“Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in flesh.” (1 Tim. 3:16)
Yes, so “great” is this “mystery” that when faith attempts to view it, our eyes are dazzled: only as we contemplate it through the very words of Holy Writ shall we be preserved from the blindness which carnal speculation inevitably imparts. “The Word became flesh.” The second person in the Holy Trinity took upon Him the form of a servant. The eternal Son took holy humanity into union with Himself. Though that humanity was not, in itself, a person, though it never had a separate existence, yet was it endowed with all the elements and qualities of a human personality. Christ was not only God, but man, having a human spirit, and soul, and body. As such, Christ lived the life of a perfect man. Speaking by the Spirit of prophecy He declared, “I have set the Lord always before Me: because He is at My right hand, I shall not be moved” (Psalm 16:8). In becoming flesh, our blessed Lord took upon Him a dependent nature, and therefore did He for thirty-three years live a life of faith upon His heavenly Father. The actings of that faith in all its diversified phases may be clearly seen portrayed to our wondering view in those Psalms, which, beyond all dispute, contain the experiences of Christ in the days of His flesh.
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?” Psalm 22:1
“Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” Psalm 69:20,21
“For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.” Psalm 22: 16-18
“There is not a grace or fruit of the Spirit possessed by His people in measure, which the Lord did not possess without measure. And these, it must be borne in mind, were active graces, drawn out and called into continual exercise by the same Holy Spirit who had communicated them. Faith in all its actings, hope in all its anchorings, love in all its flowings, patience in all its endurings, humility in all its submittings, prayer in all its supplications, praise in all its adorings, obedience in all its yieldings, holiness in all its flame, and worship in all its fervor—all, all these graces and fruits of the Holy Spirit, may be seen shining forth as with beams of heavenly light in the personal experience of our blessed Lord in those Psalms in which He speaks. They were, as it were, framed for Him by the Holy Spirit before He came into a time state, that they might be not only prophetical of His sufferings…, but be the spiritual utterance of His own holy soul in the days of His flesh” (J. C. Philpot, 1862).
As the Sponsor and Surety of God’s elect, the Lord Jesus entered the place of their responsibility. To be the Kinsman-Redeemer of His people, really and truly “of one” (Heb. 2:11) with the many sons He was to bring to glory: “in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren” (Heb. 2:17), and thus to be brought into that condition wherein He should trust in God, and act in that dependency upon Him which the nature of man, while exposed to troubles, does indispensably require. He who was rich, for our sakes became poor. He who had brought into existence the universe by the fiat of His will, now became subject to the commandments of the Father. He who upholds all things by the Word of His power, entered the place of complete dependency, and cried to the Strong for strength.
Not only in the Psalms, but in the Prophets too, has the Holy Spirit given us to hear some of the holy breathings of Him who became Man, completely dependent upon God. Most blessedly is this brought before us in Isaiah 50. There we find the Mediator saying, “The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned. The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed. ” (vv. 4, 5,6, 7). What light this casts upon the lowly place which the Creator of angels had taken! How blessedly it makes known to us His amazing condescension! How perfectly He conducted Himself as the Father’s Servant (Isaiah 42:1). Well could He say, “Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29).
1. From the very commencement of His earthly life, the Lord Jesus lived by faith. Marvelously is this revealed to us in the 22nd Psalm. There we behold the Savior in the midst of His dying agonies: doubtless tempted by Satan to give way to unbelief and despair—for it was there he was permitted to fully vent his enmity against the woman’s seed (Gen. 3:15, Luke 22:53); yet vain were the Enemy’s attacks. There we hear our blessed Redeemer declaring, “But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts. I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly.” (vv. 9, 10). How this brings out His uniqueness! In His faith, as in everything else, He has the “pre-eminence” (Col. 1:18). It was not only in manhood, or childhood, but from very earliest infancy, that the Man Christ Jesus drew His support from the Triune God.
2. Throughout His life the Lord Jesus lived by faith. Many are the proofs of this, but we can here barely mention a few of them. His prayer-life exemplifies the fact. He was engaged in prayer while being baptized (Luke 3:21). He “continued all night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12) before selecting the twelve Apostles. It was “as He prayed” that “the fashion of His countenance was altered” (Luke 9:29), and He was transfigured on the holy mount. His prayers expressed His dependence upon and felt need of the Father. His victory over Satan illustrated the same fact. “by the Word of Your lips I have been kept from the paths of the Destroyer” He declared; and then added, “Hold up My goings in thy paths” (Psalm 17:4, 5). “He ever acted in filial dependence upon the Father, and in filial reception out of the Father’s fullness” (A. Saphir).
Christ was never actuated by what is called “common sense,” influenced by public opinion, or governed by worldly policy and prudence; instead, He was always beholding Him who is invisible, walking with God, and doing His will: “I am not alone….He who sent Me is with Me” (John 8:16, 29). The Captain of our salvation was exposed to great difficulties, anxiety of mind, dangers and troubles—typed out by the great sufferings of David before he came to the kingdom. But in all His perplexities the Lord Jesus ever betook Himself unto the protection of God: “Preserve Me, O God: for in thee do I put My trust” (Psalm 16:1)—such was His plea. “As the living Father has sent Me and I live by the Father” (John 6:57). “When He suffered, He threatened not, but (by faith) committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:23).
3. On the Cross the suffering Savior’s faith was active. Wondrously is this brought out in Isaiah 50:8, 9, “He is near who justifies Me …. Behold, the Lord God will help Me; who is he who shall condemn Me?” The ineffably Holy One had been made the Sin-bearer. Jehovah had laid on Christ the iniquity of all His people (Isaiah 53:6). Though personally sinless, all the sins of God’s elect were imputed to Christ, “Who His own self bore our sins in His own body to the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). Yet even while enduring the curse, and the wrath of God was hard upon Him, our Surety had implicit faith that He would be exonerated—”He is near who justifies Me.”
4. In death itself the Savior fully trusted God. His last act was one of faith: “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.” (Luke 23:46). “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm 16:9-11). Perhaps the fear of lowering the character of our blessed Lord has restrained many from writing on this precious theme; but none should be afraid to go as far as Scripture goes. As we have seen, Holy Writ depicts the life of Christ as giving us the only perfect and all-sided embodiment of faith. Nor was His faith a secret or hidden thing: He made open profession of it—His enemies acknowledged “He trusted in God” (Matt 27:43). O for more conformity to His image. Christ is not only the Christian’s righteousness and peace, but as well, the model and strength of his life.