As I prepared to teach this class on discipleship from the book of Matthew, I was led by the Holy Spirit to first establish who Jesus is. How we perceive who Jesus is impacts our faith, which influences how we live. We live what we believe and what we are taught.
If you were to inquire of most Christians about Jesus’ nature, the most likely answer received is He is one hundred percent man and one hundred percent God. Christian scholars have described this as the hypostatic union. If challenged to find scriptural evidence of the origin of this teaching many would not be able to answer. We have been taught this doctrine, and many have accepted it without question. I would like to give you a little background on these statements.
In the latter fourth and fifth centuries, five important councils were held to debate the nature of Jesus. The Council of Nicaea was the first of these. Leaders were summoned by the Emperor Constantine to address a teaching that denied the full Divinity of Christ Jesus. This Council rendered this teaching a heresy and affirmed that “the Son of God is true God from true God, begotten, not made and of one substance with God the Father.”
Other councils were summoned to refute the decision of the Council of Nicaea. Hypostasis was adopted into the Christological debates of these councils. This term was a word used in Greek philosophy, primarily in Stoicism. As scripture describes Jesus as being hungry, tired, and thirsty at times, these councils concluded that He was fully human. If we delve into the scriptures for ourselves, we discover that God did not relegate these attributes to man only. Let us look into the Word of God for clarity.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” According to this verse, Jesus, who is the Word, is God.
“And the Word was made 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.” God wrapped Himself in flesh and came down from heaven to live among us. Jesus’ flesh was very different from man’s flesh, as revealed in Philippians 2:7. The word “flesh” in scripture can speak of either the outer casing that houses the spirit and soul of a man, or the inward nature.
“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:” the important word in this passage is “likeness.” The flesh referred to in this passage is the sinful nature of man which is referred to as the flesh. Jesus’ possesses a perfect nature, which we are to partake of.
“But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: Jesus was made in the likeness of sinful flesh and in the likeness of men not a man. The scriptures are refuting the status quo teaching of Jesus being one hundred percent God and one hundred percent man. Jesus was and is one hundred percent God.
Genesis 1:26 says “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness:” Does this make man one hundred percent God? No!! Once again, how we perceive Jesus has a direct and powerful impact in our lives. Many Christians undermine His Deity and focus heavily on what they view as His human side. They misinterpret what Jesus was conveying through His life here on earth. By doing this we condemn ourselves to a powerless existence; this was not Christ’s plan. Jesus said “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10b)
Viewing Jesus as God causes His teaching and what we observe in His life to take on a new, exciting dimension. God came down to model how to live as His disciples. His plan is to give us back the gift that was stolen from man in the Garden, dominion over the earth. He went to the cross to take away the curse, paying the penalty for our sin and defeating the enemy that stole His gift from man. No man could do what Jesus did, proving once and for all that he is one hundred percent God.