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The Person and Work of Christ (part 2)

To combat heresy, the orthodox church had to define their beliefs. However, some beliefs cannot be adequately defined in words; resulting in half-truths. Therefore it is vital to examine Biblical teaching in order to arrive at the truth. The person and work of Christ can be explored under three headings:

1. Divinity and Sonship

2. The incarnation

3. Divinity and humanity in one Person

2. The incarnation of Christ

The word "incarnation" is not found in the Bible but comes from the Latin 'in carne,' meaning "in flesh." The Greek equivalent, 'en sarki,' is used in the New Testament to describe the person and work of Christ. Thus Paul says that, "He was manifested in the flesh;" [1] that we have been reconciled to God through "Christ's body of flesh," [2] "by abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments;" [3] God "condemned sin in the flesh" by sending His Son "in the likeness of sinful flesh." [4] Peter speaks of Christ having suffered "in the flesh" [5] and John ascribes to the spirit of antichrist any denial that Jesus Christ has "come in the flesh." [6] It is clear then that the apostles regarded Christ's coming and dying "in the flesh" as necessary for our salvation.

In the Bible the word "flesh" has basically a physiological meaning, but since Hebrew thought associates bodily organs with psychological functions (eg. the parallelism between "flesh" and "heart," [7] and between "flesh" and "soul" [8]), the word "flesh" can refer to the whole man. The Bible also sees physical flesh as symbolic of the life of the creature, as contrasted with His own life. Thus flesh is not something that a man has, but something that he is. To say, therefore, that Christ came "in the flesh" means that He became man. But at the same time He did not cease to be God. The incarnation can be defined as:
"The Son of God, true God from all eternity, in the course of time became true man also, in the one Person, Jesus Christ, consisting of the two natures, the human and the Divine. This, of course, is a mystery. We cannot understand it any more than we can understand the Trinity." [9]

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The miracle of the virgin birth, as recounted in Matthew and Luke, explains how the Son of God became the Son of man. Both accounts record that He was born through the direct action of the Holy Spirit without a human father. [10] Although the fact of the virgin birth is not directly dealt with in the rest of the New Testament, it is implied. For example, Paul, when speaking of the birth of Jesus Christ, uses the general verb 'ginomai,' and not 'gennaō' which associates the husband. Thus he says, "God sent His Son, 'genomenon' (from 'ginomai') of a woman;" [11] but where he deals with the birth of Ishmael, he uses 'gegennētai' (from 'gennaō') in the ordinary way. [12]

In order to understand how Christ could combine two natures (divine and human) in one Person, we may cautiously look at genetic considerations. If the 23 male chromosomes, normally provided by the father, were miraculously produced by the Holy Spirit to combine with the 23 female chromosomes, the resultant cell of 46 chromosomes would be derived from both divine and human origins, resulting in two natures in one person. In thus bypassing the human father, Christ was free from the taint of original sin. However, both Matthew and Luke emphasize, not the unique constitution of the Person thus miraculously born, but the fact that by this miraculous birth, God began to fulfill His long-foretold intention of visiting and redeeming His people.

The main purpose of the incarnation, as confirmed throughout Scripture, is the redemption of mankind. In His mediatorial and saving work, it was necessary for Christ to be both divine and human. It is just because Jesus is God the Son that he could reveal the Father's heart and mind; [13] that His death is proof of God's love for sinners; [14] that His perfect high-priestly service is eternal; [15] that He could destroy the devil's work. [16] Equally, He had to "become flesh," because only as Man could He mediate between God and men; [17] only as Man could He die "so that by His death He might destroy ... the devil - and free those who all their lives were held in slavery;" [18] only as the "second man" or "last Adam" could sinners be justified by His obedience; [19] only by becoming like man "in every way" and be tempted "just as we are" could He "become a merciful and faithful high priest." [20]

References:

1. 1 Timothy 3:16
2. Colossians 1:22
3. Ephesians 2:15
4. Romans 8:3
5. 1 Peter 4:1
6. 1 John 4:2; 2 John 7
7. Psalms 73:26
8. Psalms 63:1
9. Pearlman, p.19
10. Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:34
11. Galations 4:4
12. Galations 4:23
13. John 1:18; 14:7,9
14. John 3:16; Romans 5:8
15. Hebrews 7:3,16,24
16. 1 John 3:8
17. 1 Timothy 2:5
18. Hebrews 2:14-15
19. Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:22,45,47-49
20. Hebrews 2:17; 4:15

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Douglas (ed.) J.D. New Bible Dictionary, Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1962.

2. Finney, C. The Heart of Truth, Minnesota, U.S.A.: Bethany Fellowship Inc., 1976.

3. Hammond, T.C. In Understanding be Men, Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1968.

4. Lewis C.S. Mere Christianity, Glasgow, G.B.: Collins Fount Paperbacks, 1944.

5. Lockyer, H. Everything Jesus Taught, San Francisco, U.S.A.: Harper & Row Pub., 1984.

6. Pearlman, M. Knowing the Doctrines of the Bible, Part 2, Tvl., R.S.A.: Gospel Publishing House, 1937.

7. Thompson, F.C. The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, Indiana, U.S.A.: B.B. Kirkbride Bible Co. Inc., 1983.

8. Vine, W.E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of N.T. Words, Massachusetts, U.S.A.: Hendrickson Publishers, ?

9. Wuest, K.S. Wuest's Word Studies (Mark), Michigan, U.S.A.: Eerdman's Pub. Co.,1950.

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Posted in: Bible by on September 7, 2010 @ 11:05 pm

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