Lecture 5: The Person and Work of Christ
Course: Systematic Theology II
Lecture: The Person and Work of Christ
1. The Doctrine of the Person and Work of Christ
A. Pre-Incarnate Existence
B. The Incarnation of Christ
C. The Deity of Christ
D. The Humanity of Christ
E. The Kenosis
F. The Impeccability of Christ
What about forgiving sin that Christ did like in Mark 2. The paralytic is dropped down and before He heals him, He says to him you sins are forgiven. Clearly this is an act that only God can do, so if I said that everything Christ did in His life was done out His human nature that was incorrect. All of His life lived in terms of His obedience to the Father, His seeking to resist temptation and all of that is done out of His human nature empowered by the Spirit but there are cases, and forgiveness of sin is a clear cut case, where it is clearly because He is God as well as man that He can do this. I do think that those instances in the life and ministry of Jesus though are few and far between as opposed to just living the life He was called to live and carrying out the mission He was called to do was done as a man in the power of the Spirit doing what He did.
G. The Hypostatic Union
The Hypostatic union was settled at the council of Chalcedon, one of the pivotal points in the life of the church where clarity was given and orthodox decision came forth. What lead up to this council were a couple of erroneous views that were being proposed. At this time the question of the deity of Christ had already been settled; His one nature with the Father was settled at the Council of Nicea in 325. The question of the Holy Spirit and His deity was settled in 381 at the Council of Constantinople. The question is not the deity of Christ. In fact, because the church held to the deity of Christ, now the question is, what do we say about His humanity? How does this work? Was He really human or not? Could it be both? A couple of views were proposed that the church rejected.
The first one was the view of Apolinarius who was a bishop of Laodicea in the fourth century. He died, so far as we can tell, in 392. Apolinarius held that Christ had one nature and that one nature was divine. He wanted to affirm the deity of Christ, he wanted to be orthodox. He believed that if you affirmed anything more than the divine nature of Christ then you would be compromising that nature; divinity can not be part of something else, it stands alone he argued. But Jesus lived and walked among them, how do make sense of that? Apolinarius said that the divine logos in habited a human body. So Jesus was fully divine but He was not fully human. Another name had been given to this view of Apolinarius; Docetism. It comes from a Greek word δοκέω (dokeō) which means to seem or to appear. Docetism is the view that Christ appeared to be human, He looked human but He was not fully human. This view was rejected by the church. The Council at Chalcedon struggled with this and rejected it. In part it was rejected because it did not match the full scale of the humanity of Christ as it is reflected in the Gospels. He seemed to have been more than a body in His human experience; yes He hungered, yes He got tired, there were physical things about Him. For example the struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane, Father if you be willing let this cup pass from Me, was much more than a physical struggle. It looks there that He is expressing the agony of His soul and yet the agony of His soul is in contrast with the will of God, yet not My will but Thine be done. So this doesn’t look like it can be accounted for with simply a reference to the divine logos within inhabiting a body. Another reason it was rejected was the atonement; this was not as clear until many years later. But the nature of the atonement even at this point, it would seem to require both the deity and humanity of Jesus. That is, He is going to pay the penalty for our sin, He has to be a substitute for us, He has to be the second Adam; so He has to be a man, He has to be one of us, not just a body but He has to be one of us in order to do this. This view was rejected by the church.
Secondly Nestorius who was bishop at Constantinople in the early fifth century. Nestorius believed that Christ was fully God and fully man. But he felt that the only way that this could be, for Christ to be fully God and fully man, is if He is not only both natures, divine nature and human nature but two person brought together. Two persons; one divine person and one human person. He likened it to the marriage relationship where the husband and wife become one flesh but the husband is a separate person from the wife. You have two persons who make up the one flesh in marriage. That was his fundamental analogy that he used for Christ. This was rejected by the church also. In one sense the Apollinarian view said too little about the humanity of Christ and the Nestorian view says too much about the humanity of Christ. What would this view imply? This view would imply that one is not sufficient. So one question would be can you have one person having the two natures? That is the direction the church came to. What would be the main problem with two persons? Who is thinking, who is obeying, who is willing? If you have two persons you really have two centers of consciousness, you have two wills, you have two sets of desires, you have two sets of emotions; two persons. Think of the marriage relationship of a husband and wife. If you are going to use that as the analogy of what this is, it is kind of scary when you think of your typical husband and wife and how they disagree with each other at various points and how very different their perspectives can be. Imagine that in one being, Jesus Christ of Nazareth with two persons; who is thinking, willing, deciding, directing? It is utterly impossible for there to be a coherent understanding of the internal life of Christ if this is the case. The Garden of Gethsemane example again, not only does it cut against Apolinarius it cuts against Nestorius; not My will but Thine be done. That indicates a uniform, unitary will of Jesus Christ of Nazareth that stands different from the will of the Father. It indicates secondly that that will is not the will of His divine nature per se because if it were just His divine nature, how would it be different from the will of the Father? So there is some kind of coming together of the two natures of Christ in providing the environment for His thinking, willing, emotions, all that He experiences in His inner life as a unitary person. In other words, you wouldn’t have the expression of the Garden of Gethsemane within the Godhead; not My will but Thine be done. That is the expression of human Jesus who is in the incarnation and I cannot imagine that being a reflection of His inter Trinitarian life of God, not My will but Thine be done, as if there were two different wills, even thought was submission to it; Christ submitted to the will of the Father but none the less there would be the thoughts that would go in opposite directions.
How it must work then, even though both natures are present then the question is, what does it contribute to the unified, coherent experience that Jesus Christ of Nazareth has in His life? Won’t this mean for the most part that His divine knowledge, for example, though within the divine nature He continues to possess that that in the unified coherent experience of Christ that knowledge is not allowed expression within what He consciously knows in those moments of His earthly existence or else how could He learn? How could He live life as we do? That is why I use the language of “in His human nature” because for all intents and purposes He is experiencing life as a human being though He is a the very same time God. Is He aware that He is divine? Yes, does Jesus know that He is divine as well as human? Absolutely. Might He not knowing that make use of the fact that He is divine in forgiving sins? Yes, for example in Matthew 12 He cast out the demons and the Pharisees observed this then they said,
Matthew 12:24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”
Matthew 12:28 “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
This is both an eschatological statement that when the Messiah comes He will be the Spirit anointed Messiah so now you know that is Me. It is also an indication of ho He lived His life by the power of the Spirit.
The decision at the Council of Chalcedon at 451 was to affirm of Christ that He possessed two natures in one person; two natures a divine nature and a human nature fully divine and fully human in one person. That seemed to the best way to account for all the data of Scripture; putting everything together you didn’t want to say one nature and not the other but you didn’t want to say two persons that it would imply things that did not fit the data. It looked as those the best way to put was two natures joined together in one person. The Hypostatic Union comes from the Greek word ὑπόστασις (hypostasis) which the Greek word for person. The union of two natures in one hypostasis, Hypostatic Union of two φύσει (physei) in one ὑπόστασις (hypostasis); two natures in one person. What they wanted to affirm, if you read the Chalcedon statement, of Christ at one and the same time a genuine union without violating the integrity of the two natures that are so united. So they said the two natures are conjoined (joined together) they really are united in one person but they are not confused; the two natures are conjoined but not confused. Here is my analogy of it. It is like taking a pitcher of grape juice and a pitcher of apple juice and you pour them into a common pitcher; that is confused. You have neither grape juice nor apple juice when you do that. I don’t know what have; grapple juice or something like that. But you have neither grape juice nor apple juice. So you should not think of the incarnation, the two natures in one person, as that. No, you have a divine nature with its integrity as divine you have a human nature with its integrity as human but none the less joined together. If what I argued earlier, the permanence of the humanity of Christ, inseparable. None the less still distinct in terms of their nature but joined together in terms of their contribution as it where to who Christ is. So to speak of Christ is to speak of the God-man. We have to think in both those ways of Him.
II The Work of Christ
A. The Past Work of Christ, The Atoning Savior
1. Theological basis for the cross
a. Three necessary theological factors
When you think about the cross, what are the facts that have to be true in order to account for the cross.
(1) Humanity’s sin
We stand before God as guilty, deserving condemnation. That sin that we have is universal; Romans 3:23
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
None of us escapes this. This sin brings us death, (second death like in Revelation 20) separation from God eternally and ultimately condemnation. Sin brings guilt which brings just condemnation which result in eternal separation from God.
Genesis 2:17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 5:16 The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification.
Romans 5:18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.
Romans 8:1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:3 combined with Romans 2:5
Ephesians 2:3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
Romans 2:5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,
This means apart from Christ in our sin (this is true for everyone of us) we are everyday with every word, every thought, every attitude of heart, every action putting away into a wrath savings account with accumulating interest with increased basis for God’s just condemnation of us; every word, every thought. Unsaved people can choose the way in which they sin but they cannot choose not to sin. A unsaved person can sin by helping an old lady across the street or unsaved person can sin by hitting the old lady across the head and taking her purse; either one is a sin. Some of you are looking at me and saying didn’t say helping an old lady across the street? Why are doing this? Romans 3:23 say, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” which cannot mean we fail to have the same degree of glory that God has therefore we are sinners. No, the holy angels don’t have the same degree of the glory that God has and that doesn’t mean that they are sinners. We will not in heaven have the same degree of glory that God has and yet we will not be sinners. So Romans 3:23 cannot mean that all have sinned by virtue of not attain to the same degree of glory God has. What must it mean? All have sinned by not ascribing to God, not honoring God, not glorifying God as He ought to be. The unsaved person who is helping the old lady across the street is doing it for some other reason than giving glory to God; look at how nice I am, the brownie points for me. It is something but it is not to the glory of God.
So all of us are sinners, deserving condemnation, storing up wrath and we can do nothing about it; absolutely nothing.
Romans 3:20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
Galatians 2:16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.
By works of the Law shall no flesh will be justified. That is you and I cannot do a cotton picking thing, we cannot do a zillion cotton picking things, we can’t do an eternity’s worth of work to get out of our problem of deserving condemnation for God. Galatians 2:21 says (and this is a sobering text), “… for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” So obviously if salvation is going to take place it cannot be by anything we do.
(2) God’s Holiness
What I have in mind in particular is the fact that God’s holy nature is such that He cannot (not that He is stubborn and He won’t) by nature compromise (or set aside) the standards of His justice or just judgment against our sin. He cannot overlook it. He cannot sweep it under the carpet. He cannot say let bygones be bygones. He cannot say, you know what I will just forget that one. Why is that the case that God cannot by nature overlook, disregard our violation of His standard of righteousness? Why is it He cannot be like grandpa or grandma? It would defy His very essence of who He were if were to do that. Why is that? He is just, He is holy. If God were to say, I will disregard that violation of My standard, what does that say about God Himself as the Law upholder? It means that He does not uphold after all. Where else does He not uphold it? All it would take is one overlooking, one disregard, one failure to hold accountable and the whole structure of morality is gone plus the fact God’s nature is immutable, eternal. He is holy, He cannot be anything other than be holy.
The bottom line is number (1) and (2) here are not happy thoughts for sinners. Number (1) is that we are sinful deserving condemnation and we can do nothing about that and number (2) is God must judge our sins; it is morally incumbent upon Him, not that anybody is pressing this upon Him, it is morally incumbent by His nature, by who He is as God that He judge our sin. The nature of our sinfulness and the demands of God’s justice require that our sin be judged by death.
If we just had number (1) and number (2) we would have no atonement. They are necessary but they are not sufficient. If this is the only two that we had, this doesn’t call for atonement, this just calls for universal Hell, universal judgment, and condemnation of every single sinner.
(3) God’s Mercy
This is to say that God in His kindness, His compassion (Mercy is the kindness or the favor or the compassion that God directed toward those who are helpless and hopeless and ruined. You could say grace here on this point but it really is mercy. Salvation is such an action of mercy. It is kindness given to those who are absolutely and utterly helpless. Yes they are guilty, yes they don’t deserve it but we can’t do anything to help ourselves in this.) devises a way by which His holy demands against our sin may be met in such a way that we are ourselves are saved from our sin while our sin is dealt with fully. Every aspect of the penalty of our sin paid but paid by another rather than paid by ourselves. Why not say you did it you pay for it and when you are done I will welcome you in, because the done would never happen. When you are done would never occur. The reason Hell is eternal is because it is an infinite offense against and infinite God that requires and infinite payment. God says you pay for it and when you are done, then I’ll take you; that is kind of the purgatory notion that is in the Roman Catholic Church. The problem with that is that it would never be paid.
Here is another interesting thought. This thought came for my daughter Rachel about eight months ago when I was talking with her at bedtime. Rachel said to me, “I understand the Christ had to substitute for me, for us when He died on the cross, He had to bear my sin and He paid it for me but what I don’t understand is why it had to be God’s Son to do it? Couldn’t God have just raised up another Adam, another human being who was sinless? And couldn’t God have worked in his life so that he never did sin? She is a compatibilist; she believes in the notion that God can do that. He is going to do that for us in heaven for eternity, do I take it that He can do it. We never will sin when we are in heaven, isn’t that a wonderful thought? So can God work in a finite human being so that he or she never sins? Yes. So couldn’t God have done thins, raised a human being, worked in his life so that he never sins, he pays the penalty for our sins and He could have saved His own Son in the process? What if he was a complete human being as Adam was, as we are, but he never sinned? Could he pay for our sin because he didn’t have to pay for his own sins? Is this going to work? God imputes to him my sin, how long does he, a human being have to pay for my sin? Answer: the same length of time I would; forever. So when will the payment be made? Never. So how am I of the hook? I am not. It won’t work but not only that how could he have imputed to him the sin of the world? No, but none the less there never is a reconciliation, there never is salvation, there never is justification because the sin is never paid in full. It is just mind boggling; you can either go from the glory of Christ and think how bad our sin is or from everyone of our sins, all it takes to be Law breaker is break one (you’ve broken one sin you have broken the Law). So every one of our sins brings to us rightly deserved eternal condemnation. Add them up, multiply them by the numbers of people for whom Christ died, we are not going to worry about limited atonement at this point it really doesn’t matter whether we are talking about a 14,000 peak or a 16,000 peak, all of their sins laid on Him and He paid the penalty in full by His death on the cross.
Mercy is the strategy God comes up with by which the holy demand of His character that demands that our sins be paid for, He can’t sweep them under the rug, He can’t disregard them, He can’t pretend that they didn’t happen they have to be paid for and He pays for our sins as He charges to the account of His Son all of our sin so that in His Son Christ pays the penalty for what we have done. God made Christ who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
b. The necessity of maintaining both God’s holiness and mercy.
(1) The absolute necessity of God’s holiness
God’s mercy cannot be expressed in a manner that compromises His holiness. God cannot come up with a merciful plan, a kind and generous plan that somehow saves us that compromises His holiness; it cannot be. There is an absolute requirement of justice that must be met. God must meet His own standards of righteousness. This why in Romans 3 for example when the atonement of Christ is described the lead thought that in is in the middle of those verses (Romans 3:21-26) is declaring His righteousness.
Romans 3:21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, Romans 3:22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; Romans 3:25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;
How did Abraham’s sin get paid for? How did Moses’ sin get paid for? How did all the children of Israel’s sin get paid for? How is it that you are God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when their sin has not been paid for: In other words, are You sweeping the sin under the carpet? No, the cross of Christ is the declaration of God’s righteousness.
Romans 3:26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
just – Law upheld
justifier – merciful
The one who able to declare not guilty because justice had been upheld.
At he heart of it, this holiness standard of God is absolute and inviolable; it must be satisfied.
(2) The contingent necessity of God’s mercy.
Mercy is necessary but it is contingent. Did God have to save us? No He did not. Did God have to condemn our sin? Yes, that is the difference between the holiness of God has an absolute necessity attached to it; He must uphold the standards of holiness. Must He save? No, the doctrine of election indicates God will have mercy on whom He has mercy, He will have compassion on whom He has compassion. The doctrine of fallen angels indicates that God chooses not to save the entire class of fallen angels but creates Hell for Satan and his angels. So must God save? The answer is no. Mercy is necessary is salvation is going to occur; it is contingent in so far as God did not have to do it. He did have to satisfy His holiness. That could have happen with eternal Hell for all of us. He didn’t have to be merciful but He is. Therefore His mercy is shown in providing for us a substitute.
In order for God to be holy, must He uphold the standard of His holiness? Yes. In order for God to be merciful, must He uphold the standards of His holiness? Yes. Why in order for God to be merciful, must He uphold the standards or His holiness? What does mercy seeks to accomplish in terms of us, what does it do to us? Forgives our sin, restores us in relationship with God, it accomplishes for us the wholeness of what we call salvation. What is that salvation for us if it not making us in the likeness of Christ which is holy people. Holiness is not only the standard that is upheld in judging our sin it is in mercy the standard in conforming us to our saved state. We have been chosen from the foundation of the world that we be holy and blameless before Him.
So holiness is absolute not only in terms of God’s holy judgment against our sin, holiness is absolute in terms of the expression of mercy by which, by that mercy we are remade to be holy people; what God intended for us all along
c. The cross as a full expression God’s holiness and mercy
(1) Holiness is vindicated
As I read in Romans 3, God demonstrated His righteousness at the present time in the death of Christ. He is just as well as the justifier.
(2) Holiness and mercy come together at the cross
The full demands of God’s holiness and the deepest longings of His mercy come together at the cross.
(3) God’s Self satisfaction through self substitution
I borrowed this from John Stott in the way that he put it. In conclusion this is God self satisfaction. Self satisfaction meaning what? God satisfies the demands of His holiness, satisfies what His holiness requires must be done. He satisfies the demands of His holiness through offering His Son Himself in His Son as a substitute sacrifice. So, Self satisfaction through self substitution. This is the heart of atonement. God says I will pay for your sins through My Son, I will be satisfied; you will be set free.