Cheap Grace

The Christian journey is meant to be a turn from selfish pursuits to selfless sacrifice. While Christian maturity doesn’t happen all at once, salvation is a definite turn from one to the other. When Christianity is merely status it is not what Jesus intended it to be. Jesus did not intend following Him to be comfortable. In Luke 14:26 He said His followers should “hate” father and mother and even their own lives. In Luke 14:27 He admonished potential followers to think seriously about the cost of following Him.

Culture influences how people think about God’s Word. Too often culture shapes people’s concept of who God is and His expectations for them.

Christianity is not about a list of dos and don’ts. It is not about a name but a relationship. It is not a declaration but a transformation. Jesus made it very clear about what He expects from His followers who seek status, who are halfhearted, indecisive, irresolute, tepid, uncommitted.

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold,  I will vomit you out of my mouth. Revelation 3:16-17

Jesus rebuked five of the seven churches John wrote to in the Book of Revelations. He strongly disagreed with the idea that Christians need never again to repent. Far from believers being unaccountable for their sins, they must answer to Jesus for their disobedience.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. II Cor. 5:10

As Jesus was preparing to go back to Heaven He promised that the Holy Spirit would come and that He would teach believers all things and remind them of everything Jesus had said to them (John 14:26). Why would the Holy Spirit remind Jesus’ followers of His words if they were no longer necessary? In fact, in Mark 13:31Jesus said “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.”

I John is a brief letter to believers. I John 1:9 begins with the word “If”.

If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

We confess and repent to establish and maintain an intimate relationship with our heavenly Father and His only Son, Jesus.

The idea that one can have Jesus as Savior but not necessarily as Lord is a concept of carnal Christianity. As long as one makes a profession of Christianity, obedience to Jesus’ commands to live a life of holiness is unnecessary. Those who advocate for carnal Christianity distinguish the call to salvation from a call to discipleship.

However, salvation is a call to discipleship.  One cannot have Jesus as Savior without also acknowledging Him as Lord.

The New Testament uses the word for “Lord” (kurios) 748 times, and 667 of those times it is used in reference to God or Jesus (e.g., “Jesus Christ our Lord,” Romans 1:4). In contrast, the New Testament uses the word for “savior” (soter) only 24 times. It seems clear that the emphasis in the New Testament is on Jesus Christ as Lord, not as Savior. Now in saying that, it is not meant to downplay or denigrate the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross. What a glorious and gracious provision God has made for His people in providing Jesus Christ as our atoning sacrifice who thereby guarantees salvation and eternal life for those who believe in Him. Jesus Christ is most certainly our Savior, but this cannot be separated from the fact that Jesus Christ is Lord, and as Lord, He commands and we obey.

Jesus told a crowd of listeners that salvation and obedience go hand in hand: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46).

Jesus’ Frightening Warning

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does (present tense; speaks of direction not perfection. Speaks of obedience as a servant would obey their “master” or adonai) the will of My Father Who is in heaven. Many (not just a few!) will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ (Notice He does not dispute their claims) And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; Depart (present imperative) from Me, you who practice lawlessness (present tense).’ (Mt 25:41; 2Th 1:8, 9, 10)

 “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2). Salvation by grace alone through faith alone is so much more than simply mouthing the words “Jesus is Lord.” We are saved by a living and active faith (James 2:14-26), a faith that manifests itself in repentance, obedience and love of God and our neighbor. Salvation is not a transaction; it’s a transformation. Paul says it best when he says we are “new creations” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). There is nothing “cheap” about grace!

Honoring the Bible

When the Bible is not honored, as in American institutions of higher education, there are strongholds of racism, gender bias, extreme competition, dishonor of life (abortion, euthanasia), dishonor of marriage (sexual perversion), etc.

Where there is NO Bible, all of the above exist in addition to diseases of filth, violence in the streets, filthy social and personal habits, lack of sanitation (flies,  fleas and lice, vermin), illiteracy, hunger from poor farming practices, demon possession, mental illness, misuse of personal, social and political power.

Faith in God the Creator and prayer to Him sanctifies a nation. The most Christian  countries in the world are also the most advanced. That includes both Israel and the United States of America.

Those who have traveled abroad have had the experience of searching for a clean toilet, clean food, gasping for air in crowded conditions, observing the mentally ill thrashing alongside busy roads, fortune tellers sitting along sidewalks doing a good business, meeting people who fear authorities who misuse their power for their own purposes, etc. I have seen all these things while living and working abroad.

From her infancy the Christian church has experienced constant attack. But political and physical persecution failed to stop or even slow the rapid increase of converts. However, with acceptance politically and socially, the church began to encounter attacks from within of division, worldliness, heresy, and pagan religions. That condition continues down to the present, but external persecution is realizing  a resurgence as well.

The answer to this situation is not to abandon one’s faith but to increase one’s  respect for God’s Word as the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament admonishes. It is deeply gratifying to observe the ground swell of new passionate believers following Jesus. The increase of believers ministering healing both physically and emotionally, working miracles, signs and wonders is exciting. Being on the receiving end of some of these events beggars description!

The writer of the Book of Hebrews 10:35-39 urged believing Jews to not abandon their faith in Jesus when persecution came. Compromise is to lose one’s intimate relationship with Jesus and still possibly not escape persecution.

Do not, therefore, fling away your [fearless] confidence, for it has a glorious and great reward. For you have need of patient endurance [to bear up under difficult circumstances without compromising], so that when you have carried out the will of God, you may receive and enjoy to the full what is promised. For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come and will not  delay. But My righteous one [the one justified by faith] shall live by faith [respecting man’s relationship to God and trusting Him]; and if he draws back[shrinking in fear] My soul has no delight in him. But our way is not that of those who shrink back to destruction, but [we are] of those who believe [relying on God  through faith in Jesus Christ, the Messiah] and by this confident faith preserve the soul.

 On the other hand, Jesus will never abandon His followers. Hebrews 12:1-4 (AMP).

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work]. Just consider and meditate on Him who endured from sinners such bitter hostility against Himself [consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet struggled to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin;

Encounter with My Bridegroom

I have been having moving encounters with my Bridegroom. They are intensely intimate and I am reduced to streaming tears. What does my Beloved have in mind? We stand before each other totally vulnerable with not so much as a silk scarf between us. We have no boundaries – either of us. If I come into His presence with anything on my mind other than Him, we can’t enjoy intimacy. He is supremely Lord or the relationship is suspended until I come into unity with Him. He reminds me that He wants a Bride that is without spot or wrinkle. That is not negotiable. He will not be unequally yoked with His Bride.

Today when He came to me, I was wordless, overcome with His majesty, gentleness and self-restraint. I was reduced to weeping and trembling in His loving presence. At last, unable to resist His fervor, I slipped into a peaceful sleep for a couple of hours although it was still morning.

Fully His Bride

As I allow Jesus to help me surrender my earthly identity, the Holy Spirit opens  my eyes to what God sees me as. In a vision I saw myself as His Bride. I was small and no light came from within me. But as Jesus prayed for me and loved me  passionately but oh, so gently, I began to grow. I gained trust in Him as He poured Himself into me day after day so patiently and respectfully. He treasures me! Our relationship was sacred to me as I honored Him as Lord of lords.   At last I  stood fully His height and a blue light shone out from within my breast, purely and spotlessly His equal. My body was transparent, glowing in glory, beauty and dignity.

The scene shifted. What an incredible sight as I gazed at her, His Bride, as described in His Word (Rev. 19:8). The Bride’s gown appeared to be pale blue linen which billowed gracefully as she moved to greet her Beloved.

Jesus will never be unequally yoked. But as we obey Him, He will continue His  miraculous creativity in bringing us to Himself in holiness and the most  thorough purity.

He Who began a good work in you will continue developing that good work and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you. Phil. 1:6

See Transparency of the Bride October 29, 2017

 

Is God Big Enough?

I’ve been thinking about prophesy as regards our United States. It concerns me greatly that our national and state governments and other officials are so thoroughly corrupt. It is urgent that those who lie, steal and kill be brought to justice, for the life of a nation is at risk. The more one inquires into the lives of our leaders the more appalling the evidence of wrong-doing being uncovered. Not just a few of our Representatives and Senators are guilty of wrong-doing, but hundreds, perhaps thousands, of elected and appointed are implicated across the nation. Draining the Swamp is a good idea but perhaps it is impossible in scope. Activist judges, lawyers, peace-keepers, lawmakers have abandoned what is morally right in favor of doing what is right in their own eyes. (Deut. 12:8; Judges 17:6; Judges 18:1; Judges 19:1; Judges 21:25) Or worse, they may choose to do what pleases themselves and answers their greed. Selling our nation’s resources to our enemies; aborting our unborn babies; preying on our infants and children; depraved sexual behaviors.

II Tim. 3:1-4 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.

Time after time these same immoral tendencies inflamed the kings of Israel. Faithfully God sent messengers to warn the people and their kings that they would reap what they were sowing. Galatians 6:7 “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” Every farmer knows you reap more than you sow and later than you sow.

As an intercessor and decree-er I have prayed for the morass we as Christians are confronted with. But it occurs to me that while we are attempting to bring the lawless to justice, it is too little too late. I’ve even been told, “As long as I have the freedom to live my life the way I want to, I don’t care what the government does.”   What we desperately need is a powerful move of God as in the days of Jehoshaphat in II Chron. 19-20.

I believe God is rallying His children (as opposed to cultural Christians) to come together in unity and He is honoring those who take the risk to obey His precious Holy Spirit. I also believe He will do exceeding great exploits soverignly as we obey Him. I believe this nation can become far more than it is as we cry out to Him for whom nothing is impossible.

How Should We Pray?

Isaiah 44:26 “(I Am) the Lord Who confirms the word of His servant, and performs the counsel of His messengers;…”

Isaiah 45:11 Thus says the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and His Maker: Question Me of things to come concerning My children, and concerning the work of My hands command Me!

Job 22: 28, 30 You shall also decide and decree a thing and it shall be established for you, and the light [of God’s favor] shall shine upon your ways,…He will even deliver the one [for whom you intercede] who is not innocent; yes, he will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands.

These passages are powerful and reveal God’s desire to work with His followers, but our prayers and decrees must be in agreement with His will. What is God’s will? His deepest desire is that all men would come to Him for salvation, come to know Him and His love and beauty. He gave His only Son on the cross to buy back fallen mankind. That’s a strong desire!

The precious blood of Jesus cleanses deeper than the stain of sin. No one is beyond Jesus’ ability to save and keep – no matter how filthy the sinner.

Hebrews 7:25 Therefore He is able to save to the uttermost – completely, perfectly, finally, and for all time and eternity – those who come to God through Him (Jesus), since He is always living to make petition to God and intercede with Him and intervene for them.

Aionion

The word ‘eternal’ translated from the Greek aionion is used some 45 times in the New Testament. With only two or three exceptions, it is always used in reference to eternal life. When Matthew wrote …

“And these will go away into eternal (Gk. aionion) punishment, but the righteous into eternal (Gk. aionion) life”

… he used exactly the same Greek word to describe both the punishment of the wicked and the duration of eternal life. In other words, ‘eternal life’ cannot mean one thing, and ‘eternal punishment another’ – If the punishment is not eternal, then neither is the life.  If the life is eternal, then so is the punishment.

Note how the book of Hebrews uses exactly the same Greek word in both cases, speaking of “eternal” judgment and three chapters later, speaks of “eternal” redemption.

…and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal (Gk. aionian) redemption. (Hebrews 9:12 NASB)

…of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal (Gk. aioniou) judgment.  (Hebrews 6:2 NASB)

Redemption itself was a once and for all event that took place 2000 years ago. However, the results of the redemption continue forever. Similarly, the judgment will occur in a particular moment in time. However, the results of the judgment are eternal.

Again, in the verse below, something is destroyed once, i.e. something cannot be continuously be destroyed. However, the results are permanent, i.e. the thing stays destroyed.

These will pay the penalty of eternal (Gk. aionion) destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, (2 Thessalonians 1:9 NASB)

Not only is there a lack of support for universalism and decisive arguments against it, but the Bible never once says anything about sinners repenting, accepting Jesus Christ, having their sins forgiven etc. in the afterlife. In fact, the author of Hebrews completely contradicted this notion when he wrote …

And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, (Hebrews 9:27 NASB)

Finally I have to ask why 1 Corinthians 9:16 records Paul as saying

For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.  (1 Corinthians 9:16 NASB)

Why was Paul “under compulsion” to preach the gospel and, considering the “woe” means great sorrow or distress, why did he say woe to him if he did not preach the Gospel?

If all men are saved, it wouldn’t have made the slightest bit of difference whether Paul preached or decided to start a tent-making company. If people are already saved and only need to be informed of that fact, why would Jude have said to snatch people out of the fire by just about any means necessary. (Jude 1:23)

Reference:  http://www.inplainsite.org/html/universalism.html

 

Philosophical Teaching Strategies, Part II

If the idea that all living things are equal and that life has no meaning, what is the missing concept?  I suggested that man is set apart from all other living things because man has personality.  But where did personality come from since evolution is purely mechanical?  Personality is not concrete.  Could it have evolved?  Personality is more than metaphysical; it is spiritual.

Why has no one ever been able to demonstrate how time plus chance can produce the needed complexity of the universe, much less the complex personality of mankind? Initially, this question will seem unrelated to the literature students have read, but it is better to let them struggle with these questions without knowing where the teacher is leading lest they attempt to anticipate and develop a rebuttal before truly exploring what they have accepted as science and truth.

Students will disagree with one another about life having meaning, but eventually will come to the conclusion that life does have meaning although they can’t explain it.  Then I suggest that if life started with a personal beginning – a Person – then personality existed before creation.  In this situation man, having personality, also has meaning.  Beginning with the impersonal, there is no explanation for the complexity of the universe or the personality of man.  Morals have no meaning in the mechanics of evolution for there are no absolutes.

If life started with a personal beginning, which was the origin of all else, then personality does have meaning, having derived from the Creator.  Man with his aspirations is not meaningless, as in Thomas Hardy’s writings, because he is superior to other living things.  If the teacher stops here, a philosophical case for creation and purpose of human life, as opposed to the mechanics of evolution and the mindlessness of Fate, have been established.  This philosophical discussion can be carried to a conclusion, however, and a case for man’s need of redemption can be made.

Once the idea of a personal beginning is accepted, will the class choose an infinite-personal God or finite, man-made gods?  Do absolutes and morals originate from man himself, or do they come from the Creator?  God, or finite gods, must be big enough to be the point of reference for the underpinnings of society.  Man creates gods in an attempt to explain his world.  They are a product of man’s limited mind; thus, they are inadequate to help man develop personal character and structure for society.  However, God the Creator is entirely separate from his creation.  He alone is infinite.  All else is finite and cannot stand alone.  Only the infinite Creator is immeasurable and independent.

Man was made in the image of God; thus, there is a separation between man and other living things because man has personality.  Furthermore, man is separate from God, as the created is separate from the Creator.

If man was created with a personal beginning, how can his lawlessness be explained?  There are two possibilities.  Man in his rebellion and cruelty is inherently what he has always been.  If this is true, then the infinite-personal God who made man must himself be inherently ruthless.  Or, is it possible that man has changed himself; he is not what he was created to be?

Man, made in the image of an infinite and perfect Creator, was perfect in mind, body, and soul.  But he was given a will and some boundaries were set.  At a specific time in history man chose to violate God’s boundaries to become something he previously was not.  This act of disobedience put man in a moral predicament rather than a metaphysical one.  Morals suddenly existed and man was in discontinuity with what he was originally created to be.

The man-is-normal philosophy offers no hope of a solution to man’s corruption.  But because rebellion is abnormal, there is hope of a solution.  The substitutionary death of Jesus Christ, as God’s only son, on behalf of lawless mankind, takes on significance.  We have the hope of a solution for man’s abnormal condition.  With the hope of deliverance from lawlessness we are able to be angry at social injustice and moral evil without being angry with God.

In summary, if there is no God there is no answer to the dilemma of evil and immorality.  Thus, evolution cannot answer man’s questions about who he is and why he is morally flawed.  More importantly, man has no recourse to evil, individually or socially.  But there is hope when one knows who God is because his character is the foundation of law and morality in the universe.  And in his infinite compassion and mercy the personal God has provided the antidote to sin and corruption, both individually and socially.

 

Philosophical Teaching Strategies

I brought with me one semester He Is Here and He Is Not Silent by Francis Schaeffer.  It’s a little book about examining evolution from the problem of personality development.  Schaeffer has a wonderful way of challenging people’s assumptions so I took detailed notes to use in my graduate English lit course.  We will be comparing Thomas Hardy’s writings with Charles Dickens’, Hardy presenting fate as the inescapable determination of man’s life and Dickens presenting hope for positive change.  The graduates went to the Internet to read what they could find about Hardy in their own language and from their own prejudices, for the Chinese believe very strongly in determinism (fate).  Where does personality come from?  Does personality evolve?  Give evidence to support your view.  Since personality is not found in the DNA of an organism, how did it originate?  When life evolves mechanically it has no meaning.  But life does have meaning and is not mechanical, so where does meaning come from?  That was an intellectual challenge for my graduate English majors.

The Problem of Personality in Evolution

Every Christian teacher abroad will occasionally meet students who wish to discuss reasons Christians don’t espouse the theory of evolution.  They are generally taught in China that evolution is a theory only because it can’t be reproduced in the laboratory although natural illustrations of the process abound.  However, evolution cannot stand up to philosophical examination.  Using Francis Schaeffer’s little book, He is here and he is not silent, I used a strategy which challenged students’ assumptions about evolution and creation.  This worked best for me in graduate literature classes where sharply contrasting authors’ styles could be analyzed, as with Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens.

In Thomas Hardy’s writings Fate twists and perverts personalities and events.  Absolutes produce discontent and disillusionment.  Education – or merely the desire for education – corrupts individuals, as in Jude the Obscure.  Individuals may never reach their potential after making a commitment to marriage.  Even nature in Hardy’s writings is exploited to cooperate with Fate by producing a pall that hangs over churches and colleges.

In Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, commitments to friendship and marriage are honorable and honored.  Biblical phrases are quoted to support responsibility to friend and spouse.  Absolutes are called into action to admonish readers to avoid an English revolution by pointing out the bloodshed of a French Revolution.  Nature and happenchance support Darnay’s escape and the subsequent safety of the fleeing Manette family.

After the class finished reading the two contrasting novels, I scheduled time to ask students some questions.  I wrote the questions on the chalkboard and encouraged students to discuss them with friends and classmates.  I began with a question like this: If everything that now exists came out of nothing, where did energy, mass, motion, and personality come from. In our external world we see form and order.  If everything that now exists had an impersonal beginning, everything is equally impersonal.  In an impersonal world a weed is no less valuable than a man.  If all living things are equal, life has no meaning.  Is this conclusion acceptable to the class?

Part II next week.

 

 

 

 

How Can Jesus Be God and Man?

At this season of celebrating the coming of Jesus as man, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss the importance of the Incarnation. This is the third and final segment. Find the link to the article at the bottom.

Christ Is Only One Person

What we have seen so far about the deity and humanity of Christ shows us that Christ has two natures — a divine nature and a human nature — that each nature is full and complete, that they remain distinct and do not mix together to form a third kind of nature, and that Christ will be both God and man forever.

But if Christ has two natures, does this mean that he is also two people? No, it does not. Christ remains one person. There is only one Christ. The church has historically stated this truth in this way: Christ has two natures united in one person forever.

At this point we find another heretical view to beware of. This view, while acknowledging that Jesus is fully God and fully man, denies that he is only one Person. According to this view, there are two separate persons in Christ as well as two natures. In contrast to this, the Bible is very clear that, while Jesus has two natures, he is only one Person. In other words, what this means is that there are not two Jesus Christs. In spite of the fact that he has a duality of natures, he is not two Christs, but one. While remaining distinct, the two natures are united together in such a way so as to be one Person.

To put it simply, there is a certain sense in which Christ is two, and a different sense in which Christ is one. He is two in that he has two real, full natures — one divine and one human. He is one in that, while remaining distinct, these two natures exist together in such a way so that they constitute “one thing.” In other words, the two natures are both the same Jesus, and thus are one Person. As the Chalcedonean Creed says, Christ is “to be acknowledged in two natures . . . concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten God, the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ . . .”

Evidence That Christ Is Only One Person

We will look at three pieces of the biblical teaching that, while Christ has two distinct and unchanged natures, he nonetheless remains one Person.

1. Both natures are represented in Scripture as constituting “one thing;” that is, as united in one Person. We read in John 1:14, “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Here we see the two natures: the Word (his deity) and flesh (humanity).

2. Jesus never speaks of himself as “We,” but always as “I.”

3. Many passages refer to both natures of Christ, but it is clear that only one person is intended. Galatians 4:4). “. . . who, although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped [that is, exploited to his own advantage], but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6–7).

Conclusion

We have seen the biblical evidence for the fact that Christ is God the Son, that he has both a divine and human nature, that each nature is full and complete, that each nature remains distinct, that Christ is nonetheless one Person, and that things which are true of one nature are true of the Person.

The relevance of these truths to us should go without saying. For they go to the very heart of who Christ is. Knowing these truths will greatly affect the way you view Christ and will make the gospel accounts of his life come more alive. As such, this understanding will deepen our devotion to Christ.

Second, having this richer understanding of the incarnation of God the Son should greatly enhance our worship. We will have great marvel and gladness at the fact that the eternal Person of God the Son became man forever. Our recognition of Christ’s worth will be heightened. And our faith in him will be strengthened by having this deeper understanding of who he is.

The union of Christ’s deity and humanity in one Person makes it such that we have all that we need in the same Savior. How glorious! Because Jesus is God, he is all-powerful and he cannot be defeated. Because he is God, he is the only adequate Savior. Because he is God, believers are safe and can never perish; we have security. Because he is God, we can have confidence that he will empower us for the task that he commands us for. And because he is God, all people will be accountable to him when he returns to judge the world.

Because Jesus is man, he has experienced the same things that we do. Because he is man, he can identify with us more intimately. Because he is man, he can come to our aid as our sympathetic High Priest when we reach the limits of our human weaknesses. Because he is man, we can relate to him — he is not far off and uninvolved. Because he is man, we cannot complain that God does not know what we are going through. He experienced it firsthand.

Finally, we need to be ready to defend the truth of Jesus’ deity, Jesus’ humanity, and their joining  without confusion in one Person. Therefore, consider committing to memory many of the verses which teach that Jesus is both God and man, and be able to explain the relationship between Christ’s two natures to others.

May we look forward to the day when we see him face to face. Until then, may the joyful hope of this day inspire in us a great diligence in serving and worshiping him.

Article by Matt Perman  https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-can-jesus-be-god-and-man

 

How Can Jesus Be God and Man?

At this season of celebrating the coming of Jesus as man, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss the importance of the Incarnation. This is the second installment.

How Can Jesus Be God and Man?

Each Nature Is Full and Complete

Having seen the biblical basis that Jesus is both God and man, the second truth that we must recognize is that each of Christ’s natures is full and complete. In other words, Jesus is fully God and fully man. Another helpful way to say it is that Jesus is 100% God and 100% man.

Jesus Is Fully God

We saw earlier that each Person of the Trinity is fully God. The three Persons of the Trinity are not each one-third of God, but are each all of God. Thus, Jesus is fully God since he is God the Son incarnate. Which means that everything that is essential to being God is true of Jesus. Jesus is not part of God or one-third of God. Rather, he is fully God. “For in him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9).

Jesus Is Fully Man

It is also important to recognize that when we say that Jesus is man, we do not simply mean that he is partially man. We mean that he is fully human — everything that belongs to the essence of true humanity is true of him. He is just as truly human as the rest of us.

The fact that Jesus is truly and fully human is clear from the fact that he has a human body (Luke 24:39), a human mind (Luke 2:52), and a human soul (Matthew 26:38). Jesus does not just look like a man. He does not just have some aspects of what is essential for true humanity but not others. Rather, he possess full humanity.

Jesus is just as fully human as the rest of us, for just as he has all of the essential elements of the Godhead, he has all the essential elements of human nature: a human body, a human soul, a human mind, a human will, and human emotions. His human mind was not replaced by his divine mind. Rather, he has both a human and divine mind. For these reasons, it can be misleading to use phrases such as “Jesus is God in a body” or “Jesus is God with skin on.”

Jesus Will Be Fully God and Fully Man Forever

For most people it is obvious that Jesus will be God forever. But for some reason it escapes a lot of us that Jesus will also be man forever. He is still man right now as you read this and will be forever. The Bible is clear that Jesus rose physically from the dead in the same body that had died (Luke 24:39) and then ascended into heaven as a man in his physical body (Acts 1:9; Luke 24:50–51). It would make no sense for him to have done this if he was simply going to ditch his body and stop being man when he arrived in heaven.

That Christ continued being man with a physical body after his ascension is confirmed by the fact that when he returns, it will be as a man in his body. He will return physically. Philippians 3:21 says that at his second coming, Christ “will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of his glory.” This verse is clear that Jesus still has his body. It is a glorified body, which Paul calls, “the body of his glory.” And when Christ returns, he will still have it because this verse says that he will transform our bodies to be like his. Both Jesus and all Christians will then continue living together in their bodies forever, because the resurrection body cannot die (1 Corinthians 15:42) since it is eternal (2 Corinthians 5:1).

Why did Jesus become man, and why will he be man forever? The book of Hebrews says it was so that Christ could be an adequate Savior who has all that we need. “He had to be made like his brothers in all things, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (2:17).

First, notice that Jesus became man so that he could die for our sins. He had to be human in order to pay the penalty for humans. Second, this verse says that because Jesus is human like us, he is able to be a merciful and faithful High Priest. His humanity enables him to more fully sympathize with us and identify with us. I cannot help but believe that it is very destructive to our comfort and faith to not know that Jesus is still man and in his body. For if he is not still man in heaven, how could we have comfort knowing that he can fully sympathize with us? He can sympathize and be a faithful high priest and know what we are going through not just because he was once on earth as a man, but because he continues forever as that same man.

Each Nature Remains Distinct

The truths of Christ’s two natures — his full manhood and full Godhood — are pretty well understood and known by Christians. But for a right understanding of the incarnation we must go even further. We must understand that the two natures of Christ remain distinct and retain their own properties. What does this truth mean? Two things: (1) They do not alter one another’s essential properties and (2) neither do they mix together into a mysterious third kind of nature.

First, it would be wrong to think that Christ’s two natures mix together to form a third kind of nature. This is one of the heresies that the early church had to fight. This heresy taught that the human nature of Christ was taken up and absorbed into the divine nature, so that both natures were changed somewhat and a third kind of nature resulted. An analogy to [this] can be seen if we put a drop of ink in a glass of water: the mixture resulting is neither pure ink nor pure water, but some kind of third substance, a mixture of the two in which both the ink and the water are changed. Similarly, [this view] taught that Jesus was a mixture of divine and human elements in which both were somewhat modified to form one new nature.5

This view is unbiblical because it demolishes both Christ’s deity and humanity. For if Christ’s two natures mixed together, then he is no longer truly and fully God and truly and fully man, but is some entirely different kind of being that resulted from a mixture of the two natures.

Second, even if we acknowledge that the natures do not mix together into a third kind of nature, it would also be wrong to think that the two natures changed one another. For example, it would be wrong to conclude that Jesus’ human nature became divine in some ways or that his divine nature became human in some ways. Rather, each nature remains distinct and thereby retains its own individual properties and does not change.

As the Council of Chalcedon stated it, “. . . the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved . . .”6 Jesus’ human nature is human, and human only. His divine nature is divine, and divine only. For example, Jesus’ human nature did not become all-knowing through its union with God the Son, and neither did his divine nature become ignorant of anything. If either of the natures underwent a change in its essential nature, then Christ is no longer truly and fully human, or truly and fully divine.

Article by Matt Perman  https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-can-jesus-be-god-and-man

 

How Can Jesus Be God and Man?

At this season of celebrating the coming of Jesus as a baby, it is appropriate to discuss the importance of the Incarnation.

How Can Jesus Be God and Man?

Equally amazing to the doctrine of the Trinity is the doctrine of the Incarnation — that Jesus Christ is God and man, yet one person, forever. As J.I. Packer has said, “Here are two mysteries for the price of one — the plurality of persons within the unity of God, and the union of Godhead and manhood in the person of Jesus. . . . Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the Incarnation.”1

The early church considered the Incarnation to be one of the most important truths of our faith. Because of this, they formulated what has come to be called the Chalcedonean Creed, a statement which sets forth what we are to believe and what we are not to believe about the Incarnation. This creed was the fruit of a large council that took place from October 8 to November 1, 451, in the city of Chalcedon and “has been taken as the standard, orthodox definition of the biblical teaching on the person of Christ since that day by” all the major branches of Christianity.2 There are five main truths with which the creed of Chalcedon summarized the biblical teaching on the Incarnation:

  1. Jesus has two natures — He is God and man.
  2. Each nature is full and complete — He is fully God and fully man.
  3. Each nature remains distinct.
  4. Christ is only one Person.
  5. Things that are true of only one nature are nonetheless true of the Person of Christ.

A proper understanding of these truths clears up much confusion and many difficulties we may have in our mind. How can Jesus be both God and man? Why doesn’t this make him two people? How does his Incarnation relate to the Trinity? How could Jesus have hungered (Matthew 4:2) and died (Mark 15:37) when he was on earth, and yet still be God? Did Jesus give up any of his divine attributes in the Incarnation? Why is it inaccurate to say that Jesus is a “part” of God? Is Jesus still human now, and does he still have his human body?

Jesus has two natures — God and man

The first truth we need to understand is that Jesus is one Person who has two natures: a divine nature and a human nature. In other words, Jesus is both God and man. We will look at each nature accordingly.

Jesus Is God

The Bible teaches that Jesus is not merely someone who is a lot like God, or someone who has a very close walk with God. Rather, Jesus is the Most High God himself. Titus 2:13 says that as Christians we are “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” Upon seeing the resurrected Christ, Thomas cried out, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Likewise, the book of Hebrews gives us God the Father’s direct testimony about Christ: “But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever” and the gospel of John calls Jesus “the only begotten God” (John 1:18).

Another way the Bible teaches that Jesus is God is by showing that he has all of the attributes of God. He knows everything (Matthew 16:21; Luke 11:17; John 4:29), is everywhere (Matthew 18:20; 28:20; Acts 18:10), has all power (Matthew 8:26–27; 28:18; John 11:38–44; Luke 7:14–15; Revelation 1:8), depends on nothing outside of himself for life (John 1:4; 14:6; 8:58), rules over everything (Matthew 28:18; Revelation 1:5; 19:16;), never began to exist and never will cease to exist (John 1:1; 8:58), and is our Creator (Colossians 1:16). In other words, everything that God is, Jesus is. For Jesus is God.

Specifically, Jesus Is God the Son

In order to have a more complete grasp of Christ’s incarnation, it is necessary to have some sort of understanding of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity states that God is one being, and this one God exists as three distinct Persons. This truth means, first of all, that we must distinguish each Person of the Trinity from the other two. The Father is not the Son or the Holy Spirit, the Son is not the Holy Spirit or the Father, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father or the Son. They are each a distinct center of consciousness, a distinct form of personal existence. Yet, they all share the exact same divine nature/essence. Thus, the three persons are one being. The divine being/essence is not something that is divided between the Persons with each Person receiving one-third. Rather, the divine being is fully and equally possessed by all three Persons such that all three Persons are each fully and equally God.

How does the fact that God is three Persons in one Being relate to the incarnation? To answer, let’s consider another question: Which Person became incarnate in Jesus Christ? All three? Or just one? Which one? The biblical answer is that only God the Son became incarnate. The Father did not become incarnate in Jesus and neither did the Holy Spirit. Thus, Jesus is God, but he is not the Father or the Holy Spirit. Jesus is God the Son.

The truth that it is only God the Son who became incarnate is taught, for example, in John 1:14, which says “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” In context, the Word is God the Son (cf. 1:1, 18, and 3:16). Thus, it wasn’t the Father or the Holy Spirit who became man, but God the Son.

Likewise, at Jesus’ baptism we see the Father affirming, “You are my beloved Son, in You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). He did not say, “You are me, and with myself I am well pleased.” Rather, the Father affirmed that Jesus is the Son, his Son, and that Jesus is well pleasing to him. In this same verse we also see that the Holy Spirit is distinct from the Father and the Son, for the Holy Spirit is present in “bodily form like a dove.”

Why is it important to know that Jesus is specifically God the Son? For one thing, if we do not understand this truth, we will be mistaken about the very identity of our Savior. Further, it greatly affects how we relate to our triune God. If we think that Jesus is the Father or the Holy Spirit, we will be greatly misguided and confused in our prayers. Last, it is considered heresy to believe that the Father became incarnate in Jesus.

Jesus Is Man

It should be obvious that if Jesus is God, then he has always been God. There was never a time when he became God, for God is eternal. But Jesus has not always been man. The fantastic miracle is that this eternal God became man through the incarnation approximately 2,000 years ago. That’s what the Incarnation was: God the Son becoming man. And that is the great event we celebrate at Christmas.

But what exactly do we mean when we say that God the Son became man? We certainly do not mean that he turned into a man in the sense that he stopped being God and started being man. Jesus did not give up any of his divinity in the incarnation, as is evident from the verses we saw earlier. Rather, as one early theologian put it, “Remaining what he was, he became what he was not.” Christ “was not now God minus some elements of his deity, but God plus all that he had made his own by taking manhood to himself.”3 Thus, Jesus did not give up any of his divine attributes at the incarnation. He remained in full possession of all of them. For if he were to ever give up any of his divine attributes, he would cease being God.

The truth of Jesus’ humanity is just as important to hold to as the truth of his deity. The apostle John teaches how denying that Jesus is man is of the spirit of the antichrist (1 John 4:2; 2 John 7). Jesus’ humanity is displayed in the fact that he was born as a baby from a human mother (Luke 2:7; Galatians 4:4), that he became weary (John 4:6), thirsty (John 19:28), and hungry (Matthew 4:2), and that he experienced the full range of human emotions such as marvel (Matthew 8:10) and sorrow (John 11:35). He lived on earth just as we do.

Jesus Is a Sinless Man

It is also essential to know that Christ does not have a sinful nature, and neither did he ever commit sin — even though he was tempted in all ways (Hebrews 4:15). Thus, Jesus is fully and perfectly man and has also experienced the full range of human experience. We have a Savior who can truly identify with us because he is man and who can also truly help us in temptation because he has never sinned. That is an awesome truth to cherish and sets Christianity apart from all other religions.

Taken from an article by Matt Perman  https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-can-jesus-be-god-and-man