Jesus Christ, Fully God and Fully Human
NewLife Fellowship, March 5, 2000
Introduction: Our Statement of Beliefs makes the following claim about Jesus Christ: "He was begotten of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, fully God and fully human, two natures in one Person." It makes a number of other statements about Jesus Christ, too, but I would like to focus today on the thought that Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully human. As one member recently asked me, how can someone be 100 percent God and 100 percent human? Doesn't that add up to 200 percent? How can one person be 200 percent of anything?
It's a fair question, and philosophers and theologians have argued about it for centuries, and I cannot pretend to answer all the questions in 12 minutes. But I will at least sketch the reasons that we have this statement in our Statement of Beliefs. There are some reasons in history, and some in the Bible. And I want especially to discuss, Why is this important? How does it relate to day-to-day life?
Biblical evidence: The biblical evidence comes in two basic categories first, that Jesus was fully God, and second, that he was fully human.
Fully God. Several verses call Jesus divine. John 1:1, for example, says that he was with God, and he was God. The word "God" is used for Jesus in about 12 verses. In some of these the grammar might be interpreted in some other way, but in a few verses it is unavoidably clear. Hebrews 1:8 says, "But about the Son he says, `Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever.'" Jesus is called God, even by a writer who knew that there is only one God.
Jesus is repeatedly given divine honors and titles. Old Testament verses about God are said to find fulfilment in Jesus Christ. Jesus is called the Lord, the Creator, the Redeemer, the Savior titles given to God in the Old Testament. Jesus claimed to reveal God in a way that no other person ever did before; he claimed to be the unique pathway for humans to be able to come to God. Jesus accepted worship, even though it is inappropriate for people to worship any created being. Jesus is the Creator, not a created being. Even as a human, he was worthy of worship.
When Jesus said, Before Abraham was, I am, he applied the name of God to himself, and he claimed to have a pre-existence. He claimed to exist before the world began.
Now, I could spend an hour going through the scriptures that tell us that Jesus is God, but I will not belabor the point, because we have taught this correctly for many decades. As far as I know, we have always taught that Jesus is God. I assume that most of you are already in agreement on this point.
But I would like to mention some bedrock scriptures on this point. First, Colossians 1:15: "He is the image of the invisible God." In Jesus, we can see what the invisible God is like. Jesus is an accurate representation of God. And why is that? It is because, as verse 19 tells us, "God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him." All of what God is, was also in Jesus Christ. And in the next chapter, in Colossians 2:9, we are told something similar: "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form." Even in bodily form, even when Jesus was here in the flesh, he was fully God all that God is. You couldn't tell it by looking at him, but that is what he said, and that is what Paul said.
Hebrews 1:3 tells us, "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being." In other words, Jesus, the Son of God, is exactly like God in glory, and exactly like him in being in what he is, in his essence. Jesus is God and the only way to be God is to be fully God. Anything less than God, isn't God.
Fully human. Next, we have some scriptures that tell us that Jesus is fully human. Scripture calls him the man Jesus Christ. This man got hungry, he got tired, he got thirsty. He did not know everything, and he had to learn and grow. And most of all, this man was mortal, and he died. That's pretty much like a human.
Scripture says that he was fully human. John 1:14 tells us that the Word became flesh. He didn't just look like it, he didn't just pretend. He actually became flesh. His hunger was real, his tiredness was real, his pain was real, his death was real. When his flesh was subjected to more stress than it could handle, he died. Philippians 2:7-8 says he was in the form and shape of a human being. He was a human being.
Now, out of all the history of humanity, there has never been the combination of a fully God and fully human person, except for Jesus. We do not see this everyday, and it it therefore not surprising that we might have trouble understanding it. Humans are sinful; God is not. How can the two ever be combined? How can one person be 100 percent human and also 100 percent divine?
We might also ask, How can light be both particles and waves? What physicists had assumed to be mutually exclusive categories turned out not to be mutually exclusive. It is possible for something to be both particle and wave. We don't see it in most things, but we see it in light.
Or to use an example we are more familiar with: The most common liquid we know is water, and water does not burn but it is possible for something to be both liquid and flammable. Sure, there is a difference between these two concepts, but they are not mutually exclusive. Oil is 100 percent liquid, and also 100 percent burnable. But we do not add 100 percent to 100 percent and get a total of 200 percent, because these categories are not mutually exclusive.
Now, the Bible says that God is not like a human being but that doesn't mean that God is totally unlike a human being. He has made us in his own image, so we are like him in certain respects. And it is possible for God to become a fleshly image of God, to be made flesh in his own likeness. When God the Word became flesh, he showed that God and flesh were not mutually exclusive categories. It is certainly not something that we see every day, but we cannot judge all truth by what we are able to see right now. There is nothing sinful or ungodly about being flesh. In fact, Jesus shows us what humanity could be, and should be.
But I think the bottom line is that we do not understand enough about humanity and God to understand how this works. We cannot do this in a test tube; we cannot experiment with it to see how it works. We simply see the evidence in Scripture that Jesus is God, even when he is human. He was really God, and he was really human.
So what? Well, how does this relate to us? It is important to us for two major reasons: First, the eternal importance, and second, the day-to-day importance.
Eternal signficance: Our Statement of Beliefs mentions the eternal importance: Jesus was revealed in the flesh for our salvation. This is the way that God saves us. The only way that Jesus could die for our sins, is if he was a human being. God showed his love to us by coming to us as a human being, to die for our sins, so that we might be forgiven on the basis of grace and faith. Jesus became a human and died so that we might escape death and be given eternal life. We could spend an hour on this point, too, but I think you are familiar with the idea.
Day-to-day significance: What I want to look at right now is, What's this got to do with my life right now? How is it relevant to my life today?
In one word, pain. Life is full of pain. There are physical pains, and there are emotional pains. Some pain is caused by accident, and some on purpose, by evil. Some pain we bring upon ourselves, and some is inflicted on us by others. But life has pain, and then we suffer the humiliation of death.
All philosophy, all religion, must strive to understand pain, because pain cries out for explanation. No one struggles to understand joy and good things, but pain often doesn't make any sense, and so we struggle to make some sense out of it.
Now, the Bible helps us understand some pain, but Jesus does not give us a tidy explanation for every pain. What he does instead is to suffer it with us. He is like Job's three friends, who could do nothing to help Job except to sit with him for a week. And in Jesus' case, he did not just sit with us he suffered with us. He suffered because of us, and he suffered for us. So one thing we learn about pain is that God does not force us to endure anything he is not willing to endure himself.
Trials, pain, sorrow, and death are part of this sin-tainted world. Trial, pain, sorrow and death are part of the Christian life, too. We are promised that we will have trials. We will have difficulties. We will have pain, and sorrow, and anguish, and heartache. We do not always know why, but we know that Jesus has been there, too. He knows what heartache is like, he knows what betrayal is like, he knows what intense pain in like. He has been there, because he was a human being in every sense of the word.
And because he was not merely a human being, because he was also divine, then he is now at the right hand of God to help us, and he helps us with our pains and sorrows. We find this discussed most explicitly in the book of Hebrews, chapter 2, starting in verse 9:
"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 10 In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering....
14Since 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 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 (For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants.) 17 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. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted."
The fact that Jesus was made human gives us confidence that he understands what we are going though. As Hebrews 4:14 says, we have a high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, so we can approach the throne of God with complete confidence. Jesus speaks our language. He has learned our language by suffering with us, and because of that, we can be confident that he hears us and wants to help us.
And because Jesus is fully God, we can be confident that Jesus has the power to do what he so eagerly desires to do for us, and he has the wisdom to do it in the best possible way. Our day-to-day relationship with God is strengthen by our knowledge that Jesus is both fully human and fully God.