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The Person of Christ - Part 1

Tom Pennington • Selected Scriptures

  • 2017-12-03 PM
  • Anchored Section 3
  • Sermons


Well, it is our joy tonight to continue in our Anchored study. And specifically, to begin to look at Christ, the person of Jesus Christ. The truth about this unique person who would come, that we know as our Lord Jesus Christ, began in the Old Testament revelation. There was One that would come, all the way back at the very beginning, all the way back at the first human sin, in Genesis 3:15, the proto-evangelicum, the first mention of the gospel, when, in the prophecy that comes, we're told that a unique person would come, seed of the woman, that would crush the head of the serpent.

And as the Old Testament unfolds, we gain more and more knowledge about who this person is. It starts out very broad. All we know in Genesis 3 is that it's going to be a most unique human person. And then, as the Old Testament continues, the funnel narrows. We learn when we get to Genesis 12 and following that this person will come through the nation of Israel, the descendants of Abraham. And then we learn in Genesis 49 that it would come through one of the tribes of that nation, the tribe of Judah, the tribe of kings. Later we learn it would come, He would come through the line of David, one particular family in the tribe of Judah. And it continues to narrow until we get to Micah and we even find out what town he'll be born in, Bethlehem.

When we come to the New Testament we meet this unique person through His own words. In the gospels, in His own teaching, Jesus explained His nature. But then after His ascension, He continued to teach His disciples about Himself through the Holy Spirit. And under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit then, the disciples have communicated the truth about who Jesus is to us through the letters that comprise the New Testament. We learn the truth about Jesus here.

But because Jesus is the center of God's redemptive plan, because Jesus is the center of all of human history, of redemptive history, you would expect Him to be the object of Satan's attack, wouldn't you? You would expect the truth about the person of Jesus to be constantly the object of Satan's fury. And that becomes clear from the New Testament. If you've read the New Testament at all, you know that several of the New Testament epistles set out to correct false teaching, even in the first century, about the person of Jesus.

In fact, let's start out in 2 John, John's second letter, he's talking specifically about the hospitality the saints show to those who travel ministering the gospel. And he warns the church in 2 John beginning in verse 7. Remember now, this is in the latter part of the first century. John the apostle says,

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Messiah as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.

"Anyone," literally everyone who goes on ahead. It's an interesting expression. It undoubtedly refers to new novel teaching about Jesus that isn't in the Scripture, that isn't in the record of our Lord and His apostles. "Anyone who goes too far," is how it's translated for us, "and does not abide in the teaching of Christ," the teaching about who Christ is, "does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son." "If anyone comes to you," and again, he's talking here about receiving itinerant ministers, is the context.

In the early church there were home churches and these itinerant ministers would travel around supposedly representing Christ. And in 3 John he says, those who are faithful, who are faithful to the Scripture, faithful to Christ, faithful to the gospel, receive them, care for them, support them. But here in 2 John, he says, beware because they're going to be some that show up at your church and say, we're here to represent Christ. "But if anyone comes to you," verse 10, "and does not bring this teaching," that is the teaching about Jesus Christ, contained in the New Testament, in the Scripture,

do not receive them into your house, and do not give him a greeting; [Again, the context here isn't shunning individuals who don't know Christ. It's shunning false teachers who represent themselves as representing Christ.] for the one who gives them a greeting participates in his evil deeds.

So understand then that in the first century there were deceivers, sent out by Satan himself, trying to mislead the church. Later, as further heresies about the person of Christ arose, the leaders of the church would meet together, after the pattern of Acts 15, to state with greater precision what the Bible teaches about Jesus Christ, to refine the church's understanding about what Jesus Himself and His apostles taught about who He is.

So, I want to begin tonight by looking at the consensus of those views of Christ that are in error, the Christological heresies. That is, the heresies surrounding the person of Jesus Christ. If you're going to love the truth, you have to hate error. As one person once said about gardening, if you're going to love gardens and you're going to love vegetables and fruit, you have to hate weeds. Well, the same thing is true when it comes to the truth, if you're going to love the truth you have to hate error. Here is the error about Jesus Christ. The heresies that follow, the ones I'm going to present to you, just briefly, were the first major attacks against the orthodox doctrine of Christ. And if you understand these you begin to guard yourself against being misled.

Let's look at them briefly. First of all, there are the Ebionites, the Ebionites from about 70 A.D. to the 300's A.D. The Ebionites were Jews who were seeking to Judaize Christianity. Here's what they taught. They taught that Jesus, the Son of Mary and Joseph, a human being and only a human being, fulfilled the Mosaic law. So God chose Him, in light of His obedience to the Mosaic law, to be the Messiah. He became conscious of this at His baptism when He received the Holy Spirit. You can see immediately the flaw with Ebionite teaching, it denies the deity of Jesus Christ.

And the reason that these Jewish people who connected themselves to Christianity denied the deity of Christ is they said it was incompatible with monotheism. They didn't understand the doctrine of the trinity. They thought we were talking about three gods instead of one god eternally manifest in three persons. And they said, we believe in monotheism, one god, and so Christ cannot be God. Obviously this heresy is refuted throughout the New Testament.

Ebionism survives, by the way. I said it died in 300. That's true and not true. It died in its connection to Christianity in 300. But here's what's interesting, this very doctrine, this heresy survives in the Islamic view of Christ. In fact, as one historian writes, it contributed, Ebionism contributed to the origin and rise of Islam. This is really their view of Christ.

A second Christological heresy that arose early was Gnosticism. Gnosticism was primarily a Gentile perversion. It was the rationalism, if you will, of the early church. It was by the intellectuals. It was a combination of Greek philosophy, married to Persian dualism, married to some Judaism, married to mystery religions, married to Christianity. It was syncretism, pure and simple.

The word gnosis is a Greek word that simply means higher knowledge. That was the idea. There were those who were elevated in their knowledge of the truth. Gnosticism's basic tenant is dualism. The spiritual world is good, the material world is evil. And since flesh is evil, then when it comes to their doctrine of Christ, they said, God can't become flesh. So how do you solve this? Well, the gnostic solutions were twofold. There was, first of all, Cerinthian Gnosticism, which said this, the divine Christ came upon the human Jesus at His baptism and departed shortly before His death. So Christ was never human, He was never connected to the material because that would be connecting to evil.

And then there was the Docetic Gnosticism, coming from the Greek word which means to seem or to appear. Jesus only had the appearance of flesh. So, Gnosticism then basically denies the humanity of Christ. Because spirit is good, they said, He had to stay in the spirit realm. He couldn't have a body, couldn't have flesh and bones. And so, they deny the humanity of Jesus Christ.

Compare this to the clear scriptural teaching. There was, not Gnosticism, in the time of the New Testament, but what we could call pre-Gnosticism. So you see some of the passages that I've noted here, where it talks about the fact that "He has," even in 1 John, "He has come in the flesh," it's not an appearance, it's reality.

A third heresy is the Arians. This was in the early 4th century. Arius is the man who founded this view. He was known as a proud, ambitious, argumentative man. Arianism teaches that Christ existed before all other creatures, "other creatures" and was the agent that God used to fashion the world. But He Himself was also created. You say, where would they get this view? Well, their theological argument was this, the opposite view is unreasonable and irreconcilable with monotheism and God's dignity. So, again, they misunderstand the doctrine of the trinity, think we're talking about three gods and say God is only one, so that can't be, and they arrive at this heresy.

The answer, by the way, to their theological argument is the scriptural data that reveals the doctrine of the trinity. What is that? Well, there's no verse where the word trinity is used, but there are passages where the trinity is, where the trinity appears. But essentially, the biblical arguments for the trinity are these, these three data points are everywhere in Scripture. Christ is God. There is one God. Christ is distinct from the Father. If those three things are true, then it leads to the doctrine of the trinity. There's no other solution. And so, you can make the same set of arguments by the way for the Spirit. But it's classically argued based on the person of Christ. There's one God, Christ is God, and yet Christ is not the Father. They talk to each other, they express love for each other, and so, therefore, you're left with one God eternally existing in three persons. That's the biblical explanation.

They also use, the Arians use a couple of scriptural arguments. The first one comes from Proverbs 8. Proverbs 8, the early church interpreted this chapter as Christological, it talks about wisdom and personified wisdom as creating all things. And the early church saw it as talking about Christ. Well, the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, translates the Hebrew word in verse 22 of Proverbs 8 with the Greek word that means created, and this led them to this view. What are the answers to this? Well, the problem is the Hebrew word, which, of course, it was originally written in Hebrew. The Hebrew word can be translated acquire, buy, possess, but never create. So it's not created.

But secondly, it's wisdom speaking, personified, in that Proverb, Proverbs 8, it's not Christ. There may be points of contact, but it's not, strictly speaking, Christ. You don't get your doctrine from the personification of wisdom in a chapter in Proverbs, you don't get your doctrine of Christ. The other passage that they use is Colossians 1:15. In fact, turn there for a moment, Colossians 1:15. And here Paul says, "Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation." Arians argue that must mean that Christ was created, if He was the "firstborn of creation." How do you answer that?

By the way, the modern day manifestation of Arians are whom? The Jehovah's Witnesses. The Jehovah's Witnesses show up at your door, they are Arians, they reject the deity of Jesus Christ. They argue that Christ was created. How do you answer them on Colossians 1:15? Well, there are several answers. First of all, if you look at other biblical usages of this Greek word, for example, Psalm 89:27 uses the word firstborn, parallel to a phrase underscoring preeminence, not birth order. In other words, it's not about that somehow Christ was created, it's talking about first born in the sense of preeminent.

If you look at Jewish literature it's used this way. One rabbi describes Jehovah, the true and living God, Yahweh, as the first born of the world. Clearly he doesn't intend to imply that Jehovah is created. Look at the context of Colossians 1:15. The context is focusing on the preeminence of Christ. Clearly that's the idea. Firstborn doesn't mean He was born first in the sense that He somehow came into being when He had not been alive, had not been a being, but rather, that He is the preeminent one, the firstborn.

Arianism then denies the full deity of Jesus Christ. They teach that He is the first of the created beings. He is a god, this is their favorite argument, out of John 1, He is a god, not the God. By the way, I'll address that, Lord willing, starting this coming Sunday I intend to do a three message Christmas series from John 1, one of my favorite passages, and we will look at this together. But this is where they go, this is their favorite passage, and they misapply, misuse, really abuse the Greek to come to that conclusion. In the year 325 A.D. the Nicaean Council rejected Arianism. A collection of leaders in the church gathered and understanding the Scripture, what the church had always taught, they rejected Arianism as heresy, proclaiming Christ to be of one substance with the Father.

The Apollinarians, another group named after its founder, this view taught that man consists of three parts: spirit, soul, and body. The soul was like the animals had souls, in their understanding. And so, it's like the animal soul. And then there was the spirit, that's what differentiated man from animals. And this view then, in light of that, said Christ had an animal soul in a body. In other words, He had those strictly physical aspects. But the divine logos took the place of the human or rational spirit in Christ. This view then denies the full humanity of Christ. He wasn't fully and completely human. The divine logos took the place of the human spirit, the rational spirit, and took only the material part of the human nature of Christ. The Council of Constantinople in 381 condemned this as heresy.

A fifth Christological heresy is the Nestorians. Nestorius was the patriarch of Constantinople and he first proposed this view. And Nestorians teach that Christ consisted of two natures and two persons. The divine logos indwelt the human Jesus. So you have the human Jesus, you have the divine logos, two entirely separate persons, who come together. Nestorianism denies the unity of the two natures in one person, essentially, in practice, divides Christ into two persons, one human and one divine. The Senate of Ephesus in 431 A.D. condemned this heresy.

Then there's the Eutychians. They are monophysites. That is, they believe only one nature. They teach Christ only had one nature, and that was His divine nature. Eutychianism fails to distinguish properly between the two natures. They teach that Jesus was only one. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D. condemned this. Those are the major Christological heresies early in the church. And here's the bottom line, as Dr. A.P. Peabody said, "The canon of infidelity was closed almost as soon as that of the Scriptures. Modern unbelievers have, for the most part, repeated the objections of their ancient predecessors." You can find most of the flawed views of Christ in the early heresies of the church, in one form or another.

So what is the orthodox doctrine of Christ? Well, it was put together at the Council of Chalcedon, and again, this is not an inspired document, but it is a collection of what the church taught through the first 400 years and a collective understanding of what the Scriptures mean. And so, it's right for us to look at it. This comes from the year 451 A.D., the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D., attempting, with all of the battles over the person of Christ, whether you lean toward His humanity, His deity, whether those natures are blended into some new nature, et cetera, trying to work out the details of what Scriptures teach in light of the heresies that had arisen, this is where they landed. And it still stands today. I'm going to read it to you because I want you to see it. We're going to look at how the Scripture teaches exactly this in just a moment, but I want you to see the historical document.

Here's the Council of Chalcedon, 451. "Following then the Holy Fathers." Now that's an important statement. What they're saying is, this isn't new, we're landing exactly where the church has always landed. "We unite in teaching all men to confess the one and only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. This self same one is perfect, both in deity and in humanness. This self same one is also actually God and actually man," sometimes that's translated "truly God and truly man," "with a rational soul," that means a human soul, "and a body. He is of the same reality as God as far as His deity is concerned and of the same reality as we ourselves as far as His humanness is concerned. Thus, like us in all respects, sin only excepted." You hear me say something like that all the time, it comes from the Council of Chalcedon. This is the orthodox understanding of the person of Christ. He was like us in every way, except for sin.

The statement goes on to say, "Before time began, He was begotten of the Father, in respect of His deity. And now in these last days, for us on behalf of our salvation, this self same one was born of Mary the virgin, who is God-bearer in respect of His humanness. We also teach that we apprehend this one and only Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, in two natures and we do this without confusing the two natures, without transmuting one nature into the other, without dividing them into two separate categories, without contrasting them according to area or function. The distinctiveness of each nature is not nullified by the union." In other words, it doesn't become some third thing. "Instead, the properties of each nature are conserved and both natures concur in one person and in one reality. They are not divided or cut into two persons but are together the one and only begotten word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus have the prophets of old testified." By the way, here's what they're saying, this is what the Scriptures teach. "Thus the Lord Jesus Christ Himself taught us. Thus the symbol of the Father's," meaning the Nicean creed, "has been handed down to us." In other words, this is exactly what the church has always taught. That's the statement.

Now, the rest of our time tonight and two weeks from tonight, as we look again at the person of Christ, and in the ensuing weeks, we'll look at what the Scriptures teach, and what we will discover is this is a wonderful summary of, in fact, what the Scriptures teach. So let's look at the biblical evidence. And tonight I just want us, in the time remaining, to look at the biblical evidence for the humanity of Christ. What better thing could we be studying in light of this season and the celebration of Christmas than the humanity of Christ. Jesus, remember what the creed said, "He was like us in all respects, sin only excepted." That's what the Scriptures teach.

Let's look at it together, the humanity of Christ. There are several lines of argument and we're going to unpack them briefly. First of all, He had a human birth into a human line. In Luke 2 you read the story of His birth. We'll read it, Lord willing, coming up here in a couple of weeks, together, and I'm sure you'll read it on your own in the meantime. In Luke 3 you see His human lineage, as well as in Matthew 1. He was in a human line and had a human birth. Romans 1:3 says, "concerning His Son," this is the gospel, it is "concerning His Son, who was born a descendant of David according to the flesh." Galatians 4:4, "when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law." So, He had a human birth, but it was a unique birth, let's admit it, it was a virgin birth.

And more technically, it was a virgin conception and a virgin birth. Why do I stress that? Because the Scriptures stress that. In fact, look back at the key text, look back at Isaiah 7. A number of years ago I walked through this prophecy and I thought about doing it again this year because it's so important, and I will at some point, but not this year, we're going to go to John 1. But look at Isaiah 7:14, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign," he says to Ahaz, King Ahaz, "Behold, a virgin will be with child." So a virgin will conceive. And by the way, this word means a virgin. And there are a lot of ways to argue that and prove that. That's a different message for a different time, but it's a virgin, "a virgin will be with child." So a virgin will conceive, "and bear a son," a virgin will bear a son. That's why the New Testament says Joseph kept Mary a virgin until after Jesus was born. Why? Because that's the prophecy. The prophecy said that a virgin would conceive and a virgin would give birth, and that's fulfilled in Matthew 1, and in Luke 1 we see that play out. We read it this morning, right? Mary's response was not doubt when she said, how is this going to happen? She believed, unlike Zacharias. She's just saying, so tell me how this is going to work out because I'm a virgin, she says.

Now why is the virgin birth or the virgin conception so important? We understand it's absolutely crucial to our faith, but why? Do you understand why? Let me tell you what the virgin birth did not accomplish. It did not accomplish, or it was not the cause of, Jesus' deity. The virgin birth had nothing to do with Jesus' deity. It's not the cause of His sinlessness. There are some who argue that human sin is only passed down through the male. I resent that. I'm sure there's plenty that is passed on through the male, but there's no evidence biologically or biblically for that position. In fact, Psalm 51:5, David says, "in sin did my [what?] mother conceive me." The Holy Spirit had to miraculously protect the humanity of Jesus from the sinfulness of Mary. So what did the virgin birth accomplish? The virgin birth accomplished three things. Number one, it fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy. It had to be this way because this is what God said, a virgin will conceive and a virgin will give birth. So it had to happen that way because that's what the Messiah would experience.

Secondly, the virgin birth protected Jesus from the curse on Jeconiah. Maybe you've never heard about Jeconiah. Jeconiah was one of the kings in the line of Judah and he was so bad that God said to him, through the prophet, none of your descendants will ever sit on the throne. Here's the problem. If you read Matthew 1, guess who's in the line of Joseph? Jeconiah. Jesus couldn't be the physical descendant of Joseph and sit on the throne or He would be under the curse on Jeconiah. So, He is still a descendant of David through Mary. But you read Mary's lineage in Luke 3 and it doesn't have Jeconiah in it. So it's amazing how it all works out. I did a whole message on the curse of Jeconiah; if you're interested you can go find it. But that was important because God had said none of his descendants will ever sit on the throne.

But I think the third reason is the most important one and that is, the virgin birth was the divinely determined means through which the eternal already existing Son of God could add to Himself full humanity. Think about it this way, if it wasn't a virgin birth and there was a man and a woman coming together, a sperm and egg coming together, you have another person. Well Jesus is already a person, the eternally existing Son of God. Now you've got two people. The virgin birth ensured that would not, could not, happen. One person with a divine nature and a human nature, the virgin birth ensured that.

By the way, Machen, the great defender of the fundamentals of the faith back in the early 20th century, mentioned several terrible ramifications if Christ was not supernaturally conceived. Have you ever thought about this? If there's no virgin birth, number one, the Bible is in error and you can't believe what it teaches you about salvation. Number two, it's impossible to really understand the person of Christ and the nature of the incarnation. Three, if Jesus was conceived just like other men, then He received, just like other men, original sin, just like we have, and He was not acceptable to satisfy the demands to be the Savior.

But the primary effect of the virgin conception was this, it was the means God used to unite the pre-existent second person of the trinity with a human nature. That's the virgin birth. Jesus was born like a human, He had a human birth into a human line. Secondly, He developed as a human being. Luke 2 verses 40 and 52 talk about the fact that He grew just like your kids, just like we did, and just like our kids did. He grew in those various ways. He developed as a human being. Let's move on.

Thirdly, He had the essential elements of human nature, two of them. You understand that you are a two part being. There is a material part of you, your body, and there is an immaterial part of you, your soul. That's what constitutes a human nature. That's what makes you human. Jesus had both as well. Let's look at what the Scriptures teach. First of all, He obviously had a body. Matthew 26:12, Jesus says, "'when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial.'" Luke 24:39, "'See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.'" This is obviously contrary to Gnosticism with its sort of appearance of humanity. John 1:14, "the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us." John 2:21, Jesus spoke of "the temple of His body."

First Timothy 3:16, this sort of confession, early confession of the church, "By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He was revealed in the flesh," revealed in the flesh, "vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up into glory." Hebrews 2:14, "Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood," that's us, since we have flesh and blood, "He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil." He took the same. Hebrews 10:5, "Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, 'Sacrifice and offering You have not desired,'" He says this to God, "'but a body You have prepared for Me.'" Why was that body prepared for Jesus in the context of Hebrews 10? As a sacrifice, a sacrifice for our sins. Hebrews 10:10, "By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Jesus had a body, a real body just like yours.

He also had a soul. Matthew 26:38, "He said to them," to His disciples, "'My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.'" Mark 2:8, "Jesus, aware in His spirit," another word for that immaterial part of our being, "Jesus was aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, 'Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts?'" Luke 23:46, on the cross Jesus cried out, "'into your hands Father, I commit My spirit,'" the immaterial part of His being, "and having said this, He breathed His last," His human body died, His human soul was ushered into the presence of the Father. John 12:27, "'Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, "Father, save Me from this hour"? But for this purpose I came to this hour.'" "'My soul has become troubled.'" John 13:21, "Jesus became troubled in His spirit" when He thought of the betrayer. Jesus had a body just like your body. Jesus had a human soul just like yours, sin only excepted.

Fourth, He had the sinless weaknesses of human nature. I find such comfort in this. He wasn't a superman. He was a normal man. And He had the same weaknesses, the sinless weaknesses, of human nature. Here are a few of them. Matthew 4:2, "after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry." That doesn't mean He hadn't been hungry before. He had a human body just like yours. It meant He was really hungry. He'd gone through that stage when the body begins to shut down and He was really hungry. Matthew 8:24, "And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves," but Jesus had had such a long hard day of ministry that even in the middle of the storm when his disciples are afraid that the boat is going to sink, Jesus is sound asleep. Why? Because He was tired, because He was absolutely worn out. Ever been there? Jesus experienced the same thing. John 4:6, "Jacob's well was there." This is the story of the Samaritan woman. "So Jesus, being wearied from His journey." Read that again, "Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour." He had traveled by foot with His disciples and He was tired, perhaps even tireder than they were. They went into the city to find food and Jesus rested alone by the well. Of course, He had this mission, but He was "wearied from His journey." John 19:28, on the cross, when Jesus knew that everything had been accomplished to fulfill the Scripture, and because He genuinely was, said, "'I am thirsty.'"

He experienced all the sinless weaknesses that you experience. Jesus got sick. He had the other experiences of unglorified humanity. And in addition to having the sinless weaknesses, He is repeatedly called and assumed to be a man. John 1:30, John the Baptist says, "'After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.'" There you see His humanity and His deity in the same verse. John 8:40, Jesus says, "'you're seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do.'" John 20:15, "Jesus said, 'Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?' And she supposed Him to be the gardener." I love that, "the gardener," where did you put Jesus? Acts 17:31, Paul, in his great sermon there in Athens said, "He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead." First Corinthians 15:21, "For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead." Verse 47, "The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven." First Timothy 2:5, "there is one God, one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." Do you understand, Jesus was just like you are, fully human?

He also had human names. There are several, but let me just give you three. First of all, there's Jesus. In Greek, it's Jesus. It's the Hebrew name Joshua. And they both mean, Yahweh saves. And you remember why He was to be named that, because He would save His people from their sins. He's also called, in Matthew 1:1, "the son of Abraham," and in the same passage, "the son of David." Human names.

But I want us to turn to probably the most definitive and the key text on the humanity of Jesus, and I want to just walk through it briefly, Philippians 2, Philippians 2, beginning in verse 5. The apostle Paul, in the context of admonishing us to be humble, to do "nothing from selfishness or empty conceit" uses Christ as an example. Verse 5,

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Jesus the Messiah, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard that equality with God a thing to be grasped, [that is, a thing to be held on to at all costs; instead, verse 7,] He emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.

Notice it says, in verse 7, "He emptied Himself." That is an interesting statement. The verb to empty is kenóō, the Greek word is kenóō, from which we get the theological word kenosis, the emptying.

That one Greek word has caused a lot of trouble through the years, because it raises the question, He emptied himself of what? There have been some terrible, even heretical, answers to that question. Some of them are well intentioned. For example, I like Wesley's wonderful hymn, And Can It Be, but in that hymn there's a line in which he takes a little bit of poetic license and he says, He emptied Himself of [what?] all but love. Is that true? No, that's not true. I understand where he's going. I can kind of sing it, although sometimes I skip it. But we can't all skip it or the hymn won't work, alright. But I understand where he was going.

What did He empty Himself of? Well, first of all, there are two primary wrong views of what Christ gave up in the incarnation, "emptied Himself." There's what's called the kenotic view. This view says that Christ gave up certain divine attributes, especially His omniscience, His all knowledge, His omnipresence, His being everywhere, and His omnipotence, His all power. More radical forms say He gave up all the divine attributes and became only man. I mean, clearly this view is a denial of the deity of Jesus Christ. Because if any moment, think about this, if at any moment in time or eternity Christ becomes anything less than God is, then He ceases to be God. Hebrews 13:8 says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." The gospels are clear that even during His earthly life He exercised these attributes. He exercised His omnipresence when He knew what was going on, where Nathaniel was sitting, under what kind of tree. He exercised His omniscience, He knew what was in the heart of man. He exercised His omnipotence in His miracles throughout His ministry. This is a wrong view.

The second wrong view of what it means that He emptied Himself is the view of Anselm in the Middle Ages. Anselm said Christ acted like He did not possess any divine attributes. He possessed them, He just acted like He didn't possess them. But the orthodox doctrine of the kenosis, of the emptying of Christ, is that Christ surrendered absolutely no attribute of His deity. So the question is, what did Christ actually give up in the incarnation? What did He empty Himself of? We're about to celebrate the birth of Christ. What did He, can I say it this way, lose? He didn't really lose anything, but what did He intentionally set aside?

Well, in the incarnation, Christ emptied Himself in two specific ways. First of all, He veiled His pre-incarnate glory. He veiled His pre-incarnate glory. Turn to John 17. In the high priestly prayer of Christ, on the night before His crucifixion, He mentions this. John 17:5, let's start at verse 4, He says,

"I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You've given me to do. Now, Father, [now that I have accomplished the work that You've given me to do, as He anticipates the crucifixion the next day, He says,] glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was."

What's the implication of that? In the incarnation He veils that glory. He didn't surrender it in an absolute sense. In fact, you see glimpses of it, right? What are the couple of times in His earthly ministry where you just see the veil kind of slip off and you see something of the glory of Christ? Clearly the transfiguration, right? In Matthew 17:2, "He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light."

I think the other time was in the garden, for the protection of His disciples, so they wouldn't be arrested, because He knew if they were arrested their faith would fail and He wasn't going to let that happen. And so what does Jesus do? He says to the soldiers who showed up, whose name is on the arrest warrant? Who did you come for? And He says, that's Me. And when He says it, what He really says is, I am, and when He says it, they fall back. They got just a little glimpse of who He really is, it paralyzed them. Why did He do that? For the protection of His own. It's a great encouragement to me. I will never be allowed to face a circumstance where my faith will fail. We sing that song, He Will Hold Me Fast, that's what He was doing in the garden. But He veiled, temporarily, His pre-incarnate glory.

Also in the incarnation, Christ voluntarily restricted the independent use of some of His divine attributes. He only used them under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Again and again, you read in the gospels about He did this through the Spirit, by the direction of the Spirit. He used His divine attributes, but only when he was directed to do so by the Holy Spirit. In other words, He willingly chose not to constantly exercise His divine attributes. For example, He never used His omnipotence as God for His own ease. Now, let's just be honest, with your mindset and mine, in our humanness, wouldn't it be nice to kind of just zap yourself somewhere and not to have to go through that eight hour car trip with the kids? I mean, what if you had the capacity to do that? Jesus refused. He voluntarily restricted the use of His attributes. He chose to suffer all the inconveniences of His day, even though He had full knowledge of every possible human device and invention.

The most obvious example is when Satan tempts Him to turn the stones into bread, He doesn't do it. When a long journey was required, He didn't just zap Himself there. He didn't just speak a Mercedes into being. Christ didn't cheat, He didn't cheat in this world. He lived as one of us. He didn't survive living in this world by means of using His power as God to make His life easier. He used His power often, but only under the direction of the Spirit and only to perform those miracles that were essential to His message and the fulfillment of His ministry. Compare that to some of the non-canonical writings where, you know, they have Jesus as a boy, sort of showing off His power for the fun of His friends. No, that's not Jesus of the Scripture.

Another example, by the way, is, of Him limiting His divine attributes is His omniscience. John 2:25 says, "He knew what was in man." And yet Matthew 24:36 says, during His earthly life He didn't know the exact timing of the second coming. He voluntarily restricted the use of some of His divine attributes. I personally think, and I can't prove this to you, but I think Jesus died on the cross not knowing that His siblings would come to faith. I think that's why He gives Mary to John. He voluntarily restricted the use of His divine attributes. That's the kenóō.

By the way, in the context of Philippians 2 here, it's clear what the apostle is talking about, "He emptied Himself." The KJV, I think, has it pretty close when it says, "He made Himself of no reputation." The NIV puts it this way, "He made Himself nothing." The word in secular Greek is used of pouring something out. I think that's the idea here, Christ chose to pour Himself out. In what way? Well, here we're told. His self-emptying is defined in Philippians 2 by the following phrases, notice three participial phrases capture the incredible condescension, the emptying of Jesus Christ. First of all, verse 7, He takes the form of a bond-servant, "taking the form of a bond servant." Notice taking is a participle, it's modifying the main verb empty. Jesus emptied Himself by taking the form of a slave. The word form has the idea of the essential characteristic attributes. He took on the essential characteristics of a slave. He entered the world as a nobody. How did He take on the form of bond servant? By "being made in the likeness of men." Christ took the form of a slave by "being made in the likeness of men."

Think about this, do you see what Paul is saying? The only way to illustrate what it's like for the eternal creator to become exactly like one of His creatures is, becoming a slave. He took the form of a slave in the sense that He became like us. He came "in the likeness of men." Why does he say likeness? Why doesn't he say just, Christ was a man? Why "the likeness of men"? Because although He was truly a man, He was not merely man. Christ is similar to us, but not absolutely like us. And the similarity is His full, complete humanity. He was united to an unglorified humanity, just like we are, except for sin. Christ was everything we are, subject to temptation, trouble, weakness, pain, sorrow, every human limitation. But He wasn't exactly like us. Romans 8:3 says, "God sent His son in the likeness of sinful flesh," yet without sin. And He never ceased to be equal with God. He was "in the likeness of men."

But there's one more phrase, He was "found in appearance as a man." The word appearance is the Greek word from which we get the word schematic, outward form, that which makes something recognizable for what it is. Not only was Christ fully human, but when everybody saw Him, they concluded that He was, in fact, a man. He was born in the usual way. He had a physical body. He grew up in a family, the oldest of at least seven children. He had human parents who cared for Him. He grew and developed as other children do. He probably worked from at least the age of 13 to the age of 30, in the carpentry business that Joseph had. He got hungry, thirsty, tired. He needed sleep. He felt pain. He experienced external solicitations to sin. And He even died. He was exactly like all other human beings. A genuine man. In fact, He was so much of a man that His enemy scoffed at the idea that He was God. His own brothers, think about this, His own brothers didn't believe He was anything more than a man, until after the resurrection. He was that thoroughly a human being.

Now why is all this important? I want to take just a moment to ask this question, why does His humanity matter? And I want to answer it with four words. Number one, revelation. You see, He had to come as one of us to reveal God to us. Turn to Hebrews 1. Hebrews 1:1,

God spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, but in these last days God has spoken to us in His Son, [God has revealed Himself to us in His Son] whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom He made the world. He is the radiance of His glory, the exact representation of His nature

Listen, He had to come into the world as one of us to reveal God to us and to reveal God's truth in the gospel. Look at chapter 2, he says,

we must pay close attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels [talking about the law] proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?

And notice what's true about this salvation, verse 3, "it was at first spoken through the Lord, and it was confirmed to us by those who heard." "It was spoken through the Lord." The Lord came to reveal God to us. By the way, I didn't put it on here because we're going to look at it in the next few weeks, but in John 1:18, it says, "No one has seen God at any time; but the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him," revealed Him.

Secondly word is salvation. Salvation, He came to rescue us from the fear of death. Hebrews 2:14, "Therefore, since the Children share in flesh and blood," again, that's us, "He Himself likewise partook of the same," that is, flesh and blood, He became like us, "that through His death He could defeat death and its power." Listen, you don't have to fear death, because Jesus took on your humanity and He killed death, He put it to death, so that its sting is now removed for us. He also brought salvation in that he rescued us, saved us, from the wrath of God. Look at chapter 2 verse 17, "Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things." He had to be made like us. Why? "So that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God," here it is, "to make propitiation for the sins of the people," to satisfy the wrath of God on behalf of His people. He had to be made like us to do that. Do you understand? The only way Jesus could become your savior was to become like you so that He could represent you, and that's exactly what He did. That's what we celebrate.

Third word is illustration. Hebrews 12, Hebrews 12:2. It says, as we run this race, the race of faith that's before us, verse 2 says, we are to look to Jesus, "fix our eyes on Jesus, the author of faith," literally, "the originator," or this word can also be translated "the preeminent example," "of faith," "the author," "the originator," and "preeminent example" and "perfecter," "of faith." He provides an illustration in how He lived and how He ran. Again and again we're pointed to Him, we're called to be like Jesus Christ. He set the example of what a person who knows God is to be like.

Final word is the word association. Jesus became like us to associate with us in this life. By taking on our humanity He understands experientially what we face. Remember Hebrews 2:17, "He had to be," He was obligated, "to be made like His brethren." Why? "So that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest." High priest, the one who represents us before God. Merciful means compassionate toward men. Faithful means trustworthy toward God. He had to be made like us so that He could be the right kind of high priest. Go back to chapter 4 verse 15,

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace

Listen, He had to be made like you. He understood everything about you before He became like you. But when He became like you, He has experienced everything you've experienced, except for personal sin, and therefore He can represent you. He did it so that He could associate with us in this life and so that He could associate with us forever.

The last passage I want you to see is Hebrews 2, Hebrews 2 and look at verse 10,

For it was fitting for God, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect [this is Jesus] the author of their salvation through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified [Jesus and us] are all from one Father, for which reason Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters, saying, [Here's Jesus. This, by the way, points into the future when the redeemed are gathered in heaven. This is Jesus talking.]

"I will proclaim Your name God to My brothers, [that's us]
And in the midst of the congregation I will sing Your praise."

Listen, Jesus became just like you, not for 33 years, but forever. So that He could be one of us into eternity and call us brothers and sisters. This is our God.

So, why does His humanity matter? Revelation, to reveal God, God's truth and perfection to us. Salvation, to rescue us from death, from the law, from our sin, and from His own coming wrath. Illustration, to give us an example to follow in our lives. And association, to understand us in time and to be one of us forever. What grace. Let's pray together.

Father, we are amazed by Christ. We are amazed that He would so willingly offer Himself, the eternal Son of God, the Creator, to become the creature, to become just like us, not for the week of the passion, not for 33 years, but forever, so that He could call us brothers. Lord, help us to remind ourselves all the time, to love Him, to serve Him, to follow Him, to tell others about Him. Lord, elevate Christ, in our thinking and in our lives. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.

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