The Greatness of Christ Our Lord
By Fred O. Blakely
“Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the Patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils,” and who “blessed him that had the promises.” “But without any dispute the less is blessed of the better” (Heb. 7:4, 6-7, AV, ASV).
The eminence of the person immediately set forth in this text, of course, is Melchisedec, “king of Salem,” and “priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him” (v. 1; cf. Gen. 14:18-20). But it is not Melchisedec, solely in his own person, that is so extolled by the Apostle. It is Melchisedec as the type of Christ, the order of whose priesthood he was the harbinger, that is acclaimed. And, quite obviously, it is ultimately Christ Himself, “made a High Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec,” whose transcendent glory we are called upon to contemplate (ch. 6:20; cf. 5:10; Ps. 110:4).
The Apostolic Summons. By purposed and inescapable implication, we thus are summoned to consider how great is this Man Christ Jesus, the Savior, High Priest, and Lord of the church.
Earlier in his letter to the Hebrews, the writer had sounded the same call: “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession Christ Jesus” (ch. 3:1). Truly, Melchisedec was highly exalted, as is evidenced by Abraham, the stalwart “friend of God,” paying tithes to, and being blessed by, him (Jas. 2:23). But if he is great, as a type of “Him that should come after him” (Acts 19:4), how vastly greater is He of whose exaltation that of Melchisedec was only a figure! Thus, let us “consider how great this Man is”—Christ Jesus, “the Lord from heaven” (Heb. 7:4, Confrat. V.; I Cor. 15:47).
Preachers nowadays would have us to consider many things. The Apostle Paul was determined to know but “one thing” in the church—”Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” and exalted to the right hand of God (I Cor. 2:2). The thing that men need to consider is that all of the ends which are sought by preaching other things can only be realized by this kind of preaching—by considering Christ: who He is, what He has done, is doing, and will yet do, for us. Let us so consider Christ—how great He is—as we are bidden by the Spirit to do.
He Is Great in His Person. The greatness of our Lord begins with His divine Person. Being “equal with God” (Jn. 5:18: Phil. 2:6), He manifestly is exalted “far above” every creaturely “name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Eph. 1:21). He is “the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14). He is God’s “beloved Son,” in whom He is, indeed, “well pleased” (Matt. 17:5). Being “the brightness of His glory, and the express Image of His Person” (Heb. 1:3), Christ thus is “the Image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). Hence, His reply to Philip’s spontaneous request, “Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.” “Have I been so long time with you,” He questioned, “and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” (Jn. 14:8-9).
The Master went on to declare to Philip, “Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me” (vv. 10-11). This essential identity of the Father with the Son is taken up and elaborated by Paul, especially in his letter to the Colossians. “It pleased the Father,” he declared with reference to His enduement of the Son, “that in Him should all fulness dwell” (Col. 1:19). This great “mystery of godliness” (I Tim. 3:16) is again asserted in ch. 2:9: “For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” “And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.” we are told. “And He is the Head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the Firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence” (ch. 1:17-18). In the days of the Lord’s flesh, John the Baptist had proclaimed basically the same thing of Him, saying, “For He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him” (Jn. 3:34). It is heartening, of a truth, to consider that, concerning this Indwelling of the Son by the Father, John also declared, “and of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace” (Jn. 1:16; cf. v. 14).
He Was Great in His Works. The greatness of Christ our High Priest was further evinced by the works which the Father gave Him to do in the days of His flesh. His unparalleled ministry in the world perfectly accorded with His Nature as “God manifest in the flesh” (I Tim. 3:16). Recognizing this, He had called upon Philip to do the same: “Believe Me for the very works’ sake” (Jn. 14:11).
To the unbelieving Jews, He laid down the same challenge: “If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not. But if I do, though ye believe not Me, “believe the works: that ye may know, and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him” (Jn. 10:37-38; cf. ch. 5:36: 15:24).
A classic summary of Christ’s earthly ministry, reflecting His supremacy, occurs in Acts 10:38. God anointed Him “with the Holy Ghost and with power.” Peter told the household of Cornelius, in consequence of which He “‘went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the Devil; for God was with Him” (cf. Acts 2:22). He cast out demons, healed the sick, raised the dead, and walked on the storm-tossed sea, stilling its boisterous waves with His command, “Peace be still” (Mk. 4:39). His own words of reassurance to the imprisoned John seem to gather up the main thrust of His sojourn among us and highlight the uniqueness of His Person. “Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see.” He requested: “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matt. 11:4-5: cf. Isa. 61:1-3: Lu. 4:18-19).
Although He could not discern the mystery of the spiritual birth, Nicodemus was able to grasp something of the significance of Christ’s ministry. “Rabbi, we know that Thou art a Teacher come from God,” he freely acknowledged: “for no man can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him” (Jn. 3:1-2).
Toward the close of his memoirs of Christ, the Apostle John sets forth with emphasis the relation of His works to the Nature of His Person, and calls upon the reader to give due attention to the record of them which the Apostle has presented. “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples which are not written in this book.” he admitted: “but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His Name” (Jn. 20:30-31; cf. ch. 21:24-25).
He Was Great in His Teaching. Luke refers to his treatise on the Lord’s earthly life as an account of “all that Jesus began both to do and teach” (Acts 1:1). Of this dual aspect of His ministry, the teaching was equally effective with the doing in manifesting “forth His glory” (Jn. 2:11). Indicative of the high peculiarity of this teaching is the people’s response to the sermon setting forth the basic kingdom principles and requirements which He delivered on “a mountain” (Matt. 5:1). “And it came to pass,” Matthew chronicles, “when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at His doctrine: for He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes” (Matt. 7:28-29). The report of the officers whom the Pharisees and chief priests sent to take our Lord while He taught in the temple also shows the superiority of His teaching (Jn. 7:32). “Never man spake like this Man,” was the reason which they gave to the religious rulers for not bringing Him to them (vv. 45-46).
In the field of conflict particularly, Christ’s divine Person seems to have been exhibited by His teaching ability. He was never stumped by His critics, though hounded by the keenest religious minds of the time. Instead, He consistently routed them by His unprecedented wisdom and prudence. This mastery of His enemies is essential testimony in attestation of His Godhood. We must say that, had there occurred just one instance in which they had bested Him in argument, it would have constituted a formidable obstacle to our faith in Him as the Son of the All Wise God. His disposal of the catch-questions of the three principal groups of His adversaries illustrates the divine skill and ability of which we speak. The Herodians queried Him about the lawfulness of paying tribute to Caesar, desiring to “entangle Him in His talk.” Our Lord’s famous reply is universally recognized as a masterpiece of wisdom: “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:15-22).
“The same day,” we are told, “came to Him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection,” and asked Him their well-concocted question concerning the marriage relationship in the resurrection of a woman reputed to have had seven husbands in this life. His celebrated reply, which sheds much light upon the life to come, silenced the Sadducees, and astonished the multitude “at His doctrine.” “Ye do greatly err,” He told them, “because ye know not the Scriptures, neither the power of God. When they shall arise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven” (Mk. 12:18-27; cf. Matt. 22:23-33). Then a lawyer of the Pharisees propounded still another question to the Master, “tempting Him.” “Which is the great commandment in the law?” he queried. Passing with swift and steady stride through the maze of all the mass of the law and the Prophets, Christ unerringly stopped and pointed to their very heart (Deut. 6:4-9; cf. ch. 10:12-13; 30:6). “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment” (Mk. 12:28-31; cf. Matt. 22:34-40). So remarkable was the answer that it drew from the questioner an apparently sincere expression of marvel and admiration (Mk. 12:32-34).
He Was Great in His Death. The propitiatory death of the Savior was the crowning aspect of His ministry in the flesh, and as such heralds His greatness with climactic force. “For this cause came I unto this hour,” He exclaimed, as He faced Gethsemane and the Cross (Jn. 12:27). Of a truth, He was born to die, and so to “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26), The grand objective of His partaking of “flesh and blood,” as saith the Apostle, was “that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the Devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14-16). In the enfleshment, God prepared Him a body, so that we could be “sanctified” by its offering “once for all” (Heb. 10:5-10; cf. Ps. 40:6-7).
The glory of the death of Christ for those who receive the atonement for sin which it wrought is that it brings them “to God” (I Pet. 3:18), from whom they otherwise were hopelessly alienated by sin. “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:5). “By Himself” He “purged our sins,” making “peace through the blood of His cross,” reconciling us unto God, and presenting us “holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight” (Col. 1:10-29; Heb. 1:3). “By the grace of God,” He tasted “death for every man,” “abolished” it, and brought “life and immortality to light through the gospel” (II Tim. 1:10; Heb. 2:9). Without controversy, these inexpressibly precious benefits wrought for us by our Lord’s death proclaim His greatness, since only He, being foreordained by God for that purpose (I Pet. 1:18-20), could have accomplished that death.
He Is Great in His Exaltation. The resurrection and exaltation of the Lord Jesus to the right hand of God comprise the Father’s own seal of His greatness. He was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). Being thus “justified in the Spirit,” He was “received up into glory,” and “sat on the right hand of God” (Mk. 16:19: Rom. 4:25; I Tim. 3:16). As it is written, He “is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him” (I Pet. 3:22). So could the same Apostle declare that our Master is “Lord of all” (Acts 10:36). The Father has “set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every, name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Eph. 1:20-23).
The blessedness for us of this approval by the Father lies in our participation in Jesus’ resurrection and exaltation. We are “risen with Him,” and have our consciousness of acceptance before God because of His resurrection and reign (Col. 2:10-12; cf. ch. 3:1-3). Indeed, we have been made to “sit together in heavenly places” in our glorified Lord (Eph. 2:6). Were Christ not reigning,” “then no one could have “the full assurance of faith, or spirit of sonship, “by which we “draw near” to God in Him (Rom. 8:15, RSV; Heb. 10:22). It is because He has been “exalted at the right hand of God” that He now is able to pour forth the Holy Spirit, who confers these certifications of our status as the children of God, giving us “boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him” (Acts 2:33, RSV; Eph. 3:12).
Our lively hope toward God of the resurrection of the body from the grave is likewise inseparably identified with our Lord’s resurrection. In fact, as Peter asserts, that hope was begotten in us by the Father through Christ’s resurrection (I Pet. 1:3). “Because I live, ye shall live also,” He promised (Jn. 14:19). In His resurrection, He is the Firstfruits of all the dead (I Cor. 15:20-21, 52). In their order, all whose bodies are “in the graves” shall, at the second coming, “hear His voice, and shall come forth” in resurrection—”they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (Jn. 5:28-29; cf. Acts 24:15; I Cor. 15:23). The universal resurrection is thus as inevitably certain as it is certain that Christ arose (I Cor. 15: 12-13, 20).
Conclusion. We need to constantly comfort and reassure our hearts in this greatness and divine sufficiency of Christ, our High Priest, for all of our needs for time and eternity. As the Apostle so blessedly asserts, “Ye are complete in Him, which is the Head of all principality and power” (Col. 3:10). That Headship, it must be remembered, is possessed and exercised “for the church” (Eph. 1:22, RSV), that is, for us who have fled to Him “for refuge” (Heb. 6:19). Such a High Priest, indeed, “became us” (Heb. 7:26). This is because He is constituted to be Such, “not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life” (vv. 16-17). So is He “able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them” (v. 25).
Let us, therefore, both consider “how great this Man is” and cleave to Him “with purpose of heart” (Acts 11:23). For “in none other is there salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, ASV).