The Christ We Do Not Know
Samuel Rutherford (c. 1600 – 1661) was one of the foremost Scottish theologians and apologists for Presbyterianism in the seventeenth century, playing a major role in formulating the Westminster Standards at the Westminster Assembly. He is best known for his many devotional letters and Lex, Rex–his seminal work on political sovereignty.
5 Jan, 2018

A provocative statement perhaps. Yet, we hear so much casual use of the name of Christ and glib talk of knowing Jesus. This isn’t the same as knowing a mere mortal and we should never seem to put Christ on that level. We can have a true and real knowledge of Christ as a person but He is infinite. There is always more to know and discover not only about but in Him. That should inspire humble awe. Samuel Rutherford never stopped speaking of Christ but it was always in the most reverent way, grieving at the small amount of knowledge grasped. We need to wonder together with him at so glorious a Saviour.

Rutherford says that there is “an infiniteness that is invisible and incomprehensible” in Christ. “In regard of any comprehensive knowledge, we but speak and write our guessings, our far-off and twilight apprehensions of Him”. It will be the delightful work of saints to all eternity to search into the glory of Christ.

here is gospel-work for all eternity to glorified workmen (angels and ransomed men) to dig into this gold-mine, to roll this soul-delighting and preci­ous stone, to behold, view, inquire, and search into His excellency. And this is the satiety, the top and prime of heaven’s glory and happiness, to see, and ne­ver out-see, to wonder, and never over-wonder the virtues of Him that sits on the throne; to be filled, but never satiate with Christ. And must it then not be our sin, that we stand aloof from Christ?

Rutherford has a similar theme in a sermon on Revelation 19:12 “And he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself”. The following is an updated extract.


None knows infinite Christ but Himself. Surely Christ is an unknown person; though each one has Christ Jesus in his mouth, yet he does not know what he is saying. There are three mysteries in Christ we cannot perfectly know or understand in this life.

1. The Mystery of Infinite Christ

The infinite wisdom, mercy, goodness, love, and grace in Christ, which the angels delight to look into and wonder. Come near Christ, and you will never see to the bottom of Him. You have seen mercy, great mercy; there is yet more left. One has seen much of Him, another more; the angels that are sharp in sight have yet seen more; nay, but there is infinitely more left.

You will as soon hold the sea in the hollow of your hand and bind the wind in your cloak as you will gather Him up completely. You must even stand still here and wonder and cry out, “Oh great Jesus, who will or can fathom Thee out?”

2. The Mystery of Incarnate Christ

Oh what a depth is in the work of Christ’s incarnation! God and dust married together! How the blood remains in a personal union with God! How the finite Manhood subsists in His infinite personality! And how the Godhead in the second person, and not in the first or third, assumed our nature, and yet there is but one Godhead in all the three! How the Godhead stood under the Manhood that was stricken, and the Godhead as a helping-friend held Him up, and yet the Godhead did not suffer! How Jesus-man died and Jesus-God lived and remained in death God and man!

3. The Mystery of Enthroned Christ

The third mystery is this: what a name Jesus has by His rising from the dead, and how the Man-hood is advanced. Christ knows all these full well; He can read His own name.

You will speak of learning to measure the earth, number the stars and learning their motion—that is deep knowledge. But God help you to come and see this unknown name, Jesus, and find it out if you can. I know you cannot.

Where will you set Christ? Where will you get a seat, a throne, a chair to Him? He cannot be set too high. If there were ten thousand times ten thousand heavens, and each above another, and Christ were set in the highest of them all, yet He would be too low.


Oh, let us long for glory, that place where we will read His name clearly and will see Christ face to face. Oh, strange that we do not long to be in heaven, to see this comely glorious one (if I may so speak), a darling indeed, and to play God’s children in heaven! We will then come and look into the ark. The curtain will be drawn by, and we will see our fill of Christ there.

Find out more about Samuel Rutherford and read other articles featuring his work.


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