Jesus, Son of God, Son of Man
Why God Became a Man?
by: Lambert Dolphin
The religion page in the Saturday newspaper these days treats Jesus as a great moral teacher whose words we may or may not have accurately recorded for us in the gospels. Jesus may have been a remarkable teacher, but so was Confucius, Buddha, or Mohammed.
The disciples of Jesus, and the majority of the Jews who enthusiastically followed the Master at the beginning of his public ministry clearly hoped he would bring in the kingdom of God by throwing out the Roman overlords and bringing Israel back to the glory the nation had in the days of Solomon.
Reading through the gospels there is plenty of evidence that Jesus' teachings were inexhaustibly rich and profound and authoritative. His miracles were real and brought much relief from pain, suffering and even death. His manhood, lived out in total dependence on the indwelling Father, was startling to many because no man living or dead had ever come close to measuring up to Jesus' demonstration of what God intended normal manhood to be.
While the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret. And he saw two boats by the lake; but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had ceased speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." And Simon answered, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets." And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.
But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men." (Luke 5:1-10)
Jesus probably first realized his calling when he was about 12 years old,
And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company they went a day's journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously." And he said to them, "How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man." (Luke 2:40-52)
From the time He first realized why He had been sent into the world, Jesus knew that His main purpose was to arrive in Jerusalem at a precise, exact time and date on God's calendar that had been prophesied by Daniel 700 years earlier, (Daniel 9:24-27). There he knew that he would be betrayed by one of his own, and that he would become a sacrificial lamb for the sins of all the world.
"...[Jesus] strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah. From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men." Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done. (Matthew 16:20-27)
Men today are no different from the Jews of Jesus' day. We'd all like a Savior who would fix up the externals of our lives, solve our financial and emotional problems, deal with our enemies and give us at the happiness that constantly eludes us. But the Primary Mission of Jesus was much more serious and profound and terrible. He came to undo cosmic evil and to accomplish a permanent fix for the problem of human sin.
The solution to human ills and to the cosmic problem of evil could not, cannot, and did not come from human skills, ingenuity, or from our meritorious efforts. It is the Creator Himself who formulated the plans---from the beginning of time---for the solution of man's terrible plight. Though the councils of God are conducted in eternity "before the foundation of the world," in due season,
"...when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons." (Galatians 4:4, 5)
God executed His plans, as He always does, according to His own timing and pre-planning. What God did to solve the problem of evil was to enter the human race in the Person of the Son, as a perfect, sinless man.
"who, though he was in the form (morphe) of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied (ekenosen) himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found (schemati) in human form (homoiomati) he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:6-11)
Jesus, the Son of God became a substitute for each one of us, a sin-bearer, a reconciler. He is called in the New Testament, "the Author (archegos) and Finisher ( teleiotes) of our Faith" (Heb. 12:2). By a voluntary act the Son of God chose to become a man, to be an obedient servant, and to do everything, day by day throughout his entire life on earth, in total dependence upon the Father who indwellt Him.
This passage quoted above from Philippians is of great importance to our understanding the nature of God and the radical solution to sin God accomplished through the incarnation of His Son. The early church wrestled over the issue of whether Christ had one nature or two (the problem of the "hypostatic union")---most Christians today agree that this passage implies that Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man. Furthermore, Jesus lived His entire life on earth by faith in total dependence upon the Father who dwelt in Him, thus He did not, while He was on earth, exercise His sovereign power as God the Son. This right and privilege (that of acting as Sovereign God), in addition to His exalted and splendrous place beside the Father, were temporarily and voluntarily set aside by Jesus of his own free will.
The Son of God, having become a man, grew into maturity, through suffering and obedience, and so came to the age where He was fully qualified to die as a substitute for the sins of the world. Then, having accomplished that terrible, bloody work of the cross, Jesus was raised from tghe dead by the Father and by the Holy Spirit. Forty days later He ascended into the heavens. This same Jesus now sits at the "right hand of the Majesty on High." In this series of cosmic events, Jesus has actually gained a more exalted position in the universe than He held before. Because of his obedience and death on the cross, He has been elevated by the Father to the place of supreme authority in the entire universe. This "higher state" may be difficult for us to imagine---since Jesus was already the Son of God before He became a man---but such is the language used of Jesus in the New Testament describing his post-resurrection exaltation.
The Seat of Original Sin
“Original sin" in the human race may very well be transmitted biologically from generation to generation [from Adam] through the male sperm, rather than through the female ovum. The virgin birth, Custance believed, allowed Jesus to be born of Mary free from all sin so as to become a "lamb without spot or blemish," "tempted in every way, just as we are, yet without sin." Scripture also speaks of Jesus as "The Lamb slain before the foundation of the world." If original sin is transmitted genetically by the male sperm and not by the female ovum, then Mary, though she herself was a forgiven sinner and a mortal daughter of Adam and Eve, could give birth to a sinless son through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit without ordinary fertilization by her husband's seed.
The incarnation, the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus the Son of God is an awesome intrusion into our limited space-time domain. These events which we see as merely historic in our time frame constitute an eternal event, a transaction (known in theology as "the eternal covenant") between the Father and the Son, which really takes place in eternity, outside of time. The prophet Isaiah records amazing "conversations" outside of time between God the Father and His servant the Messiah, (Isaiah was written about 700 years before Jesus was born) For example Isaiah 49 says:
Listen to me, O coastlands, and hearken, you peoples from afar. The LORD called me (Messiah) from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away. And he said to me, 'You are my servant, Israel, (here the Messiah is spoken of as the true Israel) in whom I will be glorified.'
But I (Messiah) said, 'I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the LORD, and my recompense with my God.'
And now the LORD says, who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD, and my God has become my strength---he says: 'It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.' Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the servant of rulers: 'Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.'" (1-7)
The argument about the mechanism by which sin may be genetically transmitted is a very reasonable one, and helps us to understand why the blood line of the promise through legitimate heirs from Eve down through Mary is uninterrupted, while only the Kingly promise (not the blood line---see Jer. 22:30, 36:30) is preserved from Abraham to Joseph.
The conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary by the Holy Spirit interrupted the chain of genetic links beginning with the fall, allowing a descendant of Adam to be born into the world free from original sin. The perfect obedience of Jesus during His life on earth also was necessary to assure that He reached the cross as a fully qualified sin-offering. Scripture emphasizes the humanity of the Messiah as fully as it does His Deity. The Old Testament is replete with references to the Messiah as the "root out of dry ground," "the seed of David," "the suffering servant of the LORD," and so on.
Jesus and the Undoing of Cosmic Evil
The most famous passage from the pen of Paul describing the resurrection of believers also makes mention of Christ's victory over evil angels, and over death itself. Indeed Jesus will, ultimately "put all things under himself:"
"But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 'For God has put all things in subjection under his feet.' But when it says, 'All things are put in subjection under him,' it is plain that he is excepted who put all things under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things under him, that God may be everything to every one." (1 Corinthians 15:20-28)
The Bible is full of evidence that both the spiritual dimension and human society are today influenced by an active and pernicious evil agency. The old creation has been ruined because of active evil perpetrated by fallen angels. Both the heavens and the material universe have become flawed and corrupted. Some of the laws of physics we now take for granted were evidently different in the past. Evil in the heavens means that malevolent spiritual beings, having great influence in the universe have access to the throne of God and to territories beyond the earth as well. Satan does not rule in hell, as popular cartoons usually suggest. As the prince of the power of the air he has access to heaven, (Job Chapter 1). As the god of this age he rules over the fallen social order of the nations.
Satan and his hordes of malevolent spirit-beings rule in the activities of men; however, only with permission from God. They are completely in subjection to God and can not go beyond boundaries established by God. Satan's pervasive influence of active evil influencing all human affairs is also temporary and soon will be coming to an end. In fact, the doom and fate of the Father of Lies has already been sealed in eternity. The victory of Jesus on the cross was a cosmic, all-encompassing one:
God has delivered us [who believe] from the dominion of darkness and transferred [translated] us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities---all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him...(Colossians 1:13-22)
We sons and daughters of Adam, who still live constrained in time, can rest assured that a bright, new world lies ahead for all who follow Jesus as Lord. A just and holy God cannot tolerate the present world situation forever. He must, and He will, intervene and change the status quo. One such direct intervention has already occurred, at the time of the Flood of Noah. God's next moves will be more grand, terrible, and awesome indeed. He reigns over the entire universe always, but He does not yet rule on the earth. The day of Christ's rule on earth is fast approaching.
Man's Three Enemies
Man is fallen, human evil is a reality---The first three Chapters of the Book of Romans spell this out for us in detail. How can we miss such a complete and thorough indictment before the bar of God's court of justice? Yet amazingly everyone of us seems intent on denying what should be perfectly obvious. Even though we all suffer from the effects of early in life, we persist in living for the moment denying the fact that the human mortality rate remains a flat 100%.
The fact that we begin to die as soon as we are born, attests to the fall of our forefather Adam, "Sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned--" (Romans 5:12). Even those of us who know Jesus Christ as Lord, and who experience his renewing life in us, (Romans 8:11) still live in fallen physical bodies---bodies that are not yet redeemed.
Non-Christians are described in the Bible as "dead in trespasses and sins." Thus those who do not yet know God cannot be expected to live what in God's eyes is truly moral and godly lives---by our very nature. The power to live a moral life comes from God as a gift, as does inherent rightness which is imputed to us when we become Christians.
Becoming a Christian does not eliminate sin, rather, conversion to Christ is the time the real battle begins. Christians find themselves subjected to temptations and inclinations towards evil through three mechanisms. The Bible calls them "the flesh, the world, and the devil." However, neither the body, nor matter, nor things in the material world are, in and of themselves, evil.
The flesh might better be translated "the self-life." The seat of the flesh lies in the as-yet-unredeemed physical body of man, but it is Satan who energizes and empowers the lusts of the flesh that we all experience. The enemy seeks to draw us away from dependence upon the indwelling Lord Jesus, this produces self-centeredness---which is how the flesh operates. The flesh and the world are Satan's main instruments in this process. The flesh, according to the Bible, has both "good" and "bad" aspects. The flesh always springs to life when a Christian tries to live his life by self-effort---rather than by dependence upon his indwelling Lord. Christians are free to "walk after the flesh" but admonished instead to "put to death the deeds of the body" and to "sow good works by the Spirit" since there are inevitable consequences for evil or for good depending on all our daily choices. These contrasts are set forth in Galatians Chapter 5.
The "world," (as the New Testament uses the term), is not the world of nature, but culture, custom, tradition, and human society as dominated by Satan. The Greek word cosmos, translated "world" means "ornament, decoration, arrangement." Cosmos gives us our English word "cosmetics." Hence worldliness is a concern for external appearances more than inner content and quality. The world system is outwardly religious, scientific, cultured and elegant. Inwardly it seethes with national and commercial rivalries.
The influence of the "world" on a follower of Christ shows up in the following ways: a conformity to cultural norms or traditions and stifles individuality, the use of force, greed, ambition and warfare to accomplish objectives, the use of financial reward, position, power or social status as a important aspect of identity. The world cares nothing for the worth of the individual or his uniqueness, promotes myths and illusions which appeal to human vanity and pride, diverts attention from spiritual values by appeals to pursue pleasure, pride (vainglory), or to power, is permissive in regard to sexual, moral and ethical values to encourage self-indulgence, makes an appeal to immediate pleasure rather than long-term goals, ignores eternal values and invisible realities, offers false philosophies and value systems to support its goals. The root problem behind worldly values is pride. The world exalts man, his abilities and his supposed "progress"---e.g. through the myth of social evolution, glosses over and hides suffering, death, poverty, the depravity of man, and man's accountability to God. The "world" seeks to unify mankind under an atheistic humanistic or pantheistic banner, and emphasizes pluralism while denying Biblical absolutes. Worldly philosophy teaches human progress and advancement through better education or social welfare.
The third enemy of man is Satan. The Devil is "the god of this world" (or in Greek this "age.") He does not preside over hell, but over the earth, that is, over society. He has access to heaven. As a "liar and a murderer from the beginning," Satan seeks to twist, warp, cripple and destroy man, and to further ruin God's creation. His basic appeal is to persuade men to be their own gods, to be self-sufficient, to attempt mastery of their own fates and destinies. Satan is not equal to god, and must obtain permission from God for all that he does. He is clever, deceitful, treacherous, and man's deadly enemy.
The good news of the Bible is that God has already solved the problem of evil in both dimensions, that is, "in heaven" and "on earth". This is why the theme of victory, triumph, and hope pervades the New Testament. "...I would have you wise as to what is good and guileless as to what is evil; then the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet." writes Paul (Romans 16: 19-20) To the Corinthians he says, "For he (Jesus) must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 'For God has put all things under his feet.'" (1 Corinthians 15:25-27)
The Work of the Cross: The Central Accomplishment of Jesus
In Scripture, when God has something important to say, it is sometimes repeated. Usually one repetition is sufficient to tell us to pay attention, as when Jesus would begin a statement with the words "Truly, Truly I say to you..." (In the original language the word "truly" is actually the word Amen. "Amen, amen, I say to you). Sometimes Scripture repeats something twice to make very certain we don't miss something important. A very few times does Scripture repeat something three times for emphasis---for example "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory," are Isaiah's words when he became aware of the holiness of God and his own deep-seated sinfulness (Isaiah 6).
When it comes to the life of Jesus---His temptations, betrayal, trial, death and resurrection---four, not two, not three, Gospels were written. Surely this strategy by the Holy Spirit is intended to help us see the supremely great importance of God becoming a man. We must not miss the message that "...in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them..." (2 Corinthians 5:19)
The cross of Christ is all-too-frequently neglected or even crowded out of Christianity by other less "offensive" aspects of theology and Bible study. Not only is the subject of the Cross all about the death of Jesus on our behalf, but also it points to the fact that we, too, must be put to death, in Christ, on that same cross, to gain eternal life. Our crucifixion with Christ shows us that there is nothing in the old creation, in the first Adam, that can be saved apart from death. Paul writes, "I have been crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me, and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification came by the law, then Christ died to no avail." (Galatians 2:20-21)
While writing to encourage the Christians in the early church at Colossae, the Apostle Paul reveals to them some of the mighty once-for-all-time accomplishments of Jesus on the cross:
"As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so live in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits (stoicheia) of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily (permanently), and you have come to fulness of life in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; and you were buried with him in (the) baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, having canceled the (legal) bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside (blotted out), nailing it to the cross. He disarmed (stripped of power and authority) the principalities and powers (in the heavenly places) and made a public example (spectacle) of them, (bodily) triumphing over them in him." (Colossians 2: 6-15)
Christ's Return Seen from Eternity
Speaking of the return of Christ as one grand event, Paul wrote this to the Thessalonians:
"We are bound to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is fitting, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast of you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be made worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering---since indeed God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant rest with us to you who are afflicted, when the Lord Jesus is revealed (apokalupsis) from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfill every good resolve and work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Thessalonians 1:3-12)
If death for the follower of Jesus Christ means leaving time and entering eternity, then a similar kind of happening transpires when physical death comes to those who have rejected all of Christ's rights and claims to rule their lives. Since the issue of sin has been dealt with once for all by Jesus, it is only our proud unwillingness to be forgiven that ultimately stands between us and our full reconciliation with our Creator! Physical death for those who are not God's children means that spirit, soul and body exit our space-time dimension and "time travel" to the end of the age when the Day of Judgment is held. This event (in eternity) will also intersect human history, like the Second Coming, at some future date on our calendars. But it is no more than a split second away in the consciousness of a person who dies in unbelief! The passage quoted above describes the terrible last glimpse the lost have of Jesus before they are separated from Him forever.
The book of the Revelation records what is known as the judgment of the great white throne, which follows immediately:
"Then I (John) saw a great white throne and him who sat upon it; from his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; and if any one's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:11-15)
Most Bible commentators teach, first, that all those judged at the Great White Throne are non-believers, and second, that there are degrees of punishment in hell---because of the reference to books (angelic records) being opened and the dead being judged according to what they have done. All those present at this judgment will find that their names have not been written in the book of life.
All paths in life lead ultimately to a face-to-face meeting with the man Jesus of Nazareth. There is no escaping Him. Jesus is the One who spoke the universe into being, carrying out the Father's design and plan for the creation. All things were made through him, and according to Colossians, "for him." He is the absent landlord who will one day come back and claim what is His own. We are only house-guests in Some Else's universe.
Quoting from and applying Isaiah Chapter 45, the Apostle Paul says,
"None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, 'As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.' So each of us shall give account of himself to God." (Romans 14:7-12)