Returning to this series after a short break, I’m also taking a short detour. What Christ does for us depends on who He is.
It’s just a few weeks since the Christmas season, and I’m sure readers know about Christ in a manger, born to a virgin. The gospel of Luke tells us He was conceived in Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. In human terms he was of the lineage of David. David had been the king of Israel many years before, and to him God had made a promise that his offspring would have an eternal kingship. Jesus Christ, many generations, was God’s fulfillment of that promise.
But Christ was also “conceived of the Holy Spirit,” as the Apostle’s Creed phrases it, indicating His godly lineage; He was and is in fact, God Himself (all references from the English Standard Version):
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1)
The following context identifies “the Word” with Jesus Christ. He took a dispute with unbelieving religious leaders to a climax with this:
And they understood exactly what he was getting at, even though they disagreed:
The Jews answered him, It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God. (John 10:33)
He is what no mere man could ever be, the exact representation of God, as spoken in Hebrews 1:2-4:
In these last days he (God) has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
And there we see much more of the greatness of Jesus Christ. He is “heir of all things,” meaning that all creation is to be handed over to Him and put under His rule. He is the One through whom all creation was made (and “without him was not anything made that was made,” John 1:3, somewhat a redundancy but an intentional one for clarity). He “upholds the universe by the word of his power,” He made purification for sins, a topic we’ll return to later as we consider what Christ has done for us. He rules next to God the Father. He is far superior to the angels, with the most excellent name of all.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
How the superlatives run rampant! And this is hardly the beginning; to do this topic justice would take a book (like this one, for example).
I was listening yesterday to a podcast on this by William Lane Craig (mp3; note also his follow-up on how Christ’s deity came to be recognized by the early church). Craig was making no attempt at raising emotions; he was explaining and teaching, not stirring up anything intentionally. And yet I was moved to deep worship. This man Jesus, whom we know by His life and teachings on Earth, is also the God who holds the universe together! Theologically He is understood as being one person, having both a human and divine nature (more on that here or here). Certainly there are mysteries there about how this can be true, but that it is true is as certain as anything the Bible teaches.*
The greatest passage of all describing the majesty, the sacrifice, and the exaltation of Jesus Christ is Philippians 2:5-11:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
We will indeed all bow to Him. We will all, someday, recognize His divine majesty, and part of our worship will be based on recognizing how He sacrificed Himself on our behalf. None of us sees it clearly now, but on the day of his full revealing, it will no longer be a matter for doubt or debate.
As we move later into the story of Christ’s life on Earth and His work on our behalf, this backdrop of His divine identity will be essential at every stage.
*Though this is an apologetics-oriented blog, I reserve the right at times to state what I am convinced is true without explaining each time why I am so convinced. The purpose of this series is not to prove the story of Christ but to tell the story of Christ. That story is powerful in its own right. For those who doubt or question it, by following this series you will at least know better what you are doubting and questioning.
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