HH Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?- Matthew 11:3
The Finality of Our Christian Faith
I wish to say a few words on the finality of our Christian faith, and there could be no better approach to that than the experience of John the Baptist. When John cried “Behold the Lamb of God,” he was asserting the finality of Christ. All the lambs slain on Jewish altars were but prophecies and presages of Christ’s sacrifice. He was the completion and the crown of the long and chequered history of Israel, and beyond Him, there could never be another. Then doubts began to assail the mind of John. All was so contrary to expectation. This lowly Saviour, moving about the villages, was so different from the Messiah of his dreams. And then, as in a torturing agony, John sent his disciples to the Lord, saying, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?”
Is There Going to Be Another One?
Now that question, if I am not mistaken, is in many earnest minds today. Many are asking, secretly or openly, if Christ be the final Word of God. Partly through the comparative study of religions, with its appreciation of what is beautiful in all, partly through the slowness of our faith to bring the Kingdom into our teeming cities, partly through the supineness of the Church in answering the challenge of our social problems, that question is being widely asked today. Is Christ the final Word of God? Is a new world-teacher still to be revealed? Or, in the abstract language of the West, is our Christian faith the final faith? That is being discussed more widely than many of the orthodox imagine.
The Universality and Completeness of the Christian Faith
That our faith (like polytheism) will die a natural death is a thought that may be at once rejected. Heaven and earth have passed away, and His word has not passed away. Much more conceivable is the thought of certain circles that our Christian faith will be absorbed in some synthesis of what is best in all religions. That, we are told, is what has happened with Judaism. All that is best in it was absorbed in Christianity–its sense of guilt, it’s craving for atonement, its profound sense of the holiness of God. And if this has been the fate of Judaism, itself one of the revealed religions, may it not be so with that which has replaced it? But there is this profound difference to be noted–Judaism could never satisfy. Paul, who embraced it with passionate intensity, found himself thirsty and hungry at the end. Whereas the wonderful thing about our faith is this, that, take it where you will throughout the world, it absolutely satisfies the heart.
- Take it to India, and that is true.
- Take it to Africa, and that is true.
- Take it to the cultured or the ignorant, and when they find its secret that is true.
Paul needed Judaism and something else if he was to win perfect satisfaction. Nobody needs Christ and something else. That infinite satisfaction which our faith gives, that profound sense of being complete in Christ, that song which rises from the believing heart, “Thou, O Christ, art all I want,” that distinguishes our faith decisively from Judaism and every other faith. It is the mark of its absolute finality.
Because Christianity Is Final It Demands Unconditional Surrender
To some, this may seem a theoretical question, but in reality, it is far from being that. For example, unless our faith is final it cannot demand unconditional surrender–and that is exactly what it does demand. No one would cast himself upon another if he knew that the other’s friendship was but temporary. Love demands finality if it is to give itself in utter unreserve. And the utter unreserve our faith demands could not be asked, and never could be given, were our faith destined to be superseded. Religion is nothing unless it can be everything, unless it deserves unconditional surrender unless we can rest ourselves upon it, unreservedly, in life and trial and suffering and death. And that is what nobody can ever do, any more than he can give his love or friendship, if what claims his heart be only temporary.
A Missionary Faith Because of Its Finality
Again, one remembers that our Christian faith is in its essence a missionary faith. Whenever it ceases to be that, it ceases to be Christianity. From the first, it has evangelized the world simply because it could not help it. It could no more help it than the river can help flowing, or the rain coming down on the mown grass. But the instant you cease to believe our faith is final, and that Christ is the last Word of God, you “cut the nerve” of missionary effort. To what purpose is this waste–this lavish expenditure of men and money, if the message of the Cross is to grow obsolete and Christ be replaced by any other teacher? Do you think our Lord, who was always sweetly reasonable, would ever have said “Go into all the world,” had He foreseen a prospect such as that? The genius of Christianity is a missionary, and all missionaries believe that Christ is final. Men who hold Him one teacher among many have never lifted a finger to evangelize the nations. Thus this question, seemingly theoretic, has the mightiest influence on personal response, and on the coming of the Kingdom in the world.
The Finality of the Christian Faith Gives Direction
And then we remember how right through the New Testament that is the unvarying attitude–and when we cut ourselves adrift from the New Testament we are sailing on an uncharted sea. Paul never doubted that his faith was final through all the magnificent expansions of his thought. To John, Christ was the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. The majestic argument of the Epistle to the Hebrews is an argument for the finality of Christ–God has at last spoken by a Son. Best of all, our Saviour never doubted if–it was part and parcel of His consciousness. I am the Bread of Life. I am the Light of the World. My words shall never pass away. No one has had even a glimpse of Christianity who cannot sing with the profoundest faith.