Brush Up On Your Theology; 3. CHRISTOLOGY
by Dr. Henderson Ward
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Christology as a concept has to do with the nature, character, and actions of Jesus Christ and here I am setting forth the orthodox, doctrinal position under three headings i.e. the Deity of Christ, the Humanity of Christ and the Offices of Christ.
Of all the contentious subjects confronting the early church none were more troubling than the proper understanding of the person called Jesus Christ. Hundreds of years after his death and resurrection Churches were still vigorously debating and forcefully disagreeing with what constituted a proper understanding of Christology. A careful look at the history of the first seven, and only universal, Ecumenical Councils shows that five of them were related to the doctrine of Jesus Christ. Even today Christian cults, such as Jehovah Witnesses and the Mormons, are still opposing settled, orthodox Christology.
All of this just proves how difficult it is for the human mind to accept a supernatural entity coming into this world, and even harder to countenance such an entity as being the one to whom we owe our existence, and to whom submission and worship are due.
The Deity of Jesus Christ
By Deity we are referring to the condition and status of being God. A careful study of scripture will show that Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, existed from eternity in exactly the same way as God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.
John in his Gospel stated this, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Jesus Christ has all the attributes of the Father and the Holy Spirit and equal in power, knowledge and glory. Anything that can be said of God can be said of Jesus Christ “For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9).
Coequal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ is the Creator, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made" (John 1:1-3); "For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him" (Colossians 1:16); "And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 3:9); "Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds" (Hebrews 1:2).
Jesus Christ is the upholder and Sustainer of all things, "Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Hebrews 1:3); "And he is before all things, and by him all things consist." (Colossians 1:17).
Jesus Christ is the Redeemer of mankind, "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation" (Revelation 5:9); "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:24); "Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father" (Galatians 1:4); "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works" (Titus 2:14),
Jesus Christ is called God, "But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom." (Hebrews 1:8); "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." (Matthew 1:23); "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14); "For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." (Matthew 3:3); "The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God." (Isaiah 40:3)
Jesus Christ forgave sins which only God can do, "When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee." (Mark 2:5), "But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house." (Mark 2:10, "Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven." (Luke 7:47-48). The Jews were right to assert that only God can forgive sins, "Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?" (Mark 2:7), "And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone? (Luke 5:21)
Jesus Christ raised the dead which is God’s prerogative, "And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother." (Luke 7:11-15)
Raising the dead was perhaps the ultimate proof that Jesus is God and the Apostle John gave us more proof of this, "Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go." (John 11:38-44)
Jesus Christ received worship, and only God is to be worshipped, "And they worshipped him [Jesus], and returned to Jerusalem with great joy" (Luke 24:52); "And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him." (John 9:38).
These and many more scriptures, including the many unique miracles Jesus performed, show beyond any doubt that Jesus Christ is God.
The Humanity of Jesus Christ
One of the great mysteries of all time relates to the humanity of Jesus Christ; how that the second member of the Trinity, Coequal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, could be born a human being and exist on earth wholly God and at the same time wholly man. But this is exactly what Christ did and the Bible affirms this fact. Jesus was not half God and half man as some teach, neither was he a human being putting on the nature of God; for he always was, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
1. Jesus Christ was conceived by a normal woman, "And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS." (Luke 1:31)
2. He was born as a normal human being, "And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS." (Matthew 1:25) and was the son of Abraham, "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham." (Matthew 1:1), "For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham." (Hebrews 2:16)
3. Jesus Christ was normal flesh and blood and body, "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." (John 1:14), "Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh" (Romans 1:3), "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory." (1 Timothy 3:16).
4. Jesus was conceived not as a result of an earthly father but through God himself, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). This attested to the virgin birth of Jesus who was born a normal infant, "Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, (Matthew 2:1), "And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2:7).
5. Jesus Christ progressed as a youngster in a normal way, "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man" (Luke 2:52), acquired the skills and worked as a carpenter, "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him." (Mark 6:3).
6. Jesus Christ matured into a fully grown, normal man, "The officers answered, Never man spake like this man." (John 7:46), "But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!" (Matthew 8:27), see also John 9:11 and 1 Timothy 2:5.
7. Jesus Christ thirsted like a normal human being, "There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink." (John 4:7); "After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst." (John 19:28) and he hungered like a normal human being, "And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered." (Matthew 4:2); "And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry" (Mark 11:12)
8. Jesus Christ had emotions like a normal human being, "In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight." (Luke 10:21; "Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour." (John 12:27) and was crucified just like a normal human being, "And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him." (Mark 15:20).
9. Jesus Christ was a normal human being who lived a sinless life, "For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens" (Hebrews 7:26); "Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?" (John 8:46); "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15) and this sets him apart from all others and enabled him to offer himself as “the Lamb without spot or blemish” (1 Peter 1:18-19) for the redemption of all mankind.
The Offices of Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ came into this world for one purpose only and that was to redeem mankind and this is summed up by the Apostle John like this, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him shall not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16) and Luke writes, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). It is in connection to this work of redeeming and reconciling mankind to God that we see Jesus in these different offices or functions. At his death and resurrection his earthly ministry came to an end but Christ goes on working on our behalf until time is no more.
Jesus holds the office of Mediator. The work Jesus came to do on behalf of sinners is completed, and those who accept him are saved, but believers transgress at times, and need God’s continuing mercy and grace, and someone to mediate for them before God. I am reminded how forlorn Job felt when he thought that there was no mediator available to him when dealing with Almighty God (Job 9:33), but there is such a one, and it’s Jesus, “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5)
This mediation started from Christ’ resurrection and will continue until, “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:24).
In this mediatorial office which Jesus held prior to and now subsequent to his death was the spirit of prophecy, "And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (Revelation 19:10); "Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow." (1 Peter 1:11) and revealed God’s will to men, "Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward." (Hebrews 11:26); see also Isaiah 53:2-12 and Micah 5:2.
There is some evidence that it was Jesus who mediated in the Garden of Eden, "Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them. And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever" (Genesis 3:21-22) to cover Adam and Eve.
Moses told the people that God would raise up a prophet like unto himself, "The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken" (Deuteronomy 18:15) and both Stephen and Peter applied it to Jesus, "For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you." (Acts 3:22); "This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear." (Acts 7:37).
Jesus also functions as High Priest, “But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:24-25). And again, “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made of hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” (Hebrews 9:11-12).
The final mediatorial office of Jesus will be that of King and that will commence at the start of the millennium and will last a thousand years, " And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me" (Luke 22:29), and see also Luke 19:12, Matthew 28:18, Revelation 11:15, Revelation 20:1-7.
After this the mediatorial office of Jesus Christ comes to an end, since there will be no need for an intercessor in the sinless eternal state, and then Jesus will deliver up the kingdom to the Father that God may be all in all, "Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all." (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).
As we contemplate the nature, character, and actions of Jesus Christ, we should do so soberly and reverently and resist the urge to do so in a purely academic and detached manner, for here we are considering something truly awesome, something earth-shatteringly momentous; this enquiry embodies the greatest questions ever asked - who are we, why are we here and where are we going. To truly understand the nature, character, and actions of Jesus Christ is to find answers, both spiritual and corporeal that make sense for our very existence.
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