'Replies from Christadelphians'

6.  Simon Richardson……(cont.)

10th January, 2005 >

(Continued from page 239)

God put mankind on the earth to subdue it and rule over it as God's representatives. But man did not fulfil that purpose, for he instead fell into sin. The author of Hebrews realizes that God intended everything to be in subjection to man, but he admits:  "As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to Him" (Heb. 2:8).  Then when Jesus came as a man, He was able to obey God and thereby have the right to rule over creation as a man thus fulfilling God's original purpose in putting man on the earth.  Hebrews recognizes this when it says that now "we see Jesus" in the place of authority over the universe, "crowned with glory and honour" (Heb. 2:9; cf. the same phrase in v7).  Jesus in fact has been given "all authority in heaven and on earth" (Matt. 28:18), and God has "put all things under His feet and has made Him the head over all things for the church" (Eph. 1:22).  Indeed, believers shall someday reign with Him on His throne (Rev. 3:21) and experience, in subjection to Christ their Lord, the fulfilment of God's purpose that they reign over the earth (cf. Luke 19:17, 19; 1 Cor. 6:3). Jesus also had to be a man in order to fulfil God's original purpose that man rule over His creation.

John tells us, "he who says He abides in Him ought to walk
in the same way in which He walked" (1 John 2:6), and reminds us that "when He appears we shall be like Him," and that this hope of future conformity to Christ's character even now gives increasing moral purity to our lives (1 John 3:2-3). Paul tells us that we are continually being "changed into His likeness" (2 Cor. 3:18), thus moving toward the goal for which God saved us, that we might "be conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom. 8:29). Peter tells us that especially in suffering we have to consider Christ's example: "Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps" (1 Peter 2:21). Throughout our Christian life, we are to run the race set before us "looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith" (Heb. 12:2).  If we become discouraged by the hostility and opposition of sinners, we are to "consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself " (Heb. 12:3). Jesus is also our example in death.  Paul's goal is to become "like Him in His death" (Phil. 3:10; cf. Acts 7:60; 1 Peter 3:17-18 with 4:1). Our goal should be to be like Christ all our days, up to the point of death, and to die with unfailing obedience to God, with strong trust in Him, and with love and forgiveness to others. Jesus had to become a man like us in order to live as our example and pattern in life.

Paul tells us that when Jesus rose from the dead He rose in a new body that was "imperishable ... raised in glory ... raised in power ... raised a spiritual body" (1 Cor. 15:42-44).  This new resurrection body that Jesus had when He rose from the dead is the pattern for what believers bodies will be like when they are raised from the dead, because Christ is "the first fruits" (1 Cor. 15:23) - an agricultural metaphor that likens Christ to the first sample of the harvest, showing what the other fruit from that harvest would be like. We now have a physical body like Adam's, but we will have one like Christ's: "Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven" (1 Cor. 15:49). Jesus had to be raised as a man in order to be the "first-born from the dead" (Col. 1:18), the pattern for the bodies that we would later have.

Jesus will be a man forever, for He did not give up His human nature after His death and resurrection, and appeared to His disciples as a man - even with the scars of the nail prints in His hands (John 20:25-27).  He had "flesh and bones" (Luke 24:39) and ate food (Luke 24:41-42).  Later, when He was talking with His disciples, He was taken up into heaven, still in His resurrected human body, and two angels promised that He would return in the same way: "This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven,
will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11).  Still later, Stephen gazed into heaven and saw Jesus as "the Son of man standing at the right hand of God" (Acts 7:56). Jesus also appeared to Saul on the Damascus Road and said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting" (Acts 9:5) - an appearance that Saul (Paul) later coupled with the resurrection appearances of Jesus to others (1 Cor. 9:1; 15:8). In John's vision in Revelation, Jesus still appeared as "one like a son of man" (Rev. 1:13), though He is filled with great glory and power, and His appearance caused John to fall at His feet in awe (Rev. 1:13-17).  He promises one day to drink wine again with His disciples in His Father's kingdom (Matt. 26:29) and invites us to a great marriage supper in heaven (Rev. 19:9). Moreover, Jesus will continue forever in His offices as prophet, priest, and king, all of them carried out by virtue of the fact that He is both God and man forever.

All of these texts indicate that Jesus did not
temporarily become man, but that His divine nature was permanently united to His human nature, and He lives forever not just as the eternal Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, but also as Jesus, the man who was born of Mary, and as Christ, the Messiah and Saviour of His people.  Jesus will forever remain fully God and fully man, yet one person, so that none can ever doubt His total ability to remain Saviour for eternity - whereas the Christadelphian 'saviour' is a feeble, un-Scriptural, invention of Dr John Thomas!

The biblical teaching about Jesus Christ will always be totally inadequate without affirming that,  not only was He fully human, but also that He was fully divine. Although the word does not explicitly occur in Scripture, the church has used the term
incarnation to refer to the fact that Jesus was God in human flesh. The incarnation was the act of God the Son whereby He took to Himself a human nature.  The scriptural proof for the deity of Christ is very extensive in the New Testament. We shall examine it under several categories:

The Word God (Theos) Used of Christ: Although the word theos "God," is usually reserved in the New Testament for God the Father, nonetheless, there are several passages where it is also used to refer to Jesus Christ.  In all of these passages the word "God" is used in the strong sense to refer to the one who is the Creator of heaven and earth, the ruler over all. These passages include John 1:1; 1:18 (in the oldest manuscripts); 20:28; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8 (quoting Ps. 45:6); and 2 Peter 1:1.  We have discussed these in some detail in a summation of 'The Trinity' (now available on page 65) which has been supplied to adherents of many religions - and never been refuted!  This fuller discussion will not be repeated here. It is enough to note that there are at least these seven clear passages in the New Testament that explicitly refer to Jesus as God.

One Old Testament example of the name
God applied to Christ is seen in a familiar Messianic passage (Isa 9:6): "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder, and His name will be called "Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God..

The scriptural material supporting this definition is extensive. We will discuss first the humanity of Christ, then His deity, and then show how Jesus' deity and humanity are united in the one person of Christ.

The Humanity of Christ

Virgin Birth. When we speak of the humanity of Christ it is appropriate to begin with a consideration of the virgin birth of Christ. Scripture clearly asserts that Jesus was conceived in the womb of His mother Mary by a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit and without a human father.

"Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph,
before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 1:18). Shortly after that an angel of the Lord said to Joseph, who was engaged to Mary, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 1:20). Then we read that Joseph "did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called His name Jesus" (Matt. 1:24-25).

The same fact is affirmed in Luke's gospel, where we read about the appearance of the angel Gabriel to Mary. After the angel had told her that she would bear a son, Mary said, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?" The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;
therefore the child to be born will be called holy the Son of God." (Luke 1:35; cf. 3:23)

The doctrinal importance of the virgin birth is seen in at least three areas:

1. It shows that salvation ultimately must come from the Lord.  Just as God had promised that the "seed" of the woman (Gen. 3:15) would ultimately destroy the serpent, so God brought it about by His own power, not through mere human effort. The virgin birth of Christ is an unmistakable reminder that salvation can never come through human effort, but must be the work of God Himself. Our salvation only comes about through the supernatural work of God, and that was evident at the very beginning of Jesus' life when "God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons" (Gal. 4:4-5).

2. The virgin birth made possible the uniting of full deity and full humanity in one person.  This was the means God used to send His Son (John 3:16; Gal. 4:4) into the world as a man.  If we think for a moment of other possible ways in which Christ might have come to the earth, none of them would so clearly unite humanity and deity in one person.  For Almighty God, nothing is impossible (Matthew 19:26; Luke 1:37) and He could have created Jesus as a complete human being in heaven and send Him to descend from heaven to earth without the benefit of any human parent. But then it would have been very hard for us to see how Jesus could be fully human as we are and neither would He have been a part of the human race that physically descended from
Adam.  On the other hand, it would have been possible for God to have Jesus come into the world with two human parents, both a father and a mother, and with His full divine nature miraculously united to His human nature at some point early in His life.  But then it would have been hard for us to understand how Jesus was fully God, since His origin was like ours in every way.  When we think of these two other possibilities, it helps us to understand how God, in His wisdom, ordained a combination of human and divine influence in the birth of Christ, so that His full humanity would be evident to us from the fact of His ordinary human birth from a human mother, and His full deity would be evident from the fact of His conception in Mary's womb by the powerful work of the Holy Spirit.

3. The virgin birth also makes possible Christ's true humanity without inherited sin. All human beings have inherited legal guilt and a corrupt moral nature from their first father,
Adam (this is sometimes called "inherited sin" or "original sin"). But the fact that Jesus did not have a human father means that the line of descent from Adam is partially interrupted.  Jesus did not descend from Adam in exactly the same way in which every other human being has descended from Adam.  And this helps us to understand why the legal guilt and moral corruption that belongs to all other human beings did not belong to Christ.

This idea is indicated in the statement of the angel Gabriel to Mary, where he says to her:

"The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;
therefore the child to be born will be called holy the Son of God." (Luke 1:35)

Because the Spirit brought about the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary, the child was to be called "holy." Such a conclusion should not be taken to mean that the transmission of sin comes only through the father, for Scripture nowhere makes such an assertion.  It is enough for us merely to say that in this case the unbroken line of descent from Adam was interrupted, and Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Luke 1:35 connects this conception by the Holy Spirit with the holiness or moral purity of Christ, and reflection on that fact allows us to understand that through the absence of a human father, Jesus was not fully descended from Adam, and that this break in the line of descent was the method God used to bring it about that Jesus was fully human yet did not share inherited sin from Adam.

But why did Jesus not inherit a sinful nature from Mary? The Roman Catholic Church answers this question by saying that Mary herself was free from sin, but Scripture nowhere teaches this, and it would not really solve the problem anyway (for why, then, did Mary not inherit sin from her mother?).  A better solution is to say that the work of the Holy Spirit in Mary must have prevented not only the transmission of sin from Joseph (for Jesus had no human father) but also, in a miraculous way, the transmission of sin from Mary: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you ...
therefore the child to be born will be called holy" (Luke 1:35).

In addition to the fact that Scripture teaches the virgin birth, we can see that it is doctrinally important, and if we are to understand the biblical teaching on the person of Christ correctly, it is important that we begin with an affirmation of this doctrine.

The fact that Jesus had a human body just like our human bodies is seen in many passages of Scripture. He was born just as all human babies are born (Luke 2:7). He grew through childhood to adulthood just as other children grow: "And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon Him" (Luke 2:40). Moreover, Luke tells us that "Jesus increased in wisdom
and in stature and in favour with God and man" (Luke 2:52).

Jesus became tired just as we do, for we read that "Jesus,
wearied as He was with His journey, sat down beside the well" in Samaria (John 4:6). He became thirsty, for when He was on the cross He said, "I thirst" (John 19:28). After He had fasted for forty days in the wilderness, we read that "He was hungry" (Matt. 4:2). He was at times physically weak, for during His temptation in the wilderness He fasted for forty days (the point at which a human being's physical strength is almost entirely gone and beyond which irreparable physical harm will occur if the fast continues). At that time "angels came and ministered to Him" (Matt. 4:11), apparently to care for Him and provide nourishment until He regained enough strength to come out of the wilderness. When Jesus was on His way to be crucified, the soldiers forced Simon of Cyrene to carry His cross (Luke 23:26), most likely because Jesus was so weak following the beating He had received that He did not have strength enough to carry it Himself. The culmination of Jesus' limitations in terms of His human body is seen when He died on the cross (Luke 23:46). His human body ceased to have life in it and ceased to function, just as ours does when we die.

Jesus also rose from the dead in a physical, human body, though one that was made perfect and was no longer subject to weakness, disease, or death. He demonstrates repeatedly to His disciples that He does have a real physical body:  "See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for
a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have" (Luke 24:39). He showed His body to prove that He had a literal "flesh and bones" body and was not merely a "spirit" without a body. Another evidence of this fact is that "they gave Him a piece of broiled fish, and He took it and ate before them" (Luke 24:42; cf. v30; John 20:17, 20, 27; 21:9, 13).

In this same human body (though a resurrection body that was made perfect), Jesus also ascended into heaven. He said before He left: "I am leaving the world and going to the Father" (John 16:28; cf. 17:11). The way in which Jesus ascended up to heaven was calculated to demonstrate the continuity between His existence in a physical body here on earth and His continuing existence in that body in heaven. Just a few verses after Jesus had told them:  "A spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have" (Luke 24:39), we read in Luke's gospel that Jesus "led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up His hands He blessed them. While He blessed them, He parted from them, and was carried up into heaven" (Luke 24:50-51). Similarly, we read in Acts:  "As they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight" (Acts 1:9).

All of these verses taken together show that, as far as Jesus' human body is concerned, it was like ours - and Adams - in every respect before His resurrection, and after His resurrection it was still a human body with "flesh and bones," but made perfect, the kind of body that we will have when Christ returns and we are raised from the dead. Jesus continues to exist in that human body in heaven, as the ascension is designed to teach.

The fact that Jesus
"increased in wisdom" (Luke 2:52) says that He went through a learning process just as all other children do.  He learned how to eat, how to talk, how to read and write, and how to be obedient to His parents (see Heb. 5:8). This ordinary learning process was part of the genuine humanity of Christ.  We also see that Jesus had limited Himself and had a human mind like ours when He spoke of the day on which He will return to earth:  "But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" (Mark 13:32).

Jesus had a human soul and spirit.  Just before His crucifixion, Jesus said:  "Now is my soul
troubled" (John 12:27).  John writes just a little later:  "When Jesus had thus spoken, He was troubled in spirit" (John 13:21). In both verses the word troubled represents the Greek term tarasso a word that is often used of people when they are anxious or suddenly very surprised by danger.  Before Jesus' crucifixion, as He realized the suffering He would face, He said:  "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death" (Matt. 26:38).

Jesus had a full range of human emotions. He "marvelled" at the faith of the centurion (Matt. 8:10). He wept with sorrow at the death of Lazarus (John 11:35). And He prayed with a heart full of emotion, for "in the days of His flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications,
with loud cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard for His godly fear" (Heb. 5:7).

Moreover, the author tells us:  "Although He was
The Son of God, He learned obedience through what He suffered; and being made perfect He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him" (Heb. 5:8-9). Yet if Jesus never sinned, how could He "learn obedience"?  So that He could be tested in every way, as we are, Jesus grew toward maturity in the same manner and, like all other human children, was able to take on more and more responsibility. The older He became the more demands His father and mother could place on Him in terms of obedience, and the more difficult the tasks that His heavenly Father could assign to Him to carry out in the strength of His human nature. With each increasingly difficult task, even when it involved suffering (as Heb. 5:8 specifies), Jesus' human moral ability, and His ability to obey under more and more difficult circumstances, increased.  Yet in all this He never once sinned.  The complete absence of sin in the life of Jesus is all the more remarkable because of the severe temptations He faced, not only in the wilderness, but throughout His life. The author of Hebrews affirms that Jesus:  "in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15). The fact that He faced temptation means that He had a genuine human nature that could be tempted, for Scripture clearly tells us that "God cannot be tempted with evil" (James 1:13).

Matthew reports an amazing incident in the middle of Jesus' ministry. Even though Jesus had taught throughout all Galilee, "healing every disease and every infirmity among the people," so that "great crowds followed Him" (Matt. 4:23-25), when He came to His own village of Nazareth, the people who had known Him for many years did not receive Him: And when Jesus had finished these parables, He went away from there, and coming to His own country He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said: 
"Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary? And are not His brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all His sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?" And they took offense at Him.... And He did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief (Matt. 13:53-58).  This passage indicates that those people who knew Jesus best, the neighbours with whom He had lived and worked for thirty years, saw Him as no more than an ordinary man.  No doubt these passages are a joy to those who see Jesus as a good man - fair and kind and truthful, but certainly not a prophet of God who could work miracles and certainly not God Himself in the flesh.  Although in the following sections we will show that Jesus was fully divine in every way - truly God and man in one person - we still recognize the full force of a passage like this. For the first thirty years of His life Jesus lived a human life that was so ordinary that the people of Nazareth who knew Him best were amazed that He could teach with authority and work miracles.  They knew Him. He was one of them. He was "the carpenter's son" (Matt. 13:55), and He was Himself "the carpenter" (Mark 6:3), so ordinary that they could ask:  "Where then did this man get all this?" (Matt. 13:56). And John tells us:  "Even His brothers did not believe in Him" (John 7:5).

(Continued on page 241)

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