Chapter 6: The Nature of Christ When He Became Man?

In Jn 1:14 we read an amazing thing – that God became Man. This man was Jesus Christ.

Jn 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Note that Jn 1:14 doesn’t say that God added humanity to Himself but that God became Man. It was a transformation, not an addition.

Every human being (except Adam and Eve of course) has a father and a mother. Jesus also had a father and a mother. His mother was Mary. His father was God (Lk 1:35). Just like any normal human conception, the father provided the sperm and the mother provided the egg. So it was with Jesus too.

Lk 1:35 The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God."

He was the only human being whose father (in the procreation sense) was God. That is why in Jn 1:14 John refers to Him as the only begotten from the Father.

When the angel told Mary that the power of the Most High will overshadow her he meant that the sperm that would join her egg would come from the Most High God. Jesus could call Himself Son of God because His Father (provider of the sperm) was God. He could also call Himself Son of Man (and we see Him doing this often in the gospels) because His mother was Mary. If Mary was merely a carrier, and both the sperm and egg that resulted in His conception were from God, then He would not be able to call Himself the Son of Man, and He would not be a descendant of David and Scripture would not be fulfilled.

Notice the emphasis on God becoming flesh in Jn 1:14. As we saw earlier, God was spirit + knowledge of good and evil. Now God adds flesh to His spiritual components.

He was still God

So the question that arises is this: while Jesus was man was He still God? The answer is, "Yes."

There are three things that Jesus did while on earth that clearly shows that the man Jesus was still God. The first was that He forgave sins (Mt 9:6; Mk 2:7,10; Lk 5:21,24), the second was that He accepted worship (Mt 2:11; 14:32-33; 28:8-9,16-17; Mk 5:6; Jn 9:38), and the third was that He claimed to be before Abraham was.

In addition, besides witness from the prophets, and the angels and the disciples, there is witness from unlikely sources – even the demons recognized Him as the eternal Son of God.

Let us examine each item one by one.

Consider the following verses.

Mt 9:1-8 1 Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea and came to His own city. 2 And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven." 3 And some of the scribes said to themselves, "This fellow blasphemes." 4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, "Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? 5 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk‘? 6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" – then He said to the paralytic, "Get up, pick up your bed and go home." 7 And he got up and went home. 8 But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

Lk 5:20-21 Seeing their faith, He said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven you." The scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, "Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?"

Mk 2:7 "Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?"

The Pharisees clearly understood, and so should we, that only God can forgive sins. If man could forgive sins then there would be no need for a Savior to pay the price for our sins. God may delegate forgiveness of sins to the born again man based on the work of Christ (Jn 20:23), but such delegation would be void if Christ did not first make the payment for sins. Therefore, for Jesus to righteously claim authority to forgive sins He had to be divine.

Next, consider the following verses.

Mt 2:11 After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Mt 14:32-33 When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, "You are certainly God’s Son!"

Mt 28:8-9 And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.

Mt 28:16-17 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.

Jn 9:38 And he said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshiped Him.

In the above verses, we see people worshipping Jesus and He accepted their worship, clearly indicating that He was God because only God can rightfully accept worship.

This is in contrast to Peter’s behavior in Ac 10:25-26 and the angel’s behavior in Rev 19:10 and Rev 22:8-9 when someone attempted to worship them – they didn’t accept the worship.

Ac 10:25-26 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter raised him up, saying, "Stand up; I too am just a man."

Rev 19:10 Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, "Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."

Rev 22:8-9 I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things. But he said to me, "Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God."

The angels and the men knew that only God is to be worshiped. Therefore, for Jesus to righteously accept worship He had to be divine.

Next, consider Jn 1:15 and Jn 8:56-68.

Jn 1:15 John testified about Him and cried out, saying, "This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me’."

John was conceived before Jesus (we know this because when the angel appeared to Mary he mentioned that Elizabeth was already pregnant) but John says that Jesus existed before him. So clearly, the prophet John the Baptist believed that Jesus was divine.

Jn 8:56-58 "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." So the Jews said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am."

Here, Jesus referred to Himself using a title God used when Moses asked God who He was – He referred to Himself as ‘I am’. We see God using this title in Ex 3:14-15.

Ex 3:14-15 Then Moses said to God, "Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?" God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM"; and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’."

Time has a beginning. It began when the universe was created (per the theory of General Relativity). All created beings exist in time. Further, they see each point in time only once – when it is in the present; at that point in time, all other points in time are either in the past or in the future. But it is different for God. For Him, He is present at all points in time at the same time! That is why God, and only God, can refer to Himself as, "I am." While it is still today, He can see yesterday, and He can see tomorrow – both of them as if they were today! That is why God can tell the prophets what will happen in their future.

So when Jesus refers to Himself as ‘I am’ He is clearly telling the Pharisees that He is God. He is telling them that before Abraham was on the earth He (Jesus) existed in the form of God who was present at all points in time at the same time.

Jesus’ disciples recognized that He was divine. In Mt 15:15-16 we see that Peter got revelation that Jesus was God.

Mt 15:15-16 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Jesus was recognized as the Son of the Most High God by the evil spirits.

Lk 4:34 "Let us alone! What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are – the Holy One of God!"

Lk 8:28 Seeing Jesus, he cried out and fell before Him, and said in a loud voice, "What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me."

Isaiah prophesied that God would become Man, and this was fulfilled in Jesus.

Lk 1:32 "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David;"

Lk 1:35 The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God."

Is 7:14 "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel."

Mt 1:20-23 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL," which translated means, "GOD WITH US."

The fact that the angel called Jesus Son of God and Immanuel (God with us) clearly shows that the angel proclaimed Jesus as God.

Next, consider Mt 3:16-17 and Mt 17:5 where God declares (and Peter remembers, in 2 Pet 1:16-18) that Jesus is His Son.

Mt 3:16-17 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased."

Mt 17:5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!"

2 Pet 1:16-18 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, "This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased" – and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.

Then later, the entire chapter of Heb 1 points out Jesus as God’s Son while on earth.

So we see that God Himself called Jesus His own Son (thus declaring Him to be divine) in Mt 3 and Mt 17 and Heb 1.

In summary, we see that Jesus, while on earth as man, claimed divinity, and the Pharisees crucified Him for that because they thought it was blasphemy; His divinity was prophesied by Isaiah; His disciples acknowledged His divinity, as did angels; even the demons acknowledged His divinity; and finally, God Himself attested to His divinity. Based on all this evidence, if we say that we believe the Bible to be the word of God, we cannot but affirm that when Jesus was on earth He was still God.

He was not fully God

Seeing that Jesus was God even while on the earth, the next question to ask is whether He was fully God. By ‘was He fully God?’ I mean, did He have whatever the Father had in the same amounts that the Father had it? Was He equal to the Father in all respects?

There is so much Scripture to answer that question with a resounding ‘no’! Let’s begin with Phil 2:5-7. This passage tells us how God became man.

Phil 2:5-7 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, {and} being made in the likeness of men.

Before we engage in discussion about this passage, let’s do a short question and answer session…

What did Jesus think was not worth grasping, or holding on to?

Equality with God.

What did Jesus therefore ungrasp or let go of or empty Himself of or nullify about Himself?

Equality with God.

What is the consequence of a divine being emptying Himself of equality with God?

He is no longer equal to God.

Can a being who is not equal to God be equal to, or fully God?

No.

What does that tell us?

It tells us that Jesus was not fully God when He was on earth as man.

Now let’s discuss this further and examine it in more detail…

First, notice the before/after states of Christ. Before, He existed in the form of God, and after, He was in the likeness of men, and a bond-servant of God (not of men). The relationship had changed from peer/peer to master/bond-servant – equality to inequality. A being who is fully God is not a bond-servant of God but equal to God. A servant is not equal to His master.

Second, note that Paul says that Jesus did not regard His equality with God as something to be held on to. That implies that He let go of it. He let go of the things that made Him equal to God. Therefore, at the end of this transition He was no longer equal to God but something lesser. In other words, He was no longer fully God. This holds true independent of whatever you or I think He emptied Himself of.

Third, note that Paul says that He emptied Himself (of that which made Him equal to God) so that He could become man. ‘He emptied Himself’ is an interesting choice of words. The Greek word translated ‘empty’ here is ‘kenoo’ which has the sense of taking out the contents of a container, or voiding or nullifying a contract or promise. In this context, the former sense is more appropriate – He emptied Himself of that which He did not hold on to, and that was the things that made Him equal to God.

What does ‘empty’ mean in this context? God is an infinite being – meaning, He has properties in infinite amounts. For example, He has infinite power and understanding, He sees everywhere, He knows all things, and so on. Therefore, when God empties Himself to become man, the attributes that were unique to God went from infinity to zero. The attributes that were of man went from infinity to a finite value that was appropriate to man. Any finite values went to zero. This is why the word ‘empty’ is so appropriate.

To become man, the omniscient God had to come down to finite `vision’; the all-wise God had to have finite wisdom and grow in it. And so on.

We know that God is not temptable, but man is. Not being temptable can be thought of as having an infinite resistance to temptation. That was made finite (within the parameters of man) upon emptying.

This ‘emptying’ is in contrast to those who say that Christ ‘added’ His human nature to His deity. Emptying (or nullifying) denotes subtraction, not addition. So the notion of that which was ‘fully God’ adding ‘fully man’ to Himself is contrary to the Scripture of Phil 2:5-7.

Further, one cannot really add anything to a being that is fully God because such addition yields nothing new. For example, what is the point of adding finite understanding to infinite understanding? Or finite wisdom to infinite wisdom? Or finite vision to omniscience? Or finite power to the Almighty God? There is no point! It is therefore ridiculous to say that God added humanity to His divinity!

Some people say that Jesus couldn’t stop being fully God because it is impossible for God to not be Himself. There is no Scripture to support such a position. Isn’t it arrogance to think that we can know what is impossible for God without Scriptural support explicitly telling us that God can’t do something?

Phil 2:5-7 is sufficient proof that Jesus was not fully God while on earth. But there is still lots more proof.

Next, let us look at 2 Pet 2:11 and Heb 2:7, 9.

2 Pet 2:11 yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord.

Heb 2:7 "YOU HAVE MADE HIM FOR A LITTLE WHILE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS; YOU HAVE CROWNED HIM WITH GLORY AND HONOR, AND HAVE APPOINTED HIM OVER THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS;"

Heb 2:9 But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.

2 Pet 2:11 tells us that angels are more powerful than men, and Heb 2:7, 9 tells us that Jesus was made for a little while lower than the angels. This clearly shows that He was stripped off His powers. In other words, while Jesus was on earth He was not fully God.

God > angel > man. Therefore, God + man > angel. If Christ was fully God and fully man then Christ (while on earth) must be higher than the angels. But Heb 2:7-10 says that He was made a little lower than the angels. Further, Heb 1:3-4 tells us that after His resurrection He became better than the angels.

Heb 1:3-4 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.

This passage refers to Jesus after the resurrection. But it raises an important question. If Jesus was always fully God, how could He have become (the keyword here is ‘become’) better than the angels? There would never have been a time when He wasn’t better than the angels? And how could He have inherited a more excellent name than the angels? If He was never less than fully God then He would have always had a better name than the angels, wouldn’t He?

Next, consider 1 Jn 3:20 and Mt 24:36.

1 Jn 3:20 in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.

Mt 24:36 "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone."

From these verses we see that God knows all things (i.e. knowing all things is a quality of any being that is fully God), but Jesus did not know the day and hour of the Second Coming. If Jesus was fully God He would have known it because God knows all things.

Next, consider Jesus’ response to a question in Mk 10:17-18.

Mk 10:17-18 As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone."

As Jesus said, only God (who cannot be tempted) is (intrinsically) good. Man, because of his flesh, has to battle temptation to be good. This passage makes it clear that Jesus Himself acknowledged that He was not fully God while on earth.

If you are thinking that perhaps Jesus was trying to hint to the man that He was God, it is a valid thought – hold on to that for a few moments, and I’ll address it shortly.

Next, consider what Jesus said to God in Jn 17:5, and Peter’s comment in 1 Pet 1:21.

Jn 17:5 "Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was."

1 Pet 1:21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

There was a glory that Jesus had before the world was. To become the Lamb of God He had to give up that glory (the things that made Him great) before the world was (Eph 1:4, 1 Pet 1:20-21, Rev 13:8). That glory included His ability to be intrinsically good because at that time He had no flesh. So clearly, He was not fully God until He regained that glory after the resurrection.

Note also that after the Father raised Jesus, He gave Jesus the glory that He had with the Father before the world was. So clearly Jesus didn’t have that glory while on earth.

Now some people think that God’s glory is some nebulous cloud that surrounds His presence. Nothing could be further from the truth! A person’s glory is the set of things that make the person great or special. God’s glory is His goodness. We know this because when Moses asked God to show him His glory, God let His goodness pass before Moses (Ex 33:18-19).

Ex 33:18-23 and Ex 34:6-8 define the glory of God as the attributes of Him that make Him great – such as his loving kindness, forgiveness, patience, etc. So God’s glory is His ability to have His Holy character effortlessly. That was what Christ gave up. He was no longer good by default. He had to suffer in the flesh to be good. He also gave up His divine powers (omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, etc.).

Glory does not mean ‘honor’ or ‘dignity’ or ‘privileges as God’. If it meant that then Jesus would not be able to exercise His divine privileges of forgiving sins or accepting worship. Clearly, He didn’t give these things up as He did forgive sins and accept worship while on earth.

Next, look at Jn 14:28.

Jn 14:28 "You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you’. If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I."

If Jesus were fully God then the Father could not be greater than Him (in any sense of the word ‘greater’) but would be equal to Him. To be specific, there would never be any point in time when the Father was greater than Him. The only reason why the Father was greater than Him while He was on earth was because while He was on earth He was not fully God. After all, if anyone is greater than you then you cannot be fully God because, by the definition of ‘fully God’, no one can be greater than someone who is fully God.

His point in Jn 14:28 was that currently (i.e. while He was on earth) His Father was greater than Him, but when He went to His Father, His Father would restore to Him the glory that He had before the world was, and then He and the Father would have the same greatness. That was worth rejoicing! This too, clearly shows that Jesus was not fully God while on earth.

Next, consider Col 1:19.

Col 1:19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him,

Note how it says that it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness (of deity) to dwell in Him. This indicates that there was a time when the fullness didn’t dwell in Him and the Father had to decide whether to allow it. This refers to the time when Jesus was a man on earth, and died, and the time came for the Father to raise Him from the dead. Recall how Jesus asked the Father in Jn 17:5 to glorify Him with the glory He once had? Col 1:19 tells us that the Father answered Jesus’ prayer affirmatively.

Now (coming back to Mt 10:17-18), some people say that in Mt 10:17-18 Jesus was not indicating that He was not fully God (and therefore not intrinsically good), but in the light of the verses we just examined (Jn 17:5, 1 Pet 1:21, Ex 33:18-23, Jn 14:28 and Col 1:19) it makes more sense to interpret Mt 10:17-18 as Jesus indicating that He was not fully God because He wasn’t intrinsically good.

Some people interpret Phil 2:5-7 as Christ emptying Himself of His status and position but not His divine attributes. However, when you look at Phil 2:5-7 in the light of other Scripture like Col 1:19, Jn 14:28, Jn 17:5, 1 Pet 1:21, Heb 2:7,9 and Heb 1:3-4 it becomes clear that He emptied Himself of divine attributes (i.e. His glory – the things that made Him great) and not status or position.

Further, if He had emptied Himself of status and position as God then He wouldn’t have accepted worship or forgiven sins. You can’t say that He didn’t have the status or position of God when He forgave sins and accepted worship, can you? After all, only a person in the position of God can forgive sins or accept worship.

Think of it like this: can a person who once had the position of President of the United States but no longer has it still act as if he was the President of the United States and do things that only the President can do (like command the military forces)? Certainly not. Similarly, if Jesus emptied Himself of his status and position of God then He wouldn’t be able to forgive or accept worship.

Next, consider the fact that God (the Father) had to raise Jesus up from the dead. He was unable to do it Himself but needed the Father to raise Him. If Jesus were fully God He would have raised Himself up from the dead. When Jesus committed His Spirit to the Father in Lk 23:46 He was counting on God to raise Him from the dead and glorify Him with the glory that He had before the world was, namely the fullness of deity.

Lk 23:46 And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, "Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT." Having said this, He breathed His last.

Here is the entire set of Scripture that shows that the Father raised Jesus from the dead: Ac 2:32-33, 4:10, 5:30, 13:33; Rom 4:24, Rom 10:9; 2 Cor 4:14; Gal 1:1; 1 Thess 1:10. I’ve listed a few down here.

Ac 2:32-33 "This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear."

Ac 3:15 but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses.

Ac 13:30 "But God raised Him from the dead;"

Rom 4:24 but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead,

Next, consider Paul’s argument in 1 Cor 15:12-20. Paul says that God raised Christ. Paul argues that the raising of Christ is argument for the raising of man. This would be an invalid argument if Christ were fully God in the days of His flesh. This is because Christ could then have raised Himself or assisted God in His resurrection in a way that man could not. Paul’s argument only holds if Christ could not assist God in any way that an ordinary man could not. Only then would the fact that God raised Christ solidly prove that God could raise any ordinary man. Otherwise, one could argue that God was able to raise Christ because of some special ability that Christ had. So we can be sure that Paul didn’t believe that Christ was fully God while on earth.

Next, consider the fact that Jesus prayed to the Father for several things. For example, He prayed that God would save Him from (spiritual) death (Heb 5:7). Also, He said He could appeal to His Father to send angels to protect Him (Mt 26:53).

Heb 5:7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.

Mt 26:53 "Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?"

An omnipotent being does not need to pray, does He?

If He were omnipotent He would have saved Himself from sin and its result (spiritual death).

If He were omnipotent then He would not have said that He would appeal to His Father to send more than twelve legions of angels to save Him – He would have been more than capable of saving Himself.

Further, if He was omnipotent why would He need the Holy Spirit to dwell in Him (Lk 4:1)? Also, why would Luke say that He returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit (Lk 4:14)? An omnipotent person would not need the power of the Spirit.

Lk 4:1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness

Lk 4:14 And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district.

Since God is omnipotent / Almighty, and Jesus was clearly not omnipotent we can be sure that He was not fully God while on earth.

Next, in Mt 28:18-20, when Jesus appeared to the disciples after the resurrection, he said that all authority in heaven and earth was given (the keyword is ‘given’, implying that He didn’t have it, and couldn’t take it forcefully) to Him. Neither was it within Him, but just not used.

Mt 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

The above statement makes no sense if He had all authority and power while He was on earth as man. If He was 100% God and 100% man then He would have always had all authority and power while He was on earth, contradicting this verse. So He must have got this authority back after the resurrection. This implies that He was not fully God while on earth.

Next, consider Jas 1:13 and Heb 4:15.

Jas 1:13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.

Heb 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

Jas 1:13 tells us that God cannot be tempted. Heb 4:15 makes it clear that Jesus was tempted in all things as we are. Therefore, Jesus was not fully God when on earth.

Now I know that some theologians say that Jesus was tempted externally whereas we are tempted internally. Interestingly, they don’t provide any Scripture to support their claim. That of course, is because there is none. Why then should you and I believe them?

Further, they conveniently ignore the point implied by Heb 4:15 which is that Jesus was tempted in all things so that He could sympathize with our weaknesses. If He was tempted differently from us how can He sympathize with us, or help us during our temptation as mentioned in the next verse (i.e. Heb 4:16)?

What’s more, they forget Heb 2:16-18, which says that He was made like His brethren in all things. This includes the way that we are tempted, doesn’t it? In fact, Heb 2:16-18 applies specifically to temptation.

Heb 2:16-18 For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so 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.

Read it carefully – notice the part that says since He was tempted (like us) so that He can come to our aid when tempted, and the part that says that He was made like us in all things so that He could be a merciful and faithful high priest i.e. someone who can help us in temptation (like it says in Heb 4:15).

Therefore, if we are tempted internally through our desires, so was Jesus. For example, when Jesus was tempted to not go along with God’s plan in the garden of Gethsemane, it wasn’t Satan who was tempting Him to not go along with God’s plan; it was His own (internal) desire to not be forsaken by the Father on the cross as payment for our sin.

Further, check out 1 Pet 4:1-2.

1 Pet 4:1-2 Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.

The keyword here is ‘since’. Jesus overcame temptation by suffering in the flesh. That is also how we are to overcome temptation and cease from sin. If Jesus was tempted externally, and we internally, then He wouldn’t suffer in the flesh (internally) like us, would He? And Peter would not be able to use Jesus as an example here for how to overcome temptation, would he?

So don’t be fooled into believing something just because it came from a seminary professor or well-known author. Like the Bereans, be bold and critically examine what everyone says, and throw it out into the garbage bin if it contradicts the plain meaning of Scripture, because that is where it belongs. Let God be true and every man a liar (Rom 3:4).

Next, consider the passage in Mt 4 where Jesus was tempted. We read that it was the Spirit who led Jesus to be tempted.

Mt 4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Why did the Holy Spirit lead Jesus to be tempted by the devil? It was because the Holy Spirit wanted to give Satan the chance to examine Jesus and verify that He was not fully God but indeed a mere mortal who could be tempted just like any other mortal. He wanted to make sure that Satan would agree that the payment for sin was a valid payment. If the Holy Spirit thought that Jesus was fully God, knowing that a being that is fully God cannot be tempted, He would not deceive Satan into tempting Jesus.

Next, consider Jn 1:18 and Jn 4:12 and Ex 33:20.

Jn 1:18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

1 Jn 4:12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

Ex 33:20 But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live."

God tells Moses in Ex 33:20 that no one can see His face (i.e. see all His fullness) and live. Now John was with Jesus and he saw Him often, and He lived. Why then would he say (not once, but twice, in Scripture) that no one has ever seen God? If Christ was fully God while on earth, and men saw Him then those men (including John) should have immediately died because no one can see God and live. But the disciples and Pharisees and other people all saw Him and lived. Therefore, Jesus could not have been fully God while on earth.

Next, consider Lk 2:40,52, Rom 16:27, Heb 5:8-9, Heb 2:10, Heb 2:18.

Lk 2:40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.

Lk 2:52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Rom 16:27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Heb 5:8-9 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

Heb 2:10 In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.

Heb 2:18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Jesus grew in wisdom (Lk 2:40,52) but God does not grow in wisdom because God, and only God, is all-wise (Rom 16:27).

He learnt obedience through the things He suffered (Heb 5:8). Can God learn? Does God need to learn?

Christ, as God, never had to obey anyone, but Christ, the Son of Man had to.

He was perfected through sufferings (Heb 2:10) – sufferings that came through temptation (Heb 2:18).

He was made perfect from degree to degree (Heb 5:9).

How could Christ, if fully God, be made (the keyword is ‘made’) perfect? Is God not already perfect?

Also consider Lk 2:40 (again, in a different light) and Lk 3:21-22.

Lk 2:40 The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.

Lk 3:21-22 Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, "You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased."

Lk 2:40 tells us that the grace of God was upon Him. For what did He need the grace of God if He had all His divine powers?

Lk 3:21-22 tells us that the Holy Spirit came upon Him when He was baptized in water to empower Jesus for His ministry. If He was fully God while on earth why did He need to be baptized in the Holy Spirit? Couldn’t He have done every miracle by His own power?

Finally, consider Rev 3:21.

Rev 3:21 ‘He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.’

Jesus tells us that if we overcome He will give us to sit on His throne just like how He overcame and sat on the throne of the Father (Rev 3:21). His statement would make no sense if He overcame with the help of powers not available to us (which would have been the case if He were fully God).

With such great support from Scripture it should be clear that Jesus was not fully God while on earth.

Let us now examine and answer some objections that people raise about Jesus emptying Himself.

Some people, referring to Jn 10:30, say that Jesus couldn’t have emptied Himself because He said that He and the Father were one. They think He meant that they were one in identity and capability.

Jn 10:30 "I and the Father are one."

But actually, He meant that they were one in the sense that they agreed on everything. We see that from Jn 17:22.

Jn 17:22 "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one;"

In Jn 17:22 Jesus prays to the Father that His disciples may be one just as He and the Father are one. Clearly, He meant that His disciples agree on everything, not that they be one in identity and capability.

Some people, referring to Jn 14:9, say that Jesus couldn’t have emptied Himself because He said, "If you have seen me you have seen the Father."

Jn 14:9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?"

However, in this verse Jesus was referring to the character of the Father, not His physical characteristics – the Father is Spirit and has no physical characteristics.

He was fully man

Earlier, in Jn 1:14 we read that the Word became flesh.

Then, from Phil 2:5-7 we saw that He become flesh by emptying Himself of all the divine things that were not human.

Now we will discuss the extent to which He became flesh. We will see that He became flesh to the extent that He was exactly like His brethren. We get this from Heb 2:17-18.

Heb 2:17-18 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so 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.

We see here that He was made like His brethren in all things. In other words, He was fully human. The use of the word ‘brethren’ instead of ‘fellow human being’ is important. He had no advantage over any other born again person in anything. I say ‘born again person’ rather than ‘human being’ because those who are born again have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them and those who are not born again don’t (Rom 8:9). Jesus had the Holy Spirit dwelling in Him from conception, and John the Baptist said that God gave Him the Holy Spirit without measure.

Per Heb 2:17-18, there were two reasons why He had to be like us in all things: one, to mediate between us and God, and two, to atone for our sins. The mediator between man and God had to understand the mind of both man and God. Further, the person making the payment for sin had to be man. It couldn’t be an angel or an ant or an amoeba. Since man sinned, man had to pay for the sin. If the payment was made by a being other than one who was fully human then the payment would have been invalid.

It is important to understand this truth because when you understand it you immediately see that a being that is fully God and fully man can only atone for those who are fully God and fully men, and cannot atone for those who are merely fully human.

Satan understands this and that is why he tries to say that Jesus was not merely fully human. The apostle John warns us about this in 1 Jn 4:2-3 and 2 Jn 1:7-11

1 Jn 4:2-3 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.

2 Jn 1:7-11 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.

Note the strength of John’s warning – those who don’t believe that Jesus came in the flesh (of man) are not from God but are of the antichrist, and are actually in opposition to God.

By becoming fully human it became possible for Jesus to be tempted as we are and the temptation was so real that there was a potential for sin, just like it is for a normal human being, and unlike what it is for a being that is fully God and fully man. That is why, in Rom 8:3 we read that God sent Him in the likeness of sinful flesh.

Rom 8:3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,

Clearly, the word ‘sinful’ implies that He had a flesh that had the potential to sin, just like you and I.

Notice the connection between being in the likeness of sinful flesh and being an offering for sin – the offering would not be valid if the being was not in the likeness of sinful flesh.

Heb 4:15 says that He was tempted in all things as we are tempted. So we know that the temptations were real.

Heb 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

Further, 1 Pet 4:1-2 says that He had to suffer in the flesh to overcome sin. That is, He was no longer intrinsically good and not temptable like God (Jas 1:14-15) but He had to fight against temptation just like you and I.

1 Pet 4:1-2 Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.

As a man, He felt hungry, thirsty, and sleepy. He could bleed and He died. But the key thing to understand is that Jesus had no advantage over His brethren when it came to facing temptation and overcoming sin.

Next, consider Deut 1:39 and Is 7:15-16.

Deut 1:39 ‘Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it.’

Is 7:15-16 "He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken."

We saw earlier that when Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (KGE) they added KGE to their spiritual components (which were spirit and flesh). From Deut 1:39 we see that babies who are born don’t get KGE (which is the same as knowing enough to refuse evil and choose good) at conception or even at birth but sometime after birth. From Is 7:15-16 we see that even Jesus received KGE sometime after birth. God was careful to make sure that He was made like His brethren in all things so that He would be fully man. Further, just like His brethren, He too didn’t have access to the tree of life. That was why it was possible for Him to die.

Once Christ acquired the knowledge of good and evil He would have been in the same state as any born again Christian. A regular born again Christian has a spirit and a flesh, and the knowledge of good and evil, and the indwelling Holy Spirit, and does not (yet) have access to the tree of life. When a person is born again he becomes a new creature – spiritually speaking – (2 Cor 5:17; Rom 8:9) because the Holy Spirit begins to dwell in him. That is what Christ was like on earth.

In Jn 2:24-25 we read more…

Jn 2:24-25 But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.

He didn’t need anyone to tell Him what man was like because He was fully man.

Next, consider Jn 1:14-18.

Jn 1:14-18 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, "This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me’." For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

We see that while Jesus was flesh He exhibited only certain areas of God’s glory – grace and truth (Jn 1:14-18). That is, Jesus helped people and told them the truth about all things. The fullness of God’s character (grace and truth) dwelt in Him. Jesus explained God’s heart (which I think is why John says He is in the bosom of the Father).

Next, consider Paul’s argument in 1 Cor 15:12-20. Paul says that God raised Christ. Paul argues that the raising of Christ is argument for the raising of man. This would be an invalid argument if Christ were not merely fully man in the days of His flesh. This is because Christ could then have raised Himself or assisted God in His resurrection in a way man could not. Paul’s argument only holds if Christ could not assist God in any way that an ordinary man could not. Only then would the fact that God raised Christ solidly prove that God could raise any ordinary man. Otherwise, one could argue that God was able to raise Christ because of some special ability that Christ had. So we can be sure that Paul believed that Christ was fully man while on earth.

Finally, if Christ was not fully man (and overcame sin using divine powers) then how could He be righteous in asking us to take up our cross and follow Him (Lk 9:23), or be our example (1 Pet 2:21-23; 1 Pet 4:1), or be our forerunner (Heb 12:1-3)?

Lk 9:23 And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me."

1 Pet 2:21-23 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;

Heb 12:1-3 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

From all the things we have seen above, we can say that Jesus was fully man while on earth. Every attribute of His was within the parameters of what a human being could have.

He was God in identity but not in capability

We have seen that while He was on earth Jesus was God, but not fully God. Let us now examine in a little more detail what that statement really means. For a fuller treatment, please read Appendix C: The components of Man.

There are three different ways that we can look at man:

  • Man = Spirit + Flesh + Knowledge of good and evil.
  • Man = Spirit + Flesh + Soul + Body.
  • Man = Heart + Mind + Soul + Strength
  • Spirit = Identity + Mind.
  • Heart = Spirit - Mind + Flesh.

The flesh is the part that tempts us to sin. The knowledge of good and evil, or the conscience, is the part that tells us what is right and wrong. The soul is the source of our inputs, which come from the external environment, and from our body. The body or strength is the action that we take (when our hands or legs move, or our mouth speaks, for example). The heart is where we decide what to do. The mind is the place where all the other components interact.

When I say that Jesus was God, but not fully God, while on earth as man, I mean that He was God in identity but not God in capability.

When I say that Jesus was not God in capability I mean that He no longer had any properties in infinite amounts. For example, He was no longer omnipotent or omniscient or all-wise, or infinite in understanding, or untemptable, or infinitely good.

When I say that Jesus was ‘God in identity’ I mean that the Spirit of Christ (the Spirit that dwelt in Christ’s body while He was on earth) was the uncreated Spirit of the Son of God. Only divine spirits are uncreated. All other spirits are created spirits. This uncreated Spirit could be recognized by the demons.

In Jesus, the components other than the spirit (the soul, body / strength and flesh) were just like those of other human beings.

Just like a man with all four limbs cut off, and his eyes taken out, is still a man in identity but not a man in capability, Jesus too was God in identity but not God in capability.

How did a mere man do great things and overcome temptation?

One question that might be asked is this: if Jesus was just an ordinary man in capability how did He do such great miracles and how did He overcome temptation? Let’s answer that question now.

We’ll start with the question about the miracles first. The first observation, from Ac 2:22, is that Jesus didn’t do the miracles by His own power but God did the miracles through Him.

Ac 2:22 "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know –"

God did these miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit who came upon Him when He was baptized. You never see any miracles until He was baptized in the Holy Spirit. From Lk 3:21-22, Lk 4:1 and Lk 4:14 we see that after Jesus was baptized He was full of the power of the Holy Spirit.

Lk 3:21-22 Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, "You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased."

Lk 4:1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness

Lk 4:14 And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district.

Peter records in Ac 10:28 that the good that Jesus did was by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Ac 10:28 "You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him."

From Mt 12:28, even Jesus acknowledged that He cast out demons by the Spirit of God.

Mt 12:28 "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you."

So we see that Jesus did His miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit – the same power that enabled Paul to raise the dead and Peter and John to heal a lame man and Samson to kill the Philistines and Joshua to stop the sun.

It is also worth noting that Jesus said that His disciples would do greater works than Himself (Jn 14:12).

Jn 14:12 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father."

So clearly, Jesus did His miracles and cast out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Next, let’s look at how Jesus overcame temptation.

From Rom 6:14 we see that to overcome temptation we need grace. In this context, grace is help in time of temptation so that one can overcome temptation (Heb 4:15-16).

Rom 6:14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.

Heb 4:15-16 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

From Jas 4:6 and 1 Pet 5:5 we see that God gives grace only to the humble.

Jas 4:6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, "GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE."

1 Pet 5:5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.

I say ‘only to the humble’ because God opposes the proud, and pride and humility are opposites. Since God is opposing the proud He is certainly not going to help them.

Some people define grace as ‘unmerited favor’. There is no scriptural support for that. Grace is not ‘favor’ but ‘help in time of need’ and it is not ‘unmerited’ because you merit it by being humble. It is given only to those who are humble.

Jesus was able to overcome temptation because the grace of God was upon Him.

Lk 2:40 The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.

The grace of God was upon Him because He humbled Himself.

Phil 2:8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

This humility caused Him to pray to God for strength to overcome temptation, and He was heard because He hated to displease God (that is what ‘piety’ means in the Greek).

Heb 5:7 In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.

He was willing to die rather than sin.

Heb 12:3-4 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin;

Nowhere in Scripture does it say that Jesus overcame sin by His divine powers, so we should not teach such a thing. As we saw above, Jesus overcame temptation by humbling Himself, even to the point of death, because He hated to displease His Father in heaven.

How did a finite man pay the infinite cost of the sins of man?

The wages of sin is eternal separation from God. To pay the price for sins a person has to be separated from God eternally. The payment is infinite.

Now any finite being will take an infinite amount of time to make an infinite payment. Since Jesus was man – a finite man – therefore, if He really paid for the sins of man then He would have to be separated from God for an infinite amount of time.

But He was separated from His Father for only a few hours while on the cross! How is it possible for a finite man to make an infinite payment in a finite amount of time?

You can’t say that Jesus was an infinite being because He was God because Phil 2:5-6 says that He emptied Himself. When you empty an infinite thing it becomes finite, but doesn’t have to be zero.

Since Heb 2:17 says that He was made like His brethren in all things we can conclude that even if God is of higher order infinities (and that is very possible) He had to empty Himself until He became finite because otherwise He would not be like man in all things.

So then, how did a finite man make an infinite payment in a finite amount of time?

The answer is the indwelling Holy Spirit. The indwelling Holy Spirit, who is divine – and therefore infinite, was given to Jesus without measure (Jn 3:34).

Jn 3:34 "For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure"

In Jn 1:29 and Jn 1:36 John the Baptist presents Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. John must have wondered how the finite man Jesus would be able to pay an infinite cost. The revelation John receives, described in Jn 3:34, is that it will be by the Holy Spirit, given to Jesus without measure. Making atonement for the sins of man was one of the ministries of Jesus, and the baptism in the Holy Spirit (which occurred when John baptized Jesus in water) was when He received the power to begin His ministry.

Only infinity is without measure. Therefore, the Holy Spirit was given to Jesus in an infinite amount. Therefore, with the help of the Holy Spirit, the finite man Jesus was able to pay the infinite payment for sins in a finite amount of time.

Why did Jesus have to become flesh?

Why did Jesus have to become flesh? That is, why would His being fully God while on earth negate whatever He was trying to accomplish?

Knowing why will help understand why His nature cannot be fully God and fully man. Let us proceed…

There were two reasons: the first was to show Satan that one didn’t have to sin even if one had flesh, and the second was to take our sins upon Himself and open a way for our salvation. The former was to remove Satan’s excuse for sinning, and the latter was to redeem man.

First, let’s look at why His work of atonement would be negated if He were fully God.

The payment for man’s sins had to be made by sinless man.

The wages of sin is spiritual death (Rom 6:23). Spiritual death is to be forsaken by God eternally – to be away from the presence of God and the glory of His power (Is 59:2; 2 Thess 1:9). This was the price that Jesus had to pay for our sins. He paid this price when He was forsaken by the Father on the cross (Ps 22:1; Mt 27:46; Mk 15:34).

For the payment to be valid, Jesus had to be a sinless man. If He was not sinless then He would be suffering spiritual death for His own sins. His spiritual death could not be used as payment for another person’s sins. If He was not man, in every way, then His payment couldn’t be applied to the sins of man. Only a man could die for the sins of man. That is the demand of a just God.

If Jesus didn’t have to be a man then He could have paid for our sins while in heaven. There was no reason for Him to become man. Or He could have put our sins on an angel, or an ant, or an amoeba. Remember His prayer in Gethsemane? He prayed that the Father pay for the sins of man some other way if possible.

Mt 26:39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will."

But there was no other way! No angel, no ant, and no amoeba would do. And further, He couldn’t make the payment as God in heaven, or as God on earth. It had to be paid by a man – a man who was sent in the likeness of sinful flesh and facing and feeling temptation just like you and me. That is why God didn’t answer His prayer in Gethsemane. There was no other way. If He was fully God and fully man then He could only pay for the sins of those who were fully God and fully man.

To make a valid payment God sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom 8:3).

Rom 8:3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,

The offering for sin had to be in the likeness of sinful flesh.

What does ‘sinful flesh’ mean?

Sinful flesh is the flesh through which we are tempted to sin. It is the flesh of man.

1 Cor 15:39 tells us that there are different types of flesh.

1 Cor 15:39 All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish.

Note that Paul says that there is just one flesh of men. So if Jesus was man, He had to have the same flesh as every man.

In this context, the flesh of man is not the skin or muscle, but the part of us that tempts us to sin. The flesh of man has lusts (Eph 2:3, 1 Pet 2:11, Rom 13:14) or corrupt urges (that is, urges to do evil) (2 Pet 2:10,18, Gal 5:16, Eph 2:3). A lust is an urge to do evil. When an urge springs up within you to do what is wrong you have just experienced a lust in action. Jas 1:14 tells us that our lusts are the part of our flesh through which we are tempted to sin. Therefore, to have the flesh of man is to have these internal desires that tempt us to sin. See Appendix E for a fuller treatment of the flesh.

When the Bible says that God sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh it means that Jesus came in the flesh of man – the flesh through which He was tempted to sin.

Heb 2:17 reinforces this, telling us that Jesus was made like His brethren in all things.

Heb 2:17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

Heb 2:17 also tells us why Jesus was made like His brethren in all things. It was so that He could make propitiation for the sins of the people. That is, it was so that He could be a valid offering for sin.

Heb 4:15 makes it clear that Jesus was tempted as we are.

Heb 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

Therefore, we see that to say that Jesus came in our flesh is to say that Jesus was tempted to sin from within Himself, by His own lusts. That is why Rom 8:3 says that God sent His son in the likeness of sinful flesh. That is also why Jn 2:24-25 says that Jesus knew what was in man.

Jn 2:24-25 But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.

Jesus could not have known all men, and known what was in man, unless He experienced the same urges to sin that you and I experience.

Jesus often called Himself the Son of Man. This was to affirm that He was born of Mary, and therefore man in every way. Paul said several times that Jesus was a descendant of David, affirming that Jesus was man in every way, and not fully God.

If Jesus was not tempted from within, just like each of us, then He was not a man like us. If He was not a man like us then His payment for sin cannot be applied to us. That is why it is important to believe that Jesus Christ came in the flesh and was tempted just like us.

By acknowledging that Jesus Christ came in the flesh we are acknowledging that God’s payment for sin was valid. We are acknowledging that the payment can be applied to us.

Whether you realize it or not, by getting you to believe that Jesus was fully God and fully man Satan is insidiously getting you to say that Jesus’ payment for sin is not applicable to you.

Why will Satan try and hide the truth?

Let’s now look at the second reason why Jesus came in the flesh. It was to show Satan that it is possible to have flesh and not sin.

You see, when God created Satan, He created Satan with three spiritual components: spirit, flesh and knowledge of good and evil. If a being with these three components violates God’s moral law that being suffers the consequence of sin – eternal separation from God, aka Hell.

As a result, when Satan became proud and wanted to be like God he sinned and was doomed to eternal separation from God. And he doesn’t like that one bit. So he tried to find a flaw with God’s logic for sending him to Hell.

Now every being that has a spirit is a spiritual being. God is a spiritual being too. God is Spirit, and He also has the knowledge of good and evil. But God cannot be tempted because He has no flesh.

Satan’s contention is that God put him in an impossible situation. He contends that no being with flesh can stay without sin, and that the only reason why God hasn’t sinned is because God does not have flesh. As a result, Satan says that it would be unfair for God to send him to Hell because it is impossible for a being with flesh to not sin.

And he is correct! If it is impossible for a being with flesh to not sin then it would be unfair for God to send him to Hell.

To disprove Satan, God became man (this man was Jesus, the Christ), just like you and me. Now man has three components too, just like Satan: spirit, flesh and the knowledge of good and evil. As a man, Jesus didn’t sin even once, thus proving to Satan that it is indeed possible for a being with flesh to not sin.

Consequently, Satan is defeated and doomed to eternal separation from God. His time is running out. But he absolutely refuses to believe that Jesus came in the flesh and didn’t sin. As a result, he has gone around through the centuries since Jesus came, trying to teach people that Jesus didn’t really come in the flesh as man, or that He did sin (insidiously via the doctrine of Original Sin). Or better still – that Jesus didn’t exist at all (by saying that He had two contradictory natures)!

Consider the way Satan tempted Jesus…

We know that Jesus was tempted like us in all things (Heb 4:15). The gospels do not tell us the details about all the temptations that Jesus faced, except for a few, such as the ones immediately after He was baptized. Why did God choose to highlight just a few? What was so special about them?

I believe that these temptations were highlighted because God wanted to record that Satan had the opportunity to satisfy himself that Jesus was merely fully man while on earth.

Have you ever wondered why Satan tempted Jesus by saying, "If you are the Son of God…?" Did he really want to know if Jesus was the Son of God? Did he really think Jesus was unsure about who He was? Consider Mt 4:3,5-6.

Mt 4:3 And the tempter came and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread."

Mt 4:5-6 Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU’; and ‘ON {their} HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE’."

The demons recognized Jesus as the Son of the Most High God (Mk 5:7; Lk 8:28; Mk 1:24; Lk 4:34). So Satan knew that He was the Son of God. Further, just before those temptations God Himself testified that Jesus was His Son (Mt 3:17). So Jesus knew too. And Satan knew that Jesus knew too. So why did Satan begin with "If you are the Son of God…?" After all, Satan knows that God cannot be tempted and if he thought that Jesus was fully God He wouldn’t bother to tempt Him. He is not that stupid.

What was really happening?

We are told that Satan is a liar and the father of lies (Jn 8:44). When he tempted Jesus in the wilderness he didn’t want to know whether Jesus was the Son of God, because he already knew that. He really wanted to know the opposite of what he asked. He really wanted to know whether Jesus was a mere man and nothing more than man was. He wanted to know whether Jesus really had no other powers beyond what an ordinary believer has. But being a liar and deceiver he asks the opposite, "If you are the Son of God…" But what does he tempt Jesus about? Hunger and jumping from heights? Why? He wanted to see if Jesus really gets hungry. He wanted to see if Jesus’ bones could really break. Can He really feel hungry? Can He really feel pain? That is, is He really human, or does He have powers or advantages that humans don’t have?

If Jesus was other than fully human (that is, if He was also fully God) then Satan could say that His flesh was not flesh that could be tempted. But Jesus does not satisfy Satan’s curiosity. Jesus does not allow Satan to determine whether He is merely human. So Satan then assumes that maybe Christ is human and then tempts Him with power (the third temptation). Can Christ really feel the temptation of power? The point is that Satan really wanted to know if Christ was human, and not if He was the Son of God. Satan wanted to know this because he wanted to determine whether Jesus was in a flesh that could sin.

It just had to be the real thing, or Satan would cry ‘foul’. Satan is mad that it actually worked. He saw it happen, but he refuses to believe it.

Satan still cannot believe that God could come in human flesh and not sin. Satan was totally unsuccessful in getting Jesus to sin. In all the generations of man, Satan has found it very easy to lead man into sin. Jesus was the only exception. As a result, he refuses to believe that Jesus had the same flesh as man. He refuses to acknowledge that Jesus Christ came in the flesh of man.

That is why 1 Tm 3:16 says that He was revealed in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, and that angels beheld it. The angels were watching to see if God could stay without sin even when in sinful flesh. That is why God sent Him in sinful flesh – to condemn sin in the flesh. That is, God wanted to show that the purity of the divine spirit is such that even when tempted exactly as man, the Divine Spirit would not sin. That is holiness. That is what is worthy of praise. That is the mystery of godliness. That is why the 24 elders never cease to say, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty."

By refusing to acknowledge that Jesus came in the same flesh as man Satan is saying that God’s payment for the sin of mankind is invalid. He thus attempts to undermine the whole plan of God to save man.

Satan has therefore gone about inspiring false teachers to teach that Jesus did not come in the flesh. He gets these false teachers to convince everyone that Christ did not come in the flesh, or that He came in the flesh but not the weak human flesh that could sin but something slightly different (the doctrine of impeccability), or that He was tempted apart from sin, or that He faced external temptation and not internal temptation, and so on. That is why John says in 1 Jn 4:2-3 and 2 Jn 1:7 that those who say that Christ didn’t come in the flesh are of the antichrist.

1 Jn 4:2-3 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the {spirit} of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.

2 Jn 1:7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ {as} coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.

The above verses teach that those who do not confess that Jesus came in the flesh are of the antichrist, and not of God.

When the Bible talks about the antichrist, and the teachings of the antichrist, it amazingly tells us only one thing – that the antichrist is out deceive people about the nature of Christ, and specifically, that the antichrist is out to convince people that God did not come in the flesh.

I hope you see the importance of acknowledging that Christ came in the flesh. To teach that Christ was not tempted exactly like us is to partake of the spirit of the antichrist. To say that there was no possibility that Christ could sin when tempted is to say that the temptation was not genuine; it is to partake of the spirit of the antichrist. To say that Christ’s urge to sin did not come from within (but only from without) is to partake of the spirit of the antichrist.

1 Tm 3:14-16 tells us that the church is the pillar and support of the truth that Christ was revealed in the flesh and did not sin.

1 Tm 3:14-16 I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, {I write} so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

Okay, this needs some translation…

What Paul is saying is that everybody should realize and agree (i.e. by common confession) that the most amazing thing ever, is to live a life without even sinning once (i.e. great is the mystery of godliness) while being a man just like you and me – and this was accomplished by Jesus (i.e. He who was revealed in the flesh). The Holy Spirit examined every aspect of Jesus’ life and testified that Jesus indeed didn’t sin even once (i.e. was vindicated in the Spirit). Even the angels saw it and agreed (i.e. seen by angels). This amazing fact is now being proclaimed everywhere (i.e. proclaimed among the nations), and people all over the world are believing this truth (i.e. believed on in the world). Because of this amazing feat, Jesus has been given the greatest glory (i.e. taken up in glory).

We can now understand the reason why the church must be the pillar and support of the truth that Christ came in the flesh – it is precisely because the antichrist wants to suppress this truth with a lie.

Paul understood this. That is why, when he described the gospel in Rom 1:1-4 He said it was concerning Jesus coming in the flesh and not sinning. He didn’t even mention our salvation there.

Rom 1:1-4 Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant 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,

The part where Paul mentions that Jesus was ‘born of a descendant of David according to the flesh’ refers to Jesus coming in the flesh. The part where Paul mentions that Jesus was ‘declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness’ refers to Jesus not sinning.

Paul knew that this doctrine was at high risk to be compromised. That is why, in his last letter, the second letter to Timothy, he reminds Timothy to guard it.

2 Tm 1:14 Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.

Then in the next chapter Paul reveals what treasure he is talking about. The treasure is the doctrine of Christ coming in the flesh and not sinning, the mystery of godliness, the doctrine that the church must be the pillar and support of – this is what he had mentioned to Timothy in his earlier letter (1 Tm 3:14-16).

2 Tm 2:7-8 Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel,

As you can see, it is the doctrine of Jesus coming in the flesh and not sinning. Jesus was raised from the dead because the Holy Spirit (the expert in holy living) examined His life and declared that Jesus didn’t sin, which is what ‘declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness’ in Rom 1:4 refers to.

This doctrine of Christ coming in the flesh is a doctrine that has been perverted by many, not just in the times of the apostle John, but today as well. Make sure that you are not led astray like many others by the antichrists that have gone out in this world.

How did He become man, and why was it done this way?

Let’s take a moment to consider the transformation of Jesus from God to man from God’s perspective…

On the one hand we have a divine being whose nature includes infinities: infinite understanding, infinite resistance to temptation, infinite power, and so on. On the other hand, we have a human being whose nature includes no infinities.

The constraint was that God had to make Jesus like His brethren (i.e. those who are saved) in all things. This was so that Jesus’ payment for sin could be valid. He couldn’t pay for the sins of man while being fully God, or being any other creature. Only man could pay for the sins of man.

It was not necessary for Jesus to be like those human beings who were not saved because they would anyhow not avail of the offer of salvation. It was only necessary for Him to be like His brethren – those who were saved.

The difference between those who are His brethren and those who are not was that the former have the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom 8:9).

Just as His brethren have access to the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, so did Jesus. Just as His brethren could be baptized in the Holy Spirit, so was Jesus.

The only way for an infinite being to become a finite being is to be emptied of all the infinites so that they can become finite quantities. That is why we read in Phil 2:5-7 that He emptied Himself of things that made Him equal to God. He didn’t empty Himself of His spirit, which was His identity. So He was still God in identity but no longer God in capability.

Conclusion

The only conclusion that I can come to is that Christ (while on earth) was both God and man, but God only in identity while man in attribute.

It is interesting that light has dual nature too. It exhibits characteristics of a particle and also characteristics of a wave, but never both at the same time. It is interesting that Christ, who is called the ‘Light of the world’ also has dual natures. Could it be that God intentionally designed light to have dual nature as a reflection of the dual nature of Christ?


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