We must bear in mind that it is He of Whose presence with us the Catechism speaks.
He, Jesus Christ our Lord, is ever present with us in His Godhead and majesty. He it is that never leaves us in respect to His grace and Spirit.
It is the presence of the Son of God in the flesh, who united Himself with our nature, and still is God and man in unity of the divine Person; the presence, not merely of God’ the Creator, who calls the things that are not as if they were, but of God our Redemptor, who quickens the dead; of Him who died for our transgressions, and Who was raised for our justification, in whom God was reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and who is exalted in the highest heavens, the ascended Lord who lied captivity captive, and who, as the Head of the Church, received the promise of the Holy Ghost. He, the revelation of the God of our salvation, in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwelleth bodily, who is our wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, is never absent, but ever present with us.
As such He is present with us as respects His Godhead.
His Godhead is His divine nature, the implication of all infinite perfections, His self-existence and independence, His eternity and’ immensity, His sovereignty and immutability, His infinite wisdom and knowledge, His boundless love and mercy, His absolute righteousness and perfect holiness, His limitless power and Lordship over all created things. With respect to His Godhead He is eternally in the bosom of the Father, co-essential with Him and with the Holy Ghost. He is the Son, the Word of God, the effulgence of the Father’s glory, the express image of His substance, who knows the Father and is known of Him; who loves the Father and is loved of Him; who dwells with the Father and the Holy Ghost in eternal fellowship of perfect friendship, and who has life in Himself.
With respect to that Godhead He is ever present, never absent.
And if now we forget that it is He, the Christ, the God of our salvation, that is thus present with us as to His Godhead, the statement of the Catechism becomes quite general, devoid of any special significance. For in that case it simply means that, as Christ is God, and the Godhead is omnipresent, He is immanent in all things, and, therefore, always near us. As He is in the heavens above and on the earth beneath, as lie is in the rain and in the sunshine, in the lightning and in the thunder, in river and sea, in lake and brook, in flower and tree, in the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air; and as He upholds all things by the Word of His power, So He is also present with us, in us, about us, and sustains us by His power. But in that sense the statement expresses nothing special, about the kind of nearness and presence with us of the Son of God.
But how different a conception we obtain of this presence the moment we remember that it is the Godhead of the Christ of which we are speaking, or rather, that it is He Himself, personally, who with respect to His Godhead is never absent from us, but always near! For then we believe and understand that it is the presence of the mighty God that is for us, of which we are trying to say something. It means that He favors us. It implies that He employs and applies all His divine virtues, His wisdom and power, His infinite love and mercy, in behalf of our salvation. It signifies not merely that He is present with us in His providence, but it characterizes and defines that almighty and all wise providence for us as a government of everlasting, immutable, ever faithful love. It denotes, moreover, that He is present with us in His divine life, His covenant-life, and that He reveals the Father unto us, that we, too, might partake of His life, and share in His covenant fellowship. The Redeemer-God, Christ our Savior, is ever present with us as respect His Godhead!
He is present with us with respect to His majesty.
Majesty is the dignity of royalty, the glory of sovereignty, the authority of lordship. And Christ has majesty. As Son of God, in His divine nature, He is the absolute Majesty in Himself. He Is the Lord, clothed with divine dignity, absolutely sovereign over all, possessing all and the only power and authority in all creation forever. And at His exaltation also His human nature was clothed with majesty, for all power was given unto Him in heaven and on earth. He rules. He judges. He executes judgment. His Word is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the dividing of soul and spirit, of the joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart,
But again, we could but tremble and quake with terror at the presence of His majesty, were we forgetful of the truth that it is His majesty that is never absent from us; that it is He, the Christ of God, who loved us even unto death, and who was raised for our justification, that is present with us constantly and forever. Now we still tremble and fear, indeed, but with the awe and reverence of love. We know that this awful majesty loves us, that He employs His royal power and dignity unto our salvation, that His mighty sovereignty rules over us in boundless grace. And being thus ever present with us as respects His glorious majesty, He makes us longing and willing to bow before Him, to know and to do His will. Conscious of the constant presence of His majesty, we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, and’ become diligent to strive to enter into His rest.
And so we understand also that, finally, His presence with us as respects His grace and Spirit, is not something additional to the foregoing, something separate from the rest, but that it rather explains the mode of His whole presence with us.
He is not present with us in respect to His Godhead and Majesty, and in addition to this, also with His grace and Spirit, but the former are modified by the latter: it is a gracious Godhead, and a gracious Majesty, that are present with us through Jesus Christ, our ascended Lord.
His grace and Spirit: these two belong together.
They are not to be conceived as coordinate in their relation to each other, but rather thus that the one is the cause, the source, the author of the other. In and through His Spirit, He is present with us as respects His grace.
Of His Spirit we must speak in a later connection.
For the present it is sufficient that we remember that this Spirit is the Holy Ghost but as the Spirit of Christ, the ascended Lord. For to Christ as the Mediator of redemption, as the Head of His Church, the promise of the Holy Spirit was given. And this promise was fulfilled when He ascended up on high, and sat down at the right hand of God. For He ascended up on high, leading captivity captive, that He might give gifts, glorious gifts of grace, gifts of forgiveness and righteousness, of holiness and love of God, of eternal life and glory, to men. Unto this end He received the Spirit. And in that Spirit He returned to His own, to dwell in them and be with them forever. For the apostle Peter proclaims on the glorious day of Pentecost: “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this which we now see and hear.”.
In that Spirit He is ever present with us.
And that presence is full of grace.
Through the Spirit He is gracious to us, causes us to taste His grace and makes us partakers of all the blessings of grace He merited for us. Of this we speak in our next chapter.
Thus, then, is the nature of the presence of our ascended Lord.
And this presence is constant. He never leaves us.
We may not be, and’ are not always conscious of this blessed nearness of the God of our salvation, but His presence never fails. We may wander far away sometimes, as sheep that go astray, so that we are quite oblivious of His presence; but He never forgets us, neither forsakes us. Nor does He ever fail to bring us back from our evil wanderings to the blessedness of His fellowship. But in the measure that we live by faith, hear His Word, walk in His way, we also experience that Christ, the ascended Lord, as respects His Godhead, majesty, grace and Spirits, is ever present with us!
The consciousness of that presence is the joy of faith.