Christianity 201

October 16, 2016

The God-Man, Jesus Christ

by Russell Young

The mutuality of Christ, being very God and very man, with the implications attached can be very confusing.  The Word reveals that he is God. (Jn 1:1─5, 14, 3:13, 31; Col 1:15─20; Hebrews 1) He was also man.  He was born of Mary and the witness of his living presence among humankind reveals his humanity.

Jesus was made in the flesh just like everyone who walks this earth. The writer of Hebrews has recorded: “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” (Heb 2:17 NIV) Jesus cannot be seen as having any characteristics or abilities beyond those of created humankind.  He did not have the power to escape his enemies, or to create objects that would better his life.  He could not heal or avoid injury or sickness.  He could not supernaturally avoid sinning.  He was made like humans in every way.  This is the Jesus who was raised by Mary and Joseph.

The thought should not be entertained that the Lord possessed any special power that would grant him victory over sin.  The Word tells us that he suffered with temptations.  “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Heb 2:18 NIV) The Lord understands the trials we face and the issues of the flesh.  He knows! To be knowledgeable of the issues of humanity is part of the reason that he was incarnated in the flesh.  Because he understands, the excuses that will be offered at his judgment seat will be dealt with according to his understanding and all that has been provided.

How is it that he was without sin while the rest of humankind submit to its call?  First, he is the Son of his heavenly Father. The soul of Christ was of his Father, as were his interests and his disposition. Unlike those who have been born of their father, Adam, his interests and heart were in tune with those of his Father. The descendants of Adam have the heart of Adam.  The heart of humans has become afflicted with self-interest and all that such interest entails. It was the heart and soul of Jesus as his Father’s Son that made him unique and encouraged his fight for victory.

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (Heb 5:7 NIV) He was not sinless because he possessed a supernatural ability to defeat sin; he was sinless because he sought to honor his Father and because he earnestly and reverently prayed for victory. Had his heart not been fully committed to loving his Father, he might also have sinned and his death would have resulted. The Lord’s commitment for victory over sin needs to be acknowledged. It was the application of his will toward obedience to the Father he loved, rather than to self, that provided victory. His heart and soul gained him victory over the flesh that the Father had prepared for him in the womb of Mary.

Although Jesus was God, his godly power was not made available until his baptism.  “As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Mk 1:11 NIV) His Father had been “well pleased” because his obedience was complete and his heart fully set on his Father and upon loving and honouring him.  According to Luke, following his baptism he was filled with the Spirit and went into the wilderness for testing.  When he returned to Galilee it was by the power of the Spirit. (Lk 4:14)

Prior to the gifting of the Holy Spirit Jesus was godlike in soul only; following that gifting, he became godlike in Spirit as well.  He had all of the power of God available to him, in addition to the soul and heart of the Father.  At his resurrection the flesh that made him the Son of Man was left behind.

The redeemed should never excuse themselves for sinning.  They have all of the power for victory that Jesus had as he walked this earth and more than he had in the years before his baptism.  It is the darkness of a person’s soul and lack of love for the Father and for his Son, their lord and savior, that prevents a righteous walk. Peter said that “His divine power [his Spirit] has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” (2 Pet 1:3 NIV) The same Spirit that Christ had is the Spirit that indwells all who would call Christ lord and who desire to be transformed into his likeness.

Jesus came to do the will of the Father. (Jn 4:34, 8:28─29) He loved his Father and it was for this reason that he was fully obedient, even unto death on the cross.  As he entered Jerusalem before his crucifixion, he knew what lay before him, but he also knew what lay on the other side.  He would be gloriously united with his Father.  It was because of his great love that he would say while on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46 NIV) He was anguished in soul because of the pain, the load of sin that he bore, and the horrible separation from his Father that it had caused.

Adoration and wonder should overwhelm humankind knowing that the Lord has walked the walk that the rest of humankind has been unable to achieve.  As man his accomplishments in the flesh should cause all people to look to him in awe and with gratitude. Our sin that he bore and which separated him from the Father whom he loved so dearly should cause us grief.  His resurrected life which bears the power of God for victory over sin for those who obey him should cause rejoicing.

He is the God-Man Jesus Christ!

March 8, 2013

What if God Were One of Us?

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Hebrews 4:15

AMP 15 For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning.

MSG 15  We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin.

NLT 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.

Today we revisit the blog of Murray Wittke where this appeared February 14 under the title God Was One of Us.  If you enjoy this type of good devotional reading, click through and then visit other articles on Murray’s blog.

In 1995 the top 40 hit “What if God was one of us” asked listeners what they’d do if God got up close and personal with them. Have you ever wondered how you’d respond?

The Christmas story declares God did become one of us during the reign of Caesar Augustus. Ancient Israel longed for God to rescue them but never actually expected God to show up personally. And definitely no one expected God to arrive the way the gospel writers say he did.

Matthew says God became one of us in the womb of a young woman named Mary. There within her God -infinite, omnipotent, and eternal- was united with a human ovum and became Jesus Christ, a person with both a divine and human nature. Nine months later he experienced a real birth and entered our world weak and dependent just like one of us. Just imagine… God with a belly button, here with us, one of us.

For thirty plus years he made himself at home with us. He felt hunger, thirst, and weariness. He experienced our joys and sorrows, our grief and pain, and our frustrations and disappointments. He learned what it’s like to live in poverty; to work at hard manual labour; and to live with political corruption and the threat of violence all around. He endured misunderstanding, hatred, and rejection from those he loved. And then publicly and painfully he died. His heart stopped, he breathed his last, and was buried just like one of us. God was one of us and with us all the way from conception to grave.

We show compassion and support for sick or bereaved loved ones by visiting and spending time with them. So does God. He could have felt sorry for us and remained at a distance but instead he joined us within the human predicament. As one of us Jesus Christ knows and understands all we’re going through. You’re not alone. God became one of us and He is near, Immanuel-God with us forever.

The song’s long gone but its questions remain… “What if God was one of us?”

~Murray Wittke


Blog Flashback:

Considering starting a self-directed Bible study? Here are some suggestions we introduced here two years ago, in a piece simply title Study. Perhaps your ideas might result in a submission to C201!

January 23, 2013

God on the Mountain

This was posted last week by Daniel Jepsen at the blog Sliced Soup and all I can say is, “Wow!” There is so much depth to scripture that allows for so many fresh insights.  Check it out for yourself by clicking on the title below.

Meeting God on His Holy Mountain

I saw something new as I was reading scripture this morning.

In Exodus 19, you have perhaps the most dramatic scene in the whole Old Testament.  Moses, after being used by God to lead Israel out of slavery, is instructed to climb to the top of Mount Horeb (also known as Mount Sinai).  It was on this occasion that God then revealed the Ten Commandments, the covenant stipulations between God and Israel, by which He would be their God and they would be His people. God told Moses he would meet with him in a thick cloud, and indeed the whole mountain, we are told, was covered in smoke and thick darkness. Apparently the presence of God was marked by a tremendous storm (some think Horeb was an active volcano) both to reveal His power and to conceal where His voice came from. And there, the invisible God met with the representative of His people. There in the dark mist and cloud, Moses could not see anything of God, but could only hear his voice.  Such is the way the Holy God appears to unholy men. His presence is ever veiled. God spoke to Moses in a more intimate way than anyone before Christ, yet it was still in a thick cloud of darkness and storm.

Several centuries later another prophet of God was instructed to make the trek to Horeb. Elijah had been used by God greatly to call Israel back to repentance and faith (and away from idolatry).  Again, God called his prophet onto the mountain, and again God spoke to him.  I Kings records:

The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Again, though the prophet is called to the mountain to meet with God, it is in the midst of a storm. And again, the prophet veils his face, and sees not from whence the voice came.

In the New Testament, we also find a prophet (though more than a prophet) who ascends a mountain.  You will find the story in Matthew 17:

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.

Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

Here Jesus (like Moses and Elijah) goes up to the mountain for holy conversation.  But we note some differences in what happens.

First, Jesus apparently does not go to Mount Horeb, but (most likely) Mount Hermon, far to the north of Israel instead of far to the south.  This is not to sanctify north as more spiritual than south of course, but to point out that it is not the mountain that makes the divine conversation possible, but Jesus Himself.  He does not come to holy ground. He makes every ground holy.

Secondly, Jesus, unlike Moses and Elijah, does not come to the mountain alone for the divine conversation.  He brings Peter, James and John, those who represented all his followers, to the mountain with him, and they hear and see what he hears and sees.  This fits in well with the promise of Jesus that He is not only the one sent from the Father, but is the one by whom we also can be brought into close fellowship with the father (see John 14).

Thirdly, when Jesus ascends the mountain, there is no great and forbidding storm, no thick darkness and trembling mountain. Yes, a cloud of God’s presence does enter into the scene, but it is a “bright cloud”.  Jesus (by his later work on the cross) takes the terror of God upon Himself, so that he can say to us as he does to his followers on the mountain, “Get up. Don’t be afraid”.

Let us love and sing and wonder,
Let us praise the Savior’s name!
He has hushed the Law’s loud thunder,
He has quenched mount Sinai’s flame

John Newton

Finally, we see this great contrast. Though Jesus, like the Moses and Elijah, goes up to the mountain for a divine conversation, the motif is flipped on its head when we see what happens on the mountain: Moses and Elijah appear, conversing with Jesus.  They come to the mountain again, not to see God veiled in thick darkness and surrounded by storm, but to speak with God in the person of Jesus.  And Jesus himself is transfigured (or, perhaps better, revealed) as a person of light and majesty. He is not simply another prophet of God, nor even the greatest prophet of God. He is simultaneously the great prophet of God and the great God of the prophets

Oh, Holy Father, thank you for revealing yourself to flesh and blood, sinful and stupid as we are.  Thank you that you have always had your prophets by which you revealed your ways and laws, and you have called us to listen to those prophets. But thank you so much more for Jesus, the Son sent from your right hand, to be not only your last and great prophet, but You yourself in human form.  Help us all the more to heed your call, and listen to him.  Amen.

December 14, 2012

Why The Incarnation

While I know a large number of readers here probably use BibleGateway.com for their online searches of Bible passages, I often recommend BlueLetterBible.org when your knowledge of particular Bible phrase is close, but not close enough. This particular search tool will tell you of cases where, for example, you’ve got five out of the six words you typed located in selected verses.

Blue Letter Bible also has a daily Bible study blog and yesterday kicked off a Christmas series with part one of Why Did God Become a Man? And yes, I know it’s rather strange to be giving them the green letter treatment we give scripture verses here, so I saved you leaving that comment!

by Dave Jenkins

The doctrine of the Incarnation is important to Christianity. It reminds us that Jesus is both God and man. And this is important because it’s impossible to talk meaningfully about who Jesus is without talking about who He was and what He did. Around the turn of the century, James Denney, a professor at the United Free Church College in Glasgow, Scotland, discussed this matter:

Christ is the only person who can do this work for us. This is the deepest and most decisive thing we can know about him, and in answering the questions which it prompts we are starting from a basis in experience. There is a sense in which Christ confronts us as the reconciler. He is doing the will of God on our behalf, and we can only look on. We see him in judgment and the mercy of God in relation to our sins. His presence and work on earth are a divine gift, a divine visitation. He is the gift of God to men, not the offering of men to God, and God gives himself to us in and with him. We owe to him all that we call divine life. On the other hand, this divine visitation si made, and this divine life is imparted, through a life and work which are truly human. The presence and work of Jesus in the world, even the work of bearing sin, does not prompt us to define human and divine by contrast with each other: there is no suggestion of incongruity between them. Nevertheless, they are both there, ad the fact that they are both there justifies us in raising the question as to Jesus’ relation to god on the one hand, and to men on the other. 1

The Reason for the Incarnation
What is the function of the Incarnation in Christianity? A classic statement on why Jesus became man and its answer is found in Anslem of Canterbury (died 1109). Anslem’s theological masterpiece, Cur Deus Homo? (Why Did God Become Man?”) deals with the question of the Incarnation. Anslem answered this question that God became man in Christ because only one who was both God and man could achieve our salvation. The Incarnation—coming in the midst of a history of human sin—indicates that God has not abandoned us but rather loves and values us even in our fallen state.
Why Did God Put on Flesh?
The atonement is the reason God came as man. Consider these verses:

“For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book..”
(Hebrews 10:4-7)

“And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
(Hebrews 10:10)

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
(Matthew 1:21)

Jesus spoke of his coming suffering.

“And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.
(Mark 8:31)

“for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.”
(Mark 9:31)

He linked the success of his mission to the crucifixion:

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.
(John 12:32)

Also, at several places in John’s Gospel the crucifixion is spoken of as that vital “hour” for which Christ came (John 2:4; 7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1; 17:1).

The death of Jesus is also a major theme throughout the Old Testament: first, in regard to the meaning of the sacrifices (the meaning at the heart of the law); then in regard to the prophecies, which focused increasingly on the promise of a Coming Redeemer.

Isaiah 53 and other Old Testament texts speak of the suffering of the deliverer to come. Isaiah 53 and other Old Testament passages speak of the suffering of the deliver to come. In Galatians the apostle Paul teaches that even Abraham, who lived before both the law and prophets was saved by faith in Jesus (Gal. 3:8, 16). Furthermore, Jesus told the downcast disciples on the Emmaus Road that the Old Testament foretold His death and resurrection. Luke 24:25-27, “And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” In light of these texts and many others we can say that the atonement of Christ is a primary reason for the Incarnation. It is the explanation of the twofold nature and the focal point of the world and biblical history.

(In the next post, we will look further into the Incarnation-Atonement connection. Stay tuned!)

——-

Footnotes:

1 Denney, James, The Death of Christ, ed. R.V.G. Tasker (Chicago: Intervarsity Press, 1964).

September 16, 2012

Basic Concepts Reminder: Fullness of Deity

NIV Col 2: 9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form…

MSG Col 2: 9-10 … Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything.

It’s All There!

This term is used only here in the Bible, although Paul and other writers use similar phrases and ideas elsewhere (John 1:16; Colossians 1:19).

When Paul wrote to the Colossians, part of his purpose was to refute a teaching called Gnosticism that was influencing some of the Christians at Colossae.  According to this pagan belief, all matter was inherently evil, and only the soul and the mind were good.  This logically led to a denial of God’s creation of the world as well as a denial of Jesus’ incarnation or humanity.

Gnostics denied that Jesus was ever human and that Jesus died physically or was literally resurrected from the grave.  In this letter, Paul attacks these teachings and argues that Jesus, as God, created the universe (1:16), died on the cross (1:20), and had a human body (2:9).  But he adds more, declaring that during His time of humanity, Jesus also retained all the attributes and characteristics of God (see also Philippians 2:5-8).

All the powers and attributes that Jesus possessed in His deity were also present in his humanity.  All that God is in His divine essence is present also in Jesus Christ.  No inferiority or subordination exists within the Trinity or between God the Father and God the Son.  God’s loving, merciful and forgiving nature was manifested and demonstrated by the life and death of Jesus Christ. He was God incarnate, and that is why He said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

In Colossians 2:9, Paul is doing more than simply teaching a technical or abstract point of theology.  He is reminding the Colossian Christians and all who would hear this letter that because Jesus is God and Christians have a unique relationship to Him, they too have received grace and enormous blessings (Colossians 2:10; Ephesians 1:3).  The Gnostics promoted a spiritual hierarchy and caste system that required secret knowledge for advancement.  They also taught that a person had to work through angels and many intermediaries to have access to God.  The Bible rejects these views.  The fullness of God is in Jesus Christ and the Christian is complete in Jesus Christ, who alone serves as a mediator and advocate for all who believe (1 Timothy 2:5).  No superiority or inferiority exists among Christians.  No one is lesser or greater than another.  All Christians are equal (Galatians 3:26-28).

Tim Demy in 101 Most Puzzling Bible Verses, Harvest House 2006, chapter 79

December 15, 2011

A Wonderfully Paradoxical Statement

Christmas






Today’s post is from the Orthodox blog written by Fr. Stephen Freeman, Glory to God for All Things, where it appeared under the title, How Big Is Your Christmas?

We have entered the days when news pundits are asking, “Will Christmas be big this year?” When individuals ask one another, “Are you having a big Christmas this year?” It is understood that economics are involved (as with the media). Our modern economies are greatly dependent on the massive buying that occurs between late November and late December. Christmas shopping is so good for the economy (as presently constituted) that if Christ were not so conveniently born, we would have to come up with another excuse for giving gifts.

However, though the world’s economic system seems to hang in the balance over the generosity of two months spending, this is a very little thing about Christmas. My favorite summation of Christmas (and the Incarnation as a whole) if from St. Maximus the Confessor: “the Incarnation of the Word is the cause of all things.”

This wonderfully paradoxical statement, notes that “all things were made by and for him, etc.” St. Maximus reads these words as referring to the Incarnate Christ and not to the pre-incarnate Word. It turns history inside out and establishes the incarnation of Christ as more than a temporary skirmish to free us from our temporary bonds. It is the act of God who truly completes His creation in His Pascha. The words, “It is finished,” are the words of the Creator over the whole of His creation. He foretold this, “If I be lifted up from the earth I will draw all men unto myself.” This is echoed in a more cosmic sense in the words of Ephesians’ first chapter:

 …having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth– in Him. (Eph 1:9-10 NKJ)

Christmas, as the feast which celebrates the incarnation of Christ (as does the Annunciation), is the feast of the beginning of all things, and the feast of the end of all things. It is both cause and the end of all effects. And thus we will have a ”big” Christmas this year, for the gift that is given us is nothing less than creation itself. Its price was nothing less than the life of God. It’s not the economy, in the way politicians think of economy. It is the oikonomia – the unrelenting love of God completing what He alone could begin and what He alone could finish.

 Fr. Stephen Freeman is an Orthodox Priest who lives and serves in East Tennessee. A convert from Anglicanism, where he was a priest for 18 years, he was ordained to the Orthodox priesthood in 1999.