This sermon is number 1 in a series of 5
The Man Of The Millennium - Part 1
"The Pre-Existent Christ"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2000 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Turn with me in your Bible, in the New Testament, to the Gospel of Luke. This is not our text for today, but it is an introduction into what we'll be looking at in the weeks that lie ahead, as we study the Person, and the work, and the character of our Lord Jesus Christ. Luke chapter 24 - it's only but one verse that I want to read with you - Luke chapter 24 verse 18, and you'll remember that this is after the crucifixion, the death of our Lord Jesus, and now He has been resurrected and He's on the road to Emmaus. There are two who meet Him on that road, and we know the story that He walks with them, and He talks with them, but they don't know - they don't recognise - the Lord Jesus Christ. They turn round to Him and ask Him a very strange question in verse 18: "And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?".
I wonder as we sit, and as we look forward into the future of these studies in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we ended our message last Lord's day morning with the words of the Apostle Paul, when he said his wish was that he may know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering, being made conformable unto His death. That was his desire, but I wonder are we like those on the road to Emmaus, like Cleopas - and as we look into the face of the Lord Jesus Christ through the word of God, through the scriptures - do we see the Lord Jesus Christ as a stranger? We may be saved, we may be born-again by the Spirit of God, we may know the word of God, but is the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ - not simply what He has done, but who He is - is that strange to us? Do we really know what He is all about? We're going to look in these next few weeks at 'The Man Of The Millennium'.
Leonardo Da Vinci, just before he was about to depict the face of the Lord Jesus Christ in the fresco of The Last Supper, he himself went into solitary confinement. He bowed before the Lord, and he prayed, and he meditated before he would paint the face of the Lord. And after some time in prayer, meditation and fasting, he arose from his secret place, from his closet, he lifted his brush and was about to give expression to his devout thoughts of the Lord Jesus - but his hand trembled. He couldn't paint. And I trust, as we come to look at the blessed Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, that his attitude will be our attitude that is befitting as we look into the face and the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, as we consider His perfection, His suffering, as we begin to unveil His blessed Person. And my prayer for us all today is that the Holy Spirit, whose delight it is to take of the things of Christ and reveal them to as many as will come unto Him, that He will let His glory shine before us and into our hearts.
We're looking today at 'The Pre-Existent Christ'. What does that mean? Well, it simply means His existence before He was born. The poet Milton put it like this: 'Before He forsook the courts of everlasting day and chose with us a darksome house of clay' - before He took upon Himself the form of man, the flesh of man, before He became a human being, before the incarnation that we've been thinking about at Christmas time. It's put well in an old Latin inscription that's been chiselled into marble, and it epitomises the teaching of the pre-existence of Christ so well - listen to this carefully, this is what it says: 'I am what I was, God. I was not what I am, man. I am now called both, God and man'. You could put it like this: that the Lord Jesus Christ - He became what He was not, but He did not cease to be what He always was. He became man, He was clothed in the likeness of sinful flesh, human flesh, with human blood, human bones - all that it entails to be a human being, He took it upon Himself, He became what He never had been before, yet He never ceased to be what He always was - God of God.
The Lord Jesus Christ - I'm sure I don't need to tell you - was unique. He was unique for many reasons, but one of the reasons is this: that every man that has ever come into the human race, every man had a beginning, every man had to enter into birth and into the world as a new being, but His birth was not like that. His birth did not mark His origin. Only the Lord Jesus Christ could say, 'My life did not begin when I was born', only the Lord Jesus Christ could say that He had a pre-existence, that He was before He was born into humanity. Now let's think about this, for I believe we live in an age when people don't like to think, and people live from the media - from sound bites - and even in education now they don't learn anything, but they're given everything on their plate. But if we are to understand who the Lord Jesus Christ is and what He has done, we must use our mind by the help of the Holy Spirit. How could there - think of this - how could there have been an incarnation if Christ did not previously exist? How could there be a Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - if there was no Son of God before He was born to the earth? If Christ did not exist before Bethlehem think of the implications of it! I believe, that we would be of all men most miserable, that our Christianity would fall to pieces, that the structure and skeleton of our faith and everything that we believe would plummet, and would be buried dead, because it would be meaningless.
But what is the reality? What does the Bible teach about the pre-existence of the Lord Jesus Christ? Someone has put it like this, that 'He in His blessed body, in His blessed person - the Lord Jesus Christ was the meeting place of eternity and time. He was the blending of deity and humanity. He was the junction of heaven and of earth'. But if we look at the history books, and if we look, sadly, at the history of the Christian church, we see that not everyone believed this. We see that there were many - and they were called heretics - who believed that the Lord Jesus Christ was not God. They believed, perhaps, that He was an angel, perhaps, that He had some existence in the past, but at some point in history, in eternity past - if I can say it - He had a beginning, He was created, He was made.
In the 4th Century AD there was a man called Arius, and believe it or not he was an elder within the church in Alexandria, a presbyter. And he began, within his church, to teach that although the Lord Jesus was the Christ, although He was the Son of God, He could not be co-eternal with the Father, but He was only a creature. Believe it or not, we have Arianism with us even today - we can see it in Unitarianism, we can see it in some of the cults that knock your door month after month. And 'Yes, there is something special', they say, 'about the Lord Jesus, there's something different' - maybe they'll give Him the title 'Son of God', maybe they'll give Him the title 'Angel of Jehovah' - 'but He is not God of God, He is not co-eternal'.
But what can we know - because what is important is not what men say, and not what the history books say, but what is important is what God says, and what the Lord Jesus Christ has said of Himself - what can we know about the Lord Jesus in His pre-existent state? Well, if we go into the Old Testament Scriptures, we find there a verse that we have repeated over the past few weeks about the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ in Micah 5 and verse 2, this is what it says: 'But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel', listen to this, 'whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting'. Way back in the Old Testament Scriptures, in the book of Micah prophesying the birth, not just the place where the Lord would be born - but he actually tells us, the Holy Spirit of God through the prophet Micah, that this one that would seem to have His beginning in this little stable in Bethlehem, that He is from of old, from everlasting. I wonder are we like Pilate today? You remember as the Lord Jesus Christ stood before Pilate, and as Pilate was hearing all the accusations of who this man said He was, and what He did - and then he was hearing all the accusations of the Jews, that He was an imposter and a blasphemer - Pilate looked square into the face of the Lord Jesus Christ and said to Him: 'Whence art Thou?'. Who are You? Where have You come from? Where has Your existence begun?
Turn with me for a moment to John's gospel chapter 8, for it's important that we know these things and we know what we believe. John chapter 8 and verse 57, we'll begin at verse 55 to get the context, and the Pharisees, as you'll remember, many times were astounded and astonished at what was coming from the mouth of the Lord Jesus. For at times it seemed to them He was claiming to be God, He was claiming to the Son of God, and here they're astounded again when He says: 'Yet ye', verse 55, 'have not known him; but I know him' - speaking of Abraham - 'and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am'. You'll know that the word 'I am' was the Old Testament name for God that was given to them in the book of Exodus, the covenant God, the eternal Jehovah, Yahweh, the One who was, the One who is, the One who ever shall be - eternal. And here, as the Lord Jesus Christ looks into the face of His accusers, He says, 'I am He - Jesus, Jehovah, Salvation. The One who was, and because I am the One who was I can remember Abraham, I know Abraham, I talked to [Moses] through the burning bush'. Before Abraham was, He was.
But turn with me again to John chapter 17, for we have here the Lord Jesus Christ praying to His Father just before He was about to leave earth, to die, to be resurrected and then ascend to heaven. And if you were to go home and read this whole chapter, chapter 17 of John, you would see here that as the Lord anticipates His departing from the earth He begins, in prayer before His heavenly Father, to yearn for the glories of the relationship that He had eternally with His Father in heaven. But, oh, that relationship - it had been interrupted, it had been interrupted when He took upon Himself flesh and came to the earth, and left heaven. But as we look at Him here, we see in verse 5 that He says this: 'Lord, Father, glorify thou me with the glory I had with thee before the world was'. Did He begin in Bethlehem? Did He, as some say, at His baptism take upon Himself, when the form of a dove came upon Him, the Holy Ghost - did He become the Son of God then, when His Father said 'Behold, my beloved Son' - is that when He became the Son of God? No! 'Father, glorify thou me with the glory that I had with thee before the world began'.
Look at verse 24, He talks about the love that he had for His Father, and the love that His Father had for Him, and He says: 'For thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world'. What do we know about Him? You don't need to turn to it, but if you were to go back into your Old Testament and to Isaiah chapter 6, we read there the account that in the year that King Uzziah died, Isaiah says 'I saw the Lord, I saw God and He was high and lifted up, and His glory filled the whole of the temple' - and you remember it says that he fell on his face, and he worshipped. Many have speculated who that was. Was it the Father that was seated on the Throne? Was it the Holy Spirit? Was it the Trinity that was there, that we believe in? But if we go into John's gospel again and chapter 12:41, John tell us, 'These things said Isaiah, when he saw his' - Jesus' - 'glory, and he spoke of him'.
What is the pre-existence of the Lord Jesus Christ? Did His life begin in the manger? Did He become the Son of God at some point in His life? Was He only an angel that God had blessed - He had a beginning, He was created at some time - is that what the word of God teaches? No! The word of God teaches that He was the throned King of kings and Lord of lords. The word of God teaches that He was the Word of God, the Logos, the expression of God - John 1 verse 1: 'In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, the Word was God' - look down the chapter - 'and the Word became flesh', Jesus Christ, 'and dwelt among us, (and we beheld him, even the glory of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth'. He is the Son of Man, He said in John 6, 'I am that bread from heaven, the manna from God sent down from above'. He began - He was up there without beginning, coming down to this earth. He said, 'I am the sent one, I am come unto you that you may have eternal life and I know whence I came and where I go'. Look at the book of Hebrews, read it from cover to cover, and you will see there that the Lord Jesus, He is portrayed as the revealer of God, the brightness of the glory of God, the express image of the person of God. He is described as the Creator of the universe, that without Him - the Lord Jesus Christ - was not anything made that was made. I believe this: that it is not so much His pre-existence that we believe in, but it is His co-eternality. Oh, sure He may have pre-existed, but He may have been created at some point - and we don't believe that. The Bible teaches that He is co-eternal with God, for He is God! Without beginning or ending of days, God of God, Light of Light.
You see, what He was like before He was born into this world is described by Paul in 2 Corinthians 8 and verse 9, listen to it: 'He was rich'. Can you grasp that? How was He rich? You know, many-a-time the Lord spoke of His home with His Father, and He talked about My Father's house - and He was rich in His Father's house, because in His Father's house He had home-love. He said, 'Thou lovest me before the foundation of the world', and there in that home, in that relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, there was perfect, unblemished, holy love reciprocated from one to another - a relationship that we cannot understand, and will never be mirrored in any family on earth. That's how rich He was - He was rich in His Father's house because it was a home of harmony, and He said in His prayer that 'I and my Father are one'. Unity! Sure, weren't They united in redemption - the Father planned it, and the Son said 'I will go', and He yielded to its plan, and the Holy Spirit vented and bent all His fire and power in executing that salvation on you and on me.
Did He not pray for us, that we all may be one as He and His Father are one? But in His home, He was rich - not just because of the love and the harmony, but because of the resources and the riches that He had there. Do you remember when they came for Him in the garden of Gethsemane, like He was a criminal or a robber, and Judas had betrayed Him - and He turned to those who came for Him, and said, 'Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and He shall presently give me more than 12 legions of angels'? That's how rich He was - that He had whatsoever He desired, whatsoever He asked - so much so, that He says to us as His disciples, 'Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it to you'. Oh, there was nothing refused the Son in the heavenly home, there was such perfect love, such beautiful, tranquil harmony there in heaven - but this is the wonder of wonders of the gospel, the message of condescension: that He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. The hymnwriter put it like this:
'He left His heavenly crown,
His glory laid aside.
On wings of love came down,
And wept, and bled, and died.
What He endured no tongue can tell,
To save our souls from death and hell'.
Now don't think this: when He came to this earth, He didn't lay aside His deity, or He didn't cease to be what He was, but what He did do was: He became poor. He laid aside the splendour and the prerogatives of deity, He chose not to exercise His infinite power, He covered over and [closed] His supreme majesty and glory, He renounced the glory of a heavenly being for all that He became - a man. The amazing thing about the Lord Jesus Christ coming to earth is not only the fact that He came to die upon a cross - but grasp this: it is amazing to me that He came to be born...to be born! He gave up riches, the riches of a heavenly life, for the oblivion of an earthly human birth, the humiliation of poverty stricken and sorrowful life - but this is the wonder of wonders, Christian today: He being found in fashion as a man, humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross! Oh, I can't understand this. What love, what boundless love, from heaven to a manger, from great riches to the poor, my Saviour came to seek and save. From the azure walls of heaven, to a sin cursed world - what redeeming love there was that He left the ivory palaces, all that He had there, He laid aside so much, and humbled Himself to be cursed by the curse of our sin at Calvary! Who is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus? Isn't this wonderful - what Jesus did to save your soul from hell! And if you're not saved today, oh I hope you can see it, and I hope it touches your heart to see the love of God, in Christ, for you!
But let me say this, in closing, you know the first appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ on this earth was not in the virgin birth. If you go into the Old Testament scripture you will read about 'theophanies' - and that simply means this 'appearances of God'. You have it in the burning bush, you have it in the angel of Jehovah that came to many of the prophets and men of God of old. And that was the Word of God, the Son of God, the manifestation of God to human beings, it was the Lord Jesus Christ in His pre-existence. But when Christ was born, listen to this: He assumed upon Himself humanity, not simply the form of humanity, because He came as that before - but He came in the flesh, and the perpetuity of humanity, everything that humanity entails, except sin, He came as. He could have come as an angel, but if He had come as an angel He couldn't die - and if He came as an angel, He couldn't bleed, He couldn't be the substitute for human beings, He couldn't die for our sins. As Hebrews chapter 2 says and verse 14, 'Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil...For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered...he is able to succour them that are tempted'. What a Saviour we have!
'No angel could our place have taken -
Highest of the high, though he be.
The loved one on the cross forsaken,
Was one of the Godhead three'.
Our Father, we thank Thee that we know that the Lord Jesus came from heaven. We remember that Adam had a body prepared for him before he had life, but the Lord Jesus Christ had a body prepared for Him from all eternity, that He might come to take upon Himself flesh, that He might take upon Himself our sin. We thank Thee that He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End - and may we as we see Him, as well as saying that He is altogether lovely and we worship Him, may we rest in the joy of who He is. Part us now with Thy blessing we pray, in Jesus name, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the first tape in his Man Of The Millennium series, titled "The Pre-Existent Christ" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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