"Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God abideth in him and he in God" (I. John iv.15).
"And who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" (I. John v.5).
In one sense all men are sons of God. In a much dearer sense all Christians are sons and daughters of the Almighty. But the relationship of Christ to the Father is infinitely above this. He is the Son of God. God is His Father by direct production, without the agency of a human father. The same divine power that can create life through the agency of man, can create it without such agency. Hence there is nothing to stumble over in the idea of the miraculous conception, to one who fully accepts the God of the Bible in the character in which He is revealed as a divine creator. To accept God as the creator of heaven and earth, and then stagger at His performance of any miracle is a logical absurdity.
Jesus claimed to be the Son of God in the high sense that involved equality with the Father. He said: "I and the Father are one." On account of this relationship, "He thought it not robbery to be equal with God." His enemies understood that this equality was involved in His claim; hence they charged Him with blasphemy in making Himself equal with God.
This was a high claim on the part of the Nazarene. He claimed to be more than a man. When some said that He was John, or Elijah, or Jeremiah, or some one of the prophets, they underestimated Him according to His claim. The greatest prophet, or inspired teacher, that had ever appeared among men, even if raised from the dead as the special messenger of God to His people, could not meet the demands involved in the claim of Jesus, that He was the Son of God.
This high claim had to be sustained by two distinct lines of testimony -- miracles and a sinless life. The purpose of miracles is to establish the claims of the miracle-worker and to glorify God. The miracles of Jesus establish His divine mission and claim to the Messiahship. No man could do the miracles He did "except God be with him;" and God would not be with one who was advocating false claims. The enemies of Jesus understood this; hence they said: "God heareth not sinners." Miracles are the substratum of the foundation underlying our faith.
While the divine claims of Jesus are attested by His miracles, the evidence is crowned by His sublime character. His life is itself among the most wonderful of miracles. As a child of poverty and a son of toil, He lived thirty years among men. When He afterwards claimed to be the Son of God, He had many bitter enemies. They persecuted Him even unto death, and yet not one of them ever pointed to an act of His private life as inconsistent with, or unworthy of, His divine claim. This simple fact speaks volumes as to the purity of His life. The world has contained but one such. The very life which His claims require is the life revealed on the sacred page.
Infidels have ordinarily contented themselves with mere negations. They seem not to realize the fact that in denying some things they are logically bound to account for others. If we deny the claim of Jesus that He is the Son of God, then we have to account for His miracles, His life, the disposal of His entombed body, and the establishment and development of His kingdom. These are facts. As such they have to be accounted for. On the hypothesis that Jesus is the Christ, all difficulty vanishes. On any other, it is more than the world has yet been able to meet. Skeptics laud the character of Jesus as a model of purity, such as the world has never elsewhere found, and yet deny the claim on which was based His mission to men and on which He built His church. How the establishment of a religion upon a known falsehood can harmonize with a life of faultless purity, they do not pretend to tell us, for it is a palpable absurdity. How His disciples could testify on a point of fact in regard to which they could not be mistaken, and surrender all worldly position and comfort, and life itself, to establish a known falsehood in the hearts of men, in which they -- the witnesses -- could have no personal interest, they leave in the Egyptian darkness characteristic of their system. How can he account for American history and American institutions who denies the existence of Washington, or claims that he was a disreputable impostor? How, then, shall he account for the history and institutions of civilization who denies to Jesus of Nazareth existence as a man of that age and country, or makes Him a base deceiver and vile impostor?
That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, is the fundamental, pivotal fact in the Christian religion. It underlies every other feature of the Christian system. On it turn the value and significance of every other item of the faith. Everything takes position with regard to this, and derives its value from it. With this, all else stands by divine appointment, and bears the seal of heaven. Without it, the whole system is but as the chaff which the wind driveth away.
When the proposition is established that Jesus is the Son of God, every other feature of the Christian system rests upon authority. Nothing else has to be proved as this does. Before establishing this proposition, the word of Jesus settles nothing. After its establishment, it settles everything. When we accept Him as the Christ, we accept all else on His authority. Hence He says, "Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" "All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." The making and baptizing of disciples rests upon the authority of Jesus, and that authority is based upon His Messiahship. So of every other item of the Christian system of faith.
The great inconsistency and consequent weakness of the religious world, is in not accepting the simple authority of Jesus as conclusive and wholly sufficient on any matter on which He has expressed the divine mind. As the Son of God and coronated Lord of lords, His authority is supreme, and His word is law. What He says is to be accepted as infallibly true, and the end of all controversy. Whatever He directs is to be done, simply because He directs it. Whatever else we may consider a corroborative reason, the direction of Jesus alone is to determine our action. Only this can be the obedience of faith. And in regard to what He directs, there can be no compromise. The King speaks to be obeyed, not to be argued with. It is His prerogative to command; ours to obey.
Jesus made His authority the controlling principle in His religion. Where this is maintained, the religion of Christ is preserved in its purity. Where it is disregarded, anything follows that the tastes and follies of men may demand. The religion of Christ is pure or corrupt in proportion as His authority is observed or ignored.
The authority of Jesus can not be separated from His appointments. His entire authority is embodied in each of His appointments. Hence he who disregards an appointment of Jesus Christ, disregards His authority. And he who disregards His authority, ignores His Lordship. The man who deliberately refuses to do what Christ directs, ignores the authority of his Lord, and dethrones the Son of the living God. Yet how much of this do we see among men! Not only in the world, but in the church as well. It seems strange that one should make a profession of the religion of Christ, and yet thus ignore His Lordship. The authority of Jesus against a life of indifference in the church, of non-attendance, of want of cooperation in the work of the Lord, against carnality, pleasure-loving, worldliness, the lusts of the flesh, want of spirituality, and such like, is as direct and positive as that against rejecting the gospel of Christ; and yet how many church members, all over our land, are disregarding the authority of Jesus in these matters. Those who make a profession of religion and live in the church without continuing to honor the Lord Jesus by regarding His authority and complying with His will, would better have never known the way of life. The authority of Jesus follows us to the grave, and is never relaxed for a day. His will, not ours, is to rule in our life. Our desires, however strong, are to be subordinated to the mind of Him who gave His life for ours, and said, "all authority in heaven and on earth is given unto me."
It is the height of inconsistency, therefore, to exalt the name of Jesus in words and professions, and speak lightly of, or disregard any one of His appointments. It is not only inconsistent; it is disloyal and wicked. This is the great stumbling-block in our way to the indorsement of Mr. Moody and such men. We care not what else he may be, we can indorse no man who tears in two the commission of Jesus Christ. He who refuses to "speak as the oracles of God speak," in order to promote his work, is not doing the work that God would have him do. We can not honor Christ without honoring His teaching, and we can not honor His teaching by withholding a part of it from those inquiring the way of eternal life. We can honor Jesus as the Son of God only by declaring His whole counsel, and yielding submissively in all things to His divine authority.
This acceptance of Jesus as an infallible teacher, as one whose every word is to be believed simply because He said it, and whose every direction is to be observed simply because He directs it, whose spirit is to be possessed and cultivated to the transforming of the life, till we grow into the divine image and become partakers of the divine nature, is all involved in the "good confession": Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.