The Divinity of the Messiah

March 07, 2017

by J. Gresham Machen

Please enjoy the following excerpt from The Person of Jesus by J. Gresham Machen. Go here to get the book for $7 or less, a limited time offer. 

We are going to try to begin to set forth in positive fashion a little bit at least of what the Bible says about the deity of Christ. If we are going to do so with any completeness we should have to begin with the Old Testament. It is true, the Old Testament does not set forth the doctrine of the deity of Christ with any fullness. I do not suppose that either the prophets or their hearers knew in any clear fashion that the coming Messiah was to be one of the persons in the Godhead. Yet there are wonderful intimations of the doctrine of the deity of Christ even in the Old Testament. The outstanding fact is that the hope of a coming Messiah, as it appears with increasing clearness in the Old Testament books, goes far beyond any mere expectations of an earthly king of David’s line. The Messiah, according to the Old Testament, is clearly to be a supernatural person, and he is clearly possessed of attributes that are truly divine.

It has often been observed that before the time of Christ, there were two types of Messianic expectation among the Jews. According to one type, the Messiah was to be a king of David’s line; according to the other, he was to be a heavenly being suddenly appearing in the clouds of heaven to judge the world.

The Messiah, according to the Old Testament, is clearly to be a supernatural person, and he is clearly possessed of attributes that are truly divine.

Both of these types of later Jewish expectation are rooted in the Old Testament. The Old Testament represents the Messiah both as a king of David’s line and also as a supernatural person to appear with the clouds of heaven. The former of these two representations appears, for example, in the seventh chapter of Second Samuel, where a never-ending line of kings to be descended from David is promised; and it appears even more clearly in the passages where the coming of one supreme king of David’s line is promised. The latter of the two representations appears, for example, in the seventh chapter of Daniel, where a mysterious person “like a son of man” is seen, in the prophet’s vision, in the presence of the “Ancient of Days”—a mysterious person to whom is given a universal and everlasting dominion (Dan 7:13).

These two types of Messianic expectation in the Old Testament are by no means sharply distinguished from one another. When we examine closely the expected king of David’s line, we find that he is to be far more than an ordinary earthly king; we find that he has distinctly supernatural attributes: and, on the other hand, the supernatural figure of the seventh chapter of Daniel is by no means separate from Israel but appears as the representative of the Old Testament people of God.

This possession of both divine and human attributes by the Messiah appears with particular clearness in the ninth chapter of Isaiah. There the coming deliverer is spoken of as one who shall sit upon the throne of David. Yet his kingdom is to be everlasting, and he himself is actually called “Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa 9:6). There we have the deity of the coming Messiah presented in the Old Testament in so many words.

Now the glorious thing is that in the New Testament we find these two types of Old Testament promise about the Messiah united, in the fulfillment, in the same person. How is it that one person can on the one hand be a man, a king of David’s line, and at the same time be the mighty God? The question is not fully answered in the Old Testament. But the New Testament answers it most wonderfully in the great central doctrine of the two natures in the one person of our Lord. Yes, the coming deliverer was indeed to be both mighty God and a king of David’s line, because the mighty God in strange condescension and love became man for our sakes “and so was, and continueth to be God, and man, in two distinct natures, and one person, forever” (WSC Q&A 21).

But we are not now speaking about the relation between the divine nature and the human nature in Christ. What we are now interested in saying is that the Old Testament does teach then deity of the coming Messiah. Here, as at so many other points, there is a wonderful continuity between the Old Testament and the New. . . .

Continue reading in The Person of Jesus, available for $7 or less for a limited time.

J. Gresham Machen

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