Decide For Yourself: Did the changeless God become a man?**
The problem of change long perplexed the Greek philosophers. They wondered how that which is could become something it is not. For example, what about the philosopher's socks? If darned until every bit of yarn is replaced, are they the same socks? Can they remain what they were and become something else?
So the students of the Bible wondered how Christ could remain God (Injeel, John 1:1) and become something else, a baby. God becoming a man – is it an amazing or a foolish concept? Some people believe the invisible God could not or would never change into an actual man. Others acknowledge the true humanity of Christ, but they cannot believe he was truly divine. But some still defend the actual deity as well as humanity.
The identity of Jesus Christ has been the subject of much debate over the centuries. Even in the times of Jesus, we find this was not uncommon; note from the Gospel of Matthew - When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is? They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am? (Injeel, Matthew 16:13-5). Many different views about the identity and nature of Jesus Christ have been discussed throughout history. Here is a sampling that represents a few of the different schools of thought:
· There were those who claimed Jesus' life in a physical body of parts and passions could not have been real. It must have been a mirage, a dream, a mere appearance, simply a manifestation, but not real. God would be contaminated by partaking of human flesh. (Docetists)
· Others said the human body and soul were real, but the spirit was not that of a man. Christ's humanity was incomplete. The spirit was that of the eternal Logos. (Some early Christians such as Apollinarian)
· Jesus, the best of men, Socinus argued, was promoted or adopted to divine status at a certain point such as his baptism. Only after that could he in any sense be called divine. Though he may have sinned, he is one of the best human examples. (Unitarians)
· Jesus was more than a man, he was the first and highest created angel. Leaving that position behind, he began his life as a mere man, and after his death was exalted to a higher creaturely status than before. Never is he Jehovah God, only God's highest representative. (Arians, Jehovah's Witnesses)
· Jesus was fully human and a great prophet of God. All of his miraculous works were done by God just as God did similar miracles through Moses. Just like other prophets he committed no major sins for which he would have to ask for forgiveness. Never did he claim to be “Son of God” or divine in any respect. He is a creature like Adam. (Muslims)
· God in becoming flesh added to his divine characteristics all the essentially human attributes (These did not include either a sinful nature or actual sin of any kind; Adam was truly human before he fell into sin). Jesus Christ shares all the divine attributes. In no respect were these taken from him at the incarnation. The properties of the divine and human natures did not combine to form a third nature (Eutychians) nor form two separate persons (Nestorians). Jesus Christ, then, was one person with two natures, divine and human. (Christians).
Which of these beliefs best represent the various aspects of scriptural teaching about Christ?
Did Jesus possess a real, physical body subject to birth, growth, hunger, thirst, fatigue and death?
But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. Injeel, Luke 1:30, 31
Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." Injeel, John 19:28
And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. Injeel, Luke 2:52
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. Injeel, Mark 4:39;
Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Injeel, Matthew 21:18
And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Injeel, Luke 2:7
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. Injeel, Luke 2:11
Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. Injeel, John 4:6
Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last. Injeel, Luke 23:46
Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Injeel, Luke 23:52-55
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— Injeel, Hebrews 2:14
Can we now still say that Jesus was simply a manifestation or a dream? Or that he got promoted to something more during his life? Can we not all agree that Scripture records Jesus definitely had all the physical attributes of a human being?
Did Jesus also posses a real human spirit (a whole human nature, and not just the physical part)? Was Jesus fully human?
Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last. Injeel, Luke 23:46;
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. Injeel, John 11:33
After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, "I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me." Injeel, John 13:21
For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. Injeel, 1 Corinthians 15:21
The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven.
Injeel, 1 Corinthians 15:47
For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, Injeel, 1 Timothy 2:5
For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Injeel, Hebrews 2:17
Was Jesus’ human nature only physical, but without the human spirit? Does not the scripture record above make it clear that he was fully human, down to having a human spirit? Yes. We may summarize that Jesus was fully human in the physical and spiritual.
Did Jesus become divine at his baptism or was he divine from birth?
"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us." Injeel, Matthew 1:23;
The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Injeel, Luke 1:35;
And asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." Injeel, Matthew 2:2;
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. Injeel, Luke 2: 11
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Prophets, Isaiah 9:9
Is this concept that Jesus being promoted to being divine from the scriptures or perhaps legend or things that pagans believe? Is there any support that at some point in his life, Jesus was “adopted” or “promoted” to being divine? These scriptures do rather support the daring claim that right from birth, this Jesus was divine with such names as God with Us, Son of God, a King receiving worship, Christ the Lord, Mighty God. Is this truly foolishness of man or wisdom of God?
Did Jesus ever Sin?
Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me? Injeel, John 8:46
He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. Injeel, 1 Peter 2:22
But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. Injeel, 1 John 3:5
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, Injeel, 1 Peter 3:18
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Injeel, 2 Corinthians 5:21
Not only did Jesus know that he committed no sin, but even his followers who spent time with him can rightly claim that “in him is no sin”. So those who claim that he committed even minor sins or faults do not have support for it in scripture or history.
Did Jesus have a sinful nature?
The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Injeel, Luke 1:35
Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Injeel, Hebrews 7:26
But with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. Injeel, 1 Peter 1:19
"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Injeel, John 10:11
How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! Injeel, Hebrews 9: 14
Once again, scripture is clear that Jesus is holy, good, without blemish, pure, etc. This is so different when you consider what Jesus said of others, even his very own disciples who did many good works. Note his point about them and all of us being evil –“ If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children….." (Injeel, Luke 11:13).
Was Jesus the highest of the angles or higher than the angels?
So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father"? Or again, "I will be his Father, and he will be my Son"? Injeel, Hebrews 1:4-5
But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy." He also says, “In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end." To which of the angels did God ever say, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet"? Injeel, Hebrews 1:8-13
God through the New Testament (NT- Injeel) scriptures is making it clear that the high position of Jesus is not a new teaching, but was taught even in the Old Testament (Taurat, Zabur & Prophets). From the many references in the OT as quoted in the NT, that Jesus is far superior to any angel, let alone man.
Was Jesus truly and fully God?
The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us." Injeel, Matthew 1:23;
Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen. Injeel, Romans 9:5
We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true—even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Injeel, 1 John 5:20
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Injeel, John 1:1
And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him." Injeel, Hebrews 1:6
Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Injeel, John 20:28
They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end." Injeel, Hebrews 1:11-12
The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. Injeel, John 21:17
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Injeel, Hebrews 13:8
“For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." Injeel, Matthew 18:20
The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. Injeel, Hebrews 1:3
And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Injeel, Matthew 28:20
Jesus is with us always; he is the exact representation of God; the radiance of God’s glory; knows all things; is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow; Word of God in the flesh; and the list goes on. Can this Jesus be simply a human and nothing more? But that is not the testimony of scripture. Would the Jews who have been the single most staunchly mono-theistic faith for 2000 years before Christ and now 2000 year post, come up and stay with this idea? Is it not blasphemy to call a man, God! True. But, here we are not talking about man being equated with God, but God being incarnated as a man! The claim of Jesus is more than a teacher, more than a prophet; his claim is that he is God! How can God become a man and dwell among us? Is this not truly a foolish thought or is it perhaps an amazing one? God living among men!
Was Jesus' deity completely veiled in human flesh apart from faith or could unbelievers incur greater judgment because knowing him as God they inexcusably rejected his deity?
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. Injeel, Hebrews 1:1-2;
He then began to speak to them in parables: "A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed. He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, 'They will respect my son.' "But the tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir. Come, let's kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. "What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. Haven't you read this scripture: 'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes'? Injeel, Mark 12:1-11
How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. Injeel, Hebrews 2:3-4
"What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!"…. and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. Injeel, Mark 1:24, 34
Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. Injeel, 1 Timothy 3:16
"Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you." Injeel, Matthew 11:21-24;
Some sobering warnings that “it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you “. One might say, “That is impossible. He is only a man! God is not a man.” But is it not possible for God to become a man? How great does a God have to be to be able to become a man if that is what he willed to do? Is anything impossible with God? Is God not that great? Some one may respond “that this Jesus became hungry, tired, was a baby, and did all of the things man does, is unbecoming of God?” But who are we to judge what is unbecoming of God? Are we God to make that judgment?
Can God truly become a man and still be God? In human terms, can a human author, write a novel, and put himself in the novel as a character? Can a human author be a creator of a novel and have a part in the novel at the same time? One would say a resounding yes! If so, why cannot God, who created all things from nothing, enter into his creation in human form? Are we not limiting God if we say and judge what God can or cannot do? Can we put ourselves in the role of judging God?
But how then did Jesus, who scripture teaches is the second Person of the eternal Godhead become incarnate? He did not cease to be deity (God) or give up his divine powers (he could raise the dead, control nature and forgive sin, raised himself up after death). In entering the world as a human, did he then add or take on human characteristics and voluntarily choose to exercise his divine powers only intermittently and through a body in order to fulfill his redemptive mission? Note what scripture teaches:
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, Injeel, Colossians 1:19
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Injeel, Philippians 2:6-8
But why would God do this? This is a major topic on it own, but here is a scripture to ponder.
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. …. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Injeel, Hebrews 2:14-15, 17
Not all of the different religions or people who seek God say the same things about Jesus. Based on the Holy Scriptures, what view of Jesus should you hold? We encourage you to further check out the details and context of these and other scriptures.
** This article is based on Chapter 13 - “How could the changeless God become a man?” From “Decide For Yourself: A Theological Workbook” by Dr. Gordon Lewis. InterVarsity Press, 1970. Adapted and posted here by permission of copyright holder – Dr. Gordon Lewis. For comments or feedback, please contact The Abraham Connection.