Incarnation; Deity ~ 20131208 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
12/08/13 Theology of the Incarnation; Deity;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131208_incarnation-deity.mp3
I'd like to take this time of year as an excuse to do something a little different than we usually do. I'd like to look at some theology with you. We normally work our way through books of the Bible, take it as it comes, and listen to what God has to say to us through the pages of his word. But for the next few weeks I'd like to do some theology with you. I want to look at the theology of the incarnation.
The mention of doing theology might scare you in one of three different directions.
Some might be scared that theology means that we are going to dictate that you believe certain stuff because somebody important with a lot of authority said we should. Although we can learn a lot from history, that is not what we intend to do. Good theology is taking all that the bible says relating to a specific issue and attempting to fit it together and make sense of it. We will look at some history along the way, because we can learn a lot from other people, and awareness of history often helps us to avoid making the same mistakes that others have already made. What we are aiming for is a biblically based historically informed theology.
Some might be inclined to say 'theology is just not my cup of tea'. I'm not into all that. The problem with this is that everyone does theology. You believe things about God based on what you have seen or heard or felt or read. Everyone does theology. Some do it carefully and well, others do it haphazardly and poorly, but everyone does theology. The question is not whether or not to do theology; the question is whether or not we will get our theology right. Children are some of the best theologians. They are curious. They ask questions. They want to know why. If you spend any time around children, you will have to do theology. It would be in your best interest and theirs to do it well.
Some are turned off by theology because they think that theology is stuffy and boring and irrelevant. Some might say 'I have a real relationship with Jesus; why do I need theology?' You need solid theology to make sure your relationship is with the real Jesus. Good theology is not irrelevant; it is the most relevant study addressing the most important issue that any human being ever has to face. The stakes are so high that it warrants serious and careful attention. Theology is not boring because God is not boring. He is the most interesting being that is. He is worthy of all your affection, all your devotion, all your energy. The greatest commandment tells us that we must love God with all of our mind. You will find, rather than being stuffy, studying who God is will irresistibly draw you deeper into worship. As we see what God reveals about himself in the Bible, we will be filled with wonder and amazement which naturally expresses itself in worship.
Here is where we are going. Lord willing, we will take the next few weeks to examine the theology behind the incarnation. It will be well worth our time and energy to focus our attention on the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the God-man. This week we will examine his Divine nature; next week we will look at his humanity, and the following we will look at how these two natures are united in one person forever.
In order to understand more clearly what happened at the incarnation, when God became man, we need to understand a bit about the nature of God. All Christians believe there is only one true God. Christianity, along with Judaism and Islam, is strictly monotheistic. There can only be one supreme being. The Biblical narrative starts with 'In the beginning God...' (Gen.1:1). God commands his people 'You shall have no other gods before me' (Ex.20:3).
God gives evidence that 'the LORD is God; there is no other besides him' (Deut.4:35). Jesus said 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve (Mt.4:10). This is interesting, because as we will see, Jesus repeatedly claimed to be God, and received worship as God, but he also addressed his Father as God. This has led Christians to understand that the one God has eternally existed in three distinct persons; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three personalities or centers of consciousness all share the divine nature or essence, they each are characterized by all of the divine attributes or characteristics. This teaching has come to be known as the doctrine of the Trinity. All Christians from earliest times have held that there is only one God and that the Father is God, the Son is God and the Spirit is God.
This is relevant to our understanding of the incarnation, because when we say that God became man, we do not mean that the Father or the Spirit became man, but only the Son. The personality of the Son is not to be confused with the Father or the Spirit. Jesus, during his time on the earth, continued in his relationship with his Father and the Holy Spirit through prayer and dependence.
Let's start by looking at John's gospel.
John brings us all the way back to the beginning, using words that remind us of the opening words of Genesis. In the beginning – in the darkness before the universe or even matter existed, the Word already was. This is the Divine word who spoke matter and light and life into existence. John takes us back to creation and says that the Word was already there. The Word was eternal. Then it says something interesting about the Word. It tells us that this Word was with God; distinct from God, a separate personality, a unique center of consciousness who could be said to be with God. And the text also affirms that the Word was God. The Word shared the essence of God, the divine nature. Psalm 33:6 tells us:
John tells us that everything that has ever come into being came into existence through the Word.
Verses 2-4 tell us that the Word is personal. The Word is not an it; the Word is a he. Who was this divine personality who was both with God and was himself God? Who is the Word? We find the answer in verse 14.
The Word became flesh. The Word was the only Son from the Father, fully sharing his God-ness as a son shares the DNA of his father. John the baptist, who was about 6 months older than his cousin, said “he who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.” Jesus was born later than John, but John says that the Word has always existed before John came into being. In verse 18, he affirms the invisible, immaterial,spiritual nature of God; 'no one has ever seen God', and then he goes on to say that the Word is the only one who shares the nature of God, yet is distinct from the Father. The Word, John says, has become human and dwelt among us in order to make the invisible God known.
This is beyond wonderful! To summarize a few of the high points that we learn from John 1: the Word is the eternal Son who became human; Jesus. He has eternally existed in relationship with his Father. He also shares the same divine nature or essence with his Father. He was with God, and he was God.
Jesus is God
Let's look at some other passages that clearly present Jesus as divine. Paul says in Romans 9:5 speaking of the Israelites:
In Titus 2 he refers to Jesus as:
Peter refers to Jesus almost the same way in 2 Peter 1.
The author of Hebrews applies Psalm 45 to Jesus:
When he finally saw the risen Christ,
This is interesting because not only does Thomas address Jesus as God, but also as Lord. We might easily miss the significance of this due to our familiarity with the English word. This word 'κύριος', Lord, is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament which was in use in Jesus' day to translate the Hebrew name of God, 'YHWH', 6814 times. For anyone familiar with the Old Testament to identify Jesus as Lord would be to connect him with YHWH the very name of God. In Luke 1, when Elizabeth sees Mary coming to visit, she exclaims:
In Luke 2, the angel of the Lord declares to the shepherds:
When the shepherds made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child, all who heard it wondered (Lk.2:17-18). To say that the child born in Bethlehem is the Christ, the Messiah is amazing enough. But to say that he is YHWH, the Lord staggers the imagination!
In Luke 3, the role of John the Baptist is said to fulfill the words of Isaiah 40
This clearly demonstrates that Jesus is identified as YHWH, the Lord of the Old Testament.
The author of Hebrews applies Psalm 102 to the Son of God:
Notice, not only does he refer to Jesus as Lord, but he attributes all of creation to Jesus, and asserts that Jesus is unchanging and eternal.
Attributes of Deity
This is another clear evidence in scripture that Jesus is fully divine. Not only is he directly called God and Lord, he has the characteristics or attributes that only God possesses, like eternity and unchangeableness or immutability.
In John 2, Jesus turned 120-180 gallons of water into the finest wine for a wedding celebration.
Jesus, the true Master of the feast, put his glory on display.
In Matthew 8, when the disciples are terrified that they will die in the storm,
Jesus demonstrated his omnipotence; his absolute power over all of creation. Later in this chapter, he demonstrates his sovereignty even over the demonic hordes, who must obey his command.
On many occasions we are told that Jesus knew the heart and thoughts of men.
In John 16, the disciples said:
In John 21, when Jesus asks Peter 'do you love me', Peter answers:
Jesus is all-knowing; omniscient.
When Nathaniel was introduced to Jesus in John 1, Jesus said to him:
Jesus here claims omnipresence; the ability to see what is happening in a different place. In Matthew 18, Jesus looks into the future gatherings of believers and promises:
In Matthew 28, when Jesus sends his disciples into the nations, he
For Jesus to accompany all of his scattered disciples as they evangelize the nations would require him to be omnipresent.
When some friends lowered a paralyzed man through the roof of a house where Jesus was teaching,
In claiming to forgive sins, Jesus was claiming to be the sovereign holy God against whom all sin is ultimately committed.
Jesus claimed to be the life-giver. He said in John 5:
He said in John 10:
Jesus claimed to have immortality, the power of an indestructible life (Heb.7:16).
In John 8, Jesus was claiming to be greater than Abraham.
Jesus does not merely say that he pre-dated Abraham. He claimed to be the self-existent One who spoke to Moses from the burning bush (Ex.3:14).
In Revelation 19:10, John is so overcome with awe that he falls down to worship the angel that brought him the message. The angel quickly refused his worship and told him 'worship God', for God alone is worthy of worship. But Jesus, on several occasions, received worship and did not refuse it.
In fact, in Revelation 5, we see Jesus, the Lamb, receiving equal worship with his Father.
This is the Jesus we worship, the Word made flesh, the infinite, eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, immortal, self-existent, sovereign Creator of all that is. Jesus lacks no quality that God the Father possesses. He is YHWH God, sharing all the character traits of God with his Father. He was in the beginning with God, and he is God. As God, he is infinitely worthy of our trust, because he is infinitely able to save us. Because of who he is, his sacrifice for us on the cross is of infinite value.