Tuesday, February 26, 2013

My thoughts on Christology

The biblical basis for the humanity of Jesus presents itself both directly and indirectly. The direct references in the New Testament begin with the Gospel of John. He bears witness to how Jesus, the eternal Word, “became flesh and dwelt among us.”1 Paul testifies that Jesus is “born of woman, and born under law,”2 just like all men since Adam. Jesus' humanity is implied by his physiological condition. The simple fact that he is born of a woman, gives evidence that he entered this world in the conventional manner. He experienced life in the same way that all men do. He had to learn how to crawl, walk, eat, and talk as all children do3. His forty day fast and subsequent test in the wilderness with Satan revealed that Jesus was subject to human needs. He felt hunger, fatigue, and carnal temptations associated with power, and pleasure. His agony over facing wrath and separation from God in Gethsemane shows emotional pain and affliction. At the culmination of his life and ministry he faced and conquered the destiny of all men: physical death.

The deity of Jesus is summed up in one sentence by Paul in the Epistle to the Colossians. “He is the image of the invisible God.”4 The Gospel writers quote Jesus referring to himself as “Son of Man” more than any other title. This is a messianic title for the “preexistent one who will come at the end of the ages as judge and as a light to the Gentiles.”5 At his baptism, and transfiguration, Jesus is called another messianic title, “Son of God.” Paul frequently refers to Jesus as “Lord,” which is a title reserved only for Yahweh himself. John calls Jesus the “Word” who was God in the beginning.6 He records Jesus saying “ego eimi,” or “I Am”, eight times in his Gospel.7 Jesus removed any doubt that he is anything other than Yahweh, the eternal God of Israel.

Jesus is both human and divine; theanthropos: the God-man.8 At the incarnation of Christ, the moment when God took on flesh, his divine nature was joined with his human nature. Jesus is fully God, and fully man. God is one, thus both natures exist together and complete. Hence, Jesus is, “consubstantial with the Father.”9 This means that they are of the same substance, and the immutable nature of God is not changed at the incarnation of Jesus. We must not overstress either nature of Christ. If we believe Jesus was simply a man sent by God, his own claims to be the great “I Am” would be false. If he were a celestial being that shared no common thread with mankind, he would not have been able to be a propitiation for man.

In order for men to be redeemed, God had to raise up a man to fulfill his Law completely. God's plan of redemption made provision for sin to be paid for by blood; and only by blood. Only a perfect, sinless man was qualified to be the ultimate sacrifice for the sin of mankind. Jesus Messiah, the “stump of Jesse,” left the throne of heaven, poured himself into human flesh, and paid the price for our salvation. The author of Hebrews said that we have a “great High Priest” who can sympathize with us in every way. He has felt what we feel, was tempted as we are tempted, yet without sin.10
There are some common objections to biblical Christology. Monarchianism held Christ as a “second God besides the Father.”11 Christianity is monotheistic. God is clear in describing himself as one, without exception. Arianism said that Christ was made or created before time. A proper view of the trinity gives clarity to this teaching. Christ is eternally begotten, uncreated, preexistent. Therefore, he was not made at any point in eternity past. Apollinarianism denied that Jesus had complete manhood, which is contrary to what Hebrews says about his identification with man. Nestorianism said that the two natures of Christ existed side by side. This denies the unity of the nature of God and therefore denies that “the impassible Word” died for humanity.12 All these false teachings err in their assertion that there is some separation in the nature of God. God is unified “without confusion, without conversion, without division, and without separation.”13
Jesus presented the perfect example of living a holy, sacrificial life that is pleasing and perfect to God. He faced pain, ridicule, rejection, and death, all for the sake of reconciling mankind to the Father. He gave all of himself for those who Scripture calls his enemies. It makes me ask myself if I would do the same?

Elwell, Walter A. 2001. Evangelical dictionary of theology. Grand Rapids, Mich: Paternoster Press
Towns, Elmer. 2002. The Gospel of John: Believe and Live. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers
1John 1:14 ESV
2Galatians 4:4 ESV
3Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2001. pg. 239
4Colossians 1:15 ESV
5Elwell. pg. 240
6John 1:1 ESV
7Towns, Elmer. The Gospel of John: Believe and Live. pg. xvi
8Elwell. pg. 584
9Ibid. pg. 219.
10Hebrews 4:14 ESV
11Elwell. pg. 241
12Ibid. pg. 242
13Ibid. pg. 243

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