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God’s Gospel is Supremely Revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ
4. We believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, fully God and fully man, one Person in two natures. Jesus—Israel's promised Messiah—was conceived through the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived a sinless life, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father as our High Priest and Advocate.
We now get to the heart of our statement of faith, the two articles on the person and work of Jesus Christ. As evangelical Christians, we contend that what you believe about and do with Jesus is the defining issue of every person’s destiny. Someone once asked Larry King, the CNN talk show host, who he would most want to interview if he could choose anyone from all of history. He said, 'Jesus Christ.' The questioner said, 'And what would you like to ask Him?' King replied, "I would like to ask Him if He was indeed virgin-born. The answer to that question would define history for me'."
There is something different about Jesus. His name is probably uttered more than any other person who has ever lived, either in veneration at the end of a prayer or in villainy as a curse word. No other major religious leader is worshipped as a God who has risen from the dead, and no other sees His name so routinely blasphemed. This is something we’ve got to get right – Jesus!
In our new statement of faith, there are a few phrases that stick out:
1) Jesus is God incarnate: “incarnate” means, “in the flesh”. The statement is actually a paradox, for how could God, who is incorporeal, that is, without a physical body, take on flesh? This was actually the first issue that early Christian theologians addressed: fleshing out the divinity of Jesus in light of the New Testament. Take a passage like John chapter 1:1-5,14: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it … and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” He is the eternal Word of God, yet he is also the child born of Mary somewhere around 4 B.C. As Isaiah so precisely prophesied in 9:6: “unto us, a child is born, unto us a Son is given” Jesus is a child born and He is the Son given. “and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Micah as well prophesied of the dual origin of the Messiah (5:2): But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.
2) One person, two natures: So how does this Godness and Human-ness come together in Jesus? The three pillars of evangelical consensus about Jesus are found in this short statement: “one person, two natures”. What is meant is that Jesus is fully God, Jesus is fully human, and these two natures united in Jesus so that He was not schizophrenic, but one person.
a. Jesus is fully God: To review,
1. Jesus took the “I AM” name of God for himself (John 8:58)
2. Jesus claimed to do what only God could do (Luke 5:21)
3. Jesus claimed a unique relationship to God (John 5:18)
4. Jesus claimed one-ness with God (John 10:30)
5. Jesus received worship as God (Matthew 28:17, John 20:28)
6. Jesus is called God by his closest followers (John 1:1, 20:28)
7. OT passages referring to Yahweh are used of Jesus (Matthew 3:3, Romans 10:9-10)
Jesus’ God-ness is denied by many today, including those who claim to be Christians such as Jehovah’s Witnesses. Also, it is important to know that when we refer to Jesus as being God, we mean it in the unique transcendent Creator God way. Some people (New Age Buddhists and Eastern Mystics) try to argue that Jesus was “God” in a “we’re all gods” sort of way. You are not God – you are human.
b. Jesus is fully man: Surprisingly, it is this point that needs some defense today because of the internet. Look – here is just some free advise. Anytime you read or watch some article or video of the internet that has the words “secret story” or “conspiracy” or “untold truth” or “the real story that X politician or religious leader doesn’t want you to know” – remember, it’s the internet!! So in 2005 this guy Brian Flemming makes this documentary called “The God Who Wasn’t There” and it gets posted on youtube, and everyone’s like, “Oh, my eyes were opened! I’ll never look at Jesus or religion the same way again.” I know that some youth and yong adults who have been in our church have seen this movie. Flemming is rehashing what is referred to as “The Jesus Myth hypothesis” also found in books like Canadian Tom Harpur’s, “The Pagan Christ”. The Jesus Myth hypothesis rests on two main arguments: 1) the Pauline Epistle’s (our earliest Christian writings) show no evidence of a recent historical Jesus, Flemming narrates: “If Jesus was a human who had recently lived, nobody told Paul. Paul never heard of Mary, Joseph, Bethlehem, Herod, John the Baptist. He never heard about any of these miracles. He never quotes anything that Jesus is supposed to have said. He never mentions Jesus having a ministry of any kind at all. He doesn't know about any entrance into Jerusalem, he never mentions Pontius Pilate or a Jewish mob or any trials at all. Paul doesn't know any of what we would call the story of Jesus, except for these last three events. And even these, Paul never places on Earth. Just like the other savior gods of the time, Paul's Christ Jesus died, rose, and ascended all in a mythical realm. Paul doesn't believe that Jesus was ever a human being. He's not even aware of the idea. 2) The so-called parallels to those other deities such as Horace, Dionysus, Mithras, and Hermes. This is a theory that is gaining traction as it spreads around the net.
Is Paul “not even aware of the idea” that Jesus was ever a human being? In Galatians 1:19 he shares how after his conversion he met with James, the brother of the Lord. Can a myth have a brother? In Galatians 4:4, Paul states that Jesus was born at a certain time, by a woman, as a Jew as minister and redeem the Jewish people, while in Romans 1:3 Paul clarifies that not only was Jesus Jewish, but also descended from David according to the flesh. In first Corinthians Paul three times alludes to the teaching of the Lord, once regarding marriage and divorce, again regarding the remuneration of gospel workers and more directly, in 1 Corinthians 11, the words we say whenever we do the Lord’s Supper: For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” Was Paul really completely ignorant of Jesus’ ministry and teachings? Finally, in 1 Corinthians 15: For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one timein , most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.” Is this a “mythical, spiritual resurrection”? No – Paul is referring to a real death, a real burial, and a real resurrection seen by real people, many of who were still alive to verify Paul’s account. Jesus Mythers must consider the book of Acts to be the most elaborate, ingenious, complex hoaxes of history, because it very clearly delineates the progression from the historical Jesus to Paul in very particular detail that so completely corresponds to both everything we know of the Pauline epistles and of secular history of the region. If you are interested in understanding more about how the early church started and spread, I welcome you to join our Acts and Pauline Epistles courses in our church.
In regards to the Parallels with paganism, Flemming scrolls a list of nearly 20 different attributes that the early church is said to have ripped-off from other Savior figures. No sources or even specific examples are given. Why? Because his list is made up! For example, Mithra is often given as an example as a Christ parallel: It is routinely said that Mithra was born of a virgin on December 25th in a cave, He had 12 companions or disciples, He was buried in a tomb and after three days rose again. Shocking! Except for it is completely made up. The stories that we do have from Mithra claim that he was born out of solid rock as an adult (I guess the rock could have been a virgin) and killed a cosmic bull (in one picture chronicling this act he is surrounded by the twelve signs of the zodiac – not disciples) and did not raise from the dead because he never died! Credible scholars don’t even pay attention to the Jesus Myther’s because they are fruit loops. They are akin to holocaust deniers or who believe that the US government caused 9/11.
Before his death in 2009, Graham Stanton occupied the chair in New Testament Studies at Cambridge University and was the President of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas, a society of New Testament scholars. He considers the Jesus Myth crowd to be extreme as he writes in The Gospels and Jesus:
Today, nearly all historians, whether Christians or not, accept that Jesus existed and that the gospels contain plenty of valuable evidence which as to be weighed and assessed critically. There is general agreement that, with the possible exception of Paul, we know far more about Jesus of Nazareth than about any first or second century Jewish or pagan religious teacher.
To understand that Jesus is both fully God and fully man is indeed a paradox. This is what we mean when we say that Jesus was of two natures, that he possesses every attribute that could be used to describe humanity, while also possessing every attribute that could be used to describe divinity. Some err by thinking that Jesus put off his divinity completely and was only human among whole he was among us, or that he put on his humanity like a sock puppet and only looked like a man, or he was some sort of hybrid, neither God nor man. The best picture we have of how this can be is the Virgin Birth. Being born of the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ was made in human likeness. I believe that God, in His superior wisdom, intentionally chose the vehicle of a virgin conception in order to provide people with a clear picture that in Jesus the human and divine met, to connect Jesus to the human race and the line of David without connecting him to the sin of Adam, to be a sign that God had visited his people, and to demonstrate that his birth was entirely the will of God, not the will of man.
So although the Bible teaches that Jesus is at once god and man, Philippians 2 teaches that Jesus, In his sojourn among us, Jesus voluntarily set aside his divine attributes so that he did not access his divine prerogative, veiling his glory. Thus, his omniscience was kept always at a subconscious level, and his perspective always remained linear and temporal. So for example, Luke 2:52 states that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature. While remaining all powerful and all knowing in his divine nature, Jesus grew and learned like any of us. I don’t think we evangelicals reflect much on the humanity of Jesus, and just how much Jesus accessed his divine attributes while among us is a non-essential issue that we can disagree over. Personally, I believe that Jesus experienced life as one of us, and that most of his miracles and moments of revelation were through his relationship with God through the Holy Spirit.
c. Jesus was one person. However much we understand Jesus to have accessd his divine attributes among us, we all agree that he is one person. Though he is both God and man, Jesus is not schizophrenic. Thus, he was one person; comprised of one body, one mind, one consciousness, one will, one psyche, and one temperament. In his identification with humanity, Jesus was tempted and perhaps could have sinned, but would not and will never because he could do nothing against his divine nature, which, while veiled, was nonetheless still part of him.
Why does Incarnation Matter?
1) Because Jesus stands before God as our priest: In the Old Testament, the priest would humble stand before God as a representative of the people and mediate with God on their behalf. He would confess sin for them, and bring their sacrifices to God. His ministry was effectual through his identification with the people. The author of Hebrews speaks more of Jesus role as a priest than any other book, and he brings out this point about identification: Hebrews 4:15-16 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Jesus stands in our place before our God having identified himself with our temptations, hurts and needs. Jesus did not shortcut in his identification with humanity. He was a man of sorrows acquainted with grief and bore our sins and pain. Amazingly, after 30 years of living amng us, Jesus still decided to act as a priest on our behalf. It is through his identification with us, that we then have confidence to approach the father.
2) Because Jesus laid himself down as our sacrifice: (Hebrews 9:11-14): But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. The ultimate work of Jesus as we will see next week, was to suffer and die on the cross in place of us. God placed the punishment that our sins had justly deserved and placed it all upon Jesus, one man dying for the sins of another. Yet the death of one man alone could not atone for the sins of billions of people, especially when we consider that even one sin against an infinitely perfect God, is a debt that no human could pay. Yet Jesus, in his humanity could be our substitute for he is one of us, but in his divinity could pay a price that none of us could ever pay.
3) Because Jesus defends us before the Father as our advocate: Hebrews 7:25 teaches that Jesus’ ministry as our priest did not end with His sacrifice or even ascension to Heaven, but that He always lives to make intercession for us. He still is alive and praying for us, advocating for us, bringing our suffering and needs and pain and sins to the Father. He is the eternal God/Man/mediator. He prays for you now
4) Because Jesus gives us our pattern for true humanity: Hebrews 12:1-2: let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
5) Because Jesus sends us into the world as his missionaries: John 20:21- esus said to them again, Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you. We serve a missionary God. A God who left his glory in heaven to settle among us.