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The Nature of Christ
Questions in this section...
Was Jesus part divine and part human?
It is obvious that prior to being born of the virgin Mary Jesus was not human at all, and only divine. When Jesus became a man, the Bible says, He emptied Himself. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation [emptied himself. Greens Literal Translation and RSV], and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name. (Philippians 2:5-9)
In order for Jesus to become a man He emptied Himself. The Bible is clear that He emptied Himself of at least some of the attributes of divinity. There are certain characteristics that distinguish divinity from humanity. Some of these include: omniscience (all knowing), omnipresence (the ability to be in all places at the same time), omnipotence (all powerful), and immortality (not subject to death). We know for sure from the Bible that Jesus gave up all of these attributes of divinity while He was on earth.
Omniscience: Jesus said, But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. (Mark 13:32) We know that, at least while Christ was on earth, He did not have knowledge of all things. In fact, the Bible says He learned while He was on earth. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. (Luke 2:52) It is not possible for a man to increase in wisdom if he already has all wisdom.
Omnipresence: Jesus said, Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. (John 16:7) Jesus said that it was better for the disciples if He went away so that the Comforter could come to them. He said it would be better for them if the Comforter was there rather than Christ being there physically. Why was that? Jesus said, I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. (John 14:16-18) Jesus said that the Comforter was dwelling with the disciples while He was on earth, and would be in them in the future. Then He said, I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
The disciples were at a disadvantage to have Christ dwelling with them instead of in them. That is why Christ said that it would be better for the disciples for Christ to go away and regain his omnipresence so that He could dwell in them by His Spirit rather than dwelling with them on the outside of them. The Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:39) It is evident from this that Christ was limited by His humanity from being in all places at the same time. He did not have omnipresence while He was on earth.
Omnipotence: Jesus said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself. (John 5:19) And again, I can of mine own self do nothing. (John 5:30) According to Jesus, while He was on earth He was not able to do anything by His own power. It is obvious that He was not all powerful while He was on earth.
Immortality: The scripture says, But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. (Hebrews 2:9) It is obvious that Christ was subject to death while He was a human, for He died for our sins.
It is evident that at least the four primary characteristics of divinity were laid aside by Christ when He came to earth to be a man. Christ was divine while He was on earth, not because of what He was made of or any special powers He had, but because of who He wasthe Son of God.
The fulness of the Godhead was dwelling in Christ while He was on earth. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. (Colossians 2:9) Paul also wrote, For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell. (Colossians 1:19) The fulness of the Godhead that dwelt in Christ while He was on this earth was the fulness of God, the Father. Of Jesus John the Baptist said, God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. (John 3:34) The Spirit of the Father was given to Christ without measure so that He was filled with all the fulness of God. Paul wrote that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself. (2 Corinthians 5:19)
The Bible tells us that even you and I can be filled will all the fulness of God. And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. (Ephesians 3:19) Being filled with all the fulness of God comes by being a partaker of the divine nature. Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (2 Peter 1:4)
While Jesus was on earth He was a human who was divine because of who He was, not because of what He was made of. He was a partaker of the divine nature of His Father and was filled with all the fulness of God. Any divine powers that were manifested in Christ were a result of His Father dwelling in Him. Jesus said, The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. (John 14:10) Christ was divine because of who He was, but any divine powers manifested in Him were not His own powers, for they were relinquished when He became a man.
The popular trinitarian idea that Jesus was part divine, retaining all the attributes and powers of divinity, and part human, taking upon Himself the limitations of humanity is incorrect. The Bible says that He emptied Himself of all the powers of divinity when He became a human. Jesus, of Himself, could do nothing. (John 5:19, 30)
This question and its answer were printed in the August 2000 issue of Present Truth.
Did Jesus obtain a sinful nature when He was here 2000 years ago? In other words, if He became like one of us in all ways, was His nature the same as ours? Would you please explain.
The book of Hebrews answers this question quite well. Here we read of Jesus, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." (Hebrews 2:13, 14)
Here the Bible makes it clear that just as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, Christ took part of the same. Who are these children? The Bible tells us they are the children which God has given to Christ. These are the redeemed. It is not speaking here of Adam and Eve before they fell into sin, but of those who have already sinned and been redeemed from their sins.
It is obvious then, that just as you and I are partakers of flesh and blood, Jesus took part of the samethe same flesh and blood that you and I have, not the flesh and blood that Adam and Eve had before they fell.
Continuing on we read, For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. (Hebrews 2:16)
Here again we see that Christ took on Him the seed of Abraham rather than the nature of Adam before he sinned. Then we read, Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren (Hebrews 2:17)
Here is an even more conclusive statement. Jesus had to be made in all things like his brethren. We also read that He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15) If in any point Jesus was not made like unto his brethren, then in that point He could not have been tempted like as we are. If Jesus did not take upon Him sinful flesh then He could not be tempted like as we are, because we are tempted through our sinful flesh.
Yes, Jesus did obtain a sinful nature when He was here 2000 years ago. I hope this helps to answer your question.
This question and its answer were printed in the January 2001 issue of Present Truth.
Could He [Jesus] have sinned?
First of all, let me say that this is an excellent question. It is one of my favorite questions to ask a trinitarian, because either a yes or no answer would yield many problems to the trinitarian mind.
You see, if Jesus could not have sinned, then it reduces the mission of Christ to an act or play. Somewhat like a mock triala trial that is decided beforehand which has no chance of any other outcome, but is held anyway to appease the public.
This makes the sacrifice of God in giving His Son nothing more than a minor inconvenience for a few years, rather than a risk of losing something.
If a trinitarian would answer yes to this question, then it would pose the problem of the possibility of the trinity becoming separated, or reduced to a twinity rather than a trinity. Because if Jesus would have sinned then He would have to die for His own sins without a Saviour, for the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) This is something the trinitarian cannot accept as a possibility.
The risk of God losing His only begotten Son poses no dilemma for the non-trinitarian, however. It is true that if Jesus would have sinned, then not only Jesus, but all of us would be eternally lost. Certainly that would not be pleasant, but it was a real possibility, and therefore elevates our understanding of Gods love in allowing His only begotten Son to come down to this earth in sinful flesh and take the risk of failure and eternal loss.
Concerning Christ, Isaiah wrote, For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder. (Isaiah 9:6) Here we read that the government would be upon the shoulders of Jesus. What government? The Jewish government? The Roman government? Certainly not! This is talking about a much higher government than any earthly government. This is the government of God Himself. Gods government would stand or fall based upon the outcome of Christs mission on earth. Was this a mock trial that had no chance of failure? I think not!
Lets allow the Bible to answer the question of whether Jesus could have sinned. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
Jesus was tempted in all points like as we are. What does it mean to be tempted? James wrote, Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. (James 1:13-15)
First of all we learn here that God cannot be tempted. Even Jesus, the Son of God, could not be tempted until He became a man.
Notice also that temptation takes place when a man is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. If a man does not have lusts, then it is impossible for him to be tempted. Jesus, however, was tempted in all points like as we are. Therefore He must have had the lusts, or sinful flesh that we do.
Now, someone may say, If Christ had lusts then He sinned, and the Bible says that He didnt sin. Lets not get lust and sin confused. To have lust is not to sin, for the verse goes on, when lust hath conceived, then it bringeth forth sin. Christ never allowed lust to conceive and bring forth sin, but He must have had the lust in order to be tempted.
Hold on someone may say, Jesus said that to lust after a woman is sin. That is not exactly what He said. Let us read it. Jesus said, whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Matthew 5:28)
If you decide to stare at a woman for the purpose of lusting after her, then you have already committed adultery with her in your heart. However, the initial desire to look upon a woman is not sin in itself. It is only when you allow that desire to take root that it becomes a sin.
For example, suppose a man is walking through the checkout line in a grocery store. Inevitably there are several magazines in the racks that have half naked women on the cover. The man glances around, and notices one of these magazines. There is something in him that is drawn to continue looking at this picture; however, he understands that it is wrong to continue looking at the picture, and immediately turns away. Realizing his own weakness, and the danger he is in, he calls upon the Lord to deliver him from this temptation. And immediately the Lord gives him the victory he so longs for, and draws his mind to focus on eternal things.
Was it a sin for the man to have glanced at the picture to begin with (in this case we will say he did it innocently), and have some longing to continue looking at it? No. He was tempted by being drawn to do that which was wrong to do, but this temptation was not a sin. It would have become a sin had he stared at the picture and allowed his mind to wonder on forbidden territory. This is when lust hath conceived, and it bringeth forth sin. (James 1:15)
So it is clear that Jesus must have had lust in order to be tempted. If not He could not have been tempted, and certainly not tempted like as we are.
If there were no chance that Jesus could have sinned, then all of Satans temptations would have been a waste of time. Also there would be no victory over sin by our Saviour, because what real victory is there if there is no possibility of defeat.
The Bible says, For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted. (Hebrews 2:18) This verse would be meaningless if Jesus had not truly overcome temptation like we must. If He had not overcome the same temptations that we face, and in the same way, then His help would not be much good. Furthermore, if we are receiving help from someone who has not overcome the same temptations we are faced with we could have received the same help from this Person before He was tempted, and hence this verse would be meaningless.
I am thankful that we have a High Priest who has been tempted like we are, and has overcome like we must, and who is helping us right now to overcome the temptations that we are faced with. Praise the Lord for His goodness to us!
Hold on, some may say, Jesus had all power while He was on earth, and therefore overcame sin with power unavailable to us. This would be a reality if Jesus had all power while He was on earth, but the Bible tells us differently.
Jesus said, The Son can do nothing of himself. (John 5:19) And again, I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. (John 5:30)
According to Jesus Himself, He did not possess all power while He was on earth. And again we read, And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. (Matthew 28:18) It is not possible to give all power to an individual who already possesses it. Evidently Jesus did not have all power while He was on earth, and therefore was dependent upon His Fathers power for every victory over sin, just as you and I must be.
Yes, there was a risk involved in God sending His Son into the world. Jesus could have sinned and failed in His mission, which would have meant eternal loss for both the Father and His Son, and all of the universe. If He would have sinned, then Gods government would have failed. The entire universe would look upon God and His government with suspicious eyes, and there would be no certainty that sin would not rise a second time.
But praise God that it will not. We read, What do ye imagine against the L (Nahum 1:9) After sin is eradicated in this world, it will never arise again because everyone will know the awful results of rebellion against God. Gods government will be secure throughout eternity.
This question and its answer were printed in the January 2001 issue of Present Truth.
I wonder how you would explain 1 John 4:2, 3.
I am glad you brought that up. The verses read, Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. (1 John 4:2, 3) According to John, the spirit of antichrist denies that Christ is come in the flesh. John also wrote, Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father. (1 John 2:22, 23) John said that the antichrist denies the Father and the Son and, from verse 23, we learn John was particularly focusing on the denial of the Son, which automatically denies the Father. The denial of the sonship of Christ goes hand in hand with the denial that He came in the flesh. These are the chief manifestations of the spirit of antichrist, according to the Scriptures.
It is quite interesting to note that when we look at history we find that the sonship of Christ was questioned at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, and shortly thereafter the nature of Christ while He was a man came under question. Please notice: The Arian controversy was chiefly waged over the question of the eternal generation of the Son, or in other words, the meaning of the term begotten Son. (The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers Second Series, Volume 9, Chapter 2, Introduction to St. Hilary of Poitiers)
The Trinity and Christology, the two hardest problems and most comprehensive dogmas of theology, are intimately connected. Hence the settlement of the one was immediately followed by the agitation and study of the other. The speculations on the Trinity had their very origin in the study of the person of Christ, and led back to it again. The point of union is the idea of the incarnation of God. But in the Arian controversy the Son of God was viewed mainly in his essential, pre-mundane relation to the Father; while in the Christological contest the incarnate historical Christ and the constitution of his divine-human person was the subject of dispute And now came into question, further, the relation between the divine and the human natures in Christ. (Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume 3, pages 705-706)
In other words, the early Catholic theologians concluded that their denial of the literal sonship of Christ must logically be followed by a modified interpretation of what it means that Christ came in the flesh. These are the two theological signs of antichrist recorded in the Bible.
The primary conclusion the early Catholic theologians came to was that Christ, if He is an integral portion of the Most High God, then under no circumstances could He be separated from God or lose any of the abilities of God. Therefore, they concluded that while Christ was a man He was all powerful and all knowing, and could not completely die. This idea is still maintained by the large majority of Christian churches today.
Notice what one author said on this subject: though there are problems stemming from certain Scriptural statements concerning the human nature of Christ, there is considerable evidence that Christ retained omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence even while on earth. (John F. Walvoord, Bibliotheca Sacra, Volume 118, No. 470, April 1961, page 102) I found this statement interesting because the writer candidly admits that this idea cannot be harmonized with all the Scriptures in the Bible. In fact, it cannot be found in the Bible at all. The considerable evidence he supposes proves this idea could be used just as convincingly regarding Peter, Paul, or many other Bible figures who performed miracles just as astounding as Christs.
One aspect of denying that Christ is come in the flesh is denying that He was in all things made like unto his brethren. (Hebrews 2:17) However, there is another aspect that is sometimes overlooked, and that is the idea that Christ does not come in our flesh. This would deny that Christ dwells in us by His Spirit. Paul wrote, Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27) He also wrote, And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. (Galatians 4:6)
According to the Bible, the Spirit of Christ dwells in us directly and we can have direct fellowship with Christ. Yet there are some who deny this by saying Christ only dwells in us through another person known as the Holy Ghost. This would also deny that Christ is come in the flesh.
I hope this helps to answer your question.
This question and its answer were printed in the April 2002 issue of Present Truth.
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