|Study 1: God || Study 2: The Spirit Of God || Study 3: The Promises Of God || Study 4: God And Death || Study 5: The Kingdom Of God || Study 6: God And Evil || Study 7: The Origin Of Jesus || Study 8: The Nature Of Jesus || Study 9: The Work Of Jesus || Study 10: Baptism Into Jesus || Study 11: Life In Christ||8.1 Introduction || 8.2 Differences Between God And Jesus || 8.3 The Nature Of Jesus || 8.4 The Humanity Of Jesus || 8.5 The Relationship Of God With Jesus || Doctrine In Practice 14: The Real Christ || Digression 15: How The Real Christ Was Lost || Digression 16: The Divine Side Of Jesus|
Digression 16: The Divine Side Of Jesus
In many discussions with trinitarians, I came to observe how very often, a verse I would quote supporting the humanity of Jesus would be found very near passages which speak of His Divine side. For example, most 'proof texts' for both the 'Jesus=God' position and the 'Jesus was human' position- are all from the same Gospel of John. Instead of just trading proof texts, e.g. 'I and my father are one' verses 'the Father is greater than I', we need to understand them as speaking of one and the same Jesus. So many 'debates' about the nature of Jesus miss this point; the sheer wonder of this man, this more than man, was that He was so genuinely human, and yet perfectly manifested God. This was and is the compelling wonder of this Man. These two aspects of the Lord, the exaltation and the humanity, are spoken of together in the Old Testament too. A classic example would be Ps. 45:6,7: “Your throne, O God, is for ever [this is quoted in the New Testament about Jesus]…God, your God, has anointed you [made you Christ]”.
The placing side by side of the Lord’s humanity with His exaltation is what is so gripping about Bible teaching about Him. And it’s what is so hard for people to accept, because it demands so much faith in a man, that He could be really so God-like. The juxtaposition [placing side by side] of ideas is seen in Hebrews so powerfully. Here alone in the New Testament is His simple, human name “Jesus” used so baldly- not ‘Jesus Christ’, ‘the Lord Jesus’, just plain ‘Jesus’ (Heb. 2:9; 3:1; 4:14; 6:20; 7:22; 10:19; 12:2,24; 13:12). And yet it’s Hebrews that emphasizes how He can be called ‘God’, and is the full and express image of God Himself. I observe that in each of the ten places where Hebrews uses the name ‘Jesus’, it is as it were used as a climax of adoration and respect. For example: “… whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus” (Heb. 6:20). “But you are come unto… unto… to… to… to… to… and to Jesus the mediator” (Heb. 12:22-24). The bald title ‘Jesus’, one of the most common male names in first century Palestine, as common as Dave or Steve or John in the UK today, speaking as it did of the Lord’s utter humanity, is therefore used as a climax of honour for Him. The honour due to Him is exactly due to the fact of His humanity. John’s Gospel uses exalted language to describe the person of Jesus- but actually, if one looks out for it, John uses the very same terms about all of humanity. Here are some examples:
This juxtaposition of the Lord’s humanity and His exaltation is found all through Bible teaching about His death.It’s been observed that the ‘I am’ sayings of Jesus, with their obvious allusion to the Divine Name, are in fact all found in contexts which speak of the subordination of Jesus to God. He was ‘lifted up’ in crucifixion and shame; and yet ‘lifted up’ in ‘glory’ in God’s eyes through that act. We read in Is. 52:14 that His face was more marred, more brutally transmogrified, than that of any man. And yet reflecting upon 2 Cor. 4:4,6, we find that His face was the face of God; His glory was and is the Father’s glory: “The glory of Christ, who is the image of God… the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”. Who is the one who redeems His people? Isaiah calls him “the arm of the Lord”: “to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (53:1; compare 52:10). Then he continues: “He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground” (v. 2). So, the arm of the LORD is a person -- a divine person! He is God’s “right arm,” His “right-hand Man”! He is also human: He grows up out of the earth like a root out of dry ground. The same sort of juxtaposition is to be found in the way the Lord healed the widow’s son. He touched the coffin- so that the crowd would have gasped at how unclean Jesus was, and how He had identified Himself with the unclean to the point of Himself appearing unclean. It was surely shock that made the pallbearers stop in their tracks. But then the Lord raised the dead man- and the people perceived His greatness, convinced that in the person of Jesus “God has visited His people” (Lk. 7:14-16). His humanity and yet His greatness, His Divinity if you like, were artlessly juxtaposed together. Hence prophetic visions of the exalted Jesus in Daniel call Him “the Son of man”.Even after His resurrection, in His moment of glory and triumph, the Lord appeared in very ordinary working clothes, so that He appeared as a gardener. The disciples who met Him on the Emmaus road asked whether He ‘lived alone’ and therefore was ignorant of the news of the city about the death of Jesus (Lk. 24:18 RV). The only people who lived alone, outside of the extended family, were drop outs or weirdos. It was almost a rude thing for them to ask a stranger. The fact was, the Lord appeared so very ordinary, even like a lower class social outcast type. And this was the exalted Son of God. We gasp at His humility, but also at His earnest passion to remind His followers of their common bond with Him, even in His exaltation.
The Lord Jesus often stressed that He was the only way to the Father; that only through knowing and seeing / perceiving Him can men come to know God. And yet in Jn. 6:45 He puts it the other way around: “Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me”. And He says that only the Father can bring men to the Son (Jn. 6:44). Yet it is equally true that only the Son of God can lead men to God the Father. In this we see something exquisitely beautiful about these two persons, if I may use that word about the Father and Son. The more we know the Son, the more we come to know the Father; and the more we know the Father, the more we know the Son. This is how close they are to each other. And yet they are quite evidently distinctly different persons. But like any father and son, getting to know one leads us to know more of the other, which in turn reveals yet more to us about the other, which leads to more insight again into the other… and so the wondrous spiral of knowing the Father and Son continues. If Father and Son were one and the same person, the surpassing beauty of this is lost and spoilt and becomes impossible. The experience of any true Christian, one who has come to ‘see’ and know the Father and Son, will bear out this truth. Which is why correct understanding about their nature and relationship is vital to knowing them. The wonder of it all is that the Son didn’t automatically reflect the Father to us, as if He were just a piece of theological machinery; He made a supreme effort to do so, culminating in the cross. He explains that He didn’t do His will, but that of the Father; He didn’t do the works He wanted to do, but those which the Father wanted. He had many things to say and judge of the Jewish world, He could have given them ‘a piece of His mind’, but instead He commented: “But… I speak to the world those things which I have heard of [the Father]” (Jn. 8:26). I submit that this sort of language is impossible to adequately understand within the trinitarian paradigm. Yet the wonder of it all goes yet further. The Father is spoken of as ‘getting to know’ [note aorist tense] the Son, as the Son gets to know the Father; and the same verb form is used about the Good Shepherd ‘getting to know’ us His sheep. This wonderful, dynamic family relationship is what “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit”, true walking and living with the Father and Son, is all about. It is into this family and wonderful nexus of relationships that trinitarians apparently choose not to enter.
The Path To Glory
The Lord’s path to glory culminated in the Father ‘making known unto Him the ways of life’ (Acts 2:28). That statement, incidentally, is a major nail in the coffin of trinitarianism. But more significantly for us personally, in this the Lord was our pattern, who likewise are walking in the way to life (Mt. 7:14), seeking to ‘know’ the life eternal (Jn. 17:3). In being our realistic role model in this, we can comment with John: “The Son of God is come, and has given us an understanding, that we may know… the eternal life” (1 Jn. 5:20).
The New Testament implies that to accept Jesus as Lord is the essence of the Gospel. In this sense, whoever confesses Jesus as Lord will be saved (Rom. 10:9, 13)- but to confess Jesus as Lord means a radical surrender of every part of our lives. It doesn't merely refer to mouthing the words " Jesus is Lord" . Paul found that every hour of his life, he was motivated to endure by Christ’s resurrection (1 Cor. 15:30); this was how deep was his practical awareness of the power of that most basic fact.
The Lord's resurrection is the basis for ours. Despite the emotion and hardness of death itself, our belief in resurrection is rooted in our faith that our Lord died and rose. When comforting those who had lost loved ones in the Lord, Paul doesn't simply remind them of the doctrine of the resurrection at the Lord's coming. His focus instead is on the fact that " if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him" (1 Thess. 4:14). The reality of the resurrection must mean something to us in the times of death which we face in life. Jesus and the New Testament writers seem to me to have a startling disregard of death. Paul says that Jesus has " abolished death" (2 Tim. 1:10) in that death as the world has to face it, final and total death, does not happen to us in Christ. This is why those who truly follow the Lord will never taste of death (Jn. 8:51,52); everyone who lives and believes in Him shall never die (Jn. 11:26). It really is but a sleep. I know the hard reality of the loss still hurts, still registers. But in the end, because He abolished death in Himself, so has He done already for all those in Him.
Living For Others
The fact Jesus is Lord has vital practical import for us. In Rom. 14:7-9, Paul speaks of the need not to live unto ourselves, but to rather live in a way which is sensitive to the conscience and needs of others. Why? " For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He [Jesus] might be Lord both of the dead and living" . Because He is our Lord we therefore don't live for ourselves, but for Christ our Lord and all those in Him. Jesus becomes an authority figure for us, because He is indeed Lord and Christ. This may sound obvious, but the blessings and implications of it become more apparent when we reflect how haphazard are the lives of those who have no such personal authority in their experience. They are so aimless, so easily distracted, so self-centred, because they have no sense of obligation to a Lord and Master as we have.Personal feelings of like and dislike are the only authority they have to recognize, and thus their hedonism is so haphazard in its nature. Yet for those who truly accept Jesus as personal Lord, there is a structure and purpose and order in human life which will essentially be continued in the eternal ages of the Kingdom.
Quitting The Life Of The Flesh
When Paul exalts that Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, dwelling
in light which no man can approach unto, this isn't just some literary
flourish. It is embedded within a context of telling the believers to
quit materialism, indeed to flee from its snare. 1 Tim. 6:6-14 concern
this; and then there is the passage about Christ's exaltation (:15,16),
and then a continued plea to share riches rather than build them up (:17-19).
Because He is Lord of all, we should quit our materialism and sense of
self-ownership. For we are His, and all we have is for His service too.
And the principle of His being Lord affects every aspect of our spirituality.
Dennis Gillet truly observed: " Mastery is gained by crowning the
Master as Lord and King" (1). And Peter
likewise says that those who reject the Lordship of Jesus (2 Pet. 2:10)
indulge in sexual immorality. The height of His Lordship ought to mean
self-control in our lives; because He, rather than our own passions, is
the Lord and Master of our soul. Joseph's amazing exaltation in Egypt
was clearly typical of that of the Lord after His resurrection. As a result
of Joseph's exaltation, no man could lift up even his hand or foot without
except within the sphere of Joseph's power. And the Lord's exaltation
has the same effect and imperative over us. Jude 4 parallels rejecting
Jesus as Master and Lord with rejecting His moral demands. If He truly
is Lord and Master, we simply won’t live the immoral life which
Because Jesus is Lord and Master, and because He is our representative in every way, therefore all that He did and was becomes an imperative for us to follow. Thus: " If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another's feet" (Jn. 13:13,14). They called Him " Lord and Master" , but wouldn't wash each other's feet. Like us so often, they had the right doctrinal knowledge, but it meant nothing to them in practice. To know Him as Lord is to wash each others' feet, naked but for a loincloth, with all the subtle anticipations of the cross which there are in this incident. " Wherefore [because of the exaltation of Jesus] [be obedient and] work out your own salvation with fear and trembling [i.e. in humility]" (Phil. 2:12). And so it is with appreciating God's greatness; the deeper our realization of it, the higher our response.
James 2:1 (Gk.) gives the Lord Jesus the title of " the glory" (as also in Lk. 2:32; Eph. 1:17). And James makes the point that we cannot believe that Jesus is Lord, in the Lord Jesus as the Lord of glory and have respect of persons. This may seem a strange connection at first sight. But perhaps the sense is that if we see the height and surpassing extent of His glory, all others will pale into insignificance, and therefore we will be biased for or against nobody and nothing because of the way they are all as nothing before the brightness of the glory of the Lord we follow. The RVmg. makes the point clearer: " Do ye, in accepting persons, hold the faith of the Lord of glory?" . This explains why when Paul sat down to write to ecclesias troubled with worldliness, immorality and false doctrine, he takes as his repeated opening theme the greatness and exaltation of the Lord Jesus.
There's one more especially noteworthy thing which the sheer height of the Lord's exaltation leads us to. " Wherefore God also has highly exalted Him...that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow...and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord...wherefore...work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:9-12). These words are alluding to Is. 45:23,24: "...unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength" . We all find humility difficult. But before the height of His exaltation, a height which came asa result of the depth of the degradation of the cross, we should bow our knees in an unfeigned humility and realization of our sinfulness, and thankful recognition of the fact that through Him we are counted righteous. We will be prostrated in the day of judgment before Him, and yet will be made to stand. We therefore ought not to judge our brother who will likewise be made to stand in that day- to his Master he stands or falls, not to us.
Those who make divisions don't serve " our Lord Christ" (Rom. 16:17,18 RV); if they saw Christ's Lordship, they wouldn't be divisive, but be humbled into loving co-operation with His brethren. 1 Corinthians contains many warnings against being " puffed up" (1 Cor. 4:6,8,19; 5:2,6; 13:4). These warnings often come in the context of the sacrifice of Jesus, the Passover lamb. The fact He died as He did means that we must live Passover lives without the leaven of pride and being puffed up about leading brethren etc. Perceiving His greatness will mean that we will not seek to follow men. Phil. 2:1-11 is a hymn of praise to Jesus, exalting in His present high status. But it has a context. The context is an appeal to unity and self abnegation in the service of others. This is what a grasp of His exaltation should lead to. This passage should not just be 'a difficult passage' to explain to others. Let us see the real import of it for us.
Separation From The World
As with many aspects of doctrine, it is often difficult for us to appreciate how radically revolutionary they were in the first century context; and in essence they should lose none of their radicalness with us. David Bosch observes(2): " Christians confessed Jesus as Lord of all lords- the most revolutionary political demonstration imaginable in the Roman Empire" . Philip Yancey likewise(3): " As the church spread throughout the Roman empire, its followers took up the slogan " Christ is Lord" , a direct affront to Roman authorities who required all citizens to take the oath 'Caesar [the state] is Lord'" . It hurt, it cost, to recognize Him as Lord. And so it should with us. Men and women died for this; and we likewise give our lives in response to that very same knowledge. There is a tendency, which the Lord Himself brought to our attention, of calling Him Lord but not doing what He says. To know Him as Lord in truth is axiomatically to be obedient to Him (Lk. 6:46). The reality of the Lordship of Jesus is used in Revelation (19:12, 16) to encourage the brethren to continue fearless in their witness despite persecution. Jesus is Lord of the kings of the earth; He has control over the world; therefore, no human power can harm us without His express permission and purpose. The exhortation of Ps. 110 is powerful: because Jesus is now seated at the Father's right hand, His people offer themselves as freewill offerings in this, the day of His power.
Col. 2:8,9 reasons that because in Christ dwells all the fullness of God, so far is He exalted, that we therefore should not follow men. A man or woman who is truly awed by the height of the Lord's exaltation simply will not allow themselves to get caught up in personality cults based around individuals, even if they are within the brotherhood.
Faith is also inculcated by an appreciation of the height of His exaltation. He now has all power in Heaven and in earth, and this in itself should inspire us with faith in prayer and hope in His coming salvation. On the basis of passages like Ex. 4:7; Num. 12:10-15; 2 Kings 5:7,8, " leprosy was regarded as a " stroke" only to be removed by the Divine hand which had imposed it" (4). The leper of Mk. 1:40 lived with this understanding, and yet he saw in Jesus nothing less than God manifest. Inspired by the height of the position which he gave Jesus in his heart, he could ask him in faith for a cure: " If thou wilt, you can [as only God was understood to be able to] make me clean" .
Love For Jesus
We believe Jesus rose and ascended. We believe Jesus is Lord. Having not seen Him, we love Him. Because He is not now physically with us, our connection with Him is not through our physical senses. It is, therefore, through our inward application of Biblical material to our minds and hearts. We read the Gospel records and epistles, we study the Law, seeking to reconstruct who He really was and is, with a verve which is generated by the simple reality of the fact that He is not physically with us. And as we do this over the years, we will have the actual sense of being confronted, claimed, taught, restored, upheld and empowered by the Jesus of the Gospels. As C.S. Lewis observed: " It is the sense that in the Gospels [we] have met a personality…so strong is the flavour of that personality that, even when he says thatwhich [on the lips of any other man] would be appallingly arrogant, yet we accept him at his own valuation when he says 'I am meek and lowly of heart'" (5).
Because Christ is Lord of all, we must preach Him to all, even if like Peter we would rather not preach to them. This was the motivational power and reality of Christ's universal Lordship for Peter (Acts 10:36). The same link between Christ's Lordship and witness is found in Phil. 2:10 and 1 Pet. 3:15 (which alludes Is. 8:13- Yahweh of Hosts, of many ones, becomes manifest now in the Lord Jesus). The ascended Christ was highly exalted and given the Name above every Name, so that for those who believed this, they would bow in service at the Name of Jesus. Peter preached in and about the name of Jesus- this is emphasized (Acts 2:31,38; 3:6,16; 4:10,12,17,18,30; 5:28,40,41; 10:43). The excellence of knowing Him and His character and the wonder of the xalted Name given on His ascension (Phil. 2:9; Rev. 3:12) lead Peter to witness. Because of His exaltation, we confess Jesus as Lord to men, as we later will to God at judgment (Phil. 2:9). According as we confess Him before men, so our judgment will reflect this. Lifting up Jesus as Lord is to be the basis of giving a witness to every man of the hope that lies within us (1 Pet. 3:15 RSV). The knowledge and experience of His exaltation can only be witnessed to; it can't be kept quiet. 3 Jn. 7 refers to how the great preaching commission was obeyed: " For his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing (material help) from the Gentiles" (Gentile believers). For the excellence of knowing His Name they went forth in witness, and moreover were generous spirited, not taking material help to enable this. The knowledge of the Name of itself should inspire to active service: for the sake of the Lord's Name the Ephesians laboured (Rev. 2:3).
Because " all power is given unto me...go therefore and teach all nations" (Mt. 28:18,19). The great preaching commission is therefore not so much a commandment as an inevitable corollary of the Lord's exaltation. We will not be able to sit passively in the knowledge of the universal extent of His authority / power. We will have to spread the knowledge of it to all.
The greatness of Christ, the simple fact Jesus is Lord, clearly influenced Mark's witness; he began his preachings of the Gospel (of which his Gospel is but a transcript) by quoting Isaiah's words about how a highway was to be prepared " for our God" and applying them to the Lord Jesus, whom he saw as God manifest in flesh. Appreciating the height of who Jesus was and is, clearly motivated his preaching. And it should ours too. This is why Paul in the face of every discouragement could preach that " there is another king, one Jesus" (Acts 17:7). This was the core of his message; not only that there will be a coming King in Jerusalem, but that there is right now a King at God's right hand, who demands our total allegiance. The Acts record associates the height of Jesus with a call to repentance too. This is the message of Is. 55:6-9- because God's thoughts are so far higher than ours, therefore call upon the Lord whilst He is near, and let the wicked forsake his way. Because the Father and Son who are so high above us morally and physically are willing to deal with us, therefore we ought to seize upon their grace and repent.
If we truly know Jesus is Lord, in reality rather than merely in words, then we will actually do the will of the Father (Mt. 7:21,22). To call Jesus 'Lord' and not do anything actual and concrete in response means that our words are empty. It's as simple as that.
Not Being Materialistic
If Jesus is Lord, He owns all. Nothing that we have is our own. The Old Testament stressed that God's ownership of all precludes our own petty materialism, our manic desire to 'own'. Abraham refused to take " from a thread even to a shoelatchet" of what he could justifiable have had for himself; because Yahweh " the most high God [is] possessor of heaven and earth" (Gen. 14:22,23). But now, all that power has been bestowed by the Father upon the Son. Our allegiance to the Lord Jesus demands the same resignation of worldly acquisition as Abraham showed.
Control Of Our Words
Those who do not accept the Lordship of God [or of Jesus] will have no reason to control their words: " Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?" (Ps. 12:4). But the opposite is true; a realize of the tightness of Christ's Lordship over us results in a control of our words, knowing that our tongue and lips are not our own but His.