. The Real Christ...
The word ‘nature’ refers to ‘fundamental, essential being'. The Bible speaks of only two natures - that of God, and that of man. By nature God cannot die, be tempted etc. It is evident that Christ was not of God’s nature during his life. He was therefore of human nature. From our definition of the word ‘nature’ it is evident that Christ could not have had two natures simultaneously. It was vital that Christ was tempted like us (Heb. 4:15), so that through his perfect overcoming of temptation he could gain forgiveness for us. “We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like us” (Heb. 4:15) expresses a truth negatively. The passage suggests that even in the first century there were those who thought that Jesus “cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities”; the writer is stressing that this is not the case; Jesus can be touched in this way. These incipient tendencies to wrong understanding of the nature of Jesus came to full fruit in the false doctrine of the trinity. The wrong desires which are the basis of our temptations come from within us (Mk. 7:15-23), from within our human nature (James 1:13-15). It was necessary, therefore, that Christ should be of human nature so that he could experience and overcome these temptations.
Heb. 2:14-18 puts all this in so many words.
“As the children (us) are partakers of flesh and blood (human nature), he (Christ) also himself likewise partook of the same (nature); that through death he might destroy...the devil...For truly he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the (nature of the) seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it was appropriate that he be made like unto his brothers, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest... to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to help them that are tempted”.
This passage places extraordinary emphasis upon the fact that Jesus had human nature: “He also himself likewise” partook of it (Heb. 2:14). This phrase uses three words all with the same meaning, just to drive the point home. He partook “of the same” nature; the record could have said ‘he partook of it too’, but it stresses, “he partook of the same”. Heb. 2:16 similarly labours the point that Christ did not have Angels’ nature, seeing that he was the seed of Abraham, who had come to bring salvation for the multitude of believers who would become Abraham’s seed. Because of this, it was necessary for Christ to have human nature. In every way he had “to be made like unto his brothers” (Heb. 2:17) so that God could grant us forgiveness through Christ’s sacrifice. To say that Jesus was not totally of human nature is therefore to be ignorant of the very basics of the good news of Christ. Eph. 5:30 makes the amazing statement that even now, "We are of members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones". In a very detailed study of this language, the Catholic theologian Henricus Renckens concluded: "In Israel, in order to say that someone was a blood relation, one said: "He is my flesh and my bones" (Gen. 29:14; Jud. 9:2; cp. Gen. 37:27; 2 Sam. 5:1; 19:13 ff.; Is. 58:7)" (1). This is how close we are to the Lord Jesus- blood relatives. This language could in no way be justified if Jesus were God Himself in person.
Whenever baptised believers sin, they can come to God, confessing their sin in prayer through Christ (1 Jn. 1:9); God is aware that Christ was tempted to sin exactly as they are, but that he was perfect, overcoming that very temptation which they fail. Because of this, “God for Christ’s sake” can forgive us (Eph. 4:32). It is therefore vital to appreciate how Christ was tempted just like us, and needed to have our nature for this to be possible. Heb. 2:14 clearly states that Christ had “flesh and blood” nature to make this possible. “God is spirit” (Jn. 4:24) by nature and as “spirit” He does not have flesh and blood. Christ having “flesh” nature means that in no way did he have God’s nature during his mortal life.
Previous attempts by men to keep God’s word, i.e. to overcome totally temptation, had all failed. Therefore “God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and by a sacrifice for sin, condemned sin, in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3).
“The wages of sin is death”. To escape this predicament, man needed outside help. By himself he is incapable of perfection; it was and is not possible for us as fleshly creatures to redeem the flesh. God therefore intervened and gave us His own Son, who experienced our “sinful flesh”, with all the temptation to sin which we have. Unlike every other man, Christ overcame every temptation, although he had the possibility of failure and sinning just as much as we do. Rom. 8:3 describes Christ as being in the likeness of sinful man- not that He was personally sinful, of course. A few verses earlier, Paul spoke of how in the flesh “dwells no good thing”, and how the flesh naturally militates against obedience to God (Rom. 7:18-23). In this context it is all the more marvellous to read that Christ had our "flesh" in Rom. 8:3. It was because of this, and his overcoming of that flesh, that we have a way of escape from our flesh; Jesus was intensely aware of the potential to sin within his own nature. He was once addressed as “Good master”, with the implication that he was “good” and perfect by nature. He responded: “Why do you call me good? There is none good but one, that is, God” (Mk. 10:17,18). The Lord Jesus was alluding here to Ps. 16:2: "I say to the Lord, You are my God; I have no good apart from You" (R.S.V.). And it seems Paul had the Lord's words of Mk. 10:18 in mind when he said that no "good" thing dwelt in his flesh (Rom. 7:18)- showing how Paul appreciated that he shared the same nature as that of the Lord Jesus in His mortality. On another occasion, men started to testify of Christ’s greatness due to a series of outstanding miracles which he had performed. Jesus did not capitalise on this “because he knew all, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man” (Jn. 2:23-25, Greek text). Because of his great knowledge of human nature (“he knew all” about this), Christ did not want men to praise him personally in his own right, he was aware of his own nature.
All this can seem almost impossible to believe; that a man with our weak nature could in fact be sinless by character. It requires less faith to believe that ‘Jesus was God’ and was therefore perfect. Hence the attraction of this false doctrine. Those who knew the half-sisters of Jesus in first century Palestine felt the same: “…his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then has this man these things? And they were offended in him” (Mt. 13:56,57). And countless others have likewise stumbled in this way.
(1) H. Renckens, Israel's Concept of the Beginning: The Theology of Genesis 1-3 (New York: Herder & Herder, 1964) p. 228.
Duncan Heaster has written over 20 books, some of which contain material relevant to The Real Christ. And there is a host of other relevant material...