The Doctrine of Christ (part 2)

March 24, 2008     Time: 00:30:11


Craig continues on the Doctrine of Christ (Christology). The biblical data concerning the person of Christ. Review of biblical support of both the Deity and humanity of Christ.

Good morning. Today we are going to begin our lesson on the doctrine of Christ, or what is called Christology as a realm of theology. We are going to first talk about the biblical data concerning the person of Christ.

To some degree, this is going to be review for those of you who were hear with us during our discussion of the doctrine of the Trinity because we will be talking about the deity of Christ during this section as well as his humanity. So this may be something of a review for some of you, but I think we can never emphasize too strongly the knowledge of the biblical passages supporting the deity of Christ. I am happy to have this review, and I hope every one of us would be capable from memory of defending the deity of Christ if called upon from the Scriptures.

The Scriptures affirm that Jesus was both man and God, both truly human and truly divine. Let’s first look at passages that show Jesus’ true humanity.

First of all, and most simply, he was born. In Luke 2:7,11 we have the story of Jesus’ birth. Referring to Mary, Luke says, “And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” And then in verse 11 the message from the angel to the shepherds, “For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” So Jesus experienced a human birth.

He also underwent temptation. Matthew 4:1: “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” This shows, again, Jesus’ humanity in that he was able to be genuinely tempted.

He experienced physical limitations. Various of these are described in the New Testament. For example, in Matthew 4:2, Matthew goes on to say, “And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry.” So Jesus felt hunger in his human nature. Also Matthew 21:18, “In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he was hungry.” Again, an expression of Jesus feeling physical hunger. John 4:6: “Jacob’s well was there, and so Jesus, wearied as he was with his journey, sat down beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.” Here Jesus was experiencing physical exhaustion and tiredness. Also Mark 4:38, when Jesus and the disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat, Jesus “was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care if we perish?’” Here Jesus was so exhausted that he was actually sleeping through a storm on the Sea of Galilee.

In all of these ways we see Jesus’ physical limitations and his genuine humanity.

More than that, however, Jesus also experienced mental limitations as well as physical limitations. For example, Luke 2:52 says, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.” Here Luke says that Jesus not only grew physically but he also grew in wisdom, showing that he increased in his intellectual abilities and thereby implied that he had limitations. Also, Mark 13:32.[1] This is Jesus saying on the date of his Second Coming, “But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Here Jesus forthrightly says he doesn’t know the date of his Second Coming. He doesn’t know the time of his return. So he had mental limitations as well as physical limitations.

Jesus’ genuine humanity is shown very starkly in his torture and death which he suffered. Luke 23:33 says, “And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left.” Certainly Jesus’ crucifixion shows his humanity in a way that nothing else can. In Luke 23:46, “Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last.” So Jesus not only was born but he also died, which shows his humanity.

Finally, according to the author of the book of Hebrews 5:7-10 Jesus also increased in moral perfection through suffering:

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

So all of these verses go to show Jesus’ genuine humanity. I remember once sharing this at a Bible study with some college students and one of the girls said, “These passages make me uncomfortable.” She wanted to go on to the passages about the deity of Christ. But it is very important to see that the Scripture teaches explicitly and affirms clearly the true humanity of Christ. To deny his humanity is just as much a mistake as to deny his deity. In fact, there were heretics in the early church who denied Jesus’ genuine incarnation. They were condemned by the church as heretics because they denied this essential truth of Scripture that Jesus became genuinely incarnate as a true human being. So the truth of Jesus’ humanity is something clearly taught in Scripture and that we must hold onto firmly.

As the same time, however, the Scriptures also teach that Jesus was God. Let’s look at some of these passages again that teach the deity of Christ. For example, John 1:1-3:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.

In this passage John affirms that the Word, who is Jesus Christ, was God. He says the Word was God. Notice also in verse 3 he says that everything was made through him. Without him, nothing was made that has been made. So Jesus cannot be a creature. Christ cannot be a created thing because all things were made through him apart from God himself. So verse 3 as well as verse 1 teaches clearly the deity of Christ.

In verse 14, the author goes on to explain, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” The word there that is translated “one and only” is the word “the only begotten” as it is translated in the King James. In the Greek, this is the word monogenes. Mono meaning “only” and genes meaning “born.”[2] So he is the only born one – the only begotten one – of God. He is the Word who was in the beginning.

Then in John 1:18-19 John goes on to make the remarkable statement, “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.” Here, again, the word is monogenes. In other words, we can translate verse 18 more forthrightly or literally as “No one has ever seen God, but the only begotten God who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” So the Word of God, the only begotten God, is the one who has revealed the Father.

This was so startling to refer to the only begotten God, that expression is so jarring, that early copyists of these manuscripts actually changed them to read “the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.” No, that is not what John writes. The oldest manuscripts read “the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.”

So in John 1 we have clear affirmations of the deity of Christ.

The Christological climax to the Gospel of John comes in John 20 with the resurrection appearance of Jesus to the disciples in the upper room and Thomas’ confession in John 20:28: “Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” Here Thomas calls Jesus both Lord and God. Jesus responds to him, “Because you have seen me you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet had believed.” John is teaching the deity of Christ, and Thomas’ confession is the climax christologically to this Gospel.

John wasn’t the only one, however, who taught the full deity of Christ. Paul taught the same thing. For example, turn over to Colossians 1:15-20. Referring to Christ, he says,

He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

So, again, as the creator of all things he cannot be a creature. He cannot be something that has been created; he is God himself. Paul goes on to say,

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Here he says that all the fullness of God, all the fullness of deity, dwelt in Jesus Christ. Paul makes the same point in Colossians 2:9, “For in Christ all the fullness of the deity dwells in bodily form.” What a remarkable affirmation of Christ’s deity. In him, all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form.

Also in Philippians 2:5-8 we have a great hymnic praise to Christ that equates him with God. He says,

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.

Here he says that Christ is in very nature God himself, but that he did not count equality with God something to be held onto, something to be clung to, but he emptied himself and took on human form in the incarnation.[3] So Paul also has this strong affirmation of the deity of Christ.

But not only John and Paul, we also find this, for example, in the letter to the Hebrews. In Hebrews 1:1-3, 8-10. The author says,

In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

Here he says the Son is like the radiance of a star or of the sun – the astronomical body. So the Son is rather like the radiance of the sun. He is the exact representation of God’s nature. The word here is used of the sort of impress that one would make in wax with a signet ring to mark one’s imprint in, say, sealing a document or sealing a letter. In the same way, the Son is the exact representation or impress of the very nature of God and as such, he says, he upholds all things by his powerful word.

Then in verses 8-10, the author says,

But of the Son he says [so this is now a quotation about the Son],

“Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever,
the righteous scepter is the scepter of thy kingdom.

. . .

“Thou, Lord, didst found the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of thy hands;

In verses 8 and 10, the Son is addressed with these Old Testament quotations as both God and Lord – the same two titles that we saw Thomas ascribe to Jesus in the twentieth chapter in the Gospel of John. He is both Lord and God, and these Old Testament proof texts are applied to Jesus.

I think it is clear that we have a wide spread affirmation of the deity of Christ throughout the New Testament. The New Testament church, as we saw, called Jesus Lord – kurios – which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament word for God. For example, in 1 Corinthians 16:22, “If any one has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!” This is in Aramaic maranatha referring to Christ as Lord in the language spoken by the first disciples. So they called Jesus Lord and then they applied to him proof texts or Old Testament texts about Yahweh in the Old Testament. For example, in Romans 10:9,13. In verse 9 it says, “because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Then in verse 13 comes the Old Testament proof text: “For, ‘every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.’” Quoting from a passage in the Old Testament referring to Yahweh, referring to God in the Old Testament. So they took these passages about the Lord (Yahweh) in the Old Testament and applied them to Jesus Christ and called him Lord.[4]

In summary, the New Testament then, I think, tries to call Jesus Lord or refer to him as divinity in every conceivable way that they could. A very fine book on this, if you are interested in pursuing it further, is Murray Harris’ book Jesus as God. Harris is a fine New Testament scholar from New Zealand. This is the fruit of years and years of research in which Harris examines the passages in the New Testament that explicitly call Jesus “ho theos” – that is, God. This is the Greek word for God. Harris goes through the passages in the New Testament in which Jesus is actually referred to as God. On page 49 he gives his summary of whether or not these passages clearly refer to Jesus Christ as God. This is what his summary indicates. He says it is certain in John 1:1 and in John 20:28. Those are certain references to Jesus as God. He says it is very probable in Romans 9:5, Titus 2:13, Hebrews 1:8, and 2 Peter 1:1. It is probable in John 1:18 and possible in Acts 20:28, Hebrews 1:9, 1 John 5:20. So the New Testament not only refers to Jesus’ humanity, but it also clearly refers to his deity.

That is the biblical data concerning the humanity and deity of Christ. We now want to look at the history of attempts to systematize this data. How do we make sense out of this claim that Jesus is both truly God and truly man? If anything appears to be a contradiction, this is surely it. So how can we make sense out of the doctrine that Jesus Christ is both God and man?

You’ll remember that the first attempt was the so-called Logos Christology of the early Greek apologists. We talked a little bit about this when we looked at the doctrine of the Trinity. The early Greek apologists included such thinkers as Justin Martyr, Tacian, Athenagoras, and we can also throw in Theophilus as well. These early Greek apologists connected the divine Word or Logos of the prologue of the Gospel of John, where John says “In the beginning was the Word [or the Logos]”, with the concept of the Logos as it played a role in the philosophy of the first century Jewish philosopher Philo who was from Alexandria in Egypt. Philo’s dates are about 25 BC to about AD 40. He lived and wrote from about 25 BC to AD 40. The apologists attempted to explain this Christian doctrine of the Logos or the Word in the categories of Philo’s philosophy. This is one of the most striking examples of how philosophy has influence the formulation of Christian doctrine and theology.[5]

For Philo, the Logos was the reason of God. It is the mind of God, if you will. It is the creative force behind the creation of the world and which in turn gives the world its rational structure. The reason the world is a logical place open to rational investigation is because it bears the imprint of the Logos, that is to say the reason or rationality of God which has created it.

Similarly, for these early Greek apologists, they thought of God the Father existing alone without the universe but having within himself his Word or his reason or wisdom. Here they would sometimes pick up on the figure of Wisdom in Proverbs 8:22-31 where Wisdom is portrayed in a personified way as a woman, saying that she was there with God in the beginning of the world when he created the world. So these early Greek apologists thought of God the Father as existing alone without the universe but having within him his Word or reason or wisdom. Then this somehow proceeded forth from him, just as a spoken word proceeds forth from the mouth of its speaker and to become a distinct individual who created the world and then became incarnate as Jesus Christ. Similarly, the Holy Spirit could also be thought to proceed forth from the mind of God to become a self-standing individual person.

Let me give you a quotation from Athenagoras on how this doctrine works. This is from Athenagoras’ treatise A Plea for the Christians, chapter 10. Athenagoras writes,

The Son of God is the Word of the Father in Ideal Form and energizing power; for in his likeness and through him all things came into existence, which presupposes that the Father and the Son are one. Now since the Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son by a powerful unity of Spirit, the Son of God is the mind and reason of the Father… He is the first begotten of the Father. The term is used not because he came into existence (for God, who is eternal mind, had in himself his word or reason from the beginning, since he was eternally rational) but because he came forth to serve as Ideal Form and Energizing Power for everything material… The… Holy Spirit. . . we regard as an effluence of God [or an outflow of God] which flows forth from him and returns like a ray of the sun.

So according to this doctrine, there is only one God but he isn’t an undifferentiated unity. He isn’t just a simple unity. Rather, he has within himself certain aspects of his being like his reason or his wisdom. These aspects, according to the Logos Christologist, proceed forth from God as distinct individuals.

The Logos doctrine of these early Greek apologists involved a radical reinterpretation of the Fatherhood of God. God is not simply the Father in terms of being the Father of mankind, nor is he simply the Father of Jesus of Nazareth in virtue of causing the virgin birth. Rather, he is the Father in the sense that the Logos proceeds from him before all creation. Christ is not merely the only begotten Son of God in his humanity, but he is also begotten of the Father even in his pre-incarnate divinity.

That is Logos Christology, by way of review. For those of you who weren’t here for the doctrine of the Trinity, that may be something new to you. You notice the Logos Christologist affirms the full deity of Christ, he is the very mind of God, yet they also want to affirm his incarnation and humanity.

What we will do next time is look at the next school of thought which was Modalism, which attempted to offer a different Christology. We will pick that up when we meet again next time.[6]



[1] 5:03

[2] 10:08

[3] 15:20

[4] 20:02

[5] 25:04

[6] Total Running Time: 30:11 (Copyright © 2008 William Lane Craig)