Chapter 9 - The Honour of His Name

Chapter 9 - The Honour of His Name
No one who, with open mind, has followed this in-quiry respecting the use of the Lord's personal name in the New Testament, can resist the conclusion to which it leads. "The modern familiar use of the simple name 'Jesus' has NO authority in Apostolic usage." Some Christians who recognise that the common practice is unscriptural and wrong, adopt what may be described as the compromise of always adding "Christ" to 'the simple name." Their motive is most praiseworthy, but we do well t. consider not merely what depth of meaning "Jesus Christ" may have with those who use it thus, but what it means to the vast majority of people who hear or read their words. The infidel uses it as freely as the Christian. And even with ordinary Christians, hallowed though it be, and redolent of holy memories, it is re-garded (like "Jesus") as merely a personal name; and it points, not upward to the Lord of Glory on the eternal throne, but back to "the historic Jesus." 1 Some theologians indeed would have us believe that, even in the New Testament, "Christ" is some-times used merely as a proper name-a figment which indicates how entirely Gentile exegesis may be out of harmony with Jewish thought; for with the devout Jew, as with the Hebrew Christian, it was a divine title of great solemnity. We shall better realise its purport in Scripture if for "Christ" we read "Messiah," and for "Jesus Christ," "Jesus the Messiah." But it meant nothing in~Gentile ears, and Gentile converts needed to be taught its sacred significance.
The majority of Christians who offend in this matter may plead that their error is due to evil training or thoughtlessness; but when once atten-tion is directed to the subject they would do well to be guided by primitive practice and the teach-ing of Scripture. The researches of Dr. Adolf Deissmann have established that in the Apostolic age, speaking of Christ as "the Lord" was a full and definite acknowledgment of His Deity. "In the time of St. Paul," he tells us, "'Lord' was throughout the whole Eastern world a universally understood religious conception. The Apostle's con-fession of his Master as 'our Lord Jesus Christ' . . was at once intelligible in all the fulness of its mean-ing to every one in the Greek Orient." And under the persecuting Emperors, as the same writer tells us again, this confession "led to Christian martyrdoms." If speaking of Christ as "the Lord" were fraught with similar perils to-day, Christians could scarcely be more careful to avoid the practice than now they seem to be!
And Dr. Deissmann's researches may enable us better to understand the narrative of The Acts. "That God hath made this same Jesus whom ye crucified both Lord and Christ" was the Apostle Peter's proclamation at Pentecost. "Both Lord and Christ"; but whereas the special testimony to the Jew was that He was the Christ, to the Gentile the emphasis rested on the truth that He was Lord. Accordingly we read that in Jerusalem the Apostles "preached Jesus as the Christ" (Acts v. 42, R.V.). But when, after the disciples were driven out by the Stephen persecution, they came into contact with Gentiles, "they preached the Lord Jesus" (Acts xi. 20). And to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul declared with emphasis, "We preach Christ Jesus as Lord" (2 Cor. iv. 5, R.V.). 1 The writings of the Apostle Peter exemplify how this consideration influenced him in naming the Lord. In his First Epistle, addressed expressly to Hebrew Christians-" the elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion," the Lord is eight times named as "Jesus Christ"; whereas in his Second Epistle, addressed to Gentile believers-" to them who have obtained like precious faith with us" (i.e. with us Hebrews)-that name is never used once, save in the Apostolic formula of the opening words. And in that same sentence the Lord is designated "Our God and Saviour Jesus Christ," and again, "Jesus our Lord." Three times we find "our Lord Jesus Christ," and three times "our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
In studying the Epistles in this connection we need to take account of the Revised Text; for in very many occurrences of "Jesus Christ" in our A.V. the reading of the R.V. is "Christ Jesus." And in not a few passages where the Revisers have retained "Jesus Christ," MS. authority is conflicting. Dean Alford's version, for example, reads "Christ" in 2 Cor. iv. 6, and "Christ Jesus" in Phil. i. 6, and so elsewhere. In fact the right reading is doubtful in nearly half the passages where "Jesus Christ" occurs in our Authorised Version. The distinction has a doctrinal significance. For "Jesus Christ" speaks to us of the Lord as a person, whereas "Christ Jesus" is what some writers term "the official Christ "-the Christ in His relationships with His people.' Compare, for example, "the man Jesus Christ" in Romans v. 15, with "baptized into Christ Jesus," 2 ~ ch. vi. 3. So again in 2 Cor. xiii. 5, if the text adopted in both our versions be accepted,3 it must be rendered "that Jesus Christ is among you," just as in 1 Cor. xiv. 25 the Apostle speaks of God being among them. Scripture does not speak of a Christian being in Jesus Christ4 nor of Jesus Christ being in a Christian, whereas "in Christ," or "in Christ Jesus," represents truth which is as clear as it is precious.
Many Bible students might find results which would surprise them in studying the use of the name "Jesus Christ" in the New Testament. For instance, in all the Four Gospels it occurs only five times,8 including its use by the Lord Himself in John xvii. 3. And it is used but seven, times in Acts, and never once in the incidental or the narra tival fashion so common with us to-day. As regards the Epistles, on account of the element of different readings, above noticed, a complete analysis of the passages where it is used' would involve too serious a digression. Suffice it then to say, first, that in the Apostolic writings, the use of one or another of the Lord's names or titles has always some definite significance, and it is not, as with us, due merely to euphony or caprice. And secondly, all who believe in the divine inspiration of Holy Scripture must recognise that even the most formal and solemn of mere human utterances are upon a different and lower plane. And therefore in a matter such as this it behoves us, not to copy the language of the Word of God, but to be governed by its precepts, and by the example of those whose ways and words were con-trolled by the Lord's personal presence and teaching.
"What would Jesus do ~"is the deplorably irreve-rent formula by which some people would have us settle every question. Some years ago, if the news-papers may be trusted, the servants in the house of a certain English peer, where Socialism had found a lodgment, were encouraged to speak of their noble master by his Christian name. But surely, even in the degradation of such a home, the language of the servants' hail would not be, "What would George do?" but "What would he have us to do?"
And in this matter we have not merely the example of the early saints: we have words of definite guidance from the Lord Himself. "Ye call Me Master and Lord, and ye do well," has been already quoted; and surely this ought to be enough for all who either love or fear Him. But we need to be reminded also of His words recorded in John v. 22, 23-most explicit and solemn words, bearing directly on the question here before us. They are usually read as though they meant no more than that we should honour not only the Father but the Son also. But language could not be more definite and clear. The divine prerogative of judgment has been delegated to Him in order that He, the Son, may receive the same honour that is rendered to the Father.' His words can have no other meaning. And every one of us must settle it with his conscience, in view of the judgment-seat of Christ, whether this is compatible with the manner in which He is commonly named to-day, not only in ordinary conversation, but in Christian pulpits and Christian literature.
The fact so definitely noticed in preceding pages, that throughout the Epistles the Lord is named occasionally as "Jesus," or "Jesus Christ," is seized upon by many as an excuse for carelessness and indifference in this matter. It is not for such that this appeal is intended; and yet even such as they would do well to study the opening verses of 1 Corinthians, as illustrative of Apostolic thought and usage in this respect. I quote from the R.V. The Apostle addresses the Corinthians as "sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Then, following the "salutation" from the Lord Jesus Christ, he thanks God for the grace given them in Christ Jesus, "even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: so that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye be unreprovable in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, through whom ye were called into the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord." And then the practical teaching of the Epistle opens with an appeal to them in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. In many a Christian book of two hundred pages that title of glory will not be found as often as here it occurs in less than. tlvo hundred words!
This chapter may fitly close by calling attention to a precept which the Revised Text has recovered for us: "Sanctify Christ in your heart as Lord." Some Christians who are eager to confess Him before men are often restrained by fear of giving offence. Here then is a mode of confessing Him which is both effective and inoffensive. And if they accustom themselves to name Him, only and always, with the reverence which is His due, the habitual con-fession of the lips will help them to sanctify Him as Lord in the heart, and to own Him as Lord in daily life.'
1 A document that has reached me since this chapter was written supplies a striking commentary upon my words on page 58. A paper read before the Victoria Institute by one of the, most eminent of the Irish Bishops gives the following inswer to the question, Where is the basis of truth to be found 7- "We must find it, not in the mere book, but in the revelation which the book contains. All along the ages the source of power has been, not the mere letter of certain documents, but the person-ality and influence of Jesus Christ. . . . The wonderful character of our Lord . . . it is this which makes Jesus Christ the most vivid personality in history or in literature."
Such thoughts as these are expressed with far more enthusiasm by Renan the infidel. But is not this what the Apostle meant by "knowing Christ after the flesh?" A vivid personality in history and literature may possibly be a permanent basis for "the Christian religion," but not for the faith of Christ. It will not bring peace to a conscience awakened to the dread realities of sin and judgment to come. Christianity is based upon the revelation of the Christ who lived and died, but is now enthroned in glory-a revelation which comes to us, not in "a mere book," but in holy writings, God-breathed by the Divine Spirit. No clear and fearless thinker can find any intelligent compromise between this "simple faith" and sheer agnosticism.