The Unity of Christ

1 Cor. 1:13.---'Is Christ divided?'

The Church has had to contend not only that there is only one Christ, but also that Christ is one. St. Paul had to tell the Corinthians that while paganism had gods many and lords many, yet 'to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through him'; which is perhaps as near a creedal statement as we get in the New Testament. For us today the unity of Christ presents a problem of a different order from what it did to these Corinthians. For our generation Christ has been divided, not into two persons, not between different historic figures, but in His very self.

Let us ask ourselves whether Christ presents a real Unity.

There is a unity in Christ which no one can miss. He is moral unity. Jesus is a thoroughly unified person, in complete inner harmony with Himself. This is generally seen in the fact that He is unconscious of sin; about that there is no possibility of question so far as our Gospels are faithful to Him. There are only two things that can be set against this fact as even casting a shadow of doubt upon it. One is that Jesus submitted to the baptism of John, which was a baptism unto repentance. Now that does need explanation. St. Matthew and St. John see this difficulty, and each meets it in his own way. St. Matthew records that in answer to John's surprise that He should seek baptism of him, Jesus said, 'Suffer it now, for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness'; while St. John quotes the Baptist's words, 'Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world,' which might imply that Jesus was vicariously bearing the sins of the world, and thus sought baptism. These statements are not to be dismissed as theological afterthoughts, for they all agree in what was the experience of the baptism: a declaration that Jesus was the Beloved Son of the Father, and the decent upon Him of the Spirit.

And yet this moral unity is also an accomplishment; for Jesus was subject to temptation. The Gospels give sufficient evidence of that. The temptation in the wilderness must be regarded as a symbolical account conveyed by His own disclosure. It is a temptation concerning the means He shall use for bringing the world to the knowledge of the truth, and it repudiates, firstly, taking Himself out of ordinary dependence of a human being on material needs; secondly, using startling means to impress the world of His Divine power; thirdly, employing worldly methods for the advancement of His Kingdom. Incidentally it reveals what Jesus thought Himself to be. But where does this temptation come from? Not from His own nature, but from is circumstances. He has entered into earthly conditions. How far is He to evade or use them? It is a temptation possible only to the Son of God entering upon an earthly mission.

This moral unity consists in holding together things elsewhere we find opposed. Mankind must walk round Jesus to see Him in the whole, and they can only do this successively, the different points of view where they stand serving to bring into relief different aspects; and these have never yet been unified, because they have generally been accompanied by a denial of what cannot be seen from any given point of view. Take the idea, prevalent some time ago and still fighting for foothold, that Jesus was absolutely indifferent to economic questions. From one aspect He was, namely, that it did not matter what economic conditions you lived under, but not at all when it comes to considering what conditions you lived on. It has taken the economic interest of our times to reveal that. A former generation saw in the Gospels nothing but the proclamation of a scheme for the saving of the individual; our generation can hardly detect a reference to it.

We have to overcome, in the name of honesty and common sense, the antithesis into which Christ has been run out. There are ecclesiastics whose sole concern seems to be merely with keeping the Church going as an institution, with due performance of its rites and ceremonies, and with encouraging people to be diligent in their religious duties; while they are proportionately unconcerned with ethical and social questions. And there are the people who declare that Jesus Christ had no use for institutions, ritual, or sacraments; but that He was concerned solely with the interior motive or with proclaiming a new order of society to be necessary. As a matter of fact, Jesus had no objections to an institution, save where it infringed upon considerations of humanity. He did not abolish the Sabbath, He humanized it; He did not abolish the Temple, he cleansed it.

The unity of Christ is set forth very wonderfully in His capacity for writing out in human terms the character and nature of God. It is necessary to keep in mind what Christ had to unite; He had to unite the human and the Divine nature in order to reveal the Divine and make it humanly intelligible. This was a tremendous task, but it could be done, because the nature of the Divine is not in its essence either omniscience, omnipotence or omnipresence, but simply love. This is the task which Christ has accomplished. What is revealed thereby is the intense personality of God. God as known to us in Jesus is, in the fullest meaning of the word, personal---indeed, the only perfectly personal being. The rest of us are not nearly masters of ourselves, we are as subject to moods as the sea to storm and the sky to cloud. This is what we mean by personality---that which we see in Jesus. And it means that always there is in God a heart that understands, something to which we can appeal, one who will respond. No one, not our mother, or even those blessed with spouses, not ourselves can understand so surely and respond so perfectly. Therefore, the idea that, in Christ, the Eternal Word occupied the place of a human personality shows forth manhood and Godhead in perfect unity; and this was possible because man was made in God's image. Jesus is therefore true God and true man; the rest of us are something less than man until we are united more closely to God.

In Christ, timothy. Maranatha