Basic Christology - The Person of Jesus Christ

There are three pairs of words to remember.  They are truly God, truly man, and one Person, or hypostatic union.  (More about this later.)

Some major Christological Scripture passages are John 1:1-14; Romans 1:2-5; 1 John 1:1-3; Hebrews 1:1-4 and 2:14.  However, no verses are more full and explicit on our subject than Philippians 2:6-11.  In our study we will focus on this Scripture portion, and use it as a small window through which we will view this important teaching.

 

His Deity

"Who (Jesus), being in the form of God,
did not consider it robbery to be equal with God."
Philippians 2:6.

 

THE FORM OF GOD

Jesus Christ was truly God.  You'll notice that the word being appears in both verse 6 and verse 8.  However, the original Greek words are different.  The word being in Philippians 2:6 is better translated existing.  Theologians like to use the word subsisting, which denotes prior existence.  Christ was, is, and ever shall be God.

We read that He was "in the form of God."  This is not a reference to the shape of an object, but rather refers to the essence of being.  The form of a thing is the mode in which it reveals itself.  No one can appear in the form of God who is not God.  God is not more, and cannot promise more, or do more than Jesus Christ is said to be, to promise, or to do.  Other Scriptures describe Jesus as "the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15), and "the brightness of His glory and express image of His person" (Hebrews 1:3).  He is not merely like God; He is God.

 

THE EQUAL OF GOD

In Isaiah 46:5 God inquires, "To whom will you liken Me, and make Me equal and compare Me, that we should be alike?"  The implied answer is obvious.  No one is equal to God.  Men have devised their own gods, but none are like the God of the Bible.

Yet Jesus "did not consider it robbery to be equal with God."  In other words, He didn't think that equality with God was something that He had to grasp after.  Christ claimed equality with God, because He was equal to God.

Take a look at John 5:16-23.  In this chapter Jesus healed a sick man on the Sabbath.  In explaining the miracle Jesus said, "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working."  Those who heard Him wanted to kill Him, because He broke the Sabbath, and made Himself equal with God.  They believed that Jesus had spoken blasphemy.

Jesus defended His claim to equality with God, elaborating with four additional claims that only God could make.  First, Jesus claimed to do the works of God.  He said that He did what the Father did (verse 19).  Second, Jesus claimed to have power to give life to others.  As the Father has life in Himself, the Son has life in Himself (verse 21).  Third, the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son.  The Son is the Judge of all mankind (verse 22).  Fourth, Jesus insisted that He should be honored just as the Father is honored.  Those who dishonor the Son dishonor the Father (verse 23).

Other Christological references emphasize that Jesus Christ is the Creator and Sustainer of all things.  See John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16, 17; Hebrews 1:2, 3.

 

His Humanity

"But made Himself of no reputation,
taking the form of a bondservant,
and coming in the likeness of men.

And being found in appearance as a man,
He humbled Himself

and became obedient to the point of death,
even the death of the cross."

Philippians 2:7, 8.

 

THE FORM OF A BONDSLAVE

Jesus Christ is truly man.  According to the NKJV, "He made Himself of no reputation."  The NIV puts it this way: "(He) made Himself nothing."  Marginal references in many study Bibles offer an alternative translation: "He emptied Himself."  Jesus Christ did not empty Himself of the possession of deity, but rather the privileges of deity.

He took upon Himself "the form of a bondservant," that is, a slave.  Here we have the second use of the word form in our text.  As a slave, Jesus was all that a bondslave was.

In the Old Testament the law concerning slaves is found in Exodus 21:1-11.  It's interesting that there were those who of their own volition chose to remain slaves.  The servant would place his ear to the doorpost, and his master would pierce his ear with an awl.  This signified that the slave would serve his master all the days of his life.

As mentioned at the beginning of this study, Psalm 40:6-8 is a Messianic prediction.  It's a prophetic utterance of Jesus Christ.  In this Psalm He says, "My ears you have opened."  His ears were pierced like those of a common slave.  This indicates that the Lord Jesus willingly became a servant.  In Isaiah 52:13 we read, "Behold, My Servant...."  This is a reference to the suffering Servant of Jehovah of Isaiah 53, even Jesus Christ.  He could say to His disciples, "I am among you as the One who serves."  Luke 22:27.

It's interesting that He took the form of a servant.  This is the same Greek word as receive in John 1:12.  Evangelical preachers like to use the word accept as well.  Those who are unsaved are urged to accept Christ as their Savior.  Here in Philippians 2:7 Jesus willingly accepted the lowly position of a servant.

 

THE LIKENESS OF MEN

Jesus came from heaven.  He said that He, the Son of Man, "came down from heaven" (John 3:13).  He is the only person, born of a woman, who could make that statement.

He "came in the likeness of men."  Jesus was born with two eyes, two ears, two arms, two legs, and the rest.  It was written of Jesus, "In as much as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself shared in the same...."  Hebrews 2:14.  He had a physical body with a human nature.  Jesus was like us with one exception---He was without sin.  See 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Hebrews 4:15.  He could ask His enemies, "Which of you convicts Me of sin?"  John 8:46.

 

THE APPEARANCE OF A MAN

When Jesus walked upon the earth, He was not recognized by the world as the Son of God, but He did appear as a man to all who saw Him.  At times He was hungry, thirsty, and weary.  He ate food, drank water, and slept.  He shared our emotions and sorrows.  He spoke of His hands, His head, His feet, His blood, His flesh and bones.  No one doubted His humanity.

And as the Man Christ Jesus, our Mediator, He died.  1 Timothy 2:5.  "And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross."  The Roman soldiers scourged Him as someone that they looked upon as a man.  Jesus Christ suffered as a man.  When Pontius Pilate brought out Jesus to the Jews, he shouted, "Behold, the Man!"  John 19:5.

The Man Christ Jesus was obedient unto death, but He was not death's slave.  He was the "Man of sorrows," who carried more than the weight of the cross to Calvary.  He bore our sins in His own body.  God made Him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.  His death was voluntary--He went to the cross willingly; His death was vicarious--He died in our place for our sins; His death was victorious--He rose again from the dead!

 

The Hypostatic Union

Jesus was truly God.  He was truly man.  He was one person.  Theologians call this the Hypostatic Union.  In Hebrews 1:3 the word person is hupostasis, from which hypostatic is derived.  To the theologian the hypostatic union deals with the doctrine of Jesus Christ being truly God, truly man, and one person, not two.

 

A DEMONSTRATION OF THE HYPOSTATIC UNION

Here are three incidents in the Bible, where both His humanity and His deity are demonstrated.  First, consider Mark 4:35-38.  Jesus was asleep in the stern of the ship---how utterly human!  Next He rebukes the wind and the waves--how utterly divine!  Second, look at Mark 11:12-14, 20, 21.  Jesus was hungry--again, His humanity.  He cursed the fig tree without figs, and it withered from the roots--His deity.  Third, Mark 13:32.  Jesus doesn't know the hour when the Son of Man will come.  Yet a little later in Mark 14:30 he could tell Peter what he would do, when he would do it, and exactly how many times he would do it.

 

THE REJECTION OF THE HYPOSTATIC UNION

There are three major mistakes that theologians make in attempting to explain this union.  First, there are those who deny the humanity of Jesus Christ.  They insist that He did not have flesh and blood.  The apostle John wrote of these in 1 John 4:3.  Second, others deny the deity of Jesus Christ.  The Jews of Jesus' day and liberal theologians of our present day are perfect examples of this group.  Third, some combine the humanity and deity of Christ, forming a new, third substance, like combining copper and zinc to form brass.  In the early church there were those who erroneously held this view.

 

AN EXPLANATION OF THE HYPOSTATIC UNION

Theologians have to explain everything about God.  They use the dichotomy of man as an example.  As created by God, man has a material body, and an immaterial soul (and spirit).  Nevertheless, each man is one person.  The material and immaterial are not mixed or blended together.  They are separate, yet the person is still one.

Be aware that elaborate explanations are almost always wrong!  Bible doctrine is usually quite simple.  At the same time it is profound.  Revealed biblical truth is often incomprehensible.

 

THE MYSTERY OF THE HYPOSTATIC UNION

Christians have always believed that Jesus Christ was truly God and truly man.  In Philippians 2 the apostle Paul was not presenting some new truth to the church.  However, he believed that the incarnation was a mystery.  He mentions a creed of the early church in his first letter to Timothy, writing, "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh...."  1 Timothy 3:16.  Jesus Christ is truly God, truly man, and one person.

 

His Sovereignty

"Therefore God also has highly exalted Him
and given Him the name which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
of those in heaven, and of those on earth,
and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Philippians 2:9-11.

 

THE EXALTATION OF JESUS CHRIST

Jesus, who humbled Himself and died, rose again from the dead.  "Therefore God also has highly exalted Him."  How high?  "He (God) raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.  And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church."  Ephesians 1:20-22.

Other mere men have pretended to be God in the flesh.  Alexander the Great claimed to be the Son of God.  Both Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar acted like gods, and were hailed as the Savior of the world.  In the New Testament we have the account of King Herod, who killed James, the brother of John, and had the apostle Peter put in prison.  Acts 12:21-23 is interesting.  "So on a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and gave an oration to them.  And the people kept shouting, 'The voice of a god and not a man!'  Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God.  And he was eaten by worms and died."

Jesus humbled Himself and was exalted.  Herod exalted himself, and was eaten by worms!

 

THE NAME OF JESUS

In the Old Testament the name Jehovah was held in special reverence.  When the Scriptures were read aloud, the reader substituted the name Adonai for Jehovah.

However, now there is a name above every name.  Jesus!  The babe of Bethlehem was given that name.  It means Savior.  An angel of the Lord made this clear to Joseph, when he said, "And she (Mary) will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins."  Matthew 1:21.  This Jesus is indeed the Savior of the world, especially of those who believe.  See 1 Timothy 4:10.

 

THE LORDSHIP OF CHRIST

It has been said many times that it is not enough to believe in Jesus as Savior.  You must also receive Him as Lord.  This is a good American message.  It makes no sense in Korean.  The word for Savior in Korean is kew-jew.  It's derived from two characters.  Kew means save; jew means Lord.  Together they mean the Lord who saves.  Jesus is Savior; the Savior is Lord. 

Many professing Christians in the United States give lip service to God.  They have never bowed in true repentance before the Savior of the world.  They have never made Him their Savior.  They have never welcomed Him into their lives as the Lord who saves

But the day is coming when "every knee should bow..., and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord."  That day should be every day for those who know Him.

C. T. Studd (1862-1931) was a missionary pioneer who served the Lord in China, India, and Africa.  He is the founder of the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade, which is known as WEC.  He said, "If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him."

Jesus speaks of humanity; Lord speaks of His deity.  Is this Jesus Lord of your life?

 

His Humility

When the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi about the person of Jesus Christ, he was not presenting some new doctrine.  The believers there already knew this truth.  As mentioned above, the apostolic church had battled various Christological heresies.

Paul prefaced our text, Philippians 2:6-11, with the preceding verses.

 

"Fulfill my joy being like-minded,
having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit,
but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself....
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 2:2, 3, 5.

 

Notice the reference to like-minded, one mind, lowliness of mind, and the mind of Christ.  The mind of Christ is summarized for us in three words in verse 8: He humbled Himself.

God became a man.  He humbled Himself!  That man took upon Himself the form of a slave.  He humbled Himself!  He died on the cross for our sins.  He humbled Himself!  Let this mind be in you.

 

The Work of Jesus Christ

 
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