Welcome again to our study of Systematic Theology. There is one doctrine that has been studied and argued and debated and written about more than any other. That is the nature of Christ. It has been the subject of literally thousands and thousands of volumes and more ink has been used discussing this topic than any other in history. If you were to add up all the books that have been written about human history—nations and people and wars and you name it—that number would pale in comparison to the amount of writing that has been dedicated to an attempt at answering one question—“Whom say ye that I am?” The question that our Lord asked in Matthew 16:15. And it is in fact the question that we all must answer. Who do we say Jesus is? There are so many "churches" that go around bragging that “Oh, we don't teach doctrine! We just teach the love of Jesus!” Ok, that's nice. But which Jesus do you teach?
Do they teach the Muslim Jesus? From the Qur'an. Sura 5:75—"The Messiah (Jesus), son of Mary, was no more than a Messenger before whom many Messengers have passed away…" The Hindu Jesus? He was “a god,” one of many ways to “THE God.” And according to a book written recently—“Jesus travelled to India, where he practiced yoga meditation with the great sages some time during his "lost years" from age 13 to 30, a time of his life scarcely mentioned in the Bible” (The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of Christ Within You, Paramahansa Yogananda, Self-Realization Fellowship, 2008). To the Jew—there really is no one Jewish belief about Christ. Some call Him a blasphemer, some think He was simply delusional, there are some Jews who think that He taught good things but then the writers of the Bible put in other things that He did not teach or say. Or maybe they teach the Mormon Jesus? The Jehovah's Witness Jesus?
Then there is the liberal “Christian Scholar” Jesus—which says that Jesus never claimed to be God, or that “Well, there are some things in the Bible that we can't really know if they're true or not.” Then there is the Postmodern Jesus. If you ever hear names like Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo, Tony Jones, Irwin McManus, Brennan Manning—if you hear these names, run away quickly. “We can’t really know the truth; the truth is what we make it; what does this verse mean to you?” So there are all these false teachings about Christ. But who’s behind them all? Well, who was it that asked that very famous question in the Garden of Eden-- “Hath God indeed said?” Jesus described Satan this way in John 8:44—“When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of [lies].” Satan is going to come up with all these things that sound good to the human ear. Things that appeal to our emotions. Things like, “A loving God wouldn’t send people to an eternal, fiery Hell.” He will even use Scripture. So we’re going to actually take a couple weeks and study Christ. First let’s look at The Pre-existence of Christ.
We will start with His Pre-existence Evidenced in the Scriptures. John 1:1--In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Does it say, “The Word was created?” Or “The Word came into existence?” No. The Word WAS. How does Genesis 1:1 start? In the beginning, God. John 1:1—In the beginning the Word. Not a coincidence. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. We could spend weeks on the last part of that verse alone. Jehovah's Witnesses say that it should read, and the Word was a god. I wish we had time to look at how the Greek was constructed, and why their argument falls flat on its face if they were to study biblical Greek—which none of the translators of the New World Translation ever studied. Not one of the translators of the NWT EVER studied biblical Greek.
John 1:30--John the Baptist, as he cried out and pointed out Messiah, exclaimed, "This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’" Who was born first—Jesus, or John Baptist? John Baptist was born six months BEFORE Christ—yet John Baptist says that He was before me. John 8:58. Any Trinitarian can quote this verse from memory. “Before Abraham was, I AM.” Again, the New World Translation says, “Before Abraham was, I have been.” Guess what’s wrong with that? It doesn’t match the Greek. “Before Abraham was, εγω ειμι.” It is in the present tense. Literally, “I AM.” What does the Hebrew YHVH mean? I AM. What did the Pharisees do after Jesus said this? They took up stones to stone Him. Now, think about it--would they be stoning Christ for claiming to be a couple thousand years old? No. The reason they took up the stones was because they were accusing Him of blasphemy. It would not have been blasphemy to claim to have been a couple thousand years old. But it would have been blasphemy to claim to be God—but not for Christ, because He IS God. Jesus was claiming to have been since before Abraham. But even more than the fact that he lived before Abraham was born, He was saying that He has simply BEEN. And IS. And WILL BE. “I AM.” John 17:5--"And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was." Does God share His glory with anybody? No. Isaiah 42:8—“I am YHVH: that is my name: and I will not give my glory to another…” Jesus is saying here that He shared in the Father’s glory even before the creation of the world.
And one of the clearest passages which speaks of the Deity of Christ, as well as the fact that He existed before He came to earth, is Philippians 2:5-8—Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, did not consider His equality with God something He should hold on to but made Himself empty; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. If He did not exist before He was conceived, than this passage makes no sense.
His Pre-existence Evidenced By His Works. Again, the first verse in the Bible, Genesis 1:1--God created the Heavens and the earth. John 1:3--All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. Colossians 1:16--For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. Now, if Christ were a created being, this verse says that Christ created all things for Himself—yet other passages say that God created all things for Himself. Well, which is it? Th answer is yes.
So we've seen that Jesus existed long before He entered this world. And not only did He exist—He existed as God the Son. So now we will look at The Incarnation of Christ. Incarnation—to become flesh. Galatians 4:4--But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law. Not only do we have to be sure that we believe that Christ was fully God—we also have to be sure to understand that He was fully human. There was a heresy that was taught in the early years of the church, it was called Gnosticism. One of the beliefs taught in Gnosticism is something called “Docetism.” Basically, they believed that all tangible, touchable stuff is evil. Physical matter was evil, spiritual things were pure and good, therefore Christ did not have a physical body. Wrong! John 1:14--And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Christ had to become flesh, for many reasons. Number one, because that is the way the Father wanted it. Because even though Jesus was fully God, He still submitted to the Father. Even though the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are God, the Son and the Holy Spirit still submit to the Father. Don’t ask me to explain it, just know it. Kinda like asking, “Why is water wet?” Because it is. Now, question: Does a person have to believe that Jesus was fully human in order to be saved?
That’s not my personal belief that I came up with just because I think it sounds good. 1st John, 2nd John and 3rd John—they are very explicit about the humanity of Christ. The Gospel of John is clear in teaching the Deity of Christ. The epistles of John are very clear in establishing His humanity.
1st John 1:1—That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life.
1st John 4:2-3—By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard was coming and is now already in the world.
2nd John 1:7—For many deceivers are entered into the world, who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.
John is being very point-blank. There is no other way to say it. Every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. If a person does not believe that Jesus had a physical body of flesh and bone—that person is in danger of judgment, and they are, in fact, an antichrist. It’s not my call! I'm just telling you what it says!
The Means of the Incarnation. He was born of a virgin.
Isaiah 7:14--Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
Matthew 1:18--Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.
Luke 1:30-31, 34-35—And the angel said unto her, “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS”…Then said Mary unto the angel, “How shall this be, seeing I have not known a man?” And the angel answered and said unto her, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy one which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”
You know, a person can explain away the meaning of Isaiah 7:14, try and say that Isaiah was simply referring to a young woman. But they cannot get past this statement of Mary, when she declares that she is a true virgin. So, did He have to be born of a virgin? YES. We will probably visit this subject again when we look at the Doctrine of Man in a few weeks. We find the first reference to this in Genesis 3:15--"And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel."
Here’s why Jesus had to be born of a virgin. Jesus could not have inherited the stain of sin that He would have had if He were born of a human father. You see, when we're born, we inherit the “sin gene” from our fathers. It started with Adam, and it got passed down to all their children, then Cain and Seth, and the other male children passed it along. Now, the gene is passed down by the fathers, but the disease of sin affects everybody. Consider a condition like baldness. The gene for baldness is passed along by the mother, but it affects all the children in the family.
The same is true for sin. The disease infects all the children, but the gene is only passed along by the sons. Daughters are born with the disease of sin—but they do not inherit the gene for the disease of sin. This gene gets passed along to every child who has a human father. How many children have human fathers? All of them. Guess who the disease of sin gets passed along to? All of us. That is why Jesus had to be born of a virgin.
The fact that He did not descend biologically from a human father is enough to ensure that He did not inherit the stain of sin. This is why the Roman Catholic belief in the Immaculate Conception—the false belief that Mary was conceived in the same manner as Christ—is really a moot point. She did not have to be conceived immaculately in order for Christ to avoid inheriting sin. He was not born with the sin disease we have, therefore He was born without sin, so He could live a sinless life. And that brings us to the last point.
The Sinless Life of Christ. I'm about to say something that would get me kicked out of a lot of churches today. It may even get me branded as a Pharisee or whatever. But here goes. Christ never sinned. He never WANTED to sin. But there are many people—even many Christians—today who think He did. 42% of Americans think He sinned. OK, that’s one thing. The last poll I saw said that nearly 33% of those who claim to be born again believe He sinned. 33%!! One out of every three people who SAY they are born again thinks He sinned. There are “churches” that teach this. I don’t know why they do it. Maybe it’s because if people think that Christ sinned that it’s OK for them to sin. But whatever the reason, this kind of rubbish is being taught in “churches” all across America today. I have to say this carefully, because I don’t want to be misunderstood. If a person that has read the Scriptures and has learned enough about Christ to know who He really is, believes that Jesus sinned they are coming very close to blasphemy. I won’t cross the line and call it so, but they're about as close as they could get. I mean, think about it for a minute. Can God sin? No! So how can anybody think He did?
What a lot of these people do is take a verse like Hebrews 4:15 for example and they turn it on its head. Hebrews 4:15—For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. The writer of Hebrews is saying that Christ can sympathize with our weaknesses because He was tempted like we are. These people say that Christ was tempted by the same things we are—He just didn’t follow through with it. That if a woman threw herself at Him, tried to seduce Him, that He probably thought about it for a second, but then said, “Eh, no, I better not.” THAT IS AS WRONG AS ANYBODY CAN BE!!!!! Mark Driscoll actually had the nerve to say that Jesus was tempted by sexual sin.
“If you’re tempted to these sorts of things — including sexual sin — some of you say, ‘Now Mark, Jesus wasn’t sexually tempted.’ Well, of course he was — 30 something year old single man who had women who adored him. You don’t think he ever wanted the comfort of a woman? You don’t think he ever got tired of going to bed by himself? You don’t think that he didn’t once want to have intimate relations with a woman? He was tempted.” (Mark Driscoll - “How Human was Jesus?” October 15th 2006.)
What Hebrews 4:15 is saying is this—and we need to make this distinction—Jesus was tempted with sin—but He was not tempted by sin. Does that make sense? Temptation has two sides—the one doing the tempting, and the one being tempted. I can tempt you with sin, but you can also not tempted by it. I can walk in with a bottle of Jack Daniels and say, “Come on!” But you can look at me and tell me to take a hike. In other words, the temptations came to Him—but He turned them down. Does that make it clearer? (You can read my response to Driscoll's nonsense here).
James 1:13—Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil.
2nd Corinthians 5:21--For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
1st Peter 1:18-19—Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things…but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.
1st Peter 2:22--[Christ] committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth.
1st John 3:5 (NASB)--And you know that He appeared to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.
He was the spotless Lamb of God. And we’ll see next week why he had to be. We could spend years just studying Christ. We spent about three or four weeks about a year ago showing how Christ fulfilled the Old Testament sacrifices—and we didn’t even scratch the surface. In this very brief study, we’re going to examine as much about Christ as we can. Next week we will examine His work, and His death and resurrection.