Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Doctrine of Christ

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4, ESV)


Our doctrine of humanity leaves us as sinners, completely unholy, completely apart from God who is holy. As God and man are both persons suited to relationship, we are in need of redemption, reconciliation, and re-creation.


This recognition is not outside of God's knowledge, nor is it outside of God's power. God has made a way for humanity to find reconciliation with Him and that is through His Son Jesus. For many of us we know the saving power of Christ—we are believers. This means that we have accepted Christ as our Lord following Romans 10:9—because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

We cannot rightly understand salvation without understanding the person of Jesus Christ who purchased that salvation for us.


This lesson will look at the person of Jesus Christ. When we understand who Jesus Christ is we have a better understanding of who saved us, how we were saved, why were saved, and our great need for God. It will take a lifetime to understand Christ, because He is God, but as we grow in our knowledge of who Jesus is we will come to have greater appreciation and devotion to Christ and to God the Father and the Spirit.


We will look at Christ from two of the most basic (though not simple) aspects of who He is—His divinity and humanity. From there we should close this lesson by pointing that this God-Man Jesus is our only hope, not just for those who are not saved, but He is the continual hope for those who are saved. We will break down these points by looking at one text in particular: John 1:1-4, 14-18. Though there are many other texts that speak of who Christ is, this one sets out the basics of knowing who Jesus is, which helps us know what He has done for us.

Jesus is God

The first point that we need to make about Jesus is that He is God. This is not the most obvious point about Jesus Christ, especially since it is historically clear that Jesus was a man. But our conception of Jesus needs to be somewhat chronological if we are to understand rightly who He is for us. John 1:1-4 states it this way: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. From this text we need to see a few correlations to who Jesus is in relation to His divinity.


First, we see that Jesus is the Word. Much is made of the Greek word Logos which we translate as Word. A word is much more than the nouns of verbs of speech; it is the conception of an idea, and the conversation that establishes a relationship. So Jesus as God is the embodiment of our understanding of God, that abstract definition of God we made a few weeks back.


John 1:1 directly connects to Genesis 1:1 to shape our metaphysics, In the beginning means "before time." The Gospel writer begins his narrative of Jesus of Nazareth with a connection to the Word, who is eternal. We must remember that eternality is an attribute of no one else besides God. By stating the Word was in the beginning points to the divinity of Christ.


Third, we see that this Word was with God and was God. There have been those who have re-read and re-written this section of Scripture to say the Word was a god. There is no article in the original language, but by adding this indefinite article is an attempt to infer that there can be multiple gods and a variety of powers to those gods. As we studied in the doctrine of God this cannot be so. There is one God (Deut 6). So if there is one God, what is John getting at? The answer is an affirmation of the Trinity. We have God the Father existing from all eternity; here we have with Him the Word which also exists from all eternity. Jesus, the Word is God and is with God, the Father, which is why we can affirm that He is in the beginning with God.


This truth is found elsewhere in the New Testament. In Hebrews 1:3 we are shown that Jesus is the He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. Colossians 1:15 states this as well He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn (first cause) of all creation. Philippians 2:6 speaks of Jesus as being in the form of God. Jesus was just like God because He was and is God.

Fourth, we see from this passage that All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. This is a simple statement that the Word, Jesus, was the one who created the world. Jesus the Word was active in creation. If Jesus was not God then how could He create us, since that is something only God could do? In Genesis 1 we see the Spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters. The whole Trinity was at work in creation. In Colossians 1:16 we have Jesus as the creator: For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. His work goes well beyond His earthly ministry in the flash. He is creator, He is the one that holds all things together, He is God.

Jesus is Man

The second point we want to make in this lesson is that Jesus is also man, which means human. As we read along in John 1 we come to verse 14, which is a pivotal verse for this section of Scripture and a thought that changes everything the world ever knew and would know. 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. Recall the relational nature of God and man, alienated by the sin of man, now to be restored supernaturally. We are confronted with the reality that our great and good God has decided to become flesh; to clothe His perfect divinity and holiness in human flesh; to bridge the divide between God and man.


There are two ideas from this phrase that need to be highlighted. The first is the literal meaning of becoming flesh. The idea behind the phrase is that Jesus pitched his tent with us. He left the perfect neighborhood of heaven, where everyone wants to be, and moved to the slums of the earth. Because of sin we could not dwell in the presence of God's holiness, but Jesus moved in next door.


The second way to understand Jesus becoming flesh is found in the word incarnation. This word means that Jesus took on our nature. Every part of who we are as humans Jesus experienced. If you have been tempted this week rest assured that Jesus also was tempted in that way. When you find limitations as being a human in knowledge or power, Jesus also experienced that, though still was God. Anything that you can think of as being human is found in Jesus. Hebrews 4:15 states, For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. In the early church this aspect of Christ was heavily debated (as well as Jesus being God) and these early church fathers declared, "What Jesus did not assume, He did not redeem." If Jesus was not tempted as you are He did not die for, and cover the sin that you deal with, but if He did you are covered. That is the simple truth of Jesus' humanity.


We find the full humanity of Christ elsewhere in Scripture as well. Of course we know that Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2 we have the birth narratives that show Jesus as a human. We see through the Gospels that He grew, He ate, He got angry, He slept, He wept, He bled, He died. He was human in ways in which we know. Scripture also points to the relationship between His humanity and deity. Philippians 2:6-8, says, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. That is the marvel of the incarnation—God became man to serve us and to be found in our likeness as we are created in His.

Jesus is Our Only Hope

We see that Jesus was God and clearly He was man. Are these affirmations that important and significant? The answer is a resounding YES! Without Jesus being God and being Man, that is, being a God-Man, there is no hope of reconciliation. As we conclude this lesson lets look at the end of John's prologue. No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father's heart. He has revealed God to us. John 1: 18. What we need to notice about Jesus here is that apart from Him coming and revealing Himself to us in the incarnation we, humanity, would have no way to know God. This is not an overstatement, we know that without Jesus we would not be saved, but without Him coming as the God-Man we would not know God in a personal way at all. We need to read this passage as: No one has ever seen the invisible God…but Jesus has made God known. At minimum Jesus as the God-Man brings us the hope of the personal knowledge of God.


As we close out this lesson we should read Romans 5:12-17 for it shows Jesus, as the new Adam who overcame sin for us.

12 When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam's sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. 13 Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. 14 Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. 15 But there is a great difference between Adam's sin and God's gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God's wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. 16 And the result of God's gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man's sin. For Adam's sin led to condemnation, but God's free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. 17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God's wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.


This mystery of the God-man Jesus is remarkable to us. But because we were alienated from God by sin, there is really not any other way for God to be reconciled to man. And in Jesus the relationship is restored, and we can know Him and be known by Jesus, who is the perfect image of God.