The Person of Christ (05): His Uncompromising Humanity
Over the past few months, we have shown that our Lord Jesus Christ is God: He is eternally “of the full deity possessed.” This was not diminished by His coming into the world. Having considered what did not change when He came, consider a change that did take place: the fact that this One, Who is God, became a man.
For this article, our purpose is to show that the humanity of our Lord Jesus was genuine. He became a real human being.
Obviously, yet importantly, He is called a “man” throughout the gospels and epistles. He referred to Himself as “a Man that hath told you the truth” (John 8:40); “After me cometh a Man,” said John (John 1:30). “Come, see a Man,” declared the woman of Samaria (John 4:29). The man who was born blind spoke of “a Man that is called Jesus” (John 9:11). His enemies said, “Thou, being a Man, makest Thyself God” (John 10:33). Peter calls him “a Man approved of God” (Acts 2:22), while “the Man Christ Jesus” is Paul’s description (1Tim 2:5). In some of these references the word translated “man” means “male,” while in others it is the word meaning “person.” The distinction has no bearing on our present discussion, as both confirm that He is a real human being. Numerous other examples could be quoted.
Every human being has a spirit, a soul, and a body (1Thes 5:23). The Lord Jesus had a spirit: “And He sighed deeply in His spirit” (Mark 8:12); a soul: “Now is my soul troubled” (John 12:27); and a body: “A body hast thou prepared me” (Heb 10:5). As above, these references are only samples; there are many more.
The writer to the Hebrews says, “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same” (Heb 2:14). What we all share involuntarily as human beings, the Lord Jesus Christ voluntarily participated in. The writer could say, a few verses later, that He was “made like unto His brethren” (v17). This accords with the words of John: “And the Word was made flesh” (John 1:14) and of Paul, “God was manifest in the flesh” (1Tim 3:16).
In His life here on earth, the Lord Jesus experienced the stages that human beings do: birth, infancy, childhood, youth, and adulthood. It is hardly necessary to give Scripture references for these, since they are so familiar to us, but this familiarity should not make us dull to the testimony they bear to Him as a real human being. The second chapter of Luke’s gospel is the one that brings before us most vividly the fact that He “grew” (v40). At the start of chapter two, He has not yet been born. By chapter three, He is an adult, “about thirty years of age” (v23).
He passed through experiences that all human beings know, both physically and emotionally. As far as physical things are concerned, He experienced hunger. “He hungered” (Matt 21:18) and thirsted, “I thirst” (John 19:28). He ate food: “He took it, and did eat before them” (Luke 24:43). He knew tiredness: “Jesus therefore, being wearied with His journey, sat thus on the well” (John 4:6). He slept: “He was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake Him” (Mark 4:38). As for emotions, He knew both joy, “Jesus rejoiced in spirit” (Luke 10:21) and sorrow, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful” (Mark 14:34). The shortest verse in our English Bible is, of course, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).
For those who would try to argue that these points are inconclusive, since angels took on human appearance in the Bible and were sometimes referred to as “men” (for example the “angels” of Genesis 19:1 are repeatedly called “men” through the passage), we must remember that the Scriptures considered above are not the record of brief appearances, but the witness of those who were continually in the Lord’s company. The apostles, who were used by God to record these things, were constantly in His presence for several years. If there was any doubt as to the reality of His manhood, they would have known it. And, as for the years before His public ministry, the words of the people of Nazareth (for example in Luke 4:22) are significant. They had known Him for nearly 30 years. Sadly, they failed to recognize Who He was, but they did not deny that He was a real man. Indeed, that was their problem. They took Him to be a man, and nothing more. But as for him being a real man, they had no dispute with that fact.
Thus, the One Who walked this earth was not an angelic being, or any other type of spirit being. He was not like one of the part-human creatures of mythology, nor was He part God and part man. He was fully God, and a real Man – just as much a human being as anyone reading these words. One line of a beloved hymn encapsulates this great truth: “Verily God, yet become truly human.”
Throughout this article, we have referred mainly to when the Lord Jesus was on earth, and hence we have used the past tense. However, we must remember that He is still a Man, and He will ever be. So, while we say, “He was a real Man,” it is more accurate to say, “He is a real Man.”
However, although He is a real person, this does not mean that He is just like every other person. Certainly not! He is like us in that He is a human being. Let us never forget that He is very different from us in a multitude of ways. His distinctiveness from all other human beings is what we will begin to consider next month, in the will of God.
The Person of Christ (05 Pt2): His Uncompromising Humanity
Last month, we saw that the Lord Jesus Christ is a real human being. Yet, we also noted, in closing, that He is unlike every other person that has existed, is existing, or will exist. We must now turn our attention to His humanity.
Consider part of a passage mentioned in an earlier article (on the deity of the Lord Jesus). It was stated then that we would not look at that passage until we reached the subject of His humanity. That time has now come. The passage is Philippians 2:5-8:
“… Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man …”
Many have misinterpreted these precious words, using them to teach that the Lord Jesus, in becoming a man, relinquished His deity. A careful study will, however, show that this is not so.
The word twice translated “form” is morphe, of which W. E. Vine says: “morphe is therefore properly the nature or essence, not in the abstract, but as actually subsisting in the individual, and retained as long as the individual itself exists. … Thus, in the passage before usmorphe Theou is the divine nature actually and inseparably subsisting in the Person of Christ.”
In other words, “in the form of God” denotes the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, and “being” shows that it is His, essentially and eternally. He has always existed “in the form of God,” and that did not change when He came into the world.
What, then, of the phrase “thought it not robbery to be equal with God”? The noun “robbery” is from a verb meaning “to grasp; to seize.” Many conclude that, though He was equal with God, He did not continue to hold onto this equality, but relinquished it.
We believe that is the wrong conclusion, and that, rather, the teaching is that He did not regard His being equal with God as something to lay hold onto in order to further His own self-interests. To use a common phrase, He did not take advantage of it. Thus, it is not that He let go of His deity (even partly); rather, it is that He did not make use of His deity for selfish ends.
This interpretation fits the context: Paul has been telling the Philippians to think, not of their own self-interests, but of the interests of others. The supreme example of this attitude is Christ, Who, being God, is greater than all others, and yet He did not consider His deity as something to seize upon as a reason for self-centeredness.
Now we come to the next phrase: “made Himself of no reputation,” which some translate as “emptied Himself.” If (as we firmly believe) this does not mean that He emptied Himself of His deity, what does it mean? Happily, we need not speculate, for the following clause explains it: “and took upon Him the form of a servant.” The phrase “took upon Him” is a participle meaning”taking upon Him.” In other words, His taking upon Him the form of a servant is not additional to Him emptying Himself, but explanatory of it: He “emptied himself” by the act of taking upon Him servant form. He did not “empty Himself” by relinquishing something; on the contrary, He “emptied Himself” by taking on something additional.
As before, consideration of the context helps. In telling the Philippians that they should follow the example of their Lord, Paul was not suggesting that they should relinquish any aspect of who they are, but that they should voluntarily become servants, in the interest of others, as the Lord Jesus did. For them, it did not involve giving up anything of who they were; nor did it for Him.
And how did He take upon Him the form of a servant? The answer, again, is found in the next phrase: “and was made in the likeness of men.” “Was made” is a participle – “becoming in the likeness of men.” So He took upon Him the form of a servant by becoming a man, and this was the way in which he “emptied Himself”. The KJV translation, “made Himself of no reputation,” conveys the sense well.
The word “form” (morphe), which has been used in connection with His deity, is also used of His humanity. This morphe (v7) was not a replacement for the morphe of verse 6, but additional to it. That is, He became something He never had been before, while fully retaining all that He always was. And, just as surely as He will always be God, He will (having taken the great step that we have been considering) ever be a real human being.
We observe also that He became in the “likeness” of men, that is, resembling men. Thus, while He is a real man, He is different from us. The same word translated “likeness” is used in Romans 8:3: “God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.” His resemblance to His fellow men is not total. He is without sin, as we will see in future articles, and He is still God.
Finally, we read, “being found in fashion as a man.” The word “fashion” is schema, referring to what people could observe. Vine describes it as “the entire outwardly perceptible mode and shape of His existence, just as the preceding words morphe (form), andhomoioma (likeness), describe what He was in Himself as Man.” People looked at Him, and they saw a man, for that is what He became.
Thus, the few words of this exquisite section of Philippians teach us blessed truths concerning our Lord Jesus Christ: He is God; He became a man; and yet, in doing so, He never ceased to be God.
The Person of Christ (05 Pt3): His Uncompromising Humanity
In considering the subject of the Person of Christ, it is necessary to examine passages in close detail to ascertain their meaning, with a view to counteracting the errors that abound. This we have sought to do, but we acknowledge that it can be taxing on the mind, and also that it can be to the neglect of the devotional side of things.
This month’s article is an effort to, in a measure, address that imbalance. We will quote, with little comment, some references to the Lord Jesus Christ when He was here on earth, and leave it to the reader to meditate upon them.
In John 1:36 we read of John the Baptist: “And looking upon Jesus as He walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!” Doubtless this refers to the literal walking of the Lord Jesus, yet it aptly symbolizes “His walk,” His manner of life. All who looked upon Him saw One Who was ever walking totally in character with Who He is. He said, of His Father, “I do always those things that please Him” (John 8:29). On two momentous occasions, His baptism and His transfiguration, the Father declared, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17; 17:5). Well could John write, “He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked” (1John 2:6).
John the apostle succinctly states, “He Whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God” (John 3:34). Even a hostile audience “wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth” (Luke 4:22). When the Lord asked His disciples, “Will ye also go away?” Peter replied with these heartwarming words: “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:67, 68).
John the Baptist was a mighty witness to Who the Lord Jesus is, and what He had come to do. Yet the Lord’s works were an even greater witness. He declared, “I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given Me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father hath sent Me” (John 5:36). They were unique works . He calls them “the works which none other man did” (John 15:24). It is no wonder that those who observed His works “were astonished beyond measure, saying, He hath done all things well” (Mark 7:37). After the Lord had returned to heaven, Peter gave a mighty commentary on it all: “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: Who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38).
He affirmed, “I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me” (John 6:38). This does not mean that the Lord Jesus’ will was different from the Father’s, and that He was doing things differently from how He would have, had He been following His own will. Certainly not! On this occasion, He was speaking to people who thought He was a mere man (see especially verses 41 and 42), and seeking to convince them that, rather than being a man Whose origin was from earth, He had come down from heaven. As part of this work of persuading them, He stated that He was not doing His own will (as a man originating on earth would), but that He was doing the will of God. There was no difference between His will and God’s will.
Not only did He always do His Father’s will, but it was His great delight to do it. He stated, on another occasion, “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34). Concerning Him, the writer to the Hebrews, quoting from Psalm 40, wrote: “I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me,) to do Thy will, O God” (Heb 10:7).
When He was a child, He was “filled with wisdom” (Luke 2:40). As an adult, it is recorded that His fellow countrymen, on hearing Him teach, “were astonished, and said, ‘Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works?'” (Matt 13:54).
Time and again, as we read His words, we marvel at His wisdom. A striking example is provided by His exchanges with the various groups that came to Him in Matthew 22, trying to “entangle Him in His talk” (v15). How fitting is Matthew’s conclusion to the chapter: “And no man was able to answer Him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask Him any more questions” (v46).
The words “Thou … teachest the way of God truly” (Luke 20:21) were spoken to Him by insincere men, but their statement was correct. Not only did He teach God’s way truly, He demonstrated it truly. His ways were the ways that pleased God.
Take one example: His meekness. He taught it to others: “Blessed are the meek” (Matt 5:5), and He practiced it: “I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt 11:29). He, the King, rode into Jerusalem in meekness, the very opposite of earthly kings (Matt 21:5). Paul writes of “the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2Cor 10:1). And myriad other examples could be quoted. Time and language fail us in trying to do justice to His ways of love, compassion, gentleness, patience, and so many other graces.
We have our “strong points” and our “weak points.” Not He. There was no good quality that He ever needed to obtain, for He had them all. Nor did anything about Him ever need improvement. Every virtue was His in complete perfection. As Mary Peters wrote:
This Name encircles every grace
That God, as man, could show;
There only can the Spirit trace,
A perfect life below.
The Person of Christ (05 Pt4): His Uncompromising Humanity
Last month, we saw that throughout His life here on earth, every virtue was present in our Lord Jesus Christ in full perfection. In the Scriptures, believers are exhorted to become more virtuous: to increase in holiness, in patience, in love, in kindness, and in every other noble characteristic. No such development was ever needed in Him. He was perfect in every grace and virtue for the duration of His time here.
Some dispute this, and quote verses that they claim teach otherwise. One such is “Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered” (Heb 5:8). This, they say, shows that He needed to develop in obedience to Joseph and Mary, and to others in positions of authority.
To begin with, Hebrews 5:8 is not talking about His obedience to Joseph and Mary, but to His Father, God. However, we will consider it, as the principles involved are relevant to the case. When we speak of a child “learning obedience,” we may mean that he does not know how to be obedient, and needs to be taught it; or, that he knows how, but has a tendency to be disobedient, which he must learn to curb; or, that he knows how, but needs to learn by experience. All three are involved in the upbringing of children. In the case of the Lord Jesus Christ, the first two were never necessary. Regarding obedience to His Father, or to anyone on earth, He needed no instruction, and there was no hint of disobedience. He “learned obedience” only in the sense of “learning by experience.” In coming to earth, He learned to experience obedience in situations He had not previously faced.
Thus, when we read that He “came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them [Mary and Joseph]” (Luke 2:51), this does not mean that He began to be subject. Luke is just stating that He continued to be what He always was – totally obedient to them, right from infancy.
Luke 2:52 says, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” This verse is misrepresented in at least two ways. First, some say that it shows that He did not always have perfect wisdom. We disagree with this statement and believe that the explanation is similar to that for His obedience. Wisdom is learned, both by instruction and by experience. He had no need for the former; Luke is referring to the latter. Every day that He was here on earth His experience of life increased, and with it, the wisdom that was an inevitable result. As time went on, His wisdom became more and more evident to more and more people.
Second, they claim that this verse shows He was not always fully in favor with God, that this was something He needed to develop. Once again, we differ strongly with this idea. The Father was never less than 100% pleased with every aspect of His Son’s character and all that He did. Every day, the Lord Jesus did things that brought pleasure to His Father. Thus, at the end of each day, there was even more for the Father to delight in than there had been at its beginning. In that sense, He increased in favor with God. There was no increase in favor as far as quality was concerned, but there was a quantitative increase.
Similarly, with regard to increasing in favor with man, it is not that He became more virtuous, but rather that, day by day, people came to witness even more evidence of His worthy character and behavior, and so their esteem of Him constantly increased.
The verse currently under consideration speaks of Him increasing in “stature.” This word does not always refer to physical height. It sometimes denotes increasing in age. Whatever way we understand it here, it is clear that it is referring to development – He did increase in years, and He did develop physically. We do well to remember this. Adam appeared as an adult from the moment he was created. He looked “grown up,” took instructions, and spoke (Gen 2:16, 20, 23). It was not so for our blessed Lord; this was not God’s way for how His Son would come. He came as a tiny baby, and, for example, He did not start to speak the day He was born (though He was certainly capable of doing so). He did not develop in a way that would strike people as “weird,” either physically or in other ways, such as in the use of language. His stage of development, as viewed by others, was always appropriate to his age. Yet, as time passed, it became evident that He was no ordinary child – a fact highlighted in their reaction to Him of the Jewish teachers in the temple (Luke 2:47). God ordained it that people would only come to realize His greatness in a gradual way, but that greatness was always there. His inherent perfection, and men’s increasing awareness of it, are two different things, not to be confused. The fact that His physical development was similar to ours should not lead us into the error of thinking that He also needed to develop in virtue. No, He was ever totally virtuous.
When we read of Him “being made perfect” (Heb 5:9), it certainly does not mean that He was ever imperfect. The writer to the Hebrews is showing how His experiences here on earth have uniquely fitted Him to function as our Great High Priest. Here “perfect” means “perfectly suited” (for His High Priestly work). It does not in any way imply that at any time He was less than perfect in character.
His perfection will be very much under consideration in our next article, when, Lord willing, we start to look at “His Untainted Impeccability.”