Above the Line

There is a definitive “line” that separates God from everything and everyone else, the infinite from the finite, the Creator from the created. The God of the Bible is someone who is altogether Other. God is unique; there is no other being or entity who can be called God. “I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God” (Isa 45:5) “For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it… I am the LORD, and there is no other.” (Isa 45:5, 18; Deut 4:35,39; 32:39; Gen 1:1) This unique God is righteous and just. He is the only Creator and the only Saviour of his creation. “Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me” (Isa 45:21).

God is incomparable; “’To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him?’ says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing” (Isa 40:25–26). This unique God is not only powerful, but good and just; he is holy (separate). “Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God?” (Psa 77:13) “But the LORD of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness” (Isa 5:16; 6:3). God is so very different from his creation: he is incomprehensible in his wisdom, beauty and greatness. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa 55:8–9). God alone has immortality and is the giver of life (Rom 1:23; 1 Tim 1:17). God is “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion” (1 Tim 6:15–16). He is the first and the last (Isa 44:6).

Because of this exclusivity, this uniqueness of right to be worshiped, God will not tolerate the worship of anyone or anything else (Deut 6:15; Exod 20:5; Ezek 39:25, Joel 2:18, Zech 1:14) Everyone and everything else is created; worship of a created being or thing is idolatry and brings God’s wrath.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!” (Rom 1:18–25)

Human beings, in contrast, are mortal, sinful, of limited knowledge and incapable of intrinsic holiness. We are fools and blind and can never, of ourselves, reach for the divine (Rom 3:10–12; 5:12; Psa 8:3; Job 42:3–6; 1 Pet 1:24).

God is above the line, we are below it. The question is, which side of the line is Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father? There are a number of passages that apply the name of God to the Lord Jesus, (John 8:58; 20:28; Rom 9:5; Titus 2:13–14) but lest they be dismissed as mere honorifics, there is a much wider and deeper testimony throughout the New Testament. Here is a sampling.

• The Son, the Word of God who was to be made flesh, was with God in the beginning, as God (John 1:1–2; 17:5–8, 24)
• The Son is himself the Creator (Col 1:15–17; 1 Cor 8:6; Heb 1:3, 8, 10)
• Jesus shares the honours and glory due to God alone (John 5:23; 2 Pet 3:18; Rev 5:12–13 cf Isa 42:8)
• Jesus is to be worshipped (Matt 2:11; 14:33; Luke 24:52; John 9:38; Heb 1:6)
• Jesus is the object of saving faith (John 1:12; 3:15, 18; 5:24; 8:24; 14:1, 6; 20:31; Acts 3:16; 16:31; Rom 10:11; 1 John 3:23)
• Jesus deserves our absolute devotion and obedience (Matt 5:21–22; 10:37; 24:35; Luke 14:26; John 14:15, 21; Eph 6:24)
• In Christ is all the fullness of God (Col 1:19; 2:9; Heb 1:3)
• Jesus has a unique relationship with God (Matt 11:7; 25:31–46; John 10:30; 14:7–10)
• Jesus has the authority of God (Matt 8:8–9; 12:28; 13:41; Mark 1:27; 2:5–12; Luke 6:5; John 11:25; 14:12–14)
• The Son shares the attributes of his Father (John 1:14–17; 3:31–32; 6:69)
• The Son shares the names of God (Psa 45:6; John 10:11; 20:28; Phil 2:10–11; Rev 21:7; 19:16; 22:13)
• The Son is able to do all that the Father does — everything! (John 5:17–19)
• The Lord Jesus Christ shares the throne of God in heaven with his Father (Heb 1:8; 8:1; Rev 3:21; 7:17; 22:1–3)

Thus Jesus shares in the exclusive claims and attributes of the Creator God, the One who will not share his glory with any other. Jesus is included in the very identity of God. He is unequivocally above the line.

The separation between God and humanity, between immortal and mortal, perfect and imperfect, Creator and created, cannot be crossed by those below the line. Human beings cannot become God. We cannot, in our own strength or by our own efforts achieve holiness or righteousness, let alone undo the curse of sin and death (Isa 6:5; Rom 3:23). But God was willing and able to reach down to humanity itself and effect the cure of his creation from within it (Rom 5:8; 8:19–21; 2 Cor 5:21). His own arm brought salvation (Isa 59:16 ) as “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory” (John 1:14). Immanuel, God with us, the in-fleshing of the Word occurred at a blessed moment in time when the Son of God, by the Holy Spirit, took on flesh in the womb of Mary (Matt 1:23; Luke 1:35; 2:11; Gal 4:4). This was the beginning of the man Jesus Christ, fully human and yet all the fullness of the Godhead, bodily. He humbled himself, emptied himself, in taking on the form of a servant (Phil 2:7–8). He became “sin” for us who knew no sin (2 Cor 5:21), and bore our sins to the cross. Jesus Christ is the perfect man, embodying all that humankind was meant to be. The writer to the Hebrews quotes Psalm 8, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him?” The true Man was made for a little while lower the angels but is now crowned with honour and glory. He tasted death for every man, the one for whom and by whom all things exist; Jesus, the author and completer of our faith (Heb 2:6–9). God, in Jesus, did for us what we could not do for ourselves. We could not reach up to him, but he in love reached down to us, in reconciliation. In Christ, we are made righteous, sanctified and glorified. And one day, we shall be like Christ, for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2).

The 4th century theologian Athanasius, wrote; “It was our sorry case that caused the Word to come down, our transgression that called out his love for us, so that he made haste to help us, and to appear among us. It is we who were the cause of his taking human form, and for our salvation that in his great love he was both born and manifested in a human body.” Some three centuries earlier, Paul had written, “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom 8:3). Likewise, the writer to the Hebrews; “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb 2:14).

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die —but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Rom 5:6–11). Such is our assurance, anchored in the person and work of the Son.

How great is the Lord Jesus, one with the Father, fullness of God, Creator and Redeemer! In all things he has the supremacy; he is “above the line” that divides God from creation. And yet in his love for us he entered creation, took on flesh and bore our sins. The song of the redeemed multitude is his; “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Rev 4:11; 5:12) and “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

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