Theology (part six): Christology, the Study of Jesus; Hypostatic Union; Kenosis
Christology - The Study of Christ
Christ existed as the eternal Son of God in the Old Testament:
“Then I said, ‘Here I am, I have come – it is written about me in the scroll’ ” Psalm 40:7
And, in the New Testament:
“Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: . . . ‘Here I am – it is written about me in the scroll – I have come to do your will, O God.’ ” Hebrews 10:5-7
The Old Testament records the eternal son being installed as the Messiah or Christ on earth:
“’I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.’ I will proclaim the decree of the Lord: He said to me, ‘You are my Son, today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery’ . . . Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment.” Psalm 2:6-12
The Son and the incarnation are also mentioned in Proverbs 30:4, Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6.
Jesus indicates he had eternal existence:
“No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven – the Son of Man.”
John the Baptists indicated Jesus had eternal existence:
“John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, ‘This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ ‘ “ John 1:15 (1:30)
Jesus is the creator:
“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”
“For by him all things were created; things in heaven and on earth. “ Colossians 1:16
“In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things. And through whom
he made the universe.” Hebrews 1:2
Jesus is the fullness of deity, radiates God’s glory, is the exact representation of God’s being and has the same nature as God:
“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” Colossians 2:9
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory, and the exact representation of his being.”
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God . . .”
The Angel of the Lord
In the Old Testament the Angel of the Lord, or the Messenger of YHWH, was the Son or Christ. The Angel of the Lord appears to Moses in the burning bush, to Samson’s mother and father, to Gideon and more. The Angel of the Lord is called YHWH, God and ‘I am who I am’. He is worship and speaks as God. See more information in chapter 53 Angelology under “The Angel of the Lord”.
Submissive to the Father
Christ is eternally submissive to the Father’s will. Christ was submissive to the Father in:
- Eternity Past – Revelation 13:8; Matthew 25:34
- Old Testament – Psalm 2; 40:7
- In the gospel account – John 15:10
- In the incarnate state – Philippians 2:6-8
- Church Age – Acts 2:33, 36;
- Millennium – Revelation 20:4, 6
- Judgment – John 6:22, 26, 27, 30
- Eternity Future – 1 Corinthians 15:24-28
The word “incarnation” comes from two Latin words in and carnis each meaning “in” and “flesh”. Incarnate means “in the flesh”. Incarnation refers to the eternal God taking on a human body and a human nature when the second member of the Trinity, the Son, was born as the man Jesus.
Isaiah predicted this event when he wrote:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
The phase “son is given” indicates the eternal existence because it does not say “a son is born” or created. The eternal Son was given to mankind. The verse does say “a child is born” because Jesus was born as a man. Jesus is both the eternal son and a human that had a point of birth with a full human nature. The title “Mighty God” that Isaiah gives him is the Hebrew word el gibbor. The Hebrew word el means God and gibbor means hero. Isaiah tells us the eternal Son will be born as a man and be known as God the Hero. Indeed, Jesus is all that and more!
The reasons for the incarnation are listed in Scripture:
- Reveal God to us – John 1:18; 14:7-11
- Provide an Example – w Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6
- Provide an Effective Sacrifice for Sin – Hebrews 10:1-10
- Fulfill Davidic Covenant – Luke 1:31-33
- Destroy the Works of the Devil – 1 John 3:8
- Become the Real High Priest – Hebrews 4:14-16
- Be Qualified to Judge – John 5:22, 27
Virgin Birth of Christ
The virgin birth of Jesus is an important Christian doctrine due to the nature of sin as discussed in the chapter on Hamartioloy. Every man born receives an inherited sin nature from his father, the imputed sin of Adam and the drive to commit personal sins due to this corruption in their nature. If Jesus has a natural father he himself would have in his humanity a sin nature, imputed sin and the corruption that would produce personal sins. The best God could hope for with a man like this would be that he would rise to the status of a Moses, a David or an Isaiah. But, what made these men great and gave their words such meaning was that they believed in and spoke of a man who would come to deliver them from inherited sin, imputed sin and personal sin. Of course, they could not have been hoping for another man just like themselves, but a man who would be able to deliver them, not just from political enemies, but from the greatest enemy, death, which is the wages of sin.
The Old Testament alluded to this deliverer and his unique birth. God told the serpent in the garden that this man would come from a woman, but did not mention the man’s father. He simply called this deliverer the seed of the woman:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring (seed) and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:15
In another place King Jehoiachin, the descendent of David and ancestor of Jesus’ father Joseph, is told that none of his offspring (seed) will sit on the throne of David or rule in Judah. With this verse God cuts off the male line in Jesus life. If Joseph had been the father of Jesus then this verse would remove all prophetic possibilities of Jesus Christ ever returning to the earth as Israel’s deliverer and king. Jesus would be disqualified to be the King of the Kingdom of God, which would make a large amount of Jesus teaching in the gospels irrelevant. Joseph can not be Jesus’ father and there still be any hope that Jesus is the Christ. Read Jeremiah’s words concerning King Jehoiachin:
“This is what the Lord says: ‘Record this man as if childless, a man who will not prosper in his lifetime, for none of his offspring (seed) will prosper, none will sit on the throne of David or rule anymore in Judah.” Jeremiah 22:30
To see Jesus’ genealogy from Jehoiachin to Joseph turn to section 5, Life of Christ to see the chart “Jesus Genealogy”. Jehoiachin’s father is also cursed in Jeremiah 36:30.
Isaiah makes the prophecy of the virgin birth very clear when he says:
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin (almah) will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (‘God with Us’)” Isaiah 7:14
This is a clear and exact prediction that the Messiah will not have a natural father. The word virgin is the Hebrew word almah which only means a young unmarried girl in the Old Testament. The word almah is translated in the Greek Old Testament (LXX) with the Greek word parthenos which only means virgin. Matthew 1:23 quotes Isaiah 7:14 using the LXX translation of almah into pathenos. This gives the translation of almah as “virgin” the status of divine inspiration. The one born of this virgin conception and birth is said to be known as “God with Us” or God with man. Clearly this can only refer to the eternal Son of God becoming a man.
The New Testament attests to the virgin birth of Jesus in Matthew 1:18-23, Luke 1:26-35 and Luke 2:1-19. Of special interest are two verses in John. In John 2:1-5 Jesus mother request Jesus do something about the lack of wine at a wedding in Cana. It is clear that Mary was not asking Jesus to simply go to the store and pick up some wine or run back home to Nazareth and grab some wine out of the cellar. Jesus’ response to her indicated that Mary was expecting something miraculous from the Son of God because he said, “My time has not yet come.” Mary accepted the answer and left it in his hands when she told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Mary knew Jesus was more than human.
In John 8:41 Jesus is talking with some unbelieving Jews who have claimed “Abraham is our father” after Jesus had drawn attention to his Father by saying “I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence and you do what you have heard from your father.” Their response indicates that the Jews were acutely aware that there had been some confusion concerning who Jesus legitimate father was because they replied accusingly, “We are not illegitimate children.” Yet, the Jewish community knew who Jesus’ natural father was because they often referred to Jesus as the son of Joseph the carpenter. After Luke records the details of the virgin conception and birth he says Jesus “was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph.” (Luke 3:23) It is interesting to note that Jesus went out of the way to speak of God as his father as if he were trying to draw attention to the fact that he was the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15 and Isaiah 7:14.
Jesus as Prophet, Priest and King
Jesus is indeed the Son of God and the savior of mankind. In his ministries before God Jesus also serves as a prophet to his generation and beyond, a priest that represents men to God and God to man, and a man who will rule the entire world as a king.
- Prophet – Moses said another prophet like him was coming (Deuteronomy 18:15). Jesus was that prophet according to Acts 3:22-24. The crowds received Jesus as a prophet (Matthew 21:11, 46). Jesus’ claimed to be a prophet (John 4:4)
- Priest – The priest of the Old Testament came from the line of Aaron from the tribe of Levi. Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, yet the New Testament makes it clear that Jesus is a priest like Melchizedek who was not even Jewish. Melchizedek was a priest because he had been chosen by God. The book of Hebrews explains the priesthood of Jesus to the Jewish people. The priests of Aaron served on earth in a man made temple that was a shadow of heaven. Jesus is a priest that can actually enter the true temple and actually remove sin from man in the presence of God.
- King – Jesus is seated at God’s right hand ruling all creation from heaven but we are waiting his return when he will be King of the whole earth (Zechariah 14:9)
Jesus as Teacher
It is important to keep in mind the context of Jesus’ many teachings. Understand this: Jesus was a man living under the Jewish Law, obeying the Jewish Law and speaking to people who were obligated by God to keep the Law. Jesus also spoke of the coming Kingdom that even now has not manifested. The Jews were still living under the rule of the Roman kingdom. When the Jews rejected Jesus, he began to speak of the new dispensation called the church age that would manifest after he was gone. The church age would occur between the age of Law and the age of the Kingdom. By living and teaching at this juncture in time Jesus was talking to three different groups from three different ages. Jesus’ words were coherent and there is continuity in his thinking but that does not mean a reader of the scriptures could not get confused by placing Jesus’ words in the wrong context. The situation and the audience are very important to understanding Jesus’ thoughts.
Kenosis of Philippians 2:7
There is the question of how could Jesus be both God and man at the same time. Did Jesus stop being God for thirty-three years? Was he sometimes God and at other times he was man? The true doctrine is this: Jesus was 100% God and 100% man 100% of the time while he was on earth and yet today.
“Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being found in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:5-8
The key to the understanding Jesus’ existence as God and as man is the phrase “made himself nothing” or ‘eauton ’ekenwsen heauton ekenosen literally means “himself emptied”. The Greek word ’ekenwsen ekenosen of Philippians 2:7 is the third person singular indicative aorist active of the word kenow kenow which means “make of none effect, be in vain”. This verse is saying that Jesus is God in his very nature and quality of being. Even though Jesus is God he made the fact that he is God of no effect. It was as if his being deity was “in vain” or useless to him. Instead of considering himself God, Jesus became a servant by becoming a man. This is called the Theology of Kenosis or the Kenotic Theology.
What Kenosis does not mean:
- This does not mean Jesus stopped being God because he can not stop having the nature of God
- This does not mean that while Jesus was on the earth he was not in the position of God because we will see Jesus did many things on earth from the position of God including remembering, knowing, doing and speaking.
- This does not mean Jesus did not know he was God and gradually came to realize who he was.
This has not been an easy subject for theologians through out church history. For example, in 341 at the Synod of Antioch the church decided this meant that Christ emptied himself of “the being equal with God” but yet maintained full deity. The Reformation brought back the debate that considered Christ emptying himself of certain attributes (omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence) but did not change his deity. The 1600’s brought to the debate the concept that Jesus was something less than divine and the liberal 1800’s after having rejected the authority of Scripture completely rewrote Christian theology concerning Christology and kenosis.
What the kenosis of Philippians 2:7 says about Christ is that while maintaining the full position, all the attributes and full knowledge of his deity Christ did these things:
- Took on full humanity which would be very humbling to eternal God. This taking on of humanity was not simply a thirty-three year deal but was for the rest of eternity (1 Timothy 2:5)
- The veiling of his divine glory which resulted in men not recognizing him as God. Isaiah indicates this would be the case in Isaiah 53:2 when he says, “He had no beauty or majesty (hadar –glory)” when he came as a servant. (Note that when Jesus returns in Isaiah 63:1 the glory will not be veiled, “Who is this, robed in splendor (hadar – glory)”. Men did not see his glory but demons clearly could (Luke 4:34). The disciples did see the glory on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:2-5; 2 Peter 1:16-18)
- The voluntary nonuse of his divine attributes and authority for personal benefit like turning stones into bread, floating off the temple pinnacle, and taking over the world system.
The main point of the kenosis is that Jesus left the condition he was in before the incarnation, took on full humanity and became a servant to man. We know that Jesus continued as God and continued to use his divine attributes because he demonstrated omniscience (Matthew 12:25; Luke 6:8), omnipresence (John 1:48-49) and omnipotence (John 11:43). His miracles are said to have revealed his glory (John 2:11). Some of the miracles Jesus did were because of the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:14; 5:17; Acts 10:38) but many times Jesus did miracles because he was God (John 10:25; 34-38; Luke 22:51; John 18:6). Jesus knew he was the Son of God (Luke 2:49) and recalled being part of events from eternity past (Luke 10:18) and events from the Old Testament like speaking with Abraham (John 8:56). Thus, sometimes when Jesus spoke he spoke from the position of a man (John 19:28) but sometimes he spoke as God. Jesus demonstrated both divine and human qualities (Luke 8:23).
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