What We Want to Believe (The Person of Christ)

What We Want to Believe (The Person of Christ)

Feb 06, 2009

Preacher: Jason Wolin

Series: What We Want To Believe

Category: Membership

Detail:

 

I think I am one of the only people who can say that the very first sermon I ever delivered, was at Grace Community Church in Southern California.  Now GCC seats about 5000 people and it is quite an experience to preach to 4995 empty chairs.  If you haven’t pieced it together that was a Tuesday afternoon to my preaching lab.  Preaching lab is one of the strange experiences of seminary.  It’s where you preach a sermon to your classmates and they take notes on you and then destroy you.  It’s a decently humbling exercise.  I learned a lot.

I remember one of the criticisms of my professor which was very, very helpful to me was this:  He said, “Jason you said, Jesus is the most awe inspiring, mind blowing, intergalactic reality in the universe.”  If you make a statement like that, you have to deliver.  You have to make us believe that otherwise your words ring hollow. 

That comment was helpful to me because I realize that even though something may be true, people need to be convinced.  And I want to more than anything else show everyone that Jesus is the billion dollar treasure in the field even if they don’t feel it.  I want to show everyone that it would be the bargain of the millennium to exchange all the gold, silver, power, influence, etc the world has to offer in exchange for him.  But once again, I find myself throwing my head into my hands saying, “Lord, how can I do your name justice in a single sermon?” 

I found comfort in Jeremiah this week:

Jeremiah 9:23-24   23 Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches,  24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD."

The entire point of this series is so that we can understand [intellectual facts] and know [relational experience] God.  And the reason this helped me not feel so overwhelmed was because I realized that there are not really shortcuts here.  Relationships take time.  You have to put in the time to understand Jesus in order to know Jesus.  They are linked.  It’s okay to just narrow the focus a bit.  You don’t have to do it all in one sermon.  Here’s how I chose to narrow.

Last week I chose to emphasize how the attributes of God relate to worship.  I spent more time talking about how those attributes ought to result in worship and less time on the actual attributes.  I was hoping you would explore the details of those on your own.  And I know some of you did.  Today, I am going to reverse that.

I am going to spend more time talking about who Jesus is and less time talking about how that should result in worship.  Now that goes against every fiber of my being, because I want so badly to make sure we all get that point.  The end goal of our study is worship.  But the reason I want to spend a little more time on the definition portion of this sermon is because if you get Jesus wrong, you get everything wrong.  And there are plenty of people who get him wrong.

Think about who Jesus is for your average person.

  • For some, “Jesus” is no more than profanity.
  • For others, he is a moralist who makes you feel bad if you start having fun.
  • Or he is the founder of a world religion like other founders of world religions—Muhammad, for example.
  • Or he is “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild” who loves to turn the other cheek and who is never, ever, angry.
  • Or he is the Jehovah's Witness Jesus, a pretty impressive second-string god, but certainly not to be identified with the one, true God.
  • Or he is an empty cipher with virtually no content at all.

So it is absolutely imperative that we understand who Jesus really is.  And understanding Jesus is the foundation for knowing Jesus in a relational sense. 

I want to use 2 Cor. 5:19 to bridge last week’s message with this week’s message.  Last week we talked about the one and only triune God.  This week we focus on the second person of the godhead Jesus.  And the way the triune God relates to the Son is described in 2 Cor. 5:19

“God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself”  (2 Corninthians 5:19).  So the world was at odds with Christ.  There was a barrier.  There was a relational roadblock.  And the way that roadblock was removed was through Jesus.  The focus of the gospel is that Jesus made it possible for lame people like me to have a relationship with God.

That is the very thing which makes Christianity more than a religion, more than an ethic, and more than just an ideal.  That is what makes it relevant to each one of us right now.  Christ did not die to simply save you from a bad conscience, or eve to remove the stain of past failure or even to remove guilt.  Christ died so that you might have a relationship with him for his glory.

Who is Jesus?

Here is the most basic definition

Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man in one person.

Now, that is a simple statement, but that statement is anything but simple.  We have had a couple thousand years to get used to the idea that Jesus was God in the flesh.  That is not an easy truth to swallow.  But God has given us help.  One of those helps in fact is the virgin birth.  Do you have a good answer in your head as to why Jesus was born of a virgin?  If someone came up to you and asked why Jesus was born of a virgin, what would you say?  I remember when I was young, that was the strangest thing in the world to me.  Why is that a point of emphasis in the Bible? Think about the options. 

It probably would have been possible for God to create in heaven the God-man Jesus and send him from heaven to earth without any biological ties to human parents.  Then it would be very hard for us to view him as human as we are and it would be hard for us to see how he is a descendent of Adam. 

On the other hand it probably would have been possible for the God-man to have entered into the world with two human parents, both father and mother, and some point early in his life God could have miraculously fused deity into him.  But then it would be very difficult for us to understand that Jesus was fully God since his entrance into the world was just like ours.  So it seems that, God in his wisdom used the virgin birth to help us in our acceptance of the fully divine fully human man Jesus.

And yet, even with the 2000 years that we’ve had to get used to the idea, even with the virgin birth, these haven’t done much to softened the mystery!  The fact that Jesus is both God and man is a difficult concept to grasp.  There is deep profound mystery in it! 

So what I want to do now with the remainder of our time is make affirmations about who Jesus was and is.  And those affirmations will serve as walls in which our questions about Jesus can bounce around in.  In other words, there is much mystery in the person of Jesus Christ.  No doubt.  But there are clear affirmations in Scripture that place boundaries on our conclusions.  For example, if our attempts to explain the mystery of Christ ever reach the point of saying that Jesus was not fully God, we have overstepped.  Or if our attempts to explain the mystery of Christ ever reach the point of saying that Jesus was not fully man, we have overstepped.    Our attempts at understanding that mystery must hold those in tension.

Jesus Christ was fully man

Now most of us want to protect the deity of Christ (and I am one of those people).  But I know that often times that efforts to protect the deity of Christ leave the humanity of Christ unexplored.  Perhaps you feel that to emphasize his humanity would be to deemphasize his deity.  But the Scriptures don’t seem to feel this tension.  Jesus was 100% human.  I want to explore that a bit. 

This to me is by far the most amazing miracle of the entire Bible—far more amazing than the resurrection and more amazing even than the creation of the universe. (I’m not entirely sure what gauge I’m using to make that statement, but just roll with it for now.)  The fact that the infinite, omnipotent, eternal Son of God could become man and join himself to a human nature, so that infinite God became one person with finite man, will remain for eternity the most profound miracle and the most profound mystery in all the universe.  But we are going to try to paint the broad strokes of what the Scriptures teach.

Let’s describe the human nature of Jesus.

  1. Jesus had a human body

Remember, Jesus was born.  If you have ever witnessed a birth, you know that is very human.  Umbilical chord, blood, placenta.  I don’t mean to be overly graphic but that is humanity.  Jesus had to be nursed.  He had to learn to be potty trained.  He had to learn to feed himself.  Jesus had to comb his hair, wash his face, purchase shoes.

Luke 2:52  And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

And part of having a human body is experiencing human weakness.  Jesus experienced, for example, fatigue. 

John 4:6  and Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

Last night before bed I went on a run and by the end of my run my feet ached and I thought of this passage.  Jesus could commiserate with achy feet syndrome.

  1. Jesus had a human mind

The fact that Jesus increased in wisdom says that he went through a learning process just as all other children do. 

As a baby Jesus had to learn how to crawl, how to stop drooling, how to eat over his plate, what appropriate manners were.  He had to learn customs and culture and how to build things. 

He had to read Hebrew and Greek.  He had to learn to read and write and walk and play sports.  There were things Jesus did not know and then learned and then knew. 

If you think about it very long it gets really weird.  Does that mean that Jesus had to learn that he was the Messiah?  I think so.  I think it probably happened early on, but nevertheless, it was something he had to learn.  We get a glimpse into his mental limitations in 

Mark 13:32, “But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”  So there were human limitations placed on his knowledge.

In fact, probably one of the most surprising verses in the Bible in this regard is in Hebrews Hebrews 5:8 where we learn that Jesus had to learn obedience through the things he suffered. 

Hebrews 5:8  Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.

What does that mean, Jesus learned obedience?  If this phrase were not in the Bible I think the mere suggestion of the fact that Jesus learned obedience would get you branded a heretic.  But I think God in his providence placed it there to keep us honest.  Being human means learning obedience.  Now it’s very important to clarify that this learning was not through sinning.  We often learn through sinning.  Jesus learned through only through suffering.  There’s a whole sermon I’d love to preach right there.  If you have to choose between learning by sinning or learning by suffering, choose suffering. 

  1. Jesus had human emotions

Probably the most graphic expression of human emotion in the life of Christ was Jesus’ emotional condition before the crucifixion.   Jesus said, “My soul is troubled… (John 12:27; John 13:21; Mat. 26:38)

But there are many examples of Jesus emotions breaking out in the Scripture.

  • Jesus marveled at the faith of the centurion.
  • He wept at the death of Lazarus.
  • He prayed with emotion “in the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear.”
  1. Jesus was normal

In the middle of Jesus’ ministry Matthew records an interesting incident.  Great crowds had followed Jesus because of the miracles that were being performed.  But when he came to his village, the people who had known him for many years did not receive him.

Matthew 13:54-57  and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, "Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works?  55 Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?  56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?"  57 And they took offense at him.

The people that knew Jesus best, his neighbors (the olive oil merchant, the guy who ordered two sets of tables and chairs, his Sunday school teacher) saw Jesus as an ordinary guy – for sure a nice guy, a honest worker, but certainly not a prophet of God and most definitely not God himself come in the flesh!  Even his own brothers did not realize he was anything more special than a very good human being. 

  1. Sinlessness

The Bible affirms very clearly that Jesus was human but it also affirms that there was one way in which Jesus was very different than you and I.  He was sinless. 

Hebrews 4:15  15 For 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.

  • Jesus is referred to as the “light of the world” which is the opposite of darkness.
  • “always doing the will of the father,
  • 2 Cor 5:21, “He who knew no sin…”

Hebrews 7:26  For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.

  • “lamb of God without spot or blemish” 1 Peter 1:19; 
  • “He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips” 1 Peter 2:22.

Just seal it here.

1 John 3:5, “In him there is no sin.”

When it comes to unfallen humanity, we don’t have much experiential data.  There were two other people in the Bible who could have related to this.  Adam and Eve were human but unfallen.  Shakespeare said “to ere is human.”  Most humans ere, but it is not a prerequisite to being human. 

Now I want to ask a theoretical question that will test your ability to harmonize the Scriptures without going outside of the boundaries Scripture lays out.  So here is the question:  could Jesus have sinned?  Jesus was human.  And we know Jesus was tempted.  So could Jesus have sinned?  What can we safely say about this?

  1. Scripture clearly affirms that Jesus never sinned.
  2. It also clearly affirms that Jesus was tempted and these were real temptations. (Luke 4:2; Heb. 4:15).  If our speculation on the question of whether Christ could have sinned ever leads us to the conclusion that Christ was not truly tempted, we have reached the wrong conclusion; a conclusion that seems to go against some pretty clear statements in Scripture
  3. we also must affirm with Scripture that “God cannot be tempted with evil” James 1:13.

This is as far as we can go with the clear statements of Scripture. 

  • “Jesus was tempted”
  • “Jesus was fully man”
  • “Jesus was fully God”
  • “God cannot be tempted”

But who can leave it there?  You have to speculate just a little bit about how these go together!  So I will do exactly that… speculate. 

The explanation I like the most says that Jesus’ divine nature was unable to sin and could not be tempted with evil but his human nature was able to be tempted with evil the same way Adam’s sinless body was able to be tempted by evil.  How the divine nature and the human nature go together in one body, the Scriptures do not elaborate on, but it seems like the statements of the Bible require us to make that distinction.  I personally think the temptations of Jesus were just as real as the temptations you and I face, but much more difficult in degree because of the fact that he never gave in to them.  But we enter into the realm of mystery and we have to be careful to tread lightly.

Let me ask you another question which will stretch your mind’s ability to harmonize Scripture.  Remember that passage where Jesus is asleep in the boat while a storm is slamming against the boat?  When Jesus was asleep in the boat, was he also “continually carrying along all things by his word of power” (Heb. 1:3) and were all things in the universe were being held together by him at that exact moment (see Col. 1:17)?

The answer must be yes, for these activities have always been and will always be the particular responsibility of the second person of the Trinity, the eternal Son of God.

“Remaining what he was, he became what he was not.”

Why was Jesus’ full humanity necessary?

  1. For Representative Obedience

This is still a mysterious concept for me in the Scriptures, but it is hard to explain any other way.  Jesus’ obedience as a human being seems to be transferred to us in the same way that his death on the cross was transferred to us.  So in other words, the Scriptures seem to teach that God is not interested only in a clean moral slate (no failure), but also in positive obedience.  Adam failed on both accounts.  Jesus succeed on both accounts and transfers that success to us.

Romans 5:18-19  Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.  19 For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.

That is why Paul calls Christ the “last Adam” 1 Cor. 15:45.  Jesus had to be our representative and obey in our place. 

  1. To be a Substitute Sacrifice

If Jesus was not a man he could not have died in our place. 

Hebrews 2:14-17  4 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,  15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.  16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham.  17 Therefore he 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.

Jesus had to become like a man not angel because he was concerned about saving men not angels.

  1. To be a Mediator Between God and Man

 

1 Timothy 2:5-6   For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,  6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

A mediator is someone who is able to represent both sides.  God being 100 percent God and man is the only possible person who would be able to mediate. 

 

  1. To be Our Example and Pattern in Life. 

1 John 2:6  whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

1 Peter 2:21  For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

Jesus Christ was fully God

To complete the picture of what the Bible teaches about Jesus Christ we must affirm not only the fact that Jesus was fully human but also that he was fully God.  This point is denied by JW’s, Mormons, Muslims, Atheists, and every other religion in the world.   So it is rather important to make clear.

Let’s say you get in a conversation with a JW who is genuinely curious about what the Bible says concerning Jesus.  Does the Bible really claim he is God’s Son?

Let’s put this to bed.  The Bible is not unclear about the fact that Jesus is God.  It is not something that we must only deduce.  There are at least 8 clear references to the fact that Jesus is God. 

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God

That doesn’t work because

John 1:18  No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.

Romans 9:4-5  To them [Israelites] belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

Hebrews 1:8-9  But of the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. 

2 Peter 1:1  Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 9:6  6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

“For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

When Jesus told his the Pharisees that Abraham had seen his (Christ’s) day, they challenged him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” (John 8:57).

Here a sufficient response to prove Jesus’ eternity would have been, “Before Abraham was, I was.” But Jesus did not say this. Instead, he made a much more startling assertion: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).

Jesus combined two assertions whose sequence seemed to make no sense: “Before something in the past happened [Abraham was], something in the present happened [I am].”

The Jewish leaders recognized at once that he was not speaking in riddles or uttering nonsense: when he said, “I am,” he was repeating the very words God used when he identified himself to Moses as “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14). Jesus was claiming for himself the title “I AM,” by which God designates himself as the eternal existing One, the God who is the source of his own existence and who always has been and always will be.

When the Jews heard this statement, they knew that he was claiming to be God. “So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple” (John 8:59).

Another strong claim to deity is Jesus’ statement at the end of Revelation, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 22:13). When this is combined with the statement of God the Father in Revelation 1:8, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” it also constitutes a strong claim to equal deity with God the Father.

Potential wildfire.  Don’t use these Scriptures to arm your cannon so that the next time you run into a Mormon or a J.W. you can blast them.  I think you should show them these Scriptures in a winsome way in the hope that God will use his Word to change their hearts, but, the primary reason is worship.

I was going to do this little section on the Chalcedon creed.  I don’t have time.  There’s a question on your HFG notes that references this.  Just skip it.  Or you can google it if you like and talk about it. 

So Jesus was 100 percent God and 100 percent man…

Many people can say I believe in God.  Very few people can say, I love Jesus. 

The only people who say, I love Jesus, are the people that understand what he has accomplished for them.    Jesus, God came to earth as a display of his love for the world.  And so I feel it is only appropriate to end this section by contemplating the love of Christ.  How do you know how much someone loves you?

  1. First, we know the depth of someone's love for us by what it costs him: if he sacrifices his life for us, it assures us of deeper love than if he only sacrifices a few bruises. So we will see the depth of Christ's love by the greatness of what it cost him.
  2. Second, we know the depth of someone's love for us by how little we deserve it.  If we have treated him well all our life, and have done all that he expects of us, then when he loves us, it will not prove as much love as it would if he loved us when we had offended him, and shunned him, and disdained him. The more undeserving we are, the more amazing and deep is his love for us. So we will see the depth of Christ's love in relation to how undeserving are the objects of his love (Romans 5:5–8).
  3. Third, we know the depth of someone's love for us by the greatness of the benefits we receive in being loved.
  • If we are helped to pass an exam, we will feel loved in one way.
  • If we are helped to get a job, we will feel loved another way.
  • If we are helped to escape from an oppressive captivity and given freedom for the rest of our life, we will feel loved another way.
  • And if we are rescued from eternal punishment and given a place in the presence of God with fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore, we will know a depth of love that surpasses all others (1 John 3:1–3). So we will see the depth of Christ's love by the greatness of the benefits we receive in being loved by him.
  1. Fourth, we know the depth of someone's love for us by the freedom with which they love us.
  • If a person does good things for us because someone is making him, when he doesn't really want to, then we don't think the love is very deep.
  • So if an insurance company pays you $40,000 because you lose your spouse, you don't usually marvel at how much this company loves you. There were legal constraints.
  • But if your Sunday School class makes all your meals for a month after your spouse dies, and someone calls you every day, and visits you every week, then you call it love, because they don't have to do this. It is free and willing. So we will see the depth of Christ's love for us in his freedom: "No one takes my life from me; I lay it down of my own accord" (John 10:18).