15 million Ukrainian are displaced by Russia's war.
Millions miss a meal or two each day.
Help us change that! Click to donate today!

Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Ideas (Leading)

IDEAS (LEADING).—The leading ideas of our Lord may be divided into two classes, Moral and Religious. This is not an artificial division: it corresponds to two stages in His public teaching which are very clearly marked in the Gospels. The earlier stage is prevailingly ethical, and finds its most characteristic utterance in the Sermon on the Mount. The later is, in comparison, distinctively religious, and deals with the relation of God to man. Yet we are not to separate the two elements, for they inter-penetrate one another. They are inter-dependent, and form together an organic whole.

i. Moral ideas.

1. The Kingdom.

2. The Pure Heart.

3. The infinite Value of the human Soul.

4. The Law of Love.

5. The Universality of Love.

6. The Great Example.

7. Self-renunciation.

ii. Religious Ideas.

1. The Fatherhood of God.

2. The Son.

3. Faith.

4. The Coming of the Kingdom.

5. The Paraclete.

i. Moral ideas

1. The Kingdom.—This idea must be placed first on account of its position in our Lord’s teaching. ‘Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,’ was the message of the Baptist and the first public utterance of Jesus (Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:15). From the beginning the idea of the Kingdom may be traced throughout the Gospels, and everywhere it will be found to indicate the supreme blessing which comes to man from God. In Mt. it is usually termed the Kingdom of Heaven. Elsewhere the phrase Kingdom of God is uniformly employed.

The idea of a Kingdom of God does not appear first in the NT. in the OT, the sovereignty of God is a fundamental conception. Jehovah was regarded as King over His chosen people. Israel was a theocracy. Always, whether under judges, kings, prophets, or priests, the human leaders were looked upon as representatives or agents of Jehovah, the true King. The natural tendency was to regard this as the exclusive privilege of the chosen people. Nevertheless, in the OT is to be found the vision of a great world-wide Kingdom of God. In the Book of Daniel especially we find how, to the prophetic mind, there was opened the glorious prospect of a universal Divinely-established sovereignty. Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:13-14 are the clearest. The latter of these two passages is especially important, because from it, most probably, our Lord adopted the title ‘Son of Man’ by which He usually described Himself. It was therefore a passage much in His thoughts, and it is scarcely possible to believe that, as He proclaimed ‘the kingdom,’ He had not clearly in mind the words ‘His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.’

It is plain that among the Jews in our Lord’s time there was a widely spread expectation of some great person who was to be leader of the chosen people, and through whom that people were to be established as a great world-power. The Jews of that age were looking for a kingdom. And to them came John the Baptist and then Jesus of Nazareth, proclaiming the coming of a Kingdom. As our Lord’s ministry and teaching developed, He made it quite clear that the Kingdom He proclaimed was very different from the kingdom of popular expectations. Yet the two conceptions cannot be wholly unrelated. Our Lord would not have used the popular language if His meaning had no relation to the ideas of the popular mind.

This consideration is important, because of late years there have been efforts to show that the Kingdom, as conceived by our Lord, had no social content whatever; that, by the Kingdom of God, He meant a spiritual illumination in the heart of the individual (Harnack, What is Christianity? Lect. iii. He holds that our Lord shared the eschatological ideas of the Jews of His time, but that the essence of His teaching is that the Kingdom is the rule of God in the heart of the individual). This view rests mainly on a single text, Luke 17:21 ‘The kingdom of God is within you,’ and is supported by the consideration that the primary meaning of the word which is translated ‘kingdom,’ βασιλεία, is ‘rule’ or ‘dominion.’

The sentence (Luke 17:21) ‘The kingdom of God is within you’ (ἑντος ὑμῶν) is capable of being translated, ‘The kingdom of God is in the midst of you,’ and this rendering suits the context better than any other, for the saying was addressed to the Pharisees. But it must be granted that the ‘New Sayings of Jesus,’ recently discovered by Grenfell and Hunt, have thrown fresh light on this question. The words occur in the Second Saying, and in a connexion which precludes the translation’ in the midst of you.’ ‘The kingdom of heaven is within you, and whoever shall know himself shall find it.’ This is, at least, a very early witness to the sense attached to the words in primitive times.

But we cannot found our interpretation of our Lord’s teaching on a single passage, especially when we are dealing with a leading conception which was always more or less in His mind. Some of the parables which were intended to throw light on the nature of the Kingdom, e.g. the Mustard Seed, the Tares and the Wheat, the Draw-net, seem explicable only on the understanding that the Kingdom was regarded as a visible community.

The only way of combining the two elements which seems to be truly satisfactory, is to regard the Kingdom as the rule of God, whether in the individual or in the community. It is then the Summum Bonum, the Absolute Good in which both the individual and the community find their realization. It is thus both a present blessing and an ideal to guide all future development. It is realized here and now whenever man stands in a right relation to God and to his fellows. Its perfect realization belongs to the great future: it is the end to which all creation and all history are tending. The Kingdom as a conception is thus at once moral, social, religious, and eschatological. All these aspects are distinctly visible in our Lord’s teaching, and all are harmonized by the view which has just been adopted. We are now concerned with the moral aspect of this great idea.

The Sermon on the Mount, as we have it in Mt., must be taken as the fullest statement of our Lord’s moral teaching. Whether it be accepted as a single discourse, or be regarded as a collection of sayings, the unity which pervades it and its perfect harmony with the rest of our Lord’s utterances are manifest. Its place in the gospel of the Kingdom, as proclaimed by our Lord, is clearly defined. The Sermon is a statement of the Law of the Kingdom.

This is evident from Matthew 5:17-20, in which a general principle concerning the ethical relation of the gospel to the Mosaic Law is laid down, and from Matthew 5:21-43, in which several important illustrations of the practical application of this new principle are given. Matthew 6:1-33; Matthew 7:21-27 agree with this view of the nature of the Sermon. In the former passage, the whole subject of rewards and motives is dealt with, and the end which is to govern our religious life (Matthew 6:1-18) and our secular life (Matthew 6:19-29) is declared to be, not the praise of men (Matthew 6:2; Matthew 6:5; Matthew 6:16), not earthly rewards (Matthew 6:19; Matthew 6:25), but God’s Kingdom and God’s righteousness (Matthew 6:33). This end includes all necessary goods (Matthew 6:33). It therefore lifts the soul above anxiety (Matthew 6:34). It is an eternal treasure (Matthew 6:20). It must be pursued with whole-hearted devotion (Matthew 6:24). In the latter passage (Matthew 6:21-27) the importance of doing the will of God, as contrasted with mere profession, is insisted on as a condition of entering into the Kingdom.

It is thus perfectly clear that the whole Sermon on the Mount regards human life from the point of view of the Kingdom, and lays down the moral principles which belong to that point of view. It may therefore be fitly described as the Law of the Kingdom.

At the same time, it is necessary to observe that the Sermon on the Mount is not a new Decalogue. Our Lord did not issue commandments like those of the old Law. On the contrary, He laid down principles, and taught His disciples how to apply them.

This is an important distinction. Commandments which classify actions, forbidding some and enjoining others, however necessary they may be for purposes of moral education, have always this defect, that they are sure, sooner or later, to come into conflict, and so give rise to perplexity and to casuistry. Principles, on the other hand, are truly universal, and therefore cannot conflict. There are parts of our Lord’s moral teaching which have seemed perplexing to many, e.g. Matthew 5:34; Matthew 5:39-42. But the perplexity vanishes when it is seen that these sayings contain not laws but examples, illustrations of the application of a principle (see Matthew 5:20), which has been already laid down. As examples or illustrations, they must be considered in relation to circumstances, which inevitably limit every particular case.

Among moral principles laid down by our Lord, the Kingdom stands first and supreme. The passage which presents this truth most clearly has been already noticed. It occupies the whole of Matthew 6, which fills the central space in the moral teaching of Jesus as we have it in St. Matthew’s report of the Sermon. Here we have the motives of conduct dealt with. First, the prevailing wrong motives are pointed out: the praise of men which too often destroys the reality of the religious life (Matthew 6:2; Matthew 6:5; Matthew 6:16; Matthew 6:18); greed of gain, the laying up of earthly treasures (Matthew 6:19-24), which makes the ‘single eye’ impossible; anxiety for the necessaries of life, food and clothing, things that will surely be given us if we live a true life (Matthew 6:25-34).

It is characteristic of our Lord that it is in connexion with this last subject that He reveals the true motive. He contemplates the life of the average man toiling for his daily bread and filled with anxiety lest that bread should fail. There is an extraordinary tenderness and sympathy in our Lord’s language here. The passage is perhaps the most beautiful in all His teaching. And the lesson reaches the highest heights of spiritual vision. ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (the necessaries of life) shall be added unto you’ (Matthew 6:33).

It is singularly impressive that this teaching should be given in connexion with those common everyday duties at which the vast majority of human beings must spend their lives. To the great mass of the world’s toilers our Lord says: Be not anxious about your bodily needs. In doing your daily work, seek the Highest, and the necessaries of life will not fail. And what is that Highest? It is the Kingdom and righteousness of God. The answer presents both sides of the truth, the external and the internal, the objective aim and the quality of character which corresponds to it.

When we come to consider more carefully what is the nature of this highest objective aim which is termed the Kingdom, we are met by the difficulty that our Lord nowhere gives a formal definition of it. His manner of referring to it is rather an indication that He desired in the first instance to convince His hearers of its existence, and for the rest to approach it in many different ways, so as to exhibit different aspects of a thing too great for its nature to be made evident by any one statement. But certain characteristics emerge with sufficient clearness. What these characteristics are will be seen as we examine the other leading ideas of our Lord’s moral teaching. See also art. Kingdom of God.

2. The Pure Heart.—‘Blessed are the pure in heart,’ said the Lord; ‘for they shall see God.’ The idea expressed in this Beatitude is one of the most fundamental in the interpretation of the Law in terms of the gospel. Our Lord insisted upon the inwardness of all true goodness. An external morality had no value in His eyes. This teaching was not altogether new. Great prophets and psalmists had seen it (Jeremiah 31:33, Psalms 51:10). Greek philosophers had taught the priority of being to doing. But Jesus gave to the world as a whole what had hitherto been the possession of select souls. By showing the power of this principle to deepen the received code, He was able to alter the popular conception of the moral ideal. He taught that within the Kingdom the only goodness which would be recognized would be goodness of heart. All the examples which He gave to show that the righteousness of the Kingdom must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, display the operation of this principle. See Matthew 5:22; Matthew 5:28; Matthew 5:34-37; Matthew 5:44-48, Luke 6:45. Our Lord did not abolish the old Law. He fulfilled it (Matthew 5:17). He penetrated to the inner meaning and deeper truth which underlay it. And what is true of the good is true also of the evil: its nature is spiritual, it proceeds from the heart, and is not merely concerned with the outward action (Matthew 15:18-20, Mark 7:21, Luke 6:45, see also Matthew 12:34-35).

There is a tendency to regard this purity of heart as concerned only with the negation of one class of fleshly appetites. Our Lord did indeed apply the principle most impressively with that reference (Matthew 5:27 ff.) But, as all the illustrations show, the principle is one of universal application, and concerns the very essence of all goodness. It is the principle which the philosopher Kant stated in the terms: ‘Nothing can possibly be conceived in the world, or even out of it, which can be called good without qualification, except a Good Will.’ It is the doctrine which modern Ethics expresses when it declares that the goodness or badness of conduct depends upon the motive. In the last resort, the ‘single eye’ and the ‘pure heart’ are the same. They both express the inward determination to do the good just because it is the good, and for no other reason. The former regards this moral attitude from the point of view of the end which is aimed at, the second contemplates the disposition of the heart, the moral condition of soul, out of which the good inevitably springs.

3. The Infinite Value of the human Soul.—This idea is very frequent in the teaching of our Lord. Explicitly or implicitly, it occurs everywhere. See Matthew 6:26 ff., Matthew 10:29 ff., Matthew 10:40; Matthew 10:42; Matthew 12:11-12 l Matthew 16:26; Matthew 18:5 ff., Mark 8:36-37; Mark 9:37; Mark 9:42, Luke 9:25; Luke 9:48; Luke 10:29 ff., Luke 12:7 ff., Luke 12:24; Luke 12:28; Luke 14:5; Luke 15:4 ff., Luke 15:8 ff., Luke 15:11 ff., Luke 19:10, John 3:16; John 4:7 ff; John 10:11 ff. All passages which tell of the love of God for the individual soul or of the sacrifice by which the salvation of the soul was effected, are witnesses to the same truth. Every person, no matter how poor, wretched, sinful or degraded, is of infinite value when compared with any mere thing. The gospel was preached to the poor. The Christ received the publicans and sinners who came to Him. None were too miserable or too lowly for His compassion. The Great Father in heaven is ever watching over His human children. The very hairs of their heads are all numbered. Better to die a miserable death than be the cause of injury to one of His little ones. God so cares for even the most sinful among His children, that He is compared to the shepherd seeking the lost sheep, to the woman searching for her lost piece of money. There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth. God is like a loving father who rejoices over the returning prodigal. As we have it in St. John, ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son’ (John 3:16).

Apart from the religious value of these teachings, their ethical importance is incalculable. They conveyed to mankind one of the greatest gifts which even Christianity had to bestow: the belief that each human soul is of absolute value, above all price or estimation. It is the doctrine which philosophical Ethics expresses, when it declares that every person is to be regarded as an end in himself, never as a means only. This is the doctrine which underlies the mission of the Church to go and make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19). It is the principle which has overthrown tyrannies, abolished slavery, and justified all our modern enthusiasms for liberty and for the welfare of humanity.

This doctrine, combined with that of the Fatherhood of God, affords the true proof of individual immortality. Our Lord’s teaching is quite clear on this subject. There must be a future life for men because God calls Himself their God. ‘He is not the God of the dead, but of the living’ (Matthew 22:31 ff., Mark 12:27, Luke 20:37 ff.). That is, God cares for men, they are precious in His sight, therefore He cannot permit them to perish. The great Father will never forsake His children.

4. The Law of Love.—Christianity teaches us to think of love as the nature of God and as the highest law of human life. We owe this noble teaching to our Lord Himself. By precept and example He taught His followers to think of the Almighty as their Father in heaven. While never ignoring the justice, the righteousness of God, He made His hearers realize the supremacy of the Divine Love. Out of this great love of God should flow a human love of the same nature, a beneficent love (Matthew 5:44-45, Luke 6:27-36), a love which embraces even those who are bitterly hostile. Not only so, but our Lord teaches that the Law of Love is the supreme law of conduct. It includes all the commandments (Matthew 22:37-39, Mark 12:30 ff.). In strict accordance with this teaching is the Law of Service. He is greatest who serves best (Matthew 20:25 ff., Mark 10:43 ff., Luke 22:24-27, John 13:5-17). Loving service is the true test of the life (Matthew 25:35 ff.).

This teaching shows clearly that our Lord designed to give to men a blessing which should be, not merely an illumination for the soul of the individual, but a social bond. He set free a principle which would bless all in the blessing of each. That principle may be described as the family principle exalted to heaven for the good of all the earth. If God is ‘Our Father,’ then all we ‘are brethren’ (Matthew 23:8). The kingdom of God is thus the kingdom of Love in which each is blessed in the blessing of all. And this is the true Summum Bonum, the ideal end, which finds its partial realization in every instance of genuine goodness in the individual life as well as in the life of the community, and which is the highest principle of all moral and social progress, its perfect realization is the great hope of the future, the coming of the Kingdom in glory.

5. The Universality of Love.—The Law of Love in its relation to our duty to one another is expressed by the command, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’ But the question arises, What is the scope of this love? Or, as it was put to our Lord Himself, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ (Luke 10:29). The answer to this question is contained in the passage already referred to (Matthew 5:43-48). Our love is to be, like God’s, a blessing for all who need it, the evil as well as the good, the just as well as the unjust, our enemies as well as our friends. In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30 ff.), the same answer is given in a way which makes its meaning even more distinct. To enforce the lesson, our Lord selected as the hero of His parable a man belonging to a race which was hated and despised by the Jews. There was an exquisite wisdom in this choice. Why not have made a Jew assist a Samaritan, or even a Gentile, in order to illustrate the principle? But our Lord wished to teach by an example appealing rather to the humanity than to the national feelings of His hearer. Had the act of mercy been shown by a Jew to a Samaritan it might have seemed condescension, a work of supererogation. Shown by a Samaritan to a Jew, the true character of the goodness it reveals becomes, from the Jewish point of view, far more evident. We are taught that love should be universal in its nature. It should break down the barriers erected by race, or privilege, or religion.

It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of this teaching. Ancient civilizations were for the most part founded on slavery or on the subjection of races or classes. Underlying the whole Jewish system was the idea of a privileged people. Our Lord broke through the most inveterate of prejudices, and taught the universal obligation to love and to bless. He laid the foundation of liberty and of philanthropy.

6. The Great Example.—In Matthew 6:33, the ideal is set before us in two ways, as an objective aim and as a type of character: ‘Seek ye first his kingdom and his righteousness.’ The righteousness of God is the standard. There is, and must be, a correspondence between the outward and the inward, between the Kingdom of God as a universe of souls bound together by the great love of their Father in Heaven and their love one to another, and the moral condition of each individual soul. When the latter side is considered, we ask, What is its quality? what is its standard? The answer is—the character of God. This is implied in the very name ‘Father’ (Matthew 5:45). The teaching is, ‘Be sons of your Father,’ be like unto God. Even more explicit is the statement in Matthew 5:48 ‘Ye therefore shall be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ This standard may seem too high. It may seem unreal to say to ordinary men and women, ‘Be perfect as God.’ But all realization of good character in human creatures is, so far as it goes, an imitation of God, a reproduction of the Divine. Goodness is always a following of God, though it be a very long way off. What we have here is the absolute standard, the highest possible ideal of character. Our Lord will set nothing lower before us. But the ideal is brought near to us in a way which is characteristic of Christianity. Jesus Christ Himself is the incarnation of the ideal. See Matthew 11:29; Matthew 20:25-28, Mark 10:42-45, Luke 6:40; Luke 22:27, John 13:15; John 13:34-35; John 15:12. In these passages our Lord holds Himself up as an example. And there can be no doubt that the influence of His character has been as potent a moral force as His words. He elevated humanity by being what He was. It is very hard to realize how vast was the change effected by the teaching and example of Christ. The conception of the ideal of character was altered. To see this truth we have but to compare Aristotle’s picture of the ‘great-souled man’ with our Lord. Noble and virtuous with the splendid but imperfect nobility and virtue of pagan Greece, the great-souled man is proud, self-satisfied and pompons. His very ‘greatness,’ as conceived by Aristotle, makes him a poor creature when placed beside Jesus of Nazareth. Above all, our Lord’s example shows us the principle of love at work in human life.

7. Self-renunciation.—When dealing with the lofty principles of absolute morality, our Lord’s teaching is characterized by the most extraordinary sweetness. With joyous confidence His thought lingers on the sunny heights of truth. But when He comes to speak of the struggle through which the soul must pass in its upward progress, His manner changes. There is an awful force in the language and imagery with which He teaches the necessity of self-sacrifice. From this we learn His attitude towards sin. See Matthew 5:29-30; Matthew 18:6-9, Mark 9:42-48; Mark 10:37-39. Such passages show that His tenderness towards the repentant sinner involved no condoning of sin. Our Lord received sinners, but He never regarded their sins with complaisance. The following passages are important: Matthew 10:37 ff; Matthew 16:24-27, Mark 8:34 ff., Luke 9:23 ff; Luke 14:25-35; Luke 17:33, John 12:25, also Matthew 7:13-14, Luke 13:24 ff. In these passages the necessity of self-renunciation is expressed in terms of the most vivid intensity. Yet the denial of self is nowhere represented as an end in itself. It is a means, or rather the inevitable means. It is the way, not the goal. Yet it is a way which cannot be avoided if the goal is to be reached.

Our Lord clearly sets before us the reward of goodness and the punishment which awaits unrepented sin. The subject is a puzzling one, because of the ambiguities of language. But our thoughts will be set free from confusion if we consider our Lord’s teaching as it stands, apart from certain popular misconceptions. It will be found that, in His teaching, the Kingdom is itself the reward. To gain this is to gain all, to lose it is to lose all. Sometimes it is described as ‘the joy of thy Lord’ (Matthew 25:21), sometimes plainly as ‘the kingdom’ (Matthew 25:34), sometimes as ‘eternal life’ (Matthew 25:46). But all alike are ways of describing that one glorious end which is the Summum Bonum, the true and final good, that end in which God Himself with all His children shall have one undivided blessedness. To live for this reward is to live for the good itself. The goodness or badness of working for rewards depends altogether on the nature of the rewards which are sought. To work for selfish ends is always wrong, to seek as a reward that great end which is the supreme and universal blessing is always right; it is indeed the essence of all goodness.

ii. Religious ideas.—We have considered the leading ethical ideas of our Lord’s teaching. But, as must now be quite apparent, it is impossible to separate the ethical element from the religious. Though our Lord Himself advanced from a prevailingly ethical stage of instruction to a stage which was more distinctively religious, yet in His thought the two are united. Indeed, the religious side of the truth is the more fundamental. It deals with the underlying principles. For example, when speaking of the ordinary work of human life, and giving the great rule, ‘Seek first the kingdom,’ He led His hearers on to the thought of the Fatherhood of God as the reason why they should renounce all anxiety and live for the higher ends (Matthew 6:26; Matthew 6:30; Matthew 6:32).

1. The Fatherhood of God.—This idea stands first among those which belong to the distinctively religious side of our Lord’s teaching. He gave it a fundamental position, and conveyed it in every possible way to the minds of His hearers. By word, by manner, by the manifestation of His own spiritual experience, and, above all, by being what He was, and at the same time declaring Himself to be a revelation of the mind and will of God (see Matthew 11:27; Matthew 25:31 ff., John 5:19 ff., John 8:12 ff., John 10:25 ff., John 12:44 ff., John 12:14-16), our Lord taught men to think of God as ‘the Father,’ and to attribute to Him all the benignity and bountifulness of the fatherly character. Here it is impossible to separate the teaching from the life of Christ. It is through the Christ Himself that man learns to know God as the Father. Jesus was intensely conscious of God’s presence and relation to Himself. He saw into the heart of God with a clearness of vision unparalleled in human experience. He speaks of God out of a perfect knowledge, and whenever a human soul is able truly to hear, belief follows. The revelation of God made by Him carries conviction with it. It is so great a thing that it cannot but be true. When once man has grasped it, no other account of God can be accepted.

The idea of the Fatherhood of God occurs in the OT (Deuteronomy 1:31; Deuteronomy 8:5; Deuteronomy 32:6, Psalms 103:13; see also Isaiah 63:16; Isaiah 64:8, Jeremiah 3:4; Jeremiah 3:19, Hosea 11:1 etc.). It was not unknown to pagan thought; see Acts 17:28. But, as taught by our Lord, the Fatherhood of God became a new thing. Fatherhood is not, in all states of society, suggestive of watchful, loving affection. It has sometimes connoted a very harsh rule. The fulness of meaning and the spiritual value which now belong to the idea as connected with our relation to God, are very largely derived from the teaching and influence of our Lord.

In the teaching of our Lord the Fatherhood of God is presented in three ways: (1) Jesus speaks of God as ‘My Father.’ This name was very dear to Jesus. It sprang from His consciousness of relationship to God. Clearly, it bore a special meaning. He was Son of God in a unique sense. This truth is emphasized by the manner in which the expression ‘My Father’ is frequently used (Matthew 10:32-33; Matthew 11:27, Luke 2:49; Luke 22:29, John 5:17; John 10:29-30; John 17:5; John 20:17; see also Matthew 7:21; Matthew 16:17; Matthew 18:10; Matthew 18:19; Matthew 18:35; Matthew 20:23, Mark 8:38, Luke 24:49, John 5:20-45; John 6:32 ff., John 8:19 ff., John 8:14-16). These passages fully carry out the idea expressed in the announcements at His baptism and on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 1:11; Mark 9:7). (2) Our Lord taught His disciples to think of themselves as a family, with God above them as their Father. They were called into a specially close relationship to God, and became in that special sense His children. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addresses His disciples, and continually speaks to them of God, calling Him ‘your Father’ (Matthew 5:16; Matthew 5:45; Matthew 5:48; Matthew 6:1; Matthew 6:8; Matthew 6:14-15; Matthew 6:32; Matthew 7:11). ‘Fear not,’ He says, ‘little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom’ (Luke 12:32). In the Lord’s Prayer the address ‘Our Father’ has reference to the disciples as the family of God. Perhaps we dare not limit the ‘our,’ but the prayer was given to the disciples for their own use, and the word was surely meant to have the effect of uniting them as a family under the headship of their Father in Heaven. (3) Our Lord’s teaching regards God as the Father of all men. Matthew 6:4-5, Luke 6:35 imply this great extension of the Divine Fatherhood. But clearer still are the parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Piece of Silver, and the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). The parable of the Good Samaritan extends the sphere of love beyond the bounds of Judaism, and throws light on such passages as Matthew 6:24 and Luke 6:35. Its principle corresponds, in the human sphere, to that expressed by the words, ‘God so loved the world’ (John 3:16).

Our Lord, then, teaches us to think of God as the Father, and at the same time as Sovereign over the greatest of all kingdoms. The characteristic attribute of this paternal Sovereignty is love. His love is so wide that it includes the unthankful and evil, those who have turned their backs upon their Father’s house and renounced His authority. It is the source from which springs all that is described as Salvation. It explains the mission of the Christ (John 3:16). It is the inner truth of the life of Him who came to seek and to save the lost. It is that Divine characteristic from which proceed ‘joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth’ (Luke 15:7). And when this love has won the sinner, it introduces him into a circle in which he is brought more immediately under the Divine Fatherhood. He becomes a member of the family, the Kingdom, that great order of things in which men feel and experience the love of the Great Father. Finally, there is that supreme degree of Divine Fatherhood which belongs to the relation between the Father and Him who is in a unique sense the Son. The life and death of Christ reveal the love of God to man because of this relation. God’s love appears because He gave His only-begotten Son. See also art. Father.

2. The Son.—The second stage of our Lord’s teaching is concerned mainly with Himself and His work for man. It is one of the great paradoxes of His personality, that while humility was one of His most marked characteristics, He yet preached Himself as none else ever dared to do. Sometimes the humility and the self-assertion occur side by side, expressed in a single utterance. ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls’ (Matthew 11:28-29). The invitation and promise here constitute a great claim. Yet He adds, ‘I am meek and lowly in heart’; and the story of His life proves the truth of the assertion. Furthermore, these words follow one of the greatest statements ever made of the dignity of our Lord’s person, and the extent of His authority: ‘All things have been delivered unto me of my Father: and no one knoweth the Son, save the Father; neither doth any know the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal him’ (Matthew 11:27). This passage is but one out of many. Jesus continually asserted His right to the absolute devotion of the hearts of men. No sacrifice is too great to be made in His service. Even the dearest of human relationships must be counted as nothing in comparison with Him. He claims, as His right, the utmost allegiance (Matthew 10:37-39; Matthew 16:24-26; Matthew 19:28-29; Matthew 25:31 ff., Mark 8:34-38; Mark 9:37; Mark 9:41; Mark 10:29; Mark 13:13; Mark 14:7-9, Luke 9:23 ff., Luke 9:48; Luke 9:57 ff., Luke 10:22; Luke 12:8 ff., Luke 14:26 ff; Luke 18:29, and throughout St. John’s Gospel. See, especially, John 5:17 ff; John 8:12 ff; John 10:30; John 14:6 ff.).

The only adequate explanation of these facts is that which the NT supplies, and which the Christian Church has always held: Jesus is Divine; He is the Incarnate Word of God (John 1:14). No other doctrine can justify the claim which He makes, and explain the life, work, and teaching by which that claim is sustained. Our Lord did not declare Himself Divine, nor did He even make open proclamation of His Messiahship. That was not His method. He avoided anything which would have inflamed the minds of the multitude (Mark 1:37-38; Mark 1:43-44; Mark 3:12, Luke 4:42-43; Luke 5:16; Luke 8:56, John 6:15). Further, He knew that faith springs into being not from names and titles, but from the recognition by the soul of that which is alone worthy to be the object of faith. Therefore He chose to reveal Himself gradually in His daily intercourse with His followers, and so lead them to discover the great truth for themselves (Matthew 16:13-20). That our Lord deliberately followed this method is shown by the terms which He used when referring to Himself. For example, He habitually called Himself the Son of Man. The name presented a problem to all who heard it. It suggested a reference to Daniel 7:13, but was not so definitely Messianic as to constitute a claim. It evoked the question, ‘Who is this Son of Man?’ (John 12:34). The name occurs about eighty times in the Gospels, and always as used by our Lord of Himself. It is so characteristic of His own point of view that it is not used by others. It clearly implies His humiliation, yet it is employed by Him pointedly in those passages in which His glory is described. See Matthew 13:14; Matthew 19:28; Matthew 25:31 ff., Luke 21:36, John 5:27; John 6:62 etc.

The title Son of Man expresses the humanity of our Lord. It is His own testimony to His perfect Brotherhood with men. It marks His sympathy with human infirmity, and is used impressively in connexion with His mission of salvation (e.g. Matthew 20:28, Luke 19:10). It presents Him as the Ideal Man. This has been questioned as not in accordance with the thought of the time, but the OT had its ideal figures. Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah came to be regarded as typical representatives of whole peoples or classes. In the latter Isaiah this mode of thought reaches its most perfect development. The ideal Israel is depicted as the ‘Servant of Jehovah,’ and, as the prophet proceeds, the conception grows, until in Is 53 there rises into view the wonderful form of the Suffering Servant who is contrasted with, yet is one with, the people of God. There is therefore no anachronism in supposing that when our Lord styled Himself the Son of Man He intended to set Himself forth as the representative of the human race, the Ideal Man. See, further, art. Son of Man.

The title Son of God was not often used by Jesus Himself (see Matthew 27:43, John 5:25; John 9:35), yet in many ways He implied His right to it. His constant and peculiar use of the expression ‘My Father’ (see above), and the frequent occurrence of the title ‘Son of God,’ as attributed to Him by others and not disclaimed by Himself, show what was His position in regard to this question (Matthew 4:3; Matthew 8:29; Matthew 14:33; Matthew 27:40; Matthew 27:54, Mark 3:11, Luke 4:41; Luke 22:70, John 1:34; John 1:49; John 3:18; John 9:35; John 11:27 etc.). This title was naturally seized upon by His disciples as the simplest way of expressing the mystery of His person. The essence of that mystery, as manifested in every instance in which He disclosed His inner mind, was the close relationship in which He stood to the Father (see Matthew 11:27). And so it was by means of this title that His Divinity was represented to the minds of His first followers. And for the practical purposes of the religious life, as distinguished from the definitions of theology, no mode of expression could have been so useful; the critical faculties were held in suspense while the needs of the soul were satisfied. See also art. Son of God.

The two titles ‘Son of God’ and ‘Son of Man’ modify and explain one another. Taken together they constitute our Lord’s own most characteristic way of expressing the nature of His person. It was in this way that He chose to teach men His humanity and His Divinity and the miracle of their union. Thus the Incarnation is found to be implied in our Lord’s attitude towards His own consciousness of Himself in relation to God and man. For a deeper insight into this profound subject we must turn to those passages in which that consciousness is most fully revealed: Matthew 11:27; Matthew 5:31 ff., Mark 8:34 ff., Luke 10:21 ff., John 5:17 ff; John 8:25-29; John 10:30; John 17:1-5 etc. With this is connected our Lord’s consciousness of Himself as the bond of union among His disciples, uniting them to God and to one another: John 14:20; John 15:1-11; John 17:22-23. Also He presents Himself as the means of communication between God and man: John 10:7; John 14:6. These truths are aspects of His Incarnation.

Our Lord represented the work of His life as a work of salvation: Luke 19:9-10; cf. Matthew 15:24, Luke 15:1-10. This idea, though prominent in the Gospels from the first (see Matthew 1:21, Luke 2:11, John 1:29), and implied in all our Lord’s language about Himself and His relation to men, yet remains undeveloped in His teaching until the end of His ministry. As the Gospels proceed, however, and His death approaches, sudden gleams of light are thrown upon the deeper meaning of salvation. In John 6:51 ff., the thought of Christ as the Bread of Life passes into that of the Paschal Lamb by whose death and blood-shedding the people of God are delivered. In John 10:11 ff., He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep. On the last journey to Jerusalem our Lord’s mind was much occupied by the dreadful events which He knew were awaiting Him (Mark 10:33-34, also Matthew 20:17 ff., Luke 18:31-33). Before this He had told His disciples of the facts (Matthew 16:21, Mark 8:31; Mark 9:31, Luke 9:22), but now He declares something of their meaning and purpose. The occasion of the declaration was the ambitions petition of the sons of Zebedee. In reply to the two brothers, our Lord promises, in veiled language, participation in His sufferings; and to the whole body of the disciples He gives this teaching: ‘Whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister; and whosoever would be first among you, shall be servant of all. For verily the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.’ It is the first clear statement in our Lord’s own language of the purpose of His death. With this passage must be connected John 12:23-27, in which, contemplating the terror of His cross, He lays down the law of sacrifice. But clearer still is the declaration which He made at the Last Supper. There are four accounts in the NT (Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20, 1 Corinthians 11:23-25). No two of these correspond exactly. But all agree that our Lord connected the rite with the conception of His death as a sacrifice on behalf of men. He gave His body over to death, His blood to be shed ‘for many unto the remission of sins.’ And, as St. John tells us (chs. 14–16), that very night our Lord addressed His disciples at length on His love and His relation to the Father and to them, and said, ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’

In the teaching of our Lord, then, the atonement is the redemption of men from sin by the giving of His life. It is the remission of sins through His death and the shedding of His blood. It is the work of love. It is the corn of wheat falling into the ground that it may perish and, through perishing, bear much fruit. The impressiveness of this teaching is greatly increased when it is taken in connexion with certain events and fragmentary utterances which give the testimony of our Lord’s own inner consciousness to the fact that in His Passion and Death, He engaged in a great conflict with evil, a work given Him by His Father, a work which He was bound to accomplish. The following passages are the most important: Matthew 16:22 ff., Luke 22:53, John 12:27; John 14:30, Matthew 26:38 ff., Mark 14:34 ff., Luke 22:41 ff., Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34. Most impressive of all is the Agony in the garden. It supplies the key to all the rest.

3. Faith.—But though the fuller explanation of the purpose of our Lord’s life and death took place only towards the end, He had from the beginning made a demand which implied all that afterwards became explicit. He insisted on a faith which found its supreme object in Himself. The greatness of His personal claim has been already pointed out (see list of passages given above). We have been able to discern something of the meaning of this claim in relation to the doctrine of our Lord’s person. But it is necessary also to observe that there is involved a very clear doctrine of the nature of faith. Jesus taught the supreme necessity of faith in God, the great Father. He also taught the necessity of faith in Himself. By the demands which He made, the promises He gave, the blessings He bestowed, He made it clear that He sought for a faith which should take the form of an absolute trust directed towards Himself. See Matthew 8:2-3; Matthew 8:10; Matthew 9:2; Matthew 9:22; Matthew 9:29; Matthew 15:28, Mark 1:40-41; Mark 2:5; Mark 4:40; Mark 5:34; Mark 5:36; Mark 6:5-6; Mark 7:29; Mark 8:12; Mark 8:17-21; Mark 10:52; Mark 14:6-9, Luke 5:12-13; Luke 5:20; Luke 7:9; Luke 7:50; Luke 8:25; Luke 8:48; Luke 8:50; Luke 10:42; Luke 17:19; Luke 18:42; Luke 19:39-40. In the Gospel of St. John, faith of this kind is presented everywhere as the spiritual condition which enables man to become receptive of the highest blessing. See John 1:12; John 1:50; John 2:11; John 2:23; John 3:16; John 3:18; John 3:36; John 4:41-42; John 4:50; John 5:24; John 6:29; John 6:35; John 6:40; John 8:12; John 9:35-38; John 10:9; John 10:16; John 10:27; John 11:25; John 11:28; John 12:46; John 12:48; John 14:9; John 14:12 etc. In these passages and throughout the Fourth Gospel, Christ Himself, in His relation to God the Father on the one hand, and to those who believe on the other, sums up all spiritual blessing. He is the source of Eternal Life, the giver of the living water, the

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Ideas (Leading)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

Search for…
Enter query in the box below:
Choose a letter to browse:
Prev Entry
Next Entry