To What Extent Did Jesus Operate in His Deity While on His Earthly Mission?

Note: Articles classified as essays may be long, advanced, or esoteric.

Apparently, Jesus (and Mark, the biblical narrator) agreed with the scribes that only God could forgive sins. This was an opportunity for Jesus to point to his divine nature without standing up and declaring: “I am God!” He would act as God acts.[3]

Not only did Jesus actually forgive the paralytic as God, but he also proved that he had that divine authority to forgive. How? By exercising His power to heal.  If Jesus was going to demonstrate that he had divine authority to forgive, he had to perform a miracle that would visibly show that he could act with divine authority. The observers knew that if Jesus could not heal as God, then He could not forgive as God either. But He did both. The obvious inference is that the forgiveness and the healing flowed from Christ’s own essence as God the Son.  There would not be a disconnect between the forgiveness and healing. This passage indicates that Jesus did His miracles as God (at least that one), not simply as a man anointed by the Holy Spirit (like the apostles and prophets would have done miracles).[4]

Jesus Manifested Forth his Divine Glory by His Miracles

The Apostle John shows us that Christ’s demonstration of power as God was not limited to his healing of the paralytic. John comments on Jesus’ miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding of Cana: “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory: and His disciples believed in Him” (John 2:11).

This was a direct claim: this miracle of Jesus manifested His glory. This was the 1st of many miracles that would show his power, expressing the divinity that Jesus intrinsically possessed. John didn’t say that Jesus manifested the Holy Spirit’s glory, but His own glory.[5] This would not have been the case unless somehow the work came from His own divine nature and not only by the power of the Holy Spirit or the Father. John 1:14 says, “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). One of the ways that the disciples saw the glory of the Son was through the miracles Jesus did as he displayed his divine power. [6]

Jesus is Identified as God because He Acts as God Acts

In Matthew 14, the story is told of Jesus walking on the sea, helping Peter walk on the water, and instantly causing the storm to cease. The disciples reacted to this set of miracles by worshipping Jesus. They recognized the powers that Jesus had demonstrated as proof that he was divine. The parallel passage in Luke 8 reveals that in fear and amazement the disciples had asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.” His identity is obviously the point of the story.[7]

“This story is the clearest example so far in the narrative [of Matthew] that Jesus has the same authority and power as Yahweh exercises. If this is so, it is further confirmation that Jesus really is the Holy One of God in their midst, the one who gathers his people and who is Lord of all. He has divine identity because he acts as God acts.[8]

Let’s keep that last statement in mind as we discuss this issue. If Jesus is simply operating as a human in the power of the Spirit, as some have said,[9] then he is not really acting as God acts any more than we would if we were controlled by the Spirit and did great things for God. Thus it would not be true that Jesus has divine identity because he acts as God acts.

Jesus Claims to Do What the Father Does

At one point in his ministry, Jesus said, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working” (John 5). Therefore the Jews sought to kill Him partly because He said that God was His Father, making Himself equal to God.  Jesus’ statement was construed as a claim to deity, because Jesus was claiming to work as God on the earth. He also said,

“The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19).

From this verse we see that the Son has a derived authority in one sense (because of the structure in the Trinity), yet He does what the Father does.[10]  He is performing as God – even during His earthly mission.  He is not only acting by the power of the Father, He is Himself doing what the Father does.  He says,

“For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will” (John 5:21).

Jesus claims to have the same power as God the Father, and He claims to be using that power, in raising the dead to life. In fact, he claims that he would raise himself from the dead:

“I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:18).
“I lay down My life that I may take it again” (John 10:17).
“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19).  

 Jesus said that he had the power to raise Himself from the dead and predicted that He actually would resurrect Himself. Only as a person functioning as God could He do that.  The resurrection is an essential part of salvation.  So Jesus accomplished our salvation not just as a sinless, anointed human, but as a divine being doing divine acts, and with a “track record” of doing so.

Jesus Raises the Dead, after Claiming to be the Resurrection and Life

After Lazarus died, and Jesus had gone to visit the family, Christ had a conversation about life and death with Martha. In that conversation, he claimed to be “the Resurrection and the Life.” As the Resurrection and the Life, Jesus would have had the inherent power to raise the dead both spiritually and physically.  We see in the story that Jesus used this resurrection power to raise Lazarus from the dead. He had claimed to be the Resurrection and the Life; soon thereafter He demonstrated that He was! (John 11). This is clear proof that Jesus did not raise the dead as simply a human anointed by the Spirit–though this is not to exclude the involvement of the Holy Spirit in that or any miracle.

Jesus Had Unique Authority Over the Powers of Darkness

Even the highest-ranked angels do not have the authority that the Son of God (God the Son) has. Jesus rebuked the devil without appealing to a higher power while He was on the earth. According to Jude 9, Michael the Archangel did not rail against the devil, but said, “The Lord rebuke thee.”

Think about another confrontation Jesus had with the forces of darkness. The demons who spoke through the demoniacs at the tombs recognized Jesus and exclaimed, “What do you want with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”[11] Then Jesus cast the demons out. Those demons certainly recognized the unique divine power that Jesus exercised as the “Son of God.”

Christ Worked Miracles by Paul, through the Power of the Spirit

Paul said,

I have whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God.  For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God” (Rom. 15:18-19).

Notice that Christ worked by Paul by the power of the Spirit.  Could this be a key passage in striking a balance on the issue of whether Christ operated in His deity to do miracles (while on the earth)?  Paul said Christ was using him to work miracles – through the power of the Spirit.  Jesus still acts, but does not act alone.  The Holy Spirit is an agent in the working of miracles.[12]

Other Examples of Jesus Exercising Divine Prerogatives

Jesus said that he would answer the prayers of his followers. “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14). This definitely is a divine activity.

At two different times, Jesus’ disciples affirmed their belief in Christ’s infinite knowledge (John 16:29-30; 21:17). They said, “Lord, You know all things.” In neither case did Jesus deny the disciples’ assertion.

Having nailed our condemnation to the cross, Christ disarmed principalities and powers, triumphing over them (Colossians 2:14-15). He must have been acting as God in order to do this.

The words, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) speak of Christ’s eternality and immutability, and therefore His deity.  This implies that the Logos did not cease functioning as God when he became flesh.[13]

Christ gave eternal life, or “living water,” to his followers (John 4:10, 13-14, 10:28). Only as God could he do this.  This is a present-tense activity, so that doesn’t fit with the idea that from time-to-time Jesus exercised divine powers.  Jesus while on the earth was constantly exercising His deity in giving eternal life to His followers.

 No mere human could seriously make the claim, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matt 18:20). In this statement, Jesus implies that He was omnipresent while on the earth.  So even while on earth He was using divine attributes that superseded his physical presence.

Jesus Seen Throughout the Gospels Acting as God

I have shown from Scripture many ways in which Jesus lived and acted as God while he was on the earth.[14]  Jesus did not perform miracles as simply a human empowered by the Spirit, but also as the Son of God (God the Son) manifesting forth his glory.

The passages we have pointed to not only show that Jesus acted as God, but also that this activity was more than simply occasional. Some of the mentioned activities would require Jesus to continuously live and work as God.

Uniting Two Threads of Biblical Teaching

Now, having shown from Scripture that Jesus did indeed operate as God while on earth, what shall we do with those passages that speak of the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus?

At first glance, the following quotations from Ware’s article may seem to show that for the Holy Spirit to be involved in the life of Jesus would mean that Christ’s deity was inactive:

As God [Jesus] possesses every quality infinitely and nothing can be added to him. So then, we ask: What could the Spirit of God contribute to the humanity of Christ? The answer is: Everything of supernatural power and enablement that he, in his humanity, would lack.  The only way to make sense, then, of the fact that Jesus came in the power of the Spirit is to understand that he lived his life fundamentally as a man, and as such, he relied on the Spirit to provide the power, grace, knowledge, wisdom, direction, and enablement he needed, moment by moment and day by day, to fulfill the mission the Father sent him to accomplish.[15]

Ware uses the statement in Isaiah 11:2 (“The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and power…”) to emphasize the role of the Spirit even in the pre-baptism life of Jesus. Ware says, “The Spirit rested on him and granted him wisdom, understanding, knowledge, discernment, strength, and resolve to fear God his Father. In other words, these qualities did not extend directly or fundamentally from his own divine nature, though divine he surely was!”[16]

Whether or not Ware’s statements can be shown to be consistent with the above Scriptures that reveal the divine works of Jesus, the question remains: Is there a way to reconcile the work of the Spirit in the life of Jesus with Jesus’ exercise of his own deity powers? I believe the Spirit played an important role in the life of Christ. I do not want to underemphasize that. But I also want to protect the uniqueness of Christ by pointing out that the Spirit did not anoint Jesus in a manner that would keep Christ’s own divine nature from exhibiting itself.  I will assume here that Ware does not mean to make the Spirit the exclusive source of Christ’s power.[17] But for those who would interpret him as saying that, I respond: If the power, knowledge, and wisdom that Jesus expressed came not from God the Son, but from the Spirit, then how is Christ himself the enfleshed revelation of God? Only insomuch as the Spirit demonstrates His (the Spirit’s) power? If the deity of the Son was not expressed in the life of Jesus, then God was not manifest in Christ in a way any differently than God may be manifest through our lives when we walk in the Spirit.

While Isaiah does teach that the Spirit of God would rest upon Jesus, etc., the prophet doesn’t deny the role of the eternal Son in the life of the Messiah.[18]  Isaiah isn’t drawing a comprehensive picture of the incarnation. Why can’t the Son and the Spirit (and the Father) be cooperating together in the life and ministry of the Messiah?

Problem of Human and Divine Consciousness in One Person

I know it may seem difficult to think of Jesus exhibiting both characteristics of divinity and humanity, especially as he is developing in wisdom as a young person (Luke 2:52). It might be easier to explain the consciousness of Jesus by asserting that the divine nature of Jesus lay dormant, completely or almost completely inactive throughout his life. But that seems inconsistent with one of the greatest reasons for Christ’s coming—he came to make God known. In the footnotes I provide some possible solutions for this.[19]

A theandric person (the God-man) would have one self-consciousness and at least two modes of consciousness.[20] Though able to work from more than one mode of consciousness,[21] Jesus would only have one self-consciousness, since he is a single person. This is compatible with what the Second Council of Constantinople had to say about the subject: “There are not two conscious persons, but a single conscious person uniting the divine and human natures.  It is not one or the other nature that speaks when Jesus Christ speaks, but one person bearing the congruent imprint of two natures. . .”[22]

The answer to the problem of human and divine consciousness is not that the deity lay dormant or inactive in the person of Jesus, but that the infinite knowledge, power, and holiness of the divine nature of Jesus was communicated to the single Person in a way consistent with his mission, possibly under the superintendence of the Holy Spirit, who had overshadowed Jesus even at the moment of the virgin conception.[23]Otherwise, if the divinity of Christ lay dormant during his life and ministry, the second Person of the Trinity is not revealed to us in the incarnation, and we really don’t see the Father through the Son![24]

Miracles Through the Holy Spirit But Not Christ’s Deity?

I now quote Ware on Christ casting out demons,

Jesus had exorcized a demon from and healed a man who was blind and mute, but the Pharisees claim that he had done this by the power of “Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons” (Matt 12:24). Jesus gives three stinging rebukes, the last of which is this: “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matt 12:28).…Jesus does not claim to have performed this miracle by his own divine power and authority as God. Rather, he attributes the power used in this miraculous exorcism and healing to the Spirit at work in and through him. Indeed, he accomplished these works as none other than the Spirit-anointed Messiah.[25]

But I don’t think we should assume that Jesus either did his miracles by his own divine power or by the Holy Spirit—that both could not be true. If Jesus’ own divine nature was not active in the exorcisms at all, then it is likely that none of Christ’s miracles were accomplished through his divine power, including the raising of Lazarus. But I don’t think we have to choose between affirming that Christ did his miracles as God and affirming that he did his miracles through the Spirit of God.  This would be a false choice. We should affirm both. Jesus spoke the exorcisms to pass with his authority as God the Son (remember how fearful the demons were of Jesus, “the Son of God”?), and the Holy Spirit was an agent in accomplishing the work. I find it helpful to remember that every member of the Trinity is involved in every action of Jesus. They are unified in all their doings.  No Scripture denies that Jesus operated in his deity. The “Spirit-anointed Messiah” that accomplished the exorcisms and healings is none other than the only-begotten Son of God, whose divine glory the apostles beheld.

Ware continues,

As Peter contemplates Jesus’ day-to-day life, the good deeds he did and the truth he taught, the exorcisms and miracles he performed, and when Peter considers how Jesus did these things, he says that, “God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power,” and that “He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). Clearly, the template Peter had in mind in understanding and accounting for the life and ministry of Jesus was this: Jesus was the Christ, a man born in the line of David, anointed and empowered by the Spirit to live out his life and carry out his mission. Was Jesus also fully God? Indeed, he was. But it was as ‘the man Christ Jesus,’ filled with the Spirit, whom we see living in obedience, exercising supernatural power, and fulfilling the mission the Father sent him to accomplish.[26]

Again, we must recognize that the affirmation of one factor does not necessarily imply the denial of another one. To illustrate: Just because I say that my brothers helped me install electrical wiring in my house, that doesn’t mean I didn’t do any of the work (I did). And just because Jesus is presented as someone whom God anointed with the Spirit, this does not mean that Jesus was not active as the divine person that he was. The referent for ‘God’ in Acts 10:38 is the Father.  The verse says that God anointed Jesus with the Spirit, but that does not mean that the Spirit isn’t God, or that he wasn’t acting as God.  And it also does not mean that Jesus isn’t God or that he wasn’t acting as God. Though Peter didn’t say it this way, the fact is that God the Father had anointed God the Son, the God-man, with God the Holy Spirit. There is no denial in this passage that Jesus was God or actually acted as God himself.  Taking into consideration all the other Scriptural data that we have on the nature of Jesus, I don’t see a compelling reason to accept Peter’s choice of terminology here as a template for a biblical theology of Christ. This passage should be interpreted in light of the whole message of the person and work of Christ.

Can Christ be Truly Human and Yet Act as God?

But what about the argument that it is impossible for Jesus to be truly human if he tapped into his infinite knowledge, wisdom, or power? Gerald Hawthorne seems to imply that Jesus could not be human if he actually used his divine attributes.[27]  In his book, The Presence and the Power, Hawthorne says,

[By] a preincarnate decision the eternal Son of God chose that all his intrinsic powers, all his attributes, would remain latent within him during the days of his flesh and that he would become truly human and limit himself to the abilities and powers common to all other human beings. Therefore he depended on the Holy Spirit for wisdom and knowledge and for power to perform the signs and wonders that marked the days of his years.[28]

Does not Hawthorne believe that Jesus is even now human? [29]  If he is now human, is his divine wisdom, knowledge and power still only latent? If not, and Jesus can now be both unlimited in his deity and limited in his humanity, and yet still function as one conscious person, then why couldn’t he function out of both his deity and humanity while he was on the earth? If it is true that he could function out of both his deity and humanity, the issue then becomes about what Jesus had to accomplish on the earth, and not about any philosophical concerns about the incompatibility of Christ’s humanity with his use of deity powers.

What Did Jesus Need to Accomplish?

Jesus needed to fully identify with the human race in order to accomplish his mediatorial mission. Jesus’ genuine temptations and “learning obedience by the things which he suffered”[30] were part of that full identification. But as Mediator, Christ not only had to identify fully with man, he had to fully identify with God. Jesus had to represent both God and man at the same time; man to God, and God to man.  When Paul said to Timothy, “There is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus”[31] he wasn’t saying that a mere man could bridge the gap. The God-manhad to do the work. Paul possibly emphasized the humanity of Christ in this verse because it was only because Christ became a man that he could make the ultimate sacrifice for sin and then rise from the dead. Only in the flesh could Jesus have died. But the atonement would not be efficacious unless Jesus was also God.  He had to act as God to destroy sin and death in his glorious resurrection.  And we would expect Jesus to exhibit his deity attributes during his ministry so that we would know that the propitiation of our sins would be efficacious, accomplished by someone demonstrating divine power.[32]

In fulfilling his mediatorial mission, Jesus came to reveal God to mankind. Only as he acted as God, could he reveal God to us.  He did that as the God-man – the one in whom dwelt “all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” If Jesus did not act as God, how is he “God manifest in the flesh?”

The Temptations of Christ

There is one more issue in Ware’s article I would like to bring up.  The article has a very interesting discussion of the temptations of Christ. Ware makes a distinction between the reason Jesus could not have sinned, and the reason Jesus did not sin. The reason Jesus could not have sinned is because he is God–and the divine-human union cannot be broken. The reason he did not sin is that he utilized all the resources given to him in his humanity. He loved and meditated on God’s word, he prayed to his Father, he trusted in his Father’s will, and “very significantly, he relied on the supernatural power of the Spirit upon him, to strengthen him to do all that he was called upon to do… Although he was God, and although he was impeccable as the God-man, nevertheless he did not resist temptation and obey the Father by his divine nature but by the power of the Spirit who indwelt him.”[33]

Ware says that for Jesus to rely on his divine nature would be to forfeit the mission on which he had been sent. The illustration used to make this point is intriguing. Jesus overcoming temptation is like a swimmer trying to break a world record. The swimmer is worried he might have trouble with cramping, so he gets a friend to follow behind him on a boat just in case he needs help. So the boat follows the swimmer just in case, but it turns out that the swimmer is able to swim completely on his own and win the world record. If he had depended on the boat, his life would have been saved, but he would have lost his attempt to break the record. Similarly, Christ’s deity acted as a safety net, just in case he needed it (Jesus would not have been allowed to actually sin had he started to succumb to temptation). But if Jesus had ever needed to use “the boat” of his divine nature, then he would have forfeited his mission. Jesus had to overcome temptation strictly in the human, only relying on the resources that we also have at our disposal.

I do like some things about Ware’s position on Christ’s temptations. Like Ware, I believe that the union of the human and divine natures of Jesus could not be broken. This certainly does have implications for the peccability/impeccability debate. I would put it this way–it was inevitable that Christ would overcome sin because of who he was—he was the indivisible God-man. He was genuinely tempted in the flesh,[34] but because of who he was, he simply would not sin.  It was inevitable that he would overcome.

However, I believe that the swimmer illustration may inadvertently present Jesus in more of a Nestorian fashion,[35] with the divine nature of Jesus walled off from his humanity. How could there be an organic union between the divine and human natures of Jesus if the divine nature isn’t participating in the everyday life of Jesus?  As Caird says, “We cannot separate Christ’s divine from his human acts, without rending in twain the unity of his person and life.” [36] The consciousness of Jesus was not simply the consciousness of the human  nature. The swimmer illustration seems to shut Christ’s divine consciousness and all of his divine attributes out of the active consciousness and life of Jesus. But again, if he is not consciously acting as God, then how is he really God manifest in the flesh?

Nowhere does Scripture teach that Christ’s own divine nature or the knowledge of his eternal relationship to his Father did not influence the way he handled temptation. The Scriptures teach that Jesus had to be perfect, but they do not say that he could not have an “unfair advantage” over us (in living a holy life) by being somehow influenced by his divine nature. I can’t see how the divine moral attributes that Jesus possessed did not impact the decisions he made moment by moment.[37] Christ did not use his divine powers to escape temptation apart from the Father’s will. (He did nothing apart from the Father’s will.) Nor were his divine powers used to pamper himself—for example, he didn’t instantly transport himself from place to place when he got a little weary. But that does not mean that the divine nature of Jesus did not participate in the normal life of Jesus, including his times of temptation.

If Jesus’ divine moral attributes were not in use during his temptations, and throughout his life, I could not be confident that His every word and action was holy, loving, just and true.  Remember, Jesus identified with the human race in a way that made him subject to the infirmities of the flesh. Apart from supernatural intervention, he could have committed sins of ignorance.  And we know that he was genuinely and severely tempted by Satan. But he didn’t fall short of the perfect law of God even just a little. Why didn’t he?  Did He just happen to be the first person to come along who consistently yielded himself completely to God and always followed God’s laws perfectly?  No.  Jesus always submitted to the Spirit, always made the right decisions, always spoke truthfully, always acted justly, because He was God manifested in the flesh.  Why did Jesus have absolute victory over sin when no one else ever had? Because his absolutely perfect divine moral nature was expressed in His every thought, word, and action. Why do we sometimes question the actions of even the great apostle Paul, but never the actions of Jesus? Because we intuitively understand the reason Jesus would never make a mistake – He is God! Though Jesus acted freely in both his human nature and his divine nature, it was inevitable that he would make the right decisions because he was the God-man.

Not everyone agrees with this conclusion. Bruce Ware suggests that another option might be that the Holy Spirit somehow ensured that Jesus remained sinless, just as the Spirit kept Bible writers from making mistakes. But this would still be giving Jesus special treatment, and an “unfair advantage” over the rest of us who are supposed to be following Christ’s example.  Jesus would still have access to powers that we don’t have.

I think the simplest and best explanation for Christ’s uniquely perfect life was that the divinity of Christ influenced him[38] to inevitably and freely submit to his Father’s will and live under the Spirit’s anointing, even as he “learned obedience by the things that he suffered.”

Unfair Advantage?

What if Jesus had available to him resources for living a holy life that we don’t have?  In that case, should we look at Jesus as someone with an “unfair advantage” and thus not see him as an example to follow?  I think that not wanting Jesus to have an “unfair advantage” can be a motivation for teaching that Jesus did not exercise his divine attributes during his earthly mission. C.S. Lewis is helpful here:

When people object… that if Jesus was God as well as Man, then He had an unfair advantage which deprives Him for them of all value, it seems to me as if a man struggling in the water should refuse a rope thrown to him by another who had one foot on the bank, saying “Oh but you have an unfair advantage.” It is because of that advantage that He can help.[39]

It is only through the power of Christ that we can live a holy life, persevering in a godly life until he returns.

Philippians 2

Gerald Hawthorne uses Philippians 2 in his attempt to support his idea that Jesus did not use his divine attributes while on the earth. But when Paul said in Philippians 2 that Jesus made Himself of no reputation, he was not saying that Jesus emptied Himself of the use of His divine attributes.  He was saying that the Son (who was equal to the Father) became a lowly man, humbling Himself to the point of death to accomplish our redemption.  In doing this He was an example to us.  Just previous to his discussion of Jesus’ humbling in Philippians 2, Paul stated that we should not look out for our own interests but the interest of others.  We should humble ourselves for the sake of the gospel as Jesus did.  In humbling Himself, Jesus emptied Himself of his exalted position,[40] which God restored to him later: “Therefore God hath highly exalted him and hath given him a name above every name.”

Kenotic Christology

Kenotic Christology uses Philippians 2 to say that God the Son “’emptied’… or divested himself of certain of his divine attributes, such as omnipresence and omniscience, or of the use of one or more of them, in assuming human flesh” (Reymond).  In kenotic Christology, Christ’s ‘moral qualities, such as love and mercy, were maintained” (Erickson, 237).  Hawthorne’s position must be an extreme form of Kenotic Christology, in that even the divine moral qualities of Christ are not in use during his earthly life (though fully present). Ware seems to be taking a mediating position between the classic view of the divine-human union and this strict kenotic view since he is open to the idea that Christ’s divine moral attributes may have influenced the actions of the person of Christ. He also believes that Jesus did many of his miracles as God.

The variety of kenotic theories makes me wonder about the distinction between the idea that Christ laid aside his attributes and the idea that he laid aside the use of his attributes. Practically speaking, what is the difference between having no divine attributes at all and having divine attributes that lie dormant, rarely to be used (a “humanity only” position)? Either way, Jesus would not be revealing the Father to us through his divine qualities.  But Jesus showed himself to be unique, not simply in His identity, but also in His character, His judgment, His authority, His personality, His actions, His speech, and His demeanor!  Why was he unique? He was different because He was the God-man, not simply because He was empowered by the Spirit, as many prophets and apostles had been.

The Character of the Theandric Union

The character of the theandric union necessitates a dual functioning of Christ’s two natures: the divine and human natures participates in every action of Christ. This concept is important to defend the biblical teaching that Christ is the enfleshed revelation of God.

Following are a few verses that emphasize the truth of the incarnation, that Christ was God manifested in the flesh.

Jesus was called Emmanuel, which means “God with us” (Matt 1:23).
“Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh…” (I Timothy 3:16a).
For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9).

God had become flesh in the person of Jesus. The fullness of the Godhead dwelled in Christ bodily; the human nature indwelled the divine nature as the divine nature indwelled the human. The expression “all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in him bodily” is never used of a mere prophet or apostle.  For Him to have all the fullness of God dwelling in Him bodily means that He Himself is fully God, and is expressing Himself as both fully human and fully God.

“Paul taught that ‘in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form’ (Col. 2:9).  Church teaching interpreted this to mean that the divine nature penetrates and perfects every aspect of the human, and human is pervaded by the divine (John of Damascus…).  This was powerfully conveyed by the termperichoresis.…

“The perichoresis or active intermingling of the natures was that abundant interpenetration…by which the divine nature of the Son pervaded inwardly the human nature so as fully to impart his divinity to his humanity and his God-manhood to every aspect of his action…. In this way the deity participated in the Passion of the humanity and the humanity in the majesty of the deity without blurring or confusing either.”[41]

If this perichoretic participation of both natures really took place, the deity of Christ was active during Christ’s temptations and his miracles. The Logos was not dormant during those times in Christ’s life, nor at any other time.

“Some challengers to ecumenical Christology have persisted in holding that the Logos has become reduced to the limits of human nature, disavowing eternality, destitute of divine attributes.  They say that the divine nature became dormant, paralyzed, or even nonexistent during Christ’s earthly ministry.

“There is no exegetical warrant for this conclusion, for in Scripture it is precisely the Word that has become flesh to dwell among us, not the Word that ceased to be in becoming flesh.  The New Testament does not imply that the Logos in becoming flesh temporarily quit being Logos and began being merely a man.  Rather ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us’ (John 1:14).  The central point is that God became flesh without contradiction or negation of either deity or humanity (I Tim. 3:16; I John 4:2; John 1:14).”[42]

Consistency with Orthodox Christology

If one’s view is to be accepted as tenable, it must not only line up with Scripture, but also with the major ecumenical creeds and councils of the church (insofar as they are consistent with Scripture). I have found no good reason to reject what the church has always taught regarding the nature of Christ. In fact, it can be dangerous to reject orthodox Christology:

“The saving mediatorial work becomes impossible if one separates the two natures of Christ, as Nestorius did, or if one only ascribes to Him one divine nature, like the Monophysites, or if one curtails one part of human nature, like Apollinarius, or if one only sees in Him a single divine will and operation, like the Monothelites.”[43]

Let’s take a good look at some major responses to aberrant attempts to define Christ, starting with the Chalcedonian Creed. This creed strongly responded to the heresies of that day, especially to Eutychianism and Nestorianism. Especially take note of the part in bold:

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach people to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin;begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us. 

Notice that the creed affirmed that the two natures of Christ are unconfused, unchangeable, indivisible, and inseparable.[44] The 6th Ecumenical Council elaborates, explaining that there are two inseparable operations in every action of Christ (based on these unconfused, indivisible two natures), yet these two operations are united in the single person performing the action.Here is the relevant portion on Christology from the 6th Ecumenical Council:

We confess his [Christ’s] two natures, to wit the divine and the human, of which and in which he, even after the wonderful and inseparable union, subsists… And we recognize that each one (of the two natures) of the one and the same incarnated…Word of God is in him unconfusedly, inseparably and unchangeably, intelligence alone discerning a unity, to avoid the error of confusion.  For we equally detest the blasphemy of division and of commixture.  For when we confess two natures and two natural wills, and two natural operations in our one Lord Jesus Christ, we do not assert that they are contrary or opposed one to the other,… nor as though separated…in two persons or subsistences, but we say that as the same our Lord Jesus Christ has two natures so also he has two natural wills and operations, to wit, the divine and the human:  the divine will and operation he has in common with the coessential Father from all eternity:  the human, he has received from us, taken with our nature in time.  This is the apostolic and evangelic tradition, which the spiritual mother of your most felicitous empire, the Apostolic Church of Christ, holds.[45]

Now I want to quote from Thomas Aquinas, a prominent Western theologian who brings greater clarity to the meaning of the Chalcedonian Definition and the 6th Ecumenical statement on Christ.  Aquinas responds to those that say there is only one operation in Christ:

And this is what Pope Leo says (Ep. ad Flavian. xxviii): “Both forms” (i.e. both the Divine and the human nature in Christ) “do what is proper to each in union with the other, i.e. the Word operates what belongs to the Word, and the flesh carries out what belongs to flesh.”

But if there were only one operation of the Godhead and manhood in Christ…it would be necessary to say that from the Divine and human power there was made up one power. [But that is] impossible. For…a confusion of the natures is supposed. Hence it is with reason that the Sixth Council condemned this opinion and decreed as follows: “We confess two natural, indivisible, unconvertible, unconfused, and inseparable operations in the same Lord Jesus Christ our true God”; i.e. the Divine operation and the human operation.

“…The action of the instrument as instrument is not distinct from the action of the principal agent; yet it may have another operation, inasmuch as it is a thing. Hence the operation of Christ’s human nature, as the instrument of the Godhead, is not distinct from the operation of the Godhead; for the salvation wherewith the manhood of Christ saves us and that wherewith His Godhead saves us are not distinct; nevertheless, the human nature in Christ, inasmuch as it is a certain nature, has a proper operation distinct from the Divine, as stated above.

“…The proper work of the Divine operation is different from the proper work of the human operation. Thus to heal a leper is a proper work of the Divine operation, but to touch him is the proper work of the human operation. Now both these operations concur in one work, inasmuch as one nature acts in union with the other.”[46]

I understand Aquinas to be articulating what Christians generally believed — that in every action of Jesus, both his deity and humanity were at work. The position that Jesus usually only operated as a human in the power of the Spirit seems inconsistent with the above statements from church tradition.[47] The church presented Jesus as one person who was both God and man and who did not fail to continuously function as both God and man. Here’s one more quote that summarizes the historic (and I think biblical) view:

“In becoming human, the Son did not become less than God.  By virtue of his human experience, he thought, willed, and acted just as a human being would, subject to temptation, suffering, and death.  By virtue of his divine nature, he thought, willed, and acted just as God would, exercising wherever necessary whatever divine attributes were required for the mediatorial mission.”[48]

Conclusion: The Unified Position

For many reasons, we should hold to the idea that Jesus lived and operated as both God and man in a substantial way during his earthly mission. The Holy Spirit’s involvement in the life and miracles of Christ does not diminish the role of Christ’s divine nature in His life and miracles. The Bible teaches both that Jesus operated as God and that the Holy Spirit anointed Jesus. These truths do not conflict. The unity of these truths is found in the unity of the members of the Trinity, who in self-giving love serve one another. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all involved in some way in every action of the Godhead.

It certainly is true that Jesus, in his humanity, functioned under the power of the Holy Spirit, and this is a model for us.  But Jesus was also divine.  I don’t see how the theory that Jesus rarely functioned in his deity is consistent with what the Scriptures teach and with what the Church has always taught about the incarnation and the nature of the divine-human union.  The biblical and historic position seems to be that Jesus always functioned in both his deity and humanity, sometimes the deity coming to the forefront, sometimes the humanity coming to the forefront.

Final Thoughts on Ware’s article and Personal Application

Though I have not exclusively dealt with Ware’s 2009 presidential address, it has been an important part of this paper. Therefore, I want to come back to it, acknowledging what I see as some strengths of the article.  Ware acknowledges that Christ did at times function as God while on his earthly mission, and he also makes a wonderful contribution to Christological discussions by reminding us of the importance of the humanity of Christ and the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus. This has been neglected in some conservative evangelical circles.  In the end, Ware shows how Christ is our example to follow. He encourages us to “see Christ rightly and obey him as he obeyed the Father, by the power of the Spirit.”[49]  Jesus lived a holy life by the Holy Spirit. We also should live a holy life, since the same power (the Holy Spirit) that enabled Jesus to live a holy life is available to us today. This is a positive teaching, which contradicts much of the pessimistic capitulation to sin that is in the church.  If Ware is saying that we don’t have to live the Romans 7 lifestyle because the Holy Spirit will help us follow Christ’s example of a holy life, then I agree with him.

However, I think that even if Christ ultimately was pure in part because of the divine-human union (which we don’t experience like Christ did), he is still our example and we have the obligation and ability to walk in his steps. We have the obligation to walk in his steps because he commanded us to. And we have the ability to walk in his steps because

God will not command us to do something he will not enable us to perform.[50] His grace is available for us to obey the Father, and walk in step with the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is active in our hearts and will help us to live holy lives (living above willful sin)—if we let him.

And yet, the Holy Spirit is not the only one involved in helping us to live right. Jesus said, “Without me, you can do nothing.” It is “Christ, in us, the hope of glory,” who gives us power.  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” If he is formed in us by the Spirit, then Christ will empower us to live holy lives. Christ may have had an “unfair advantage” over me while he was on the earth, but if he now lives out his life in me, I really don’t mind.

 


 

Republished from WesleyanTheology.com. Presented at the Evangelical Theological Society meeting, November, 2010.


BIBLIOGRAPHY
  1. Brower, Kent. “‘Who Then is This?’ – Christological Questions in Mark 4:35-5:43.” Paper delivered at Wesleyan Theological Society meeting, 2009.
  2. Buswell, James Oliver. A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  3. Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Vol II. John Allen, translator. Sixth American edition. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-school Work, 1902.
  4. Copeland, Kenneth. “Substitution and Identification.” Sermon from Kenneth Copeland Ministries, 1989.
  5. Dahms, John. “The Subordination of the Son.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. Volume 37, No. 3, Sept, 1994, 351-364.
  6. Erickson, Millard. Introducing Christian Doctrine. Second Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2001.
  7. Garrett, James Leo, Jr. Systematic Theology: Biblical, Historical, and Evangelical. Vol. 2 North Richland Hills, Texas: BIBAL Press, 2001.
  8. Gill, J.  A Body of Doctrinal Divinity. Paris, Arkansas:  The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., 1839.
  9. Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Intervarsity Press, 1994.
  10. Gunton, Colin. Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. New York: T&T Clark LTD, 2003.
  11. Hall, Francis. The Incarnation. New York. Longmans, Green, and Co., 1915.
  12. Hanson, R.P.C.  The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God. Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark LTD, 1988.
  13. Hawthorne, Gerald. The Presence and the Power, Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003.
  14. Hills, A. M. Fundamental Christian Theology, Vol 1. Schmul Publishing Co., 1980.
  15. Hodge, C.  Systematic Theology, Vol 1.  New York:  Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1898.
  16. Lewis, C. S. Letters of C. S. Lewis.  Orlando, Florida: Harcourt Books, 1966.
  17. Marshall, I. Howard. Pocket Guide to Christian Beliefs. Downers Grove, Ill: Intervarsity Press, 1978.
  18. Morris, Leon, Wm. B. The Gospel According to John (The New International Commentary on the New Testament). Eerdmans Publishing Company; Revised edition, 1971.
  19. Muller, Richard A. Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics.  Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2003.
  20. Oden, Thomas. Systematic Theology, Vol. II:The Word of Life. New York: HarperCollins, 1989.
  21. Pannenberg, Wolfhart; translated by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Systematic Theology, Vol. 2. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994.
  22. Pieper, Franz. Christian Dogmatics, St. Louis MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1951.
  23. Pope, William. A Compendium of Christian Theology, Vol II. New York: Phillips & Hunt, no date given.
  24. Reymond, Robert. A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith. Second Edition. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998.
  25. Ryrie, C.C. Basic Theology. Wheaton, IL:  Victor Books, 1986.
  26. Schaff, Philip (ed.). Early Church Fathers: Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 2, 14 Vols. Hendrickson, 1994.
  27. Shedd, William. Dogmatic Theology, Vol 3. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Klock & Klock Christian Publishers, 1979, reprint. Originally published by Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1889.
  28. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologia. Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
  29. Stevens, George. The Johannine Theology. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1899.
  30. Strong, A. H. Systematic Theology: Compendium. Old Tappan, New Jersey, Fleming H. Revel Company, 1907.
  31. The Holy Bible, NKJV.
  32. Tsoukalas, Steven. Knowing Christ in the Challenge of Heresy. New York: University Press of America, 1999.
  33. Ware, Bruce. “The Man Christ Jesus.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. Volume 53, No. 1, March 2010.
  34. Young, Wm. Paul. The Shack. Newbury Park, CA: Windblown Media, 2007.
FOOTNOTES

[1] My references will be from Ware’s JETS article, called, “The Man Christ Jesus.”

[2] When Jesus gave his disciples authority to forgive sins, it was not the authority to actually forgive sin against God, but to announce to them that they have been forgiven by God based on their repentance and trust in the Word. Jesus actually forgave the sins of the paralytic, so that he no longer stood guilty before God.

[3] Consider the following argument for the deity of Christ:

Premise 1: If Jesus can actually forgive sin, he must be divine. (“Who can forgive sins but God only?”)
Premise 2: Jesus forgave sin (proven by the raising of the paralytic).
Conclusion: Jesus is divine.

[4] “The miracles wrought by Jesus differed from those wrought by the prophets or the apostles in that they were wrought by His own inherent power rather than by power delegated to Him. When the prophets or the apostles wrought miracles they expressly disclaimed that it was by any power within themselves” (Boettner, 176-177).

[5] In his Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem gives a lengthy treatment to the evidence that Jesus possessed attributes of deity. He said, “We see many examples of actions in Jesus’ own lifetime that point to his divine character. Jesus demonstrated his omnipotencewhen he stilled the storm at sea with a word (Matt. 8:26-27), multiplied the loaves and fish (Matt. 14:19), and changed water into wine (John 2:1-11). Some might object that these miracles just showed the power of the Holy Spirit working through him, just as the Holy Spirit could work through any other human being, and therefore these do not demonstrate Jesus’ own deity. But the contextual explanations of these events often point not to what they demonstrate about the power of the Holy Spirit but to what they demonstrate about Jesus himself. For instance, after Jesus turned water into wine, John tells us, “This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him” (John 2:11). It was not the glory of the Holy Spirit that was manifested but the glory of Jesus himself, as his divine power worked to change water into wine” (547).

Leon Morris says this about John 2:11: “John tells us further that Jesus ‘revealed his glory’. His declared intention in writing his gospel is to show that ‘Jesus is the Christ’ (20:31). This involves the clear recognition that he is fully man, it is true, but it also involves bringing out the truth that he is more. Throughout the first chapter he has shown us both aspects. Jesus is the Logos who was with God and was God.  He is also the ‘Teacher’ to whom Andrew and his friend came (1:38). Neither aspect should be overlooked. So now he tells us that the ‘sign’ he has described displayed the glory of Jesus…. [His] disciples saw ‘his glory’ and they ‘put their faith in him,’…The glory of the Messiah was revealed to some and hidden from others.” (Morris, Commentary on John, 163-164; emphasis added).  If the glory was that of the Messiah, it was also the glory of the only begotten Son of God (John 1:14), who is God himself. The Messiah is God the Son.  These terms refer to the same person. The Messiah was to be both divine and human, but only the divinity of Christ could produce the glory that the disciples saw manifested from Jesus.

[6] Boettner says it this way, “And in every instance where Jesus exercised [His] power [through miracles] He manifested His glory and thus gave visible proof of His Deity to those who had eyes to see” (Boettner, 177).

[7]“Instead of an indirect or direct appeal to God to rescue, Jesus rebuked (epetimēsen) the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!(pephimōso).’ This is the language used to describe Yahweh’s control over the sea in the passages we’ve already considered. Significantly, Jesus is not calling on God for deliverance from this personified terror; he himself is effecting the deliverance. In this story Jesus demonstrates mastery over anything that the sea might be able to do: the wind stopped and there was a great calmthe opposite of a great storm….[T]hey are terrified…‘awestruck’ in the face of this display of divine authority. The disciples do not really grasp his identity yet. But the story confirms Jesus’ divine authority: even the wind and the waves obey hima response very close to that of the crowds at the conclusion of the first exorcism (1:27)” [Kent Brower, “Who Then Is This?”].

[8] Ibid., (bold added for emphasis).

[9] For example, Gerald Hawthorne said,  “[By] a preincarnate decision the eternal Son of God chose that all his intrinsic powers, all his attributes, would remain latent within him during the days of his flesh and that he would become truly human and limit himself to the abilities and powers common to all other human beings. Therefore he depended on the Holy Spirit for wisdom and knowledge and for power to perform the signs and wonders that marked the days of his years” (Hawthorne, 218).  Through a personal conversation with Bruce Ware, I know that Ware does not agree that all the Son’s intrinsic powers always remained latent within him during Christ’s life and ministry. Ware sees that as an extreme position.

[10] I think it is helpful to remember what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit: “The Spirit of truth…will not speak on his own, but that which he hears, he speaks” (John 16:13). This shows us that Jesus’ deference or submission to his Father may not be based on his humanity, but based on the eternal relationships in the Godhead. Both the Son and the Spirit are under the authority of the Father.

[11] Matthew 8:29.

[12] This reminds me of the beginning of Creation Week. The Holy Spirit was “moving on the face of the deep,” no doubt involved in the creative process, but Christ is said to have created all things (“All things were made through him, and without him nothing was made that was made.”—John 1:3).

[13] “The nature of God did not change in the incarnation.  Rather it was precisely the Servant-caregiver who was revealed and became knowable in history.  He who is the ‘same yesterday and today and forever’ (Heb. 13:8) became formed in our likeness without ceasing to be unchanging God. His divinity was not reduced, retracted, relinquished, or suppressed, but enhanced, set forth, offered, and expressed in this particular manner: enfleshed” (Oden, 86).

[14] He lived as both man and God. “Wherever we enter the presence of Jesus [in reading the Gospels], we feel that we are before One Who is God and yet not only God, man and yet not only man. There is scarcely a page or an incident on a page which can be understood on the theory of either nature being alone in Christ: always some residuum requires the other nature. There is nothing similar in all literature; it is a conception that has no parallel.” Pope, 132.  And, “Alongside of [the] clear declarations and rich indications of His true and complete humanity, there runs an equally pervasive attribution to Him of all that belongs to Deity. If, for example, He is represented as not knowing this or that matter of fact (Mark 13:32), He is equally represented as knowing all things (John 21:17; John 16:30)…. (Boettner, 187).

[15] Ibid., 6.

[16] Ibid., 7.

[17] Ware does hesitate to say that the moral development of Christ eliminates any expression of the divine qualities of holiness. Ware affirms a complete commonality in the substance of the qualities of the human and the divine natures of Jesus. That being the case, the expression of the divine holiness in the life of Jesus may to an extent be expected.

[18]Actually, the Son is the Messiah and the Messiah is the Son, who would manifest himself in the flesh (I Timothy 3:16).  Also, Isaiah is likely referring to the post-baptism ministry of Jesus, after the Holy Spirit had come onto Jesus to anoint him for the messianic mission.

[19] In our experience with ordinary human psychology, we learn that there are different levels of consciousness. It is not a contradiction to say that a person knows in one sense what he does not know in another sense. This is but a human illustration, of course, yet all are familiar with the ordinary human power of recall. Frequently we have to say, “I do not know,” when upon reflection we are able to call the matter into mind…. One may have knowledge available which he does not hold in his active consciousness…. Any time during His life on earth, [Jesus] could have called to mind any aspect of His infinite knowledge, but He chose voluntarily and continuously to hold in His active consciousness only such matters as would make His earthly existence genuine human experience” (Buswell).

“But what about the ‘self-consciousness’ of Christ?  Volumes have been written on this matter, but Scripture has long ago answered the question. As clearly as Scripture teaches that Christ is God and man, theanthropos, just as clearly it also teaches that Christ knew Himself to be God and Man, that Christ had a divine-human consciousness….The very first recorded utterance of Jesus, when He was twelve years old, clearly reveals Him as being conscious of His divine estate: “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49.) And His subjection to His earthly parents (Luke 2:51) shows that He was conscious at the same time of His human estate.” (Pieper, 75).

[20] “Christ is composed of two substances or natures as diverse as mind and matter. And yet there is only one self, only one self-consciousness, only one person…. Having double natures he has a double form of consciousness or experience, with only a single self-consciousness…. A divine person has one mode of consciousness and one self-consciousness; a human person has two modes of consciousness and one self-consciousness” (Shedd, 389).

[21] This makes me think of a time in which I was half-asleep and half-awake. I was aware of details in a dream I was having right then, yet I was also self-aware in the real world, aware of my body, etc.

[22] Oden, 171.

[23]“In this state of humiliation, the communication of the contents of his divine nature to the human was mediated by the Holy Spirit. The God-man, in his servant-form, knew and taught and performed only what the Spirit permitted and directed (Matt. 3:16; John 3:34; Acts 1:2 10:38; Hebrews 9:14). But when thus permitted, he knew, taught, and performed, not, like the prophets, by power communicated from without, but by virtue of his own inner divine energy (Mat.17:2; Mark 5:41; Luke 5:20;21; 6:19; John 2:11,24,25; 3:13; 20:19). [Strong, 696].

[24]“If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9).

[25] Ware, 8.

[26] Ware, 9.

[27] Ware does not agree with Hawthorne here.

[28] Hawthorne, 218 (emphasis added).

[29] “The union of humanity with deity in the person of Christ is indissoluble and eternal. Unlike the avatars of the East, the incarnation was a permanent assumption of human nature by the second person of the Trinity” (Strong, 698).

[30] Hebrews 5:8.

[31] I Timothy 2:5.

[32] Some have said that Jesus could not live out his life in any way as God; if he did, he wouldn’t truly be the 2nd Adam, who would succeed where the first Adam failed. This view stresses the importance of an exact parallel between the two Adams, arguing that since the first Adam acted in his humanity only, the second Adam had to as well.  But Jesus did not need to be like the first Adam in every way; he couldn’t be. He certainly did live out his life as a human, but he also lived out his life as God. This was necessary to carry out his mission as the divine-human mediator.

[33] Ibid., 16.

[34] I would add that there was a theoretical possibility that he sin, and also that he freely chose to resist temptation. The idea that Jesus freely but inevitably overcame temptation is a matter that should be explored further.

[35] Nestorians only allowed for a moral union between the divine and human natures of Jesus, not an organic union, lest the divine nature would participate in the sufferings of Christ. We will bring up Nestorianism again. Both Ware and Hawthorne would reject Nestorianism.

[36] Strong, 685 –Quoting John Caird, Fundamental Ideas of Christianity 2:107.

[37] Jesus’ divine and human wills were both involved in every decision that he made: “Just as there are two wills in Christ, we are also led by the texts to hypothesize that there are two actions without division or confusion, a divine action and a human action, hence two operations (Honorius, Two Wills and Operations…). The two wills do not act contrary to each other (Agatho, Roman Council . . . ), the divine action constantly enabling the human action of the one divine-human person” [Oden, 192].

[38] Actually, I believe Ware is comfortable with saying that the divine nature of Jesus “influenced” him to always do what is right.  Since it is also important to me that Jesus freely chose to overcome and that Jesus faced genuine temptations, maybe our positions are not all that separated in this regard. However, the passage from Ware that I quoted (on temptation) does not seem to allow any influence of the divine nature, or any expression of the divine nature of Christ during his temptations.

[39] C.S. Lewis, 413.

[40] Even Millard Erickson, who holds to a mild form of kenoticism (according to Reymond), prefers to render the first part of verse 7, “he emptied himself by taking the form of a servant.” “The participial phrase is an explanation of how Jesus emptied himself, or what he did that constituted kenosis” (Erickson, 238).

[41]Oden, 182 (emphasis added).

[42] Oden, 176.

[43] Oden, 188.

[44] Ware accepts these statements of Chalcedon.

[45] The 6th Ecumenical Council. “The sixth Ecumenical Council, at Constantinople, A.D. 680, condemned the doctrine of One Will in Christ: the Catholic Church, East and West, agreed that in two natures there must be two wills, and that in Christ the Divine and the human wills harmoniously cooperated, the human following the Divine. Much controversy issued in the rejection of the Monothelite heresy, which allowed no place for limitation in knowledge and human temptation or moral test in Christ” (Pope, 138).

[46] Aquinas, III.19.1 (emphasis added).

[47] We might want to think about the words of Pope here: “The theories of many German and French divines which regard the Son of God as literally limiting Himself for a season to the bounds of a human spirit are certainly reproductions of what has been described as Eutychianism” (Pope, 139). Eutychianism is the teaching that Jesus could only have one nature, a mixture of the divine and human natures. This view is also known as monophysitism, which both Ware and Hawthorne would reject.

[48]Oden, 193. “This communion of the natures was such that, although the divine nature in itself is incapable of ignorance, weakness, temptation, suffering, or death, the one person Jesus Christ was capable of these by virtue of the union of the divine nature with a human nature in him. As the human Savior can exercise divine attributes, not in virtue of his humanity alone, but derivatively, by virtue of his possession of a divine nature, so the divine Savior can suffer and be ignorant as man, not his divine nature, but derivatively, by virtue of his possession of a human nature. We may illustrate this from the connection between body and soul.  The soul suffers pain from its union with the body, of which apart from the body it would be incapable. So the God-man, although in his divine nature impassible, was capable, through his union with humanity, of absolutely infinite suffering (Strong, 697).

[49] Ware, 18.

[50] In regard to resisting temptation: I Corinthians 10:13 – “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”