Day 7: Bad Views of Jesus’ Divinity

Stained Glass Depicting Jesus Christ

Yesterday, we examined how Jesus was fully divine. He is, as Isaiah prophesied, Mighty God (Is 9:6). Yet, as we saw earlier, Jesus is also fully human. Trying to wrap our minds around the very essence of Jesus as both Jesus and God quickly seems like an impossible task, yet God calls us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength!

As difficult as it may seem to comprehend the person of Jesus, there are times when certain ideas about him can lead us astray. There are bad views of Jesus’ divinity. Today, we’ll theologically nerd out to see how influential Christians have tried to reconcile Jesus’ humanity and divinity in ways that just don’t quite get it right. In doing so, we’ll receive a guide to keep us closer to who Jesus really is.

Apollinarianism

Apollinaris (315–390) taught that Jesus had a human body but not a human mind or spirit. Instead, Jesus’ mind and spirit were the divine nature of the Son of God while his body remained human. So, Jesus’ body was human but his mind was divine.

The problem with this view is that Apollinaris believed only our human body needs salvation, not our minds. Christ’s redemptive work is not only for our bodies but also for our minds. Hebrews tells us that Jesus, “had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people (Hb 2:17, emphasis added).”

Jesus needed to be truly and fully human in every respect to save us, which includes his mind!

Nestorianism

Nestorius (386–450) taught that Jesus was two separate people, a human person and a divine person, in one body. In a way, the physical Jesus was possessed by the divine Jesus.

The problem with this view is that scripture never refers to Jesus as anyone more than a single person. It speaks of him, not they. We never see dialogue, interaction, conflict, or agreement with the “two persons” of Jesus anywhere in the Bible. Never do we see the Gospel writers telling us that Jesus did one action in his human nature and another action in his divine nature as though they were to separate identities.

Even though Jesus has two natures, he is still one person.

Monophysitism

Eutyches (378–454) taught that Jesus only had one nature, which was a mixture of his human and divine natures. God placed Jesus’ two natures into a cosmic blender and the result was Jesus’ “new” nature. An example he used was placing a drop of ink in a bowl of water. The result is not fully ink nor fully water, but a new mixture of the two.

The problem with this view is that Jesus is neither fully human nor fully God. If Jesus is neither fully human nor fully God, then (as with Apollinarianism) he could not truly represent humanity as a man nor could he earn salvation for us as God.

REFLECTION

At the end of the day, when it comes to the dual natures of Jesus it may simply be something we’ll never fully grasp! Christians have pondered what if means for Jesus to be fully human and fully divine for ages. Each time a new idea arises, we always come back to the mystery that is uniqueness of Jesus – the fully God, fully human savior of humanity.

Now, if Christians throughout the ages have been thinking about Jesus’ person, what must the disciples must have felt as they came to the slow, growing realization of who Jesus truly is. We’re discussing him hundreds of years removed, but they had access to him face-to-face! Yet, in the end, each one yielded to the paradox of Jesus’ humble majesty in worship.

As reflection, think about each devotion we have gone through so far. How does studying the person and work of Jesus sharpen your understanding of him and enhance your worship of him?

Day 6: Jesus is fully God

Stained Glass Depicting Jesus Christ

 

A couple of days ago we looked at the necessity of Jesus being fully man.  Now we look at the necessity of Jesus being fully God.  Why is this important for our salvation and our understanding of who Jesus is?

Throughout the New Testament there are hundreds of passages that point to Jesus being God, “the LORD”, and the Messiah.  There are at least seven passages that are undeniably pointing to Jesus as the one true God.  These passages include John 1:1; 1:18; 20:28; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8 (quotes Psalm 45:6); and 2 Peter 1:1.

Old Testament passages refer to Christ as being God as well.  Isaiah 9:6 is a familiar one: “For to us a child is born, to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called ‘Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God…'”.

John the Baptist quotes an Old Testament passage (Isaiah 40:3) when he says of Jesus, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (Matthew 3:3).

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR US?
Why is it necessary for us to understand Jesus’ deity? 

If Jesus was not fully God then our salvation would not be attainable.  Jonah 2:9 says that salvation comes from God alone.  No human being, no earthly creature could have carried the weight of the world’s sin.  This was a weight that only God could bear.  No human effort was capable of redeeming humanity.  Only God could pay the ransom necessary for our salvation.  Only one who was fully God could be the mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5), and only one who was fully God could reveal God most fully to his creation (John 14:9).

If Jesus was not fully God then salvation for us would be hopeless.  There would be no Christianity, no church, and no hope for the human race.  But because of God’s great love for us, because of his grace, he took it upon himself to do what only he was capable of doing.  And thus we have hope for freedom, through the works of Christ alone.

REFLECTION:

Spend some time reflecting on God’s great love for you.  He knows you by name.  He has counted your days.  He knows your every thought, why you shed every tear, and what brings you the most joy.

Imagine you were one of Jesus’ original twelve disciples.  Think of what your reaction would have been as you understood more each day of who Jesus actually is.  That you are walking, talking, and interacting with the Creator of the Universe.  What would that have been like?  Would you find it intimidating?  Would you have been scared?  Would there have been things you wanted to hide?  What questions would you have asked him?

Now spend some time talking to the Creator of the Universe.  He hears you.  He wants to speak to you.  Will you let him now?

Day 5: The Cross and Empty Tomb

Stained Glass Depicting Jesus Christ

 

Why did Jesus come to earth in the first place? Jesus himself gives a simple explanation in Luke 19:10 – “to seek and save the lost.” In the Garden, humanity rebelled against God. Ever since, we’ve been separated from him. We’ve existed outside of God’s original design for us – in sin, rebellion, and depravity. There was no way we could fix what we broke. We were trapped in our own sin forever.

But God had other plans.

God loved the world so much that he sent Jesus into it for the expressed purpose of redeeming what was lost in the Fall (Jn 3:16). Saving the lost would prove to be the most difficult aspect of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Saving the lost – you and me – involved an execution on the cross.

But why?

THE CROSS

The importance of the cross cannot be overstated. The justice of God demands a penalty for sin just like our legal system demands punishment for breaking laws. Paul tells us that Jesus paid this divine penalty for us as our “propitiation” (Rm 3:25), a sacrifice that bore God’s wrath in order for us to be view favorably by God.

Paul goes on to explain how God had forgiven sins in the Old Testament without a penalty being paid. This begs the question — how can a just God forgive sin without a penalty? The answer is found in Jesus who came to die and pay the penalty for our sins “to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rm 3:26).”

The cross is where God’s abundant love and perfect justice meet. His love is demonstrated by the fact that he sent his son as a sacrifice, which demonstrates his perfect justice. Without the cross, God is not just. Without the cross, we are not justified.

Isaac Watts captured this thought beautifully in his famous hymn The Wondrous Cross

See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down:
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

But the cross is not the end of the story…

EMPTY TOMB

I was blessed to live in Europe for many years. I loved walking around cities and finding beautiful churches and cathedrals to sit and think in. Over time, you being to notice similarities – the stations of the cross, the pews, the baptismal font, etc. But one thing I noticed has stuck with me. Most of the crosses displayed Jesus during his crucifixion.

The purpose behind it is obvious to me, it is a reminder that Christ died for us. But, that’s only half the story. It’s true  – Jesus was on the cross. But that’s past tense, he was on the cross. He isn’t anymore.

After being placed in the grave, he rose three days later to conquer Satan, sin, and death. Jesus died for us, but he also raised! Without the resurrection, Paul tells us, there’s no point to Christianity. “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain (1Co 15:13–14).”

This is because the resurrection is God’s declaration of approval of Christ’s work of redemption. Without the resurrection, the cross wouldn’t work. Without the work of the cross, as Paul says, then our faith is in vain!

The resurrection wasn’t simply Jesus returning from the dead. Rather, when Jesus left the tomb he inaugurated a radical aspect of God’s plan for salvation. Jesus was the “first fruits” (1Co 15:20, 23) of a new type of human experience and life, a life in which the literal and physical body will be made perfect, no longer subject to weakness, aging, or death. Not only this, but the body is able to live eternally.

Because of the cross, we are reconnected with God through our justification. Because of the resurrection, we are ensured of our reconnection and look forward to the day where we too will be resurrected to exist the way we were created to be – in eternally perfect community with God.

MEDITATION

Think about the lengths to which God went to rescue us. Think about how Jesus has earned for us a new experience of life through his resurrection.

Day 4: The Sinlessness of Jesus

Stained Glass Depicting Jesus Christ

Understanding that Jesus committed no sin is crucial in understanding him as the Messiah and Savior of the world.  The penalty of our sin, the only sacrifice capable of defeating the curse of sin was for a human to live a life completely sinless and die.  The Scriptures tell us that Jesus was completely sinless, although he was tempted by Satan, there was no sin found in him (Hebrews 4:15).

HOW WAS JESUS SINLESS AND COMPLETELY HUMAN?
As discussed in devotion 2, Jesus was conceived through the Holy Spirit and therefore the descent of Adam, our first father, was interrupted.  Jesus was completely human yet was able to exist in a state that we were originally intended to live in.  Before Adam and Eve sinned, they were still completely human, yet had no sin.  This is the same for Jesus.  Because the curse of sin was no flowing through his veins (because of the line of Adam being interrupted in his life), Jesus was able to live just as you and I were originally intended to live.

If Jesus would have sinned during his lifetime he would not have been worthy to carry the weight of the world’s sin on his shoulders.  His crucifixion would have been completely pointless and would not have satisfied the wrath of God nor the curse of sin.  But, because Jesus lived a life completely free from sin, he was able to go to the cross, free humanity from the chains of sin, and defeat death on our behalf.  The proof of Jesus’ sinless life is in the resurrection.  If the curse of sin is death, how can a sinless man stay dead?

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU AND ME?
We have a Savior who came to us.  Our God is the only God who got his hands dirty.  Look at every other religion in the world… which other god lowered himself to become a man, experience what humanity experiences, live a life that you and I could never live, and he did this on our behalf!  Jesus, God made man, did what you and I were incapable of doing.  The debt on our souls was one we had no way of paying, yet God did it for us.  What amazing news!  God got his hands dirty, for us!

REFLECTION
Spend some time reflecting on the person of Christ.  For 33 years Jesus lived on our behalf.  What love he must have for us.  Do you know that God loves you?  Do you understand what Jesus went through for you?  In what ways do you honor him in your life?  In what ways can begin/continue to honor him today?

Jesus lived the life we were originally created to live.  How can we take steps to become more like Christ, not because we need it for salvation, but because we understand that he is worthy of our holiness?

Day 3: Human Emotions

Stained Glass Depicting Jesus Christ

Today, people have little doubts that Jesus was an actual person. Even ardent critics of Christianity believe that a man by the name of Jesus lived in first century Palestine and altered the course of human history forever. It is Jesus divinity, his godhood, that modern critics find so unbelievable.

Oddly enough, that hasn’t always been the case. In fact, historically speaking, just the opposite has been true. Critics long ago would argue that the physical man Jesus never existed, but instead the divine Jesus walked the earth. He was like a ghost, never leaving footprints in the sand as his disciples followed him.

While people today struggle to grasp Jesus’ divinity, long ago people struggled to grasp Jesus’ humanity.

These individuals, the Gnostics, found it inconceivable that God would have anything to do with the physical since they viewed all material as fundamentally flawed.

However, as we see throughout the New Testament, there is no room for a Jesus who is simply spirit. Jesus was a man whose total human experience led him to sympathize with us as our high priest.

JESUS WEPT

The shortest verse in the whole Bible is just two words – Jesus  wept. These two words, found in John 11:35, point out a simple and often overlooked fact about the person of the messiah. Jesus was a man, in a human body, with real human emotions.

As we reflected yesterday, we saw that Jesus was born just like anyone of us. He put his mother through the same nine months of pregnancy that you put your mother through! Not only that, but Jesus also “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom (Lk 2:40, emphasis added).” He most likely attended Jewish schools while learning his father’s trade. In other words, Jesus probably got bored…

We know that Jesus became tired, he was thirsty, and he became hungry. He probably stubbed his toe, needed to bathe, and had days when he wanted to push the snooze button. As a child, he most likely engaged in physical activities like playground games. He experienced happiness and sadness, elation and anger, affection and horror, sympathy and frustration.

In the darkest moment of his life we see that Jesus became too physically weak to carry a piece of his cross (Lk 23:26). On the cross, Jesus experience emotional states that we could never possibly conceive. His body eventually gave out and died after hours of excruciating torture.

In his resurrection, Jesus demonstrated that his existence remained with and in a physical body when he ate with the disciples and allowed them to feel the wounds of his hands. This means that Jesus did not give up his human nature at death, but instead his human nature is permanently united with his divine nature.

All this to say, Jesus experienced life in the same way we do – in a human body with human emotions that he has retained in the resurrection.

HIGH PRIEST

Jesus was not some cold, calculated robot unable to empathize with the ones he was sent to rescue. Quite the contrary, the author of Hebrews declares that, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hb 4:15).”

Had Jesus not been fully human he would not have known through experience what it is like to be “tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Because he has lived life as a man, he can fully sympathize with our experiences.

Jesus knows what it’s like to experience happiness and sadness, elation and anger, affection and horror, sympathy and frustration. More importantly, Jesus knows what it’s like to be tempted. In this way, he acts as our perfect mediator – one who was tempted and can sympathize, but never sinned.

REFLECTION

Reflect on what it means that Jesus experienced life the same way we do. Think about why it is so important to have a high priest who not only mediates on our behalf, but sympathizes with our weaknesses.

What if Jesus was unable to sympathize with our plight? How do we apply Jesus’ humanity to our understanding of forgiveness and grace?

Day 2: Virgin Birth

Stained Glass Depicting Jesus Christ

[18] Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. [19] And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. [20] But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. [21] She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” [22] All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
[23] “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). [24] When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, [25] but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
(Matthew 1:18-25 ESV)

The virgin birth of Christ is essential for Christian doctrine.  It’s through the virgin birth that God is able to unite both humanity and deity in one person.  Through being born of a woman, as a baby, we are able to understand Jesus’ humanity.  Jesus was fully human and was able to experience the same things you and I experience.  Through being conceived of the Holy Spirit rather than through having an “earthly father” we are able to understand Jesus’ deity.  Jesus is fully God and he alone has the power to break the chains of sin.

Because Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, the descent of Adam was interrupted.  That means that the bloodline of Adam, our first father, tainted with sin, was interrupted in Jesus’ conception.  This does not mean that Mary was sinless, as there is no indication of that in Scripture, but rather the work of the Holy Spirit prevented the transmission of her sin nature to Jesus.

WHY IS THE VIRGIN BIRTH IMPORTANT FOR US?
The virgin birth is important for us because it shows us that salvation can only come from the Lord.  In Genesis 3, God promised that the seed of the woman would destroy the serpent.  But it wouldn’t be through human effort that this would happen.  The virgin birth reminds us that salvation cannot be attained through our human efforts but through the work of God himself.  He alone has that power.

Jesus walked this earth for approximately 33 years and experienced the emotions, pain, joy, and sufferings that you and I often experience.  As a human, he was capable of growing tired and weary, hungry and thirsty, becoming sad and happy.  Jesus operated in his humanity, showing us what it’s like to be completely submissive to the Holy Spirit.  Through Jesus’ life we have an example of what perfect communion with God looks like.

It was through Christ’s obedience to the Father that took Jesus to the cross.  It was his life, one perfect human life, that was traded for the freedom of humanity.  The debt that no other human could pay, Jesus paid.

It is through the work of the Holy Spirit that Jesus was conceived, born, lived, died, and resurrected.  It is the work of God alone that saves you and me from the sins that seek to destroy our souls.  The virgin birth reminds us that we cannot attain our own salvation.  No human effort, no amount of work, resources or money can deliver us from the hands of destruction.  But Christ, who is rich in mercy, he alone has the power over sin.  It’s through our surrender that we are redeemed. Our surrender from being our own god.  Our surrender of trying to be “good enough”.  Our surrender of working our way to salvation.  We surrender to the redeeming work of Christ, understanding that he is enough and the wrath of God was satisfied in his death.

REFLECTION
In what ways do you still seek to attain salvation on your own?  Where do you still seek to be your own god?  What areas of your life are you unwilling to surrender to Christ and allow him to have his own way in you.  How may you begin surrendering completely to what Christ has done?  “Jesus’ blood is enough”: How may you begin to make that statement reality in your own life?

Day 1: Who is Jesus?

 

Stained Glass Depicting Jesus Christ

They had been walking for days. Sore feet, aching legs, empty stomachs, grumpy demeanors. The sun relentlessly beat down on the disciples. Blisters were showing up on their once calloused heels. Each step became more and more difficult to make, but they were determined to follow their rabbi.

For some reason, Jesus chose Caesarea Philippi as his next destination to teach from. (Who would ever want to visit that Gentile-infested, pagan land?) Nevertheless, that’s where he wanted to go. So, they followed.

Then, seemingly out of the blue,  Jesus asked them a question as they drew near to the region.

“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

Jesus’ questions caught them off guard as the disciples stumbled for an answer. “I’ve heard John the Baptist,” one piped up. “Or Elijah, I’ve also heard that rumor,” another one chimed in. “Maybe one of the prophets?” a final guess was made. Jesus smiled, hearing out each response.

Then, he asked, “but who do you say that I am?”

There was silence for a moment as the disciples glared at each other. Who wanted to answer first? What if they got the answer wrong?

Finally, Peter mustered the courage to speak on his brothers’ behalf. He cleared his throat, looked Jesus straight in the eye, and gave his answer.

THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION

What Jesus asked his disciples is the most important question you will ever answer in your entire life. No question even comes close to the significance of what Jesus asked. This question is more important than…

  • “Congratulations on your acceptance to our university, will you be attending this fall?”
  • “I am very pleased to offer you this position at our company, will you be accepting?”
  • “Do you take this man/woman to be your lawfully wedding husband/wife?”
  • “It’s a boy/girl! What name would you like on the birth certificate?”
  • “May I have your permission to marry your daughter?”

All of these questions – important though they may be – pale in comparison to the question over who Jesus is. Why? Because our answer to Jesus’ question will reveal our understanding of reality, the character of God, and the gospel.

Peter’s answer was profound, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Those two titles alone could be talked about for days! Fortunately for us it’s the Ten Days of Awe! So, that’s exactly what we’ll do. What does it mean that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God?

WHO IS JESUS?

Over the next ten days we will explore that question in what theologians call Christology, the study of the person and work of Jesus Christ. We will roll up our sleeves and dive deep into the richness of studying the savior king by asking nine questions

  1. How did Jesus come to earth?
  2. What kind of body does Jesus have?
  3. Did Jesus have human emotions?
  4. How was Jesus sinless?
  5. How and why did Jesus die and rise again?
  6. How is Jesus fully God?
  7. Are there bad views of Jesus’ divinity?
  8. What does Jesus do now?
  9. When will Jesus return?

REFLECTION

For today, however, let us contemplate on the question, “Who do you say that I am?” Before studying his person and work, think about who Jesus is to you. How do you answer that very important question? What implications does the answer to that question have on our daily lives? Our family lives? Our eternal life?