Jesus Christ - The God-Man
Why do we celebrate Easter? As Christians we gladly proclaim that this is the day we celebrate the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Yet, how often do we actually meditate on who Jesus is and what he truly sacrificed? In honor of his sacrifice, I submit the following for your contemplation. (Please forgive any formatting errors.)
JESUS CHRIST - THE GOD-MAN
“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He began asking His disciples, saying, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’” (Matt. 16:13 NIV). When the disciples answered Jesus, they stated that some people thought Jesus was either John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. (Matt. 16:14). Many individuals today think Jesus was a good person, a good teacher, or an exceptional individual. Most evangelical Christians believe that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
There are some who question how this can be when Philippians 2:7 states that Jesus “emptied” himself (known as kenosis). The NIV states that he “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Phil. 2:7). Was Jesus really fully God and fully man, or did he completely empty himself of all divine attributes and just become a mere human being? A careful examination of Scripture reveals that Jesus Christ is indeed fully God and fully man; he is the God-man.
Jesus Claims to Be Divine
Jesus claims to be equal with God the Father (John 10:30; 14:9). He identifies himself as being divine when he forgave sins (Mark 2:5-7). He went so far as to claim that all of Scripture testified of him. “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:29-40). He claims to have been with the Father in heaven (John 3:13), to be the only way to God (John 14:6), and possess the ability to give eternal life (John 3:14-21; 11:25). The Jews sought to kill him because he claimed to be divine (John 5:18). While these verses appear to be very clear and concise, there are some contemporary Bible scholars who claim that Jesus never actually claimed to be divine.
Denying Jesus’ Claims of Divinity
According to David Brown, “it is impossible for someone who is truly human sanely to believe himself divine.” Brown believes that Jesus was not making explicit claims to divinity but that he was merely implying that he might be. Jesus was just “eventually” perceived as divine because of a mixture of truth and imagination. Brown even implies that many of the stories recorded about Jesus were purely a use of imagination, particularly the baptism and temptation of Jesus. “Christian theologians often write as though the Bible should be given the first and last word.” This one statement explains why Brown and many like him view Jesus’ claim to divinity as being purely imagination.
There are some theologians who go so far as to state that Jesus’ act of emptying himself should not be analyzed as an event but as an experience that can be obtained by any human open to an altered state of consciousness or anyone seeking a spiritual path through life. They claim that kenosis is a way of life. Viewing kenosis in this manner “allows us to bring an otherwise airtight theological concept down to the experiential world of us modern humans, compare it to other types of spiritual behavior, and see whether we can model it against a scientific background.”
Theologians such as these are examples of individuals from the present post-modern culture that are attempting to create a Jesus more palatable to an alleged enlightened and sensitive age. The post-modern world endeavors to give Jesus a makeover. As stated by Ergun Caner, “Our culture does not reject Jesus as much as it simply pays Him deference as a great teacher.” Additionally, “people attempt to change His essential purpose and nature to fit their desires.”
Affirming Jesus’ Claims of Divinity
The very verses used by some scholars to claim that Jesus emptied himself of his deity, actually affirm that Christ Jesus is of the very essence of God. “Who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (Phil 2:6-7).
“Christ did not hesitate to set aside His self-willed use of deity when He became a
man. As God He had all the rights of deity, and yet during His incarnate state He
surrendered His right to manifest Himself visibly as the God of all splendor and
Many Bible scholars believe Jesus chose to veil many of his attributes. This act of ultimate humility did not diminish any of his divinity. “When the sun is obscured by a cloud, or in an eclipse, there is no real change of its glory, nor are his beams extinguished, nor is the sun himself in any measure changed, His lustre is only for a time obscured. So it might have been in regard to the manifestation of the glory of the Son of God.”
“If Jesus had not veiled His pre-incarnate glory He could not have accomplished what He came to earth to do. Christ had to hide His glory temporarily as He sought to redeem the souls of men.” However, Charles Ryrie actually rejects the concept that Jesus “veiled” any of his attributes. He believes that the passage in Philippians teaches that “the emptying concerned becoming a man to be able to die.” Ryrie believes that there was a change “of form but not of content of the Divine Being.” Jesus did not give up Deity or any attributes; “He added humanity.” 
The Apostles and the Early Church Claim Jesus was Divine
Before the apostles ever proclaimed Jesus as divine, John the Baptist proclaimed, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). “I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34). After Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, “the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased’” (Luke 3:22).
The first chapter of John is devoted to proclaiming Jesus’ divinity. Peter confirms Jesus’ divinity (Matt. 16:15-17); Thomas exclaims “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28); and Paul wrote, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Col. 2:9).
While Scripture should be a Christian’s final authority on the divinity of Jesus Christ, history can give us some insight into what the early church believed concerning Jesus Christ. The Nicene Creed of AD 325 reads:
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God, begotten, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made.
Additionally, the relevant portion of the Creed of Chalcedon (AD 451) states:
“. . . our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood,
truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one
substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one
substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as
regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his
manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, . . .one and the same Christ,
Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without
change, without division, without separation. . .”
Not only did the apostles and the early church confirm that Jesus was divine, they obviously declared that he was truly human also.
Jesus Was Fully Human
The Creator of the universe humbled himself to the point of being born just like any other human being. “Before His birth, Heaven was His throne and He traveled the universe at will. Now in the flesh, Jesus was limited to the distance that a man could walk on the paths of Galilee. The Son of God who created water, voluntarily lived in a body that got thirsty.” He grew from a toddler to a teenager. He developed and learned (Luke 2:52). He knew hunger, thirst, and fatigue (Matt. 4:2; John 4:6-7). He grieved and he cried (John 11:35).
During the time of the early church not everyone agreed with this view. Plato actually complicated the issue by completely denying the incarnation of Christ. His teachings promoted the idea that matter was “inferior (evil).” The Gnostics denied both the deity and the humanity of Jesus. As pointed out by Lutzer, the early church had to defend the humanity of Christ just as vigorously as his divinity.
Scripture teaches that Jesus made himself “nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8). He was God manifest in human flesh (John 1:14). Ultimately, in order for Jesus Christ to be the Redeemer of mankind, he had to be both God and man. “Only God himself can reconcile man to himself. . . . A savior less than God would be disqualified; God must do it himself.”
“Hence we can say, on the one hand, that the God-man existed before Abraham, yet was born in the reign of Augustus Caesar, and that Jesus Christ wept, was weary, suffered, died, yet is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever; on the other hand, that a divine Savior redeemed us upon the cross, and that the human Christ is present with his people even to the end of the world.”
One of the most challenging aspects of explaining kenosis is that humans are limited in the ability to comprehend the true attributes of God. Many Bible scholars have tried to explain how it is possible for Jesus Christ to be fully human and fully God. Trying to explain the act of being the God-man is impossible because mankind does not possess the mind of God (Isa 55:8). Bible scholars can continue to argue but most just argue in circles. Could Jesus emptying himself be explained as simply as “he left the heavenly world”?
Jesus Christ is God in human flesh. No matter how many different ways Bible scholars try to explain how Jesus “emptied” himself, one should always remember that true believers always acknowledge that “it was out of love for us and for the sake of redemption that the Logos ‘emptied himself”.”
“And being in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to
death—even death on a cross! Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and
gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee
should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:8-11).
 All Scripture citations are taken from the NIV unless otherwise noted.
David Brown, Tradition and Imagination, Revelation and Change (Oxford Scholarship Online, 2003): 278.
Ronald Karo and Meelis Friedenthal, Kenosis, Anamnesis, and Our Place in History: a Neurophenomenological Account. (Estonia: Zygon, 2008): 823-824.
Ergun M. Caner, When Worldviews Collide, Christians Confronting Culture (Nashville: Lifeway, 2009): 57.
John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty (USA: Victor, 1983): 654.
Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament Explanatory and Practical. ed. Robert Frew (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1976): 172.
Elmer Towns, Theology for Today. (Mason, OH: Cengage): 195.
Charles C. Ryrie. Basic Theology a Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth. (Wheaton, IL: Moody, 1986): 262.
The Nicene Creed,
The Creed of Chalcedon, http://www.apuritansmind.com/Creeds/ChalcedonianCreed.htm
Erwin Lutzer, The Doctrines That Divide (Grand Rapids: Kregel): 40-41.
 Ibid., 33.
Augustus Hopkins Strong. Systematic Theology. (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1979): 685.
Ronald J. Allen, Interpretation, Philippians 2:1-11. (ProQuest Religion, 2007): 73.
Stephen T. Davis, “Is Kenotic Christology Orthodox?” Christian Philosophical Theology. (Oxford Scholarship Online, May 2006): 172.
Allen, Ronald J. Interpretation, Philippians 2:1-11. ProQuest Religion, 2007.
Barnes, Albert. Notes on the New Testament Explanatory and Practical. ed. Robert Frew, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1976.
Brown, David. Tradition and Imagination, Revelation and Change. Oxford Scholarship Online, 2003.
Caner, Ergun M. When Worldviews Collide, Christians Confronting Culture. Nashville:
Creed of Chalcedon. http://www.apuritansmind.com/Creeds/ChalcedonianCreed.htm
Davis, Stephen T. “Is Kenotic Christology Orthodox?” Christian Philosophical Theology.
Oxford Scholarship Online, May 2006.
Karo, Ronald and Friedenthal, Mellis, Kenosis, Anamnesis, and Our Place in History:
a Neurophenomenological Account. Estonia: Zygon, 2008.
Ryrie, Charles C. Basic Theology, A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical
Truth. Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1986.
Strong, Augustus Hopkins. Systematic Theology. Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1979.
Towns, Elmer L. Theology for Today. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning, 2008.
Walvoord, John F. and Zuck, Roy B. The Bible Knowledge Commentary, An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty. USA:Victor, 1983.
I used to be an agnostic person, which means that I did not have a full belief when it comes to God, but that has changed. I had to go through a lot before I gained my faith. I was so hard on myself, I was also down on myself, and I just started to give up. After learning the power of God and prayers, I was able to get my life back on track. Today, I am a passionate and faithful person.
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Kathy Garrett McInnis