The Nature of Christ Pt. 1

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The nature of Jesus Christ is often seems like a deep mystery. Is he a questionmarkman or is he God? This question has concerned Christians for centuries, beginning in the apostolic era. Far from being an abstract point of theology better left to seminary professors and theologians, the answer is at the center of the Christian life. In order to properly worship and trust Christ you must know who he is.

Scripture speaks of Jesus both as a human and divine. While this may seem contradictory scripture is clear on both accounts. Even a cursory look at the scriptural evidence will make clear that Jesus is portrayed as both divine and human.

Among the ways in which Jesus is unique from all figures of false religions is that he possessed two natures. A key to understanding this complex problem is to understand just what is meant by “nature”.   Nature, when referring to human nature or, in the case of Christ, divine nature is best understood as a complex of attributes.[1] Human nature is simply the set of traits making men human and divine nature the constellation making God uniquely God. A review of scripture will make it clear that in light of this definition Jesus possessed both a divine and human nature.

Scripture leaves little doubt that Jesus is divine. The divinity of Christ is a constant thread running through all of Scripture and in the Gospel Narrative he is shown to share in the names, attributes and works of YHWH, God of the Old Testament.

what's ina nameThe biblical concept of a name is broader than the use in modern English and includes both proper names and titles,[2] and Jesus shares both with the God of the Old Testament. The most important name for God in the Old Testament is Yahweh, this is the proper personal name of God and rendered LORD in most English Bible translations. This approach to translating the name of God was taken from the early practice of Septuagint (LXX) translators, an early Greek translation of the Old Testament who rendered Yahweh as Kurios, the Greek word for lord. This is the word used to translate Yahweh when the Old Testament is quoted in the New and it is applied to Jesus by all of the Gospel writers, and throughout the epistles. So common was Jesus called kurios in the New Testament that it effectively blurred the distinctions between Jesus and Yahweh.

In addition to sharing this most important name, Jesus is called God at the beginning (1:1-18) and the conclusion (20:28-31) of the Gospel of John. He also shares many titles that are uniquely ascribed to Yahweh in the Old Testament. In Revelation 17:14 He is given the tittles King of Kings and Lord of Lords, which mirrors titles of Yahweh found in Daniel 4:37.[3]  Jesus is likewise referred to Savior numerous times and the Alpha and Omega in Revelation 22:12-13. The evidence that Jesus shares the name of Yahweh is simply overwhelming.

Jesus is clearly shown to possess the attributes of God as well. A less than exhaustive accounting includes Jesus pre-existence with God in the Beginning (John 1:1), His eternality (Hebrews 7:3), His immutability or lack of change (Hebrews 13:8), and His perfect love (John 15:9).

The three attributes most often thought of as uniquely divine, omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence are also shared by Jesus. attributesHe is shown to be omniscient in his repeated and accurate predictions of his death, his interaction with the woman at the well (John 4:18) and is plainly acclaimed as omniscient by His disciples (John 16:30). His omnipresence is implicit in His declaration to the disciples that “I am with you always” and His omnipotence is clearly described as “all authority in Heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18-20).

Jesus also shares in the deeds, reserved for God alone in the Old Testament. Paul states in Colossians 1:16 that “by Him all things were created”, including both the material and spiritual realms. In light of this passage and others it is clear that Jesus is the creator God.

Jesus also shares God’s work of forgiving sins, as is recorded in each of the synoptic Gospels, not only in word, but also in power manifested in miracles and in deeds such as the healing of the paralytic (Mark 2:10-12). Not only does Jesus forgive sinners, but he also judges them. In the Old Testament Yahweh was the one who brought final justice as evidenced by Psalm 96 and many other texts. In the New Testament however it is Jesus who is depicted as the eschatological judge in the Gospels, the Epistles and the Book of Revelation.

Jesus also accepts prayers and worship, things unheard of for a godly human in the Old Testament. Jesus promises to answer His disciples’ prayers in John 14:13 and in Matthew 22:16 He defended as legitimate the praise and worship of Him during the triumphal entry. Both of these actions are implicit claims to deity.[4]

Additionally Jesus makes an explicit claim to Deity in John 8:58 when He declared “Before Abraham was, I am.” This was clearly understood by his hearers to be a claim of divinity harkening back to Moses’ burning bush experience in Exodus 3. It was clearly understood this way by His hearers and their reaction of attempting to stone him was a reaction to His perceived blasphemy. He not only claimed equality with the Father, but His hearers clearly understood the claim. In light of the biblical evidence and Jesus’ own claim we must affirm that He is truly God.

Not only must Jesus’ divinity be understood, but also His humanity. Although not challenged as frequently as his divinity, Christ’s human nature is an integral part of His personal identity, and is plainly evidenced in Scripture.

Two events mark every human life, birth and death, and Jesus experienced both. Although both his birth and death were miraculous and momentous occasions in redemptive history, in many ways they were common biological events.

newbornJesus was born of a woman, Mary. Both Matthew and Luke contain accounts of the birth of Jesus and at their core is an actual human birth. That Jesus is identified with his mother frequently and that he is referred to as “the carpenter, the son of Mary”, is further evidence of his typically human mode of entry into the world.

Jesus similarly experienced normal biological death. In Mark 15:37-39, Jesus’ death is twice described as him “breathing his last”, as it is in the Luke. In John 19:34-5, His side is pierced and the spilling of blood and water confirms his physical death. His human body ceased to function in a manner entirely consistent with human death.[5]

Bracketed by His birth and death he led a life filled with common human experiences. He experienced hunger, thirst, exhaustion, anger and even agony.[6] He possessed a human body and mind that developed as he grew older (Luke 2:52). In short he was in every way a human, and possessed an ordinary human nature.

So Jesus is fully God and fully man, that’s the easy part, but how do these two natures relate to one another, that is the question. That is the question that separates orthodox Christianity from rank heresy.  I’ll tackle that question in part 2, as well as what it means to us us as believers.

 

 

[1] Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith,2nd ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 609.

[2] Robert M. Bowman and J. Ed Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2007), 127.

[3] Bowman and Komoszewski, 174.

[4] Robert L. Reymond , Jesus Divine Messiah: The New Testament Witness (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing: 1990), 119.

[5] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 532.

[6] Charles Lee Feinberg, “The Hypostatic Union” Bibliotheca Sacra 92, no.367 (July-September 1935):273.

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John Chester

About John Chester

John serves the saints of Piedmont Bible Church, a Grace Advance church plant in Haymarket Virginia, as their shepherd, a position he has held since 2012 and hopes to serve in the rest of his life. Prior to being called to ministry John worked as a lacrosse coach, a pizza maker, a writer, a marketing executive, and just about everything in between. John is a graduate of The Master’s Seminary and The Grace Advance Academy. He hails from The City of Champions, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, and is unbelievably blessed to be married to his wife Cassandra.

  • pastorandylynch

    John, thanks so much for this helpful and encouraging post. This topic has been a subject of discussion both in our sermon series from John’s Gospel and in or evangelism Sunday School Class at Stansbury Park Baptist Church. I will be sharing these posts with the church as you write them to add fuel to our conversations and thoughts.

    • Thanks for the encouragement! Part two should be up on Friday.

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