PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Corinthians 15:20-22; Raised In Christ

04/26 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 Raised In Christ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150426_1cor15_20-22.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

20 Νυνὶ δὲ Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται ἐκ νεκρῶν, ἀπαρχὴ τῶν κεκοιμημένων. 21 ἐπειδὴ γὰρ δι’ ἀνθρώπου θάνατος, καὶ δι’ ἀνθρώπου ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν· 22 ὥσπερ γὰρ ἐν τῷ Ἀδὰμ πάντες ἀποθνῄσκουσιν, οὕτως καὶ ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ πάντες ζῳοποιηθήσονται. 23 ἕκαστος δὲ ἐν τῷ ἰδίῳ τάγματι· ἀπαρχὴ Χριστός, ἔπειτα οἱ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ αὐτοῦ· 24 εἶτα τὸ τέλος, ὅταν παραδιδῷ τὴν βασιλείαν τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρί, ὅταν καταργήσῃ πᾶσαν ἀρχὴν καὶ πᾶσαν ἐξουσίαν καὶ δύναμιν, 25 δεῖ γὰρ αὐτὸν βασιλεύειν ἄχρι οὗ θῇ πάντας τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ. 26 ἔσχατος ἐχθρὸς καταργεῖται ὁ θάνατος, 27 πάντα γὰρ ὑπέταξεν ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ. ὅταν δὲ εἴπῃ ὅτι πάντα ὑποτέτακται, δῆλον ὅτι ἐκτὸς τοῦ ὑποτάξαντος αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα. 28 ὅταν δὲ ὑποταγῇ αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα, τότε αὐτὸς ὁ υἱὸς ὑποταγήσεται τῷ ὑποτάξαντι αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα, ἵνα ᾖ ὁ θεὸς πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

Last week we looked at the consequences of believing something that is not true. The gospel is a message that is anchored in real historical events. It claims to be objectively, historically true. If it is not what it claims to be, there are dire consequences. The gospel, the good news is a proclamation that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was really dead, and that Christ was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures, and that he was really alive – he appeared to many. If Christ in actuality remained dead, then the gospel message is empty and believing in it is worthless, those who proclaim it are false witnesses and frauds, there is no escape from the punishment your sins deserve, and those who have died trusting in Jesus are forever lost. If it turns out that there is no resurrection, we will have wasted our lives. Every sacrifice, all the suffering, all the effort and energy expended, all the heartache, all the storing up treasures in heaven, all the trading present pleasures for future hopes, was an empty fantasy, and our lives are pathetic and pitiable. It matters not only that you believe and how sincerely you believe but it makes all the difference what you are believing, and if what you are trusting in is real and true.

Perfect Tense

Paul has been exploring what if’s. What if there is no resurrection? What are the hypothetical consequences if the resurrection did not in fact happen? Here in verse 20 he moves back into reality. But now Christ is risen from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is an historical reality. The verb ‘raised’ through the majority of this chapter is in the perfect tense; this is a verb tense which emphasizes the present effect of a past event. Christ was raised from the dead. That is an historical fact. But Christ today is risen. He continues today in his resurrected state. He is bodily, physically alive today. This has implications for us today.

Firstfruits

1 Corinthians 15:20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Christ is called the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. To fall asleep in Scripture is a gentle euphemism for the death of a believer. If you fall asleep, you will wake up still you, but refreshed. Death is pictured as sleep. Later in this chapter, Paul will liken death to the planting of a seed. As seed goes into the ground, it begins to decay, but suddenly life bursts forth! Life comes out of death. That life bears fruit and gives life to others. Christ is said to be the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. In the Old Testament, God’s people were to keep feasts to commemorate his saving activity. They were to keep the Passover, where a lamb was killed to cover them, to protect them from God’s wrath. When God brought them into the promised land, they were to take the first of the produce of the land in the spring and present it to the Lord as an offering. According to Leviticus 23, this was to take place on the Sunday after the Sabbath, after the Passover. The firstfruits was symbolic. The first and the best of the land was given to the Lord, and the firstfruits was the first of more to come. The firstfruits was the same kind as the rest of the harvest, and it was the beginning, which promised more like it to come. You plant crops so that you can harvest and live off of those crops. If you take the first of the harvest and give it to the Lord, this is an act of faith, trusting that there is more to come.

Jesus is called the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep because his resurrection is the same kind as ours; he was physically, bodily, tangibly raised from the dead and lives forever, and we too can expect a real physical bodily resurrection. And Jesus is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep because his resurrection is a promise of more of the same to come. Because he died a physical human death, and his life sprang out of that death, we can be confident that we too, although we will face physical death, we will be raised to newness of life.

Adam and Christ

1 Corinthians 15:21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.

Paul gives the reason that Christ is the firstfruits of the dead. Death was through a man. God created man to love him, to obey him, to enjoy him, to glorify him forever. He created humans with the capacity for worship. And he gave them a test. One tree, in the midst of a plentiful garden of pleasure. Submit to God’s authority, or throw off that yoke and become your own authority. Worship the one true God, or worship self. And life and death hung in the balance. Continue in unbroken fellowship with the living God who loves you and cares for your every need, or declare your independence, place self at the center, sever the relationship, and attempt to survive separated from the God who gives life and breath and everything good to enjoy. We rebelled against a generous and good God, and death came into the world. Man brought death into God’s good world. Through man death.

Romans 5 spells this out:

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—

Romans 6 says:

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death

The wages of sin is death. Sin came into the world through one man, Adam, and death came into the world as a result of his sin. Humanity rebelled and everything died. This world is broken, and we broke it. God created everything good and beautiful to give him praise and we touched it and said ‘mine’ and it all turned ugly and grew thorns and began to decay. Man sinned and brought death into God’s good creation. Man did this. Humans did this. Death was not a part of human nature. Death, physical and spiritual death was a virus introduced into humanity by the first man.

True Humanity

1 Corinthians 15:21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.

A man did this great evil. A man must undo it. Through a man the resurrection of corpses. This points us to the real genuine humanity of Christ. Just as Adam was human, Jesus was truly human.

There are plenty of Scriptures that clearly tell us that the Son of God is God from all eternity, equal to and eternal with the Father, no beginning and no end, sharing with his Father and the Spirit every characteristic that makes God God. John 1, Colossians 1, Hebrews 1 are just a few of the many many passages that clearly communicate the eternal divine nature of Jesus. But at a point in history God the Son became something he had never been before. He was conceived in the womb of a virgin. He was born in a cave in Bethlehem. He became human. Remaining what he was, he became what he was not. He became God with us. God incarnate. God with flesh on. His divine person was inextricably knit to a real human nature. He became the God-man. Continuing to be fully God, he became really and truly human. That is the wonder of Christmas, that God became a man.

If Jesus was not who he was, he could not have accomplished what he did. If he were merely human and not God, his death would have no value beyond himself. If as God he never took on human nature, he would be unable to stand in our place. He could be our judge but not our Savior. But because he, eternal God, became really and truly human, he could take our place as our substitute. Because he continued to be fully divine, his death was of infinite worth, and he was fully capable of bearing the weight of every sin any human had ever committed.

It was a man that brought sin and its consequences into this world through his disobedience in the garden. It was a man who conquered sin and reversed those consequences by his perfect obedience, restoring God’s good creation so that it could again give him glory and praise. By a man comes resurrection of the dead.

Representatives

1 Corinthians 15:21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

There is a parallel between Adam and Christ. In Adam all die. All of us are descended from Adam. In seed form, we were all present when Adam rebelled. We share his guilt. He acted as our representative. All of us who are in Adam, who are on his team, who are united with Adam in his rebellion against God, will die like Adam died. ‘To be in Adam is to be part of the group that has Adam as its representative leader, who finds its identity and destiny in Adam and what he brought about for his people.’ (Ciampa & Rosner, PNTC p.763).

Just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. At first read, this may sound universal. Because of Adam every single human will experience death. Because of Jesus Christ, every single human will enjoy resurrection. But if we read more carefully, we see this is not the case, and this would be contrary to the clear teaching of all of Scripture. It is all those who are in Adam that are included in the consequences of his rebellion. This indeed includes all humanity. But it is all those (and only those) who are in Christ who enjoy resurrection life. This does not include every human; this is a sub-set of humanity. Not all who are in Adam come to be in Christ. Those who are in Christ are those who take Jesus as their representative leader, who find our identity and destiny in Christ and what he brought about for his people. Those who belong to him.

Many people complain about the injustice of suffering the consequences of the rebellion of Adam. It doesn’t seem fair. But this is fair. If you are in Adam, you join him in his actions and in his consequences. You follow in his footsteps. You do what he did, you refuse to worship and submit to the one true God, and you set yourself up as the god you worship and serve, and you sever yourself from the God who really is. You deserve the same consequences Adam received. But the good news is you don’t have to stay in Adam. There is another choice. You can transfer your allegiance. You can take Christ as your representative. All those who are in Christ, who unite themselves to Christ and belong to Christ, will be made alive. This refers to more than a bare resurrection, it points us to real life. Jesus said

John 10:10 … I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

God will give abundant life to those who are in Christ Jesus. They will truly live. They will know the fullness of joy in his presence. A reconciled relationship. Fellowship with God. Intimacy. Communion. To all who are in Christ.

In Christ

What does it mean to be in Christ? Much of the New Testament talks about being in Christ. This letter starts out addressing the church of God, ‘to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints’. Paul gives thanks to God for ‘the grace of God that was given you in Christ.’ Paul says in 1:28-30

1 Corinthians 1:28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,

We are set apart in Christ Jesus, we are given grace in Christ, we are in Christ Jesus because of God who chooses what is low and despised, the nothings in the world. Wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption are found in Christ Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5 says

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

Romans 8 says

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

God reconciles people to himself in Christ. He does not count our sins against us in Christ. In Christ, we are made new. The condemnation we deserve is taken away in Christ Jesus. Paul says in Philippians 3:

Philippians 3:8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

Righteousness comes not from works of the law but from being found in Christ through faith. Jesus told his followers in John 15:

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Jesus invites us to abide in him like a branch abides in the vine. We stay connected to him, drawing everything we need from him, bearing fruit through his resources and for his glory.

We are placed in Christ by God through faith. We receive grace in Christ, we are sanctified in Christ, we are reconciled to God in Christ, we find forgiveness in Christ, we escape condemnation in Christ, we receive God’s righteousness in Christ, we are made new in Christ. If we are in Christ, if we died in Christ, at his coming we will be raised to life, abundant resurrection life in him. We will find that whatever the sacrifice, whatever the cost, however we were poured out and laid down our life in the service of Christ, it was worth it. It was not in vain.

Who is your representative? Who are you connected to? In whom do you find your identity and your destiny? Is self at the center, independent, autonomous, I can do it my self my way. Or are you connected to Christ, being found in him, not having your own righteousness, but trusting in him, depending on him, receiving from him, drawing sustenance from him, submitting to his good authority? Giving all glory and praise to him for he is worthy?

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

Advertisements

April 26, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Theology of the Incarnation; One Person Two Natures

12/22/13 Theology of the Incarnation; One Person Two Natures; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131222_one-person-two-natures.mp3

We are taking a few weeks to study the theology of the incarnation. What do we mean when we say that God became a man? In the past two weeks we have examined some of the biblical evidence of who Jesus is. We saw that the bible plainly teaches that Jesus, although he is distinct from the Father and in perfect fellowship with his Father, is fully God, that he has always existed as God, that he fully possesses in himself all the attributes that make God God. Jesus is the divine Word that brought everything that is into existence. He is eternal, immortal, omnipotent, omnipresent, sovereign, holy, worthy of our worship.

We also saw that Jesus is really and truly human. Although conceived supernaturally by the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin, he was born in the normal way, he was circumcised on the eighth day, he grew and developed intellectually, physically, spiritually and socially like every other human. He learned, he grieved, he wept, he rejoiced, he ate, he drank, he slept, he became physically exhausted and weak, he suffered, and he died a violent human death. He had a real human body, a human mind, human emotions, a human will. His corpse was put in a tomb. He did not stay dead, but even after the resurrection, he presented his real physical human body alive to his disciples.

This is what the bible teaches and what all Christians believe about Jesus. Jesus is really truly fully God. Jesus is genuinely authentically human. These two natures, full deity and full humanity exist in the one person of Jesus.

The question before us today is ‘how can these things be?’ How can Jesus be both fully God and really human? How can he be infinite, eternal, uncreated, and have a birth day? How can he fill all space and be present in a body in Judea? How can he know all things and learn? How can he be all-powerful, sovereign, and grow and develop? How can he be immortal and die? This is a mystery much greater than the resurrection. If Jesus really is who he claimed to be, it would be shocking if he didn’t raise from the dead. The mystery of the incarnation is a mystery probably equal to if not greater than the trinity. That God is three persons in one being is incomprehensible to us, but that one of those persons, while remaining fully God, would unite himself forever to our human nature is staggering to the imagination.

Outline

I think it is essential that we begin by defining our terms, so that we understand what we mean by the words we use. Then we will listen to history and see what we can learn from the mistakes and wisdom of those who have gone before us, and we will conclude by examining some of the biblical passages that shed light on this issue.

Terms

When we say that Jesus is one person with two natures, we must understand what we mean by ‘person’ and what we mean by ‘nature’.

The Princeton theologian Charles Hodge puts it simply: “a person is an intelligent subject who can say I, who can be addressed as Thou, and who can act and be the object of action” [Hodge, 1871, vol I, p.444]. A person is one who can think, feel, and act in relation to other persons. When I say ‘person’ I do not mean ‘human’. As I understand it, there are three classes of personal beings; God, angels, and men. For instance, we could say that the angel Gabriel is a personal being. Angels are spirit beings, not made up of matter, not human, but Gabriel is a distinct personality who can have a conversation with Michael or Lucifer or Jesus or Mary.

By nature, I mean the essential characteristics that distinguish one class of being from another. Nature is similar to species. The attributes of Gabriel’s personality are what distinguishes him from Michael, another angelic being. The attributes of Gabriel’s nature as an angelic being are what distinguish him from the human Mary, or from God. The nature of an angel is a created spiritual being, localized but without a physical body. The nature of God is infinite uncreated eternal self-existent being. The nature of man is created being who is both spiritual and physical.

Making these kind of distinctions in our vocabulary is extremely helpful when we are talking about things like the triune God, because when we say that God is three and God is one, we do not mean that God is three in the same way that he is one. We do not mean that God is three persons and one person or that he is three beings and one being; that would be nonsense. No object can logically be three in the same way that it is one. If we are talking about a triangle, we do not say that it has three sides and it has only one side; nor do we say that a triangle is one shape and it is three shapes. A triangle is one shape with three sides. God is one being consisting in three persons. When we come to the incarnation, we are not saying that Jesus is one person and two persons; neither do we say that Jesus is one nature and two natures. We say that Jesus is one person with two natures.

History

It will be helpful to look at the development of our understanding of the incarnation in history. Our understanding of truth is refined though challenges. I know what I believe about God, but when I talk to someone with a different understanding of who God is, I am forced to think more carefully and articulate more clearly what God is like, and examine the scriptures to be sure that what I believe is in line with what God says about himself. Through the challenge, I grow in my understanding and appreciation of who God is. This is what happened in the church. The scriptures clearly teach that Jesus is fully God, that Jesus is fully man, and that Jesus is one person. We spent the last two weeks looking at some of the biblical data. This is what all Christians believe about Jesus. But this is not easy to understand. Very early there were challenges to this understanding. And we can learn and be warned from these challenges. Some denied that Jesus was God; they believed that Jesus was merely a man with a human father and mother, who was adopted by God at his baptism. Others, believing matter to be inherently evil, believed that for God to unite himself to humanity would be to defile himself; Docetism (from dokeo – to appear) taught that Jesus only appeared to be human and die; his humanity was merely an illusion.

Sabellius taught that there is only one God, but denied that God exists eternally in three distinct persons. He believed that God presented himself at different times in different modes; in the Old Testament as the Father; in the Gospels as Jesus, and after the ascension as the Spirit. His view became known as modalism. Modalism denies the personal relationships within the trinity that we see evident throughout scripture.

Arius taught that although Jesus was an exalted being above all other beings, he was the first created being and did not eternally exist and did not share the divine nature of the Father. He taught that Jesus’ nature was similar to the nature of the Father, but that he was not of the same nature as the Father. Arius’ teaching was condemned at the council of Nicea in 325 A.D.

Apolinaris taught that Jesus had a human body but not a human mind or spirit. He taught that Jesus’ human spirit was replaced by the divine Logos. But Hebrews 2:17 tells us that ‘he had to be made like his brothers in every respect’. That which he did not assume he could not save. If Jesus were not fully human, he could not be the savior of the whole person.

Nestorius affirmed that Jesus was fully God and fully man, but he taught that as a result, Jesus was two separate persons, a divine person and a human person.

Eutyches went to the other extreme emphasizing the unity of the person, going so far as to say that at the incarnation the human nature of Jesus was absorbed into the divine nature, so that Jesus was one person with only one nature; a divine/human hybrid nature (monophysitism). But if this is true, then Jesus was neither fully God nor fully man, and unable to be our mediator.

These unbiblical views of Jesus forced the church to think more carefully and articulate more clearly what is true about Jesus. Here is the statement that was agreed upon at Chalcedon in 451 A.D.

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and 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; as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us. [Chalcedonian Creed, 451 A.D.]

This makes it explicit that Jesus is one person with two natures. He eternally possessed the nature of God, and at a point in time he assumed additionally a real human nature. His divine nature continued immortal, eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent; while his human nature really learned and grew, became hungry and thirsty and weary and died. These two natures were united in one person, so that the person of Jesus really experienced hunger and pain and temptation and death. Jesus fully possesses the nature of God and fully possesses the nature of man, and these two natures exist in the one person of Jesus. His divine nature was not modified by the incarnation, nor was his human nature changed through the incarnation. Jesus was not two people, but one person.“What He was He continued to be; what He was not He took to Himself” [Gregory of Naziansen, 379 Orat.XXIX.19].

Biblical Passages

Let’s look at some of the biblical passages that directly speak to this issue. We have already spent some time in the beginning of the gospel of John, so can quickly review what we have seen there.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.

The creative Word who always existed, who shared the nature of God and existed in relationship with his Father, this one,

14 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.

The pre-incarnate Word who was with his Father and was himself God, became something he had not been before; he took to himself flesh, a real human body.

Look also at the beginning of John’s first letter:

1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

The eternal self-existent one, that which was from the beginning, the one who was with the Father, the one who has life in himself, was made manifest, was seen, was heard, was touched, was handled. His real true humanity was verified by eye-witnesses. Remember that John says later in this epistle that this understanding of the incarnation is essential to the true gospel; anyone who does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not from God; but is the deceiver and antichrist (1Jn.4:1-3, 2Jn.1:7).

In Romans 1 Paul speaks of Jesus’ human nature; he was called to preach:

Romans 1:1 …the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,

The one who was God’s Son eternally, according to his human nature was descended from David, but according to the Spirit, in his divine nature, he was declared to be the Son of God.

Later in chapter 9 where Paul is speaking of his people, the Israelites, he says:

Romans 9:5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

Jesus, in his human nature was ethnically Jewish. According to the flesh, his family tree is traced by Luke (3) through his mother Mary and connects him all the way back to Adam through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and king David. And this same passage in Romans clearly states the divine nature; that Jesus is God over all, blessed forever. In his human nature he is descended from the Israelites; in his divine nature he is God over all.

In Hebrews 1, the Son is said to be the Creator and heir of all things, the radiance of the glory of the Father and the exact imprint of his nature, he is called God and he is seated on the right hand of the Majesty on high. In chapter 2, we see this eternal Son made lower than the angels

Hebrews 2:9 … so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Jesus took on a human nature so that in that nature he could taste death for me. In verse 11, his humanity is connected with mine.

Hebrews 2:11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,

Jesus can call me brother because he really and truly shares my humanity, having taken on a genuine human nature. Verse 14 says:

Hebrews 2:14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

We have a human nature, flesh and blood. From eternity he did not have a human nature, but he took on flesh and blood so that he might destroy death by dying. The author goes on to make clear that Jesus did not take on the nature of angels to save angels, but the descendants of Abraham, and we are told

Hebrews 2:17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

He was not from eternity like us. He has always possessed the very essence of God. But he had to be made like us in every respect so that he could make propitiation for our sins.

In Romans 8, Paul tells us:

Romans 8:3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,

Jesus is the eternal Son sent by his Father. He is sent in real human flesh and for sin. But Paul is careful to make clear that he was not sent in sinful flesh. He was sent in the likeness of sinful flesh. The Word became flesh; real human flesh and blood, yet not fallen sinful flesh and blood.

One more passage, probably the clearest of all on this subject, Philippians 2.

Philippians 2:5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus from all eternity existed in essence as God. He fully shares every divine attribute with his Father. But his status and glory as equal with his Father was not something he clung to at all costs. He was willing to stoop down, to make himself nothing, to empty himself. But he did not empty himself by setting aside any divine attribute, as some have falsely taught. The text tells us how he emptied himself. He emptied himself by taking. He detracted from his own glory by adding to himself. Remaining what he was, he assumed what he was not. He took the form of a servant. He emptied himself by being born in the likeness of men. He set aside his rights and privileges as God and humbled himself by taking our nature.

Bruce Ware, in his theology book for young people, illustrates it this way. You take a brand new shiny car off the showroom floor for a test drive. Latest model, all the bells and whistles, power under the hood, polished and sparkling. You head up the canyon road. Of course it has been raining. For days. You want to see what this thing can do. After a few hours, you drive back to the showroom. The salesman rushes out, mortified at what was once his new car now covered bumper to bumper in a thick coating of mud. As you hand him back the keys, you smile and say, don’t worry, nothing has been lost. I have taken nothing away from your car. I have only added to it. True, all the essential qualities that make this car what it is are still there. Even the brilliant paint job, but it has been completely hidden, it has lost its appearance of glory not by subtraction, but by the addition of a thick layer of mud. Jesus emptied himself by taking, taking to himself the nature of humanity. “He had not lost His former being, but He had become what He was not before; He had not abdicated His own position, yet He had taken ours; ” [Hilary of Poitiers c.360 Trinity, III.16].

Application

The scriptures plainly teach, and the church throughout history has affirmed that because of the incarnation, Jesus is fully God and now also truly man, two natures united in one person forever. Why is this important? What is the use of it? Why does it matter? Just a few points of application as we close.

Understanding that Jesus is one person with two natures helps make sense of scripture. This gives us theological categories to help wrap our finite human brains to some limited degree around who Jesus is. In his human nature he was helpless, wrapped up lying in a feed trough, totally dependent on his mother. In his divine nature he continued to hold the universe together by the word of his power. In his human nature he learned and grew. In his divine nature he continued in the perfection of every divine attribute. In his human nature he was hungry, thirsty and exhausted. In his divine nature he was in absolute control of all of nature. In his human nature he was led like a lamb to the slaughter and stumbled under the weight of the cross. In his divine nature, he was able to carry the sins of the world on his shoulders and pay for them in full. If he were not fully God and fully man in one person, he could not be our Savior.

Understanding that Jesus is not two persons but one person; that the divine/human person of Jesus really experienced temptation, suffering, sorrow, heartache, and death draws me to Jesus. He understands. He can sympathize. He really understands. And he invites me to come.

Increasing our understanding of who Jesus is should drive us to fall on our faces in worship. With the old hymn writers we say ‘Amazing Love! How can it be, that thou my God shouldst die for me? Tis mystery all: the Immortal dies: who can explore his strange design? …Tis mercy all! Let earth adore, let angel minds inquire no more.’ [And Can It Be, Charles Wesley, 1738]. ‘Fairest Lord Jesus, ruler of all nature, Son of God and Son of man! Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor, Thou, my soul’s glory, joy, and crown’ [Munster Gesangbuch, 1677]

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

December 22, 2013 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment