POSTED - 5/11/2001
The Christ That Paul Preached
- Benjamin B. Warfield
"THE monumental Introduction of the Epistle to the Romans"—it is thus that W. Bousset speaks of the seven opening verses of the Epistle—is, from the formal point of view, merely the Address of the Epistle. In primary purpose and fundamental structure it does not differ from the Addresses of Paul’s other Epistles. But even in the Addresses of his Epistles Paul does not confine himself to the simple repetition of a formula. Here too he writes at his ease and shows himself very much the master of his form.
It is Paul’s custom to expand one or another of the essential elements of the Address of his Epistles as circumstances suggested, and thus to impart to it in each several instance a specific character. The Address of the Epistle to the Romans is the extreme example of this expansion. Paul is approaching in it a church which he had not visited, and to which he apparently felt himself somewhat of a stranger. He naturally begins with some words adapted to justify his writing to it, especially as an authoritative teacher of Christian truth. In doing this he is led to describe briefly the Gospel which had been committed to him, and that particularly with regard to its contents.
There is very strikingly illustrated here a peculiarity of Paul’s style, which has been called "going off at a word." His particular purpose is to represent himself as one authoritatively appointed to teach the Gospel of God. But he is more interested in the Gospel than he is in himself; and he no sooner mentions the Gospel than off he goes on a tangent to describe it. In describing it, he naturally tells us particularly what its contents are. Its contents, however, were for him summed up in Christ. No sooner does he mention Christ than off he goes again on a tangent to describe Christ. Thus it comes about that this passage, formally only the Address of the Epistle, becomes actually a great Christological deliverance, one of the chief sources of our knowledge of Paul’s conception of Christ. It presents itself to our view like one of those nests of Chinese boxes; the outer encasement is the Address of the Epistle; within that fits neatly Paul’s justification of his addressing the Romans as an authoritative teacher of the Gospel; within that a description of the Gospel committed to him; and within that a great declaration of who and what Jesus Christ is, as the contents of this Gospel.
The manner in which Paul approaches this great declaration concerning Christ lends it a very special interest. What we are given is not merely how Paul thought of Christ, but how Paul preached Christ. It is the content of "the Gospel of God," the Gospel to which he as "a called apostle" had been "separated," which he outlines in these pregnant words. This is how Paul preached Christ to the faith of men as he went up and down the world "serving God in his spirit in the Gospel of His Son." We have no abstract theologoumena here, categories of speculative thought appropriate only to the closet. We have the great facts about Jesus which made the Gospel that Paul preached the power of God unto salvation to every one that believed. Nowhere else do we get a more direct description of specifically the Christ that Paul preached.
The direct description of the Christ that Paul preached is given us, of course, in the third and fourth verses. But the wider setting in which these verses are embedded cannot be neglected in seeking to get at their significance. In this wider setting the particular aspect in which Christ is presented is that of "Lord." It is as "Lord" that Paul is thinking of Jesus when he describes himself in the opening words of the Address—in the very first item of his commendation of himself to the Romans—as "the slave of Christ Jesus." "Slave" is the correlate of "Lord," and the relation must be taken at its height. When Paul calls himself the slave of Christ Jesus, he is calling Christ Jesus his Lord in the most complete sense which can be ascribed to that word (cf. Rom. i. 1, Col. iii. 4). He is declaring that he recognizes in Christ Jesus one over against whom he has no rights, whose property he is, body and soul, to be disposed of as He will. This is not because he abases himself. It is because he exalts Christ. It is because Christ is thought of by him as one whose right it is to rule, and to rule with no limit to His right.
How Paul thought of Christ as Lord comes out, however, with most startling clearness in the closing words of the Address. There he couples "the Lord Jesus Christ" with "God our Father" as the common source from which he seeks in prayer the divine gifts of grace and peace for the Romans. We must renounce enervating glossing here too. Paul is not thinking of the Lord Jesus Christ as only the channel through which grace and peace come from God our Father to men; nor is he thinking of the Lord Jesus Christ as only the channel through which his prayer finds its way to God our Father. His prayer for these blessings for the Romans is offered up to God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ together, as the conjoint object addressed in his petition. So far as this Bousset’s remark is just: "Prayer to God in Christ is for Pauline Christianity, too, a false formula; adoration of the Kyrios stands in the Pauline communities side by side with adoration of God in unreconciled reality."
Only, we must go further. Paul couples God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in his prayer on a complete equality. They are, for the purposes of the prayer, for the purposes of the bestowment of grace and peace, one to him. Christ is so highly exalted in his sight that, looking up to Him through the immense stretches which separate Him from the plane of human life, "the forms of God and Christ," as Bousset puts it, are brought to the eye of faith into close conjunction." He should have said that they completely coalesce. It is only half the truth—though it is half the truth—to say that, with Paul, "the object of religious faith, as of religious worship, presents itself in a singular, thoroughgoing dualism." The other half of the truth is that this dualism resolves itself into a complete unity. The two, God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, are steadily recognized as two, and are statedly spoken of by the distinguishing designations of "God" and "Lord." But they are equally steadily envisaged as one, and are statedly combined as the common object of every religious aspiration and the common source of every spiritual blessing. It is no accident that they are united in our present passage under the government of the single preposition, "from,"—"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." This is normal with Paul. God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ are not to him two objects of worship, two sources of blessing, but one object of worship, one source of blessing. Does he not tell us plainly that we who have one God the Father and one Lord Jesus Christ yet know perfectly well that there is no God but one (I Cor. viii. 4, 6)?
Paul is writing the Address of his Epistle to the Romans, then, with his mind fixed on the divine dignity of Christ. It is this divine Christ who, he must be understood to be telling his readers, constitutes the substance of his Gospel-proclamation. He does not leave us, however, merely to infer this. He openly declares it. The Gospel he preaches, he says, concerns precisely "the Son of God . . . Jesus Christ our Lord." He expressly says, then, that he presents Christ in his preaching as our Lord." It was the divine Christ that he preached, the Christ that the eye of faith could not distinguish from God, who was addressed in common with God in prayer, and was looked to in common with God as the source of all spiritual blessings. Paul does not speak of Christ here, however, merely as "our Lord." He gives Him the two designations: "the Son of God Jesus Christ our Lord." The second designation obviously is explanatory of the first. Not as if it were the more current or the more intelligible designation. It may, or it may not, have been both the one and the other; but that is not the point here. The point here is that it is the more intimate, the more appealing designation. It is the designation which tells what Christ is to us. He is our Lord, He to whom we go in prayer, He to whom we look for blessings, He to whom all our religious emotions turn, on whom all our hopes are set—for this life and for that to come. Paul tells the Romans that this is the Christ that he preaches, their and his Lord whom both they and he reverence and worship and love and trust in. This is, of course, what he mainly wishes to say to them; and it is up to this that all else that he says of the Christ that he preaches leads.
The other designation—"the Son of God"—which Paul prefixes to this in his fundamental declaration concerning the Christ that he preached, supplies the basis for this. It does not tell us what Christ is to us, but what Christ is in Himself. In Himself He is the Son of God; and it is only because He is the Son of God in Himself, that He can be and is our Lord. The Lordship of Christ is rooted by Paul, in other words, not in any adventitious circumstances connected with His historical manifestation; not in any powers or dignities conferred on Him or acquired by Him; but fundamentally in His metaphysical nature. The designation "Son of God" is a metaphysical designation and tells us what He is in His being of being. And what it tells us that Christ is in His being of being is that He is just what God is. It is undeniable-and Bousset, for example, does not deny it,—that, from the earliest days of Christianity on, (in Bousset’s words) "Son of God was equivalent simply to equal with God" (Mark xiv. 61-63; John x. 31-39).
That Paul meant scarcely so much as this, Bousset to be sure would fain have us believe. He does not dream, of course, of supposing Paul to mean nothing more than that Jesus had been elevated into the relation of Son-ship to God because of His moral uniqueness, or of His community of will with God. He is compelled to allow that "the Son of God appears in Paul as a supramundane Being standing in close metaphysical relation with God." But he would have us understand that, however close He stands to God, He is not, in Paul’s view, quite equal with God. Paul, he suggests, has seized on this term to help him through the frightful problem of conceiving of this second Divine Being consistently with his monotheism. Christ is not quite God to him, but only the Son of God. Of such refinements, however, Paul knows nothing. With him too the maxim rules that whatever the father is, that the son is also: every father begets his son in his own likeness. The Son of God is necessarily to him just God, and he does not scruple to declare this Son of God all that God is (Phil. ii. 6; Col. ii. 9) and even to give him the supreme name of "God over all" (Rom. ix.5).
This is fundamentally, then, how Paul preached Christ— as the Son of God in this supereminent sense, and therefore our divine Lord on whom we absolutely depend and to whom we owe absolute obedience. But this was not all that he was accustomed to preach concerning Christ. Paul preached the historical Jesus as well as the eternal Son of God. And between these two designations—Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ— he inserts two clauses which tell us how he preached the historical Jesus. All that he taught about Christ was thrown up against the background of His deity: He is the Son of God, our Lord. But who is this that is thus so fervently declared to be the Son of God and our Lord? It is in the two clauses which are now to occupy our attention that Paul tells us.
If we reduce what he tells us to its lowest terms it amounts just to this: Paul preached the historical Christ as the promised Messiah and as the very Son of God. But he declares Christ to be the promised Messiah and the very Son of God in language so pregnant, so packed with implications, as to carry us into the heart of the great problem of the two-natured person of Christ. The exact terms in which he describes Christ as the promised Messiah and the very Son of God are these: "Who became of the seed of David according to the flesh, who was marked out as the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection of the dead." This in brief is the account which Paul gives of the historical Christ whom he preached.
Of course there is a temporal succession suggested in the declarations of the two clauses They so far give us not only a description of the historical Christ, but the life-history of the Christ that Paul preached. Jesus Christ became of the seed of David at His birth and by His birth. He was marked out as the Son of God in power only at His resurrection and by His resurrection. But it was not to indicate this temporal succession that Paul sets the two declarations side by side. It emerges merely as the incidental, or we may say even the accidental, result of their collocation. The relation in which Paul sets the two declarations to one another is a logical rather than a temporal one: it is the relation of climax. His purpose is to exalt Jesus Christ. He wishes to say the great things about Him. And the two greatest things he has to say about Him in His historical manifestation are these-that He became of the seed of David according to the flesh, that He was marked out, as the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection of the dead.
Both of these declarations, we say, are made for the purpose of extolling Christ: the former just as truly as the latter. That Christ came as the Messiah belongs to His glory: and the particular terms in which His Messiahship is intimated are chosen in order to enhance His glory. The word "came," "became" is correlated with the "promised afore" of the preceding verse. This is He, Paul says, whom all the prophets did before signify, and who at length came—even as they signified—of the seed of David. There is doubtless an intimation of the preexistence of Christ here also, as J. B. Lightfoot properly instructs us: He who was always the Son of God now "became" of the seed of David. But this lies somewhat apart from the main current of thought. The heart of the declaration resides in the great words, "Of the seed of David." For these are great words. In declaring the Messiahship of Jesus Paul adduces His royal dignity. And he adduces it because he is thinking of the majesty of the Messiahship. We must beware, then, of reading this clause depreciatingly, as if Paul were making a concession in it: "He came, no doubt, .. . He came, indeed, . . . of the seed of David, but . . ." Paul never for an instant thought of the Messiahship of Jesus as a thing to be apologized for. The relation of the second clause to the first is not that of opposition, but of climax; and it contains only so much of contrast as is intrinsic in a climax. The connection would be better expressed by an "and" than by a "but"; or, if by a "but," not by an "indeed . . . but," but by a "not only . . . but." Even the Messiahship, inexpressibly glorious as it is, does not exhaust the glory of Christ. He had a glory greater than even this. This was but the beginning of His glory. But it was the beginning of His glory. He came into the world as the promised Messiah, and He went out of the world as the demonstrated Son of God. In these two things is summed up the majesty of His historical manifestation.
It is not intended to say that when He went out of the world, He left His Messiahship behind Him. The relation of the second clause to the first is not that of supersession but that of superposition. Paul passes from one glory to another, but he is as far as possible from suggesting that the one glory extinguished the other. The resurrection of Christ had no tendency to abolish His Messiahship, and the exalted Christ remains "of the seed of David." There is no reason to doubt that Paul would have exhorted his readers when he wrote these words with all the fervor with which he did later to "remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, of the seed of David" (II Tim. ii. 8). "According to my Gospel," he adds there, as an intimation that it was as "of the seed of David" that he was accustomed to preach Jesus Christ, whether as on earth as here, or as in heaven as there. It is the exalted Jesus that proclaims Himself in the Apocalypse "the root and the offspring of David" (Rev. xxii. 16, v. 5), and in whose hands "the key of David" is found (iii. 7).
And as it is not intimated that Christ ceased to be "of the seed of David" when He rose from the dead, neither is it intimated that He then first became the Son of God. He was already the Son of God when and before He became of the seed of David: and He did not cease to be the Son of God on and by becoming of the seed of David. It was rather just because He was the Son of God that He became of the seed of David, to become which, in the great sense of the prophetic announcements and of His own accomplishment, He was qualified only by being the Son of God. Therefore Paul does not say He was made the Son of God by the resurrection of the dead. He says he was defined, marked out, as the Son of God by the resurrection of the dead. His resurrection from the dead was well adapted to mark Him out as the Son of God: scarcely to make Him the Son of God. Consider but what the Son of God in Paul’s usage means; and precisely what the resurrection was and did. It was a thing which was quite appropriate to happen to the Son of God; and, happening, could bear strong witness to Him as such: but how could it make one the Son of God?
We might possibly say, no doubt, with a tolerable meaning, that Christ was installed, even constituted, "Son of God in power" by the resurrection of the dead—if we could see our way to construe the words "in power" thus directly with "the Son of God." That too would imply that He was already the Son of God before He rose from the dead,—only then in weakness; what He had been all along in weakness He now was constituted in power. This construction, however, though not impossible, is hardly natural. And it imposes a sense on the preceding clause of which it itself gives no suggestion, and which it is reluctant to receive. To say, "of the seed of David" is not to say weakness; it is to say majesty. It is quite certain, indeed, that the assertion "who was made of the seed of David" cannot be read concessively, preparing the way for the celebration of Christ’s glory in the succeeding clause. It stands rather in parallelism with the clause that follows it, asserting with it the supreme glory of Christ.
In any case the two clauses do not express two essentially different modes of being through which Christ successively passed. We could think at most only of two successive stages of manifestation of the Son of God. At most we could see in it a declaration that He who always was and continues always to be the Son of God was manifested to men first as the Son of David, and then, after His resurrection, as also the exalted Lord. He always was in the essence of His being the Son of God; this Son of God became of the seed of David and was installed as—what He always was—the Son of God, though now in His proper power, by the resurrection of the dead. It is assuredly wrong, however, to press even so far the idea of temporal succession. Temporal succession was not what it was in Paul’s mind to emphasize, and is not the ruling idea of his assertion. The ruling idea of his assertion is the celebration of the glory of Christ. We think of temporal succession only because of the mention of the resurrection, which, in point of fact, cuts our Lord’s life-manifestation into two sections. But Paul is not adducing the resurrection because it cuts our Lord’s life-manifestation into two sections; but because of the demonstration it brought of the dignity of His person. It is quite indifferent to his declaration when the resurrection took place. He is not adducing it as the producing cause of a change in our Lord’s mode of being. In point of fact it did not produce a change in our Lord’s mode of being, although it stood at the opening of a new stage of His life-history. What it did, and what Paul adduces it here as doing, was that it brought out into plain view who and what Christ really was. This, says Paul, is the Christ I preach—He who came of the seed of David, He who was marked out in power as the Son of God, by the resurrection of the dead. His thought of Christ runs in the two molds—His Messiahship, His resurrection. But he is not particularly concerned here with the temporal relations of these two facts.
Paul does not, however, say of Christ merely that He became of the seed of David and was marked out as the Son of God in power by the resurrection of the dead. He introduces a qualifying phrase into each clause. He says that He became of the seed of David "according to the flesh," and that He was marked out as the Son of God in power "according to the Spirit of holiness" by the resurrection of the dead. What is the nature of the qualifications made by these phrases?
It is obvious at once that they are not temporal qualifications. Paul does not mean to say, in effect, that our Lord was Messiah only during His earthly manifestation, and became the Son of God only on and by means of His resurrection. It has already appeared that Paul did not think of the Messiah-ship of our Lord only in connection with His earthly manifestation, or of His Son-ship to God only in connection with His post-resurrection existence. And the qualifying phrases themselves are ill-adapted to express this temporal distinction. Even if we could twist the phrase "according to the flesh" into meaning "according to His human manifestation" and violently make that do duty as a temporal definition, the parallel phrase "according to the Spirit of holiness" utterly refuses to yield to any treatment which could make it mean, "according to His heavenly manifestation." And nothing could be more monstrous than to represent precisely the resurrection as in the case of Christ the producing cause of—the source out of which proceeds—a condition of existence which could be properly characterized as distinctively "spiritual." Exactly what the resurrection did was to bring it about that His subsequent mode of existence should continue to be, like the precedent, "fleshly"; to assimilate His post-resurrection to His pre-resurrection mode of existence in the matter of the constitution of His person. And if we fall back on the ethical contrast of the terms, that could only mean that Christ should be supposed to be represented as imperfectly holy in His earthly stage of existence, and as only on His resurrection attaining to complete holiness (cf. I Cor. xv. 44, 46). It is very certain that Paul did not mean that (II Cor. v. 21).
It is clear enough, then, that Paul cannot by any possibility have intended to represent Christ as in His pre-resurrection and His post-resurrection modes of being differing in any way which can be naturally expressed by the contrasting terms "flesh" and "spirit." Least of all can he be supposed to have intended this distinction in the sense of the ethical contrast between these terms. But a further word may be pardoned as to this. That it is precisely this ethical contrast that Paul intends has been insisted on under cover of the adjunct "of holiness" attached here to "spirit." The contrast, it is said, is not between "flesh" and "spirit," but between "flesh" and "spirit of holiness"; and what is intended is to represent Christ, who on earth was merely "Christ according to the flesh"— the "flesh of sin" of course, it is added, that is "the flesh which was in the grasp of sin"—to have been, "after and in consequence of the resurrection," "set free from "the likeness of (weak and sinful) flesh." Through the resurrection, in other words, Christ has for the first time become the holy Son of God, free from entanglement with sin-cursed flesh; and having thus saved Himself, is qualified, we suppose, now to save others, by bringing them through the same experience of resurrection to the same holiness. We have obviously wandered here sufficiently far from the declarations of the Apostle; and we have landed in a reductio ad absurdum of this whole system of interpretation. Paul is not here distinguishing times and contrasting two successive modes of our Lord’s being. He is distinguishing elements in the constitution of our Lord’s person, by virtue of which He is at one and the same time both the Messiah and the Son of God. He became of the seed of David with respect to the flesh, and by the resurrection of the dead was mightily proven to be also the Son of God with respect to the Spirit of holiness.
It ought to go without saying that by these two elements in the constitution of our Lord’s person, the flesh and the spirit of holiness, by virtue of which He is at once of the seed of David and the Son of God, are not intended the two constituent elements, flesh and spirit, which go to make up common humanity. It is impossible that Paul should have represented our Lord as the Messiah only by virtue of His bodily nature; and it is absurd to suppose him to suggest that His Son-ship to God was proved by His resurrection to reside in His mental nature or even in His ethical purity—to say nothing now of supposing him to assert that He was made by the resurrection into the Son of God, or into "the Son of God in power" with respect to His mental nature here described as holy. How the resurrection—which was in itself just the resumption of the body—of all things, could be thought of as constituting our Lord’s mental nature the Son of God passes imagination; and if it be conceivable that it might at least prove that He was the Son of God, it remains hidden how it could be so emphatically asserted that it was only with reference to His mental nature, in sharp contrast with His bodily, thus recovered to Him, that this was proved concerning Him precisely by His resurrection. Is Paul’s real purpose here to guard men from supposing that our Lord’s bodily nature, though recovered to Him in this great act, the resurrection entered into His Son-ship to God? There is no reason discoverable in the context why this distinction between our Lord’s bodily and mental natures should be so strongly stressed here. It is clearly an artificial distinction imposed on the passage.
When Paul tells us of the Christ which he preached that He was made of the seed of David "according to the flesh," he quite certainly has the whole of His humanity in mind. And in introducing this limitation, "according to the flesh," into his declaration that Christ was "made of the seed of David," he intimates not obscurely that there was another side—not aspect but element—of His being besides His humanity, in which He was not made of the seed of David, but was something other and higher. If he had said nothing more than just these words: "He was made of the seed of David according to the flesh," this intimation would still have been express; though we might have been left to speculation to determine what other element could have entered into His being, and what He must have been according to that element. He has not left us, however, to this speculation, but has plainly told us that the Christ he preached was not merely made of the seed of David according to the flesh, but was also marked out as the Son of God, in power, according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection of the dead. Since the "according to the flesh" includes all His humanity, the "according to the Spirit of holiness which is set in contrast with it, and according to which He is declared to be the Son of God, must be sought outside of His humanity. What the nature of this element of His being in which He is superior to humanity is, is already clear from the fact that according to it He is the Son of God. "Son of God" is, as we have already seen, a metaphysical designation asserting equality with God. It is a divine name. To say that Christ is, according to the Spirit of holiness, the Son of God, is to say that the Spirit of holiness is a designation of His divine nature. Paul’s whole assertion therefore amounts to saying that, in one element of His being, the Christ that he preached was man, in another God. Looked at from the point of view of His human nature He was the Messiah— "of the seed of David." Looked at from the point of view of His divine nature, He was the Son of God. Looked at in His composite personality, He was both the Messiah and the Son of God, because in Him were united both He that came of the seed of David according to the flesh and He who was marked out as the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection of the dead.
We may be somewhat puzzled by the designation of the divine nature of Christ as "the Spirit of holiness." But not only is it plain from its relation to its contrast, "the flesh," and to its correlate, "the Son of God," that it is His divine nature which is so designated, but this is made superabundantly clear from the closely parallel passage, Rom. ix. 5. There, in enumerating the glories of Israel, the Apostle comes to his climax in this great declaration,—that from Israel Christ came. But there, no more than here, will he allow that it was the whole Christ who came-as said there from the stock of Israel, as said here from the seed of David. He adds there too at once the limitation, "as concerns the flesh,"—just as he adds it here. Thus he intimates with emphasis that something more is to be said, if we are to give a complete account of Christ’s being; there was something about Him in which He did not come from Israel, and in which He is more than "flesh." What this something is, Paul adds in the great words, "God over all." He who was from Israel according to the flesh is, on the other side of His being, in which He is not from Israel and not "flesh," nothing other than "God over all." In our present passage, the phrase, "Spirit of holiness" takes the place of "God over all" in the other. Clearly Paul means the same thing by them both.
This being very clear, what interests us most is the emphasis which Paul throws on holiness in his designation of the divine nature of Christ. The simple word "Spirit" might have been ambiguous: when "the Spirit of holiness" is spoken of, the divine nature is expressly named. No doubt, Paul might have used the adjective, "holy," instead of the genitive of the substantive, "of holiness"; and have said "the Holy Spirit." Had he done so, he would have as expressly intimated deity as in his actual phrase. But he would have left open the possibility of being misunderstood as speaking of that distinct Holy Spirit to which this designation is commonly applied. The relation in which the divine nature which he attributes to Christ stands to the Holy Spirit was in Paul’s mind no doubt very close; as close as the relation between "God" and "Lord" whom he constantly treats as, though two, yet also one. Not only does he identify the activities of the two (e. g., Rom. viii. 9 ff.); but also, in some high sense, he identifies them themselves. He can make use, for example, of such a startling expression as "the Lord is the Spirit" (II Cor. iii. 17). Nevertheless it is perfectly clear that "the Lord" and "the Spirit" are not one person to Paul, and the distinguishing employment of the designations "the Spirit," "the Holy Spirit" is spread broadcast over his pages. Even in immediate connection with his declaration that "the Lord is the Spirit," he can speak with the utmost naturalness not only of "the Spirit of the Lord," but also of "the Lord of the Spirit" (II Cor. iii. 17 f.). What is of especial importance to note in our present connection is that he is not speaking of an endowment of Christ either from or with the Holy Spirit; although he would be the last to doubt that He who was made of the seed of David according to the flesh was plenarily endowed both from and with the Spirit. He is speaking of that divine Spirit which is the complement in the constitution of Christ’s person of the human nature according to which He was the Messiah, and by virtue of which He was not merely the Messiah, but also the very Son of God. This Spirit he calls distinguishingly the Spirit of holiness, the Spirit the very characteristic of which is holiness. He is speaking not of an acquired holiness but of an intrinsic holiness; not, then, of a holiness which had been conferred at the time of or attained by means of the resurrection from the dead; but of a holiness which had always been the very quality of Christ’s being. He is not representing Christ as having first been after a fleshly fashion the son of David and afterwards becoming by or at the resurrection from the dead, after a spiritual fashion, the holy Son of God. He is representing Him as being in his very nature essentially and therefore always and in every mode of His manifestation holy. Bousset is quite right when he declares that there is no reference in the phrase "Spirit of holiness" to the preservation of His holiness by Christ in His earthly manifestation, but that it is a metaphysical designation describing according to its intrinsic quality an element in the constitution of Christ’s person from the beginning. This is the characteristic of the Christ Paul preached; as truly His characteristic as that He was the Messiah. Evidently in Paul’s thought of deity holiness held a prominent place. When he wishes to distinguish Spirit from spirit, it is enough for him that he may designate Spirit as divine, to define it as that Spirit the fundamental characteristic of which is that it is holy.
It belongs to the very essence of the conception of Christ as Paul preached Him, therefore, that He was of two natures, human and divine. He could not preach Him at once as of the seed of David and as the Son of God without so preaching Him. It never entered Paul’s mind that the Son of God could become a mere man, or that a mere man could become the Son of God. We may say that the conception of the two natures is unthinkable to us. That is our own concern. That a single nature could be at once or successively God and man, man and God, was what was unthinkable to Paul. In his view, when we say God and man we say two natures; when we put a hyphen between them and say God-man, we do not merge them one in the other but join the two together. That this was Paul’s mode of thinking of Jesus, Bousset, for example, does not dream of denying. What Bousset is unwilling to admit is that the divine element in his two-natured Christ was conceived by Paul as completely divine. Two metaphysical entities, he says, combined themselves for Paul in the person of Christ: one of these was a human, the other a divine nature: and Paul, along with the whole Christian community of his day, worshipped this two-natured Christ, though he (not they) ranked Him in his thought of His higher nature below the God over all.
The trouble with this construction is that Paul himself gives a different account of the matter. The point of Paul’s designation of Christ as the Son of God is, not to subordinate Him to God, as Bousset affirms, but to equalize Him with God. He knows no difference in dignity between his God and his Lord; to both alike, or rather to both in common, he offers his prayers; from both alike and both together he expects all spiritual blessings (Rom. i. 7). He roundly calls Christ, by virtue of His higher nature, by the supreme name of "God over all" (Rom. ix. 5). These things cannot be obscured by pointing to expressions in which he ascribes to the Divine-human Christ a relation of subordination to God in His saving work. Paul does not fail to distinguish between what Christ is in the higher element of His being, and what He became when, becoming poor that we might be made rich, He assumed for His work’s sake the position of a servant in the world. Nor does he permit the one set of facts to crowd the other out of his mind. It is no accident that all that he says about the historical two-natured Christ in our present passage is inserted between His two divine designations of the Son of God and Lord; that the Christ that he preached he describes precisely as "the Son of God—who was made of the seed of David according to the flesh, who was marked out as the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection of the dead— Jesus Christ our Lord." He who is defined as on the human side of David, on the divine side the Son of God, this two-natured person, is declared to be from the point of view of God, His own Son, and—as all sons are—like Him in essential nature; from the point of view of man, our supreme Lord, whose we are and whom we obey. Ascription of proper deity could not be made more complete; whether we look at Him from the point of view of God or from the point of view of man, He is God. But what Paul preached concerning this divine Being belonged to His earthly manifestation; He was made of the seed of David, He was marked out as God’s Son. The conception of the two natures is not with Paul a negligible speculation attached to his Gospel. He preached Jesus. And he preached of Jesus that He was the Messiah. But the Messiah that he preached was no merely human Messiah. He was the Son of God who was made of the seed of David. And He was demonstrated to be what He really was by His resurrection from the dead.
This was the Jesus that Paul preached: this and none other.
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