Posted by: Jonathan Stepp | September 9, 2008

The Definition of Jesus

The good news about God becomes obvious to us when we have a proper definition of Jesus.

Here’s what I mean by defining Jesus: is Jesus just human? or is he half human and half God? is he the product of a relationship between God and Mary? Or is he something – and someone – else?

Scripture (John 1, Colossians 1) tells us that Jesus is the Son of God in the flesh. He is fully God and fully Human. So, to define him we would say he is the Son of God as Man.

That means that if the Son of God ever stops being human then Jesus ceases to exist because the definition of Jesus is “the Son of God as Man.” If the Son of God stops being a Man and separates himself from human nature then he has returned to his pre-incarnate state as the second person of the Trinity and Jesus no longer exists.

What scripture tells us is the opposite of that. When the Bible says that Jesus lives forever (Heb. 7:24) it means that the Son of God lives forever in the flesh as the Man Jesus (Luke 24:39).

Here’s a simple Q. & A. that helps us see what we’re talking about:

Has the Son of God always existed? Yes, as the second person of God he has no beginning and no end (John 1:1).

Has Jesus always existed? No. As the Son in the flesh there was a time when Jesus began (Luke 1:30-31).

When did Jesus come into existence? When the Son became flesh and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14).

Will Jesus ever cease to exist? No, Jesus lives forever (Heb. 7:24). The Son will forever remain in the flesh as the man Jesus.

How does a correct definition of Jesus make the good news obvious? Because once we understand that God and humanity are permanently united in Jesus we understand that he is the adoption of humanity into the life of the Trinity (Eph. 1:5). To see Jesus as fully God and fully Human, seated at the right of the Father (Acts 7:56) is to see the good news about ourselves – we are seated in him and with him at the Father’s right hand (Eph. 2:6).

And since this union is permanent, since Jesus lives forever, it means that we will never cease to live and exist within the Triune Life, as loved children of the Father!

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Responses

  1. I’m not sure what you mean by the phrase “in the flesh”.
    Are you saying that the man Jesus in alive in the flesh right now and will remain so forever?

  2. totally awesome. there is nothing i can say, but that. that is deep yet clear enough for a child.thankyou. i really appreciate you, pastor tim and others 4 taking your time to really equip us. this is going above your duties as pastors, as you share in jesus’s desire to build up his people. thanks alot

  3. I agre to you.U have explained it very well

  4. Thanks, Calvin and Vipin, appreciate the encouragement!

    Yes, threewhosandawhat, correct Christian doctrine teaches that Jesus continues to live forever as a fully real flesh and blood human and, at the same time, as the fully real divine Son of God , but now his flesh is risen and glorified. In his resurrected, glorified humanity he gives us a picture of what our future will be in our own resurrection.

    This is how Jesus describes himself in Luke 24:39 and it is how Paul describes the resurrection body in 1 Corinthians 15 – after the resurrection it is still a body but now it is glorified.

    Based on this and other scriptures the early Church defined Jesus (in the Chalcedon Definition) as “two natures (human and divine) in one person, without separation”.

    Therefore, if the two natures (human and divine) are ever separated then you don’t have Jesus any more.

  5. Jesus was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit. (1 Peter 3:18) If Jesus is still flesh, then he never sacrificed his flesh; thus there has never been any offering made to God for our sins. — John 6:51; Ephesians 5:2; Hebrews 9:14; 10:10,12.

    Jesus is no longer in the “days of his flesh.” (Hebrews 5:7) He now has a celestial (heavenly), spiritual body, having become the life-giving spirit from heaven. — 1 Corinthians 15:40,44,45,47.

    http://sonofyah.wordpress.com

  6. Ronald, what do you think Jesus means when he says in Luke 24:39 “I have flesh and bone”? If he sacrificed his flesh to God then why does he still have flesh after his resurrection?

  7. Jonathan,
    Can you point me to any online references concerning the glorified, flesh and blood body of Jesus in Heaven?
    Thanks

  8. That the bodily ascension of Jesus means that his incarnation (enfleshment) continues still, is a vital teaching of the orthodox, historic, Christian faith.

    It is vital because for Jesus to cease being fully human (though he is now a glorified human), is to cease being for us in himself the singular human representative within the divine communion of the Trinity. The one (singular and supreme) “mediator” of all humanity is none other the “man” (not the God who is no longer human), Christ Jesus (see 1Tim 2:5).

    Loss of that human-divine connection in the person of Jesus has all sorts of consequences – many that we see played out in Christian history as the doctrine of the continuing incarnation (and bodily ascension) of Jesus was minimized or even lost.

    One of the unfortunate consequences of this loss was to elevate the church and its ministers/priests on earth to a position of “replacements” (vicars”) of a now distant, no longer fully human Jesus.

    If you’d like to read a detailed, academic assessment of the impact of this misunderstanding , I recommend, “Ascension & Ecclesia” by Douglas Farrow (T&T Clark, 1999). For a less academic presentation (but a clear and accurate one), I recommend, “Jesus Ascended, the Meaning of Christ’s Continuing Incarnation” by Gerrit Scott Dawson (T&T Clark, 2004).

  9. Thanks for the comments, Ted, and the book recommendations. I’m going to add those to my reading list.

    3W, you asked about an online resource, here’s a link to a recent article by J.I. Packer in Christianity Today where he talks about this subject:

    http://www.ctlibrary.com/ct/2004/march/25.72.html

  10. Article looks interesting, Jonathan, but $39.95 is too steep for me.

  11. Hey 3W, here is a link to an article by John Piper about Jesus still being a man. He even quotes J.I. Packer and gives some of the same explanation as Packer did in the piece of article Jonathan referred you to:

    http://reformed-theology.blogspot.com/2006/10/how-can-jesus-be-both-god-and-man.html

    If you send me an email, I can get you a few more resources that help sort this all out for you: tjbrassell@cox.net

    Peace!

  12. Here is a question that has been dogging me before reading the article you posted and the answers I had before reading it.

    Before:

    Given: If Jesus was fully God and fully man, then he was omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent.

    Question: If he was omniscient as a human why did he say things like My God, my God why have you forsaken me?

    Conclusions:
    God did forsake him and Jesus was for a moment no longer part of the trinity. The cross is reduced to a cosmic butt-kicking to assuage an angry God. Obviously invalid.

    Jesus felt God had forsaken him which would mean he was not omniscient at that moment. Also invalid because it breaks his full Godness.

    Jesus was referring all the folks present to Psalm 22 and the messianic prophecies there. Best case.

    However, Elmer Colyer and Gerritt Scott Dawsons quotes from “An introduction to Torrence Theology” both make the case that Jesus was forsaken along with many many others.

    An Introduction to Torrence Theology. p37, 49, 74

    After:

    The article you (Johnathan) posted was very helpful in teasing out the how Christ’s humanness could feel completely abandoned and yet his divinity could be perfectly assured and knowledgeable. I assume Colyer and Dawson’s context is that of the Piper article.

    Any further clarification and comments would be appreciated.

  13. I agree, Tim, whatever Jesus means he cannot mean that the Trinity has been broken apart and the Father has abandoned the Son – this is the antithesis of the perichoretic nature of the Triune God.

    I also agree that a full reading of Psalm 22 helps us further understand what’s happening since that Psalm transitions from the statement of forsakenness to a profound statement of faith where the psalmist says “you have not abandoned your holy one.” So, Jesus’ quotation of the psalm clearly points to the reality that he has not been abandoned.

    Personally, I am comfortable saying that Jesus – being God as man – was not omniscient. The incarnation of the Son is, by definition, God the Son giving up the prerogatives of Divinity (Philippians 2) in order to limit himself in our human nature.

    Thus, we know the Son to be omnipresent but as he exists in the flesh as Jesus he was only in one place at a time: he was in Galilee, then Jerusalem, and so on, and he had to travel in normal, human ways.

    Likewise, the Son is omniscient, but as he exists in the flesh as Jesus he only knows what he learned in the normal human way or what the Father revealed to him by the Spirit (this is why the gospels speak so often of him being led by the Spirit).

    The baby Jesus wasn’t lying in the manger thinking “I can’t wait till this part is over, and, oh, by the way, I need my diaper changed.” The Son limited himself in the exercise of his Divine prerogatives in order to fully enter human existence and grew up like a normal person, learning and gaining knowledge in the normal human ways: experience, education, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit to him.

    So, without ever ceasing to have the full nature of the Divine Son of God, the Son limits his exercise of the attributes of that nature and takes on the real poverty of a human existence with all the limitations that brings.

    I would say that Jesus (the Son in the flesh) resumes the omniscience and omnipresence that the Son had before his incarnation when he ascends back to heaven in his glorified flesh. Ephesians 4:10, for example, says that he ascended to fill the whole universe.

    So, I would argue that on the cross Jesus feels – as any human would – that he is abandoned and cries out in that agony, quoting the Psalm that speaks of abandonment but ultimately speaks of knowing that he is not abandoned. As he suffers the Father reassures him, through the Spirit, that he is not abandoned. He is able to receive and believe this assurance because he is not just a normal human but is also the Son of God in permanent and unbreakable communion with the Father and the Spirit. Thus, he is able to follow up his cry of abandonment with the statement “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

    The martyrs of the Church also make this statement of faith because the Son in the flesh (Jesus) is sharing with them his ability to receive and believe the assurance of the Father that he is not abandoned.

    Hope these thoughts are helpful!

  14. Very

  15. […] https://neoreformation.wordpress.com/2008/09/09/the-definition-of-jesus/ […]

  16. […] of God in the flesh, terrestial body, the atonining sacrifice, Trinity Doctrine | The statement is made that the Son of God has always existed, but that Jesus has not always existed. The claim, in […]

  17. Evidently, I failed to check the box to receive notifications for this blog, and did not notice that there had been a response yuntil today. The question was asked of me: Ronald, what do you think Jesus means when he says in Luke 24:39 “I have flesh and bone”? If he sacrificed his flesh to God then why does he still have flesh after his resurrection?

    At the time of his appearances in the locked room, Jesus had not yet ascended into heaven to present his body of flesh in sacrifice. He could thus raise that body in order to convince his disciples that he had indeed been raised from the dead.

    See the study I have written on this at:
    http://godandson.reslight.net/?p=218

  18. Jesus entered the most holy place where his father is enthroned between the cherubim, the ark of the covenant, to apply his blood on the cover of the ark.

    Jesus has and will have forever a unique body unlike any other in all of creation. Jesus has both natures the spirit and human, he has the human from his mother-Mary and the spirit from his heavenly father who begot him.

    So right now in heaven only Jesus has a unique body created by the other one of the only kind, his father who alone is inherently immortal and who can’t die because he is not a creation.


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