The Person of Christ - 02 - Pre-existance in Epistles

 

Chapter 2 - The Pre-existence of Christ

In The Epistles of Paul

Norman Crawford

 

It is impossible to read the thirteen letters that bear the name of Paul without being convinced that the man who penned them believed that Christ Jesus is ?the Lord out of Heaven? (I Cor. 15:47). In future issues it is intended to examine Paul?s teaching regarding the Deity and Eternal Sonship of Christ. We are confining ourselves now to clear statements of His pre-existence.

 

THE BIRTH OF CHRIST IN PAUL?S LETTERS

 

It is only in Galatians 4:4 and Romans 1:1-4 that Paul refers to the birth of the Lord Jesus. In the first mention, He comes ?of woman? in fulfillment of the first promise to the fallen pair in Eden. In the second He ?comes of the seed of David? in answer to all the hopes of the faithful in every generation of Israel. A close look at these two passages will show that He neither originates in His Person from woman, nor from the seed of David (for He was the Root of David) but He comes through them as the divinely appointed instruments of His entrance into the world from the throne eternal. The first of these promises is linked with His sufferings, the second with His glories.

 

THE GOSPEL PAUL PREACHED

 

The Gospel of the glory of Christ (II Cor. 4:4) that Paul preached had in it a descent from Heavenly glory (Rom. 10:6), for ?Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners? (I Tim. 1:15). It is a descent into death?s dark flood and the grave (Eph. 4:9). It is an ascent far above all Heavens (Eph. 4:10) where He was before. So Paul preached a completed journey, from highest glory to lowest shame and suffering, and a return back again to the glory.

 

PAUL?S USE OF CHRIST JESUS

Peter refers to Jesus Christ in his writings for he knew Him and walked with Him as the lowly Man amongst men. Peter says, ?God raised Him from the dead and gave Him Glory? (I Peter 1:21) so to Peter He was the lowly One now exalted. Paul speaks of Christ Jesus, for he never knew Him personally as the lowly One, but met Him in a dazzling blaze of glory as the exalted Christ. To Paul He is the Lofty One, in His pre-existence, who in marvellous grace descended to become the Lowly One. It is labouring the point to say that Paul emphatically states that Christ Jesus was pre-existent in heaven before He came to earth (Rom. 10:6).

 

PRE-EXISTENCE LINKED WITH DIVINE PERSONS

 

In Philippians 2:6 Paul teaches that Christ Jesus eternally existed in the form of God (v.5) Two of the smallest words in this verse reveal some of the highest truth that has ever been made known. He is seen in the form of God, which is His essential and eternal Being as God. He counted it not robbery to be equal with God which teaches His distinct Personality. There can be no intelligent interpretation of these words without a full appreciation of His pre-incarnate existence.

 

PRE-EXISTENCE LINKED WITH DIVINE POSSESSIONS

 

?For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich? (II Cor. 8:9). When was the Lord Jesus rich? On earth He was characterized by poverty, ?He impoverished Himself,? a point tense verb, in the active voice. It was an act of His own volition by which He became poor, and the greatest display of grace to us. His final possessions on earth were those few garments over which the soldiers argued and gambled (John 19:23-24). He was not rich on earth. Paul is saying He was rich before He became Man. How rich He was! How poor He became!

 

PRE-EXISTENCE LINKED WITH DIVINE PRIORITIES

 

The Lord Jesus, Who had primacy over all created things, had prior existence to all creation (Col. 1:15). He preceded every creature and He Himself is not a creature, but the Creator of all things. Colossians 1:16 uses three prepositions which relate Him to creation. It existed in Him as to its source, it came through Him as its Master-workman, it was created for Him as to its purpose.

 

?And He is before all things, and all things in Him consist? (Col. 1:17). Note that ?He is? before all things (not was). ?He is ?is His eternal Being proving that He is timeless, while ?He is? relates Him to eternity, ?before all things? relates Him to time and also teaches His pre-existence. ?In Him all things consist.? that is they hold together. This is His present power. We thank God He has not abdicated from that position of supreme power over all created things which He has held from the beginning of the creation.

 

PRE-EXISTENCE LINKED WITH THE DIVINE PURPOSE

 

Such verses as Ephesians 1:4 and particularly 3:11 show that He was already existent when the eternal counsels were made. The eternal purpose of God was bound up in Him. There was no point in the dimmest reaches of the past when all God?s purposes began to revolve about Him. ?Before the rustle of an angel's wing cleft the stillness of eternity He was there.? Just as He was there when the Heavenly counsels involved creation (Gen. 1:26), so He was present in those eternal counsels involving redemption. To remove the preexistence of Christ from the New Testament would be comparable to removing the sun from the sky, all else revolves about the great central fact ?Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.?