The Doctrine of the Son
In this study, we shall examine God, the Son. By way of introduction, consider these thoughts.
The Old Testament begins with the fact that man is made in the image of God. The New Testament begins with God made in the likeness of man. In the Old Testament the Sovereign Creator creates His creatures. In the New Testament however, the Sovereign Creator is crucified by His creatures. As we study, please keep in mind what your Creator Savior accomplished for you through the miracle of Christ.
The Preexistent Christ
We will begin by looking at the work of Christ prior to His birth. Scripture supports the fact of the preexistence of Christ. His preexistence is a doctrine taught by the following: 1. John the Baptist (John 1:27-30) 2. The Apostle John (John 1:1, 2) 3. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 2:6-8; Colossians 1:16, 17;) 4. The Apostle Peter (I Peter 1:20) and 5. Christ Himself (John 6:51, 61, 62; 8:58; 7:5). We read in Isaiah 42:8, “I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another.” Either Christ was fully God or the greatest imposter that ever lived. Either He had a rightful claim to God’s glory, or He tried to take what was not His. It is good to know that the Savior we worship is indeed the God of Heaven.
Just what was Christ doing in His preexistence? He was communing with the Father (John 17:23, 24). He was creating the universe (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2, 10). He was controlling the universe (Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:17).
We will not go into detail here, but realize that even in the Old Testament Christ appeared to His people through pre-Bethlehem visits called theophanies or Christophanies. I will list several for your consideration. He appeared to Hagar (Genesis 16:7-14). He appeared to Abraham (Genesis 18:1). He appeared to Moses (Exodus 23:20). He appeared to Gideon (Judges 6:11-24). He appeared to Samson’s parents (Judges 13). He appeared to Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-13). As a matter of fact, Isaiah saw more of the pre-incarnate Christ than any other prophet. These are just a few examples mentioned in Scripture.
Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law.” At a particular time in eternity it was planned that God would take on human flesh to redeem His most prized possession - you! It was for the joy that was set before Him that He endured humanity. Humanity includes death. Until the rapture takes place, every single human being will taste death. Jesus likewise tasted death. But the fullness of time began at His birth - the incarnation.
There are several false views we will look at before we look at what actually took place in Bethlehem. These false views are the following: 1. The Ebionites - they did not recognize the divinity of Christ. This false teaching is refuted by John in John 1:1; 2. The Gnostics - they did not recognize the humanity of Christ (refuted by I John 1:1). 3. The Arians - denied Christ’s deity, but believed in His preexistence. This would be the position of the present day Jehovah’s Witnesses. 4. The Nestorians - believed in two separate beings inhabiting the body of Christ. One was human, the other God. 5. The Eutychians - claimed that both natures mingled and became a separate third nature.
In Strong’s Systematic Theology, Mr. Strong gives a definition that fits the truth of the incarnation; “In the one person, Jesus Christ, there are two natures - human nature and a divine nature, each in its completeness and integrity, and these two natures are organically and indissolubly united, yet so that no third nature is formed thereby (A. H. Strong, Systematic Theology, p. 673).
The Hypostatic Union
The true view is that Jesus Christ is as much man as if He had never been God, and that He is as much God as if He had never been man. The theological term for this is “hypostatic union.” Man has unsuccessfully been able to describe this union because it is a miracle; however, they do try. Some examples given are the following: 1. oneness in the relationship between body and soul. 2. oneness in the relationship between husband and wife. 3. oneness in the relationship between oxygen and hydrogen while producing of water. In each attempt to make an analogy there are two entities, but in the hypostatic union there is one entity with two natures.
In the example of the hydrogen and oxygen, water can be formed from its two components and broken down or separated again. In the hypostatic union, the components (Divinity and humanity) can not be separated. Christ can not separate His deity from His humanity.The bottom line is that mere mortals will never be able to accurately describe this miracle of God.
The Perpetuity of the Incarnation
We must also understand the perpetuity of the incarnation. God’s plan was that when His Son joined Himself to a body in Bethlehem, it would be permanent. The same body that grew from a babe and was crucified on the cross is the same body in existence today, albeit glorified.
The Impeccability of Christ
The teaching of impeccability deals with the sinlessness of Christ. First of all, Christ did not sin. II Corinthians 5:21 tells us, “For he made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." He knew no sin.
Secondly He did no sin. “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth" (I Peter 2:22).
Thirdly He had no sin. “And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin" (I John 3:5).
These facts were attested to even by some of Christ’s enemies: Pilate (John 19:4); Pilate’s wife (Matthew 27:19); Judas (Matthew 27:4); the dying thief (Luke 23:41) and the centurion (Luke 23:47).
The question arises, could Christ sin? Did He have the ability to sin? This is the thought behind the impeccability of Christ. Theologically, if He could sin, He would be declared peccable. The advocates of peccabiltiy say that Christ could have sinned, but chose not to. To follow this thinking is to say that God is not holy.
Holiness is more than the absence of sin. It is a positive virtue that has no interest in sin. His humanity allowed for additional experience, but not a change in character. Christ could not have more holiness because He is perfectly holy. He could not have less holiness because He is unchangingly holy.
You may recall that in Matthew 4 satan comes to Jesus with temptations to sin. If Christ could not have sinned what was the purpose of the temptations? The temptations were not to see if Christ would sin, but rather to prove that He could not sin. Just because Christ was attacked by satan does not mean that there was any chance of failure by Christ. A rowboat might declare war on a nuclear ship, but certainly could never defeat it.
The Kenosis of Christ
Now, let us look at the kenosis of Jesus. Kenosis means divine emptying. First notice that Jesus emptied Himself of Heaven’s glory. We read in John 17:5, “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty, might be rich (II Corinthians 8:9). Christ left all the glories of Heaven for His sin sick creation. He traded the glories of Heaven for a place where He could not even lay His head.
In Philippians 2:7 Christ was “made himself of no reputation.” The Greek word for “reputation” is “Kenoo” which means to empty. Christ made Himself empty and took on the form of a servant. Emptying Himself does not mean in any way that Christ laid aside His deity. Several verses indicate this (see John 1:1; II Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15; 2:9; Hebrews 1:3).
Even though He retained His deity throughout His earthly ministry, He did veil His deity in human flesh. He did not however, surrender the independent exercise of His divine characteristics. A false view of kenosis says that Christ emptied himself of His relative attributes of omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence while retaining His immanent attributes of holiness, love, and truth. True, He did temporarily lay these aside and chose not to use them, but He never gave them up. For a time Christ abstained from His omnipresence (John 11:14, 15), His omniscience (Mark 13:32; Luke 8:45, 46), and His Omnipotence (John 5:19, 20).