Once again our theologically astute friend, Will Hatfield, presents us with a treat in preparation for his upcoming ordination. This round is Christology.
I encourage all our readers to give Will some feedback. He is a good man with a great mind. So ... don't pull any punches. The ordination council (comprised of GARBC Iowa pastors and Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary professors) won't!
The Son’s Deliverance
Story. Human beings sinned and were in need of deliverance. God revealed His love for us by moving in history, revealing Himself and His Word, in order that His kingdom rule might be established and that we might be delivered from sin and death. God did not reveal His plan all at once, but through a series of covenants He progressively made known His plan to His people through Abraham, Moses, and David. The culmination of His plan is found in His Son who will establish God’s rule over the nations (Ps. 2), over sin and death (Ps. 16) and bring life and joy back to God’s world. We know who His Son is because of the covenants made with Israel in the Old Testament. Jesus, God’s Son, was of the royal line of David and he fulfilled God’s standard of righteousness revealed in the Law of Israel. Jesus as God and man is the mediator between man and God so that God’s just wrath on sin can be appeased and man can be delivered from death. Jesus accomplished our deliverance by coming to earth, living a perfect life, dying on a cross, and rising from the dead. He redeemed or bought us out of sin in order that we could return to being God’s children, having new hearts in order to love and obey God.
What qualifies Christ to redeem us?
God became a man through the incarnation of God’s Son at a particular point in history. The virgin birth was the means by which the incarnation took place. Mary was a virgin at the time of Jesus’ conception and continued so up to the point of Christ’s birth (Matt. 1:18,23,25; Luke 1:34-35). Mary became pregnant through the supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit upon her. The virgin birth guaranteed the sinlessness of the Son of God. The virgin birth is essential in that demonstrates to everyone that He is God.
Deity of Christ
The Bible teaches that Christ is God. He is called the Creator of this world. He claims that He and the Father are one (John 10:30). Some of His titles are The Word, Son of God, Son of Man, and Lord. The Bible claims that He created all things, sustains all things, receives worship, reveals the Father, forgives sins, gives life, and exercises judgment. All of these are activities of God. He is attributed all the characteristics of God. (John 17:5; John 5:21,26; Heb. 13:8; Col. 2:9). He is eternal (John 1:1). He is omnipresent (Matt. 28:20). He is omniscient (John 2:25). He is omnipotent (Matt 28:18). He is immutable (Heb. 13:8). Jesus Christ is God.
Humanity of Christ
Christ is fully human as well as being fully divine. Christ had to be a man if He was going to represent fallen humanity. If Jesus was not a real man, then the death on the cross was an illusion. The Scriptures, however, teach that Christ was truly a man, though without a sinful nature. First, He developed like normal human beings (Luke 2:52) in His mental, physical, spiritual, and social capacities. He also had a true body of flesh and blood. As such He experienced pain and suffering as well as normal physical desires such as hunger (John 19:1; John 4:6,7). He also experienced normal human emotions (John 11:34-35). As a human Jesus had a soul and spirit as well. He was troubled in His soul at the prospect of the cross (John 12:27). He ultimately gave up His spirit to God when He died (John 19:30).
So God became man. But what did this mean to God? Philippians 2 talks about the Christ becoming a man and making himself nothing. This does not mean that Christ checked his deity at the door when he became man. He did, however, add a human nature without an automatic recognition as God by people on earth. This is seen by understanding the context of Phil. 2:6-7. Phil 2:7 says, “taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” The emptying of Christ was taking on an additional nature, a human nature with its limitations, not the surrendering of his divine nature. Christ surrendered no attribute of deity, but He temporarily and voluntarily restricted the continuous use of His divine attributes in keeping with His purpose of living among men as a man. He lived His time on earth under the power and direction of the Holy Spirit as an example to us (Matthew 4). The two natures of Christ are inseparably united without mixture or loss of separate identity. He remains forever the God-man. Though He does have two natures, He is still one person.
What did Christ do to redeem us?
Christ’s earthly life was important for two reasons: to demonstrate His sinlessness as a perfect sacrifice and to authenticate His claim to be the Messiah, God’s Anointed One. By His life He revealed the Father so that we might know and love God more fully. His example shows that He was qualified to be our Savior, reveals the character of God the Father, and exposes and rebukes the wickedness we so often hide in the pride in our hearts.
Christ's mission on earth was to obey the Father by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He presented Himself to Israel as their Messiah and offered them the kingdom, but He was rejected. While on earth He performed many miracles and taught many people the truths of God's Word. According to God’s predetermined design and yet by their own decisions, the nation of Israel rejected the Messiah that had been sent to them.
Christ's death is extremely important for all of mankind. Because death is the requirement for sin, His death as our substitute was what we needed to be freed from the bondage of sin and to be brought back into fellowship with God. Christ’s death was the main purpose for the incarnation, yet it was the ultimate part of His humiliation. He was put to death on a Roman cross, after being beaten and mocked by both the Jews and the Roman soldiers. Pilate washed his hands of the mockery of a trial, though he was still responsible for it. Even on the cross, he was mocked and ridiculed. His office as king was mocked by the title they put above His head. His offices as prophet and priest were mocked by the Jews (Matt. 26:68; Luke 23:35). Yet through it all God’s prophecies were being fulfilled, and Christ finally cried, “It is finished.” The price had been paid for our salvation. After that, Christ said, “Into Your hands I commit My spirit,” and died. He who had committed no sin suffered the consequences of sin, death. In doing this, He atoned for our sin.
The Nature of His Death and the Atonement
There are a number of contributing elements which point to the significance and nature of Christ’s death. First, the nature of God is holy, therefore, he cannot look at sin. He is compelled to turn away from it. Christ suffered the loss of fellowship with His Father as He bore our sin on the cross. Second, the law as an expression of the nature and will of God sets up a standard for right and wrong and also teaches that there are necessary consequences to disobeying God’s law. Third, man, because he is totally depraved, is in no way able to extricate himself from his sinfulness and therefore his guilt before God. Fourth, Christ, because He took upon Himself fully a human nature, is able to redeem all of human nature. His death is applicable to human beings because He was human. Christ’s death has sufficient value to atone for the entire human race because He is infinite God, and therefore His death had infinite worth. His death was also sufficient because He was sinless and did not have to pay for His own sin. Fifth, the Old Testament sacrificial system points to death as an acceptable covering for sin. The sacrifice was a substitute for the sinner. It bore the sinner’s guilt. The sacrifice needed to be spotless, however, and the one bringing the sacrifice needed to acknowledge his guilt by laying his hand on the sacrifice, symbolizing a transfer of the guilt from the sinner to the victim.
These five things clarify the fact that Christ’s death was necessary to redeem mankind from sin and that only Christ could have done so. Christ’s death was atonement for God’s righteous judgment on men for their sin because He took our sin upon Himself. Jesus Himself supports this idea by saying He came to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). He also saw Himself as a substitute for us (John 15:13; 10:17-18). He is called the Lamb of God, a sacrifice for the entire world (John1:29). Paul in his epistles teaches this as well and includes God’s initiative in the matter (2 Cor. 5:19; Rom. 5:8). To Paul Christ was his sacrifice who died in his place (Eph. 5:2; 1 Cor. 5:7; Col. 1:20). Christ appeased God’s wrath by dying on the cross (Rom. 3:25-26).
Christ’s death provided atonement for all men (I John 2:2; Is.53:6; 2 Pet.2:1). It is effective only for those who believe (John 3:16; I Tim.4:10). The Bible teaches that atonement is available for anyone who wishes to trust in Christ (John 1:29; I Tim. 2:4,6).
Paul cried out, "If Christ be not risen, then our preaching is in vain." (1 Cor. 15:14) How true this is! Christ's resurrection provides the proof we need that God accepted Christ's work on the cross. It also provides the hope that we too will be resurrected one day. It shows that Christ has the power over death and Hades.
Christ was actually dead when He was laid in the tomb. He had not swooned or fainted. Likewise, His body was not stolen (Matt. 28:11-15). Beyond any expectation of the disciples, Christ rose again. Jesus had a bodily resurrection. What the disciples saw was not a phantom or a ghost. He ate food with them and had the scars of His crucifixion on His body (John 20:19-20). He was flesh and blood though not like our bodies. He could go through walls and closed doors, and He could appear and disappear. Christ's resurrection was the first of its kind. Others had come back only to die again. Christ came back to live forever.
The resurrection of Christ was a miracle accomplished by all members of the Trinity (Acts 3:26; Rom. 1:4; John 2:19). That it actually happened can be argued two ways. The first way is by the argument of eyewitnesses. The apostles saw Him after He had returned. Others saw Him as well. Up to 500 at one time saw Him and heard Him speak. The second way is by argument from cause and effect. What other event could have so changed the lives of these poor fishermen from Galilee? What could have made them die for their beliefs? What could have caused the start of the church and its effects on the world since then? What caused the change in worship for these Jews to the first day of the week? Only one thing could have caused all of these things: the Resurrection.
Labels: Christology, Guest Bloggers, ordination, theology, Will Hatfield