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The Person and Work of Christ (part 3)

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

3. Divinity and humanity in one Person

Since the 4th century Christians have speculated about the mode of incarnation and the incarnate state, although the New Testament writers are not concerned about these issues. The only sense in which the latter attempt to explain the incarnation is by showing how it fits into God's over-all plan of redemption. Misconceptions and heresies have arisen especially in three problem areas, known as 1) the "kenosis" theories, 2) the "hypostatic union" and 3) the "communication of properties."

1) "Kenosis" is the Greek word in Philippians 2:7 which the Revised Version translated as "emptied," and the Authorised Version as "made ... of no reputation." However, Christ did not empty Himself of Godhood; He did not cease to be what He essentially and eternally is. The clauses which follow the verb explain its meaning, especially the phrases 'in the form of a servant,' and 'the likeness of men.' The so-called "kenosis" theories are a good example of the misinterpretation of the Bible that results from ignoring the context. The whole passage deals with Paul's exhortation to the Philippians to imitate the humility of Christ. The New Testament clearly teaches that Jesus is fully God [1] and fully man. [2]

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2) "Hypostatic union" where "hypostasis" means "person," i.e. the union of two natures in one person. Many charismatic leaders of today distinguish between the acts and words of the divine Christ on one hand, and the man Jesus on the other. Such distinctions are not warranted by Scripture. The union of the two natures was a personal union such that the resulting Being was a unit, who thought and acted as a unit. In this unit the two natures were united but not intermingled and altered in their individual properties. Therefore again, Jesus Christ remained absolute deity with all its attributes and functions, while at the same time becoming complete man in the physical and psychological sesnse.

3) The "communion of properties" means simply, How do the qualities and experiences of the two natures communicate with each other in this unit? This is a purely philosophical and speculative question, and any answer we try to find can be based on nothing but comjecture. Scripture simply presents us with one Lord Jesus Christ who is both God and Man, and to go any further than that would be trying to define the indefinable.

It is perhaps more profitable to look at what the incarnate state implies, and we can distinguish three things:

1) Reliance and obedience, because the relationship between the Father and the Son remained unchanged. They continued in unbroken fellowship with the Son never going beyond the Father's known will. His confessed ignorance of the time of His return, [3] simply indicates that it was not the Father's will for Him to know at that time.

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2) Sinlessness, [4] because He remained God the Son; hence He could die vicariously, the righteous for the unrighteous. [5]

3) Temptation and moral conflict because, having become man, He had to fight temptation and overcome it. In virtue of His firsthand experience of the costliness of obedience, He is able to sympathize with and help tempted Christians. [6]

History has preserved records of the fact that a man named Jesus of Nazareth lived in Israel and died in the time of Pontius Pilate. His humanity has therefore not been as hotly disputed as His divinity. Jesus claimed to be God, and told people that their eternal destiny depended on believing in Him. Those who reject His claims to divinity, can therefore not accept Him as a great moral teacher or prophet. They have only two options: If Jesus was sincerely deceived in believing Himself to be God when He was not, then He was a lunatic. If, however, He knew He was not God when He made these claims, then He was a liar and deceiver, as evil as Satan himself; moreover, then He was also a fool, because He died for these claims.

References:

1. Colossians 2:9
2. 1 Timothy 2:5
3. Mark 13:32
4. 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22
5. 1 Peter 3:18
6. Hebrews 2:18; 4:15

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 9, 2010 @ 12:52 am

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