. The Church is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim.3:15), not surely the teacher of the truth in the sense of origin, but the maintainer and exhibitor of that truth. The figure seems to remind us of the House of God of old, the tabernacle, where the “ground” or foundation upon which the boards and pillars of God’s habitation rested was the silver sockets of the redemption paid by the children of Israel. The four pillars which separated the Holiest from the Holy place supported the veil (Ex. 26:31,32). It is of this veil the verse in Timothy seems to speak. “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory”. The one manifest in the flesh exhibits the glories that belong to the house of God. If Luther said that justification by faith was the doctrine of a standing church, may we not add that when the church fails to exhibit and to maintain the truth of the person of Christ, it ceases to be the pillar and ground of the truth. “A fallen church” we may well call it.

The glories of Christ are the special theme of the epistle to the Hebrews. Christ is above angels, above Moses, the leader and law-giver, above Aaron the high priest, above all the sacrifices, covenant and sanctuary of the law. Chapter one describes the glory of His person in a seven-fold series: Heir of all things; Creator; Effulgence of God’s glory; the very Image of His being; the Upholder of all things; the Purger of our sins; now seated at the right hand of God. In this same chapter, we have a seven-fold series of scripture quotations in testimony of this glory.
If the first chapter speaks of His glories, the second tells of His humiliation, made a little lower than the angels, taking hold of the seed of Abraham, suffering under temptation, enduring the pains of death, making priestly propitiation by the sacrifice of Himself and associating with Himself in the family of God the “many sons” whom He is bringing to glory. As risen from the dead, He has been manifested as Priest in the power of an unending life, after the order of Melchizedek, the absence of whose genealogy and death makes Him a fitting type of the Son of God - “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and forever” (13:8). “A body Thou hast prepared Me” (10:5) reminds us that He, in whom all these glories centered, was also Man, with a bodily life which He could offer up in sacrifice to God.