Thursday, February 12, 2009

The unfathomable mystery

Then There Was Conflict

As Christianity spread through the Greco-Roman world and moved into the second generation, people began to reflect on its basic message about Jesus' person, and to raise questions: How could Divinity and humanity cohabit the same body? How could Deity become mortal? What is Jesus' relationship to the Father? And so forth . . .

Beginning in the first century, two conflicting emphases emerged. One would stress Christ's humanity at the expense of His divinity; the other would do just the opposite. Among those denying Christ's deity were the Ebionites, early Jewish Christians who taught that Jesus became the Son of God only at His baptism, at which time He became united with the eternal Christ, a nondivine being who could not save humanity but came, instead, to call humanity to obedience. The Arians later would take up the struggle against Christ's divinity, beginning around the late third century, a position strongly condemned by the Council of Nicea, in A.D. 325.

The heavyweights on the other side of the spectrum were the Gnostics, who taught that spirit was good and matter evil, particularly the matter that forms our body. Therefore, the human body could not serve as a vehicle for the revelation of the Supreme Being.

1 John 4:1-3

The controversy over who Jesus was raged for five solid centuries, from the second all the way down to the sixth. At first it was over His deity. Was He God? And if so, how was He related to God the Father? The questions then shifted to His humanity, and to how Divinity and humanity were combined in a single person. There were statements and counterstatements, pronouncements and counterpronouncements, accusations and condemnations and excommunications, with one -ism after another claiming the day. Incredibly, amid all the turmoil and controversy, biblical orthodoxy in respect to Jesus' essential nature and person ultimately prevailed.

He Took Our Nature (Gal. 4:4)

Many of His contemporaries considered Jesus an unusual person, yet they each knew Him to be a human being, a man. When the Samaritan woman rushed to her village to spread the word about the unusual Jew she just had met at the well, her announcement was straightforward: "Come, see a man" (John 4:29, NIV). Hers was the universal testimony of Jesus' contemporaries. Even after He had calmed the storm, the exclamation of those closest to Him was: "What kind of man is this?" (Matt. 8:27, NIV).Other Scripture supports this see Matt. 8:24,Matt. 21:18, John 4:5, 6, John 4:7, 19:28, John 11:33-35.

While on earth, Jesus voluntarily surrendered the independent exercise of the Divine attributes. He surrendered; He did not relinquish. The attributes remained in Him and He could have used them at any time for His own advantage, but He did not. The temptation to call on these attributes to extricate Himself from difficulty (in ways not open to us) was a major ingredient of His daily trials.

It is helpful to keep in mind that the Scriptures are not definitive on every point that stirs our interest. They make no overt attempt, for example, to spell out precisely how the human and Divine components of Jesus' nature are related. But they make it clear that Christ was one unified person. They do not discuss the technicalities of this union, limiting themselves, rather, to the clear confession that such a union did occur, that the Son made of a woman was, indeed, the Son of God (Gal. 4:4). "Christ did not make-believe take human nature; He did verily take it. He did in reality possess human nature."—Ellen G. White, Lift Him Up, p. 74.

Why is Christ's humanity so important to us? What does it mean to us to know that Jesus became a human being? How does it encourage you to know that Jesus shared our human limitations?

To Feel Our Pain (Heb. 4:15, 16)

Why did God need to come into the world in human flesh? The question is important. But we should wean ourselves away from purely rational answers to it. It is not as if we need to come up with an answer that makes sense to us. There is no independent research we can do in philosophy, science, sociology, or whatever, that would lead us to an answer. Nor should we concoct our own answer. The safest way is to listen carefully to what the Bible itself reveals on this point. And in the book of Hebrews, we find some of the clearest, most intentional statements on the issue. Nor is it without significance that Hebrews also happens to be the book focusing most directly on Jesus' present high priestly ministry in the heavenly sanctuary.

Heb. 2:9 Heb. 2:14, 15 Heb. 2:16, 17 Heb. 2:18 Heb. 4:14-16 Heb. 5:8, 9

An Eternal Solidarity (1 Tim. 2:5)

When we imagine the huge difference between God and ourselves, it is astounding to think that God would reach out to us by condescending to take on human flesh. But after He was done, most of us would have been content for Him to abandon His affinity with us, and return fully to what He was before. However—and this absolutely astounds us—we learn that Jesus will forever remain in solidarity with us by retaining our nature!the very nature he put on to saved us in the first place. Luke 24:36-43 Acts 1:10, 11 Acts 17:31 1 Tim. 2:5.

In the centuries-old controversy over the person of Jesus, the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451) marked a significant milepost. Essentially, it agreed and proclaimed that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man: ". . . we all with one voice teach that . . . our Lord Jesus Christ is one and the same God, the Same perfect in Godhead, the Same perfect in manhood, truly God and truly man, . . .[one] with the Father as to his Godhead, and . . .[one] with us as to his manhood; in all things like unto us, sin only excepted. . . ." —Cited in Justo L. Gonzalez, A History of Christian Thought, vol. 1 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1970) p. 390. For an assessment of the implications of the Chalcedon statement from an Adventist perspective, see Roy Adams, The Nature of Christ (Hagerstown: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1994), pp. 57-72.

An inspired pen wrote "In contemplating the incarnation of Christ in humanity, we stand baffled before an unfathomable mystery. . . . The more we reflect upon it, the more amazing does it appear. How wide is the contrast between the divinity of Christ and the helpless infant in Bethlehem's manger! How can we span the distance between the mighty God and a helpless child? And yet the Creator of worlds, He in whom was the fullness of the Godhead bodily, was manifest in the helpless babe in the manger. Far higher than any of the angels, equal with the Father in dignity and glory, and yet wearing the garb of humanity! Divinity and humanity were mysteriously combined, and man and God became one. It is in this union that we find the hope of our fallen race."

source :Roy Addams- "The wonders of Jesus"


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