Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.—Rom. 8.33

[Christ: Life and Light. By Charles Clyde.]


In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”—John 1.4.

Excerpted from:




MARCH, 1882.

No. 5.

In the narrative of the creation as given by Moses we meet with plain indications of a plurality of persons in the Godhead; and in the beginning of the Gospel by John, where the same divine operation is referred to, we have still clearer evidence of a distinction of persons in the divine essence. The Holy Spirit speaking by Moses says, God created the heaven and the earth, and speaking by the evangelist John, ascribes the same work to another agent—Logos or Word. These two assertions do not contradict each other, but only serve to show the harmony that exists among the persons of the trinity in their external operations. Evidently the evangelist desires to give special prominence to the agency of the Word in the work of creation, and thus attributes to him alone what is referable to the whole trinity, and to all three persons severally. This is in full accordance with the usage of the sacred writers, who attribute the same operation sometimes to one person, sometimes to another, and at other times to the Godhead without distinction of persons. Having set him forth as the Creator of all things absolutely, the evangelist further testifies that in the Word was life; and that this life was the light of men.

Life was in the Word from all eternity. As the supreme God, he does not receive any addition to the perfections of his nature, Heb. 1.11,12. The Scriptures teach his eternal self-existence, when they apply to him the name Jehovah, the peculiar appellation of the Eternal {149} God. He claims to be eternal when, in answer to the question of the Jews whether he had seen Abraham he says—"Before Abraham was, I am." And again in Rev. 1.8., he asserts his claim to eternity substantially in the same way, but with some amplification. "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come." This same apostle expresses the same idea with still more clearness in his first epistle. "The life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us." [1 John 1.2.]

There is, however, more involved in the verse before us than the personal existence of the Word. The source of all life that exists in the universe is revealed in it. The life of the eternal Word is to all creature-life what the sun is to the light that illuminates the earth. It is the life of the Word, that issues forth and animates the various orders of being, from the smallest animaculæ to the highest form of angelic intelligence. Especially is it true that man derives his existence from the life that is in the Word. Nature itself teaches that God is the author of life. Certain of the heathen poets have said, "We are also his offspring." [Acts 17.28.] Christianity goes further and says, "In him we live, and move and have our being." These declarations are predicated of God absolutely, and as the Word is God, they are referable directly to him. We do not understand the Scriptures as teaching that the fountain of life is exclusive in him; but only that it is in him in the same degree as it is in the other two persons of the trinity. The three persons constitute but one living and true God.

There is life in the Word by donation. He is represented as having asked and received it. "He asked life of thee, and thou gavest him, even length of days forever and ever. As the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself, Psalm 21.4, John 5.26. It was only in his official character as Mediator that the gift of life could be conferred upon him. When it became requisite that he should assume into personal union with himself, a real human soul and body, {150} the Father authoritatively prepared for him a body, Heb. 10.5. He anointed him with the Spirit above measure, and furnished him with all needful support in the work, which he commissioned him to do. The Mediator came into the world as the plenipotentiary of Heaven. In this capacity he could "of his own self do nothing." The Father gave him a commandment, what he should say, and what he should do. He claimed power to lay down his life, and power to take it again; but he immediately adds, "This commandment have I received of my Father." [John 10.18.]

The Eternal Word communicates life to his creatures. He imparted to animate beings their existence by his own inherent power, as the co-equal of the Father. The assertion, sometimes made, that he created the world as Mediator is open to serious objections. A mediator interposes between parties. Where there is only one party, there can be no mediator. When the Word assumed the character of creator, nothing existed outside the Godhead; and as God is one, and a mediator is not of one, (Gal. 3.20) it seems reasonable to conclude that the creation of the world was not any part of the official work of the Mediator. Set up from everlasting he certainly was; but there is a difference between being set apart for a special work, and the actual performance of that work. Paul tells us (Gal. 1.15,) that God separated him from his mother's womb, yet no one will say that he exercised any apostolic functions until after his conversion. Christ entered into covenant not to create, but to redeem; and all that he did irrespective of the terms of that covenant, he did not as Mediator, but as the Father's equal in voluntary relationship.

At the bare utterance of the fiat of the Word, the irrational creation came into existence. But when man is about to be created there is manifested a striking change in the divine procedure. Instead of uttering the simple command, a council of the Trinity is held, and in the act of giving life to the inanimate body of Adam, the Creator bends down, as it were, and inspires him with a portion of his own immortal existence. "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils {151} the breath of life; and man became a living soul." Gen. 2.7. As soon as the soul entered into the lifeless clay of Adam his body began to exhibit signs of life; and in the light that overspread his countenance was manifested the internal illumination of his understanding. In him life and intellectual light were inseparable; and among his natural posterity all who are possessed of life have also a measure of the same rational light. "The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord," Prov. 20.27. Thus it is true that all the life and light that men enjoy emanate from the life that is in the Word. He is "the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." [John 1.9.]

Christ communicates life as Mediator also. Though he did not create the world in official character, yet as the constituted Lord of providence he upholds all things by his power, and life and light now exist in the world only as they come from him. To his own people he imparts eternal life. It is communicated to them when he unites them to himself. The union between him and his people is consummated on both sides. The Holy Spirit on the part of Christ lays hold upon the sinner, and then the sinner acting by faith in Christ lays hold upon him with all the strength of his spiritual being. This union is compared in Scripture to the union between the foundation and the superstructure, between the head and the body, and between the vine and the branches. In discoursing to his disciples, Christ dwells particularly on the analogy furnished by the vine and its branches. "As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me." The same sap that percolates through the vine extends to its branches; and as long as the vital connection is maintained the branches will live and flourish. We may thus perceive the force of the Redeemer's words when he says, "Because I live ye shall live also." [John 14.19.] This union can never be dissolved. The "soul of the believer is bound up in the bundle of life with the Lord his God," [1 Sam. 25.29.] and he can never perish. The assuring words of the apostle Paul are applicable to all the redeemed. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which {152} I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." [Gal.2.20.]

As in the natural world life and light are inseparable, so also in the spiritual world. The believer is renewed in knowledge as well as in holiness. The eyes of the understanding are opened to perceive the beauty and excellency of spiritual things. "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, shines into the regenerated soul, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." The spirit forms the organ of spiritual vision, and presents to it the objective light of the divine Word. By steadfastly contemplating its sublime truths, new light is continually let in upon the soul. The royal Psalmist could say experimentally, "The entrance of thy word giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple." [Psalm 119.130.] The path of the believer is as the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. His light may sometimes be obscured by clouds. These however are only temporary; and every soul in which the divine light has begun to shine shall finally be admitted into the "city which has no need of the sun; for the glory of God doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof." [Rev. 21.23.]

Charles Clyde.