UNDERSTANDING THE PERSON AND NATURE OF CHRIST
There has been a continuous debate about the understanding of the person and work of Jesus Christ in church history. At the centre of it is the uni-personality of Christ— Jesus being both God and human at the same time. This debate continues to date.
There are Christians who are not bold enough to testify of their faith with fear of how to comprehensively present Christ with His seeming mysterious nature. This lesson helps us to single out and piece together the person of Jesus Christ as the foundation of our faith and practice.
Misconceptions about Christ
In the historical raging debate about Christ, various misconceptions have been presented about Christ. We consider a few of them that are quite fundamental.
- Jesus in not God
This position holds that Jesus was an ordinary human possessing unusual but not super human or supernatural gifts of righteousness and wisdom.
- Jesus is a demi god
Here Jesus is presented as an intermediate being between God the Father and the rest of the creation. He is supposed to be the agent by whom the Father had created them and continued to relate to them, but not God in the full sense.
- Jesus in not human
This view says Jesus only seemed to be human. Because all matter is evil, God could not really have become material since he is perfectly pure and holy.
- Jesus was a compound unity
This argues that only some elements of Jesus were human, the rest were divine. What the Word took was not the whole of humanity but only flesh, so he had a human body but not soul.
- The Designations Of Jesus Christ
There several names/titles that are used in scriptures in reference to Christ. The names speak about His nature, His official position and the work he came to accomplish here on earth.
- His personal name is ‘Jesus’
This is the Greek form of the Hebrew Jehoshua, Jeshua (Joshua); meaning salvation- Yahweh saves (God saves).
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
- 2. His official name (title) is ‘Christ’
His official name is Christ. It means the anointed one.
- (This is Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Mashiach– meaning ‘to anoint’). As is common with titles, the name Christ, when referring to his official position is preceded with the definite article ‘the’.
‘Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ.
When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
“But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
- His reverent and authoritative name is ‘Lord’
It is an expressive of the highest form of respect, authority and exalted character of Jesus that brings him to be equivalent to God. This same title ‘Lord’ is applied to God (the equivalent of Jehovah/Adonai).
“Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”
‘A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ– this Jesus whom you crucified.”
- His common Self-designation is ‘Son of Man’
In making reference to himself in relation to his ministry, Jesus often referred to himself as the ‘Son of Man’. This self-designation occurs in four classic passages:
- i) To express the future coming of the Son of Man
“For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
- ii) To show Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection
“When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief.”
iii) To convey Heavenly super human side and pre-existent of Christ
“No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.
“He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
- iv) As a reflection of Jesus as a man with authority
“Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
“And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man”.
- His office is the ‘Son of God’
This describes His office as messiah and God.
“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
“Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
- The Personality Of Jesus Christ
In spite of the misconceptions about Christ, the Bible is very clear on the personality and nature of Christ.
- Jesus is human
Any attempt to deny the humanity of Christ is a denial of the real life and historical facts.
- i) He had a human birth and death
‘This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham’
“…and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger
‘And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man’.
But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.
- ii) He had human experiences
‘Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well’.
‘Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry’.
‘He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts’
iii) Exhibited a full range of human emotions
‘At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth
He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.
‘When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd’.
Jesus shows the true nature of humanity and can therefore be our example as a model of the Christian life. In our human nature he can sympathize with us and intercede for us since he fully understands human experience having gone through it.
- iv) He was truly human, yet sinless
‘Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me’?
‘The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.’
Jesus’ humanity is the standard by which we measure ours. His is true, pure and unadulterated man. The rest of the human race have been corrupted, twisted and broken as a result of sin and hence cannot provide the standard of judgement on how we ought to live our lives in this corrupt generation. Let the man Jesus be your true role model.
- Jesus Christ is God
Jesus’ self-awareness and how others referred to him in scripture leaves no doubt about Jesus Christ being God.
- i) He is one with the Father.
“I and the Father are one.”
“If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” …. Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’
- ii) He has power over life and death
“For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.”
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die”
iii) He has power to forgive sins
“When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”…
- iv) He was involved in creation
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”
“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.”
- v) He pre-existed humanity: He came down from heaven
“Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?” Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me…
…Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” “You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”
“No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
- vi) He is openly referred to as God
“Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God’!”
“Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all,
forever praised! Amen”.
“But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever”.
vii) He is both Lord and Saviour
“As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile — the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
1 Peter 3:15
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” [KJV uses the Lord God].
viii) He receives worship
‘While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God”.
“In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!”
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever!”
Through Christ, human beings have access to the true knowledge of God. The love, holiness and power of God are demonstrated in Christ, for to see Christ is to see God (John 14:9). Worship of Christ as God is therefore appropriate and expected.
How do the two natures in one person work?
- It is a physical union of two natures so as to make one person.
The union means that God is Man and man is God in the person of Jesus Christ alone. No other man can claim to be God
John 1:1-3; 14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
‘All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”-which means, “God with us.”
- 2. God became man
The second person of the Trinity assumed human nature without in anyway changing His original nature.
‘who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness’.
- The two natures did not function independently
His actions were always those of God and Man.
1 Timothy 3:16
“The mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh, 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”
May the reality of Christ intersect with our lives in a deeper experiential way as we desire to know him intimately the rest of our lives. The more we know him, our knowledge of God will be impacted, our understanding of ourselves will be enlightened, and our understanding of the world and his calling on us to serve him faithfully in this world will be divinely oriented.
Let us make Paul’s prayer our personal prayer, every day we live:
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God”
- Share any specific insights in which this lesson has enlightened your view of Jesus Christ?
- What is the one thing about the person of Christ that has stood out for you in the lesson?
- How does this influence your perspective of the Christian faith in general and your personal relationship with Christ as an individual?