Who is the Lord Jesus Christ?
By W.R. Downing
Ans: The Lord Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, co–equal and co–eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Jn. 1:1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Col. 2:9. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
1 Tim. 3:16. And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
Titus 2:13. Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.
See also: Isa. 7:14; Jn. 1:14, 18; 14:6–11; Phil. 2:5–11; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8.
God is Spirit, and so invisible, i.e., incorporeal [without bodily parts] (Jn. 4:24; 1 Tim. 6:15–16). The Lord Jesus Christ in his incarnation is the full and final revelation and representation of the eternal God (Jn. 1:1–3; 14:6–11; Col. 2:9; 1 Tim. 3:16)—the very “exegesis” of God (Jn. 1:18). It is in the Lord Jesus Christ that man’s inherent desire to “see” God is fulfilled (Jn. 14:9). It is in and through the personality and actions of the Lord Jesus during his earthly ministry that we see revealed the power and moral attributes of God. In his transfiguration we see a glimpse of his eternal glory as very God (Matt. 17:1–8; Mk. 9:1–8; Lk. 9:27–36; Jn. 17:4–5; 2 Pet. 1:16–18).
The eternal Son of God became incarnate [took to himself a true and complete human nature, soul and body] for the redemption of sinners (Lk. 1:35; Gal. 4:4). He did not become incarnate as a mere individual, but as Representative Man, “The Second Man,” “The Last Adam” (Rom. 5:12–18; 1 Cor. 15:45–47). It is in this capacity that we must view and understand his humanity, his perfect obedience to the Law, his wilderness temptation, his earthly life and ministry, his suffering and death, his glorious resurrection and his ascension into heaven to rule as the God–Man on the throne of his glory (Matt. 28:18; 1 Cor. 15:20–26; Phil. 2:9–11; Heb. 1:3).
He was and ever remains the perfect and sinless Son of God by virtue of the virgin birth, and so was alone qualified to be our Redeemer and Savior (Gal. 4:4–5; Lk. 1:26–35; Rom. 5:12–19). The Lord Jesus Christ could not be a mere human being and both live a perfect life under the law, then suffer and die for sinners—neither his life nor suffering and death would accomplish anything. He would only have died as a martyr—and for his own sins. The efficacy [effectiveness] of his work depended on his Person—his Divine nature and impeccable human nature.
At and through the incarnation, the eternal Son of God entered into the realm of time. The Lord Jesus Christ is thus the “God–Man,” not the “Man–God.” By this we mean that it was God the Son, the second Person of the triune Godhead, who took to himself a full and complete human nature through the miracle of the Virgin Birth, including a soul and body, and not a man who was or is in the process of becoming God. The two natures within our Lord (i.e., the hypostatic union of his human and Divine natures) are not commingled [mixed together] or confused, but separate and distinct, i.e., he is not half–God and half–man. The incarnation was necessary for the Lord Jesus Christ to be the perfect and effectual Mediator between God and men (1 Tim. 2:5), and therefore our Redeemer, Savior and Intercessor (Rom. 3:21–26; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 Jn. 2:1). Because of his unique Person and finished redemptive work, he alone qualifies as the Savior of sinners (Acts 4:12).
The early Church Fathers, seeking to safeguard the eternal distinctions within the Godhead from error and heresy, to safeguard the eternal Sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ, and using scriptural terminology, referred to the eternal distinction between the Father and the Son as the “eternal generation” of the Son by the Father. They also referred to the eternal distinction between the Holy Spirit and Father and Son as the “eternal procession” of the Holy Spirit, as Scripture declares that he proceeds from the Father and the Son (Jn. 14:16–17, 26; 16:7; Acts 2:32–33). This attempt at scriptural language was used to preserve the distinctions within the Godhead and was not meant to imply any inherent subordination, succession or emanation. Beyond the language of Scripture, we dare not go. The incarnation of the eternal Son of God remains the most profound mystery of the ages. To deny the eternal Sonship of Christ Jesus is to deny the Ontological Trinity, maintain only the Economic Trinity, and thus implicitly deny the immutability of the nature of the Godhead.
Through the Virgin Birth (Matt. 1:18–25; Lk. 1:26–35), his perfectly sinless life lived under the Law (Jn. 8:46; Gal. 4:4–5; 1 Pet. 2:21–22) and his sacrificial, substitutionary death (Lk. 19:10; Phil. 2:5–8; 1 Tim. 1:15; Heb. 9:12, 27–28) and resurrection (Matt. 28:5–6; Acts 2:22–33; Rom. 1:3–4) our Lord became the God–Man, holy, impeccable and the only qualified Redeemer of sinners (Acts 4:12), our Great High Priest (Heb. 4:14–16; 5:5–10; 7:11–28; 1 Jn. 2:1) and the final Judge of all men (Acts 17:30–31; 2 Cor. 5:10; Phil. 2:9–11; Rev. 20:11–15). The name “Jesus” [Gk. Iēsus, “Yahweh is salvation”] refers to his humanity, “Christ” [Gk. Christos, “Anointed One”] to his office and mission as the promised Messiah (Jn. 1:41; 4:25) and “Lord” [Gk. Kurios, “Yahweh”] to his Deity and position of exaltation (Matt. 28:18; Acts 2:36; Phil. 2:9–11; Heb. 1:1–13). His full name and proper title is “The Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Divine nature of our Lord formed the basis for his personality and upheld and sustained his human nature as the God–Man in the hypostatic union [the union of the two natures in one Person]. Thus, he was necessarily impeccable, i.e., he did not and could not sin. The two Latin phrases are posse non peccare, able not to sin [peccable], and non posse peccare, unable to sin [impeccable]. The impeccability of our Lord was necessary to his redemptive work.
Although the modern emphasis is upon the redemptive work of Christ rather than his Person, most controversies have historically centered upon the latter. The great issue has been the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ and the relation of his two natures in one Person. The doctrinal heresies concerning the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ have been: Valentinian Gnosticism, which denied the true Deity of Christ by holding that the “Christ element” came upon him at his baptism and left him in the garden agony before his crucifixion. Thus, he died as a mere man (Jn. 1:14, 18). Docetic Gnosticism, which, holding that all matter was inherently evil, denied the true humanity of Christ, holding him to be a phantom being (1 Jn. 1:1; 4:2–3). Dynamic Monarchianism, A second century anti–trinitarian heresy that denied the Deity of Christ and taught that he was a mere man who received an anointing at his baptism and so was in the process of becoming Divine. Modern representatives in principle include Socinians, Christadelphians, Unitarians, Theosophists and Mormons. Modalistic Monarchianism, an anti–trinitarian heresy that held to one Person in three manifestations rather than distinct Persons in the Godhead. Also called Sabellianism, Patripassianism, etc. United Pentecostals [“Jesus Only”] or the “Apostolic Church” is the modern representative of this ancient heresy. Arianism, an anti–trinitarian heresy which denied the absolute Deity of Christ. The modern representatives are Socinians and Russelites [Jehovah’s Witnesses] (1 Tim. 3:16). Apollonarianism, an anti–trinitarian heresy which denied the true humanity of Christ. Eutychianism, which taught the fusion of the two natures in Christ. Nestorianism, which seemed to unduly separate the hypostatic union of the two natures of Christ into two persons. Monophysitism, which taught that Christ had a composite nature rather than two distinct natures. Monothelitism, which held that Christ had but one will and thus demeaned his true humanity. There were two views: either the human will was merged with the Divine will so that only the Divine will acted, or the two wills were fused into one. The more modern Kenosis Theory, deriving from Phil. 2:7. The extreme form of this theory holds that Christ emptied himself of his Deity or Divine nature and became a mere man. Modified forms of this theory are that in some way he emptied himself of some Divine attributes, and so was less than full Deity.
The controversies concerning our Lord’s redemptive work center on the nature and extent of the atonement. Some hold that he suffered and died for all men without exception and so all will be saved [consistent universalism]. Others, that he died to make salvation possible and all men savable if they but add their ability to his work [inconsistent universalism]. Some consistently hold that our Lord suffered and died for a specific people, and that every one of these will be infallibly redeemed [consistent particularism].
The Lord Jesus Christ is at once the only Mediator between God and men (1 Tim. 2:5), the only Redeemer and Savior of sinners (Rom. 3:24–26; Eph. 1:5–7) and our Great High Priest (Heb. 4:12–16; 7:19–28; 8:1–2; 9:11–14, 24; 1 Jn. 2:1). He will be the coming Judge of all men (Jn. 5:22). He is also our example and our goal. The Lord God is in the process of redeeming his image in believers, and we are being conformed to the image of his Son by the work of the Holy Spirit in our adoption, sanctification, chastening and testing. This conformity will be complete in the resurrection unto glory (Rom. 8:23, 29; 2 Cor. 3:17–18; Phil.3:20–21). For a full description of the Lord Jesus Christ, see Questions 70–76. Do you have a saving relationship to the Lord Jesus through faith?
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