Deity of Christ Series Recap

Posted by on Jul 3, 2015 in Deity of Christ, Featured

Deity of Christ Series Recap

the-deity-of-ChristOver the month of June, we have posted many articles here at Servants of Grace as part of a series on the Deity of Christ. The purpose of this series is to help Christians think through what the deity of Christ and it’s importance to the Christian faith.

This series has endeavored to help you our readers think through the crucial doctrine of Deity of Christ that is under attack from cults. To that end, the contributors have endeavored to help you understand what Scripture and church history teaches about the deity of Christ in order to contend for the Christian faith.

I hope this series has encouraged you, exalted in King Jesus, and has helped you grow in the grace of God.

Here are the articles in order:

1) Jesus the Divine Word by Dave Jenkins

2) Seeing But Not Believing by Dave Jenkins

3) The Revelation of the Father and the Son by Nick Batzig

4) Jesus, the True Light of the World by Dave Jenkins

5)  The Strongest Evidence for the Deity of the Son by Nick Batzig

6) Killing Arianism With a Cross: Why Christ’s Deity Matters by Zach Barnhart

7) Why Did God Come as a Man? Part 1 by Dave Jenkins

8) Jesus’ Growth in Wisdom and Knowledge by Craig Hurst

9) Why Did God Come As a Man? Part 2 by Dave Jenkins

10)  Why Did God Come As a Man Final by Dave Jenkins

11)  Responding to the Claims of Deity by Jesus by Dave Jenkins

12) Four Important Implications to Jesus’ Claim to be One with God by Dave Jenkins

13)   The Hypostatic Union: Its Construct and Importance for the Believer by Mike Boling
14) Jesus the Resurrection Life by Dave Jenkins

15)  The Incarnation and High Priestly Ministry of Jesus by Dave Jenkins

16) A Balanced Study of the God-Man by David Dunham

17) Arianism: Early Church Heresy and the Doctrine of Christ by Brian Cosby

18) The Human Growth of Jesus by Nick Batzig

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The Human Growth of Jesus

Posted by on Jul 1, 2015 in Deity of Christ, Featured

The Human Growth of Jesus

Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to help our readers think through what the deity of Christ and it’s importance to the Christian faith.

the-deity-of-ChristOver the past two years, I have tried to wrap my mind around what it means for Jesus to have been fully human. Reformed and Evangelical theologians have rightly fixated on the Deity of Jesus–since that is the supremely important truth about Him that is only understood by the supernatural gift of faith. Nevertheless, as the early Christological heresies teach us, much error has been propagated with regard to both natures, when the Person of Jesus has been considered. It seems to me that we do a great disservice to believers if we do not give due weight to what it means for us for Jesus to be fully human–yet without sin–with all of the limitations of finite men and women. It is in acknowledgement of the words of Luke 2:40 and 52 that we must give carefully attention to this subject. There were read, “The Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him” and “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”

In his outstanding article “The Human Development of Jesus,” B.B. Warfield explained:

There are no human traits lacking to the picture that is drawn of him: he was open to temptation; he was conscious of dependence on God; he was a man of prayer; he knew a “will” within him that might conceivably be opposed to the will of God; he exercised faith; he learned obedience by the things that he suffered. It was not merely the mind of a man that was in him, but the heart of a man as well, and the spirit of a man. In a word, he was all that a man — a man without error and sin — is, and must be conceived to have grown, as it is proper for a man to grow, not only during his youth, but continuously through life, not alone in knowledge, but in wisdom, and not alone in wisdom, but “in reverence and charity” — in moral strength and in beauty of holiness alike. Indeed, we find it insufficient to say, as the writer whom we have just quoted’ says, St. Luke places no limit to the statement that he increased in wisdom; and it seems, therefore, to be allowable to believe “that it continued until the great ‘It is finished’ on the cross.” Of course; and even beyond that “It is finished”: and that not only with reference to his wisdom, but also with reference to all the traits of his blessed humanity. For Christ, just because he is the risen Christ, is man and true man — all that man is, with all that is involved in being man — through all the ages and into the eternity of the eternities.

Warfield was, of course, building on the idea first presented by Irenaeus of Lyons–regarding the idea of anakephalaiosis (i.e. recapitulation). Irenaeus explained this in the following way:

Jesus “came to save all by means of himself–all, I say, who through him are born again unto God — infants, and children and boys and youths and old men. He therefore passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, thus sanctifying infants; a child for children, thus sanctifying those who are of this age, being at the same time made to them an example of piety, righteousness and submission; a youth for youths, becoming an example to youths, and thus sanctifying them for the Lord.” (Against Heresies book. 2.22.4)

Again Warfield explained that–with regard to His humanity–Jesus had sinless limitations. He wrote:

Everywhere the man Christ Jesus is kept before our eyes, and every characteristic that belongs to a complete and perfect manhood is exhibited in his life as dramatized in the gospel story. All the limitations of humanity, therefore, remained his throughout. One fresh from reading the gospel narrative will certainly fail to understand the attitude of those, who we are told exist, who for example, “admit his growth in knowledge during childhood,” “yet deny as intolerable the hypothesis of a limitation of his knowledge during his ministry.” Surely Jesus himself has told us that he was ignorant of the time of the day of judgment (Mark xiii. 32); he repeatedly is represented as seeking knowledge through questions, which undoubtedly were not asked only to give the appearance of a dependence on information from without that was not real with him: he is made to express surprise; and to make trial of new circumstances; and the like.

This is, in no way, to deny that in His Divine nature, Jesus is omniscient. We must always keep in view that Jesus is  fully God and fully man. James Anderson explains the significance of both truths when he writes:

We’re told that Jesus was omniscient (John 16:30) but also that he increased in wisdom (Luke 2:52). To be precise, however, we should say that Jesus was omniscient with respect to his divine nature and gained wisdom with respect to his human nature. On this basis, it seems natural to say that God the Son is timeless and unchangeable with respect to his divine nature but temporal and changeable with respect to his human nature. Since Jesus’ death and resurrection pertained to his human nature, this standard Christological distinction suggests a way to reconcile the events of Jesus’ life with the immutability of God. (Anderson, “Did God Change in the Incarnation” at TGC)

It is also not to suggest that Jesus somehow lacked human consciousness that he was the eternal Son of God, Messiah and the Redeemer who would lay down His life a ransom for many. Geerhardus Vos rightly explained that Jesus’ “destiny and conscious purpose were identical” when he wrote:

Our Lord affirms that he came to give his life as a ransom. The verb “came” belongs not merely to the first thing named—the ministering—but it belongs equally (as) much to the second thing named—the giving of the life by way of ransom: the Son of Man came to minister and to give. I beg you to notice this form of the statement sharply because many have tried to put upon it the weakening interpretation: Jesus came to serve and found, in the course of his life, that to serve to the full meant for him to die. But that merely makes the death the outcome of the service.

What our Lord affirms is that it was the implication and the avowed end of the service from the outset. What he says carries the knowledge (of) his death and of the saving purpose of his death back into the initial act of his appearance upon earth: his coming was with this end and none other in view. He came to serve not merely to the possible limit of death, but to serve by the absolutely free and deliberate employment of death as the supreme instrument of his service. No one took his life from him. He gave it voluntarily. And he expected to give it from the very moment in which he received it. Hence the writer of the epistle of the Hebrews represents him as entering the world with the words of the Psalmist upon his lips: “Lo I am come to do thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:7, that is, it was God’s will that he should suffer). And “a body didst thou prepare for me” (Heb. 10:5, that is, God gave him a body in order that it might be possible for him to experience death as the true sacrifice for sin).

You see, therefore, how all this excludes the view that our Lord only late in his career began to entertain the idea that his death might be a contribution to the success of his work. No—he carried the conviction that his work centered in his death with him in the silence of his inner life all the days of his pilgrimage. From the beginning he set his face deliberately towards this goal and unswervingly shaped his course with reference to its attainment. The gospel in the mind of Jesus did not need first to develop into a gospel of the cross. He took up the cross when he breathed the first breath of his earthly life. Thank God we are justified in reading the gospels with this thought in mind. Jesus did not live the greater part of his life in a naive ignorance and unconsciousness of the web of destiny that was being woven around him. In his case, as in no other case, destiny and conscious purpose were identical. Not only that he died, but that he meant to die for us, this constitutes the preciousness of the gospel story for everyone who reads it with the eye of faith. (Vos, “Sermon on Mark 10:45“)

What I would suggest is that it is altogether orthodox and right to apply the principle–regarding the humanity of Jesus–to His reading of the Scriptures as a covenant document, in order to be the Covenant-keeping, true-Israelite and Redeemer of His people. He learned more and more of His Father’s revealed will in Scripture–in his human capacity at each stage–in order to be equipped as a man to be the Redeemer of men. Jesus never studied in the Rabbinical schools like all the other religious leaders in Israel (John 7:15). But, we can safely assume that Mary and Joseph faithfully taught Him the Scriptures from His earliest days. We know that He would have been in the synagogues often as a boy; and Luke tells us that He went with Mary and Joseph to the Temple every year. We find Him there as a 12 year old boy astonishing the teachers with His questions and answers about the Scriptures (Luke 2:41-52). So, how did Jesus read the Old Testament? Did He read it as a book of morals or character development? Did He read it like the Pharisees and Scribes read it? Far from it! Jesus read the Old Testament as the Covenant revelation of God written to Him and about Him. We have frequently rushed to this latter part and rightly rejoiced in the fact that Old Testament was written by and about Jesus, but have failed to see that, at the same time, it was written, first and foremost, to Jesus.

This post first appeared at Nick’s blog and is posted here with permission.

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Arianism: Early Church Heresy and the Doctrine of Christ

Posted by on Jun 30, 2015 in Deity of Christ, Featured

Arianism: Early Church Heresy and the Doctrine of Christ

Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to help our readers think through what the deity of Christ and it’s importance to the Christian faith.

the-deity-of-ChristWe often take for granted various biblical doctrines of the church. For example, if you are a professing Christian, you believe in the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. But why do you believe that? Have you actually analyzed and evaluated all of the biblical evidence? Most Christians haven’t; they simply stand on the shoulders of the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before them. The same could be said for why we call the Holy Spirit the third “Person” of the Trinity. We simply take for granted the hard exegetical work of others.

The doctrine of Christ is no different. The early church heresy, Arianism—named after its founder, Arius (c.250–336)—became a catalyst for the development of the doctrine of Christ. Nothing can spur the formulation of biblical creeds and confessions of faith like good, old-fashioned heresy. You might be surprised, however, that hundreds of years later, we still see vestiges of Arianism and it still causes us to consider the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Arianism Explained

Arius affirmed the absolute uniqueness and transcendence of God, the un-originated source of all creation. He acknowledged one God, who alone is self-existent, eternal, true, good, sovereign, and without beginning. And because God is indivisible, the being (ousia) of God cannot be shared. If God were to impart his substance to some other being, that meant that he must change, which is impossible. Thus, whatever exists apart from God must have been created out of nothing. Arius did not claim originality for his views; most of these were developed more fully by him, but the original work is usually accredited to Lucian the martyr, his teacher.[i]

From this foundational premise—namely, the one transcendent and unique God—Arius developed several conclusions. First, because there is only one Creator God, the Son must be a creature whom the Father created. Arius did note that the Son was a perfect creature incomparable to the rest of creation, but he is not self-existent like the Father.[ii]

Second, the Son must have had a beginning. From this particular idea, the Arian slogan, “There was when He was not,” became quite popular. If two self-existent beings existed, according to Arius, then there would exist two gods, thus breaking away from monotheism completely.[iii]

Third, the Son can have no communication and, therefore, no knowledge of the Father. The Son is a creature and bears the name of the Son only because he participates in the Father’s Word and Wisdom, but he is distinct in the fact that he does not possess that Word or Wisdom. Thus, Christ does not share the Father’s essence and, because the Son is finite, he cannot comprehend the infinite Father.[iv]

Fourth, Arius taught that the Son is called logos (“word”) only conceptually, but is not actually the Son of God in his nature. He is called the “Son of God” simply because he was a creation of God; the title “son” was nothing more than a courtesy title.[v] Jesus, therefore, is not truly God.

Arius knew his way through the Scriptures and used their content to defend his theological propositions. Several of these include, most significantly, Proverbs 8:22: “The Lord created me…” (LXX), Acts 2:36: “God has made him both Lord and Christ…” (ESV), and Colossians 1:15: “He is the firstborn of all creation” (ESV). Other texts that paid particular interest to the uniqueness of the Father apart from the Son include John 17:3: “That they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (ESV). Still other texts used by Arius implied Christ’s inferiority to the Father such as John 14:28: “For the Father is greater than I” (ESV). Probably the most used passages related Christ’s weakness, ignorance, and suffering. Because of his knowledge and use of Scripture, Arius enjoyed a considerable following who continued propagating his teachings long after his death. The ultimate outcome of Arius’ teachings viewed Christ suspended between God and man, related to both, but identical with neither.[vi]

 

Arianism and the Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.)

The conversion of Emperor Constantine to Christianity (312 A.D.) marked a turning point in the history of the church. Alongside the end of formal persecution, the emperor became increasingly involved in the affairs of the church, and thus the church became more important in higher political decisions. Constantine wanted to keep the church united, but when he moved his new capital city to the East and began visiting the Greek churches, he was troubled by the dissention that arose out of a controversy between Alexander of Alexandria and his presbyter Arius.

Hearing of differing doctrines coming from Arius, Alexander called upon several presbyters, including Arius, to give their interpretations. The theological quarrel began on a local small-scale, but with the influence of powerful bishops, it soon spread. Problems continued when Alexander excommunicated Arius in 318 A.D., causing even more dissention within the Eastern churches.[vii] Alarmed at this drastic action, the Emperor Constantine called a council to Nicomedia (near Constantinople, his capital city) so that he could personally control the meetings.[viii]

On the opening day of the Council of Nicaea (May 20, 325 A.D.), the emperor urged the bishops to achieve unity and peace. Nearly 320 bishops attended the council, most all of them Greek with a few from the Latin West. The Council at Nicaea was the first of seven ecumenical councils[ix]—the term ecumenical being used due to the broad range of representation being in attendance.[x]

The council focused their attention on two very significant concepts in their discussions: “only begotten” and homoousios, meaning “of the same substance”. The council claimed that Jesus was of the same—not a similar (called homoiousios)—substance with the Father, thus making the Father and the Son equal in essence.

Some of the key biblical arguments came from the prologue of John’s Gospel. Verse 1 reads, “The Word was God” and then verse 14 states, “The Word became flesh.” These passages explicitly, among others (cf. Rom. 9:5; Col. 2:9; Heb. 1:3), united the Father and Son in substance—making them distinct in name, but one God in essence.

There were many questions that plagued the Council about the teaching of Arius: What right does Jesus have to forgive if he is not God? Why did Jesus tell people to follow him if he was not God? Finally, and most important: How are we forgiven? How can a finite, created being make an eternal atonement?

A significant distinction that Athanasius—the leading prosecutor against Arius—expounded upon was the difference between homoousios (of the “same substance”) and homoiousios (of a “similar substance”), the “iota of difference.” Arius believed that the Son was similar to the Father, but not begotten of the Father.[xi] Here, Athanasius expressed the importance of the Son’s nature being homoousios as the Father’s nature. He explicated in his Four Discourses Against the Arians (356-360), using the passage from John’s Gospel 14:9, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father”:

Very Son of the Father, natural and genuine, proper to His essence, Wisdom Only-begotten, and Very and Only Word of God is He; not a creature or work, but an offspring proper to the Father’s essence. Wherefore He is very God, existing one in essence with the very Father.[xii]

Athanasius leaves no ambiguity to his firm conviction that Jesus was God and not created by the Father—they had the same divine essence. To Arius’ motto, “there was once when the Son was not”, Athanasius’ responded:

But if ye say that the Son was once, when He Himself was not, the answer is foolish and unmeaning. For how could he both be and not be? Jesus speaks that ‘Who is and who was and who is to come.’ And where the sacred writers say, “Who exists before the ages,’ and ‘By whom he made the ages,’ they thereby as clearly preach the eternal and everlasting being of the Son, even while they are designating God Himself. The phrase ‘I am,’ is signified that the Son is eternal and without beginning (for He did not say, ‘I became.’). In maintaining, ‘Once the Son was not,’ they rob God of his Word…and openly predicate of Him that he was once without His proper Word and Wisdom…[xiii]

At the end of the day, Arius refused to sign what has become known as the Nicene Creed, along with two others at the council, and he was promptly condemned.[xiv] Today, when you see the phrase “of the same substance” (homoousios) in the Nicene Creed, you can know that it was a direct attack on Arius’ teachings.[xv]

Arius’ Influence

There are three major ways that Arianism has influenced the centuries after Nicaea: (1) it aided the development of the Trinity doctrine, (2) it has provided a fertile ground for modern Unitarian thought, and (3) it has become a precursor to modern cults. The Nicene Creed—together with the addition of doctrine regarding the Holy Spirit from the Council of Constantinople in 381 A.D.—continues to stand as a monument to the reaction against Arius. They developed—together with other early church fathers (e.g., St. Augustine)—a well-defined understanding of the Trinity that evangelicals still believe today.[xvi]

A second influence of Arianism may be seen in what is known today as Unitarianism. Unitarians believe that God is one in both nature and person, opposite of Trinitarian theology, which views God as having one substance, but with three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

During the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century, some of the more racial Reformers adopted a form of Unitarianism. Why? Because the Bible does not use the word “Trinity”. Rather, it stressed the “oneness” God (cf. Deut. 6:4). Socinus, a leading advocate of Unitarian thought in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, used parts of Arius’ teachings to develop his own theology. By the end of the 18th century, Unitarianism had become a formal denomination continuing in the forms of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church in America.

Third, modern-day cults, like Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses, regulate the Son of God to a lower place than the Father. They will not affirm the absolute divinity of Christ; he is simply the highest being in the hierarchy of creation. These cults are simply rehashed Arianism.

Whether directly or indirectly, Arianism has had significant influence on the history of the church. The development of doctrine—especially that of the Trinity—owes much to the debates over Arius’ teaching in the third and fourth centuries. In this way, Arianism sped up the development that may have taken several centuries to unpack. Looking back, we should confidently stand on the shoulders of those, like Athanasius, who have gone before us, but not without a sense of gratitude.  The hard work of the Council of Nicaea, as just one example, allows us to appreciate, know, and love the living and true God.

[i] J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (Peabody: Prince Press, 2003), 227, 230.

[ii] Jaroslav Pelikan, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600) (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971), 194, 227-28.

[iii] Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, 228.

[iv] Ibid., 228-29.

[v] Pelikan, Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600), 196, 229.

[vi] Ibid., 194-95, 198, 230.

[vii] Chadwick, The Early Church, 125, 127, 129; Pelikan, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600), 193.

[viii] Chadwick, The Early Church, 129-30.

[ix] These councils include: Nicaea, Constantinople I, Ephesus, Chalcedon, Constantinople 2, Constantinople 3, and Nicaea 2. Philip Schaff, ed., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: The Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church. Vol. 14 (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), iii.

[x] Chadwick, The Early Church, 130.

[xi] Stevenson, J., Creeds, Councils, and Controversies (Cambridge: University Press, 1966), 43-44.

[xii] Athanasius, Four Discourses Against the Arians in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, second series (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers), 4:311.

[xiii] Ibid., 312-13, 315.

[xiv] Karl Baus, et al., The Imperial Church from Constantine to the Early Middle Ages (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1986s, 25-26.

[xv] Ibid., 21.

[xvi] Gerald Bray, The Doctrine of God (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993),155, 173, 191.

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A Balanced Study of the God-Man

Posted by on Jun 29, 2015 in Deity of Christ, Featured

A Balanced Study of the God-Man

Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to help our readers think through what the deity of Christ and it’s importance to the Christian faith.

We need a proper balance in our understanding of the nature of Jesus Chthe-deity-of-Christrist. Historically the church has struggled to keep one or the other of Jesus’ natures in proper place. We tend to emphasize one to the exclusion of the other. This is why the church councils throughout history have had to, at different times, put in writing that Jesus is the God-Man. Both God and man at the same time. Evangelicals today seem to be able to emphasize the divinity of Jesus, but we struggle often to understand and appreciate His humanity. Studying the humanity of Jesus has profound implications for our lives.

Most Evangelicals have a great appreciation for and respect for the divinity of Jesus. We are careful to guard against any conception of the nature of Christ or of the Trinity that would undermine the divinity of Jesus. We gladly and intentionally worship Jesus as God. In our apologetic defenses we argue from Scripture for the full divinity of Jesus, regularly articulating it so as to remind others that he was, is, and always has been God. But we do not usually put the same emphasis on the humanity of Jesus.

Of course we know that Jesus is human. We gladly acknowledge that and refer to Jesus as the God-Man. Yet even when we do our emphasis is still on the fact that Jesus is GOD-man. Bruce Ware, professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, sees this as a real deficiency in contemporary Evangelical theology. In The Man Christ Jesus, Ware alludes to the fact that he is writing precisely because Evangelicals “understand better Christ’s deity than they do his humanity” (13). We need this reminder if we are to be Biblically faithful to the self-revealed testimony of our God; Jesus is the God-Man. Both are necessary for our understanding him and our relating to him.

The divinity of Jesus has massive implications for our life and faith as believers, yet so does the humanity of Jesus. His humanity tells us many things about who He was and how we lived on this earth, and even how he now continues to exist, but it also tells us much about how we are to fight sin, pray, relate to the Holy Spirit, and ultimately what we will be like in eternity. There is much practical theology to draw from the doctrine of the humanity of Christ. If we overlook it we do not simply do our theology a disservice, rather we actually outright damage our theology.

To neglect the doctrine of Christ’s humanity is to fundamentally misunderstand Jesus, and to misunderstand our own Christian life. Since Jesus is our example (1 Peter 2:21) we must wrestle with how the very Son of God can possibly serve that role. After all, we are not divine, so in what way can Jesus be said to be a good example for human beings? To answer such a question requires us to consider the humanity of Jesus. To neglect such a question is to fundamentally misunderstand him and our own sanctification.

We are right to celebrate the divinity of Jesus. He is God and his divinity is crucial to understanding who he is and how we must relate to him. But we must never study one aspect of God to the exclusion of others. Such a practice distorts our understanding of God. Jesus is the God-Man, and both aspects of his nature are worth our study. We need the balance.

 

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The Incarnation and High Priestly Ministry of Jesus

Posted by on Jun 26, 2015 in Deity of Christ, Featured

The Incarnation and High Priestly Ministry of Jesus

the-deity-of-Christ

Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to help our readers think through what the deity of Christ and it’s importance to the Christian faith.

Explanation Hebrews 2:17-18

            Several of the earliest controversies and key battles in Church History were over Christ’s divine and human natures. One of the classic texts to explain why Jesus Christ had to become fully man, so that He might perform priestly service before God on man’s behalf is Hebrews 2:17-18. Christ’s priestly ministry propitiated or turned aside—God’s wrath against man’s sin. The classic explanation of this doctrine was given by Anselm of Canterbury nine hundred years ago in his towering work Cur Deus Homo which means “Why God Became Man.”

Speaking of the payment that must be made for man’s sins, Anselm wrote:

“It could not have been done unless man paid what was owing to God for sin. But the debt was so great that, while man alone owed it, only God could pay it, so that the same person must be both man and God. Thus it was necessary for God to take manhood into the unity of his person, so that he who in his own nature ought to pay and could not should be in a person who could.”[i]

Anselm of Canterbury gets to the heart of what the writer of Hebrews teaches in Hebrews 2:17: “He had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest.” The Old Testament priest represented God before man, which was why the high priest was garbed with glory and honor (Ex. 28:2). The high priest’s apparel gleamed, to portray the righteousness’ of God before the people of God. The high priest represented God before man, which is why the high priest word an ephod of gold, upon which were fastened twelve stones, bearing the names of the twelve tribes of Israel (Ex. 28:9-12).

The purpose of the incarnation is that Christ as the God-Man might bear His people’s names upon His shoulders. As the true high priest, Jesus Christ is garbed in His own perfect righteousness, which He now presents on behalf of His redeemed people. Jesus went forth as the minister and representative of His people, offering His own precious blood—His divine and infinitely valuable life, which alone atones for the debt of not only man’s sin, but the sins of the world.

The work of Christ was one of turning aside God’s wrath against man’s sin. Christ’s work of propitiation gets to the reason why He was born into the world, so that by His death as the God-Man, He might break the hold of death on sinners, and set His people free through the Cross and resurrection. While this explains the first and second reasons why Christ had to become a man and die, Hebrews 2:18 gives the third reason, “Because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

Jesus is able to help His people in whatever circumstances they find themselves because He suffered in His people’s place on the way to the Cross and on the Cross dying for their sins. The fact that Christ has done all of this is proof of His full humanity, in that “he himself has suffered when tempted.” Christians often associate Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness at the desert, but there Jesus was afflicted with great hunger and the temptation to accept the crown without the Cross. While these were great temptations, Jesus overcame them all. As a result of Jesus temptation and suffering He knows what His people are going through whether they are struggling with a variety of temptations or going through hard times. Jesus knows what it is like to go through hardship because He endured the sins of humanity in the Cross. Jesus the High Priest over His people has real sympathy and compassion for what His people are going through.

Some people think Jesus didn’t know the full range of human experience because He wasn’t a sinner. This questions whether or not He can have full sympathy for sinners. Far from Jesus knowing less than His people do about temptation, Jesus knows far more about temptation than His people do because He endured it to the point of sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane where He felt the weight of man’s sin in preparing to die on the Cross for the sins of humanity.

B.F. Westcott is correct when he observes: “Sympathy with the sinner in his trial does not depend on the experience of sin but on the experience of the strength of temptation to sin, which only the sinless can know in its full intensity. He who falls yields before the last strain.”[ii]

Jesus has real and knowledgeable sympathy with those who are tempted, which is why the Scripture say, he is able to help His people. Jesus is not “just like us.” Jesus is the Redeemer, and His people are the sinners in need of such a champion. Jesus work is hardly impersonal or mechanical, it is heartfelt and sensitive. Jesus felt nails as they were driven into His hands and feet so that He might rescue His people from the power of death. The quality of mercy of Christ’s work is intimate, personal, and knowing. This intimate, personal and knowing work calls His people to love Him as a Savior who has gone to such lengths to know His people in the midst of their trials, to have the fellowship of suffering even as He calls His people into the fellowship of His suffering.

Jesus suffering means that He is able to help His people and understands all of what they are going through. Whenever God’s people encounter difficult circumstances or trials they have a sympathetic and merciful High Priest who hears when His people cry out to Him. Understanding Jesus as High Priest ought to be a great encouragement to God’s people that they can turn to the Lord in prayer in whatever circumstances they find themselves in.

One of the major aspects of Jesus High Priestly ministry is His ability now to save His people. His ability to save them means His people can trust Him, knowing that death will bring them no harm, but bring them to Jesus. His people can trust Him for today, knowing He knows and understands any and all present temptations and struggles. Jesus is able to help His people, by praying for them at the throne of his Father in heaven and by sending the Holy Spirit into their hearts, giving them strength that is of Him. This is why Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20). Despite all of Paul’s many trials, it was with knowledge o Christ’s personal power that he could declare: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).

Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, became like man to be a total Savior, sufficient for the whole range of their need. People are saying all the time today, lamenting in this World of Woe, “Where is God? Why doesn’t he do something?” Meanwhile, He has done everything indeed, more than ever they could ask or imagine. God has entered into man’s world. He has walked through the dust of this earth. He who is Life has wept before the grave, and He who is the Bread of Life has felt the aching of hunger in His belly. He has taken the thorns that afflict this sin-scarred world and woven them into a crown to be pressed upon His head. He has stretched open His arms in love, that the hands that wove creation might be nailed to a wooden cross. Then He rose from the dead, conquering all that would conquer His people, setting His people free to live in peace and joy before the face of God.


[i] Anselm of Canterbury, Why God Became Man, in Eugene PR. Fairweather, A Scholastic MiscellanyAnselem to Ockham (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1961), 176.

[ii] B.F. Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews (London: Macmillan, 1903), 59.

 

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Jesus The Resurrection and the Life

Posted by on Jun 25, 2015 in Deity of Christ, Featured

Jesus The Resurrection and the Life

Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to help our readers think through what the deity of Christ and it’s importance to the Christian faith.

the-deity-of-ChristJesus the Resurrection and the Life

Jesus is the master minister, and his purpose all along has been to strengthen the faith of his disciples through Lazarus’s death. The first to benefit was Martha, who wisely raced to meet him as he arrived. With this in mind, Jesus continued with the fifth of the seven “I am” statements of the Gospel of John. Seven times, Jesus uses the great “I am” name of the Lord to reveal the greatest truths of salvation. “I am the bread of life,” he told the hungry crowd in John 6 “I am the light of the world.” When those false shepherds, the Pharisees, cast one of Christ’s sheep out from the synagogue, Jesus replied in John 10:9, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved” (John 10:9), and “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Now, at the scene of Lazarus’ death, he gives this staggering revelation to grieving Martha. John 11:25-26, “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?””

These are among the most precious and important words to ever fall from Jesus’ lips. J.C. Ryle comments that Jesus tells Martha that He is not merely a human teacher of the resurrection, but the Divine Author of all resurrection, whether spiritual or physical, and the Root and Fountain of all life.”[i]

There are questions about how to take Jesus’ statement, especially since in verse 25 he asserts that those who believe in him will live, even though they die, while verse 26 says that believers will never die. The best way to understand this is that Jesus first identifies himself as the source of resurrection and life. He next explains his resurrection, following his death, and then he treats the eternal life that follows the resurrection. We might say that Jesus lays out resurrection life at the beginning in himself; in the middle, after death; and then at the end, in a life that will never again experience death, forever, and ever.

First, Jesus reveals himself as the source of “the resurrection and the life.” We may hope in the resurrection because Jesus himself has entered into death and risen from the grave. “The whole human race is plunged into death,” writes John Calvin. “Therefore, no man will possess life unless he is first risen from the dead. Hence Christ teaches that He is the beginning of life.”[ii]  To believe in Jesus is to receive the benefit not only of his life and death, but also of his resurrection; from him through faith. Christians are entered into glory through the light of his open tomb. John 14:19, “Because I live you will also live.”

If the resurrection’s beginning and source rests with Jesus Himself—with His divine person and saving work—then the middle of Christ’s resurrection promise deals with His answer to death. John 11:25, “Whoever believes in me, though he died, yet shall he live.” Here is the answer—the only true answer—to the problem of death. By trusting in Jesus, we gain the promise of resurrection life. “Your brother will rise again” (John 11:23), he told Martha, and so he says of all who believe.

Some argue that Jesus is speaking here of spiritual death, not physical death, an analogy that the New Testament certainly makes. But Jesus here speaks of believers who die, and the context strongly favors a reference to physical death. J.C. Ryle explains, “As surely as I, the Head, have life, and cannot be kept a prisoner by the grave, so surely all my members, believing in Me, shall live also.”[iii]

Jesus’ second statement elaborates on the resurrection He gives, and the third statement refers to the life that believers gain from Him. John 11:26, “Everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” This is the end awaiting all who trust in Jesus Christ, a life that will never end: Jesus adds, literally, that we “will never die forever.” Benjamin B. Warfield writes, “Whatever death is, and all that death is.. that is what we shall be saved from in this salvation. And whatever life is, and all that life is… that is what we shall be saved to in this salvation.”[iv]

Resurrection Life

The Gospel of John is sometimes called the Gospel of Belief. And if there is one place above all where this Gospel most powerfully summons us to faith in Jesus Christ, it might be here. Can there be a greater reason to believe on Jesus than His claim to hold the key to the problem of death? Jesus promises life: abundant life, and eternal life. And within a handful of days after this promise, He himself would prove His claims and seal his promises by rising from the grave in resurrection power. Jesus proclaims, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). This means that Jesus gives the meaning of life and the answer to death. He promises, “Wgowever believes in me” will live even though he dies. And “everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:26).

No wonder, then, that Jesus concluded the encounter with Martha by asking the all-important question, “Do you believe this?” It is still the all-important question, the great question confronting everyone who hears his words even today. How you answer this one question determines nothing less than the great question of life and the unavoidable question of death.

Indeed, to believe in Jesus is to start living this resurrection life even now. We do not have to wait until we die to receive new life from Christ; his resurrection begins in us the moment we believe. This was Paul’s explanation of what it means to enter into new life through faith in Christ. Ephesians 2:1, 4-5, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins.  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” This is the gift that God offers to anyone who will come in faith to Jesus. Those who believe in Him are freed from the power of death even before they die, and they receive his never-ending life even now, to life in this world as those who have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

This is what Tokichi Ishii learned after two women came to his prison cell to talk about Jesus Christ. He had an almost unparalleled criminal record, having murdered men, women, and children in the most brutal was, and was awaiting his just execution. As the Christian women spoke, Tokichi glowered at them like a savage animal. Eventually, they gave up trying to talk with him, but they left a Bible in his cell. He picked it up and began to read. And he kept reading. He could not put it down. Finally, he came to the point in the Gospel where Jesus, hanging on the cross, spoke aloud: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Tokichi later recalled, “I stopped. I was stabbed to the heart, as if pierced by a five-inch nail. Shall I call it the love of Christ? Shall I call it His compassion? I do not know what to call it. I only know that I believed, and my hardness of heart was changed.”[v]

Believing in Jesus, through the word of his gospel, Tokichi Ishii received the beginning of resurrection life. Later, the jailer came to lead him to the scaffold. “He found, not the hardened, surely brute he had expected, but a smiling radiant man, for the murder had been born again. Literally, Christ brought Tokichi Ishii to life.”[vi]  And by believing in Jesus, though he died, yet he will forever live.

In every kind of prison that since and device, whether pleasure of pain, pride or despair, and with the threat of death facing even man, woman, and child, Jesus offers the same to everyone who believes. “I am the resurrection and the life,” he declares. And he asks, “Do you believe this?”

[i] J.C. Ryle, Expository thoughts on the Gospels: John, 3 vols. (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1999), 2:297

[ii] John Calvin, New Testament Commentaries, trans. T.H.:. Parker, 12 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959), 5:8

[iii] Ryle, John, 2:298

[iv] Benjamin B. Warfield, The Saviour of the World (1916; rep., Edinburg: Banner of Truth, 1991), 47.

[v] Barclay, John 2:109.

[vi] Ibid.

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