By Pastor Glenn Pease
G. A. Studdert-Kennedy wrote a poem called "Faith," which has become very widely quoted. Let me share the whole of it with you.
How do I know that God is good? I don't. I gamble like a man. I bet my life Upon one side in life's great war. I must. I can't stand out. I must take sides. The man Who is neutral in this fight is not a man. He's bulk and body without breath. I want to live, live out, not wobble through my life somehow, and then into the dark. I must have God. This life's too dull without-I know not why the evil, I know not why the good, both mysteries Remain unsolved, and both insoluble. I know that both are there, the battle set, And I must fight on this side or on that. I can't stand shivering on the bank, I plunge Head first. I bet my life on Beauty, Truth, and Love, not abstract but incarnate Truth, Not Beauty's passing shadow but its Self. Its very self made flesh, Love realized. I bet my life on Christ-Christ crucified. Behold your God! My soul cried out-Such is my faith, and such my reasons for it, and I find them strong Enough. And you? You want to argue! Well, I can't. It is a choice. I choose the Christ.
This is the experience and choice of all believers, and is what Paul was saying when he wrote, "I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus as my Lord." Christ is the supreme choice. He is the supreme object of knowledge. The greatest education is to know Christ. The crown of the curriculum in the college of life, for the Christian, is Christ. Any alternative is like offering a candle to replace the Sun. It was Moody who said, "You may know all there is know about the age of rocks, but if you do not know the Rock of Ages, your education is in vain."
To know Him and the power of His resurrection was Paul's ambition, and is the ambition of all who really want the greatest education. It is the greatest for it is more comprehensive than the best liberal arts education if one pursues it, for in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Barclay calls the knowledge of Christ the master science of life.
Knowing Christ does not exclude other knowledge, but rather, it expands it and lifts it to a new level. All of the values of philosophers through the centuries are made more precious when related to the knowledge of God in Christ. To be spiritually minded does not mean to ignore and scoff at the values of the secular world, but rather, to exalt them by relating them to God, and His glory and purpose. Herman Horne in his book Jesus-Our Standard shows how all of the values of life recognized by all men are made spiritual values by relating them to the knowledge of God. He writes, "Our enjoyment of health acquires the spiritual tone when health is recognized as the result of conformity to the laws of nature which are the laws of God. Our goodness becomes spiritual when it is recognized that the laws of morality are the laws of God. Our appreciation of beauty is spiritualized when beauty is traced to its origin in the perfection of God manifested in the works of nature and man. And our knowledge of the truth acquires a spiritual value when such knowledge is viewed as the rethinking of the thoughts of God."
To know Christ, therefore, is the greatest education, for only through Christ can God be known, and only as God is known can all knowledge acquire its highest significance and value. Therefore, with Paul and the poet we choose Christ. It is the choice that even a wise and thoughtful pagan would make. In Plato's Dialogues we see Simmias speak to Socrates just before he drank the fatal hemlock, and he said, "I dare say that you, Socrates feel as I do, how very hard or almost impossible is the attainment of any certainty about questions such as these in the present life. And yet I should deem him a coward who did not prove what is said about them to the uttermost...For he should persevere until he has achieved one of two things: either he should discover, or be taught the truth about them; or, if this is impossible, I would have him take the best and most irrefragable of human theories, and let this be the raft upon which he sails through life-not without risk, as I admit, if he cannot find some word of God which will more surely and safely carry him."
As Christians, we agree with this pagan philosopher. We must follow reason as far as we can take us, but if we can find a word of God, that will be our security and confidence. We have found the Word of God in Christ. He is the Word of God, and all that is of God is to be known through Him. Jesus said in Matt. 11:27, "All things have been delivered to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son, and any one to whom the Son chooses t reveal Him." We choose Him then only because He has chosen us. We are free to grow in the knowledge of God and Christ, not by merit, but through a scholarship of grace. Therefore, let us be grateful and press on to know the Lord, and take full advantage of our opportunity for the greatest education.
It is good to begin with a study of the humanity of Christ. We assume His deity, or we would not be studying Him as the source of the greatest education. It is by means of His humanity that He leads us to deity. Martin Luther said, "Take hold of Jesus as a man, and you will discover that He is God. God is abstract, but the man Christ Jesus is concrete. We can behold Him, and observe His attitudes and actions. Most of the study of Christ in the New Testament is on the level of His humanity. This is the very purpose of the incarnation. God is known finally and fully in Christ, for Christ alone is a revelation on our level that we can grasp. Dr. Fosdick said, "I do not primarily believe in Christianity. That is an abstraction. I believe in Christ. He is the incarnation."
The average Christian is unaware of the vital importance of the humanity of Christ both theologically and practically. We do not take advantage of the fact that even many non-believers think of Jesus as a great man. We know he was more, but they are not wrong as far as they go. Let us talk then more of the greatness of this man. Why was He great and what did He teach? Let us take advantage of the world's interest in Christ as a great man, and make Him a topic of conversation as we do other great men. There is good reason to believe that it is by means of the humanity of Christ that men will be won to Him.
Our goal is not to promote ideas about denominations or the church. It is the knowledge of Christ's humanity that will enable us to be a voice listened to in our day. Every element of human experience is related to Christ in some way, and Christian education is to enable us to see this relation, and make it known by life and lip. Through the Manhood of Christ God is revealed. E. H. Divall wrote-
"Revelation of the Father's glory, Son of God most high-
Lo! Thou camest as a man to suffer-as a man to die!
And we look upon Thy perfect Manhood-Look until we see,
How the wondrous fullness of the Father, Surely filleth thee,
And we know Thee, tender Man of Sorrows-In Thy lowliness,
Walking up and down earth's ways among us, Strong to help and bless,For the voice of God through Thee is speaking, and the Life divine,Hidden in Himself through all the ages, Is revealed in Thine! Thou art such a Word our dim vision clearly may receive;
Eyes that could not look upon the Father, See Thee and believe;
Hearts that could not reach Him in the heavens, In Thy Manhood read
His desire toward them, and within Thee, Find there Life indeed."
Before we look at some aspect of the humanity of Christ we need to recognize that Christ did not become man just for the sake of a clearer and more practical revelation of God. It was a necessary part of God's plan for our redemption that His Son become incarnate, and be a complete man. Jonathan Edwards, the great American theologian and preacher of the 1700's explained it in a clear way sufficient to satisfy our aim before we move on. He wrote, "Though Christ, as God, was infinitely sufficient for the work, yet to His being in an immediate capacity for it, it was needful that He should not only be God, but man. If Christ had remained only in the divine nature, He would not have been in the capacity to have purchased our salvation. .....for Christ, merely as God, was not capable either of that obedience or suffering that was needed. The divine nature is not capable of suffering; for it is infinitely above all suffering. Neither is it capable of obedience to that law that was given to man. It is as impossible that one who is only God should obey the law that was given to man, as it is that He should suffer man's punishment."
The point he is making is that God had no alternative but that His Son become man if man was to be saved. The man Christ Jesus is the only mediator between God and man, for only He is truly God and truly man. Jesus is the goal of life as God, and the way of life as man. As the poet put it-
Thou art the Way.
Hadst Thou been nothing but the Goal,
I cannot say
If Thou hadst ever won my soul.
It is as the Way that we must communicate Christ to the world. Those who listen and respond will soon know Him also as the Goal. Christians were first known as people of the Way. We must know the Great Commissioner before we can fulfill the Great Commission. The personal always comes first in God's order. Paul says he wants to know Him and the power of His resurrection. It is first Him, and then the power.
Usually the first thing you learn about any person is their name. Our Lord has a multitude of names in the New Testament, and in prophecy, but His legal and official human name is Jesus. It is a common Jewish name life Bill or Bob would be in our culture. This was a heaven selected name, and was given, not just to insure easy remembrance, but because, as Gabriel said, He was going to fulfill its meaning by saving His people from their sin. Jesus is the name used in the New Testament to specify the humanity of Christ. It locates Him in His historical setting. Jesus of Nazareth, and Jesus the Galilean. Jesus is the name we should use in communicating with the world. Christ and Lord are titles more than names, and there is no power in them.
Jesus was known in His day by His personal name. When He rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and stirred up the people the crowd said, "This is Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee. When the soldiers came to take Jesus in the garden, and He asked them, "Whom do you seek?" They said, "Jesus of Nazareth." This was His name, and this was the name by which He did great things. Demons were cast out in the name of Jesus. Men were healed in the name of Jesus. Other names like Christ, Lord, Savior, or King were not used to accomplish miracles. In acts 3:6 Peter said to the lame man, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." We see Christ added to Jesus, and you can't go wrong there, but the name of Jesus is the source of the power. Peter used Jesus Christ as the name of power, and Jesus alone, but never Christ alone. Jesus is the name that uniquely designates the Savior.
It is not the name, but the person that heals. In Acts 9:34 Peter said, "Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you, rise and make your bed." He could have said in the name of Jesus rise and make your bed, and the meaning would be the same. The name of Jesus is powerful because when it is used by one who is aware of the presence and power of Jesus it is equivalent to asking Jesus face to face to help you do something. Charles Spurgeon preached on the name of Jesus and said, "Every name is like the honeycomb dropping with honey, and luscious are the drops that distill from it. But if their be one name sweeter than another in the believer's ear, it is the name of Jesus. Jesus! It is the name which moves the harps of heaven to melody. Jesus, the life of all our joys.....
It is the music with which the bells of heaven
ring; a song in a word; and ocean for comprehension;
although a drop for brevity; a matchless
oratorio in two syllables; a gathering up of
the hallelujahs of eternity in five letters.
Jesus, I love Thy charming name.
Tis music to mine ear.
The first assignment in the greatest education is to learn to love and use often the precious name of Jesus.