Last post we started talking about the Christ, the second person in the Godhead. We talked about His place and His role in the Trinity. But one of the greatest difficulties people have in understanding Jesus Christ is His two natures—God and man.
Perhaps the best place to start discussing this is to note that Genesis 1 points out to us that mankind is a rather uniquely natured creature. Unlike the other creations of God’s hand, we have something quite special…
“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:26, 27)
The image of God is not the same thing as being God, of course—we are not eternal, almighty, etc.; but there is something about our spirit (what God is made of, John 4:24) that is the same as God. And that image of God that we are is able to be “wrapped in flesh”. So also Jesus was wrapped in flesh. Paul put it this way, (Philippians 2:7) “but [Christ] emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” There was some “emptying” of Himself to be done to accomplish the incarnation, it would appear to be just as possible for the Son of God to be incarnated in temptable, mortal flesh as it is for the “image of God” to be. Who we are is our image-of-God spirit; who Jesus was and is His unique and authentic God Spirit—with the same fleshly “wrappers”.
But why? The correction of man’s fall could only be fixed by the incarnation. It is only in flesh that the price for mankind’s sin could be paid in suffering and death (on the cross). In His flesh the Son of God not only taught men what is good but He showed how it was done. It is only in mortal flesh that Christ could truly (experientially) learn about human pain, sickness, and sorrow. Only in flesh (emptied of deity) could He what it is to live in Father-dependent faith—depending on the Father for His daily bread (Mark 8:6) as well as miracles performed (John 11:41-44). Only in flesh could He be fully tempted like we are and feel the full force of human appetite and passion. Only in flesh could He experience everything we experience—even learning obedience by what He was tempted with and suffered—Hebrews 5:8. And only in flesh could He become the “first fruit” of the resurrection, defeating death and giving mankind certain hope.
But what of His divine nature as a man? Here, there are lots of questions. How much of His divinity did He emptied from Himself? Or how much He, therefore, operated by sight rather than by faith? And the truth is, there’s many things we don’t know, but whatever measure of God-ness Jesus chose to leave behind in becoming a man—it was an unimaginable step down for the Son of God. What inexpressible love for mankind this sacrifice alone demonstrates! But we can know a few things. For example, John 6:46 tells us that He knew the Father in a special way: “Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father”. And John 8:56-58 tells us that He knew firsthand of Old Testament events. And although we don’t know exactly how much of His deity might have contributed to His perfect life, we can know is that His divinity didn’t empty anything from the power of His temptations—the same power that they wield against men.
So what? Christ’s dual nature allows Him to understand and know experientially and fully what it is to be human, and thereby become the perfect intercessor, mediator, and high priest for us between the Father and mankind. Jesus doesn’t just understand in an untouched, intellectual way; He knows the human world intimately. What great news! Jesus really understands us! “Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).
But we also learn that despite all the suffering, temptations, distractions, emotions, and passions we don’t have to sin. Our sins are our fully controllable choices. Jesus, living as a human proved it. It’s something we need to remind ourselves next time we’re tempted to justify sin with the “I just couldn’t help it” excuse.
What a marvel! The Creator, coming to live among us to not only understand us intimately, but also to lift us, free us, save us, execute our covenant of adoption, and become the “first fruit” and guarantee of our own resurrection in His flesh. Hallelujah, what a Savior