In this series of articles there is the desire to express a balance of factors relevant to the Atonement. Since it is the central matter in God’s salvation for man it is of necessity that many issues and many principles meet together in this wonderful doctrine of the Atonement. There is something of sublime pleasure in exploring the Scriptures on this subject and beholding the multifaceted beauty of the Divine wisdom and love of God our Saviour.

Son of Man

This is a title used frequently by the Lord Jesus Christ of himself (eg Mark 2:10, 28; John 12:23). Almost certainly the basis of this title is in Psalm 8, the psalm of Divine delegation. But the title expressed a critical fact concerning the Lord, that he was a man, born of woman. He was not God but a man born to be “a mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1Tim 2:5). He was not an angel but “born of a woman” (Gal 4:4). The writer to the Hebrews is signifying the same thing when he says, “he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham” (Heb 2:16). Paul writes in the same sense to the Romans “concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Rom 1:3).

It is not surprising that the link with the patriarchs is made by the Apostles when stressing the humanity of Christ. “The seed” of Abraham is the principal focus in the promise made to Abraham; whilst in the promise to David the linkage of Messiah with man is expressed in the most fundamental manner, “I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels” (2 Sam 7:12). The Apostle Peter summarises it this way, that “God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne” (Acts 2:30).

This article of our faith could hardly be expressed more emphatically.

Yet there is more interest on this subject in these covenants of promise. To David God went on to affirm, “I will be his Father, and he shall be my Son” (2 Sam 7:14). So right alongside each other in the same covenant to David we have Son of man and Son of God! The great secret of history was built into the Promise to David! In fact the sense was there from the beginning, for why would the angel have spoken to Adam and Eve of “the seed of the woman” unless the LORD God was intimating that though born of woman it was not going to be of the will of man? (Gen 3:15, John 1:13). Subtle was the inference, but the more Adam thought about it the closer he must have come to the dual inheritance of the Saviour. When Ethan the Ezrahite mulled over the covenant to David, even when the throne was overturned and his crown cast down (v38–39), he learned again of David’s seed that would endure forever (v35–36), together with the cry of a Son to his Father, “Thou art my Father, my God and the rock of my salvation” (Psalm 89:26).

Isaiah’s Son of God

In the matter of this revelation it is surely Isaiah that has a special place. If this prophet was going to preach the “salvation of Yahweh” as his name indicates, then we may have expected the Divine sonship would be a central feature of his words. And so it is:

7:14 “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a  sign; Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear  a                son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

9:6–7 “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son  is given: and the government shall be upon  his                     shoulder: and his name shall be called  Wonderful, Counsellor, The might God, The                               everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

11:1–3 “And there shall come forth a rod out of  the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow  out of                   his roots: And the spirit of the LORD  shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom  and                            understanding, the spirit of counsel and  might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear  of                    the LORD; And shall make him of quick  understanding in the fear of Yahweh.”

49:1 “Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye  people, from afar; The LORD hath calledme from                the womb; from the bowels of  my mother hath he made mention of my  name.”

50:4–5 “The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of  the learned, that I should know how to speak                    a word in season to him that is weary: he  wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth                        mine ear to hear as the learned.”

66:7 “Before she [Zion, AD 70] travailed, she  brought forth; before her pain came, she was                              delivered of a man child.”

In this string of delightful and exciting passages  the birth and early training of a Son of God could  not be missed. In fact the language is tender and  passionate! As a loving father wishes to instruct  his son, so in all these passages the teaching of the  Son of God is generously venerated. He would be  “taught of God”, “butter and honey shall he eat”  (54:13, 7:15).

Some Questions

So the saviour of mankind was to be flesh and blood, the seed of David indeed and yet, also the Son of God. When Gabriel presented these two facts to Mary—“thou shalt conceive in thy womb” and “he shall be called the Son of the Highest”—she asked the question that we all would ask, “How shall this be?” Gabriel’s beautiful reply provided all we need to know on the subject: “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

There are other questions that we would like to ask though. Why did the Saviour of mankind need to be the son of man?—and why Son of God? And how is it possible that he could in fact be both? in fact, need to be both?

“Great is the mystery of godliness”, says the Apostle; so whilst in this series we will seek to open up some matters on this greatest of all subjects, we must not however think that we know all about God’s work in Christ. The love and wisdom of God is beyond our comprehension but we can respectfully search and gratefully praise Him.

Born Entitled

With what titles does he come into the world? Gabriel describes him as “that holy thing” and “the Son of God”.

Elisabeth speaks of him as “my Lord” even before he is born (Luke 1:43).

The angel declares him to be “a Saviour… Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

Simeon’s description is “the Lord’s Christ”  (Luke 2:26) and God’s “salvation” (v30). This  venerated elder looked upon the tender babe in  his arms, only eight days old, and exclaimed  with profound respect, “mine eyes have seen thy  salvation” (v30).

Matthew indicates that he was born “a king  of the Jews” according to the question of the wise  men of the east (Matt 2:2). This was a child “of  the Holy Spirit”, conceived in Mary “of the Holy  Spirit” (1:18,20). This was a unique child indeed  to whom alone Isaiah’s special title could be given,  “they shall call his name Emmanuel”, signifying  “God with us” (Matt 1:23). “By inheritance he had  a more excellent name”!

That all of these special appellations could be  heaped upon one so tiny, a new born—in fact, in  some cases, before he was born—makes us all stand  back in awe at the coming of the Son of God. And  the Spirit had caught the sense of this matter when  it spoke of the Father’s intention with His Son, “I  will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings  of the earth” (Psa 89:26–27). What man can be  born higher than the blue blood of kings? Only a  Son of God Himself and this great fact makes us  step with caution when we speak of Jesus and his  coming for the eradication of our sins. For this is  the stated purpose of his coming: “… and she shall  bring forth a son and thou shall call his name JESUS:  for he shall save his people from their sins” (Mat  1:21). In the joy and wonder of this great fact John  Baptist exclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God,  which taketh away of the sin of the world” (John  1:29). “We must accept what is written concerning  his benefit from his own work, while on the other  hand we keep clearly in mind that the purpose of it  all was that we might be saved through him” (John  Carter, p21 Unity Book). He was sent to save his  people from their sins. This is the prime feature of  the language of his birth.

The Word Was Made Flesh

These considerations are critical to our right comprehension of the Atonement. This is someone that came from God to save us from our sins. The trouble, the cause of need, was not his but ours. Hewas sent from the Father as God’s solution to the problem. Jesus wasn’t the problem but the solution to the problem. He wasn’t the flesh made the Word, but as John puts it “the Word made flesh”, whose glory could only be explained as “the glory of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). This is like no other man, even though he was born of woman. He could stand among men, aware of their weaknesses, cognisant of their failures, tempted of the temptations common to man and yet his oneness with the Father is wondrously portrayed in words like the following:

John 3:34 “For he whom God hath sent speaketh  the words of God: for God giveth not the  Spirit by measure unto him.”

John 3:35 “The Father loveth the Son and hath  given all things into his hand.”

John 5:20 “For the Father loveth the Son, and  sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and  he will shew him greater works than these,  that ye may marvel.”

John 5:26 “For as the Father hath life in himself;  so hath he given to the Son to have life in  himself.”

John 6:35 “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to  me shall never hunger; and he that believeth  on me shall never thirst.”

John 6:57 “As the living Father hath sent me, and I  live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even  he shall live by me.”

John 8:42 “… for I proceeded forth and came  from God; neither came I of myself, but he  sent me.”

John 10:30 “I and my Father are one.”

John 14:9 “He that hath seen me hath seen the  Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us  the Father?”

More will be said later on the relevance of  Jesus being the Son of God, but sufficient here to  keenly observe that however we speak of Christ  as bearing our nature and of the need for his death  in the purpose of God, there must be a solemn  recognition that we speak of the beloved son of the  Creator. Our language should reflect our profound  adoration of Christ.

“The Man That is My Fellow”

The above passages take nothing away from the  attested fact that our Lord was truly man, born of  a woman. Whenever the atonement features in  apostolic writings there is emphasis that he was  born of a man, among men, tempted in all points  like as they, yet without sin. Consider the following  excerpts:

Romans 8:3 “in the likeness of sinful flesh”

1 Corinthians 1:23 “Christ crucified”

2 Corinthians 4:10 “the dying of Jesus”

2 Corinthians 5:21 “For he hath made him sin  for us”

Ephesians 2:15–16 “Having abolished in his  flesh… and that… in one body by the cross  having slain the enmity in himself

Philippians 2:7–8 “made in the likeness of  men—and being found in fashion as a man…  obedient unto death”.

Hebrews 2:14 “he also himself likewise took part  of the same [flesh and blood] that through  death…”

1 Peter 2:24 “Who his own self bare our sins in  his own body….”

The list could go on but this is sufficient to justify the fundamental truth, always preserved by our earlier brethren, that Jesus was indeed of the flesh of David, one with his brethren, found in fashion as a man. (The reasons for this will be amplified in further articles.)

Yet in all the New Testament accounts and letters there is care about the terminology used of the Lord. Nowhere is he described as unclean, nowhere is there the sense of disunity with his Father, or a need of change of nature before acceptable to his Father. There is no hint of inability to approach his Father or to be heard of his Father or a limit upon his fellowship with his Father whilst in the flesh. He and his Father are one and were always one even in his mortal days. Every intimation of the Gospels is of God’s love and respect and pleasure in the behaviour and character of His Son. This is a critical observation in our assessment of the Atonement. He had no need of appeasement, expiation, forgiveness, reconciliation with God. The fact that he needed to have his nature changed from mortal to immortal should not be overlooked. This was achieved through his life of obedience, culminating with his death on the cross (Phil 2:8–9). He was God’s “fellow” says the prophet Zechariah in a remarkable expression that sublimely brings the whole subject together, “Awake, O sword, against the man that is My shepherd and against the man that is My
fellow, saith Yahweh of hosts (Zech 13:7). To beGod’s fellow is to be His friend, His companion, His neighbour! There was only one ever spoken of in this way! Yet he was “the man my fellow”. Therein is the wonder of the Atonement. He was truly man yet truly God’s fellow!—and this even when “the sword” of death would come upon him in his sacrifice.

Minute Meditations These beautiful truths help us to balance our minds on this supreme subject. It was indeed necessary that the Saviour came in the flesh of sin and for sin; yet we honour him and love him for his willing acceptance of the load he took up on our behalf, even though he was the Son and “fellow” of God.