Course: A Guide to Christian Theology
This is the 19th lecture in the online series of lectures on a Guide to Christian Theology by Dr Breshears. Recommended Reading includes: Biblical References from the Course and Study Guides 1 – 39.
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I. Who is Jesus?
We want to turn our attention to Jesus in this lecture, titled: Christology. Being the anchor of our faith, it is important to understand who he is and what he has done; this is absolutely foundational. So who is the person called Jesus? The basic fundamental confession we have is that Jesus is Immanuel; he is God with us, or come among us. He is the Son of God; he is Jesus, the one who saves us from our sin. The part that I want to talk about here is how can we say that Jesus is Immanuel? How can an eternal God come down to earth and be a human? We don’t exactly know the answer to that question.
II. How Did Jesus Become a Man?
We will start with Philippians 2:1 for this lesson and I will be using the ESV specifically. This is a great call to Godly character. Verse 6 reads, ‘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.’ So it says that this equality is something to be easily understood. ‘And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.’ The key verb here is ‘emptied’ as in ‘he emptied himself’. This is called the kenosis passage or the kenosis of Christ. Other translations will say, ‘made himself nothing’ or something like that. So you have two points before this verb and then two points after this verb. So before, he was the form of God and after the verb he became a form of a servant. Before he emptied, he was equal with God and he emptied he was in human likeness. The question is: of what did God empty himself from? In many cases, it is his divine substance or essence, but this can’t be because he wouldn’t be Emanuel. This is why many translations don’t like the word emptied because it sounds like he emptied himself of divinity and I don’t think that is what he was saying. But afterwards, he is in the form of a servant or slave. A question here, are some human beings by nature a slave? Now the Greco-Roman context in which this was written, the Greeks would agree with this. There are Greeks and then everyone else was considered lessor human beings. Think of the American south not that long ago, if a person had dark skin they were considered lessor human beings and had to be taken care of. This is considered very offensive today but yet was very common then. There are some who still think that today. This idea has applied to other people groups as well, the Chinese, for example. During WWII, it was the Japanese. We who believe in the biblical idea of humanity totally reject any kind of demeaning or lessening of a person because of their race. This is because, every human being is made in the image of God, equal, all being of dignity and value.
III. The Basic Model of Christology
So, what is a servant or slave? It is a life style, a way of living, a status in life. This is sometimes translated as bondservant; a person who willing does it. This happened in Old Testament Israel when a person couldn’t pay their debts; they would become a bondservant for no more than seven years in order to pay their debt off. Now before he emptied himself point is concerned with the way of living or role that Jesus had before he emptied himself. So how many people are in the role of God? The answer to this is three and three only: The Father, the Son and The Holy Spirit. This doesn’t include angels, humans, not Moses, not Abraham; it is only the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The focus here is on his role or way of living. After he emptied himself, he has a role and way of living with humans. So what begins as a divine role ends up in a human role. He emptied himself of his divine prerogatives, his divine authority and he lays aside the use of his omnipotence, omniscience and all those things that makes God deity and he comes to earth in a role of a servant. We see in Mark 10 exactly what he says, ‘the Son of Man has come to serve’ and that is the role he takes. So he begins in the divine way of living and ends in a servant’s way of living. So he has equality with God and emptied himself of this to become the status of the like of a human. He goes from divine to human and laid aside the way of life, that is his divinity to become a servant. So the basic model of Christology includes the Logos which was John’s term for the 2nd person of the Trinity who is fully equal with God in every way. So before his emptying, he is fully equal with God. But he emptied himself of the use of his divine attributes and took on a fully human nature, living as a perfectly spirit filled person, submitting himself to the will of the Father and the leading of the Holy Spirit in order to glorify the Father and redeem the world and become the messianic king. That would be my basic model of Christology. The Logos was fully equal with God in every way, emptied himself and came down to human level, taking on a fully human nature and lived a perfect spirit filled life as a man. This is the basic picture.
IV. He was Human in Every Way
Looking back to John 1, we find the same model where it says that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God and yet he was God because through him, all things were made. In verse 14, we are told that 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. The verb ‘became’ is a change word, becoming flesh and lived among us as Jesus Christ visible for all to see. This is the same image as we find in Philippians chapter 2. Another important verse is Hebrews 2:5, ‘for it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere (Psalms 8:4-6) ‘what is man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.’ I think this is a reference to the Messiah in the Old Testament, Psalms 8. In verse 14, we see something about his nature: ‘since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. And then in verse 17, therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God.’ So he was made human in every way. Note that the creeds of Christendom emphasize these same points: he was fully God, fully man who came and lived among us as a fully human person. We will look at each of these points in the coming lectures.