In an earlier section we spoke briefly of the reality of Jesus Christ being the second Person of the Trinity. It is necessary now, in a more detailed treatment of Christ, to further establish His deity and that He is in fact equal with God the Father. What we believe regarding Jesus Christ is tremendously important. When John wrote to believers he warned them of false teachers who would deny that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh. This involved not only a true concept of who Christ really is, but also a proper understanding of the reason for His coming.
The consideration of the facts concerning Jesus Christ is not merely for the purpose of having more information. Finding what the Scriptures teach concerning Him should result in a greater appreciation of Him and a deeper commitment to Him.
Jesus Christ did not have His beginning in Bethlehem. He was born in Bethlehem but His existence must be reckoned prior to that. In John 1:1-4 we find the Word (Christ) in the beginning with God. The meaning of "word" (logos) is "to pick out or select", and here has the idea of picking out words in order to express God's thought. God desired to express Himself to man and Jesus Christ is that expression of God. It is not one expression among many others, but actually the one and only expression. Hebrews 1 declares that God has spoken in these latter times by Jesus Christ. The Scripture indicates that Jesus Christ was not only present at creation but that He did the creating. Having creative powers - making something out of nothing - would certainly put Christ on an equal basis with God the Father. Let's remember there is one God in essence and revealed in three distinct persons. As Creator Christ fills a unique role with God.
Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:1-2
The divine names which are given to Christ in Scripture bear testimony to His deity. Some of the names given to Christ in reference to His deity can be the source of special blessing to the child of God. A name identifies the person, and the character of the person lends special significance to the name used.
One of the commandments forbids the worship of anything or anyone but God. Yet we find Christ, who came to fulfill the law, allowing divine worship to be ascribed to Himself. By thus receiving worship He acknowledged deity. Worship is adoration paid to God because He is God. Jesus Christ accepted such adoration.
Christ's association and identity with God is further seen in the divine offices which are assigned to Jesus Christ. To fill such an office there must be divine qualification.
The meaning attached to incarnation is basically the "taking on of a human form by a divine being", or "the perfect combination of the divine and human nature in Jesus Christ". This would involve the pre-existent state of Jesus Christ and would include a miraculous event. We need to distinguish here between the incarnation and a "theophany". There were times when heavenly beings, and even God, took on temporary form to convey God's message to chosen people. This is known as a "theophany". The incarnation is different in that Christ took on permanent human form and perfectly combined the human and divine natures.
Involved in the concept of the incarnation is also the idea of the perfection of Jesus Christ. He was entirely free from any defilement whatsoever. This was essential for if He had any sin of His own He could not atone for the sins of others. He could say, "who convinces Me of any sin", John 8:46. Since the purpose of the incarnation was specifically to bring about man's salvation it would require a perfect specimen.
Clothing Himself in human flesh required a body that would not include a sinful depraved human nature. Since sin and death is passed on by human generation, and since man needs to be redeemed while here on earth in his human body, Christ's coming needed to be in human form but without sin.
God accomplished this by the virgin birth of Christ. Mary was the vessel God chose to carry and bring forth the Lord Jesus Christ. No human father was involved in the conception, it was a sovereign, miraculous act of God.
It is evident that the purpose of the virgin birth of Christ was to take on human form so that He might be able to redeem all who are a part of the human race. He is the representative of all humanity. He submitted Himself by that virgin birth to the conditions of a human life and a human body. He thus becomes the promised seed, the expectation of all mankind.
The reality of His humanity can be seen when we consider that He moved through the natural stages of development - Luke 2:40,46,52; bodily fatigue was His - John 4:6; Matthew 8:24; He had need for food - Matthew 21:18; He endured suffering and pain - Luke 22:44; and death - 1 Corinthians 15:3. Jesus Christ limited Himself to entire obedience to the Father. He depended upon the Spirit for guidance and direction, upon prayer for strengthening. All this was done by laying aside His rights of Deity to accomplish the work of redemption and be able to understand fully mankind and his dilemma.
Mark 1:35; Acts 10:38; Hebrews 5:8
Because Jesus Christ has no sin of His own, He could give His life as payment for others. Was there a need for this? Could man not approach God on his own? The Scripture makes abundantly clear that man in his own strength cannot be acceptable before God. Cain was rejected because he refused to come the way God had prescribed, namely by a blood sacrifice. The life of the flesh is in the blood, the shedding of blood indicates the giving of life. It is an innocent victim's life in payment for the guilty. Man's basic sinfulness finds outlet at various points in human history which required judgment: Cain murdering Abel, man's corruption necessitating the flood, the confusion of language at Babel, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the exile of God's people from Palestine. Isaiah 64:6 indicates that because of basic corruption man's goodness cannot be accepted by God as payment for sin, they are but as dirty rags in His sight. Man's sin and alienation call for the need of redemption. God's holiness demands that sin must be dealt with effectively before there can be entrance into His presence to enjoy fellowship with Him.
Since man cannot produce that which God can accept man will either need to be damned eternally, or a substitute will need to be provided. This is what has been done. Jesus Christ has come and has identified Himself with man in his sin and yet has remained entirely free and pure from any and all contamination of sin in His own being. His life of 33 years revealed a perfect record, no sin could rightly be attached to Him. The works He performed were evidence of His relationship to God and verified the claims He made. John 10:25,38. Thus Christ became the candidate for man's perfect representative. Sin, however, demands death. Since He had no sins of His own for which death could claim Him, Christ would either escape death, or He could take our penalty. He took our penalty.
This substitutionary death of Christ could be transferred to anyone God chose to give it, for He is sovereign. It could either be distributed in an indiscriminate fashion, or by means of a principle which opened it to all. God's satisfaction with the substitutionary death of Christ is revealed by raising Him from the dead. Acts 10:40; Romans 1:4. Christ took man's place, and because God accepted that sacrifice man can now be delivered from sin.
What is the basis whereby God is going to credit Christ's death and resurrection to man's account? Since all have sinned and are guilty before God, and since man's own works cannot be accepted because of sinful contamination, and since man is entirely bankrupt spiritually, all have been reduced to the same level of need. Therefore, the bestowal of forgiveness will have to be on the same basis of need. This is done by God extending His grace and mercy toward the sinner who believes God and appropriates the death of Christ to his own life and need.
The position that Christ occupies is of primary importance. If Christ was just an ordinary person, then one can either take Him seriously or pass Him by. However, Christ is not just an ordinary Person. He has been given the highest and most exalted position in all of heaven and earth. Because of this position, mankind, and especially believers, owe Him their fullest allegiance and honor.
In Philippians 2 we are told that Christ has been exalted far above all principality because of His willingness to humble Himself. The mystery surrounding the humbling process is deepened when we consider that it was done so as to accomplish the work of redemption. Jesus Himself declared that he that humbles himself will be exalted, and he that exalts himself will be brought low. The infinite step Christ took cannot fully be comprehended. Let's trace the steps down: He was in the form of God, made Himself of no reputation, made in the form of a servant, obedient unto death, obedient to the death of the cross. Because He took these steps downward, He was able to purchase eternal redemption for us. Having accomplished this He was rightly exalted, for through death he vanquished every enemy by being victorious over them. The name of Jesus is thus synonymous with triumph. Being thus exalted every knee will have to bow in acknowledgement of His triumph.
God has thus exalted Christ because of His finished work. He has given open testimony to His pleasure of the work of Christ by raising Him from the dead. It is true that the exaltation actually includes, or presupposes, His resurrection. It is proper, however, to make special mention of it. By raising Christ from the dead God is singling Him out. By that resurrection God sets His approval upon Christ and at the same time rejects all others who make claims to being approved prophets and messengers of God. The exalted position Jesus Christ occupies today could never be a reality aside from the resurrection. God has made this Jesus both Lord and Christ by raising him from the dead. Acts 2:36.
Another aspect of exhaltation of Christ is seen in His being made the Head of the Church. What is the Church? It is His body made up of those who have been vitally linked to Jesus Christ, bound to Him by virtue of the new birth, placed there by sovereign design and power. Headship involves authority. The very term Lord incorporates this truth. Being Lord of the Church means that in the governing and directing of the affairs of the Church His will and authority are supreme. The foes of the Church are the forces and powers of darkness. These shall not prevail against the Church. However, there is a deeper personal note in this. Each believer is a member of Christ's body, the Church. The authority of Christ extends also tot he individual life. His control in our lives individually is of paramount importance. We as God's people are admonished to have our lives under the complete control of Christ. Whatever we do or say is all to be done in the name of Christ. Colossians 3:17. In all things He is to have the preeminence, which has the idea of uppermost, without competition, first in everything. The Lord Jesus said we were to seek first God's kingdom and His righteousness. Matthew 6:33.
This is not easy, but when Christ occupies the center all else will fall into its proper place as well. In 2 Corinthians 4 we are told that the life of Jesus Christ is to be revealed through us. Christ takes up residence at the time of salvation. As we yield control of various areas of our lives to Him, He will be able to possess our heart, mind and body, that the life we live will be Christ's life lived in and through us. Galatians 2:20. This does not happen all at once, but it needs to happen. If there is an area of your life that is closed to the Lordship of Christ, don't let it drag on this way, let Him have full charge of it. He can do a much better job of controlling your life than you can yourself.
We have all heard at some time that God will never judge anyone because He is love. The same has been said of Christ. He is referred to as the meek and gentle Jesus. Such He surely is, but that is not all. The Scripture reveals that Jesus Christ is also the Judge. The exalted position of Christ qualifies Him to pass sentence on disobedience and evil. He who now offers forgiveness and fellowship will sit as the Judge of all the earth.
John 5:22-23; Acts 10:42