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It cannot, however, be said that there is as yet any agreement among scholars regarding it. The very meaning of the title “Son of Man" is still under discussion among students of the Gospels, and the greatest variety of opinion prevails regarding it. On that account I am unwilling to make much of it as a point of contact between the Christ of the Gospels and the Christ of Paul, although I think there can be little doubt that the history of the one phrase has had an influence on that of the other, and that this points to a belief that they mean substantially the same thing.
On the other hand, there is no doubt that in the emphasis Paul places on the Divine Sonship of Christ he reproduces the Lord's own judgment of Himself. The thought that He was the Son of God was indeed the secret of His own heart, being seldom divulged, and for the most part left to men to find out for themselves who had experience of what He was and could do for them. To awaken the life of Sonship in men and to evoke faith in Himself as the Son of God and as able to make them sons of God too, was the very object of His mission. In viewing salvation as consisting in Sonship derived from Christ, the Son of God and the Incarnation of the Filial Spirit, Paul was simply faithful to the teaching of his Master. Again, from his experience of the Spirit's power that came from Christ, Paul apprehended Him as the embodied Spirit of God. And herein, too, He is in full agreement with the representation of the Gospels. It is not only that the historian refers the endowment of Jesus to the Spirit ; 2 Christ knows Himself to be dwelt in by the Spirit of God, and His life to be under His continual inspiration. And when we look at that life as set before us in the Gospels, 232
1“He waited till He could pluck the discovery of His Sonship as ripe fruit from the lips and from the hearts of those who had gone in and out with Him, and had been the immediate witnesses of His working from the beginning” (Uber den Christl. Glaub. von Jess., 1892, p. 73). 2 Luke iii. 21, 22.
3 Luke iv, 18; Matt. xii. 28.
ST. PAUL'S CONCEPTION OF CHRIST
and think of the goodness it breathes, its invincible strength, its unwearied self-sacrificing pursuit of the highest ends, its universal sympathies and regards,—when we think of the wonderful union it exhibited of a love to man and a faith in man's redemption that never failed, with a trust in God and assurance of His presence and help that no disaster, trial, or disappointment could shake,—the impression we receive is, that here is a Man who is different from all others in that the Power of the Spirit of God inspires and directs every movement of His soul, is the active principle of His inner life and personality. In apprehending the Exalted Christ as the Man of the Spirit, Paul describes Him not only as He is to experience, but as the known facts of His history reveal Him to us.
If in certain respects Paul's interpretation goes beyond Christ's own thought of Himself, or the thought that the study of His life on earth leads us to form, and includes elements of truth, aspects of His Glory that are peculiar to the apostle's experience, the worth of these is not lessened by this circumstance, since in the estimate Christ formed and encouraged others to form of Himself, there is a judgment of His Supreme place in relation to the spiritual life of men that warrants us in expecting statements of what He is in human experience that surpass what is said of Him as the Christ of history. If He had spoken of Himself as a prophet or preacher of God's truth merely, Paul's conception of Him would have to be regarded as a misinterpretation. But as we have seen, the language of Jesus shows that He regarded Himself as the Revealer of God, and the very Truth of human life and character. And this is the idea of Him that lies at the root of Paul's thinking, that finds expression in the language dictated by human experience in his highest ascriptions of worth to His Exalted Lord.
Is Paul's interpretation of the Death of Christ warranted,
it may now be asked, by anything contained in the Lord's own teaching? According to the apostle, as we have seen, the event on Calvary was a Divine appointment, by which His gracious purpose towards sinful men was accomplished, and salvation for them provided. To view the death of Christ in this light is manifestly to separate it from the death of every other, and to ascribe to it a worth that can be claimed for no other. It had proved itself a power of salvation in this sense in the experience of Paul; and the question naturally occurs, Does Christ in His teaching give any hint that His act in dying was to have this saving virtue--was to be, from the highest point of view, an act of grace on God's part, by which He was to restore the sinful race to fellowship with Himself? We cannot of course expect the doctrine of the saving effects of Christ's suffering and death to be set forth in His own teaching in the same terms that we find it in Paul's; for here again the remark applies, that the apostle's experience of what Christ and His death were must necessarily include elements that were not in Christ's own thought-must include in it reflections on its relation to facts of his inner life that go beyond the vision of Christ ; nor are we to pass judgment on the findings of the servant on this subject because they are not confirmed by express words of the Master.
The real question is, Have we any words that show that Christ's own attitude towards His death was the same as that which finds elaborate expression in Paul's writings
—that He conceived of it as destined in the providence of God to issue in the redemption of men from sin and death ? His reticence on this subject, too, is indeed remarkable; but there is no doubt that the idea was present to His mind that great moral and religious consequences were to follow from His death, and that it lay in the scope of His mission as Messiah, who had come to bring salvation to men, that He should die. We have only two words recorded by the Synoptists in which this conviction finds expression: that in which He speaks of Himself as dying to ratify and establish the new covenant, in which forgiveness of sin was a principal benefit, and that in which He declares the Son of Man was come to “ give His life a ransom for many."? We cannot do justice to these words unless we take them in the sense in which the death of Christ is understood by all the writers of the New Testament, who uniformly refer to it as the Divinely arranged means for the execution of a Divine purpose, which contemplated man's recovery from sin and death. And just as little can we account for the universal understanding in the Apostolic Church of the issues of Christ's death, and of the ends served by it, unless we believe that Christ Himself gave His sanction to that view in words that He spoke; and that we have in the utterances I have quoted a true record of what He said. On what principles we are to explain the connection between the death of Christ and the effects of it on man's salvation is a matter on which we have little in Christ's express teaching to guide us; but neither does it furnish, as it seems to me, ground for calling in question the legitimacy of the apostle's reasonings on that aspect of the subject, or for disproving their truth. On this one essential point they are agreed : that the death accomplished at Jerusalem, while brought about by the sin of men, was the means intended by God to work out a gracious purpose of redemption. The emphasis placed by Paul on the Cross as the achievement of salvation is warranted by the importance attached by Christ Himself to His death as an integral part of His mission to save men, and as the condition of the success of that mission.
But the ground of complaint that the modern mind has against Paul and his interpretation of the Historic 1 Matt. xxvi. 28.
? Matt. xx. 28.
Christ appears just at this point. It is objected that his conception of Christ takes account only of His death and resurrection, and ignores the bearing on our salvation of all the activities of His earthly ministry. And that, it may be argued, can be no proper or adequate interpretation of Him that singles out one fact in the history, and passes over, as of no worth for forming a judgment on the whole, the lessons that are to be learnt from the record of those deeds and words in which one personality reveals itself to others. Paul, indeed, it may be said, had a direct knowledge of Christ in His Exalted state, and his interest was naturally concentrated on the impressions that flowed from his immediate fellowship with the Living and Glorified One. Connecting these impressions with their source (the once crucified but now Risen Saviour), he perceived the influence of the death that Jesus died in qualifying Him to be the Source of them, and to be the Author of the moral and religious benefits which the apostle enjoyed : having this understanding of the Cross in its relation to the Heavenly Christ, he did not require to go beyond that one event which closed the earthly history. Hence his silence about the Preceding Life, and his apparent indifference to its lessons. We, however, cannot occupy that ground. We have no such knowledge of Christ as Paul had, to whom He was immediately revealed in His Perfected state as Exalted. In that capacity He is to us unrevealed. For a reliable conception of His worth for us we are thrown back on history-on the knowledge to be gathered from the Gospels. This points to a doctrine of Christ that we are to form for ourselves from a study of His Life and words, for which it may be claimed not only that it is more true to fact, and more real to us, —its standpoint being the Historical and not the Exalted Christ,—but also that it does fuller justice to the riches of Christ's Person, because it draws not from one event, but from the entire revelation that we have in His Life.