Crisis Regarding Christ

© by The Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.,  2017

Some years ago a preacher visited my church. After the Sunday School class, during which I was teaching on various “Christian” cults, he said, “In my church we have no creed but Christ.” I responded, “Which Christ? The one of the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the word-faith movement, or of the ancient creeds?” Today we have a crisis regarding Christ because we no longer value truth.

The historic Church has always assumed that there was truth and error, not just opinions. It was zealous to maintain the truth about the Son as revealed in Holy Scripture. It was not tolerant (the politically correct word today) of error concerning Christ, though they could be tolerant of other things. It came together on several occasions in ecumenical councils to proclaim the Gospel, the truth about Christ, writing doctrinal statements that were considered binding on all Christians. We have creeds that summarize those councils, such as the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds. (The Athanasian Creed is my favorite.)

The Church realized that faith was only as good as its object, and the object of faith (Christ) only as good as the content about Him. And from that day to now, those councils, especially the Council of Chalcedon, have been considered by all branches of Christendom—Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodoxy—to be the epitome of orthodoxy regarding the person of Christ. During the greatest revival in the history of the Church, the Reformation, the Reformers did not challenge Chalcedon’s teaching that Christ was fully God, fully man yet sinless, one person, and no mixture of the two natures of divinity and humanity (John 1:1-3, 14; 5:28; 10:30; Col. 1:15ff; 2:9; Heb. 1:1ff; etc). That was bedrock.

Unfortunately, today is different. The ambiance of this age is ripe for heresy since personal opinion is considered to be more important than truth, especially truth from the past. The Church has become obsessed with making people feel comfortable, not with truth. (Indeed, some preachers build large congregations by not preaching on sin or other “controversial” matters.) The Church has devolved into a radical egalitarianism, and truth has been reduced to its lowest common denominator. Now each individual—with or without his Bible—will decide for himself what truth is.

In contrast to the heresies, the early fathers understood that Christology was at the heart of redemption, that who Christ was determined whether man was redeemed or not. Their constant watchword was “what is not assumed [in the incarnation] is not redeemed.” Thus, if Christ had not assumed full humanity (sin excepted), we would have no redemption.

This worked the other way also. The early Church fathers recognized that if Christ had not been fully God and functioning fully as God (contra word-faith leaders who deny that the Son of God used His divine attributes on earth), there could be no reconciliation of God and man, Christ would have had no infinite merit to what He had done, but only the work of a man. At the Council of Ephesus, therefore, the fathers clearly stated in A.D. 431: “If any man shall say that the one Lord Jesus Christ was glorified by the Holy Spirit, so that He used through Him a power not His own and from Him received power against unclean spirits and power to work miracles before men and shall not rather confess that it was His own Spirit through which He worked these divine signs; let him be anathema” (emphasis added).

Anything less than one who functioned fully as man and fully as God in one Person could not die for our sins. He had to be man to die. He had to be God to give infinite value to His work. He had to be one person to bring God and man together, bringing the acts of God and man together as one act. The two natures of God and man could not be mingled, making Him less than God or more than man. If Christ had not been God or had not functioned as God while on earth, we would have the acts of a man and of the Holy Spirit through Him—separate acts of two persons—but that would have been no different than the prophets of old who had the Holy Spirit in them. No, Christ functioned fully as man and as God in one person, thus uniting His work of redemption as one work of the God-man.

Today we have many heresies. There are those who deny the deity of Christ altogether. There are others who deny that the Son functioned as God while on earth. Indeed, in the word-faith teaching, man can be a god and create his/her own providence by audible words. In the separation of God and man in Christ, there is no reconciliation of man with God since there is no real union of God and man in one person. Thus, salvation is eliminated. If Christ is only a creature, or only functioned as a creature, God is not revealed, but a wholly unknown being. Thus, God is eliminated.

If there was ever a need for a second Reformation, it is today, and this Reformation must begin where the first one did: with the Church’s stand for truth and with the Christ of the Councils and of the Bible. We must not invent a new “Jesus” for each succeeding generation, but proclaim the old, revealed Jesus, who never changes (Heb. 13:8). The gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church that proclaims Christ as the Son of God! AMEN. Ω

Son of God: Eternal, One Essence with the Father, Creator, Incarnate, Redeemer, Sustainer, Ruler

Merry Christmas: The ONE Chapters

[Notice that these four chapters go together, and each is the first chapter in a pertinent book of the Bible regarding the Incarnation. YOU’LL NEED TO MEDITATE ON THIS TABLE to benefit. But notice that the colors of each column go together, and that the whole table is about the Son of God: Green = the Son as creator; orange = deity of the Son; purple = the Son upholding all things by His providential omnipotence; red = redemption. How could four different human authors arrive at the same truth independent of one another 1,500 years apart  unless there was One Source (2 Peter 1:19-21).]

GENESIS ONE

JOHN ONE

COLOSSIANS ONE

HEBREWS ONE

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters (Gen 1:1-2)

_______________

(We have God―no doubt the Father-who created all things. “Heaven and earth” are opposites to indicate all things (merism). Then we have the Holy Spirit who is forming the mass of material that was created. Finally, when we read many times that God spoke things into existence, that was by His Word. Thus, we have Trinitarian creation.)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4)

And the Word became flesh and Tabernacled among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

_______________

(The phrase “in the beginning” in Gen. 1 means when all was created, whereas the same expression in John means in eternity. Yet John makes a connection with Gen. 1:1, proclaiming the Word as creator. Creation comes in v. 3. The four times “was” is used indicates eternal existence. The contrast is with the verb “became,” which indicates something new; namely, He added a human nature to His divine person. In other words, He always “was” the Word, always “was” with God, and always “was” God. Being “with God” indicates a distinction between the Word and God the Father. Being God indicates that He was (is) one in essence with the Father. The word “tabernacle” indicates that Jesus was the Old Testament tabernacle incarnate. Indeed, when John says “we beheld His glory,” he is speaking of the Shekinah glory in the tabernacle. Finally, “in Him was life” indicates that the Word had (has) inherent life; all creation has derived life.)

Verse 18, the verb “declared” from Greek means He has “exegeted” Him. The one who has seen Jesus has seen the Father (John 14:9).

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. (Col 1:15-17)

. . . and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross (Col. 1:20)______________

(The word “firstborn” does not mean the one born first, but the one who is preeminent, who has the birthright, as with David who was called firstborn but was the eight of Jesse’s sons. “Heaven” and “earth” are repeated to make the connection with Genesis 1. We can see from the several merisms (opposite to mean totality) that the Son created all things without exception: in heaven, on earth; visible, invisible. Moreover, notice that the Son is the source of creation [“all things were created through Him”], the goal of creation [“for Him”], and He sustains creation [“in Him all things consist,” which means He providentially sustains all creation. See next column under Hebrews.]).

1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us [in] Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His [essence], and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. (Heb 1:1-4)

_______________

 

(The Son of God is the final revelation “in these last days,” which days are the last days of the old covenant, but now the new covenant has come (see Heb. 9:26). He is “the brightness of His glory” means a distinction between Father and Son. But when he writes “the express image of His essence” [not “person” as the NKJ says, definitely wrong], he means there is oneness of Father and Son in essence. In the midst of upholding all things, using His divine attributes, He “purged our sins,” then took His throne “at the right hand of the majesty on high.” The “sat down” means His work was done, in contrast to the Old Testament high priests who were never allowed to sit, for their sacrifices never ended. There were no places to sit in the tabernacle or temple.)

 

The Gift

(© Very Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.)

There was a mother who prayed often for a son, but she had never had children. Once she was with her husband at the annual meeting of all the people of God, and when she prayed with her mouth but not with words, the local minister thought she was drunk. But she told him that she was praying for a son, and that if the Lord gave her one, she would give him back to God to be in His service forever. The minister told her she would have one. She dreamed of a beautiful boy, and the Lord God gave her one. (click here)

From a small boy he was reared to honor God, and his mother taught him the Holy Scriptures. She said to him what the Lord had revealed to her about the covenant LORD, “Those who honor Me I will honor” (1 Samuel 2:30). She taught him about the glory of God in creation, how awesome He is to have created such beauty, reflecting His own glory, and so vast. (click here)

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;

and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. (Psalm 19:1).

She also taught him about His glory and grace revealed in the Bible, how the God of creation loved mankind when he fell into sin, and this creator God was also the redeemer God:

7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul

The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;

8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;

The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;

9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;

The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold;

Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:7-10)

This mother from long ago gave her son back to the Lord when he was a small boy, and “he ministered before the LORD” (1 Samuel 2:18), “And the child Samuel grew in stature, and in favor both with the LORD and men” (1 Samuel 2:26). Centuries later there was another Mother who had a Son in a miraculous way, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52).

This redeemer God revealed His ultimate gift, a baby boy, His own Son:

But God demonstrates His own love toward us,

in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

This Son was predestined to die for our sins (click here) and to be raised bodily from the dead so that we might have His resurrection life. (click here)

In my Christology course, I’ve been making connections with the Person of Christ in Colossians 1:15ff  with the sacraments, where He is the creator of all that is, and thus is “firstborn” over all creation, but also a few verses later He is “firstborn” over the Church. He is the firstborn over creation by nature and the firstborn over His Church by Incarnation. Thus our participation with God is real, not just external, or nominal.  We participate with the One Christ not only through His humanity but also through His divinity where Christ is the “location” for the union of creator and creation, which in turn leads to His “real” presence in the Holy Communion. (Whatever “real” means.) As one man has well stated: “If there is no sacramental participation of creation in God’s being, created objects have no inherent relationship to each other or to God.” But we are “in Christ,” as Paul loves to say, and that means we are also one in His Church.

Let us give thank to the Father for giving us His Son, and to the Son for coming in love, and for the Holy Spirit who applies the merits of Christ. AMEN. Ω

Mary Magdalene: Tragedy to Triumph

(From the perspective of Mary Magdalene.)

[(©) Very Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.]

(April 2015)

Jesus had cast seven demons out of Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:2), and now that He is dead, her heart is broken. Depression settles on her like a thunderstorm. While overcome with despair, she muses to herself.

Jesus was dead; she had seen Him die on the cross with her own eyes:

  • He had been beaten with a whip with pieces of metal in it.
  • A crown of thorns had been placed on His head, the thorns being a reminder of the curse in Genesis 3 that Adam’s labor would be cursed with thorns.
  • He had lost much blood.
  • He had groaned when they dropped the cross into its hole.
  • She had watched Him push down on His feet and pull up with His hands to force air into His lungs and to keep them free of fluid, but when the Roman soldier pierced His side with a sword, out came blood and water, confirming that His lungs had filled with fluid and that He had asphyxiated.
  • Trained Roman soldiers, who were experts in crucifixions, had testified to His death so that His legs did not need to be broken as the other two criminals who were crucified with Him (which was a prophecy from the Old Testament that no one could break the lamb’s legs).
  • But why was He dead? Was not He the Messiah? Would He not conquer both His and the Jews’ enemies? How could the One who raised the dead be dead Himself?

 

Tomb itself:

No, He was dead alright, make no mistake about that, and He had been buried in the tomb where she stood. She had seen it. The Jews had requested from Pilate to make the tomb secure so no one could steal His body (Matt. 27:62-66), BUT as she stood at the open tomb, the body was gone! But how could it be gone?

  • A heavy stone had been placed over the mouth of the tomb and who could move this without being seen? It would take several men, and even further . . .
  • A Roman seal had been roped over the tomb’s stone to enforce with Roman law that no one could enter the tomb. It would be no problem physically to remove a rope lightly attached with wax at both ends, like police yellow tape, but who would risk going against the authority of Rome under the death penalty?
  • A Roman guard had also been stationed there to keep anyone from tampering with the seal or His body. Who would dare challenge them?
  • Surely the Jews would not steal His body, because it was they who wanted the Roman seal and guard and got these approved by Pilate.

 

She pondered further:

  • He had been placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man. You don’t place live people in a tomb, especially with a stone over the mouth, unless they are dead and unless you don’t want them disturbed.
  • But why did those who took His body leave His grave cloths behind? If someone stole His body, it would take longer to remove the cloths than to take the whole body, further exposing themselves to being caught. This is strange, indeed. The linen cloth was neatly wrapped and in its own place. Who would take time to make it neat? Likewise, the head cloth was still in its place. Indeed, He who came forth also altered the conditioned of the grave, doing nothing in haste, but with specific purposes in mind, put the linen cloths neatly where He wanted them. (In the Old Testament, the high priest on the Day of Atonement only wore a linen cloth, and now this final High Priest, who had worn the same in fulfillment, took it off, for the FINAL Day of Atonement was over!)
  • At this point, Mary did not understand that the two “men” clothed in white were actually angels, Cherubim, like the symbolic angels in the Old Testament tabernacle that overlooked the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant, guarding the presence of God, and like the two angels that guarded Eden to keep Adam and Eve out after they sinned. So there were two of them at the tomb, guarding the PLACE of propitiation, the BODY of Jesus, but now stating that He had risen.

As Mary Magdalene contemplated these things, it is not difficult to imagine how much agony of soul and confusion she must have had.

Her hope had died with His death, as it had for all the disciples, who were hiding out in the upper room, fearful that they would be killed next as followers of Jesus. Faith had also died, as it had with the others, which is why the eleven were hiding. Hope was buried in the tomb with Jesus. But love was still alive, love for Christ. That’s why Mary was there, love; her heart was broken. Though Jesus was gone, she still wished to do something for Him, to be near Him. Not only was He dead, like people today who visit the graves of their loved ones. But she did not even have a body to mourn over. The fact that she brought the oil to anoint His body indicated that His resurrection was the last thing in her mind. Thus, she ran to tell Peter and John about the empty tomb, and they returned faster than she had run to get them. John got there first, and just stood at the entry, wondering. Then Peter ran to the entrance and rushed in–his usual impetuousness– heart pounding, seeing the neatly wrapped cloths, his mind whirling 90 miles an hour.

The “men” at the tomb asked Mary why she wept but did not answer her at this point about Jesus, for they saw the Prince of Life approaching. He would minister to her.

Words are not given in the Gospels to describe what she experienced, for none are appropriate. It is only recorded that she and the Lord had one brief conversation with one another.

We know she was the first one to whom He revealed Himself (from Mark 16:9), revealing His compassion for the ladies to go to one who grieved so much and was often His companion in ministry with other disciples.

The first statement was Jesus to Mary, asking why she was weeping. With water in her eyes clouding her vision, she thought he was a gardener and asked where he had put the body of Jesus.

But why is there a garden? The world was lost in a garden, and now the world is regained in a garden. The first Adam lost it all, and the Last Adam regained it. (St. Paul in Romans 5:12ff.)

She thought He was the gardener, for the last image in her mind of Jesus was on the cross with a crown of thorns, bruised and broken, bleeding, beaten beyond recognition, a hole in His side, head bowed with a crown of thorns, dead. The last image of someone is graphic.

THEN in the second statement Jesus calls her name: Mary.” Did a gardener know her name? Did a gardener say her name in the tender way that Jesus was accustomed? This time she looked in anticipation, eyes full of tears, hopeful, heart beating fast, lungs suspended, fearful to believe what her ears told her, quickly she looked . . . . There He was! Standing, looking at Her with those compassionate eyes, divine dignity, majestic in appearance, sovereign in pose, serene in peace, full of compassion for her—it was indeed the Lord in the same body!

She felt the agony of soul instantly evaporate in the heat of His presence and love. Joy enveloped her whole being as she felt her body bathed from head to foot in His grace. She ran to Him and embraced Him. She grabbed His feet and could only say, “Rabboni!” No other words were necessary as she clung to Him and wept for joy. “Stop clinging (so the Greek means) to Me,” Jesus said, but it was not rejection of her but later ministry that He had in mind to others. Never had she thought such joy possible, and she worshiped Him with heart pumping, tears of supreme joy, faith renewed, hope turned into sight, love supreme! Her life was complete!

She rejoiced “with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8) AMEN.

God’s Gift to the World (Isa. 9:6-7)

(© Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D., 1992, 2011)

Isaiah 9:6-7: The Final King

Suppose you visit a church.  The sermon is about how to succeed in life.  Point one is to be kind to yourself, for Jesus said that we must love our neighbors “as ourselves.”  It is negative not to love ourselves.  Point two is to think positive thoughts, for how can you achieve success with negativism?  Thus, believe in yourself.  Point three is to follow three easy steps to financial success.[1] After all, God wants to bless His children, doesn’t He?

If someone who knew nothing about Christianity were to visit this church a dozen times, hearing basically the same things, would he understand what Christianity is all about? Does this sort of teaching help us to know Christ?

Now suppose you enter a Mosque.  You hear: “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.”  You attend a dozen times, and always hear that creed and the Koran explained.  Would you know what Islam is about?

What is wrong with this picture?  Can we win spiritual battles with materialistic mantras while Islam teaches their people the essence of their faith?

In this season of the year, it is good for us to remember that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords, even now, not just in some distant future, which is what Isaiah tells us.  He speaks of the One God promised Isaiah: the coming of the final King who would rule the world with peace and righteousness.  John Watts states:

Christian exegesis of the Old Testament is keenly aware of the elements which the New Testament understands to be fulfilled in Jesus. Foremost among these are the royal aspects of Messiah. Jesus is understood to be the Son of David, heir to divine promise of an everlasting and universal throne.

This understanding of Messiah is founded on 2 Sam 7:11b–16 and on the royal Psalms (including Pss 2, 45, and 110). These proclaim a very high view of the king and the kingdom, in which God is directly involved with both. Among the OT passages which present such a view, none ranks higher than Isaiah 9:5–6[6–7] or 11:1–5. The first lists throne names for the Davidic king of Zion (see below), while the second announces, or prays for, the spirit of the Lord to so fill him that he achieves the highest aims of the kingdom.

What the Old Testament, including Isaiah, can only record as promises and ideals that contrast starkly with human reality, the New Testament invites the Christian to see fulfilled in Jesus Christ, Son of David and Divine King of Heaven and Earth.[2]

Here is my proposed translation of Isaiah 9:6-7:[3]

(1)   For a child is born to us,[4]

(2)   a Son is given to us;

(3)   And the administration will be on His shoulder.

(4)   And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Father of eternity, Prince of peace.

(5)   Of the increase[5] of His administration and peace there will be no end,

(6)   Upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from now and forever.

(7)   The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

The larger context concerns world peace and government.  Isaiah gives three reasons for joy in verses 4-6, each verse beginning with a “for.”  The first reason for joy in v. 4 is that sin has been dealt with.  In v. 5 the second reason is that the instruments of war have been destroyed.  The third reason is in vv. 6-7, which brings us to the translation above, the coming King.

(1) “Child” is put first in Hebrew for emphasis.  Notice that this refers to His humanity, and that He will be born, signifying the manner of His first coming.  As Isaiah says earlier, He will be born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14).  “The divine ruler will not merely be God, but although partaking of the divine attributes, will have the most human of all arrivals upon the earth, namely birth.”[6]  Oswalt adds, “This is clearly an eschatological figure, the Messiah.  The Targum explicitly identifies the person as the Messiah.”[7]  The targum was written before Christ came, but after His birth, the Jews have reinterpreted this to mean the birth of Hezekiah, or some other.

(2) The “Son” is given, for as eternal deity He cannot be born.  Notice the accuracy of the language.  The Son cannot be born because He is eternal, thus He is given (John 3:16, God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son).  The child is born, which refers to the humanity that He gained at the Virgin conception.  We have here the prediction of the God-man, God and man in one person.  As man, He is born, but as God He is given, signifying His previous existence.  Indeed, He is without beginning (John 8:58)!  Very early Messiah was known as the God-man, not only from the many theophanies, but also from passages like this one.  (See Isa. 48:16 for the Trinity.  Gen. 4:1 may possibly be rendered “I have begotten a manchild, even the LORD,” though most reject that translation.)

(3) When world power was threatening to undo the people of God, God promised a child who would rule the world for His people.  He would not only rule, but the very “administration” (many versions render it “government”) itself would rest on Him.  The Hebrew word “administration” is not only the kingdom of God and grace but also nature and power (see Matt. 28:19, 20; Col. 1:15-19).  He would rule it all; that is, the kingdom of God and the world at large.  He would rule the kingdom of the world by sovereign might providentially, whether anyone liked it or not (Ps. 2:7-9), which would include not only nature but also the kingdoms of mankind.

(4) There are four names for Messiah in these verses, as supported by the Massoretic accentuation, not five as some translations have it.[8]  (a) “Wonderful Counselor” is a clear statement of His deity, for in Judges 13:18 the Angel of the LORD, using basically the same word, says His name is Wonderful.  As you may recall, the Angel of the LORD is God Himself (Exodus 3:1-14).  He is also “Counselor,” indicating that it requires wisdom to sit on David’s throne, and in Messiah “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom” (Col. 2:3).  “So this counselor is a wonder because his counsel goes beyond the merely human.”[9]  The Messiah therefore is a qualified statesman.

(b) He is called the “Mighty God” as a title of undisputed deity (see Isa. 10:21).  The word for “God” is “El,” which in this singular form is used only of God Almighty in the Old Testament.  “Whenever el gibbor [mighty God] occurs elsewhere in the Bible there is no doubt that the term refers to God (10:21; see also Deut. 10:17; Jer. 32:18).  This king will have God’s true might about him, power so great that it can absorb all the evil which can be hurled at it until none is left to hurl (53:2-10; 59:15-20; 63:1-9).”[10]  As Mighty God He is able to execute His plans, for He is our Hero of war.

(c) “Father of eternity” indicates one who is a Father to His people, for He is our guardian, a father in the sense of Ps. 103:13.  “This person’s fatherhood is claimed to be forever.”[11]  The United Pentecostals wrongly use this passage to say that Jesus is God the Father, thereby denying the most basic belief of Christianity of all time, the Holy Trinity.  But Jesus is a Father to His people—not a Father in relation to the Trinity.

(d) “Prince of peace” indicates the kind of ruler He will be.  “To elevate the Davidic government to a government of eternal peace is the end to which He is born.”[12]  (See also Zech. 9:9, 10; Micah 5:2-5a.)  “It is appropriate that this title should come as the last of the series, for it is the climactic one (see. 32:17).  What sort of king is this?  He is a peaceful king, one who comes in peace and one who established peace, not by a brutal squashing of all defiance, but by means of a transparent vulnerability which makes defiance pointless.  Somehow through him will come the reconciliation between God and man that will then make possible reconciliation between man and man (53:5; 57:19; 66:12; Luke 2:14; John 16:33; Rom. 5:1; Heb. 12:14).”[13]

(5) Peace and government are mentioned together, which is what the world is always seeking and not able to obtain apart from Him and His administration.  We see that Messiah’s reign will be perpetual and progressive.  Jesus’ kingdom will increase until He delivers to the Father a conquered kingdom at the end of the world:

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed isdeath. (1 Cor. 15:22-26).

As Keil and Delitzsch rightly observe of the idea for increase:

Ever extending dominion and endless peace will be brought in by the sublime and lofty King’s Son, when He sits upon the throne of David and rules over David’s kingdom.[14]

And John Calvin is also very insightful in his commentary on Isaiah 9:7:

Now, this continuance, of which Isaiah now speaks, consists of two parts. It belongs both to time and to quality. Though the kingdom of Christ is in such a condition that it appears as if it were about to perish at every moment, yet God not only protects and defends it, but also extends its boundaries far and wide, and then preserves and carries it forward in uninterrupted progression to eternity. We ought firmly to believe this, that the frequency of those shocks by which the Church is shaken may not weaken our faith, when we learn that, amidst the mad outcry and violent attacks of enemies, the kingdom of Christ stands firm through the invincible power of God, so that, though the whole world should oppose and resist, it will remain through all ages. We must not judge of its stability from the present appearances of things, but from the promise, which assures us of its continuance and of its constant increase.

(6) Furthermore, His reign is to be over David’s throne and kingdom.  Let us observe several things here: (a) The reign is said by Isaiah to begin with the birth of the babe (“from that time forward,” which means from the time the child is born and the Son is given), which the New Testament confirms:

31 [An angel says to Mary:] “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:31-33)

29 [Peter speaking:] “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, 35 till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’  36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”  (Acts 2:29-36)!

(b) A 1,000 millennium is not forever, and the text says His rule is to be forever, beginning with His birth, having no end, and gaining in momentum over the centuries.

(c) “Administration” and “kingdom” are used synonymously, indicating that both began at His birth.  We see the same thing in Daniel where God said that in the days of the Roman empire that He would establish a kingdom that would destroy all other kingdoms, would fill the whole earth, and would last forever.

34 You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. (Daniel 2:34-35)

44 And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. 45 Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold—the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure. (Dan. 2:44-45).

The saints received it from the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:9-14, 18, 22, 27).  We know assuredly that Christ received the kingdom at His ascension and that it is now spreading over the whole earth (Acts 6:7; 14:22; 20:25; 28:23, 31).  In fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant that he would be a blessing to all nations (Gen. 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; Gal. 3:8), the sovereign King of kings gave his apostles the great commission that the kingdom was now for the whole world:

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matt 28:18-20)

(d) This One will be the final King as seen in that His kingdom will never end, “from now and forever.”

(7) This indicates the certainty of what will be accomplished.  “In itself this zeal . . . designates the deep love which God has for His people and . . . His profound desire to protect and guard them and their welfare.  But even more the word signifies a determined jealously to protect the divine honor and to vindicate the divine purposes.”[15]  There is no power and no person, not even Satan, who can stop the good purposes of this King!  Christians are winners!  Let us remember that the Lord of glory came to earth not only to save His people from their sins, but also to establish a kingdom that would be perpetual and progressive, “for He must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet” (1 Cor. 15:25).

Even so, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Let us remember the reason for the season.  Amen.

 


[1]  (Yes, the Bible has a lot to say about finances, and there is a proper time to teach on these matters, but not when we come to worship God and proclaim His Gospel.)

[2]John D.W. Watts, Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 24: Isaiah 1-33, (Dallas, Texas: Word Books, Publisher) 1998, CD ROM, on Isa. 9:6-7.

[3] I teach Hebrew in seminary.

[4] In this section of Isaiah, the Hebrew is one verse behind the English.

[5] The Jewish commentators made much of the final mem that is not final but occurring up front in the word.  It just seems to be a scribal error.

[6] John A. Oswalt, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1-39, p. 245.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Only an arbitrary emendation can produce five names.

[9] Oswalt, Isaiah, p. 247.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Keil and Delitzsch, electronic version.

[13] Oswalt, Isaiah, p. 248.

[14] K&D, electronic version on Isaiah 9:7.

[15] E. J. Young on Isaiah 9 in his commentary.

Incarnation: What It Means and Does Not Mean

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)

© Dec 2001

The Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw[1]

The mystery of the incarnation is something that we shall never fathom. We can behold it, worship the Son, revel in His grace, wonder with awe at His love, but never exhaust its mystery.

At the time that the Father appointed,[2] the Son of the living God was joined with humanity, conceived in the Virgin’s womb by the Holy Spirit. The Second Person of the Holy Trinity had added to His undiminished divine Person a perfect human nature, taken from Mary. His humanity came from Mary, as the Last Adam had to be in the lineage of the first Adam, of the fallen human race, not a new race created outside of the existing one. As redeemer He had to be one with us, yet outside us without sin. He took from her what was human as mankind was originally created, but not as fallen. He was fully human, having a real body and a rational soul. He got hungry, needed to sleep, had human emotions of joy and anger, but He never sinned. He was fully human as if not God.

The woman Eve was taken from the side of Adam and given to him as his bride. The woman led the man into sin. Now the Last Adam is taken from the woman to deal with sin, and on the cross His side is pierced so that His bride can come from Him!

He was also fully God as if not human. He was the second Person of the Trinity, God of God, light of light, very God of very God, the same in essence as the Father in every way, existing from all eternity. When the Virgin conceived by the Holy Spirit, humanity was joined to His deity, not that His deity came into existence. Indeed, He was unchangeable[3] so that His deity did not change one iota at the holy conception. He added to His divine person perfect humanity, but nothing whatsoever was subtracted.[4] If He had ceased in any way to be God, there would have been no Trinity and no God, for God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Giving up His deity would be incarnation by deicide. Or if Christ had ceased to be fully God, there would have been two “gods” left, the Father and the Spirit, which would mean the death of God. A savior who is not fully God is a bridge broken at the far end, and a savior who is not fully man is a bridge broken at the near end. He would not reach fully either to God or man.

Here we are confronted with one of the greatest mysteries of God’s holy and infallible Bible. The infinite One adds a finite nature without in any way lessening the infinite. As Mary carried the babe in her womb, sustaining His life, He was giving her life as He upheld all things by the word of His power.[5] As she held Him in her arms after His birth, He was holding her and the whole universe in His “arms.” She had originated, so to speak, His humanity. He had created all things whatsoever, making Himself the originator of creation.[6] He was not only the Word who spoke all things into existence, but He was the sustainer of what He had called into being from nothing. He was not only the originator and sustainer but also the goal of creation, the reason it was created, the end toward which all creation is moving, the one to be glorified.[7] Thus He is the origin, sustainer, and goal of creation as all moves to glorify Him.

The mystery of the union of God and man can only be understood by what has been revealed. We know that it was necessary for Him to be both God and man. He had to be a man to redeem man from his sin and death, to be identified with the human race that lost relationship with God. As God He could not die, but as man He could. He had to be God to satisfy infinite holiness, to take an infinite penalty, an infinite curse. What He did in His atonement was absolutely dependent on who He was, the two aspects being inseparable. Adam sinned and died. Jesus must be one with the seed of Adam so that He could die.[8] Adam owed God perfect obedience. Jesus obeyed God perfectly for us.[9] Adam came under the penalty of sin, which was divine judgment. Jesus took our punishment.[10] We read:

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.[11]

He had to be one Person so that what one nature did would be united with the other nature in the one Person, thus joining the work of both natures. If He had only been a man indwelt by God, He would have been a great prophet, but not the One who could redeem; just one of the prophets of old. Under this circumstance, when He died, we would be left with a dead man and a distant God.[12] But as God-man in one person, when He shed His blood, it was the blood of God: “to shepherd the Church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”[13]

If Christ were two persons, how could he shed His blood as man and offer infinite atonement as God and do both as one offering? It would be two offerings as two persons. He had to be one Person so that what one nature did would be united with the other nature in the one Person, thus joining the work of both natures.

If He had been two persons, we would not have a union of man and God doing a single work, but two persons doing a dual work. There would have been a human sacrifice to a God who could not accept such. Such a moral cooperation of a divine and human will would not give infinite value to the human or a human aspect to the divine. There would be moral cooperation between two persons, but not an essential union of God and man. God would still not be revealed personally but through a human only. But with a union of essence, a personal union[14] of man and God, what either nature did was attributed to the one Person. If He had been two persons, the natures could not have joined in one act but as two acts. But He was the God-man, not God and man; thus the two natures joined in Him as one work.

If the natures had been mixed in some way, He would have been less than God or more than man. If he had been less than God, He could not have offered sufficient atonement to the infinite God. If He had been more than man, He could not have represented us, not being “made like His brethren.” He would have been a hybrid, but not the God-man who lived and died for us, being totally acceptable to God as His peer, and representing us as our peer, joined in one Person and working as one.

Yet if the two natures had not been joined in essence, a metaphysical union, what He did in one nature would not have affected what He did in the other nature. He would have acted as a human and then as God but neither act would have been united with the other as the one act of the God-man. We would have had the acts of man and the acts of God in separation, not in union in one Person. As it was, His atoning work brought man and God together in Himself.

Though the natures were joined in the Son, they were not mixed together but distinct. There was a Creator/creature distinction in Christ Himself.[15] Consider the contrasts we have in this God-man of the two natures and one person with natures united but not merged:

He was God yet man.

He was infinite yet finite.

He was a babe who needed nurturing yet God who upheld all things by His sovereign word.

He had a human will that struggled with His mission in the garden yet a divine will that was unchangeable, impeccable, and absolutely determinative of all things. His human will was always obedient to His divine will.

He had a human consciousness and a divine consciousness yet only a divine self-consciousness and divine self-awareness, the I AM, the One who forgave sins.[16]

He had a human mind yet a divine mind. He could be known by humans face to face yet He and the Father knew one another uniquely, infinitely, and exhaustively: “No one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”[17] He could say humanly He did not know the time of His Second Coming,[18] but divinely He knew all things.[19] He read the hearts of men as easily as one reads a book.[20]

As God He upholds all things; even His humanity is upheld by His own deity. His humanity is indwelt by His deity, by the Holy Spirit given to Him without measure.[21]

As man He was limited to one place at a time yet as God He filled heaven and earth.[22]

As man He was limited in His abilities to perform works of feat yet as God He was (is) the Lord God omnipotent, raising the dead, stilling storms, upholding all things, the beginning and the end.

In these contrasts, it is not that a single nature was both infinite and finite, for that would be a contradiction, but that the single Person of the Son can be considered from either the human nature or the divine nature, each being distinct from the other.

As God-man He had (has) absolute authority in heaven and on earth. When Satan came to tempt Him as the Last Adam,[23] he instantly obeyed the Lord when He commanded him to leave Him. Even the wind obeyed, and demons immediately came out of the ones He commanded them to exit. The healings He performed were instantaneous and perfect, a wonder to behold, as He recreated human tissue. With one spoken word, or sometimes just the thought, He performed miracles in His own name, not the name of another.

The incarnation is love beyond measure. God became humble, as it were, submitting Himself to the now rebellious creation that He had originally made holy.[24] One’s humility is measured by the degree of his exaltation. It would not mean much for a common laborer to help an old lady across the street, but if the president of the USA did, it would mean more. How much more is it for the infinite God to assume humanity and submit to those who hated Him! The judgment that God required, He now came to take. The holiness that we lacked, He wove by His perfect obedience to His own holy law and commandments. The curse and punishment due us, He joyfully assumed in our place on the cross: “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”[25] Love manifested itself with infinite condescending. This was not a love in words only but primarily of doing.

Furthermore, this love was particular. It is easy to say: “I just love everyone.” When we love everyone, there is no accountability for loving any one person. But take an oath to love one other person no matter what, such as in our wedding vows, to flesh out love for this other human for better or worse, giving up selfish orientation, to focus on the person’s needs—that is another matter! But that is precisely what the Lord of Glory did for His people. The Father gave Him a bride,[26] whom He cherished to the point of death, even death on a cross.[27] There was nothing He would not do for His bride, even submitting to vile men, dying, and raising Himself from the dead.[28] He ascended to His home to prepare a place for His bride.[29]

In heaven we shall behold our loved ones who have known and served the King of glory. They will be beautiful and be whole, bodies restored,[30] no more suffering, sadness, or pain. We shall be “together with them,” and “thus we shall always be with the Lord.”[31] What joy we shall have as we are reunited with loved ones we have not seen for many years, especially knowing that no power can ever separate us again! A child lost in youth is beautiful. A godly grandmother who taught you the Bible at her feet greets you. A father who was faithful in bringing you up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord embraces you. A mother who prayed for you for years rejoices. A husband who was faithful to love his wife as Christ loved the Church is reunited with the one he cared for on earth.[32] Once in heaven, we can project ourselves a million millennia into the future, and at that projected time we will have been together only a finite period of time, with an infinite period still to come! The finite past will always be but a dot; the infinite future a line that reaches to the horizon.[33]

As much as we shall rejoice over being made whole and reunited with loved ones, whom we shall easily recognize,[34] there is one exception to being whole in heaven: the hands, feet, and side of the Lord.[35] Fixing our attention on Him, we worship the nail prints in His hands and feet and the spear hole in His side. He has changed the crown of thorns for a diadem, and His robe is whiter than snow for His purity. All else fades as we behold the Lamb on His throne. Like a tidal wave, we will be overwhelmed with such grace as we bask in His presence. As never ending waves break on a shore, we shall forever have one wave of grace only to be followed by another. We shall be filled with praise, singing the song of the Lamb:

And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll,

And to open its seals;

For You were slain,

And have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,

And have made us kings and priests to our God;

And we shall reign on the earth.”[36]

All anxieties will immediately evaporate in the security of His loving presence. Only what was done for the Son of God will carry over from the past;[37] all else will be burned away.[38]

Then comes the Last Day judgment.[39] We shall approach the throne of the Almighty Lamb, whose omniscient gaze will penetrate our hearts, as “all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”[40] As we acknowledge one sin after another, we seem to hear the sound of a hammer against wood. We look up to behold every sin we committed nailed to the cross.[41] Then we are openly acknowledged and acquitted as children of the Lamb before God the Father, the holy angels, and all creation. Satan is forever banished to hell along with his angels and his seed who preferred him to Christ.[42]

But heaven is not automatic nor for everyone. Only the God-man is worthy of our faith. He alone has accomplished our salvation, not the saints or ourselves. We cannot offer anything that will satisfy God and make ourselves acceptable to Him. Jesus has already done so. It would be the highest possible insult and sin to think that we do not need this Jesus, that we can earn our way to heaven, that what He has done is a good start but that we must complete what He left out.[43] In this case, Jesus would be necessary, but not sufficient, and His death on the cross considered a failure. We are not the God-man and cannot accomplish the salvation of anyone. He alone must be the object of our faith, not Him and us. If we think we can attain heaven by our own efforts, it would be faith in ourselves.

Having said that, there is one thing that we contribute to our salvation, without which we cannot be saved, and it is a human workour sins! If we come to the Father by faith alone in Jesus alone, confessing our sins to Him, falling completely on His mercy, He will accept us. For then we understand that only He could accomplish what we cannot do. He came to call sinners, not those who think they are acceptable as they are.[44]

In the person of the Son, we have a substantial union of Creator and creature, a union of Spirit and creation, or of the spiritual and the physical, as it were. Our salvation was accomplished by both aspects. Likewise, we look to the visible, “physical” Church to accept us into His body, to be baptized (“physical”) and to be in spiritual union with Him. We must not think that we can have one without the other. To think that we can have His spiritual salvation without the physical, visible Church[45] would be to have a docetic Christ, one who was God but only appeared to be human. It would also be spurning His authority in His Church, thinking we can make ourselves His bride our way. On the other hand, to think that we are necessarily saved because we are in the visible Church would be to have a human Christ who was not God. Just as the two aspects of human (or “physical”) and divine (or “spiritual”) were united in Him, so we have a united salvation, in union with Him by being in His Church by baptism. The Church leads us to worship God, who is spirit, using physical means, the sacraments. In the Church, the two aspects come together: physical and spiritual, just as they do in Christ: God and man in one person. Salvation is only for those who confess their sins to the Lamb, confessing faith in Him alone, submitting to Him in His Church by being baptized into His body, and persevering in His grace to the end. On the one hand, it is a free gift. On the other hand, the free gift comes in the context of His visible Church.

Let us worship the King who alone is our righteousness. Amen.



[1] This may be copied and handed out to small groups if and only if no changes are made, and it is not published for profit. Dr. Crenshaw may be reached at Service@footstoolpublications.com.

[2] Galatians 4:4

[3] Hebrews 13:8

[4] The modern day heresy of kenosis states that Christ’s incarnation was by subtraction, that He gave up something of either His deity or the use of His deity.

[5] Hebrews 1:3

[6] John 1:3; Colossians 1:16

[7] Colossians 1:16-17

[8] Hebrews 2:9

[9] Hebrews 2:10 (The grammar indicates that Jesus was bringing many sons to glory by His being made perfect.)

[10] Isaiah 53:5; Romans 3: 25; Galatians 3:13

[11] Hebrews 2:14-17

[12] From my student, Mark Bleakley.

[13] Acts 20:28

[14] “Hypostatic” is the word theologians use.

[15] Most of the Christological heresies of the ancient church were attempts to compromise the Creator/creature distinction in Christ.

[16] Matthew 9:1ff. There were not two self-consciousnesses in the Lord, for then He would have been two persons. Some struggle with how the one Person could both know and not know the time of His Second Coming, but the Church’s teaching of two consciousnesses seems to answer this. In His human conscious, He did not know; in His divine consciousness, He did know.

[17] Matthew 11:27

[18] Mark 13:32

[19] Matthew 11:27; John 21:17

[20] Matthew 9:4

[21] John 3:34

[22] John 1:48-50; 3:13 (This last text is supported throughout the manuscript history even though most modern versions leave out the words “even the Son of man who is in heaven.”)

[23] Matthew 4:1ff. This is the only other time Satan appeared personally to tempt someone. In other words, he appeared twice in Scripture to tempt humans personally: the first Adam and the Last Adam. We are not suggesting that he had nothing to do with other temptations, but that Scripture only records two personal appearances to tempt.

[24] Philippians 2:8

[25] Hebrews 12:2

[26] John 17:6; Ephesians 5:22ff

[27] Philippians 2:8

[28] John 10:18

[29] John 14:2

[30] Paul indicates that we shall have some form of body in heaven (2 Cor. 5:1-8), but at the resurrection we shall have glorified bodies like the Lord’s (Phil. 3:21).

[31] 1 Thessalonians 4:17

[32] Ephesians 5:22ff. But there will not be marriage in heaven (Matt. 22:30).

[33] The same could be said of hell.

[34] 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (“with them”)

[35] John 20:25-28

[36] Revelation 5:9-10

[37] Revelation 14:13

[38] 1 Corinthians 3:12-15; 2 Corinthians 5:20

[39] 2 Corinthians 5:10

[40] Hebrews 4:13

[41] Colossians 2:14

[42] Genesis 3:15; Matthew 25:46; 1 John 3:10

[43] Romans 4:1-8

[44] Matthew 9:13; Luke 18:9-14

[45] A true Church is one that preaches the biblical gospel and administers the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion according to God’s Word.

Donald Fairbairn, Grace and Christology in the Early Church

Grace and Christology in the Early Church is a technical work, another Oxford Early Christian Study, by scholar Donald Fairbairn, who is Professor of Historical Theology at Erskine Theological Seminary, South Carolina.  Erskine is a seminary of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP), where I served as pastor for some years in the past.  He demonstrates from the fathers that one main concern they had in guarding the unique personhood of Christ as God and Man in one person was that otherwise there is no grace from God to save us.  In other words, they had concerns over the person of Christ to preserve the work of Christ.  To put this another way, Dr. Fairbairn demonstrates that the Chalcedonian statement of 451 was not just imperialism forced on the Church by Constantine but that it was the faith of the Church with concerns for our redemption.  The author’s knowledge of theology, the early fathers, and their languages is breathtaking.  It is not inexpensive but worth every penny.