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Worship/Christology

God Manifested in the Flesh

Posted by M.Ferris on

Among the New Testament mysteries is the peculiar description Paul gives to his precis of the life of Jesus.

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:
He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.

At this time of the year, we focus on that first phrase, “He was manifested in the flesh.” There is little doubt that though unnamed in this passage, he who came in the flesh is the eternal Son of God.
This is more than saying “Jesus was born.” Birth is not unusual nor a mystery. It is common as can be. The mystery is because it is the second person of the Trinity putting on flesh. How can God become man?
While not answering the question of how, Paul has earlier in the epistle answered the why of the incarnation.

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” (1 Tim. 2:5)

In the course of church history, two mirror heresies emerged to attack the truth of the incarnation, and Paul has answered both here. Arianism is the teaching that Jesus was less than God. In saying “He was manifested in the flesh” the apostle is affirming something about the identity of the one born in Bethlehem. “He was born” would have sufficed to refer to Jesus’ birth, but to say he was manifested in the flesh speaks to his pre-existence, his eternal identity as God the Son. That is the mystery we do not fully comprehend, but we surely apprehend in worship.

In the latter passage, Paul refers to the man Christ Jesus, and in so saying he expands upon the other truth of “in the flesh.” Jesus had come to earth, humbled himself to take on human flesh. As the writer to the Hebrews says,

“Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Heb. 2:17)

The body God prepared for the Lord Jesus was that which suffered on the cross, bled and died. God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, Paul writes to the Galatians. He is truly man, not only seeming to be a man. Apollinarism is the heresy that Jesus could not have really been a man like us because that would introduce change to deity, which is not possible. But that is like saying miracles are not possible because they contradict the laws of nature. That is why we call them supernatural, they cannot be explained by nature. Scripture speaks of Jesus as both God and man, but this truth (like any other in the Bible) does not stand or fall on our reception if it, and this is why Paul terms this a mystery. It is central to the gospel, to salvation – and indeed to right worship.

Gospels/Christology

I Always Do What Pleases Him

Posted by M.Ferris on
The Humility of Jesus in John’s Gospel

John’s gospel is a unique document, and students of the life of Christ rightly set this gospel apart from the others. There are the synoptic gospels, and John. John contains 879 verses, and only 124 of these are traceable to the other gospels. This means a full 86% of John’s material is unique to his gospel. A striking aspect of the book is how often Jesus refers to his father. When referring to God, Matthew contains 42 occurrences of “Father.” Mark has 4, and Luke 13. But John’s gospel has 113 such references. What do these many references to God as the Father of Jesus tell us?

Jesus the Eternal Son

The character of this gospel is to present Jesus as the man from heaven. He is the one coming from above, the Word of God, the one in the bosom of the Father, making God known.

The deity of Christ is unequivocal in John. Jesus is equal with God (5:18), he and the Father are one (10:30, 17:11). Before Abraham was, Jesus tells the Jews, “I am.” There was no mistaking what he meant, for the Jews took up stones to kill him. “I am” is a clear reference to the covenant name of God, revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14, I AM THAT I AM. One cannot read anything in John as a new category, that is, as Arianism claims, a god, but not THE God. In 17:3, Jesus says, “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” If Jesus and the Father are one, and there is but one true God, a lesser god, and one in whom we find eternal life, is not possible.

The intimacy of the Father and the Son

In the gospel where the deity of Christ is so manifest, the book also displays the relationship of Jesus as the Son of the Father with great intimacy. The Father loves the Son, and shows him all that he is doing (5:20). He tells the Twelve that whoever has seen him has seen the Father. (14:9). If they know him, they know the Father also. The 14th chapter is filled with references to the Father doing, acting, loving toward the believer, and the ground of it all is the relationship of the Father and the Son. Jesus will ask the Father, and he will send the comforter (14:16.) The words of life, all that Jesus has heard from his Father, he has made known to the disciples. (15:15). But the self-giving love of the Son means that this intimacy is shared with believers. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” (15:9). And those who love the Son will be loved by the Father (14:21.) ┬áThe great hymn writer Horatius Bonar captures this sentiment when he writes:

So dear, so very dear to God,
More dear I cannot be;
The love wherewith He loves the Son,
Such is His love to me.

The humility of the Son

A wonder of John’s gospel is the portrayal of Jesus in his humility. He is the Son who does only what he sees the Father doing (5:19). He seeks not his own will, but the will of him who sent him (5:30). This, of course, culminates at the cross. Giving himself freely, out of love for the Father, and in submission to his Father, this is Calvary. “The cup that the Father has given me, shall I not drink it?” Peter would intervene, but Jesus explains that in going to the cross, coming to this hour, that the Father is glorified (12:28). Paul muses on this mystery in Philippians 2, when he says Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient unto death, even death on a cross. This, believer, is the substance of our worship. The Son’s humility in going to the cross, fulfilling what his Father sent him into the world to do, accomplishing all, made it possible for Jesus to utter “It is finished.”

This display of humility in the eternal Son of God is the substance of our worship. We can never stray very far from the condescension of Calvary. We should never, for Christ crucified is the heart of the gospel. This makes a frequent celebration of the Lord’s Supper an important reminder to us. Considering his humiliation, his death, never gets old, never becomes routine.

His life of humility is also the pattern for the believer. In John 13, when Jesus set aside his outer garments, and took up a towel, washing the disciple’s feet, he presented a model to them. “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” Later, in his first epistle, John will expand on this, “whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” A sin-cursed world needs to see believers satisfied and marveling at the wonder of Calvary. But it also needs to see believers modeling the example of Jesus.