Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

You Don’t Have to Pick

Which one do you like better? The cranky God of the Old Testament or mild mannered Jesus of the New Testament? You actually don’t get that choice.

Back in 2008 I attended the Wheaton Theology Conference on Rediscovering the Trinity: Classic Doctrine and Contemporary Ministry. One of the speakers was Edith Humphrey. I just stumbled across my notes from her talk and found this interesting observation.

We often assume that the Old Testament is the era of the Father, the New Testament is the era of the Son, and the church age is the era of the Spirit. Humphrey suggested an alternative. The Old Testament is the era of the Son incognito and the New Testament is the era of the Son revealing the Father by the Spirit. She referred specifically to John 1:18 to support this version.

As I’m preaching through Genesis, I find this to actually be a better description of what is happening. Of course the Father is present and active in the Old Testament but what we’re seeing more of is Jesus there. Pictured and promised but there he is.

To add to the strength of this, consider this from an older post of mine:

So my act of rebellion was to see “the LORD” and read it as “Yahweh” every time. After a bit I got worried that I was just being proud and clever; never a good thing. But then I thought about how the New Testament handles this…

And that’s when it came together. What I was actually doing was what the church had been doing. Seeing “Yahweh” and thinking/saying “Lord” for whatever reason; theological persnickety-ness or honoring God. But in the New Testament “Lord” is applied to Jesus. So when I read in the New Testament “Jesus is Lord” and hear in my head that habit from reading “Lord” in my Old Testament as “Yahweh” I’m actually doing the right thing! Jesus is Yahweh!

What I’m getting at is we read “LORD” and think “God the Father” but in reality we should be thinking “Jesus” since the New Testament applies “Lord” to Jesus. That would mean that the God we see in the Old Testament, the one everyone says is cranky and mean, is actually Jesus. On when he came did he reveal God the Father.

Dual Problems Overcome

The death and resurrection of Jesus are the center of Paul’s proclamation of the Gospel. It is by means of Christ’s death and resurrection that the two evils introduced into the world at the time of the Fall are overcome. Christ’s death on the cross is God’s solution to the problem of sin, and Christ’s resurrection from the grave is God’s solution to the problem of death. – Keith Mathison

Natural Causes

Why did Jesus die? He was beaten brutally, had a crown of thorns put on his head and beaten with reeds, he carried a heavy cross in this weakened state and was finally nailed hand and foot to it where he hung for hours. When they came to break his legs so his death would come quickly they found him already dead and when a soldier stuck him with a spear, blood and water flowed out of the wound. Apparently he’d suffocated. But Jesus didn’t die of natural causes like the criminals he was been crucified with did.

So if it wasn’t these brutal physical abuses that killed Jesus, what did? Jesus said,

“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” – John 10:17-18 (emphasis mine)

Jesus laid down his life, no one took if from him. It looked like he was lead away as if he were not in control of his final hours, but he was. He laid down his life and he did that because the Father gave him authority to do so.

Also take a look at Psalm 69. It is pretty clearly a Psalm about Jesus. The New Testament applies verse 9 to Jesus in John 2:17 and Romans 15:3. Jesus applies verse 4 to himself in John 15:25. There are a few other passages that are cited from the Psalm that don’t directly apply to Jesus himself but indirectly to his enemies. Psalm 69 pretty strongly applies to Jesus. And in it, the Psalmist says:

For they persecute him whom you have struck down,
and they recount the pain of those you have wounded. – Psalm 69:26 (again, empahsis mine)

If we read Psalm 69 the way the New Testament does, you can’t help be notice that God struck down Jesus. As horrible as the physical punishments were, they weren’t what killed Jesus. He didn’t die of natural causes from his wounds. God placed the sins of all on him, turned his face from him and Jesus died. It is as if at the right time the Father said, “die for those sins now Son” and the Son said, “Yes Father” and he died. Jesus was never out of control. He entered Jerusalem at the right time knowing what was coming. He selected Judas knowing what he would do. He offered no defense against the false accusations of the Jewish leaders and wouldn’t excuse himself to Pilot. God gave Jesus authority and charge to lay down his life and take it up again. They and they alone were in charge of his death and resurrection. And they didn’t do it to be cruel but to save.

For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach,
that dishonor has covered my face.
I have become a stranger to my brothers,
an alien to my mother’s sons. – Psalm 69:7-8

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed. – Isaiah 53:4-5

Posse Peccare

The best theologians, past and present, have been divided on the question of whether Jesus could have sinned. I believe that since Jesus was fully human, it was possible for him to sin. Obviously, the divine nature cannot sin. But if Christ’s divine nature prevented him from sinning, in what sense did he obey the law of God as the second Adam? At his birth, Jesus’ human nature was exactly the same as Adam’s before the fall, with respect to his moral capabilities. Jesus had what Augustine called the posse peccare and the posse non peccare, that is, the ability to sin and the ability not to sin. Adam sinned; Jesus did not. Satan did everything in his power to corrupt Jesus and tempt him to sin. That would have been an exercise in futility had he been trying to tempt a divine person to sin. Satan was not trying to get God to sin. He was trying to get the human nature of Christ to sin, so that he would not be qualified to be the Savior.

At the same time, Christ was uniquely sanctified and ministered to by the Holy Spirit. In order to sin, a person must have a desire for sin. But Jesus’ human nature throughout his life was marked by a zeal for righteousness. “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me” (John 4:34), he said. As long as Jesus had no desire to sin, he would not sin. I may be wrong, but I think it is wrong to believe that Christ’s divine nature made it impossible for his human nature to sin. If that were the case, the temptation, the tests, and his assuming of the responsibility of the first Adam would have all been charades. This position protects the integrity of the authenticity of the human nature because it was the human nature that carried out the mission of the second Adam on our behalf. It was the human nature uniquely anointed beyond measure by the Holy Spirit.

(Excerpt from R.C. Sproul’s, Truths We Confess: A Layman’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith (Volume 1) via Ligonier Blog)

I think it is wrong to believe that Christ’s divine nature made it impossible for his human nature to sin. —R.C. SproulSo what? Does this even matter? Yes, it matters a lot and I agree with RC here. Jesus didn’t beam in to the earth. He didn’t suddenly appear in the clouds. He wasn’t sheltered in a temple from the time of his appearing. Jesus was born of a woman. He had parents who changed his diapers and nursed him and told him that the fire would burn him if he touched it. He ate, slept, stubbed his toe and got splinters. Jesus was a human being. Fully human. 100% human without sin. He was born and he died just like we are born and we die. But unlike us, Jesus was the eternally existing Son of God. In Colossians Paul tells us that he is the image of the invisible God, the exact representation of God.

It seems to me that Jesus’ human nature, being truly human, could be tempted to sin. Yet, since he lacked inherited guilt, he remained free to chose not to sin. Since his human and divine natures are perfectly united in him, his divine nature would have constrained his humanity to not sin in this way: Jesus’ human nature would be doing what humanity should do; depend upon God for strength in the face of temptation. Could he have sinned? Not if he was doing what a perfect human would do by trusting in God. Was he truly tempted to sin? Yes, his human nature, being what it is was was weak in relation to temptation but was strong in the power of the Lord.

This stuff matters because Jesus is a sympathetic God and savior. He isn’t aloof from our struggles and difficulties.

Not Was but Who?

There is no witness like a hostile witness. When it comes to Christianity, Bert Ehrman is pretty hostile but he is a historian and he makes a pretty good case for the historical existence of Jesus (whatever you make of Him):

I don’t agree with how Ehrman processes the evidence (obviously); there are solid reasons for differences in the gospels and other things he mentions. I had to smile at the way the interviewer pushes back because Erhman is using the same approach apologists do. As if that in itself makes the facts wrong. The interviewer tries to resort to the same old “yeahbuts” but Ehrman is honest enough to point out that that particular emperor will be ill-attired for the coming winter months. He’s naked. Which is to say, those arguments play well to the sympathetic crowd but they don’t really work.

In the end Ehrman makes the point that you can’t look at the historical facts and say Jesus didn’t exist. So you’re not left with “Was he?” but rather “Who was he?” Once the point that Jesus existed is established there is a case to be made about who he is.

Christ’s Descent

Into the lower parts of the earth. 1 “For ‘the lower parts of the earth,’ they may possibly signify no more than the place beneath; as when our Saviour said, (John viii. 23,) ‘Ye are from beneath, I am from above; ye are of this world, I am not of this world;’ or as God spake by the prophet, ‘I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath.’ Nay, they may well refer to his incarnation, according to that of David, (Ps. xxxix. 15,) or to his burial. (Ps. lxii. 9)” – Pearson These words mean nothing more than the condition of the present life. To torture them so as to make them mean purgatory or hell, is exceedingly foolish. The argument taken from the comparative degree, “the lower parts,” is quite untenable. A comparison is drawn, not between one part of the earth and another, but between the whole earth and heaven; as if he had said, that from that lofty habitation Christ descended into our deep gulf. – Calvin’s Commentary on The Epistle to the Ephesians, commenting on Ephesians 4:9

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1. “For ‘the lower parts of the earth,’ they may possibly signify no more than the place beneath; as when our Saviour said, (John viii. 23,) ‘Ye are from beneath, I am from above; ye are of this world, I am not of this world;’ or as God spake by the prophet, ‘I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath.’ Nay, they may well refer to his incarnation, according to that of David, (Ps. xxxix. 15,) or to his burial. (Ps. lxii. 9)” – Pearson

Pride Translated Into Praise

As I’ve been reading my Old Testament lately, I’ve been doing a little mental exercise. At first, it was a form or rebellion and then it turned into something better.

When you read in the Old Testament “the LORD” what you’re seeing is God’s covenant name “Yahweh” with the vowel dots for “Adoni” or “Lord”. The Masorite Jews did this in the 12th century when the included the vowel dots in the Hebrew manuscripts because traditionally the Jews would see YHWH and say “Adoni” so as to not violate the Third Commandment, “You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain.” An admirable effort but not really what is intended there. It would easy to never say “Yahweh” and yet profane his name in any other number of ways.

Also, this convention winds up running into some translation issues. For one example (and there are many more) in 1 Kings 2:26 it says “because you carried the ark of the Lord GOD before David…” Literally it is “adoni Yahweh” and here Yahweh is translated as “GOD” because to follow the normal convention, it would read “of the Lord the LORD” which is a bit weird.

So my act of rebellion was to see “the LORD” and read it as “Yahweh” every time. After a bit I got worried that I was just being proud and clever; never a good thing. But then I thought about how the New Testament handles this. There the word “Lord” is used quite often in the context of Yahweh in the Old Testament. It is also used in a more familiar manner such as we might say “sir” today. Then another fashion it is used is as an act of political rebellion when the church affirmed that “Jesus is Lord” instead of Caesar.

And that’s when it came together. What I was actually doing was what the church had been doing. Seeing “Yahweh” and thinking/saying “Lord” for whatever reason; theological persnickety-ness or honoring God. But in the New Testament “Lord” is applied to Jesus. So when I read in the New Testament “Jesus is Lord” and hear in my head that habit from reading “Lord” in my Old Testament as “Yahweh” I’m actually doing the right thing! Jesus is Yahweh! Amazing how God turned my cleverness on its head and brought me to honor him even more through an translation oddity. I love him.