It is amazing how for so many years we can devote ourselves to something so passionately. Twenty years ago, I was living in a rural area around 200km (125 miles) north of our state’s capital. We were publishing articles in the local newspaper every month sharing with the local community our version of the gospel. This attracted the attention of the Christian groups in the area who offered plenty of advice on what I should write about to be more effective. Some people eagerly awaited the publication to read my article. The opinions shared with me from Christians was always from the point of view of how they understood the Scriptures. It was a far cry from what I believe now. Something I was so passionate about was so far off the mark of Truth that I found was clearly presented in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, it has been a good lesson to show how divided the Christian community is in this country. The truth is all over the place. No wonder the general community is so confused about the gospel with many disregarding it altogether.
As I began to discover the significance of the Incarnation, I realised how much the Divinity of Jesus Christ has been severely eroded. Though many Christians would readily agree Jesus Christ is God, very few fully understand the enormous significance of such a statement. The problem I face quite often when trying to show the significance of the Incarnation is the refusal to really grasp what Scripture clearly testifies. We have been so conditioned to believe a truth that does not encompass the whole scope of Scripture that we become blind to the key passages in the Bible that clearly shows an independent truth that is entirely different ie the Truth that speaks for itself. The kind of God we have taken for granted is completely different to God who presented Himself to Israel as the Man, Jesus Christ. God has spoken as this Man but many Christians are not listening to Him and have opted to listen to something else from someone who does not even exist. Jesus Christ is everything the Father is, except Father. If any claim is made regarding the Father’s nature and character that it is not disclosed in the nature and character of the Son, is a false claim. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him (Matt 11.27). This very declaration of Jesus Christ places all knowledge of God fairly and squarely within His own Being. An Apostolic Father by the name of Irenaeus said, It takes God to know God and without God, God cannot be known. Therefore it is only God who can teach. Thus, the truth of God displayed in very Person of Jesus Christ flows out of His Being through His actions and His words. This makes Jesus Christ’s actions and words a precise reflection of the nature and character of the Triune God.
If we are all blind and confused about who God truly is and God wants to make Himself known, surely He would take the necessary steps to make the knowledge of Himself clear to all in Person. This is what the New Testament is all about. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (or “in us”). The Word, Jesus Christ, took on our human form. God was able to speak on His own behalf as this Person, from the bosom of the Father, making Him known. Speaking and acting as this Man, Jesus Christ is able to reveal the things of God in purely human terms at a level all human beings are able to grasp. Witnesses to this event wrote it down and it has been handed down to us so that we can stand where they stood and see what they saw, ie the God of the universe. If Jesus Christ is truly God then we have a precise meeting point between humanity and God. If Jesus is truly God then what is disclosed through His Person and work provides us with an invariant and fixed foundation for how we understand the ways and works of God. God cannot and must not be manipulated to fit into one’s own ideas. If we do so, then the image presented in Jesus Christ changes into something He is not, which is regulated by human theories constructed in our frail and limited minds. If we trust Jesus Christ is everything He claimed Himself to be, then we can trust that He is true to the nature and character He presents to us. We can trust He is not holding out on us. We can trust that what we see is the entire picture of who God is, what He can do, what became of Him and what became of us in Him. If Jesus Christ is truly God, then there are even greater implications. You see, in the ancient world, to declare Jesus Christ, this human being, is “God” was of such colossal consequence which are alluded to in Colossians 1.15-17.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
In the ancient mind, “God” is the origin of all things. He is the One who caused the whole of the creation, visible and invisible, to come into existence. When the Apostles made their way into the ancient world, the terms they were using regarding Jesus Christ meant He is the Origin of all things and He is the One who caused it all to be. In Athens, their Greek poets said, according to Paul in Acts 17, In Him, we live, move and have our being. So Paul was implicating Jesus Christ as the One in whom we live, move and have our being. Paul was declaring to the Greeks in Athens you live, move and have your being in Jesus Christ. The Creator has now come to us as one of His creatures. Jesus Christ was the One from before creation and He is the One in whom all things hold together. To take this down to a personal level, this is how the disciples conceived Jesus Christ: The One who holds me together as well as the entire Universe is standing before me. The One who is the precise representation of the Father’s being upholding all things by His powerful word (Heb. 1.3) is standing before me.
Therefore, in the Incarnation the very flesh of Jesus Christ united Himself with all flesh. Because all flesh is united with the flesh of Jesus Christ, the will of the Father, the will of Jesus Christ is united to the will of His humanity. Thus the will of His humanity is united to our dark, depraved and fallen will. In which case, He truly becomes the High Priest for all humanity, the One Mediator between God and Man. As His own humanity waged war with His divinity, the will of the flesh was bent back to the way it ought to be in the Person and work of Jesus Christ and to conform to the will of God.
We need to step back for a minute to truly see what was going on as we witness His life in the testimony of the Gospels. Here is this man, Jesus Christ, who grew up as a Nazarene, Son of a carpenter. He comes out of nowhere and rises up within the Jewish elite and declares Himself to be God. His testimony is supported by the miracles He performed which indeed showed He had in Him the power of God. But he defied the Jewish institutions. The Sermon on the Mount is about Jesus Christ who is God giving an exegesis of His own Law making every Pharisee and every zealous Jew appear to fall far short of its demands. He made a mockery of the high moral expectations demanded of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and small is the gate narrow is the road to life with very few finding it he said. But Jesus Christ is on the narrow path! He knows where it is and He is walking on it. He healed on the Sabbath which was considered breaking the code of conduct and should demand capital punishment. He dined with the prostitutes and tax collectors and openly and publicly ate with them. Rather than conform to the will of the establishment, Jesus Christ was in sync with the will of His Father. In particular, in the Gospel of John we find that as His miracles became more and more compelling, so did the determination of the leaders of the Jews to have Him killed. The Jews plotted and sought the help of the Gentiles to have Jesus Christ punished for His crimes.
In mainstream evangelicalism there is the perception that the Father is somewhat different in nature and character to Jesus Christ. In most cases we find Sovereign will overrides Sovereign love. Rather than seeing the will of God as fully disclosed in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, God’s will is seen as something that is inscrutable and hidden in the Father. There is a dark side to God that exists behind the back of Jesus Christ and is different in nature and character. In John 14.8 Phillip asks Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus’ response makes it very clear that when we know Him, His nature and character disclosed in Him, then we have truly seen the Father where the Person of the Father is mirrored in the Son.
John 14.9-11: Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.
If we look to Matt. 11.28-30 Jesus Himself declares His own nature in this way:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
If this is the true nature and character of Jesus Christ and when we see Him in this way, then this is precisely how we see the Father. How can the gentleness of the Father ever punish the Son? How can such a heavy load of punishment ever be placed on the Only-Begotten? How can the Father ever abandon the Son in His most desperate hour of need? It is not the Father who punishes Jesus. It is humanity who punishes Him. Isaiah 53 plainly tells us in verse 3 that He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. In verse 4b, the irony of this verse is startling when it says yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. Who was it that had Jesus handed over to the Gentiles but the Jewish Sanhedrin? Who was it that demanded Jesus be given the death sentence by crucifixion? The Jewish community. Who was it that had Jesus whipped and beaten? The Gentile ruler, Pilate. Who was it that scourged and beat Him? The Roman soldiers. Who was it that had Jesus formally sentenced to crucifixion? The Gentile ruler, Pilate. Who was it that nailed Him to the Cross? The Roman soldiers. Why? Because this man dared to make Himself equal with God. The most grievous sin undertaken by the Jews and the Gentiles was their killing of God and Isaiah shows us the means it was carried out. In Acts 2.23, Peter says This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. If it were true that it was the Father who had His Son crucified, then why did Peter say otherwise?
Dr Baxter Kruger in his book, Jesus and the Undoing of Adam does an outstanding exegesis on Psalm 22. When Jesus was on the Cross he cried out in verse 1, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? This verse is the proof-text used by evangelicals to prove the Father was so horrified by the state of Jesus Christ that He turned away from Him. To truly understand what Jesus was alluding to in His cry of dereliction, the whole of the Psalm must be read to understand the first verse in context. Jesus was dying and was hardly able to recite the whole Psalm. This Psalm gives us an amazing insight into the promise that was to come. It is obvious in our 20/20 hindsight that it shows us the event of the crucifixion. As in Isaiah it clearly shows us that it is the people that despise Jesus and not the Father in v. 6-8. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. “He trusts in the Lord,” they say, “let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.” Then we move down to v. 24 For he (the Father) has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. Though the verse begins with that sense of perceived abandonment by those who watched the crucifixion event, His own despair as He is executed, Jesus knew His Father had not abandoned Him nor did He hide His face. It was humanity that abandoned Him. Jesus’ own prediction foretells who it is that killed him, Matt. 16.21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. John 16.31-32 “Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone.Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.
The bond of love between the Father and the Son was and can never be broken. The union and communion between the Father and Son remained intact throughout His whole life. In Colossians 1, Hebrews 1 and John 1 there is not only a bond of union and communion between Father and Son but also between the divinity and the humanity of fallen Adam He assumed at the Incarnation. All things that consist and are held together in the Eternal Word are now held together in the Word who has come to us as Man, Jesus Christ. While we were far away from God, Jesus Christ came, united Himself to us and lived the life we ought to have lived for our sake and on our behalf. When Jesus was born, the whole of the human race was united to Him was now reborn in Him. In this way, ordinary human beings could now tolerate the absolute presence of God. If we say human beings cannot tolerate the absolute presence of God, then we also say Jesus is not God. John chapter 3 is Jesus explaining to Nicodemus that the only way people can see the Kingdom of God is for the King of the entire universe to appear to them. In Jewish theology, the Kingdom of God and the King were synonymous. Nicodemus did not realise that the Person standing before him was Yahweh. The Kingdom of God has now appeared and humanity is now born from above. When we see the passage in this context, it changes the context of the whole story.
If the whole of the universe and everything that is contained in it consists and is held together in Jesus Christ. What happens if He dies? 2Cor. 5.14-15 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. What happens when He rose from the dead? 1Cor. 15.21-22 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. What Paul definitively states is as the impact of the sin of Adam was universal, so the impact of the death of Christ was also universal. In addition the resurrection of Jesus Christ was also universal in its impact on the human race. The work of God in Jesus Christ is far greater than the work of Adam and the subsequent condemnation of all humanity Rom. 5.18-19 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.
What must we do? We must share the Good News that God has come! In particular that God has come in Person as this Man Jesus Christ! He is the One that clears up all the misunderstandings and confusions about the true nature and character of God! This is the only time in the whole of human history that God has appeared to us. When He appeared we have an expression of the ways and works of God carried out in Person. This is who God is. Change your mind about God and place your trust in this Man, Jesus Christ. He has taken away the sin of the world and made it so that God can clearly be known. Read the Scriptures and see the evidence then know for yourselves that your whole life is wrapped in Jesus Christ and the loving kindness of God has been poured into your heart. Trust He is already speaking to you and let Him teach you.