Jesus Part Two: The Deity of Christ (Jon Fryer)

To gain a fully biblical understanding of the person of Christ Jesus we have to acknowledge his total divinity just as much as his total humanity. Theologians use the word ‘incarnation’ to describe the fact that Jesus was God in human form, and it literally means ‘to make flesh’ – God the Son, the second person of the Trinity, made himself into a human being.

Read John 1;1-18. This is the clearest passage that speaks of how Jesus is God, Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. Back before the beginning he was the ‘I AM THAT I AM’ word, the ‘with-God’ word, the ‘was-God’ word, the Voice who brought creation into existence, the ‘without-me-nothing’ word, the ‘everything’ word. John explains how Jesus took human flesh and became ‘man’, and then he explains why in verse 18 – ‘No one has ever seen God, but this ‘Only Begotten God’ (as the Greek actually says), who is at the Father’s side, has shown Him to us.’ This is what Isaiah foresaw when he made his prophecy of a baby to be born in Isai 9;6: ‘for unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government of the universe will be on his shoulders. And he is called from eternity ‘Wonderful’, and ‘Counsellor’, ‘Almighty God’, ‘the Father of Eternity’, ‘the Prince of Peace’.’ Isaiah knew that this baby would be Almighty God in person.

Jesus himself, towards the end of his life on Earth, spoke clearly to his disciples about the fact that he and the Father were indistinguishable – Read John 14;6-11. This was the first time that he actually came out and said that he was God to his disciples, but he had been proclaiming this fact in subtle ways throughout his ministry. Each miracle that he did he did as a man in the power of the Spirit, but each miracle pointed to God and said ‘This is who I AM; this is what I’m like’. Throughout his ministry Jesus also said some obscure things that also pointed to this fact. Read John 7;37-38. On the last day of the feast of Succot water from the Pool of Siloam is poured seven times over the altar to symbolise salvation from sin by the grace of God – Jesus then stood up and effectively said ‘Actually guys, that’s me!’. Read John 8;12. Again on the last night of the feast lamps were lit in the Court of the Women which historians tell us lit up the night until the whole city was as bright as midday to show the eternal presence of God in His Temple – again Jesus stood up and effectively said ‘This is all about me too!’, just as he did in the Synagogue at the start of his ministry. This led to an argument with the Pharisees at the end of which Jesus again made a strong claim that he is God in the flesh.

Read John 8;54-58. If Jesus had simply wanted to claim that he was immortal he could have just said ‘Before Abraham was, I was’, which would have been outrageous enough. Instead he says something that makes no logical sense – before something in the past happened (‘Abraham was’), something in the present happened (‘I am’). The Jewish leaders instantly recognised that he wasn’t speaking nonsense or in riddles; instead, when Jesus said ‘I AM’ he was claiming to be the God outside of time who spoke to Moses, the ‘I AM THAT I AM’ in Exodus 3;14. In his previous ‘I AM’ statements Jesus could have been speaking prophetically or metaphorically – ‘I am the light, I am the water’ etc. – but this time his meaning is unmistakeable – ‘I AM God outside of eternity!’

Read Phil 2;5-11. As we have previously seen, Jesus gave up all his rights as the Son of God to become human, and became as weak and tiny as the rest of us in order to truly represent us before the Father as a sympathetic High Priest and acceptable substitute. Some people however have taken these verses to mean that Jesus gave up being God whilst he was here on Earth and was only a mere human. This is called the ‘Kenosis theory’ or ‘kenotic theology’ from the Greek word kenosis, translated as ‘emptied’ used in verse 7. It also wanders right to the very edge of heresy. The verse says that Jesus humbled himself, it does not mean that he gave up any part of himself, any more than we chop off an arm when we become Christians! If Jesus had totally stopped being God for even an instant then the entire universe would have snapped back into chaos and ceased to exist – read Col 1;15-20. The verse makes it clear that Jesus was God as well as man, for only God could save mankind and pay the price for sin, for no mere man however perfect could ever do something that vast. As it says, it is by the fullness of God dwelling in him that all things are reconciled to God. Likewise, read Heb 1;1-3 + 8-12 + 13;8. These verses make it clear that Jesus was not just a man, but the true image of God, the ‘exact representation of His being’ – in Greek it says the charakter of his hypostasis – the ‘identical duplicate’ of His ‘fundamental nature’ – as Jesus says in the Gospel of John, when you look at Jesus the man you see Jesus the God, and you see the Father. Jesus the man and Jesus the God are one and the same thing. Jesus is 100% human and simultaneously 100% God, and that doesn’t make 200%, it makes 100%! This paradox, this ‘hypostatic union’ as theologians call it, is hard to understand, but it is important to believe it. Read Col 2;8-10. Our sin is paid for because Jesus was a man who died for us, but we only have resurrection power and new life because Jesus is God who lives for us.

Of course, with an idea this complicated many people within the church over the centuries have been deceived into heresy by hollow logic and earthly wisdom. As Christians, we believe that Jesus was both man and God. We don’t believe:

  • that Jesus had a human body but a divine mind and spirit, that Jesus was literally invisible God driving around in a human body like a car, but not connected to it in any way. This is not good enough for salvation’s sake, for our human minds and souls need redemption just as much as our fallen bodies do! Theologians call this heresy Apollinarianism.
  • that there were two separate persons in Christ, one human, one divine, in conflict or tension. Theologians call this heresy Nestorianism. Nowhere do we see this in the Bible – Jesus is always ‘I’, not ‘we’ – he’s not schizophrenic, with his ‘God-ness’ wanting to do something different to his humanity, or acting apart from it – when Jesus does something in his human body, his divinity works the same act simultaneously, in one accord, in the same way that we are supposed to act together in one accord as members of his body.
  • that Jesus’ human nature was absorbed by the divine to become something that was neither God nor man but something else entirely. If this were true Jesus would not be able to represent us before God because he wouldn’t be human, nor would he be able to work our salvation by being God! Theologians call this heresy Monophysitism or Eutychianism.

    So why is this important? Why do we need to remember that Jesus was God as well as man? There are several reasons.

    Firstly, to summarise what we have already said, Jesus, whilst remaining what he was, because what he was not. Whilst he continued to be fully God (which he already was), Jesus became fully human as well (which he hadn’t been before). This is the most amazing miracle in the Bible, far more amazing than the Resurrection or Creation or any of the little ones – the infinite, omnipotent, immortal Son of God became human... for us. He went to Hell… for us. For us, the Father lost His Son… just think about that. The Trinity is defined by relationship. God the Father is only the Father because He has a Son. When Jesus died on the cross not only was Jesus separated from his Father with whom he had been for all eternity, but God was separated from God for the first time in forever. The Trinity was shattered…. only for a short time of course, but three days is a terribly long time when you’ve been together for all of time. That’s the real sacrifice at Calvary, not the crucifixion of an innocent man. For us, the Living Word became wordless, a baby with no words. For us, the Voice of the Maker became a hungry voice, hungry for his mother’s milk, hungry in the desert. For us, the Voice which ordered the universe and created gravity cried out for fear of falling. The Voice that made woman was carried by a woman, and cried out for her. For us, the invulnerable God died. For us, the un-woundable God cried. This was the sacrifice required to redeem our fallen-ness, just as much as his death on a cross. Jesus’ human nature gave God a.) an ability to experience suffering and death first hand, b.) an ability to understand by experience what we experience, and c.) an ability to be our substitute sacrifice, which Jesus as God alone could not have done, by God’s own rules. Read 1 Tim 3;16. The word ‘mystery’ there is the Greek word mysterion, translated as sacramentum in Latin. Jesus’ divinity and humanity is not just an unexplained mystery to us, but rather a sacramental thing that touches us deeply. Just as humanity and divinity are his nature simultaneously, it is by his incarnation that we receive redemption power and the Holy Spirit dwelling in our bodies, God and Man in unity – read Titus 2;11-15.
  • The Rubilev IconMore than that, when Jesus ascended into Heaven he took his human body with him – read Acts 1;6-9. He took his humanity back into the very heart of the godhead to be our sympathetic High Priest, as it says in Hebrews. There is a part of God that is forever human, and understands our weakness. Also, where one man has gone, others can follow. People used to say that a man couldn’t swim the Channel, until someone got up and did it, and then others followed. In the same way, the way to the heart of God was barred to us, until a man got up and went there, and now we can follow in his footsteps, to take up the fourth seat at the table with the Trinity, just as in Rublev’s icon. The final reason is the most simple – read 1 John 1;1-4. No other God in any religion has ever done the things that our God has done for us, or is approachable like our God is, inviting us to come and sit at His table, and just to spend time with Him, as one friend with another...

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