“Bow the knee to Christ in holy awe” by Joel Beeke

“If Christ were not God, there would be no Christianity.

His deity is crucial for our faith. The doctrine of Christ’s full divinity also has massive practical significance for the Christian life.

Here we offer some spiritual directions to help you apply this truth to your life:

1. Recognize the horrible evil of your sins.

William Perkins said,

“No man could save our souls, no, not all the angels of heaven, unless the King of heaven and earth, the only Son of God, had come down from heaven and suffered for us, bearing our punishment. Now the consideration of this must humble us and make us to cast down ourselves under the hand of God for our sins … that some tears of sorrow and repentance might gush out for this our woeful misery.”

2. Trust Christ’s sufficiency for complete salvation.

Petrus van Mastricht (1630–1706) said that the doctrine of Christ’s deity

“commends to us the sufficiency and perfection of our Mediator, from which it is said that all fullness dwells in him (Col. 1:19), and He fills all in all (Eph. 1:23), so that from His fullness we can draw grace upon grace (John 1:16); indeed, in Him we are made complete (Col. 2:10).”

In giving Christ for sinners, God has given all of Himself. Surely, then, you can rest upon Christ as all that you need for salvation and eternal life.

You are foolish, but in Christ is all wisdom (2:3).

You by nature are dead in sin, but in Christ is resurrection from the dead (2:13).

You are guilty of many transgressions, but in Christ is complete forgiveness, the cancelling of all our debts (2:13–14).

Brown said,

“He who died on the accursed tree, ‘the just for the unjust,’ is none other than the ‘I Am,’ ” and therefore, “who shall set any limits to the efficacy of His atoning blood and vicarious righteousness?”

You have been a slave of Satan and his demonic forces, but in Christ is total victory against all the powers of darkness (2:15).

In a word, you are empty of all spiritual good, but “ye are complete in Him” (Col. 2:10) if you trust Him and receive Him (2:6–7).

3. Find comfort in Christ’s sonship and your adoption in him.

If you rejoice that Jesus is the Son of God, then you may also rejoice that you are an adopted son or daughter of God by union with him (Gal. 4:4–5; Eph. 1:5).

Perkins said,

“Whereas Christ Jesus is the Son of God, it serves as a means to make miserable and wretched sinners, that are by nature the children of wrath and damnation, to be sons of God by adoption.… Let all such as fear God enter into a serious consideration of the unspeakable goodness of God, comforting themselves in this, that God the Father has vouchsafed by His own Son to make them of the vassals of Satan to be His own dear children.”

4. Bow the knee to Christ in holy awe.

The glory of Christ’s deity calls you to go beyond a consideration of your own salvation and to contemplate the Savior. He does not exist for you, but you and all things exist “for him” (Col. 1:16).

Thomas Goodwin said,

“God’s chief end was not to bring Christ into the world for us, but us for Christ. He is worth all creatures. And God contrived all things that do fall out, and even redemption itself, for the setting forth of Christ’s glory, more than our salvation.”

Therefore, “be swallowed up with profound awe and self-abasement” before the glory of Christ, as Brown said, because when you gaze upon him, you stand in the presence of the holy, holy, holy Lord.

5. Think often and warmly of Christ.

Since Christ is God, you should be thinking about him all the time, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. This is the taproot of Christian spirituality: to set your mind and desires upon Christ (Col. 3:1–2).

John Owen said,

“The principal actings of the life of faith consist in the frequency of our thoughts concerning him; for hereby Christ liveth in us.… A great rebuke it ought to be unto us, when Christ has at any time in a day been long out of our minds.”

And when we do think of Christ, Owen said, “all our thoughts concerning Christ and his glory should be accompanied with admiration, adoration, and thanksgiving.”

6. Live unto the Lord Christ.

Direct your life and death at him as your great goal and holy ambition (Phil. 1:20–21; 3:8–12). He died and rose again so that His people no longer live for themselves, but for Him (Rom. 14:8–9; 2 Cor. 5:14–15).

Brown said,

“To live to any Being is the highest worship that can possibly be rendered to Him. We are commanded to live to Christ, taking His will as our highest law, and Himself as our highest end of existence.”

The great tragedy of fallen humanity is that we live to ourselves. Brown exclaimed,

“Oh the frightful guilt of this, as seen in the light of the absolute soleness of Jehovah’s glory, that infinite chasm which subsists between him and all creatures whatsoever!.… We transfer from God to ourselves the esteem, the confidence, the fear, the love, the service, which are due only to him.”

Repent, therefore, of living unto yourself, and live unto Christ.

7. Offer yourself to God in gratitude for his Son.

God’s gift of his Son to us displays the infinite depths of his love (John 3:16). Paul says, “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32).

Your only fitting response is to give yourself to God (Rom. 12:1).

Perkins said,

“Whereas God the Father of Christ gave His only Son to be our Savior, as we must be thankful to God for all things, so especially for this great and unspeakable benefit.… We should give unto God both body and soul in token of our thankfulness for this wonderful blessing that He has given His only Son to be our Savior.”

Give yourself to God for Christ’s sake, today and every day of your life, until you see Him face-to-face and are liberated to live wholly and solely for His glory.”

–Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 2: 777–780.

“This Intercessor stretches out His hands of blessing” by Joel Beeke

“One of the great functions of a priest was to pronounce God’s blessing, or benediction, upon his people. Melchizedek, “the priest of the most high God,” blessed Abraham, the covenantal father of all the faithful (Gen. 14:18–20), and did so as a type of Christ (Ps. 110:4; Heb. 7:1, 6–7).

The Lord chose the Aaronic priests to bless Israel in his name (Deut. 10:8; 21:5), saying, “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Num. 6:22–26).

The core elements of this priestly blessing, “grace” and “peace,” now flow from the Father and the Son to His people, as the greetings in the New Testament Epistles abundantly affirm.

Some theologians have considered blessing to be a distinct third function of priests after sacrifice and intercession. Aaron blessed the people after making sacrifices and again after going into the tabernacle to intercede (Lev. 9:22–23). Other theologians have seen the priestly blessing to be an aspect of intercession.

The blessing was a prayer that invoked God’s name upon His covenant people so that God would bless them (Num. 6:27). “The priests the Levites arose and blessed the people: and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to his holy dwelling place, even unto heaven” (2 Chron. 30:27).

What is clear is that Christ blesses his people as their Priest. Just before Christ ascended into heaven, “he lifted up his hands, and blessed” his disciples (Luke 24:50–51), just as formerly “Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them” (Lev. 9:22). Peter, citing God’s promise to bless all nations by Abraham’s seed, says, “God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities” (Acts 3:25–26).

God’s blessing through Christ is covenantal. Sinners are under God’s curse for breaking the commandments of his law (Gal. 3:10). In his redeeming sacrifice, Christ received the curse of God’s law, absorbing its full fury in his sufferings while perfectly obeying the law, so that his believing people are delivered from the curse (Gal. 3:13; 4:4). They receive the blessing promised in the covenant with Abraham “through Jesus Christ” by faith (Gal. 3:14).

God’s curse against lawbreakers hangs over all the good things that they receive in this world (Deut. 28:15–19), mingles sorrow into all good (Gen. 3:17–19), and one day will take all good away from unrepentant sinners (Luke 6:24–25; 16:24–25). However, Christians may pray to their Father for their “daily bread” (Matt. 6:11), “that of God’s free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them.” The ability of believers to enjoy earthly goods with God’s blessing presupposes that he is pleased with them (Eccl. 9:7–9).

Therefore, the goodness of all God’s providences toward his elect comes to them through Christ’s intercession (Rom. 8:28, 34). Paul says, “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by [or “in”] Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).

The core of God’s blessing is justification and the grace of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 3:8, 14). Owen observed that the work of the Spirit is the “purchased grace” that Christ won by his obedience and sufferings. Christ obtains the Spirit for his people by his intercession: “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16). The fullness of the Spirit’s new-covenant ministry depends on the glorification of the Son (7:39). Christ himself sends us the Spirit from the Father’s side (John 16:7).

By these spiritual graces, the reality and efficacy of Christ’s invisible intercession in heaven is demonstrated on earth, for we have received the Holy Spirit and know the fruit of Christ’s intercession in our lives, as Perkins said. The best evidence that Christ prays for us in heaven is the Spirit’s work to make us pray on earth.

The exaltation of our great High Priest signals the fulfillment of the covenant of grace and the inauguration of the last days (Heb. 1:2–3; 9:26). Murray said, “Jesus as high priest is the surety and mediator of the new and better covenant.… The new covenant brings to its consummation the communion which is at the heart of all covenant disclosure from Abraham onwards: ‘I will be your God, and ye shall be my people.’ … The heavenly high priesthood of Christ, means, therefore, that Christ appears in the presence of God … to plead on the basis of what he has accomplished the fulfilment of all the promises.”

Therefore, Christ’s intercession unlocks all grace and glory for his people. In union with Christ, they are blessed by the Father with “all spiritual blessings” (Eph. 1:3).

The intercession of our Lord Jesus is a boundless field full of flowers from which we may draw sweet nectar for our souls. Let us consider some of the riches of knowing our Intercessor by God’s grace.

First, we must allow this doctrine to form in us constant reliance on the exalted Christ. We must run the race set before us, “looking unto Jesus” (Heb. 12:2; cf. Col. 3:1). Brown said that Christ’s intercession glorifies him, for “in this way believers have an immediate dependence on Christ for ever.” Let us look to him for every grace.

Second, Christians may find here strong consolation and hope. Christ’s entrance into heaven as our forerunner confirms the unbreakable promise of God that he will bless his people (Heb. 6:17–20). If Christ’s death reconciled us to God when we were his enemies, much more will his living ministry deliver us from the wrath of God (Rom. 5:10). We can exult in hope.

Third, believers should look to Christ’s intercession for confidence in our justification. Christ was raised for our justification and intercedes to deliver us from condemnation (Rom. 4:25; 8:33–34). His appearing before the face of God confirms that his blood sacrifice has expiated the guilt of our sins once for all (Heb. 9:24). We should assure our consciences with this doctrine.

Fourth, knowing Christ as the Intercessor can encourage quickness to confess sin to God. Rather than remaining silent when God convicts us of sin (Ps. 32:3–5), let us immediately confess our sins with faith in Christ’s propitiation and intercession, for God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9; 2:1–2).

Fifth, the doctrine of Christ’s intercession increases expectation and comfort in prayer. What is more comforting in trials than to go to a friend who knows how we feel and how to help us? Christ sympathizes with us perfectly. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15–16).

Sixth, given that all spiritual blessings come to us through Christ’s intercession, we should learn to exercise trust in Christ for the grace of the Holy Spirit. Let us never separate the Spirit from Jesus Christ, for he is the Spirit of God’s Son (Gal. 4:6). Whether we need the Spirit’s power to mortify sin (Rom. 8:13), his fruit for works of love and self-control (Gal. 5:22–23), or his gifts to serve the church effectively (1 Cor. 12:7, 11), let us drink of his living water by exercising faith in the exalted Christ (John 7:37–39). Believers overcome trials, even unto martyrdom, by “the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:19). Owen said, “The great duty of tempted souls, is to cry out unto the Lord Christ for help and relief.”

Seventh, the more God’s children meditate upon Christ’s intercession, the more they will increase in assurance of ultimate salvation and blessedness. We will be purged of legalistic perfectionism and rest in his perfection. We will learn to recognize all our good desires and good works as fruit of his priestly work. Then we will be able to rejoice and exult, for our Intercessor is able to save us completely (Heb. 7:25).

As long as this Intercessor stretches out His hands of blessing, we may be sure that the true Israel will prevail over its enemies (Ex. 17:8–13).”

–Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 2: 1099–1103.

“The miracle of miracles” by Joel Beeke

“Every miracle of personal salvation rests upon the person of Christ, who is the miracle of miracles.”

–Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 2: 860.

“Evidence for the deity of Jesus Christ” by Joel Beeke

“The Holy Scriptures demonstrate that Christ is God in many ways. We may summarize the lines of evidence for the deity of Jesus Christ as follows.

1. The preexistence of deity: indications that Christ was living and active before his entrance into this world as a human being (John 1:1; Phil. 2:6-7; 1 Tim. 1:15; Heb. 1:1-4; John 11:25; Rev. 22:13).

2. The prophecies of deity: promises of God’s coming to his people fulfilled in Jesus, particularly promises that God would come as the divine Messiah (Isa. 40:3, 5, 9–10; Mal. 3:1–6; Psalm 45:6–7; 110:1; Isa. 9:6; Mic. 5:2).

3. The names of deity: the names and titles given to Christ, such as God (John 1:1), the Son of God (Matt. 16:16), Lord (Phil. 2:11), Lord of lords (Rev. 17:14), and God with us (Matt. 1:23).

4. The attributes of deity: traits such as holiness (Acts 3:14), eternity (John 8:58), sovereign power (Matt. 8:26), infinite knowledge (John 16:30), omnipresence (Matt. 28:20), self-existence (John 5:26), and immutability (Heb. 1:10–12). When we examine these divine attributes of Christ, we are led to confess with Paul, “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). Wellum comments, “The entire fullness and sum total of deity inhabits the Son, who has added to Himself a human nature.”

5. The relations of deity: Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father (John 3:16), and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Son (Gal. 4:6). In the relations of the Trinity, Christ shares in the fullness of the divine life and activity with the Father and the Spirit.

6. The actions of deity: Christ does what only God does as Creator, Lord, and Redeemer (Col. 1:16; 1 Cor. 8:6; John 5:19; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3; Mark 2:5-10; John 5:24-25).

7. The honors of deity: Christ hears prayer and receives worship (John 5:23; Matt. 2:1-12; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:9-12).

In summary, since the Bible reveals Christ’s activity long before He became a man; foretells the coming of Christ as the coming of God; calls Him by the names of God; ascribes to Him the attributes, relations, and actions of God; and gives Him the honors of God, then Christ is God.”

–Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 2: 762–763.

“Almighty power and deepest sympathy meet together in one glorious person, Jesus Christ, my Lord” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us settle deeply in our minds this great truth, that Jesus Christ was verily and indeed Man. He was equal to the Father in all things, and the eternal God.

But He was also Man, and took part of flesh and blood, and was made like unto us in all things, sin only excepted. He had a body like our own. Like us, He was born of a woman. Like us, He grew and increased in stature. Like us, He was often hungry and thirsty, and faint and weary. Like us, He ate and drank, rested and slept. Like us, He sorrowed, and wept, and felt. It is all very wonderful, but so it is.

He that made the heavens went to and fro as a poor weary Man on earth! He that ruled over principalities and powers in heavenly places, took on Him a frail body like our own. He that might have dwelt forever in the glory which He had with the Father, amidst the praises of legions of angels, came down to earth and dwelt as a Man among sinful men. Surely this fact alone is an amazing miracle of condescension, grace, pity, and love.

I find a deep mine of comfort in this thought, that Jesus is perfect Man no less than perfect God. He in whom I am told by Scripture to trust is not only a great High Priest, but a feeling High Priest. He is not only a powerful Saviour, but a sympathizing Saviour. He is not only the Son of God, mighty to save, but the Son of man, able to feel.

Who does not know that sympathy is one of the sweetest things left to us in this sinful world? It is one of the bright seasons in our dark journey here below, when we can find a person who enters into our troubles, and goes along with us in our anxieties,—who can weep when we weep, and rejoice when we rejoice. Sympathy is far better than money, and far rarer too.

Thousands can give who know not what it is to feel. Sympathy has the greatest power to draw us and to open our hearts. Proper and correct counsel often falls dead and useless on a heavy heart. Cold advice often makes us shut up, shrink, and withdraw into ourselves, when tendered in the day of trouble.

But genuine sympathy in such a day will call out all our better feelings, if we have any, and obtain an influence over us when nothing else can. Give me the friend who, though poor in gold and silver, has always ready a sympathizing heart.

Our God knows all this well. He knows the very secrets of man’s heart. He knows the ways by which that heart is most easily approached, and the springs by which that heart is most readily moved. He has wisely provided that the Saviour of the Gospel should be feeling as well as mighty.

He has given us one who has not only a strong hand to pluck us as brands from the burning, but a sympathizing heart on which the labouring and heavy laden may find rest. I see a marvellous proof of love and wisdom in the union of two natures in Christ’s person.

It was marvellous love in our Saviour to condescend to go through weakness and humiliation for our sakes, ungodly rebels as we are. It was marvellous wisdom to fit Himself in this way to be the very Friend of friends, who could not only save man, but meet him on his own ground.

I want one able to perform all things needful to redeem my soul. This Jesus can do, for He is the eternal Son of God. I want one able to understand my weakness and infirmities, and to deal gently with my soul, while tied to a body of death. This again Jesus can do, for He was the Son of man, and had flesh and blood like my own.

Had my Saviour been God only, I might perhaps have trusted Him, but I never could have come near to Him without fear. Had my Saviour been Man only, I might have loved Him, but I never could have felt sure that He was able to take away my sins. But, blessed be God, my Saviour is God as well as Man, and Man, as well as God,—God, and so able to deliver me,—Man, and so able to feel with me.

Almighty power and deepest sympathy meet together in one glorious person, Jesus Christ, my Lord. Surely a believer in Christ has a strong consolation. He may well trust, and not be afraid.

If any reader of this paper knows what it is to go to the throne of grace for mercy and pardon, let him never forget that the Mediator by whom he draws near to God is the Man Christ Jesus.”

–J.C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (Moscow, ID: Charles Nolan Publishers, 1877/2001), 238-239.

“Athanasius announced the singing of Psalm 136” by James Montgomery Boice

“The word that is used for ‘love’ in this refrain is the powerful Hebrew term hesed, which means ‘covenant love’ or the favor God shows to those with whom He has entered into a covenant relationship. Sometimes it is translated ‘steadfast (or ‘enduring’) love.’ It is enduring because God is a God of His word. He is forever good, and He does not break His covenant.

One night in February 358 A.D. the church father Athanasius held an all-night service at his church in Alexandria, Egypt. He had been leading the fight for the eternal sonship and deity of Jesus Christ, knowing that the survival of Christianity depended on it. He had many enemies—for political even more than theological reasons—and they moved the power of the Roman government against him. That night the church was surrounded by soldiers with drawn swords. People were frightened.

With calm presence of mind Athanasius announced the singing of Psalm 136. The vast congregation responded, thundering forth twenty-six times, ‘His love endures forever.’ When the soldiers burst through the doors they were staggered by the singing. Athanasius kept his place until the congregation was dispersed. Then he too disappeared in the darkness and found refuge with his friends.

Many citizens of Alexandria were killed that night, but the people of Athanasius’s congregation never forgot that although man is evil, God is good. He is superlatively good, and ‘His love endures forever.'”

–James Montgomery Boice, Psalms: An Expositional Commentary, Vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1998), 3: 1185. Boice is commenting on Psalm 136.

“Endless, bottomless, boundless grace” by John Owen

“Observe the endless, bottomless, boundless grace and compassion that is in Christ, who is thus our husband, as He is the God of Zion. It is not the grace of a creature, nor all the grace that can possibly at once dwell in a created nature, that will serve our turn.

We are too indigent to be suited with such a supply. There was a fullness of grace in the human nature of Christ,—He received not ‘the Spirit by measure,’ John 3:34; a fullness like that of light in the sun, or of water in the sea; a fullness incomparably above the measure of angels.

Yet it was not properly an infinite fullness,—it was a created, and therefore a limited fullness. If it could be conceived as separated from the Deity, surely so many thirsty, guilty souls, as every day drink deep and large draughts of grace and mercy from Him, would (if I may so speak) sink Him to the very bottom.

Nay, it could afford no supply at all, but only in a moral way. But when the conduit of His humanity is inseparably united to the infinite, inexhaustible fountain of the Deity, who can look into the depths thereof?

If, now, there be grace enough for sinners in an all-sufficient God, it is in Christ; and, indeed, in any other there cannot be enough. The Lord gives this reason for the peace and confidence of sinners, Isa. 54:4, 5, ‘Thou shalt not be ashamed, neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame.’

But how shall this be? So much sin, and not ashamed! So much guilt, and not confounded! ‘Thy Maker,’ saith He, ‘is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is His name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall He be called.’

This is the bottom of all peace, confidence, and consolation,—the grace and mercy of our Maker, of the God of the whole earth. So are kindness and power tempered in Him—He is our God and our Göel, our Redeemer.

‘Look unto Me,’ saith He, ‘and be ye saved; for I am God, and none else,’ Isa. 45:22, ‘Surely, shall one say, In the LORD have I righteousness,’ verse 24.

And on this ground it is that if all the world should (if I may so say) set themselves to drink free grace, mercy, and pardon, drawing water continually from the wells of salvation, if they should set themselves to draw from one single promise, an angel standing by and crying, ‘Drink, O my friends, yea, drink abundantly, take so much grace and pardon as shall be abundantly sufficient for the world of sin which is in every one of you;’—they would not be able to sink the grace of the promise one hair’s breadth.

There is enough for millions of worlds, if they were; because it flows into it from an infinite, bottomless fountain.

‘Fear not, O worm Jacob, I am God, and not man’ is the bottom of sinners’ consolation. This is that most precious fountain of grace and mercy.

This infiniteness of grace, in respect of its spring and fountain, will answer all objections that might hinder our souls from drawing nigh to communion with Him, and from a free embracing of Him. Will not this suit us in all our distresses?

What is our finite guilt before it? Show me the sinner that can spread his iniquities to the dimensions (if I may so say) of this grace. Here is mercy enough for the greatest, the oldest, the stubbornest transgressor.”

–John Owen, Communion With God in The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 2 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 61–62.