. The Real Christ...
The Gospel records provide many examples of how completely Jesus had human nature. It is recorded that he was weary, and had to sit down to drink from a well (Jn 4:6). “Jesus wept” at the death of Lazarus (Jn. 11:35). Most supremely, the record of his final sufferings should be proof enough of his humanity: “Now is my soul troubled”, he admitted as he prayed for God to save him from having to go through with his death on the cross (Jn. 12:27). He “prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup (of suffering and death) pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as you will” (Mt. 26:39). This indicates that at times Christ’s fleshly desires were different from those of God.
However, during his whole life Christ always submitted his own will to that of God in preparation for this final trial of the cross. “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which has sent me” (Jn. 5:30). This difference between Christ’s will and that of God is proof enough that Jesus was not God.
Throughout our lives we are expected to grow in our knowledge of God, learning from the trials which we experience in life. In this, Jesus was our great example. He did not have complete knowledge of God poured into him any more than we have. From childhood “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature (i.e. spiritual maturity, cp. Eph. 4:13), and in favour with God and man” (Lk. 2:52). “The child grew, and became strong in spirit” (Lk. 2:40). These two verses portray Christ’s physical growth as parallel to his spiritual development; the growth process occurred in him both naturally and spiritually. If “The Son is God”, as the Athanasian Creed states concerning the ‘Trinity’, this would not have been possible. Even at the end of his life, Christ admitted that he did not know the exact time of his second coming, although the Father did (Mk. 13:32). He asked questions of the teachers of the Law at age 12, eager to learn; and often He spoke of what He had learnt and been taught by His Father.
Obedience to God’s will is something which we all have to learn over a period of time. Christ also had to go through this process of learning obedience to his Father, as any son has to. “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience (i.e. obedience to God) by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect (i.e. spiritually mature), he became the author of eternal salvation” as a result of his completed and total spiritual growth (Heb. 5:8,9). Phil. 2:7,8 (further commented on in the Appendix) records this same process of spiritual growth in Jesus, culminating in his death on the cross. He “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form (demeanour) of a servant...he humbled himself and became obedient unto...the death of the cross.” The language used here illustrates how Jesus consciously grew spiritually, humbling himself completely, so that finally he “became obedient” to God’s desire that he should die on the cross. Thus he was “made perfect” by the way he accepted his suffering.
It is evident from this that Jesus had to make a conscious, personal effort to be righteous; in no way was he automatically made so by God, which would have resulted in him being a mere puppet. Jesus truly loved us, and gave his life on the cross from this motive. The constant emphasis upon the love of Christ for us would be hollow if God compelled him to die on the cross (Eph. 5:2,25; Rev. 1:5; Gal. 2:20). If Jesus was God, then he would have had no option but to be perfect and then die on the cross. That Jesus did have these options, enables us to appreciate his love, and to form a personal relationship with him.
It was because of Christ’s willingness to give his life voluntarily that God was so delighted with him: “Therefore does my Father love me, because I lay down my life...No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself” (Jn. 10:17,18). That God was so pleased with Christ’s willing obedience is hard to understand if Jesus was God, living out a life in human form as some kind of tokenistic association with sinful man (Mt. 3:17; 12:18; 17:5). These records of the Father’s delight in the Son’s obedience, is proof enough that Christ had the possibility of disobedience, but consciously chose to be obedient.
Christ’s Need Of Salvation
Because of his human nature, Jesus was mortal as we are. In view of this, Jesus needed to be saved from death by God. Intensely recognising this, Jesus “offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him (God) that was able to save him from death, and was heard for his piety” (Heb. 5:7 A.V. mg.). The fact that Christ had to plead with God to save him from death rules out any possibility of him being God in person. After Christ’s resurrection, death had “no more dominion over him” (Rom. 6:9), implying that beforehand it did.
Many of the Psalms are prophetic of Jesus; when some verses from a Psalm are quoted about Christ in the New Testament, it is reasonable to assume that many of the other verses in the Psalm are about him too. There are a number of occasions where Christ’s need for salvation by God is emphasised.
- Ps. 91:11,12 is quoted about Jesus in Mt. 4:6. Ps. 91:16 prophesies how God would give Jesus salvation: “With long life (i.e. eternal life) will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.” Ps. 69:21 refers to Christ’s crucifixion (Mt. 27:34); the whole Psalm describes Christ’s thoughts on the cross: “Save me, O God...Draw nigh unto my soul, and redeem it...Let your salvation, O God, set me up on high” (vs. 1,18,29).
- Ps. 89 is a commentary upon God’s promise to David concerning Christ. Concerning Jesus, Ps. 89:26 prophesies: “He shall cry unto me (God), You art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation.”
- Christ’s prayers to God for salvation were heard; he was heard because of his personal spirituality, not because of his place in a ‘trinity’ (Heb. 5:7). That God resurrected Jesus and glorified him with immortality is a major New Testament theme.
- “God...raised up Jesus...Him has God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour” (Acts 5:30,31).
- “God...has glorified his Son Jesus...whom God has raised from the dead” (Acts 3:13,15).
- “This Jesus has God raised up” (Acts 2:24,32,33).
- Jesus himself recognised all this when he asked God to glorify him (Jn. 17:5 cp. 13:32; 8:54).
If Jesus was God Himself, then all this emphasis would be out of place, seeing that God cannot die. Jesus would not have needed saving if he were God. That it was God who exalted Jesus demonstrates God’s superiority over him, and the separateness of God and Jesus. In no way could Christ have been “very and eternal God (with) two...natures...Godhead and manhood”, as the first of the 39 Articles of the Church of England states. By the very meaning of the word, a being can only have one nature. We submit that the evidence is overwhelming that Christ was of our human nature.
The Relationship Of God with Jesus
Considering how God resurrected Jesus leads us on to think of the relationship between God and Jesus. If they are “co-equal...co-eternal”, as the trinity doctrine states, then we would expect their relationship to be that of equals. We have already seen ample evidence that this is not the case. The relationship between God and Christ is similar to that between husband and wife: “The head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3). As the husband is the head of the wife, so God is the head of Christ, although they have the same unity of purpose as should exist between husband and wife. Thus “Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 3:23), as the wife belongs to the husband.
God the Father is often stated to be Christ’s God. The fact that God is described as “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:3; Eph. 1:17) even after Christ’s ascension to heaven, shows that this is now their relationship, as it was during Christ’s mortal life. It is sometimes argued by trinitarians that Christ is only spoken of as less than God during his life on earth. The New Testament letters were written some years after Christ ascended to heaven, yet still God is spoken of as Christ’s God and Father. Jesus still treats the Father as his God.
Revelation, the last book of the New Testament, was written many years after Christ’s glorification and ascension, yet it speaks of God as “his (Christ’s) God and Father” (Rev. 1:6 R.V.). In this book, the resurrected and glorified Christ gave messages to the believers. He speaks of “the temple of my God...the name of my God...the city of my God” (Rev. 3:12). This proves that Jesus even now thinks of the Father as his God - and therefore he (Jesus) is not God.
During his mortal life, Jesus related to his Father in a similar way. He spoke of ascending “unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (Jn. 20:17). On the cross, Jesus displayed his humanity to the full: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:46). Such words are impossible to understand if spoken by God Himself. The very fact that Jesus prayed to God “with strong crying and tears” in itself indicates the true nature of their relationship (Heb. 5:7; Lk. 6:12). God evidently cannot pray to Himself. Even now, Christ prays to God on our behalf (Rom. 8:26,27 N.I.V. cp. 2 Cor. 3:18 R.V. mg.).
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...