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Jesus Christ (Christology)

Christ

 

 

His Pre-Existence and Eternality

 

     Enns states, “The eternality and deity of Christ are inseparably linked together. Those who deny His eternality also deny His deity. If the deity of Christ is established, there is no problem accepting His eternality.”[1]

 

     There are many passages both in the Old as well as the New Testament that clearly affirm the eternality of Jesus Christ. This list of passages is not meant to be an exhaustive one:

Old Testament – (1) Micah 5:2 – this verse clearly teaches that although Jesus was physically born in Bethlehem, He existed before that, “…from the days of eternity.”

(2) Isa. 9:6 – in this passage, Christ is called the “Eternal Father,” not to be understood that Christ is the Father but rather the He also possesses the title of Father, a designation that clearly implies His pre-existence and eternality.

New Testament – (1) John 1:1 – the word “was” in the Greek stresses continual existence in the past. What John is saying is that as far back as one can possibly go, Jesus was continually existing. John clearly affirms His eternality by simply stating that there was never a time when Christ was not.  (2) John 8:58 – two points to be made here. First, Jesus here claimed to have been existing before Abraham was born. But how could this be when everybody knew that Jesus was in His early thirties? Because Jesus never had a beginning, He has forever existed. Second, notice that the crowds wanted to stone Him, why? Because He used the name of God for Himself, He claimed to be “I AM,” He was claiming to be God, claiming to be Divine. (3) Heb. 1:8 – the author of this epistle states, “Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever…,” a clear reference to the eternality of Christ.

 

His Humanity

 

     Except for the sinful nature, Christ had all the characteristics of man. The humanity of Christ is as important as His deity. Why? Several reasons come to mind: (1) if He was not fully human, then the Bible cannot be trusted since it clearly teaches that He was, and (2) if He was not human, then He couldn’t have possibly died a substitutionary death and made propitiation for our sins.

 

     Although He was conceived miraculously (Matt. 1:20), His birth was normal, like anybody else’s. He was born of a virgin (1:23) and had a human body (Matt. 1:18; Luke 2:52; Gal 4:4), He referred to Himself as a human and everybody He ever came in contact with recognized Him as such (John 8:40; 1 John 1:1). Remember, He was fully human, which means that He not only possessed a human body but that He also possessed a human soul and spirit. His humanity included both the material and immaterial aspects (Matt. 26:38; Luke 23:46). He had other human characteristics: He was hungry (Matt. 4:2), He grew tired (John 4:6), He was thirsty ((John 19:28), He had a normal development (mental, physical, spiritual, and social) (Luke 2:52). He experienced and expressed human emotions: love (Mark 10:21), anger (Mark 3:5), sorrow (Luke 13:34), compassion (Matt. 9:36), He wept (John 11:35). He had human names such as “son of David” (Matt. 1:1), and Jesus (Matt. 1:21).

 

His Deity

 

     Although the denial of the deity of Christ is nothing new, it is true that for decades, liberal theologians have stepped up this attack on what is the cardinal doctrine of the Faith. To deny the deity of Christ is to deny the Faith, to deny the very essence of Christianity. Nothing else matters if Christ is not whom He claimed to be, whom the writers of Scripture claimed He was, if He is not whom the Bible teaches He is. Christ is Christianity!

 

     If Christ is not God then salvation is not possible. For how could He have died a substitutionary death to provide salvation for a sinful race? As a mere human, His death would not have satisfied the justice of God, He couldn’t have made propitiation for our sin.

 

     Let us consider the Scriptural evidence of the deity of Christ. We will briefly discuss a few of the lines of evidence we find in Scripture that clearly teach and affirm the deity of Christ.

 

His Attributes

Omnipresent – John 1:50; 14:23; Matt. 18:20; 28:20.

Omniscient – John 2:25; 6:64; 10:15; 21:17; Col. 2:3.

Omnipotent – Phil. 3:21; Matt. 28:18; Col. 1:16-17.

Immutable – Heb. 1:12; 13:8.

Eternal – Isa. 9:6; Mic. 5:2; John 1:1-2; 8:58.

Preeminence – Col. 1:18.

Life – John 1:4; 5:26; 10:10; 14:6; Heb. 7:16.

Truth – John 14:6; Rev. 3:7.

Love – John 13:1, 34; 1 John 3:16.

Holiness – Luke 1:35; John 6:69; Heb. 7:26.

Wisdom – Col. 2:3.

 

His Works

Creator – John 1:3; Col. 1:16.

Preserver – Heb. 1:3; Col. 1:17.

Forgiver of sin – Mark 2:5-7; Luke 5:24.

Miracles – the Gospels.

 

Other

He received worship – Matt. 28:16-17; Luke 24:52; John 9:38.

He claimed to have power over death and life – John 5:21.

He claimed authority to judge – John 5:22, 27.

He equated Himself with the Father – John 14:1, 7, 9, 11; 5:23; 14:6, 21, 23; 15:23; Mark 9:37.

 

The Incarnation

 

     Reymond defines the incarnation as “the act whereby the eternal Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, without ceasing to be what he is, God the Son, took into union with himself what he before the act did not posses, a human nature, ‘and so [He] was and continues to be God and man in two distinct natures and one person forever’ (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. 21).”[2]

The word means “in flesh” and it denotes the fact that the pre-existing, eternal Son of God, by becoming a man took to Himself a complete sinless human nature, (body, soul, spirit). God and man became one without diminishing any of their essential qualities.

Enns states, “The result is that Christ remains forever unblemished deity, which He has had from eternity past; but He also possesses true, sinless humanity in one Person forever (cf. John 1:14; Phil. 2:7-8; 1 Tim. 3:16).”[3]

 

     The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus was born of a virgin Matt. 1:18, 22-23, 25; Luke 1:34-35). Why is this important? The virgin birth was the method of incarnation that guaranteed the sinlessness of Christ. Scripture is clear that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35), for if He had been born of Joseph, He would have possessed a sinful human nature.

 

     Why did God the Son come “in flesh”? Seven reasons will be noted here:[4]

(1) He came to unveil, disclose, reveal God to us (John 1:18; 14:7-11).

(2) He came to set and leave an example for us to follow and emulate (1 Pet. 2:21; 1 John 2:6).

(3) He came to die, to make payment for our sin, to satisfy the justice of God and set aside His wrath, to make salvation possible through the shedding of His blood (the doctrine of salvation will be discussed separately) (Heb. 10:1-10).

(4) To fulfill the Davidic Covenant (Luke 1:31-33).

(5) To destroy Satan’s work (1 John 3:8).

(6) To be a high Priest who could sympathize and relate with our humanity (Heb. 4:14-16).

(7) To be a qualified Judge (John 5:22, 27).

 

The Hypostatic Union

 

     The hypostatic union is the union of two distinct natures, the divine and the human, in the one Person of Christ.

Blaising writes, In the incarnation of the Son of God, a human nature was inseparably united forever with the divine nature in the one person of Jesus Christ, yet with the two natures remaining distinct , whole, and unchanged, without mixture or confusion so that the one person, Jesus Christ, is truly God and truly man.”[5]

Samples states, “Philosophically speaking, as the God-man, Jesus Christ is ‘two Whats’ (that is, a divine ‘what’ [or nature] and a human ‘what’ [or nature]) and ‘one Who’ (that is, a single ‘person’ or ‘self’).”[6]

 

     One important point needs to be made here. When we talk about the hypostatic union, the union of two natures in one Person, we are not saying that Christ is half human and half God. He is not some kind of hybrid. The Bible is clear in teaching that the result of the hypostatic union is a Person who is truly and completely one hundred percent God and truly and completely one hundred percent man, now and forever.

 

     In the incarnation, Jesus’ deity was not lost nor did His divine nature diminish in any way. His divine nature remained as the Father’s and the Spirit’s. Instead, while remaining fully divine, in the incarnation He added humanity. Human nature was added to His divine nature (Phil. 2:6-7).

 

This is a fundamental of the Faith. Our salvation depends on it.

 

The Kenosis

 

“but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of man” (Phil. 2:7 NASB).

 

     Kenosis comes from the verb kenoo, which is used in Phil. 2:7, it refers to the self-emptying of Christ. A question often asked is, when God became man, how did the two natures of Christ relate to each other? The Kenosis attempts to answer that question.

 

     What does it mean He “emptied Himself?” What did He empty Himself of? Can this mean that when Christ became a man he ceased to be God? Did He relinquish divine attributes thus becoming less than God?

Erickson states, “At no point does this passage say that he ceased to possess the divine nature. This becomes clearer when we take Colossians 2:9 into account: ‘For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.’ The kenosis of Philippians 2:7 must be understood in the light of the pleroma of Colossians 2:9. What does it mean, then, to say that Jesus ‘emptied himself?’…think of the phrase ‘taking the form of a servant’ as a circumstantial explanation of the kenosis…we would render the first part of verse 7, ‘he emptied himself by taking the form of a servant.’…’the form of a servant contrasts sharply with ‘equality with God’ (v.6). We conclude that it is equality with God, not the form of God, of which Jesus emptied himself. While he did not cease to be in nature what the Father was, he became functionally subordinate to the Father for the period of the incarnation. Jesus did this for the purpose of revealing God and redeeming man. By taking on human nature, he accepted certain limitations upon the functioning of his divine attributes. These limitations were not the result of a loss of divine attributes but of the addition of human attributes.”[7]

 

His Death

 

     As we turn our attention to the death of Christ, there are several key words that we will consider in our study:

(1) Substitution – many Bible passages clearly teach that Jesus died a substitutionary death on behalf of sinners. This is often referred to as vicarious which means “one in place of another.” Two verses worth looking at that emphasize His substitutionary death are Isaiah 53 in the Old Testament and 1 Peter 2:24 in the New Testament. Other verses that teach the substitutionary death of Christ are, Matt. 20:28; Luke 11:11; 1 Tim 2:6; Gal. 3:13; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 3:18.

By dying in our place, He was able to satisfy the righteous demands of God’s justice. Complete payment for sin was made, thus, making it possible for God to declare sinners righteous and adopt them into His family. By dying in our stead, He atoned for our sins and through His death, made satisfactory payment for them.

(2) Redemption – by His death, Jesus purchased us out of the sin slave market and set us free from its power over us (1 Cor. 7:23; Gal. 3:13; 4:5; Rev. 5:9; 14:3-4).

A second point needs to be made here. As a result of the fall, Adam and Eve were removed from fellowship with God and caused the entire human race to be estranged and alienated from God. Redemption brings reconciliation and peace with God, the enmity is removed (Rom. 5:10), and for those who trust in Christ as Lord and Savior, fellowship is restored (cf. 2 Cor. 5:18-20).

(3) Propitiation – propitiation simply means that through His death, Christ satisfied the righteous demands of God, His justice was satisfied. God’s wrath was averted because through His death, Jesus provided the only payment for sin that would be satisfactory (Rom. 3:25; 1 John 4:10. Morris defines propitiation as “The turning away of wrath by an offering…The consistent Bible view is that the sin of man has incurred the wrath of God. That wrath is averted only by Christ’s atoning offering. From this standpoint his saving work is properly called propitiation.”[8]

(4) Justification – justification is a legal act by which God declares a sinner righteous because of Christ’s payment made for sin on behalf of the sinner on the cross.

Two things occur in the believer when he is justified: 1) the believer’s sin is removed from him, and 2) he is declared righteous because the righteousness of Christ is imputed to him (cf. Rom. 3:24, 28; 5:9; Gal. 2:16).

Packer writes, “The biblical meaning of ‘justify’ is to pronounce, accept, and treat as just, i.e., as, on the one hand, not penally liable, and, on the other, entitled to all the privileges due to those who have kept the law. It is thus a forensic term, denoting a judicial act of administering the law—in this case, by declaring a verdict of acquittal, and so excluding all possibility of condemnation. Justification settles the legal status of the person justified.”[9]

 

     More will be discussed about this in the doctrine of salvation.

 

His Resurrection

 

     The bodily resurrection of Christ is a cardinal doctrine of the Faith. If Jesus is not raised, nothing else really matters. Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 15:17, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” I think that verse encapsulates the importance of this doctrine and the risk one who would deny it takes.

 

     What is the importance of the Resurrection?

(1)  If it didn’t happen then Christianity is just another false religion, it has no validity (1 Cor. 15:17).

(2)  Since it did happen, it proves that God was satisfied with the Son’s sacrifice. His payment for sin was sufficient and complete.

(3)  The sending of the Holy Spirit necessitated the Resurrection (John 16:7).

(4)  For the fulfillment of prophesy. David had long before prophesied the Resurrection of the Son of God (Ps. 16:10) and according to Peter, His Resurrection fulfilled that prophecy. Jesus Himself had prophesied not only His death but His resurrection as well (Matt. 16:21; Mark 14:28).

 

What is the evidence of His Resurrection?

(1)  The empty tomb. There are only three options for the empty tomb: 1) His body was stolen by His enemies. We know this is not true or they would have produced the body later to squash the resurrection claims of the apostles. 2) His disciples stole the body. We know this is not true either because it would have been impossible for them to do this since Roman soldiers were standing guard at the tomb, a tomb that had been sealed with the Roman seal. 3) He rose from the dead as both Christ and the Scriptures had declared He would.

(2)  How could He be removed from the linen He was wrapped in and the linen still retain the shape of His body and His headpiece be folded up and separate from the linen? (John 20:7, 8).

(3)  His appearances (Matt. 28:1-10; Luke 24:13-35; 1 Cor. 15:5-8).

(4)  His followers. How does one refute the fact that those who have trusted Him as their Lord and Savior from the days of Christ to the present, are people whose lives have been completely transformed? The fact of the Resurrection makes all the difference. As an example, look at the difference between the Peter of Acts 2 and the Peter of John 19.

(5)  The Church. The Church exists because of the certainty of the Resurrection. It was through the preaching of the Resurrection that the early church grew (Acts 2:24-32; 3:15; 4:2).

 

     He rose with the same body He had before He died (though glorified), the Crucifixion scars were visible to those to whom He appeared. He ate and talked with the disciples and even asked Thomas to touch Him so all doubt would be removed.

 

     To deny the literal bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ is to deny an essential doctrine of the Faith which, in turn, will inevitably result in the denial of most or all of the other essential doctrines of Christianity.



[1] Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago: Moody, 1989), p. 215.

[2] R. L. Reymond, in Walter A. Elwell, ed., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), p. 555.

[3] Enns, p. 222.

[4] Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology Chicago: Moody, 1999), pp. 281-282.

[5] Craig A. Blaising, “Hypostatic Union,” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), p. 540.

[6] Kenneth R. Samples, Without A Doubt (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), pp. 122-123.

[7] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991), p. 734-735.

[8] Leon Morris, “Propitiation,” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Walter A. Elwell, ed., (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), p. 888.

[9] James I. Packer, “Justification,” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Walter A. Elwell, ed., (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), p. 593.

Copyright 2006 by Dr. Miguel J Gonzalez

 
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