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HOW TO PUT ON THE FULL ARMOR OF GOD: EPHESIANS 6:10-18

Pastor Brad Matthew Abley, M.Div.

 

BECAUSE MY MIND NEEDS RENEWING EVERY DAY AND BECAUSE THE DEVIL TRIES TO LIE TO ME ABOUT WHO I AM IN CHRIST:

“Today I choose, Lord, to be strong in You and in the strength of Your might.  I put on the full armor of God, that I may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.

“For my fight is not against people, but it’s against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness; against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

“Therefore, I take up the full armor of God that I may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

“I stand firm therefore, having girded my loins with truth.  I gird my loins with the truth that I’m your son (daughter); that I’m a man (woman) of God, an ambassador for Christ, a minister of reconciliation.

“I thank You that You love me; that Your hand rests upon me for good; that You never leave me or forsake me, even in trials that You use for my growth in Christ.  I gird my loins with the truth that “I’ve been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ who lives within me.

“And the life that I now live I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”  Lord Jesus, I was buried with you in baptism and raised to walk in newness of life.

“Therefore I consider myself to be dead to sin (name the sins you struggle with), but alive to God through Christ Jesus.”  I thank You for Your grace, for Your mercy and for Your favor which rests upon me.  You are for me and not against me; You plan for my success and not my defeat.

“And I agree with You that because You are holy, I am to be holy today.  Please fill me with Your Spirit and help me to walk in Your holiness, at all times today, in Jesus’ name.”

BECAUSE THE BATTLE IS ALSO FOR MY EMOTIONS:

“I put on the breastplate of righteousness now Lord and thank You Lord Jesus that You are my breastplate and You are my righteousness; You have declared me to be righteous in Your sight and worthy before You.

“Help me to walk now in Your truth and righteousness at all times.  Please protect my emotions today.  I come against and take authority over… (name whatever the enemy attacks you with or whatever tempts you or that you struggle with: e.g. strife, heaviness, oppression, pride, a critical spirit, discouragement, discontentment, lust, fantasy, etc.  Do it boldly, recognizing your authority as a believer).

For example: “I take authority now over every spirit of strife that would come against me; I bind fear of _______…I bind the lies that I’m not ___________; I bind accusations against me from the accuser of the brethren…I take authority over discontentment and choose to walk in Your contentment.”

BECAUSE THE DEVIL TRIES TO STEAL OUR PEACE AND JOY:

“Father, I shod my feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace…Thank You that You are my peace and my joy; fill me now with Your Spirit and help me to abide in Your peace, in Your joy, in Your love and in the power of the Holy Spirit at all times — no matter what the difficulties or circumstances!”

BECAUSE THE DEVIL TRIES TO BRING DOUBT:

“Father, in addition to all that I take up the shield of faith, with which I can extinguish all the fiery-tipped arrows of the evil one — for You are my shield and You are my faith.

“Thou, O Lord, art a shield about me; You’re my glory and the lifter of my head.  Help me today to be full of faith and full of the Holy Spirit; help me to walk by faith and not by sight or emotions — in the Spirit and not in the flesh.

“Help me to trust You, to rest joyfully in You; to be settled, surrendered and submitted to You; to be persevering and confident in You and discerning at all times.”

BECAUSE THE BATTLE IS FOR THE MIND:

“Father, I put on the helmet of salvation and I ask You to protect my mind and my thoughts; help me to think like You, to act like You and to respond like You at all times, in the name of Jesus.  Let my mind be off limits and impenetrable by the devil.”

BECAUSE OF MY NEED TO BE BOLD IN THIS BATTLE AND TO SPEAK THE WORD OF GOD AGAINST MY ENEMIES:

“Father, I take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and I ask You to help me to speak Your word with all boldness, authority and power, quickly against the devil, in the name of Jesus.

Friends, years ago — after having taught on how to put on the full armor of God — I was asked to put down on paper the prayer I led the people in — the example I gave of how I put on the armor of God each morning.

This prayer is the result.  May the Lord use it greatly in your life, in Jesus’ name!

It is my great honor and privilege to announce to you — Facebook and Twitter friends — that beginning this Sunday evening, I’ll be teaching God’s Word to the entire continent of Africa on Voice of Hope, Africa! http://www.voiceofhope.com/

The broadcast is one-half hour each Sunday night.  Because it’s fairly rare in Africa to get verse-by-verse teaching, my focus will be to do just that: the first several broadcasts will be through various Psalms, to help people to have a deeper devotional life through the Psalms.

africa

Lord willing, my next approach will be to teach through 1 Thessalonians.

I began to pray about teaching God’s Word on the radio 20 years ago, and had a sense that this was something the Lord wanted me to pray through.  Though it has taken 20 years, I never could have imagined being able to reach all of Africa!

In God’s timing and providence, I can see His wisdom: First, teaching, training and mentoring pastors in Kenya, with six trips there since January, 2014.  From this, the Lord gave me a great love and heart for Africans.

Once the first broadcast airs, it should appear each week on Voice of Hope website, but you can also listen here, on my personal teaching website (you can watch my video teachings as well): http://pastorbradabley.weebly.com/

Thank you for sharing my joy with me!

Debate, but don’t divide.  Discourse everywhere, it seems, is getting more toxic with each passing day.  Opinions are good and necessary, as long as they’re based in truth and rooted in humility.

Debate is necessary, but division is almost always destructive. Can you debate without dividing?  To do so is a sign of excellent character, of self-control.

But if you cannot debate without dividing, better to hold your tongue; you only hurt yourself, and you hurt others.  Sadly, some people just prefer bringing strife, because of their own immaturity and wicked hearts.

A friend told me recently that social media gives a platform to those who shouldn’t have a platform.  So true.

In our political and social discourse today, division is carrying the day.  But it will come at a greater cost than we can currently imagine.  None wiser than Jesus warns us: “A house divided against itself cannot stand” (Mark 3:28; Mt. 12:22-28).

Abraham Lincoln wisely picked up on this statement and modified it to say “a nation divided against itself cannot stand.”

He uttered these words in a speech he gave in 1858 as a warning of what would come if Americans continued in division over slavery – roughly three years before the Civil War broke out and approximately 600,000 lives were destroyed…

america

Proverbs 17:14 also admonishes us: “The beginning of strife is like the letting out of water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.”

Debate, but don’t divide.  Deal with the issue; don’t attack the person.  Monitor your character.  Speak the truth, but with humility.  Our nation needs this, now.

I’m posting this today to help someone on Facebook to understand the nature of Jesus: fully God and fully man, one person with two natures — perfectly united, but not mixed.

This is a document I’ve been writing over the years.  It is not fully edited, nor has it been published.  I use it to teach, and for times like this.

I do hope others will read it, so that an essential topic of the Christian faith like this can be more readily understood, and so that Jesus Christ can be more fully worshiped.

Part One: An Introduction into the Person and Nature of Jesus

Pastor Brad Matthew Abley, M.Div.

“You are the Christ; the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16:16)
“Lord, to whom shall we go?  You alone have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68)

No person in human history has had a greater effect upon humanity than Jesus of Nazareth, and yet the remarkable thing about Him is that His influence is almost solely un-coercive, subtly transforming and even inconspicuous.[1]

Theologian Thomas Oden asks this question about Jesus:

How is it plausible that 2000 years ago there lived a man born in poverty in a remote corner of the world, whose life was abruptly cut short in his early 30s, who traveled only in a small area, who held no public office, yet whose influence appears greater than all others? How is it that one who died the death of a criminal could be worship today by hundreds of millions…Why are people willing to renounce all to follow him and even die in his service? How is it plausible that 2000 years later his life would be avidly studied and worshipers would address their prayers to him? What accounts for this extraordinary influence?

And then Oden answers boldly:

Classic Christian teaching answers without apology: what was said about him is true — he was the Son of God, the promised Messiah, the one Mediator between God and humanity, who as truly God was truly human, who liberated humanity from the power of sin by his death on the cross.[2]

Jesus Christ – the overwhelming focus of the New Testament, the promised Messiah of the Old Testament, God the Son and the Son of Man – did the most astonishing thing imaginable: God becoming Man to identify with us, to give us His life, to show us what God is really like and who He is and then to set us free from sin by dying for us – this is in part what the Incarnation is all about.

A Brief Exegetical Study of John 1:1-18

There is a significant contrast between “In the beginning” and the Greek word translated “was” (v.1), which means continuous, timeless existence.[3]

This Greek word (transliterated hen) appears four times in vv.1-2 (each time we see the word “was”) and also stands in marked contrast to the Greek word translated “came into being” (egeneto, which means at a moment of time).

John moves from “the Word” in v.1 to “Him” in vv.2-4 so that Greek readers would understand that this “Logos” (logos was much more than thought or reason expressed in speech or the soul of the universe, or even still, an all-pervading rational principle of the earth).[4]

Moreover, Greeks saw the logos as a creative energy; all things came from it and people derived their wisdom (wisdom was everything to Greeks) from it (remember, the gospel had by the time of John’s writing penetrated into the entire Greek-speaking world).[5]

In fact, the philosopher Heraclitus (6th century B.C.) declared the Logos “is always existent” and that “all things happen through this Logos.”

In addition, he held that the Logos is what held the universe together.  This thought was still current when John wrote his gospel.[6]

In addition, Greeks thought of the gods as detached from the world, as regarding its struggles, heartaches, joys and fears, with a serene lack of divine feeling.

But in John, the Logos speaks of God’s coming where we are, taking our nature upon Himself, entering the world’s struggles and out of this agony, winning our salvation.[7]

Since John’s gospel was also directed to Jews, it is helpful to understand that their understanding of the Logos would immediately harken back to “God said” in Gen. 1-2 and they would have understood Logos as a claim to deity.

Even the Targums (Jewish commentaries of the Old Testament) referred to God as “the Word.”[8]

In ascribing creation to this Logos, John is unmistakably claiming deity for Jesus and rightly so: The Hebrew word for God (Gen. 1:1) is Elohim, or the plural word for God.

And in Israel’s daily creed, found in Deut. 6:4, the Hebrew word for “one” is echad: not one in isolation (yachid), but one in unity (cf. John 10:30).

It is never used in the OT of a stark singularity.  It is used to refer to one bunch of grapes, or that the people of Israel responded to their enemies as one people, or that Adam and Eve became one flesh (Gen. 2:24).

The Greek word translated “nothing” (v.3) means not even one thing.  Also in significant contrast to hen is the word translated “came” (v.7), referring to John, who was born at one time (again, still reinforcing the idea of our Lord’s continuous, timeless existence).

This is the same word used of Jesus in v.14: He “became flesh” (one time, as opposed to continuous, timeless existence).

The word “dwelt” literally meant to “tabernacle” (Ex. 25:21-22) and thus Jesus becomes the meeting place between God and man, since He is our great high priest (e.g. Heb. 2:17; 4:14).

He “tabernacled” among men while on earth, a precursor to what He will do throughout eternity (Rev. 21:3).  The word translated “begotten” in v.14 (cf. 3:16) is monogones (or literally the unique One; the only one of its kind).

Therefore, as the Word Incarnate, He is uniquely qualified to show and bring John’s original readers (and us) to the One true God that they had never known (cf. 14:6; Acts 17:16-34).

Incidentally, John was the one disciple who was the most intimate with Jesus (13:23).

It is no coincidence that speaking first-hand of his time with Him, he refers to Jesus by name more than the other (Synoptic) gospel writers: 237 times (Matthew 150; Luke 89 and Mark 81)!

The word “explained” (v.18) is where we get our word “exegesis” from, which is where we get our basis for sound interpretation of a verse or passage within its context.

It means to lead or draw out or explain.  Thus, one commentator could write, “Christ, then, is the One who has made the incomprehensible God intelligible.”

 

A Theological Study of the Incarnation & Virgin Birth

 

The doctrine of the Incarnation of Jesus begins the great process whereby God works to deliver man from his sin.  Incarnation was a term used by the early Church Latin theologians and means enfleshment.

This of course refers to that process by which our Lord Jesus, who has always existed as God the Son and was never created, but rather Himself is Creator.

He became Man through woman, to identify with us sinners and draw us to God through His own sinless life and substitutionary sacrifice on the cross for our sins.

The above took place miraculously with prophetic fulfillment through young Mary, at the time a virgin, so that our Lord could not be tainted with sin (Mt. 1:18-25; cf. Is. 7:14).

This is what is called the Virgin Birth of Jesus, an absolute essential of the Christian faith – equally as essential as the resurrection of Jesus.  Why is this?  Matthew has declared authoritatively that Jesus was born of a virgin to fulfill prophecy.

If He was not born of a virgin, He was born of a human father and therefore had the same, sinful nature as any other human being (Rom. 3:10, 23; 5:12).

Therefore, claiming to be sinless (e.g. John 8:46), Jesus would have either been a liar or a lunatic, because He claimed something for Himself that could not be possible; He would have had the same evil, sin nature as we do.

And as a sinful man, His blood would have been as tainted with sin as ours, and as a result, He could not redeem us.  Moreover, the Bible would also be a lie, because it, too claims He was sinless (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; 1 Pet. 2:22)

Jesus had to be born without a sin nature because in the Incarnation, His human nature would be perfectly united with His sinless deity.  Sinless God cannot be united with sinful man without prior redemption through sacrifice.

But even though Jesus was born without sin, that does not mean He could not have sinned – otherwise, what would be the point of the temptations that He faced (e.g. Mt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-14; cf. Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:22)?

Critics attack the prophecy of Is. 7:14 concerning its fulfillment in Jesus by arguing that the Hebrew word should be translated “young woman.”

But the truth is that if it was simply a “young woman,” then there was no point in calling it a “sign.”

The reality is that the word translated “virgin” in Is. 7:14 is almah.  It refers to an unmarried woman old enough to be married – one who is sexually mature enough to be married (Gen. 24:43; Ex. 2:8; Ps. 68:25; Prov. 30:19; Song of Solomon 1:3; 6, 8).

Almah appears nine times in the OT and in eight of those nine occurrences, almah can only mean “virgin.”

It is highly instructive that three Hebrew scholars write that, “There is no instance where it can be proved that almah designates a young woman who is not a virgin.”[9]

In Is. 7:14, we have a typical example of the OT nature of double fulfillment in prophecy: an immediate fulfillment relating specifically to King Ahaz (very likely a young woman – a virgin who was as yet unmarried – would marry and have a son.

Before three years passed, she would get pregnant and two years later – by the time he could speak – the two invading kings would be destroyed.

This is exactly what happened historically, so that the sign Isaiah gave to Ahaz was actually two-fold to this unbelieving, fearful king.

The second and ultimate fulfillment of this sign would culminate in the coming of a “Son” who would be born to the Jews, who would one day rule not only them, but all people (Is. 9:6).

He would clearly be God, but He would also be a human being.  But only the NT would give this ultimate fulfillment and the necessary, full explanation of His Virgin Birth (Mt. 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38).

The Incarnation and the Virgin Birth are similar but not equal: in the Incarnation, God the Son from all eternity added to Himself humanity. The Virgin Birth was the means by which He accomplished this.

One significant outcome of the Virgin Birth is that in it and in the Incarnation we preeminently see the grace of God in our salvation. This was entirely His initiative and entirely of His power.

That is, salvation is not through our own human effort.

The pre-existent Son of God united His divine nature to a human nature and through it came into the world.  Athanasius (c. 293-373), bishop of Alexandria, Egypt, wrote that in the Incarnation, there was no subtraction of deity but an addition of humanity.

The key scriptural understanding for the above comes in large part through John 1:1-3, 14.

Augustine wrote, “Man was added to Him, God not lost to Him” and “He emptied Himself not by losing what He was, but by taking to Him what He was not.”[10]

Theologian J. Rodman Williams writes, “Without ceasing to be God through whom all things were made, He concurrently became man by assuming our flesh.  Thus is He is Emmanuel – “God with us” (Mt. 1:21-23) – in the person of Jesus Christ.”[11]

Let it be said again, put somewhat differently: Jesus came as Man for the redemption (to buy back from slavery to sin) of the human race; He was born to die “and in dying to bear the awful weight and punishment of the sins of all mankind.”[12]

In OT thought and indeed in pagan nations surrounding Israel, there must always be a sacrifice for human guilt.  In our society there is punishment for lawbreaking and in many cases, restitution must be made to society.

Accountability is also built into our world: we inherently understand that we are accountable for the way we treat our own bodies; if we abuse them, they break down.

We are accountable to the law of our society; if we break the law, we become accountable.  If we cheat on our taxes, we are accountable, etc.

In the spiritual realm — the core of who man is — man as created being is accountable to God and to His moral universe.

In the OT, man’s sins were atoned for (covered and removed) through the blood sacrifice of innocent animals, but animals which came from the offending sinner’s own flock.

The reason for this requirement was so that he understood the cost of his sin in very real terms — his livelihood — and the importance of the penalty against him.

This was a vicarious (substitutionary) sacrifice: man himself deserved to be punished for his sin debt to God, for his guilt crimes against God and against His holiness, and for his offenses against God and His righteousness.

But God in His mercy punished an innocent animal instead, having its blood — the life of the animal — shed so that man understood how seriously God took sin: a death must be exacted.

In the NT, Jesus becomes Man to identify with humanity, to live a perfect life in our place (against overwhelming temptation to sin) and then, to show God’s mercy, to willingly become “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

As with the requirement of the OT sacrifices – that they be without blemish – Jesus as the Lamb of God had to be blameless and innocent with regard to sin.

However, by the time of the NT period, the former types and shadows of animal sacrifices would no longer suffice for man’s forgiveness, since they were now obsolete.

That is, God had planned all along to do away with vicarious sacrifice and instead have true, literal punishment for sin, though once again in His mercy, He did not want man to have to be subject to such punishment (Heb. 10:4-7, 10).

Thus, the reason, again, for our Lord’s incarnation: to live as one of us (without ceasing to be God), living in perfect obedience to God the Father, without sin, in order to be the perfect human sacrifice in our place.

Indeed, our Lord Himself tied the success of His mission to the crucifixion (John 12:32), where it is referred to repeatedly as the vital “hour” (2:4; 7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1; 17:1).

Anselm (d.1109), a Benedictine monk and archbishop of Canterbury, was a great theologian who coined the phrase and concept “faith seeking understanding,” in relation to explaining the Christian faith.

He wrote that God became Man in Christ because only one who was both God and man could achieve our salvation.

How is that?  First, only God could achieve salvation for man because man is so hopelessly corrupted by sin – from God’s perspective – that his will is bound to himself and he cannot perfectly obey or even please God.[13]

Only a Perfect God has the will and power to save us, to change us and to enable us to live before Him and please Him (done only in Christ, which is why no person in another religion, no matter how sincere, can come to God through that religion).

At the same time, man must be judged for his own sin; the result of that sin would be eternal separation from God.  And yet, this is not God’s will for man (e.g. 2 Pet. 3:9).

But what could be done?  According to His holiness, the only just and righteous payment for the seriousness of sin would be death, so serious and abominable was/is sin in His sight.

A substitution must take place, but only a blood sacrifice, since the life of the flesh is in the blood (sacrifices for sin in biblical times had to be made through the shedding of blood).

But an acceptable sacrifice for all of man’s sins could only come through a sinless sacrifice and the shedding of innocent blood.  Hence, God’s plan for the Incarnation of Jesus, who still had to resist sin perfectly.

This is why James Montgomery Boice writes, “[T]the atonement of Christ is the reason for the Incarnation.  It is the explanation of his twofold nature (in one Person) and the focal point of world and biblical history.”[14]

Again, Boice writes that “To focus on the Incarnation apart from the cross leads to false sentimentality and neglect of the horror and magnitude of human sin.”[15]

The result of the Incarnation and atonement is that we see the value God places upon human life.

Boice writes,

Life is declared to be valuable by the creation alone, but sin has cheapened life.  The Incarnation, coming in the midst of a history of human sin, indicates that God has not abandoned us but loves us and values us even in our fallen state.

Here we come to one of the most valuable theological insights from the NT for the success of the Christian.  Our Lord’s incarnation led to His atonement for our sins on the cross.

His perfection resulted in His resurrection back to the Father.  The result for us, first, is that He has become our propitiation (Rom. 3:23-25; Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10).

Propitiation means, on the one hand, that Jesus suffered the righteous wrath of God due to us for our sin upon Himself (Ps. 22:1; Mt. 27:46).

On the other hand, through His substitutionary, all-sufficient sacrificial atoning death, He has reconciled us to Himself and to the Father and by that work alone, we stand fully justified (declared righteous) before God (Rom. 5:1-11).

Accordingly, Boice declares,

The Incarnation does two further things.  It shows us that God is able to understand us and sympathize with us, which is an inducement to prayer.  Also, the Incarnation gives us an example of how a person ought to live in this world (1 Pet. 2:21).[16]

The focus of the remainder of this section will be to understand the joining of both deity and humanity in our Lord.

First, we will investigate His humanity, followed secondly by studying His deity and concluding with the joining of both deity and humanity in one Person.

 

The Son of Man

 

A great and essential part of the Incarnation of Jesus is for Him to literally become human: He was “the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).

The two NT passages on the Incarnation come from Mt. 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-35, both of which bring a sense of awe and wonder.

The Greek word from Luke 1:35 translated “overshadow” was also used of the cloud of glory which enveloped those on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:34).

Here, we should note that the overshadowing was due to “the power of the Most High” and the Holy Spirit, who would come upon Mary (Luke 1:35).

There can be no doubt, as Williams writes, that in the Incarnation “We should always remember that we’re dealing with a paradox that, no matter how much it is described, discussed, and analyzed, is ultimately beyond all human comprehension.”[17]

The same God the Father who directed creation and the same God the Spirit who presided over creation also are involved in doing another thing which is impossible for man through the Incarnation.

Note that the emphasis in Luke’s account is not upon any creative ability in Mary but rather upon the miraculous power of God (1:26-35), which was also able to preserve our Lord’s sinless nature, and which He Himself also preserved throughout His life on earth in perfect obedience to the Father (John 8:29).

On a side note regarding Mary and Roman Catholic teaching of her nature, Williams notes,

For all her extraordinary qualities there is no suggestion of Mary’s being sinless.  She spoke of God as her “Savior”; hence she herself needed salvation.  The Roman Catholic dogma of Mary’s “Immaculate Conception,” stating that Mary herself was conceived without sin and so was sinless when she bore Jesus, has no basis in Scripture.

Incidentally, the Roman Catholic dogma of the “Blessed Assumption of Mary,” that at death she was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory, flows from the idea of her sinlessness.

These Roman Catholic dogmas do serious disservice to the biblical picture of Mary.  Even more radical terms such as “Mary, Queen of Heaven” and “Mary, Co-Redemptrix” are likewise prevalent.

It is obvious that such departures from Scripture also have a negative effect on the place and work of Jesus Christ.[18]

Lastly concerning Mary, it must also be said that she did not remain a virgin, for the NT makes clear she had other children besides Jesus (Mt. 1:25; cf. 12:46; 13:55-56; Mk. 3:31; 6:3; Luke 8:19-20; John 2:12; 7:3-5, 10; Acts 1:14; Gal. 1:19).

Returning to our emphasis upon our Lord’s humanity, Jesus called Himself “the Son of Man” (69 times in the Synoptic Gospels and 13 in John’s Gospel), a term that essentially means “man,” or simply a human being.

The above is significant for a variety of reasons, not the least of which were the incessant attacks upon the early church by the Gnostic and Docetic heretics, who held that all created matter was evil and thus God could in no way take upon Himself flesh.

The above is the historical background and context of much of the problems addressed in the epistles of Paul (particularly Colossians and Timothy) and John (note especially 2 John 7).

Thus we can see, in part, our Lord’s providence in using such a term to define Him for future generations.

R.W.A. Letham, in his article on Incarnation, notes that Jesus was born and underwent the normal process of growth and development from infancy to adulthood (Luke 2:52), that He was both the son of David (Mt. 1:6; Luke 2:4; 3:31) and the son of Adam (Luke 3:38).[19]

Our Lord called Himself a man (John 8:40) and spoke of His body and its coming dissolution (Mt. 26:26, 28), yet He emphasized its continuing reality after His resurrection (Luke 24:36-37).

Letham also points out our Lord’s full range of human experiences: His compassion (Mt. 9:36), His love for friends (John 11:35-36), His surprise (Mt. 8:10; Mk. 6:6) and His need for prayer (Mt. 14:23).

We also see His agony (Mt. 26:38; Mark 14:33; Luke 22:43-44; John 12:27; 13:21; Heb. 5:7; cf. Is. 52:13-53:12), His thirst (John 19:28), His weariness (John 4:6), His need for sleep (Mt. 8:24) and His physical and real death (John 19:30).[20]

Williams adds that Jesus worked as a carpenter (Mk. 6:3), He paid taxes (Mt. 17:24-25), He experienced joy (Luke 10:21), anger (Mk. 3:5), indignation (Mk. 10:14), astonishment (Luke 7:9), great pain and anguish (Mt. 27:46) and temptation (Mt. 4:1; Mk. 1:13; Luke 4:1-2; Heb. 4:15).[21]

Further, He groaned deeply in His spirit (Mk. 8:12) and He was deeply moved (John 11:33). He needed to learn and develop spiritually (Heb. 5:8), and Letham adds that apart from His sinlessness, His identity and solidarity with us is absolute and unqualified.[22]

There are a few occasions – due only to His voluntary self-accommodation to the time and space of this world and to His dependence upon the Father – when He was limited in His knowledge.

For example, we see this in Mark 13:32, where the context emphasizes dependence upon the Father.  In addition, note Mark 9:21; 10:40.

Though Jesus did not cease being God while on earth, He voluntarily subjected Himself to human limitation in His humanity (Phil. 2:7-11; cf. Is. 45:23), partly to identify with us and partly to display, again, dependence upon the Father.

In his commentary on Matthew 24:36 and Jesus’ limitation of omniscience in His humanity (and pointing out His limitation of omnipotence in Mt. 4:1-11), Robert Mounce points out the necessity of both of these matters:

[N]now his omniscience is veiled in a specific area.  Were this not the case, the incarnation would be something less than a full and genuine entrance into the condition of humanity (cf. Heb. 4:15).[23]

How best for man to really and truly understand God if not through one of his own explaining Him (cf. John 1:18)?  A major way people learn and discover is through example, modeling, teaching and apprenticeship.

In relation to explaining God the Father, this is exactly what the Son of Man and God the Son has done! This also is a significant factor in considering the Incarnation: Jesus came to show us God and what He is truly like (John 14:7-14).

We conclude this section with a focus on the perfection of the Man Christ Jesus, for He alone perfectly fulfilled the two greatest commandments (Mt. 22:37-40) through perfect obedience to God (John 8:29) and perfect service to man (Mk. 10:45).

Williams points out that our Lord’s perfection was forged through suffering (Phil. 2:6-8; cf. Heb. 2:10; 5:7-8; Acts 14:33).  At the same time, He Himself claimed sinlessness (John 8:46; cf. 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:22; 1 John 3:5).

But Williams also argues that His perfection and sinlessness were due not only because He was God, but that the NT emphasis was because of His obedience to God in His humanity, leading to continual victory over temptation.[24]

Other theologians disagree with Williams’ view, arguing that Jesus was not able to sin (theologians use the Latin non posse peccare) versus Williams’ view of able not to sin (posse non peccare).

But how does the former view square with the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness by the devil (Mt. 4:1-11; cf. Luke 4:1-13)?

Grudem is helpful here by referring to the two natures – God and Man – of our Lord (yet in one Person).  With respect to His human nature, He was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).

But with respect to His divine nature He was not tempted, for God cannot be tempted with evil (James 1:13).[25]

Thus, our Lord had two distinct wills – human and divine — both belonging to our Lord’s two distinct natures and not to His Person.  And yet, they were joined together in perfect unity.

Grudem writes,

[A]along with the idea that Christ had two wills is the related idea that He had two centers of consciousness or intelligence; one finite and capable of being fallible (though through obedience proving to be infallible) and the other immutable and infinite.[26]

It is with this understanding, Grudem argues, that we can perceive how Jesus had limited knowledge (Mk. 13:32), and yet know all things (John 2:25; 16:30; 21:17).

This also explains how our Lord could be asleep in the boat and still “uphold all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3; cf. Col. 1:17) and it even holds true when He was a baby and child.

Likewise, in Christ’s human nature, He died (Luke 23:46; 1 Cor. 15:3), yet with respect to His divine nature He did not die but rather, was able to raise Himself from the dead (Heb. 7:16).

Accordingly, Grudem points out,

Those who reject this as impossible simply have a different definition of what is ‘possible’ than God has, as revealed in Scripture.  To say that we cannot understand this is appropriate humility.  But to say that it is not possible seems more like intellectual arrogance.[27]

But do two natures, two centers of consciousness and two wills require that our Lord be two Persons, as was argued by the fifth century heretic Nestorious (Nestorianism)?

Not at all, argues Grudem:

It is mere assertion without proof to say that they do.  If someone responds that he or she does not understand how Jesus could have two centers of consciousness and still be one person, then that fact may certainly be admitted by all.  But failing to understand something does not mean that it is impossible, only that our understanding is limited.  The great majority of the church throughout history has said that Jesus had two wills and centers of consciousness, yet he remained one person.  Such a formulation is not impossible, merely a mystery we do not now fully understand.[28]

Grudem goes on in his footnote to illustrate:

At this point an analogy from our human experience may be somewhat helpful.  Anyone who has run in a race knows that near the end of the race there are conflicting desires within.  On the one hand, the runner’s lungs and legs and arms seem to be crying out, “Stop! Stop!”  There is a clear desire to stop because of the physical pain.  On the other hand, something in the runner’s mind says, “Go on! Go on! I want to win!”  We have all known similar instances of conflicting desires within.  Now if we, being ordinary human beings, can have differing or distinct desires within us and yet be one person, how much more possible is that for one who was both man and God at the same time?[29]

 

The Son of God

 

We’ve already seen many times in this study the nature of the pre-existent Son of God in John 1:1-3 (cf. 8:58; 17:5).

But nothing is technically said there about His Sonship, though later in John we do find such emphasis and when we come to that emphasis, we find He is furthermore God’s only unique (the meaning of the word monogones, translated “begotten”) Son (3:16).

Arianism, a fourth-century heresy (one of 16 major heresies that afflicted the Church from the 1st-6th centuries), held that the very nature of Christ’s Sonship demanded that He be inferior to the Father and it held that He was a created being.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are the modern-day counterpart to Arianism, holding that Jesus was the first and direct creation of Jehovah.

But we have already seen above that our Lord has always existed; furthermore, our Lord’s own emphatic teaching was that He was equal to God the Father (John 5:18; 10:30; 14:7-10; cf. Phil. 2:6).

So how are we to understand Jesus as the Son of God?  Scripture clearly attests to it (e.g. Mt. 3:13-17; Mark 1:11; 14:61-62; Luke 1:32, 35; John 1:34, 49; 3:16-18; 5:27; 10:36; 11:4; 18:31; 19:7; Rom. 8:3; 1 John 4:15), but in what way is Jesus God’s Son?

If we seek to understand this doctrine from a human point of view, we will inevitably run into problems.

However, Scripture is revealed to us by God, and therefore we must approach it with humility, seeking to understand it from God’s vantage point and not our own.

First, the phrase “Son of God” has different meanings in different contexts in the Bible. In the first and greatest sense, the term refers to Jesus as God from all eternity and how He stands in relation to the Father.

That is, the “Son,” while One in equality and unity with the Father (along with the Holy Spirit) – chooses to relate to the Father in a functional and relational submission to Him (e.g. John 5:19-20, 30).

It would be a heretical interpretation to come to the conclusion that the Son is or was inferior to the Father – or even subordinate in nature to Him.  Jesus has not given us that option.

But why does Jesus as God the Son choose to relate to the Father in a functional and relational submission to Him?

Precisely to show us who the Father is!  In his commentary on Heb. 1:1:1-2, Robert Gundry writes, “For a son can convey his father’s speech more definitively than an unrelated spokesperson can.”[30]

This is clearly born out in John 1:18, where the word “explained” comes from the Greek word exegesis – to lead or draw out.  In Jesus, the incomprehensible God becomes understandable.

We find in both John 17:2-3 and 1 John 5:20 that Jesus came to show us who the Father really is so that we can both know and understand Him.  Apart from the revelation of Jesus, the Father would not be knowable to the extent that He is.

Thus the Son – with the Father from all eternity along with the Holy Spirit – conveys life and eternal life to us from the Father (1 John 5:11-13).

But it must be emphasized strongly: The Son is no less God than the Father!  Even when He acknowledged to His enemies His nature as the Son of God, they understood this to be a direct claim to be equal with the Father (Mt. 26:63-66; John 5:18; 10:22-39).

In the second sense, Jesus as the Son of God – Who came to save us from our sin – hints at who He will be in His humanity and thus, His messianic titles: “Messiah,” “Son of David,” “Son of Man,” or “King of Israel.”

Matthew 26:63; John 1:49; 11:27; 5:27; 20:31 provide examples of this. Paul in the same breath can refer to Him as “the Son of God, Christ Jesus” (2 Cor. 1:19), where His deity and humanity are juxtaposed (also, John 5:19-26; cf. v.27 with Dan. 7:14).

The origin of these terms as messianic titles comes from 2 Samuel 7 and parallel passages in 1 Chron. 17, 22.

David wanted to build a temple for the Lord, but the Lord promised to raise up a descendant of David who would build an eternal temple and whose throne God would establish forever.

God says of this future messianic ruler: “I will be His Father, and He will be My Son. I will never take away My love from Him” (1 Chronicles 17:13).

The biblical record will show that Jesus is God’s Son in the way that He relates to the Father and in the way that He reveals the Father to people, so that they in turn can know the Father and relate to Him (e.g. John 14:9-10).

John Calvin brings this out from a 16th century translation of John 1:18 (a less reliable manuscript, and which reads “the only-begotten Son himself, who is in the bosom of the Father”):

When he says that the Son was in the bosom of the Father, the metaphor is borrowed from men, who are said to receive into their bosom those to whom they communicate all their secrets.  The breast is the seat of counsel.  He therefore shows that the Son was acquainted with the most hidden secrets of his Father, in order to inform us that we have the breast of God, as it were, laid open to us in the Gospel.[31]

William Barclay adds, “To be in the bosom of someone is the Hebrew phrase which expresses the deepest intimacy possible in human life.”[32]

Jesus’ own functional sonship – agreeing with the Father to become Man to redeem humanity from sin – also makes possible sonship for believers in the Father through Him (e.g. 1 Cor. 1:9; Gal. 4:6; 1 John 1:3).

Thus, Jesus is also God’s Son in His mission to be sent by the Father to redeem lost humanity (John 1:14-18; 3:16; Rom. 8:32; 1 John 4:14).  In that mission, Jesus’ followers learn what it means to live in obedience, joy and purpose before the Father – just as He did.

The Son also demonstrates to the believer how to be fully dependent upon God the Holy Spirit (e.g. Luke 4:18-19; John 5:19-20; Acts 1:2; Heb. 9:14).

Both the Father and the Son equally give life (John 5:21) and both are equally involved in the resurrection of believers (John 6:40, 44, 54).  In addition, they are equal in honor (John 5:22-23).

One of the strongest statements in the OT concerning God is that He will not share His glory with another (Is. 42:8; 48:11).

And yet, we find Jesus making many exclusive claims that He shares glory with the Father (e.g. John 7:39; 12:16, 23; 13:31-32; 14:13; 16:14; 17:1-5, 10).

Moreover, both God the Father and God the Son were involved in Creation: cf. Gen. 1:1, 26; Deut. 6:4; John 1:10; Col. 1:16-17; 1 Cor. 8:6; Heb. 1:2-3, 10-12; 2:10.

At the same time, the Son of God is distinct from the Father and not to be identified with Him.

Recall that He was with the Father (John 1:1; 17:5) and it was the Son and not the Father who was incarnated (John 1:14) and who alone – as the Son of Man — died on the cross (Luke 23:46).

Thus, the Son is equal to the Father, but He does not equal the Father; neither is He a mere mode of being or action of the Father, as Sabellius held early in the third century – a view called Modalism.

This heresy held that the various names of the Son and the Holy Spirit were merely successive modes of revelation of God the Father.

Modalism has in some ways come to be adopted among Oneness Pentecostals today, especially among those known in the “Jesus Only” wing of Oneness Pentecostals.

The deity of Christ the Son of God has already been seen through His equality with the Father, but the terms He used of Himself throughout the NT should also be considered.

The first-century Jew would unmistakably understand the usage of such terms as the Bridegroom, the Good Shepherd, the Light, the First and the Last, Savior and Redeemer – all terms used to refer to God in the OT (cf. Is. 62:5; Ps. 27:1; 23:1; Ez. 34:15; Is. 41:4; 44:6; 48:12; 43:3; 41:14) – as the Savior’s own claims to deity.

Moreover, the widespread and prominent use of “Lord” in the NT to refer to Jesus is identical to the same term used of God the Father throughout the OT, especially in the Greek translation of the OT (the Septuagint, or abbreviated as the LXX).[33]

Note especially under this category Mt. 3:3 (cf. Is. 40:3); Heb. 1:8-10 (cf. Ps. 102:25) and not only the word “Lord” used of Jesus by Peter in Luke 5:8, but the parallel of Peter with OT saints in their reaction to being in the presence of God (cf. Gen. 18:27; Job 42:6; Is. 6:5).

God is referred to as “the God of glory” in the OT (cf. Ps. 29:3; cf. Is. 42:8; 48:11), but in the NT Jesus is called “the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:8).

It was prophesied of the Messiah that He would be called the “Mighty God” (Is. 9:6); in the NT, Jesus is explicitly called God (John 20:28; Titus 2:13; 2 Pet. 1:1; 1 John 5:20), and His “might” is seen throughout the gospels.

But what about statements in the NT such as those found in Mk. 10:18; 15:34; John 14:28; 1 Cor. 11:3; 15:28)?

Do these passages not contradict the teaching of Jesus’ divinity?  Not at all:  First, a careful study of Mk. 10:18 will show that our Lord, as was His custom, used questions in His teaching to help one come to an understanding of His true nature (cf. Gen. 3:9; 4:9; 18:9).

In effect He was saying (considering the broad context of His teachings), “You are calling Me good; do you realize what you are saying?  Only God is good; in addressing Me in such a way, think carefully about the implications and your resulting need to carefully heed My answer.”

As for the other passages, the humanity of Jesus has already been established: it was in His humanity that He came to show us submission to and dependence upon the Father, which He carried out perfectly on earth.

It must be stated often that our Lord’s submission to the Father even as God the Son is not ontological submission (a submission of being), but rather a functional and relational submission.

This can be seen, for example, in the Father sending the Son into the world to save the world (John 3:16; 1 John 4:4).

Thus, we return to yet another purpose for God the Son being the Son from all eternity: His was the role and purpose to take upon Himself flesh in the Virgin Birth to demonstrate that God is a loving, seeking God.

Indeed, His love for us is so astounding that He would trust His Son to be able to withstand sin against impossible odds to win salvation for those who will place their faith in Jesus for eternal life.

Speaking of the salvation which God the Son came to give us (Heb. 1:3), F.F. Bruce writes, “The underlying emphasis here, however, is that by making purification for sins, the Son of God has accomplished something incapable of achievement by anyone else.”[34]

It is God the Father who plans for our salvation and adopts us into His family as His sons and daughters (e.g. Gal. 4:5-6).  Yet, we are still called to obey the Son (1 Pet. 1:2) — even as the Son obeyed the Father.

Thus, the Son again teaches us that God is worthy to be obeyed and that there is joy in obedience (e.g. Heb. 5:8).

There is yet another reason for God the Son choosing to relate to the Father in this way and that is the concept of “heirship,” also seen in Heb. 1:2.

Thus, Gundry writes,

Sonship entails heirship.  Therefore, the author supplements the son’s communicative superiority to the prophets with the superiority of God’s having put his son in the position of an heir, such as the prophets were not.  “Of all things” grows out of God’s having created and thereby owning all that exists, and thus maximizes the son’s inheritance.[35]

So we find in Heb. 1:2 that another reason for God’s revelation to us revelation to us of Jesus as the Son of God is to show us what the Father has in store for us throughout eternity: He means to restore us to what Adam and Eve were like before their fall into sin.

In the Son as heir, we see the greatness, the magnanimity of the Father toward us.

Jesus is God’s unique Son by nature, while the believer’s sonship is by grace.  Thus, only God the Son can teach adopted sons who the Father is and how to relate to the Father, in humility and submission (e.g. Phil. 2:5-11).

Williams writes “The Son as Son is eternally subject to the Father yet without in any way disaffirming His essential deity.”[36]

The Son, as God, has had the same glory as the Father has, from all eternity (John 17:5).  But in choosing to come to earth to reveal the Father to humanity and to bring salvation to us by living a sinless, perfect life to God on our behalf (John 17:1-2), the Son, along with the Father seeks to glorify us as well (John 17:22; cf. 2 Cor. 3:7-18)!

A few additional points:  First, it must be emphasized that for the sake of people, Jesus was declared to be the Son of God (cf. Luke 1:35; 3:22; Rom. 1:4).

And such declaration became personal revelation, perceived by faith among those who believed in Him (e.g. John the Baptist, Andrew, Phillip and Nathanael in John 1:35-49), all of whom came to this realization through our Lord’s nature, words and actions.

The same can be said of Him later in His ministry (Mt. 14:33).  Such revelation is perceived by faith born directly from God (Mt. 16:13-17).

It is also perceived through His word (John 5:39; 20:31), through our Lord’s own resurrection (Rom. 1:4), and through the witness of the Holy Spirit (John 15:26; 1 Cor. 12:3; 1 John 5:7-8).

What is the significance of our Lord’s deity?  Grudem holds that only One who was infinite (and sinless) could bear the infinitely serious penalty for man’s sin; finite and sinful man could never qualify do this.[37]

Secondly, the Bible has already made clear that salvation is from the Lord (Jonah 2:9).

Third, only One who was truly and fully God could be the one mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5), bringing him back to God.  And finally, only God the Son manifest could truly reveal the invisible God to us (John 14:9).

Gregory of Nyssa[38] wrote,

God’s transcendent power is not so much displayed in the vastness of the heavens, or the luster of the stars, or the orderly arrangement of the universe, or His perpetual oversight of it, as in His condescension to our weak nature… We marvel at the way the Godhead was entwined in human nature and, while becoming man, did not cease to be God.[39]

 

A Summary of the Nature of Jesus: God and Man

 

The OT prophesied our Lord’s two-fold nature as God and Man (e.g. Is. 7:14; 9:6; Ps. 2:1-9; 110:1; Micah 5:2).

In the prologue of John’s gospel, it is the Logos who becomes flesh – the union of His divine and human nature in the incarnation – viewed as God and Man among us (1:1-18).

Luke tells us that when Jesus was born, “the holy child shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 2:35).[40]

Jesus was already the Son of God from all eternity, but according to prophecy, He would also take upon Himself humanity (e.g. Is. 7:14; 9:6).  And yet, in this same passage, Gabriel tells Mary to name Him Jesus.  He is one Person!

Likewise, in the infancy narrative in Matthew (1:18-23), Jesus is one Person, with two distinct natures being perfectly united (not mixed) – and this, to “save His people from their sins” (v.21).

At the very outset of his gospel, Mark announces that Jesus is “the Son of God” (1:1) and yet, the very first reference to Him is not in His deity, but in His humanity – and it is submitting Himself to the lowly, humbling act of baptism (v.10)!

Paul reinforces this substantially in the NT (e.g. Rom. 1:3-4; 8:3; 9:5; 1 Cor. 2:8; Phil. 2:6-8; Col. 1:15-20; 1 Tim. 2:5; 3:6).  The writer of Hebrews adds to Jesus as both God and Man (1:2; 2:14; 4:14-16; 9:14).

But perhaps the strongest statement of all in Scripture comes from Jesus Himself in John 5, where He is plainly Man (especially before the religious leaders).

However, He continually emphasizes His deity, giving seven or eight qualities about Himself that the religious leaders well-understood belonged to God alone.

On the other hand, in the midst of His dialogue with those religious leaders, Jesus also suddenly declares that “He is the Son of Man” (John 5:27; cf. Dan. 7:24).

Early Church theologians have described our Lord’s nature succinctly, as they have seen Him be described and describe Himself in John 11, for example, as one Person with two natures.  He is both God and Man.

Pope Leo I, who served as pope from 440-461, described Jesus this way and held that each form of Jesus as God and human “carries on its proper activities in communion with the other.”[41]

Early Church father Gregory Nazianzen put it this way:

If one should hypothesize that Jesus Christ is two persons, one would expect him to say of himselves, “we,” but this never occurs.  The Son is “I,” the Godhead is “we.”  In the Son’s dialogue with the Father, there is a clear sense of “I.”[42]

The Emperor Marcian called for a Church council to settle once and-for-all the issue of Christ’s nature at the Council of Chalcedon, in 451.  It adopted the creed below, as a response to certain heretical views concerning the nature of Christ.

It established the orthodox view that Christ has two natures (human and divine) that are unified in one person.  Theologian and Church historian Philip Schaff has a very helpful explanation of the difference between nature and person:

Nature or subsistence is the totality of powers and qualities which constitute a being; person is the Ego, the self-conscious, self-asserting, and acting subject.  There is no person without nature, but there may be nature without person (as in irrational beings). The Church doctrine distinguishes in the Holy Trinity three persons (though not in the ordinary human sense of the word) in one divine nature or substance which they have in common; in its Christology it teaches, conversely, two natures in one person (in the usual sense of person) which pervades both.[43]

Let’s return now to the Creed:

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.

Thus, Jesus is known in theology as theandropos – the God-Man – the single person being undivided.[44]

One thing from this creed that has troubled Protestants is the description of Mary as the “Mother of God.”  However, we should note carefully the words that follow that title: “according to the Manhood.”

The original statement, written in Greek, has the word theotokos, or “bearer of God” – not in the sense of giving birth to God, but in the sense of giving birth to the incarnate Son.

John of Damascus (676-749)[45] wrote,

We do not say that God was born of her in the sense that the divinity of the Word has its beginning of being from her, but in the sense that God the Word himself… did in the last days, for our salvation to dwell in her womb.[46]

Thus, in a grand, sermonic style, Oden writes,

He is paradoxically “before Abraham” yet “born in a manger,” “suffered under Pontius Pilate” yet “the same yesterday, today, and forever.”  The one who upholds all things by the word of his power is the same one who grows in the womb of Mary. He who knows all from the foundation of the world declares as man that he does not know the day or hour of judgment. He who created all has nowhere to lay his head. He from whose hand comes all things is the same one who agonized in the garden. The eternal One who cannot change or suffer prays that the cup might pass from him.  The eternal One who is unlimited in power suffers and dies. The one who was crucified and buried is the same one in whom the eternal life of God remains and works.[47]

One of the most important questions we could ask, pertaining to His nature as God and man is this: when Jesus died on the cross, who died — God or man?  The best answer to that question is that the God-man “according to His humanity” suffered and died.

This is one of the great mysteries of the Godhead: perfect union with His divine and human nature, and yet, God cannot die; he cannot divorce Himself from Himself through death.

At the same time, however, sinless blood had to have been shed for the salvation of the human race. And only perfect Man could shed His blood to atone for man’s guilt.

Nevertheless, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Cor. 5:19; cf. Col. 2:9).

In the incarnation, there was no subtraction of deity – only an addition of humanity.  Athanasius writes of Jesus as One Person with two distinct natures, perfectly united — not mixed:

The union is permeant[48] that readers of Scripture cannot always easily separate out what Christ says of himself as God and what he says of himself as human.  When the Scripture student keeps clearly in mind that though divine this one is human and though human this one is divine, then the Scripture makes sense and each narrative unfolds plausibly.[49]

Augustine wrote that “Man was added to Him, God not lost to Him” and that “He emptied Himself not by losing what He was, but by taking to Him what He was not.”[50]

2) Though the above doctrine is not easy to understand for us humans, especially since the incarnation of our Lord is entirely unique in human history, earlier in Church history orthodox Christianity was plagued with various heresies about the Person of Jesus with respect to the Incarnation.

3) For example, in the fifth century, Eutyches (Eutychianism) taught a mingling of the two natures of Jesus, so that the human nature was absorbed by the divine.  He held that Jesus was of two natures before the union, but after the union one nature.

4) It was at the Council of Chalcedon (451) where the Church declared Jesus to be “perfect in Godhead and perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man…to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly and unchangeably.”

5) Opponents of Chalcedon came to be called Monophysites, or those who held to one nature of Christ – His divinity alone.  This heresy survives today among Syrian Jacobites, Coptic and Ethiopian churches and some Armenian churches.

Why would this be heretical?  First, to understand the human nature of Jesus as absorbed into His deity would mean that He was not really and truly man.

Thus, He could not be the ultimate atonement for sin – the shedding of a man’s blood as a substitute for our own sins – called propitiation (Rom. 3:23-25; Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10; cf. 1 Cor. 5:7; 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 9:14, 28; 1 Pet. 1:16).

Salvation can only come from God, because He alone has the ability to grant salvation – and only to those who repent of their sin.

But in His divine justice, salvation must also come from man, for “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22).

This is why it was absolutely essential that Jesus never give in to the temptation to sin; had He sinned, our salvation would have been impossible, because God had no other plan.  No wonder the devil attacked Him so viciously.

Furthermore, without Jesus’ humanity, there can be no mediator “between God and man, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5) – to accomplish our salvation.

6) Grudem is extremely helpful and insightful in pointing out how significant it is that orthodox Christianity hold to the essentials of the faith over against heretics.

This is especially the case with respect to the deity of the Son of God: he notes that the Unitarians in early American history gave up full belief in the deity of our Lord and immediately drifted from the Christian faith, leading others into heresy and deception.[51]

At the same time, Paul tells us in 1 Tim. 2:5-6 that “there is one God, and one mediator also between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all.”

Once again, this is why we say that the God-man “according to His humanity” suffered and died.

 

[1] Thomas C. Oden, Systematic Theology: Volume Two: The Word of Life (Peabody: Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008), 2.

[2] Oden, op. cit., 6.

[3] Fritz Rienecker, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), 217.  Hereafter abbreviated as LKGNT.

[4] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, Revised: The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 102.

[5] Morris, op. cit.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., 104.

[8] Ibid., 104-105.

[9] R. Laird Harris, Gleason J. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, “Almah,” in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Volume 2 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 672.

[10] Morris, 101.

[11]J. Rodman Williams, Renewal Theology, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), 305.

[12]Williams, op. cit.

[13]James Montgomery Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 289.

[14] Boice, op. cit., 288.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid., 287.

[17] Williams, 344.

[18] Ibid, 347, footnote 205.

[19] R. W. A. Letham, “Incarnation,” in New Dictionary of Theology, edited by Sinclair Ferguson & David F. Wright (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 333.  Hereafter cited as NDT.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Williams, 334.

[22] NDT, 334.

[23] Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993), 229.

[24] Williams, 337-338.

[25] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 560.

[26] Grudem, op. cit., 561.

[27] Ibid, 559-560.

[28] Ibid, 561.

[29] Ibid., footnote 44.

[30] Robert H. Gundry, Commentary on Hebrews, Kindle ed., (Baker Academic, 2011), loc 120 of 2552.

[31] John Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel According to John, trans. William Pringle (Baker Book House, 2005), 55.

[32] William Barclay, The Gospel of John, vol. 1, revised ed., (Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press, 1982), 74.

[33] This translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek was done by Jewish scribes living in Greek-speaking Alexandria, Egypt and used by Jews living in Israel during Jesus’ time.

 

[34] F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews: The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 49.

[35] Gundry, op. cit., loc. 128 of 2552

[36]Williams, 323.

[37]Grudem, 553.

[38] Gregory (335-395) was a bishop in Nyssa (in the region of Cappadocia, in the modern-day nation of Turkey) and a theologian and philosopher and one of the three great Cappadocian Fathers, along with Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nazianzus – highly regarded especially in the Easter Orthodox Church as the leading theologians and Church leaders of their time and of all of Church history.  Gregory made significant contributions theologically to the doctrine of the Trinity and to the Nicene Creed.  On the other hand, Gregory argued for universalism – the teaching that eventually, all will be saved – even those in hell.  He even went so far as to argue that even demons will be saved and redeemed, misusing Phil. 2:10; 1 Cor. 15:28 and taking them out of their context.

[39] Thomas C. Oden, Systematic Theology, Volume Two: The Word of Life (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008), 85.

[40] Italics mine.

[41] Mark A. Noll, Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1997), 75.

[42] Oden, op. cit., 169.

[43] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 3 (Peabody, Mass: 2002), 751.

[44] Oden. 166.

[45] John was a Syrian monk and theologian, who spent the later years of his life in a monastery in Bethlehem.  He was directly involved in the Iconoclastic controversy, arguing compellingly in support of the use of icons for worship – especially that one must never worship the icon, but use it as a means to worship the reality (e.g., the icon of Jesus pointed the people to worship Him, but gave them a physical, visible representation of Him.  The vigorous challenge to this came from Leo III, the Emperor, who sought to eliminate icons, in support of the Second Commandment, Ex. 20:4-5).

[46] Oden, 156.

[47] Ibid, 171.

[48] The word means to “pervade”; to spread or spreading throughout.

[49] Oden, op. cit., 169.

[50] Augustine, Homilies on the Gospel of John, 8.3; 17.16.

[51]Ibid., 554.

There is no book in existence like the Bible, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t difficult verses or passages in Scripture.

When we consider that the Bible was written over the course of 1400-1500 years, in three continents and in primarily two languages (Hebrew and Greek) — beginning 3,000 years ago — we must allow for the need to understand it in its historical, cultural and linguistic setting.

A short while ago, I was reading Ex. 9 and ran into a Bible difficulty — one that critics could (and have) easily charge is a contradiction.  In short, it appears from Ex. 9:1-7 that every beast in Egypt was destroyed through pestilence.

However, we find in Ex. 9:8-19 that this was not the case — that not all livestock was indeed destroyed — despite the fact that Moses plainly states in 9:6 that “all of the livestock in Egypt died.”

So, do we have a contradiction in Ex. 9 — thus proving that the Bible has errors?

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                                 Taking Figurative Language Literally

 

The Literal Interpretation Principle in biblical interpretation (called hermeneutics — the art and science of sound biblical interpretation) does not mean that we woodenly take every word in the Bible literally.

Instead, we approach it as we would any other book — taking figurative phrases, hyperbole (exaggeration to make a point), poetic personifications, and other figures of speech into account in our interpretation.

For example, we find the Hebrew word “all” in describing the death of the livestock in Yahweh’s judgment on Egypt in Ex. 9:1-7, but in Ex. 9:8-19, we discover that not “all” of that livestock did in fact perish.  Is there a contradiction here?

There is, if we in our age insist upon a literal interpretation – while forgetting that we’re responsible to interpret Scripture in its literary, cultural and historical context.

It is vital to keep in mind that the Hebrew culture made extensive use of hyperbole to make a dramatic point — seen even in Jesus’ teaching (e.g. Mt. 5:29-30; 10:34-37; Luke 14:26).

That being the case, how can we know when to take a word literally or figuratively?  One primary way is to look for clues in the text itself, in order to come to a sound interpretation of the word or verse in question.

For example, going back to our passage in Ex. 9, we see Yahweh’s own clue in v.16, where He makes it clear that in His mercy, He has not destroyed all of the Egyptians.

While He makes no mention of cattle, it’s clear that they are also spared, since He certainly cares for the livestock He Himself created, and since He knows man depends upon that livestock.

Thus, we can come to the accurate conclusion that “all” in Ex. 9:3-6 does not mean each and every one, but rather, a substantial number of livestock died in the plague – enough to make the dramatic, cumulative effect Yahweh intended upon Pharaoh and the Egyptian people (cf. Ex. 10:7).

Again, this principle can be seen in Ex. 9:25, where the word “all” (used twice) and “every” (also used twice) appears in describing the comprehensive destruction of plants and trees from the intense hail (9:22-26).

But that Moses did not intend these two terms in the literal sense can be understood in Ex. 10:5, where Yahweh plainly states that not every plant or tree was destroyed in the hail judgment.

Whenever we come to a difficult verse in Scripture, we must exercise the sound discipline of interpreting Scripture in its historical, cultural and literary context and resist the urge to interpret it in our historical, cultural and literary context.

If we become lazy and do not make the effort described above, we will inevitably come to the wrong conclusion — something people or critics do routinely, causing unnecessary confusion and error.

 

Dear Kenya Mission Partners and Fellow Co-laborers with Christ,

 

I rejoice to give our Lord the glory for an extraordinarily successful time of ministry in Siaya, Kenya – in the church I preached and ministered in, and with the 55 pastors I was privileged to teach and minister to for six days – totaling about 51 hours of ministry in seven days!

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In fact, it occurred to me that I just about preached 45 sermons in seven days (the rest of the time listening to testimony and answering questions).

What a whirlwind!  But after giving the Lord the glory, I just cannot stop thanking you for your partnership (koinonia) – some in prayer, some financially – and many in both areas.

Here are some bullet points of praise and gratitude for me:

  • Nothing unusual happened to Maureen this time – before or after my trip!
  • I never got sick – not even so much as a cold – before, during or even now, one week after I finished my ministry.
  • I had faith for the Lord to grant me the stamina to teach and minister successfully for those many, long hours – most of them standing on hard cement during my teaching (recall that Danny and I always share the teaching load, but he could not make this trip).
  • God did grant me His strength, and far more: I ministered with great joy, energy and power, and still out-danced (with better rhythm) most of the younger men and women during praise and worship times (one of many reasons I tell them, “I am Kenyan!”)! Ha-ha.
  • With all the intensive teaching — covering so many varied and essential topics (many of them culturally-sensitive), we never had one misunderstanding. There were no communication issues and no disagreements.  This can only be the blessing of God, rooted in prayer.
  • The rejoicing, the growth, the grounding, the gratitude – all of these were palpable and overflowing.
  • The unplanned, in-depth teaching on heaven for the pastors, which came about simply from a question one of them had about something to do with Heaven.

That led me spontaneously to launch into teaching on how much the Bible really does have to say about heaven, and how that impacts us even now.

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Their eyes were riveted and you could hear the proverbial “pin drop” in the room.  The pastors said they had never been taught any of these things, and couldn’t wait to learn more.  I’ve since emailed them my entire teaching on Heaven.

And so, my friends, my heart remains full and joyful for and to you and our Lord.  The pastors emphasized repeatedly to me, “you have no idea how much fruit you and Pastor Daniel are bearing in our region!”

Those are words I want to encourage you with, as an integral part of my Kenya team.  It can truly and accurately be said that we are having a great impact for our Lord in that very needy region of Kenya and Africa.

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Thank you again, so much (Erokamano ahinya!).  And, I am so joyful/happy (amor ahinya)!

 

Brad

Dear Kenya Prayer and Financial Team,

It seems to me that I’m more excited about all I have to share with you in this report than with any of my previous reports.

So first, I’ll share with you some key feedback I received throughout the week, and then I’ll share with you about the most powerful day of all in my seven full days of ministry (a total of 56 hours of teaching and ministry!) – this past Thursday.

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The Feedback: What joy it brings me to report to you so much progress in the gospel for Siaya County and beyond, as I hear face-to-face from the pastors about how this ongoing mission is bearing exponential fruit in this most ripe region for true, lasting renewal and revival.

For example, I heard many times from many of the pastors these words: “you have no idea how much fruit your ministry is bearing in, through and beyond us; all of our lives are being changed!”

Congregations continually remark to their pastors with astonishment at how vastly their preaching has improved, and how they’re really opening up God’s Word to them.

In the best sense of the term, people in the congregations are referring to their pastors as “biblical scholars,” because their depth of understanding of God’s Word has increased so much.

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Equally importantly, however, is the increased humility of these pastors; equally important is their growth in Christ-like character, in genuine concern for their people and for the lost; equally important is their reverence for God, for His Word, and their growth in experiential knowledge of the true nature of God – especially of the Father.

All of these things are what I’ve witnessed and heard from numerous sources – publicly and privately.

And once again, this is a partnership among you and me.  I correctly and biblically stress that none of this happens apart from this team!

I know it pleases God that we all have come together for this mission, and from first-hand experience, I can tell you that these men and women deserve our best – and they’re getting it!

Thursday Ministry: First, the presence and power of God (and with what I’m about to share, I give the glory to the Lord; Jesus alone is the healer): I had been praying earnestly (you joining me) for some time before I got here for God to release His power to and for the people, who just don’t have much money for doctors or for medicine.

Thursday was the day He released the most of His power!  We had an unusually mighty pre-conference prayer and worship time, and as I’ve become accustomed to do, I take several minutes on my knees in a corner, behind the table we use to teach from, away from the view of the people.

I wait on God for His wisdom and power, always thinking about Is. 40:27-31.  But this time, the second I hit my knees, I could “see” the words, “the power of God!”  And right away, I also had a surge of faith for healings.

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I waited until our time of prayer and worship was done, announced what I sensed the Lord wanted to do, and began walking up and down the aisle, proclaiming it boldly and also quoting 1 Cor. 2:4-5.

After that, I had the sense the Lord wanted to heal people with gum disease – something I don’t recall ever praying for concerning anyone.  I asked if anyone there had gum disease, and probably 7-8 hands shot up, immediately.

Everyone was healed, and it was instant!  Two men in particular stand out to me, but I’ll be brief: both had lost several teeth because of this disease; one at least had enough money to see a dentist in Nairobi, and the dentist told him that what he had was incurable.

Neither man had been able to drink hot tea for several years, and the pain for the other man was so severe that somehow, his entire body was effected.  The pain for both men was also enough that they almost did not come to the meeting that day.

After I prayed, both men were first in line for our tea break!  Of course, they drank the hot tea for the first time in years and they were certainly rejoicing!  A day later I asked both how they were doing – no pain at all.

I also had a word that God wanted to heal eyesight.  One very godly woman who always sat in the back said she just could not see or read what I had been writing all week on the White Board.

She would simply ask her friend sitting next to her what I had written and then write it down in her notes.

But now, she said she could see the writing!  However, by this time the power was out (which it is 50% of the time anyway), so it was dark – all the more so since it was very cloudy outside and about to rain.

It almost seemed mean or unkind of me, but I had to make sure of this, so I held up my hand anyway next to the board, with three fingers raised.  I asked her to tell me how many fingers I was holding up, and she immediately got it right!

I would have had a hard time seeing what she saw from the back of the room!  I then closed my fist, and held up one finger and asked how many fingers I was holding up.  It took her a few more seconds this time, but sure enough, she answered correctly.

There were many other healings that took place; I felt the need afterward to take a good amount of time to allow the people to give testimony, since I knew it would build their faith and mine.

We spent at least an hour on this, maybe more.  I had actually had another word about God wanting to heal broken hearts.

One young woman – you could see her leadership and anointing and character – shared how she had been pushed out of leadership in a previous church.  There were tears in her eyes, and she spoke with emotional pain and difficulty through those tears.

We know that God uses all things for His purposes, so I told her of my own very similar and recent experience.  Many others there had not heard of my testimony and they were pretty amazed and ministered to.

After I finished my own story (meant to encourage her), this young woman was very, very encouraged, and I spoke faith into her: I told her how much of an anointing that I could see was/is on her life, and that if I were a woman, I would follow her – and that aside from that hypothetical — I would hope to receive from her someday.

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This all resulted in more rejoicing from the people, because life is hard in Siaya!  We then went into all of our teaching for the rest of the day – much more in-depth study in how to interpret and apply the Parables of Jesus, how to do the same with the Psalms, and how to accurately interpret Scripture as a whole.

All of this was so life-giving!  I also taught them how to pray through God’s Word (prayer has always been a very strong emphasis in my teaching with the pastors), and we covered so many other topics as well.

I answered some difficult theological topics and a few other matters which were quite delicate – all the more so – considering cultural differences.

I was amazed at the wisdom given to me by the Holy Spirit to navigate these things – another clear example of answered prayer from all of us!

So once again, thank you all!  I am filled; “I am very happy” (amor ahinya in Luo)!

Nyasaye oguedhi (the Lord bless you – as they say – “so much!”)!

 

Brad