The Humanity of Jesus
Part II of IV
The material presented in Part 1 of this series offered evidence that Jesus literally came in the flesh of humanity, but a related question that begs to be answered is this: Why was it necessary for the Word to be made flesh? A partial answer is attainable when John states, “…and we beheld His glory” (John 1:14). Jesus appeared in the flesh to provide men with a visible commentary on the character of deity, i.e., what is God like? How would God meet temptation? How would God treat people…would He love the rich and despise the poor? Would He seek after His own interest at the expense of others? And most importantly, how would God remain just and righteous while saving sinful man?
While no man has seen God in pure spirit essence, men did witness the “only begotten God” (cf. John 1:18, NASB, ESV, NIV) whose mission it was to “declare” or “explain” God. The Greek “exegeomai” forms the basis of our English term “exegesis.” Hence Christ was the perfect revelation or explanation of the invisible God. Paul wrote of “He who was revealed in the flesh” (I Timothy 3:16). This refers to the incarnation; the time when “the Dayspring from on high hath visited us” (Luke 1:78). When God became a man in the Person of Jesus Christ, the world received the answers to all the above questions and many, many more.
It is stated that Jesus learned obedience by the things which He suffered (Hebrews 5:8). The word “learned” is from a Greek word which means to increase one’s knowledge through study, practice, experience, or observation. As one born in the flesh, Jesus increased His knowledge of how to obey the will of God. His birth into a home of poverty assured the lack of privilege necessary to begin training at an early age.
Jesus learned to trust God in all circumstances of life, and His unwavering obedience not only fulfilled every law of God, but His obedience satisfied the will of God through the sacrifice of Himself on the cross (Philippians 2:8). Only when speaking of the God-man could death be described as obedience; for all others, death is a necessity (Hebrews 9:27). The death of Christ must not be seen as something inflicted upon Him, but the voluntary laying down of His life (cf. John 10:17f) in obedience to God’s eternal scheme of human redemption.
Sin Demanded a New Adam
The humanity of Jesus is witnessed in that He became the Head of a new race of human beings. The first Adam is the federal head of the human race in which all humanity was represented in the beautiful Garden of Eden. When Adam sinned, all humanity sinned representatively in him (Romans 5:12). This does not mean we inherit the sin of Adam as the denominational world following the teaching of John Calvin proposes; rather, Adam literally sinned and the rest of humanity sinned representatively.
An example of how this is possible is seen in Levi who paid tithes to Melchizedek long before he was born, being in the loins of Abraham as a descendent. Abraham actually paid the tithes, but Levi paid the tithes representatively (indicating the superiority of Melchizedek’s priesthood over the Levitical priesthood established in the Law of Moses; cf. Hebrews 7:9).
Actual sin in Adam brought guilt to him as an individual person; representative sin does not impute guilt, but it does involve all mankind in the consequences of that one sin. In the context of Romans 5:12-19, Paul demonstrates Adam as a type of Jesus. Through one willful act of disobedience, sin entered into the world, and death through sin, passing unto all the race of men.
In Paul’s argument, we get a glimpse of how horrific only one small sin is before holy God. As the head of the race of mankind, Adam’s one act of rebellion against the Creator involved all humanity in the consequences of the fall; again, not that we will be punished for Adam’s sin, but the experience of suffering and death was immediately demanded upon all who belonged to Adam in posterity.
Paul addresses this thought again in I Corinthians 15:20-58 when arguing the validity of the resurrection. An extremely interesting reference to Christ is found when Paul speaks of Him as the “last Adam” (v. 45). In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word “Adam” appears in the English in its transliterated form. The meaning of the word is simply “Man”; thus the original human created from the dust of the earth was called “Man.” Paul speaks of “the first man, Adam” (v. 45). He follows by stating, “The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven…And just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (vv. 47-49).
Paul is contrasting the difference between Adam and Christ, as both represent the headship of a race of men. The first Adam, made alive from the earth, was the great progenitor of the old fleshly race of men. When Adam became disobedient, he involved the whole of the old creation in his ruin. The second Adam, Jesus, having come from the eternal heavens to live as a man, and after achieving perfect and absolute obedience to the law of God, offered His righteous life as a gift; yet on the third day, being made alive from the earth (grave), He became the Head of a new creation of spiritual men.
Just as death followed all who belonged to the first Adam, Paul argues that life now follows all who belong to the second Adam. The astonishing significance of the resurrection appears vividly in this context. Adam, as a man, brought death, and all in him die; but Christ, as a man, brought resurrection from the dead, and all in Him have life (vv. 20-22).
Jesus Christ, the Man, was God’s answer to how the lost inheritance of paradise could be recovered. When Christ was raised to life as the First-fruits, He became the Head of a new spiritual race of mankind, a race without sin (Hebrews 8:12; 9:28). Paul refers to the new creation of humanity when he says, “Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come” (II Corinthians 5:17). Every man must be “in Christ” to become a “new creature” without sin.
A critical pivot allowing us to open the door of our minds to the necessity of the incarnation is the fact that man sinned in desiring to be like God, knowing good and evil. In his desire to become like God, Adam transgressed the limits of his established boundary as a subservient creature. Pride is possibly the greatest temptation of man, for by it the devil himself is under condemnation (I Timothy 3:6).
But Christ, “who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7), He experienced no difficulty in dealing with pride. Though He Himself is God, He was not so proud of His eternal status that He could not disavow the sacred privileges of deity and assume the form of the creature, condescending to the lowest conditions of earthly life as a mere servant (Luke 22:27). In fact, though some would be ashamed to condescend to such a lowly position, Christ “is not ashamed to call [men] brethren” (Hebrews 2:11).
Unlocking the Value of Christ’s Sacrifice
Being Himself divine, His consenting to become man is the most remarkable of all possible acts of humiliation, and by this altruistic act, God reversed the consequences of man’s Edenic rebellion. Whereas the disobedience of the first Adam resulted in the condemnation of death for all men, the justification brought by Christ’s perfect act of righteousness is sufficient, not merely for the covering of one sin, but for the covering of all sin (Romans 5:16).
God becoming a man in the Person of Christ provides the immense value and extreme worth of sacrifice necessary to effect atonement for all sin. In demonstrating the vast superiority and efficacy of the offering of Christ over the rites and sacrifices of the Law, the Hebrews’ writer implores “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14).
Although considerable debate remains over the identity of the “Spirit” in this passage (many arguing the reference is to the Holy Spirit), agreement is expressed with men such as Alford, Beza, Coffman, Delitzsch, Ebrard, Milligan and Vincent who see the ever abiding, personal Spirit of Christ Himself as the basis of the writer’s argument. The context of the entire chapter is but a ringing affirmation of the preeminence of Christ’s sacrifice, and here the author makes an earnest appeal to the constitution that gives merit to the offering.
Whereas animals possessed no spirit or will which could consent to the act of sacrifice, thereby rendering them true victims in the scheme of redemption, Christ willingly laid down His life (John 10:14-18), consenting to death by His eternal spirit and Godhood. Further, the blood of a man was held in much higher esteem than that of an animal (Genesis 22); yet Christ was not merely a man, but was Himself deity robed in the flesh of humanity, providing an immeasurable value and extreme worth to His sacrifice.
On Hebrews 9:14, Kendrick, in loco, interprets: “Offers himself by virtue of an eternal spirit which dwells within him and imparts to his sacrifice a spiritual and an eternal efficacy. The ‘spirit’ here spoken of was not, then, the ‘Holy Spirit’; it was not his purely divine nature; it was that blending of his divine nature with his human personality which forms the mystery of his being, that ‘spirit of holiness’ by virtue of which he was declared ‘the Son of God with power,’ on account of his resurrection from the dead.”
Hovey adds a note to Kendrick’s Commentary, in loco, as follows: “This adjective ‘eternal’ naturally suggests that the word ‘Spirit’ refers to the higher and divine nature of Christ. His truly human nature, on its spiritual side, was indeed eternal as to the future, but so also is the spirit of every man. The unique and superlative value of Christ’s self-sacrifice seems to have been due to the impulse of the divine side of his nature.”
Here is the key to unlocking the superiority of Christ’s sacrifice. In contrast to the everlasting spirit of man, animals are absent an immortal spirit; but Christ, surpassing even the significance of mankind created in the image of God, possessed His pre-existent, eternally divine spirit through which He existed before the creation of all things. It was the eternal spirit of the Word which was clothed with a body of flesh in the womb of Mary, allowing Him to become both the Son of God and the Son of Man (Luke 1:31-35). As stated in the Gospel Advocate Commentaries, “It was the sacrifice of his perfect humanity, sustained and supported by his own Divinity, that gave to his offering its infinite value” (Milligan, 1989).
The worth and attraction of the old rugged cross is not the shedding of innocent blood, but is Christ Himself. The imposing significance of His offering which made propitiation possible is the personal identity and eternal nature of Jesus Christ. His sacrifice resulted in satisfaction before God because it consisted of His deepest, most inner personality, i.e., the divine, eternal spirit by which He exists as God and through which He created all things (John 1:1-3). The combination of two natures (united in the incarnation - God and man) supplies every essential element to ratify forgiveness of sins for lost humanity. Unlike the temporary cleansing derived from animal sacrifices under the Law, the atonement of Christ is ceaseless by virtue of His eternal spirit through which He offered Himself without spot or blemish unto God.
The conscience cleansed by the sacrifice of Christ is sufficiently pure to allow the worshipper to approach God in reverent service. The apostle Peter, arguing very similarly the merits of Christ’s sacrifice, described how “Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit” (I Peter 3:18). Again, we must be careful not to confuse the “spirit” mentioned here with the Holy Spirit, but as distinguishing the flesh of Christ from the spiritual nature of Christ. Hence the cry from the cross, “Father, into Thy hands I commit My Spirit” (Luke 23:46).
The flesh is that side of man which belongs to the earth; the spirit is the side of his being which belongs to the spiritual realm, destined to an immortal existence. The eternal Spirit of Christ, after receiving the full fury of the wrath of God against sin on the cross, gave life to His body in the resurrection on the third day (cf. John 2:19-22).
Peter discusses how the conscience is cleansed through the death of Christ by insisting that just as Noah was saved by water, “baptism now saves you – not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience - through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 3:21). Here lies the basis of a clean conscience. Hebrews 9:14 explains how the blood of Christ offered through His eternal Spirit has the efficacy to cleanse the conscience. But how does the spirit of man come in contact with the blood of Christ? Peter gives the answer. It is through baptism that a man receives a clean conscience, being raised from the water just as Christ was raised from the dead.
The blood of Christ belongs properly to His body, yet Paul declared three times that men are baptized into the body of Christ (Romans 6:3; I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27). Furthermore, Christ’s blood was shed in His death, and Paul emphasized that “all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death” (Romans 6:3). The connection between baptism and the blood of Christ is irresistible.
The wonderful gift of salvation is made possible in the Man, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:15), and Paul discourses eloquently in Romans 6 concerning just how it is that sinful man may enter into Christ, receiving for himself all the benefits contained in the Man, Christ Jesus. The resurrection of Christ from the grave is the guarantee of a new life, attainable for all mankind in, by, and through Jesus Christ. Absent His eternal Spirit, it might be possible to argue for a one for one exchange between the sinless life offered by Christ and another life dead in sins and trespasses. The eternal Spirit of Christ provides the immense value necessary to accomplish salvation for all mankind, and in His body of flesh, His Spirit was tested in order to vindicate His holiness (cf. I Timothy 3:16).
Paul argues the same in his introduction to the Romans, pressing the importance of God’s promise “concerning His Son, who was born of a descendent of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:3-4). Respecting the humanity of Christ, He was born of woman like every other man is born (Galatians 4:4), thus becoming the Son of Man; but with respect to His eternal nature as deity, Jesus was “declared the Son of God” in a triumphant manner “by the resurrection from the dead” (lit. “of the dead”). The meaning is simply that Christ was established or vindicated as perfectly holy in the eyes of men when He was resurrected from the grave, proving His divine nature of deity and confirming His acceptable status to enter the office of King over His kingdom.
This was absolutely necessary due to the fact that in His manifestation as a man, He did not appear to other men to be anyone special or significant (Isaiah 53:2; cf. Mark 6:1-3). Christ’s existence before the incarnation was wholly spiritual. He wore the title, “Word,” and He was God, even Jehovah (John 1:1; cf. Isaiah 40:3, John 1:19-30). Since God is spirit (John 4:24), the divine nature of the Word is spirit; but when the Word became flesh (John 1:14), entering into the common conditions of human existence, His eternal essence and attributes of deity were veiled.
When men looked upon Jesus, they did not recognize Him as “the image of the invisible God” or the One who spoke the worlds into existence (Colossians 1:15-16). He didn’t appear to them as the One who was “in the beginning” (John 1:1); or whose existence was “from the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2); or who was equal with the Father (John 10:30; 12:45; 14:9); or who had talked with their father, Abraham (John 8:56-58); or who was “before all things” and in whom “all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17); or who had “all authority…in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18); or that His name was “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
Instead of receiving the glory due His pre-incarnate existence, He was despised and rejected of men (Isaiah 53:3; John 1:10). He lived a life of abject poverty (Luke 9:58). He was accused of all manner of sins, even blasphemy; for they disbelieved His claims to deity (John 10:33), and for this reason, they condemned Him to death (Mark 14:61-64). The justification or vindication of Christ’s true identity did not result from the flesh, but emerged from the divine or eternal spirit nature of Christ.
Because of His spotless character – having lived a life of absolute purity – He was declared to be the Son of God by His resurrection to a new and ever abiding life. Though put to death in the flesh, the eternal Spirit of Christ was vindicated when He was raised to life in the very city where He had been unjustly condemned. The salvation of mankind depended wholly upon the achievement of total faithfulness and holiness by a man, and God the Word became man that He might pass the test where all others had failed.
The Testing of Man
It was by temptation that God tested the faithfulness of Adam and Eve in the beginning, including every man since. The one prohibition given to man in the Garden was sufficient for proving a respectful love and obedience to the Creator. As the tempter, Satan was in the Garden with God’s permission, and from this it is evident that God is making definite use of the Devil in working out His great eternal purpose.
The tragic results of the fall of man came not as a surprise to God, but had been foreknown and countered from before times eternal (Romans 16:25; Colossians 1:26; I Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:4). To offset the disobedience of man, complete and perfect obedience was required. Since God cannot be tempted with evil (James 1:13), it was necessary for God to become a man that temptation could be met, and through total obedience by man, a way of righteousness established for all men.
Following the baptism of Jesus, when the Father audibly confessed Christ as the Son of God, Jesus was led out into the wilderness to be tempted. God knew that Satan would be anxious to ply His sinister trade against the Son of God, tempting Him to sin so He would fail His mission of redemption. The wilderness with its hardship and dangers had long been associated with great temptation, and Satan leaped at the “opportune time” to tempt Jesus during His time of extreme physical weakness, isolation and vulnerability.
Luke’s account includes a very important fact concerning the dominion Satan exercises over the present world. While tempting Christ to bow down and worship him, Satan acknowledged that all the earth and its kingdoms had “been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish” (Luke 4:6). It is often argued that Satan lied about having such power because God is sovereign over all created beings (cf. Revelation 4:11), and all the earth belongs to God (Psalm 24:1). Additionally, God is ultimately in control of all earthly powers and kingdoms (Daniel 4:17; Romans 13:1).
However, it was man who was originally given dominion over all the earth (Genesis 1:26), but by becoming subservient to the voice of the creature, man forfeited his delegated authority into the hands of the devil. This is why Jesus characterized Satan as “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11); Paul called him “the god of this world” (II Corinthians 4:4) and “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2; cf. 6:11, 12); and John said “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (I John 5:19). Man surrendered his authority over the earth, and through sin, dominion has indeed “been handed over to” the devil.
God permits Satan to exercise the power he unscrupulously grappled away from mankind, and this power is not only his influence over individuals, but over nations as well. The Revelator describes the old “dragon” as the power behind the “beast” (political forces) in his opposition against God’s people (Revelation 13:4; cf. 20:2). Paul describes a politico-religious force that would arise “in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness” (II Thessalonians 2:9-10). Yet, most significantly, the apostle relates how God is involved, tempering the power of Satan and protecting those who love the truth of the gospel (II Thessalonians 2:11f; cf. Hebrews 2:18).
Man relinquished his God given dominion over the earth into the hands of Satan through sin, and since the immense treasure was lost by man, it could only be recovered by man. The wisdom of God permeates the entire scope of the plan of human redemption! All that was necessary for God to become a man was designed into the creation of mankind, and hence, on the occasion of the very first sin, God announced the stupendous protoevangelium promising the deliverance of mankind and the destruction of the evil one through man (note masculine pronoun “He”), the seed of woman (Genesis 3:15).
When the fullness of time arrived, the Word became flesh, and Jesus met temptation (Matthew 4:1-11), yet He was without sin (Hebrews 4:15; 7:26; II Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 2:22). Having achieved perfect obedience, a way of righteousness had been restored for man, yet sin still demanded something extra. Jesus was manifested in the flesh that He might take away sin (I John 3:5). He saves us from the filth of sin by washing us in His own blood (I John 1:7; Revelation 1:5). He saves us from the penalty of sin by bearing the brunt of all that sin brought to man (II Corinthians 5:21).
The Power of Satan Destroyed by Man
God validated His own intrinsic righteousness by condemning sin in the body of Christ upon the cross (Romans 3:21-26; I Peter 2:24), and the actions of God did not merely counterbalance the disastrous behavior of Adam, but far exceeded it in an amount extolled as immeasurable to infinity (II Corinthians 9:15). Christ was manifested in the flesh “to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself,” and thus “having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without sin, to those who eagerly await Him” (Hebrews 9:26-28).
The coming of Christ in the flesh was the only remedy to recover man from the devastation of sin. That the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) meant it was not possible for God in the pure essence of deity to satisfy the demands of justice, for God, as a spirit entity, cannot die. God alone possesses true “immortality,” i.e. the intrinsic nature of deathlessness (I Timothy 6:16). If Jehovah was to remain just in condemning sin, yet offer justification to the sinner, the death of an innocent as a substitute for the penalty of sin was absolutely mandatory. Since physical death requires a physical being, God made the way possible for the Word to assume the form of flesh for the very purpose that He might taste death.
The Hebrews writer expressed this fact, saying, “Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (2:14-15). Christ’s victory over death had been prophesied long before: “And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, even the veil which is stretched over all nations. He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces” (Isaiah 25:7-8).
Isaiah’s mentioning of the removal of a “veil” immediately draws to mind the great veil of separation which was torn in two in the temple the moment Christ died (Matthew 27:51). Through His death, men “have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh” (Hebrews 10:19-20).
Jesus became a man that He might destroy both the devil and the works of the devil. Having achieved victory over death through the resurrection, Satan’s power over mankind has been destroyed. Satan’s intent in the garden was the absolute total destruction of mankind, the crowning gem of creation. His action must be viewed as a hostile act against God Himself, attempting to destroy man who was not only loved by God, but who was created in His own image.
Despite his best efforts, Satan was not allowed to frustrate the divine purpose by destroying man in death; rather, God immediately implemented the holy plan of redemption by which He will redeem the total number of mankind included in His original purpose. It would not be mankind that would meet with destruction, but the devil will be destroyed when Christ returns, being cast into the lake of fire and brimstone to be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:10). During the Christian dispensation, the very works of the devil are being destroyed in every person who loves the Lord and is striving to become like the perfect Man of God (Colossians 3:1-10). The entirety of Satan’s activities will be destroyed when the earth and the works therein are burned up (II Peter 3:10).
Sin Required a Mediator
Sin not only brought death, but it also created a great chasm between God and man. This vast gulf required a High Priest and Mediator to accomplish peace, reconciling man back to his God. As Paul taught, “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself” (I Corinthians 5:19). Christ accomplished reconciliation by abolishing in His flesh the enmity that existed between God and men (Ephesians 2:13-16), and “He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach” (Colossians 1:22). This is the work of a high priest.
To serve as High Priest, it was imperative that Christ understand life in the flesh. “Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:17-18). Because of His identity with man in the flesh, Christ understands our weaknesses and the many struggles we face in this life (Mark 14:37-38). Christ’s role as High Priest is witnessed in the sacrificial offering of His own life for sin (cf. John 10:15-18).
To serve as an unbiased mediator between holy God and sinful man, it was imperative for Christ to possess an equal relationship with both God and man. Christ is eminently qualified to function in the role of mediator based upon His theanthropic nature. The previous passage from Hebrews noted that He was “made like His brethren in all things.” This has reference to the days of His flesh.
Yet through the prophet, Zechariah, Jehovah declared, “Awake, O sword against My Shepherd, and against the man, My Associate” (13:7). The Hebrew word “amith” literally means “one in close, united relation” (Swanson, 1997). It implies an equal, and when the term is used in connection with God, it “cannot be a mere man, but can only be one who participates in the divine nature, or is essentially divine” (Keil, 1978, p. 397).
Christ is the only Person who is equally associated, equally related, equally interested, and equally identified with both God and man. These criteria establish Him as a capable Mediator, and Paul acknowledged, “For there is one mediator also between God and men, man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5). Paul’s emphasis upon Christ our mediator as “man” (absent the article in the Greek) is extremely significant and should not be overlooked. Paul is stressing the human nature of Christ as fundamental in the reconciliation of fallen man to God.
As man, Jesus appears before God on behalf of all mn who belong to Him. The ownership of our lives is transferred to Christ in baptism (cf. Galatians 3:27-29). By possessing equality with both God and man, Christ accomplished reconciliation through the sacrifice of Himself upon the cross. The humanity of Christ is indispensable to the work of God in establishing a means by which sinful man may be saved.
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Keil, C. F. (1878), The Twelve Minor Prophets. Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Milligan, Robert (1989), New Testament Commentaries – Hebrews (Nashville, TN: Gospel
Swanson, James (1997), Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains:
Hebrew (Old Testament). electronic ed. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems).
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